News aboard Sol Surfin
We are at the anchorage with about 45 other boats from all
over the world. We have been busy provisioning and ordering parts
as well as preparing Sol Surfin to make her transit through the canal.
We have completed all the necessary documents and paid the $600.00
fee and an additional $850 deposit for our transit. We have scheduled
the date of January 31st. If you are interested you might be able
to see us transit through one of the locks on the webcam that has
been set up at www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camerca-java.html . We should
begin the transit at around 8:00 am (Panamanian time) and it will
take about 1 hour plus to make the first 3 up-locks in Miraflores
so see if you can spot us.
Gary and I had quite an adventure getting to Balboa City.
We wrote about our experience. It was very exciting and we are happy
to have reached the top of the bay and are contently anchored and
safe and sound.
We left Ensenada Benau at 2:50AM 1-9-08. This bay is about
15 miles around the corner of Punta Mala and the entrance into the
Bay of Panama. We wanted to hit the point at the crack of dawn, but
the wind was kicking up and we were sailing at 6 knots and were at
least an hour ahead of schedule. If we knew it was going to blow like
this, we could have slept in! So we put in a few reefs in the main
sail to slow us down and rounded the point with just a little bit
of daylight so we could see our way. The seas and current were kicking
up and we could tell that this was going to be a crazy ride since
we had outgoing current and tides against us. We opted to go with
the outgoing tides because we wanted to cross the shipping channels
at daybreak. We were operating without our normal VHF antennae since
we discovered a few days earlier while I was hoisted up the mast to
make some adjustments to our wind vane that we lost our VHF antennae.
It just magically disappeared off the top of our mast. It had fallen
off without our noticing. So lucky for us, another cruiser had a spare
limited range antennae that we borrowed until we could get into Panama
City and get a replacement.
We averaged just over 4kts for our 95 miles travelled which
doesn’t seem like much but against a 3 knot current is really
great! The North West winds were gusting up to 27 knots and as low
as 13 knots mostly on our port side. We sailed on the wind with a
port tack and it was difficult making headway because of the current
pushing us backwards. The current and the wind gusts caused a very
uncomfortable sea state which we subsequently pounded into. Not fun,
so after 13 miles of pounding towards the Las Perlas Islands we decided
to tack towards the coast. We were hoping that closer to shore would
provide for less fetch and waves and therefore a calmer sea state.
This was not the case as we heard later from our monohull friends
who said that they could not make headway against the rushing current.
We gained some good experience within the hour with the securing of the whipping boom. Gary rigged two places to attach our main sheet block so we could continue on both a port and starboard tack. He wrapped the lines around our aft tubular beam and with an added quick release shackle we are able to move the main sheet block to either lashed lines depending on our wind angle. This turned out to work quite well so we were able to regain our sailing with a 4th reef in the main and a full jib out, we continued back on our heading. We did well and kept cool heads even in the worn tired state we were in and after minimal sleep.
In addition to all of the above, we also managed to rip our sail bag attachment points from the end of the boom so our sail/bag assembly was loose and not holding down the partially reefed mainsail in place but rather it was spilling over the sides and as Gary puts it looks "like a drunk in a twin bed".
We arrived at one of the bottom islands in the chain of the Las Perlas Islands named Isla San Jose at 4:00AM 1-10-08. We had been to this anchorage before so we felt comfortable arriving in the dark and were able to drop the hook and get some well needed sleep. We awoke many luxurious hours later to beautiful blue skies and white sandy beaches with clear blue water and 30 foot visibility. We put on our snorkel and fins and swam to shore to stretch our legs on the white pristine beaches. With only us and our foot prints, we recalled our time over the past 24 hours and were grateful to have that portion of our journey behind us. Twice we entered the Bay of Panama, and twice she kicked our butt but we still managed to make our way and are only stronger for the experience. Ironically both passages were done with great weather windows; I would hate to know what a bad weather window would be like!
We spent the next week exploring anchorages in the islands. We found a cozy anchorage in one of the little islands named Isla Casaya. These islands of the Las Perlas chain are famous for the Peregrina pearl that was gifted to the Queen Mary Tudor of England in the 1600's which was over 31 carats large! Of course, there are no more big pearls left. Most of the habitants of the islands are farmers and fisherman making a living with trade. We get fruits and vegetables and sometimes trade milk products and school supplies for the kids.
We found this really cool island of rocks and sand that at high tide completely covers and disappears. The tide swings are huge here and can be up to 20 feet. We were able to get quite close and drop anchor a short distance from the sandy shore. Lucky for us in our small draft boat we can get close enough without hitting any reef, the beauty of a multihull. We are practicing up on our reef and coral spotting techniques because this is what we will be dealing with in the Caribbean coast. I was up on the roof top looking down in clear water and hard to judge depths. Oops just isn’t an option when you are dealing with hard rock and getting holes in the boat. We did well but we can tell that we will need a lot more practice.
Celeste and Gary
More to come soon.....HOME