Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Friday, 31 March 2017

Emily on watch for whales

Moonless nights

Coming on watch at 3am today and it's very dark. Cloud obscuring much of the starlight. There was a Moon in the early evening lighting a silver path westwards. The red glow of the compass and the figures on the chart plotter seem to be all there is. One has to cover them up to let ones eyes adjust to the night and the starlight take over. I like to stand on the seat looking out over the roof of the Bimini sunshade with all the boat lights excluded, looking at the stars and keeping watch for the lights of a fishing vessel Rare event!

Our course taking us south towards latitude 10degrees S is soon to curve eastwards towards the Marquesas. Then this comfortable wind angle will cease and we will be on a dead run, prone to rolling in the swell much more. An alternative is to hold on further and then tack back up but that increases distance run of course.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Emily at the helm

Sunset Pacific

Sunset

Just finished a wonderful sunset supper of dorado in lime and chilli en papillote with chilli and ginger
noodles thanks to Emily. The sky is clear to the west and the sun is setting on cue at 6pm. Bananas from the, now yellow, stalk hanging in the dinghy have been picked for pudding.

I'm feeling very satisfied with today's problem solving. After the total power failure we successfully devised and implemented a solution. Then after another hour investigating the freezer I found and fixed various bad connections and hard wired the cooling pump to get round a bad relay. To our joy it is now below zero and appears to be continuing to cool nicely. Had we fixed it before it could have been full of ice-cream!

Meanwhile thanks for some enjoyable emails today. We must be on the remotest part of the planet here and yet somehow these friendly words get to us via satellite.

Plotting our position

Justin plotting our position to determine our daily run. Yesterday we managed 185nm. Today we are at 08 30'S 105 16'W at 10.00 am (17:00 GMT) and have run 183nm. Very consistent.

TinTin goes dark!

The power has been rather intermittent in the last day since hot wiring the freezer. Last night the nav equipment kept cutting out and finally all power in the boat failed at 05:00 when Justin was on watch. He hand steered to the compass illuminated by head torch.

Investigation showed that the main battery isolator switch, which I'd identified as being faulty earlier, no longer transmitted power through it.

Once dawn had broken. Mark and I bypassed the switch using two old battery terminals which I'd bolted together to provide enough terminals to carry all the wires. The negative side of the switch still functions so has been left connected.

Geronimo! Power restored and we have our fifth crew member, George, back at the helm. Now I hope that Anne can bring out a spare switch in her hand baggage in two weeks time.

Meanwhile we put our clocks back an hour last night to bring dawn and dusk back to six o'clock. Every fifteen degrees west we will do it again.

The crew have voted for stricter recycling so tin cans no longer go over the side- only paper and food waste. I'm clearly a dinosaur :-)

It's proving to be great to have so many email correspondents- thank you! Paul@myiridium.net

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Dorado for supper

The wind has been excellent for two days now and we are making 8-10 knots The South Equatorial Current which is meant to speed us along has been against us, but today finally turned in our favour. If we kept up this pace we'd be in Hiva Oa in 7-10 days or so, but I fear that there are large windless areas ahead.
Mark and i tried to Hotwire the freezer today, thanks to an emailed idea from George Taylor, Although the voltage is better at the compressor it hasn't improved the cooling yet. Frustrating!

Justin reeled in another, much bigger dorado today, which I despatched with a winch handle and filleted on the aft deck. I'm going to revert to anaesthetising fish with a squirt of rum as I've had to wash my shirt and shorts which were covered in blood spatters. However it is a lovely fish to eat and I served it for supper baked with lemon and silk in a bag. Along with paprika potato wedges and canned peas. Our stalk of bananas is suddenly ripening and they are lovely short sweet ones. Perfect for breakfast and pudding. The challenge is to eat fresh stuff fast enough before it goes off and slowly enough to lady as long as possible.

I'm writing this on watch at 9pm roaring along in the pitch black. Out to my left the Milky Way is bright with the Southern Cross prominent. Perhaps the clouds are clearing. Last night Emily called me from my bunk at 01:40 as we were on collision course with a fishing vessel. First boat we've Sen for days! We alters course to port and passed within half a mile. Don't know if they saw us as they powered along at 14knots towards Costa Rica.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Trade Winds at last!

Day 5- Tues. 28 March 17 21:00

At last. We have found the Trade Winds and all day have Ben getting used to driving along heeled over. Emily caught a dorado today and Justin served up a Mediterranean fish stew for supper.

Otherwise not much to report apart from silver shoals of flying fish bursting from the waves as we approach No whales today and very few birds. We seem to have lost the lovely Galapagos petrel which swooped swallow-like across the sea.

