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