We altered course to 250M. Heading for our next waypoint 985 miles ahead. Tonight we are making 8.5-10.5 knots through the darkness, and I'm just watching the wind in case it rises much above 25-27knots at which point I will reef.

If we maintain good speed for the next week then even if we hit windless areas again we should still be able to make our deadline by motoring. Just !

a few photos

Marks Birthday breakfast and ukulele piñata.
Rainstorm in the Doldrums.
Becalmed sunset

Day 5 - 27 March 2017.

The trade winds looked as though they had arrived this morning, but later on we entered a zone peppered with rain storms like giant mushrooms and the breeze came and went. Forecasts show its only a day ahead now.

Mark spotted short finned pilot whales today and I managed to get some reasonable photos. Then Emily spotted something jumping, which Justin confirmed was a big black and white manta ray.

Otherwise I spent time trying to diagnose the freezer, and after much testing found that the main isolator switch between batteries and all the equipment must be corroded, because it had 12.7volts coming in from the batteries, but only 12.5 volts going out! Felt a bit seasick after two hours of that, but recovered after a snooze on deck. Tomorrow I will consider swapping the isolator switch with the new one we installed for the engine.

Mark on cook duty tonight produced a delicious spaghetti dish with breaded chicken goujons, topped off with rice pudding. However our new cooking rota needs to be revised, because not all are happy with cooking overlapping with their 18:00-21:00 watch.

Meanwhile despite our best efforts it's another day without catching a fish!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Day 4

I came on watch at 06:00 this morning and baked bread, which turned out well. The smell of fresh bread is very pleasing to the soul!

Not enough wind to sail again to day, and we motor steadily SE across an oily swell from the south, crossed by shorter wavelength waves from the Southeast. Surprisingly we saw several large loggerhead turtles close by. Fishing success - zero!

Justin and I refilled the diesel tanks from our jerrycans using 78 litres after 42 hours motoring. That is 1.9 litres per hour, which gives us about 1500 miles range. I hope we don't need to use all that! The weather forecast indicates that there is wind about 400 miles ahead, but that it is moving away from us. With luck we will find the trade winds on Tuesday 29th.

Emily produced a tour de force for supper with falafel, couscous, chickpea and tomato salsa, homemade hommous, and a richly coloured beetroot and cabbage pickle with a hint of chilli.

I had another go at the freezer and, poking around with the multimeter, I discovered a connection that was very loose. The filters were also very clogged with marine growth. After fixing these the freezer started working in an encouraging way, but now that I am back on watch at at four a.m. It has given up again.

However the good news is that there is enough wind to sail, and it's wonderful to have the engine off at last. The night is dark without a moon, and the Milky Way is a bright swirl of light across the sky, with the Southern Cross prominent on the chest of the Centaur and the Plough almost dipping into the sea to the north. Our phosphorescent wake is as bright as the Milky Way.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Day 3 - 25th March 2017. Happy Birthday William!

Emily was on watch last night when the wind finally picked up enough to sail and the motor went off. In my berth the sudden quiet made me feel very happy, and the chuckle of water lapping along next to me sent me back to sleep.

Next morning we were sailing nicely at 7 to 8 knots heading SW, but with dramatic blue-black tropical rainstorms ahead. As we got closer the northerly wind went south, and so we were struggling to sail in the direction we wanted. Our track showed us being forced ever away from our course northwards or then again south and east. We eventually rolled the Genoa and motored SE at 5 knots, hoping to get out of these doldrums by Tuesday 28th.

During the day we had two new visitors. First I spotted a fin in the water, which is the first shark we have seen whilst sailing. Later I called Mark to try to get a photo of a new bird, which had the head colours of a Pomerine Skua, which migrates through this region from Antarctic to Arctic and back!

We are running out of topics of conversation, and ended up having a long involved and ultimately circular argument about how best to implement the cooking rota. Final outcome was that the person on watch from 18:00-21:00 prepares lunch when they come off watch at noon, and cook supper to be served at 18:00 before the sun sets.

Tonight I cooked, using half our remaining fresh chicken, still cool in the failing freezer, served hot pimiento chicken served with savoury sliced pommes dauphinoise. We ate at table in the cockpit while the sun set flaming through archways of gold, reflected in a glittering gold sea. For pudding i produced a hot banana, apple and oat cake. Having washed up, and cleared away for the night I am now back on watch till nine pm. It's easy to think we are alone out here, but yesterday I was surprised to see the bright lights of a fishing vessel 3 miles away almost 500 miles from Ecuador.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Peaceful Pacific & Mark's Birthday party

I'm on night watch from 9pm till midnight tonight, and catching up with a brief blog posting.

We have been motoring no stop since we left Santa Cruz yesterday at 14:00, keeping the revs below 1200 rpm maximise fuel efficiency. As night fell we were passing between the islands of Isabella to starboard and Floreana to port, with the current adding 1.5 knots to our speed. We have had all sail set to try to catch the very slight breeze, an d eventually today it was reaching 10 knots and the sails stopped slatting.

Mark had a birthday breakfast with balloons, thanks to Emily, and got rather a lot of chocolate presents! Emily also produced a couple of surprises at teatime - a delicious freshly baked chocolate cake and a piñata shaped lie a ukelele! With that, and a salsa Cd from me we had quite a party !

Our slow day across the gently rolling swell was enlivened by occasional bird visitors: boibies, black headed laughing gulls, a skua, a tropic bird. We also had leaping manta rays, sea lions and some dolphins that seemed to get higher above the horizon than seems physically possible. I thought that 120 miles from land was quite surprising for the sealions.

We refilled the main diesel tanks with 58litres from our deck jerrycans, and I was reassured to fund that we are indeed using about 1 litre per hour at low revs. Giving a range of about 3000 miles at this slow 5 knot pace which would take us to the Marquesas in about 24 days if the wind refused to blow.

At sunset Justin produced an excellent Thai chicken dish with noodles, followed by fresh pineapple, and then once darkness had fallen Mark constructed a fire ship from the remains of the cardboard piñata and other packaging, and set his flaming creation off astern where it rose and fell over the swell burning with a cheerful light for a long time. Most satisfying!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Sharks!

We took a diving trip to the north of Santa Cruz yesterday, and Justin and I snorkelled while Emily dived with SCUBA. She had a fantastic encounter with 15 hammerheads and white tip sharks. Justin and I felt rather left out but did see a couple of small white tips far below us, so that box is now ticked!

Driving back through torrential rain with the roads cut across by brown floods we also saw that the beware of tortoises signs were accurate as several large ones were lumbering around at the roadside.

I had an appointment with our agent Ricardo Arenas, who had produced our "zarpe" allowing us to exit for the Marquesas. It has been a frustrating experience on Galapagos and I explained the urgent need for better agent support to avoid wasted days whilst visiting.

Then this morning we went to get our passports stamped by immigration and I decided to buy more Jerry cans of diesel as the wind is forecast to be so light for the next weeks. Then we ran into problems as I can't buy diesel without a permit which will take another day. Ricardo proposes to help, so we will see whether that is possible before we set sail.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Mayday!

En route to Santa Cruz last night we received an AIS Mayday message as dawn broke over little SantaFe island I contacted a small local cruise boat who came out to search, although they had not received it. It kept being repeated and finally the position was that of a boat at anchor in a bay. The cruise boat went to investigate, but after about two hours we reckon it was an error in their AIS system (or ours perhaps). The Santa Fe gremlins also stopped our speed working, then our GPS. There's a strong magnetic anomaly there. Mystery!

In Santa Cruz we completed formalities all over again and then went off to visit the Darwin Research Centre a mile or so out of town. Excellent trails through cactus forest and then lots and lots of giant tortoises plus hundreds of babies. Most impressive breeding programme. We found the Van Straelen Centre which looked as though it was being refurbished. Unlike Darwin there was no information about cousin in law Raymond"s Great Great Uncle which was puzzling.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Pictures through Panama to Las Perlas islands

Tin Tin's new blue antifouling before the Panama Canal
Through the Canal

The Las Perlas Islands ahead

Emily's Birthday breakfast on board

The Birthday Girl

We left a log with our signature on it in Las Perlas Islands


Friday, 17 March 2017

Some Galapagos pictures at last

It's been difficult to put photos in my log whilst at sea, but here are a few snaps from the Galapagos

Sealions all over the boats in San Cristobal harbour, and on TinTin's stern and Emily's paddle board!

Looks like Emily has already started her yoga teaching!

The most comfortable sea-lion yet!

Mark meets his first iguana

Windless prospect ahead

The weather forecast  for our next leg is looking alarmingly windless.   This is the forecast for the 29th March, when we will have been at sea for 5 days, following the southerly route option I expect.  But what is surprising is that the SE Trade winds have not set in round the Marquesas, so I will have to sail well south of them to get wind, and that could take longer. Given that I have to get Mark to the wedding on time, and that Im meeting Anne in the Marquesas, this makes for a rather nerve-wracking three thousand miles!  

We have just refilled with 230litres of Diesel after our very careful 3 days of economical motoring down from Panama. That's more than half our supply, so something is wrong with the Volvo fuel usage specifications, and our range is much less than i had hoped.  Conclusion: we need the wind!

Iguanas & Sea-lions

The fumigation man arrived at 08:00 and we were banned from the boat for three hours. We set off ashore and found the post office for Emily's Colombian postcards. and then got talking to a French couple, Patrick and Clarisse from Paris, who seemed glad to escape the Americans on the cruise ship and speak French for a while.

Needing to stretch our legs, we then walked out of the village to a beach about an hour away. It was a long road but bounded by interesting plants, with plenty of birds including the smooth-billed ani, and we passed a large mining operation digging out volcanic material. A truck with bales of cardboard waste passed us, but instead of chucking it all in the pit as I'd expected, they turned down the airport track. Perhaps it's flown out!

At the end of a very long straight road we arrived at the coast, bounded by great heaps of black boulders, with the swell breaking on them. Here we began to meet great black iguanas perched on the pitch black volcanic rocks, or on the sandy white path, like black holes absorbing all the purple edged shimmering radiation from a superheated sun. A couple of feet long with a spiny crest and pugnacious face they look quite daunting but sat still long enough for a few quick portraits.

Down on the little sandy beach were sea lions, and Emily swam out to meet large turtles which she videoed. I was trying to sketch when it started to rain lightly so I contented myself watching a marine iguana take to the water.

Then the rain turned tropical and we had a long hour walking in torrents of water back to the port with the roads ankle deep in rivers.

I was expecting a refrigeration engineer at midday so we got back aboard just as the sun came out. Lunch, snooze, tea - no engineer. Mark and Justin swam to shore and back, Emily paddled out to visit a super yacht. (in a charming frock), and I poked around with a multimeter trying to understand the dodgy freezer.

Darkness fell and Emily produced tempura prawns (defrosted for some time) and then a dauphinoise and green beans (also defrosted for some time). Sadly the beans seemed a bit fermented, so those of us who'd enjoyed the prawns awaited any consequences uneasily. (All OK this morning)

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Galapagos at last

I was on watch as dawn arrived in a riot of red astern, and there Ahead was San Cristobal, looking low and lumpily volcanic under spectacular clouds lit with the morning firework show.

Then suddenly there was sea life all around with dolphins leaping, Great black manta rays leaping out of the sea or grazing with their black and white wing tips waving like a pair of sharks fins. Later came masses of great turtles, loggerheads probably, and the calm sea was dotted with great dark floating humps, which would wake up to our approach, raise heads onalarm and then dive through clear water ahead of us, easily seen from the bows. Masses of birds swirled around us as we entered Stephens Bay and passed close to a great rock outcrop stained white with the guano of millions of frigate birds and blue faced boobies.

Finally we dropped anchor in Wreck Bay at 11:30. Our agent finally arrived at 15:30 and collected the paperwork. An hour later she returned with Customs, immigration, sanitation, ecologist (with flippers and snorkel), and another naval person in spotless white uniform. After the team had dealt with form filling, signing, stamping with TinTins stamp, diving to check the bottom, inspecting foodstuffs, photographing engine and cabin contents the agent then set about getting me to pay everyone's fees which came to $1420. That included an extra hundred because our fumigation certificate (valid 3 months) was deemed only valid for 1 month because they hadn't used smoke. We also had to dispose of a mango, but I was allowed to eat it, as long as it was done immediately. In addition some of this may have to be repeated for each port we visit in the islands. Now we are allowed ashore - a beer is needed by the captain methinks!

However we found that a sea lion had already taken up residence on our swimming platform and had to be poked off with a broomstick. We then hoist the dinghy to block stern access and caught a water taxi ashore. On the way we passed moored dinghies and fishing boats covered with dozens of sea lions. It's going to be a challenge keeping them off!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Crossing the Line

A day more glassy than before, and I have the strange sense of being on a very long train journey with the carriages rolling at their slowest speed across an endless wasteland of features land covered with snow. The sun rises and adds a rich colour for a while and then gets very hot, and we are grateful for the shade of the Bimini.

At 14:00 Mark suggested that we speed up and get to the Equator before dark. It was 35 miles ahead on our course, so instead I turned due south where it was only 20 miles away, and sped up to 7 knots (using 5 litres an hour vs 1 l/h of diesel), and we got there at 17:00

Then King Neptune (JPS) emerged with Queen Nefertiti (JB) and held court for the two crew who were crossing the line at sea for the first time. First came the indictment of crimes to which the crew must answer. Emily bore up well under the test, and freely admitted guilty as charged for Magic a) walking on water (paddle board) b) strange contortions of the limbs (yoga) and c) using magical ingredients when cooking (quinoa, miso, pomegranate molasses)

Mark then faced charges of Miscalculation a) supporting a yellow football team (the Canaries) b) always leaving his greens c) stating that 2 biscuits are really only 1 biscuit

The candidates were then allowed to compete for King Neptune's favour by eating three Communion Crackers (Jacobs Cream), the first being able to say "Aye Aye Sir" being awarded a special prize. In this case Mark, as the winner, was awarded a fork and an open tin of spinach to eat. It didn't go down well, or at all actually.

Then it came to the Anointing of the Chosen Ones, and Queen Nefertiti supplied a wonderful jug of Nefertiti's 'Normous Noodles mixed with old watermelon which was liberally applied to the novices. They were then hosed down with the deck-wash seawater pump and allowed to dive into the South Pacific (or in Emily's case to paddle board round Tin Tin.) followed shortly afterwards by the Royal Couple. Fortunately the trail of 'Normous Noodles in the water didn't bring a flurry of fins, and all survived happily.

Justin whipped up a brilliant Spaghetti Bolognese with the last of the thawed fridge contents, and Emily produced a jug of delicious Virgin Pina Colada to toast the occasion.

We motored gently westward along the Equator while we supped, and suddenly I saw a yacht ahead silhouetted against the red of the sunset. A quick call on the radio from "King Neptune" to "Yacht on the Equator" got a response, and I welcomed them to the South Pacific. We were speaking with yacht Telebus from Denmark which is heading the same way.

Now we are motoring on course again and aiming to be in Wreck Bay tomorrow morning to start our next phase of exploration.

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Doldrums

Monday 13th March 01 51.2' N 86 74.6'W.
We finally had to give up sailing yesterday evening as the wind died away and we slowed down from a useful 5.5 knots to about 2 or 3. So the motor is on, trundling at the lowest speed possible to conserve precious fuel, and yet to achieve 5+ knots to get us there by midday on the 15th. I have a week planned in Galapagos, and aim to leave on the 22nd of the wind doesn't pick up as we could easily have to motor a couple of hundred miles south to find the SE Trades.

This morning the blue ocean stretches as far as the ease can see under a cloudless blue sky. The water is lightly rippled by a teasing breeze of 4-6 knots, which would ultimately get us to our destination if we allowed it to, but at no more than 2 knots it would take a 5 days rather than 2 more. Slow swells roll up from the south resting an ever mobile landscape.man occasional flash of white at the periphery of vision makes me think that there a dolphin or some other creature to enliven our day, but usually it is a little ripple that has a aspired to be a wave and collapsed in a tiny splash of foam.

Life on board is relaxed, Mark and Justin sitting below reading. Emily has just surprised me by doing my washing - a task I had planned yesterday, but which got postponed through sloth- which is now hung out windward providing welcome shade in the cockpit as the sun rises.

Our freezer has been behaving very oddly for a few weeks, and has now stopped working. So we are having to eat our way through defrosted chicken, mince, vegetables and ice cream. Most disappointing. I made a good crusty meat pie for supper yesterday served with potatoes (4 mins in Rosalind's pressure cooker) and finished off with pudding if melted chocolate ice-cream and tinned apricots.

I have been reading a Guide to the Galapagos which I found in the marina book exchange in Cartagena some weeks ago. The author Pierre Constant is a geologist and naturalist, but his account of the social history was the bit I found gripping! For example, in 1929 a strange German doctor, Friedrich Rittmer, and his assistant, Dore Strauch, asked to be dropped off on the deserted island of Floreana. There they set about making a home and creating a cosmogony can orchard so they could, live there according to their vegetarian and other philosophical ideas. The regular papers written by the doctor about his ideas and their experiences stimulated a lot of interest in Europe and the "Robinson Crusoes" of Floreana became much visited by luxury yachts. Then in 1932 the Wittmers, a German farming family, arrived with their poliomyelitic son, and joined in. Finally a Baroness von something arrived with her two lovers, Lionel and Philipson, and announced that she was going to build a millionaires' hotel. The resulting shack of wood and corrugated iron, "The Hacienda Paraiso" was all she managed, but she then announced herself as the Empress of Floreana and tried to rule the other inhabitants with gun and whip! Then she and Philipson vanished without trace and Lionel, who had probably conspired with the others to murder them, escaped the island in a small boat with a Norwegian sailor, but was wrecked on another island where they died of thirst and were found mummified on the beach. Next the doctor died, reputedly from a poisoned chicken given by his lover, although they were strict vegetarians. She returned to Germany and wrote a book called "Satan came to Eden" about the events, before she fell to the curse of Dr. Rittmer. However, Margaret Wittmer from the farming family continued to live there with her children, wrote a bestselling book, "Floreana Poste Restante" and died aged 96 in the year 2000, never revealing the full truth of the strange events. I must try to get those stories on my Kindle!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Riding a tongue of wind

Saturday 11th March 2017
An uneventful day with a scattering of flying fish at dawn when Emily came on watch, and then no sign of sea life all day. The forecast is for a tongue of wind pushing over the peaks of Darien from the Caribbean towards the Galapagos. We've had two good days speeding along our course, with the current generally giving us a boost in the right direction.

However when I cam on watch at midnight, to see in the first three hours of Sunday, it was clear that our tongue was giving out. The heady days of 8 knots have gone for now, and we are creeping down towards 5.5 knots beyond which I will have to consider motoring. The forecasts, if right, indicate a complete lack of wind for our last two days, so the "iron donkey" will be used. There's a dated phrase, very much in keeping with the sea stories that I've been reading. I downloaded The Sea Story MegaPack onto the Kindle before departing and have been gripped by great adventures from the age when sail was being challenged by steam. Whatever the adventure, the writing of its time gives an insight into the lives of people who depended on the sea, whether as fishermen in Newfoundland or merchant seamen, whalers or sealing vessels. Hard lives and gripping stories, and for the last day I have barely stopped reading except to stand watch and eat. It makes our own journey seem luxu
rious, and yet at the same time we share the same exposure to calms, storms, currents, rocks and sea creatures.

Emily kindly did my supper duty tonight as I was feeling a bit seasick from too much reading! For lunch I'd made Lake Soup in the pressure cooker that Rosalind gave us, but thanks to Emily supper was superb, with Justin's fresh caught tuna marinaded in ginger, coated in black and white sesame seeds and seared in the pan. Served atop noodles with a mango, onion, red pepper and chill salsa it tasted great! Pudding was peaches and melted vanilla ice cream.

Our freezer has been driving me mad with its intermittent operation, and having spent the last few days holding a very respectable minus twelve, it has now stopped working unless the generator is running. Careful monitoring hour after hour show that voltage is not the issue, so I am baffled. Now we need to eat up the mince, chicken and ice cream that we bought I. Panama.

The last hour of the day was a sudden flurry of activity. A ship, the Dole Atlantic, steaming up from Ecuador to Costa Rica came within half a mile of our stern, and ten miles before that I spoke to the man on watch to confirm that they could see us on AIS. After days without contact, it was reassuring to see the ship going about its business, but a reminder that we are very alone out here. The other yacht that we saw astern on Friday has vanished, and we guess that we've left her 15-20 miles behind when the wind picked up..

After supper, in the dying pink of the day, the sea was suddenly leaping with dark dolphin shapes as forty or so came speeding to us from every direction in a great cavorting mob. They were almost 6 ft long and had a pale speckled band from their eyes down to the belly and then curving up over the tail. A great excitement as we crowded to the bows together to watch the games played beneath our forefoot!

Now that we are out of phone range and WhatsApp doesn't work I rather miss the contact with everyone. It would be great to get email from you at paul@myiridium.net. This satellite system works well for text emails, but please don't include large attachments like photos otherwise it can take many hours to download.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Out into the great Pacific!

We set sail on Thursday from Las Perlas across the gulf of Panama on a direct route towards the Galapagos. Not much breeze initially but it strengthened nicely, and with the tide we made 8-9 knots in the right direction, passing the islands of Pedro Gonzales and privately owned San Jose. There we spotted humpback whales a mile or so away, with their characteristic tail lift and flash of white underside.

About midnight I was on watch and we were passing the cape on the west side of the gulf, and heading across the traffic separation lanes into open ocean. The wind held and so did the currents so that in bright moonlight and flat calm sea we were gliding along at a surprising speed.

Whe I came on wth again at 06:00 to relieve Justin I was lucky to spot a pod of 5-6 whales curving through the water a hundred yards away, silhouetted beautifully against the shiny calm pink water of dawn. They had blunt squareish heads and modest rounded dorsal fins, and may have been pilot whales or false killer whales.

During the day the wind slowly eased away, and we poled out the Genoa as the breeze backed more and more dead astern. We had several encounters with high leaping dolphins, who didn't seem interested in TinTin, but were intent on hunting. Why they leap so far out of the water is a mystery.

We also had a meeting with a small pod of big pilot whales with very characteristic rounded hooked dorsal fins and square heads. Emily and Justin also spotted a turtle as big as a car wheel. Bird life is different and sparse as the murky green fish-rich waters give way to clear deep sea blue. We have seen individual white gannet-like boobys, brown skuas, a low wave-hugging shearwater and a tiny fluttery black petrel.

The wind died away and I started the engine so that we would arrive in Galapagos around the 15/16th to give us enough time before we have to leave for the Marquesas on 22/24th.

About this time I jettisoned the "chocolate butterflies" over the side from the full paper bins in the heads, and made holes in all the tins and lobbed them over to sink in very deep water. It was then that, looking astern as the tins sank in our wake that I spied a sail following us a mile behind. She must have motored up behind us while we were struggling to make headway in the failing breeze, but now we were staying ahead of her. She didn't show up on our AIS, so we had no details of name, radio call sign or speed. The frisson of an unknown vessel astern, and the need to out sail her came over us all, and we half imagined she flew a black Jolly Roger, as we trimmed sail and kept watch to see if she closed us. As night fell and the sea silvered with bright moonlight, we seemed to hold our lead, but my radio calls went unanswered. With five days sailing ahead it will be interesting to know whether we will learn more about our shadow

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Birthday celebration!

Wednesday 8th March 2017. Isla Casaya, Las Perlas.

I was up at 06:00 to make bread for Emily's birthday breakfast, and laid a pretty breakfast table with a clean cloth and twenty or so pink scallop shells, that I'd found on the beach at Mogo Mogo. With cards and little parcels it was a lovely celebration!

We spent a happy morning ashore on Scorpion Beach exploring the rocky headland. The islands are made up off great sheets of sedimentary rock, and in some layers we saw what looked like tree branches. In some higher layers were honeycomb structures and circular mounds that reminded me of stromatolites (ancient bacterial colonies). There are trees growing in clefts in the rock that seem quite happy as the tide comes in several feet up their trunks, and it's a lovely sight as clear water, lit with sunlight washes in under the shady foliage. Justin spotted an iguana (or was it a baby croc) that dashed across the beach into the sea.

Later we stencilled TINTIN onto a plank and stuck it up in a tree, and also stencilled onto the balsa log and outrigger boat. Emily paddled off round the headland into the next bay and was startled to be trailed by a drone. She later met the owners, Tony & Shannon aboard their cat Sweetie and they kindly gave us some of the aerial photos, and a bottle of Shannon's home brew beer. They are about to head north through the canal en route for the Mediterranean.

We surprised Emily I return to the boat with a blue birthday cake. It had originally said Felis Cumpleanos Emily, but it had an accident in the dinghy and the icing stuck to the box. Nonetheless it was enjoyed!

We set out to explore another bay, but it was slow going amongst the reefs, and anchorages were not easily found. Eventually we managed to get the anchor to hold off little Isla Bayona. But felt quite exposed to a fresh wind and waves, and I passed a restless night.

However Thursday morning dawns and all is well. Today e set off for the 850 miles tooth Galapagos. The forecast is for a tongue of wind pushing over from a windy Caribbean to take us about halfway and then we will be in the doldrums.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Castaways!

Tuesday 7th March 2017
We spent a happy day anchored alone in a little bay on the south side of Isla Casaya. Emily paddled her new board and I headed up the far end of the beach to some interesting trees growing out of the sea on a rock shelf Here I found a comfortable rocks the shade and settled down to a happy hour of painting. Meanwhile I had also been thinking about all the lovely driftwood on the beach, all useful if we were castaway here. As if by telepathy Mark and Justin built an outrigger log canoe to escape the island. Then we had a go at lighting a fire by twizzling a stick. It got hot, but not enough to smoke.

That evening Mark and Justin went ashore again to build a bonfire, While i cooked supper During this Justin was stung by a scorpion. Fortunately he was ok

Monday, 6 March 2017

Perilous Las Perlas

I woke at 06:00 and went on deck to savour the dawn. We were anchored close to a sandy beach in a rocky cove with two other boats, on a channel between two islands.the tide was flowing fast kicking up a chop just off shore.

Then to my horror o found that our dinghy had vanished leaving only the painter hanging ni the water. An awful déjà vu from the time in the Slcillys when I hadn't made fast properly and the same had happened. This time it was Marks turn to wonder how his knot had
Fortunately Justin spotted the dinghy across the channel on the other island, and Emily bravely paddles across to get it.

Late w went back across to Mogo Mogo to explore. It was wheee Bear Grulls' Survivor series is filmed, and on a narrow strip of land between two bays we found a shelter and rudimentary furniture from the camp. The Great sweep of white sand was enchanting, but the forest edge was full of plastic flotsam and jetsam. Emily and i wam and loved the cooler fresher water of the Pacific.

Looking back at the trees it was lovely to see many of the tall silver limbed trees bare except for ia full bloom of pink flowers. The sand was curious because one sank a coupe of inches into it. Strange tracks like ornately patterned bike tyres came out of the leaf litter to the debris at the high tide mark. Later I spotted the animals that made them as hermit crabs lugged their various shell homes around.
Later, towards low tide we navigated down the island
chain to s new cove.
Later

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Biodiversity

It has been an exciting couple of days with wildlife and awareness of biodiversity. We delayed our departure in orderto visit the Smithsonian Tropical centre at Punta Culebra, just 100 yards from Tin Tin. The centre does a great job of introducing people to coastal and marine wildlife through open air dosipalys. We met hawksbill and green turtles swimming in a tank within finger nipping distance, and nurse sharks and star fish and sea anemones too. The beach has turtles which return to lay eggs, and lots of crabs scuttling around. But the most exciting moment was meeting a sloth! This one -two or three toed- I can't recall - was relaxing in a tree at about head height and I was able to get close to sketch him. I swear he opened one eye and winked at me! Later I spotted three of the other fifteen sloths hanging around in the top of trees. Emily spotted one legging it along the barbed wire fence around the car park!

Next I went to the Biodiversity Museo which is a startlingly colourful building on the causeway out to La Playita. It was designed by famous architect, Frank Geary, and our taxi driver had said that it resembles coloured paper screwed up by a child and thrown in the bin! I found it an new citing sight, and ask wall,ed under teh coloured planes of theropod I entered a grey interior evoking forest trees through its branched pillars. There were some great exhibits; the Panamarama is a huge room walled and floored with screens on which images of wildlife are projected whilst one listens to the sounds of the jungle, ocean or animals. Very impressive. Then on through geology of the bridge linking the Americas and into a huge atrium filled with life sized leaping animals, representing the clash between separate ecosystems of north and south when the continents were joined.

Then today, Sunday 5th March we finally set sail to escape Panama City, and in 25 knots of wind our sails filled and we fled through the field of anchored tankers to the open sea. I went below and slept for a blissful couple of hours in my bunk, rocked by the movement of the boat. When I woke I found that the Las Perlas Islands were in sight. Suddenly something jumped out of the water and splashed dramatically ahead of us. It turned out not to be a whale, but a manta ray. Then for the next two hours the sea around us was constant,y erupting with big manta rays leaping and turning somersaults.

Next we caught a tuna, and while getting a bucket of water to wash off the blood, I spotted whale shark just below me. It was 20 feet long, and had a spotted skin with a flat head. Very exciting!

The Pacific is absolutely teeming with life in contrast to the Caribbean!

Finally we dropped anchor between Isla Mogo Mogo and Isla Chaporra, and Emily pumped up her new paddle board and went off with great poise.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Progress at last

Carnaval over, the Volvo offices opened and I secured the attention of two engineers to Kim at our dead engine. Naturally it burst into life immediately, and all I had to show them was my video of it not doing so. Using Google Translate on our respective phones we discussed the problem, and they concluded that it might be to do with the electronic control unit. Or had it the switch panel wet? I pointed out that this was a sailing boat. It often gets wet!

Turns out they are about to replace a control unit on a German yacht which had waited three weeks for the part. No hope of speedier progress was offered. I think we will have to continue our voyage with the intermittent fault.

Meanwhile we bought and fitted all five new batteries, I taxied half the length of the canal to refill gas bottles, Justin has painstakingly documented all our stores and Emily got her heart's desire - an inflatable standup paddle board- so we are almost ready to set off. Just need to buy fruit and veg tomorrow. !

Cacophonous Carnaval

Carnaval came to an end, and little we saw of it really, the Children's Parade being the best.bit, and the Water Day the least enticing. Multiple water bowsers lining the sides of a dance arena hosed down the bobbing masses in the burning midday sun while the air pounded interminably to seismic speakers and earsplitting aggressive rap vocals. The endless row of blue tented food and drink stalls all sold an identical mix of BBQ chicken or spiral cut Frankfurters on a stick plus huge containers of ice and water drowning cans of Balboa beer at a dollar apiece.

It was a relief to leave, and I was truly sad not to have experienced thé Carnaval atmosphere that I'd hoped for.

The best day was meant to be Tuesday, but desperate to escape we had booked a ferry to the island of Taboga, Island of Flowers and erstwhile haunt of Pirates. The Calypso Queen and Calypso King ferries shuttle back and forth on the one hour trip across the bay from La Playita marina, ploughing noisily through our anchored fleet of yachts and tossing us all wildly in their overpowered wake.
Each top heavy ferry is packed with punters and everyone wears a big orange life jacket.

Gettting ashore at Taboga involved a steep climb at low tide to a wobbly pier. The largest collection of pelicans, cormorants, gulls and terns that I have ever seen carpeted the water, or darkened the sky as they wheeled and dived into the fish soup below.
Ashore Emily headed in the direction of sand and beach umbrellas. Mark led the male expedition along the village street and past shady cafes to climb the Cerro de la Cruce pimple at the far end of the bay. A hot walk in flip flops that had us scrambling in the blazing midday sun up ever steepening tracks to a white cross overlooking the bay, and then a gravelly slide back down again in time to catch the ferry home. Luckily Mark had done Shrove Tuesday pancakes for breakfast to give me energy for the expedition.