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Passage to Panama

by SV Taipan 29 Apr 2019 14:02 UTC 24 April 2019
In our Trans Atlantic Crossing shirts!! James Tomlinson, James Robinson, Kris, David Arrived © SV Taipan

Martinique, St Annes Bay, our first port of call after the Atlantic crossing from Las Palma, Canaries, and it gave us the opportunity to have a good sleep and catch our breath but only briefly as we needed to keep moving to get the James's on their flight back to the Old Country.

From Martinique, we day sailed to Grenada stopping in Rodney Bay, St Lucia, just overnight, and in Bequia for two nights which enabled us to do the Island tour and enjoy some decent coffee!! Bequia is probably one of our favourites in the chain.

First stop in Grenada was St George and the lovely Port Louis Marina. Here we regrouped, repacked debriefed and said farewell to our two trusty swabbies! It's been a fantastic trip and lots of good memories.

In Grenada we needed to haul out for new anti-foul. Our last anti-foul was applied in Makum, Netherlands at the end of May 2017 so has withstood the rigours of quite a few sea miles. Our Atlantic passage had been slowed by the growth of barnacles, particularly on the bottom quarter of the keel and especially under the keel. There were a few goose barnacles under the counter. Overall though she was in pretty good shape and only required a good pressure spray and some light sanding in a few places.

We chose Prickly Bay Marina haul-out at the south end of the island and were accommodated rapidly. Thursday, one week after arriving in Grenada we were out of the water. They have a good marine chandler onsite and the yard staff are very friendly. Its an easy dingy ride to the Grenada Yacht Club for a good meal after a hard day on the hard. Their Friday night is great fun with a fantastic steel band, a DJ then live music all to the accompaniment of good food and great Pina Coladas!!.

There ensued the usual anti-foul jobs. Anode replacement and this time a new cutlass bearing. On deck, I stripped all 10 winches, cleaned, greased, oiled and reassembled them. This took several days. Four of them are very large.

The sail which was damaged from the flying spinnaker pole track was patched and stitched and we also completely rebuilt the Tides Marine batten cars on the Mainsail. They come joined with screws. These have all been replaced with bolts as the screws just strip in the plastic moulding under load.

The piece of spinnaker pole track has been painted red to remind us not to load it and replaced at the top of the pole track. It's just to hold the pole when not in use.

Both preventer lines have been replaced with Kevlar and have hard eyes spliced in for attachment. The headsail sheets have been reattached using knots instead of splices as the splices chafed on the pole.

In all, we were 10 days up. We could have done some of these jobs in the water but the anchorage was rolly so we chose to stay up.

Monday we relaunched, anchored for long enough to put the boat right, then motored around to St George's and anchored off for the night.

Matt "Destino", an old sailing friend from Oz came over bringing local fare for dinner and we swapped yarns till the wee small hours.

Tuesday morning after fuelling up and clearing Customs we set off on a 1100nm passage to Panama. There has been unrest in Venezuela and a nasty incident with shots fired at a sailboat so we elected to give that coast a wide berth.

Our course took us 200nm north-west before we turned west. With prevailing winds from the East, the passage was all wing on wing. Even when we turned south-west towards the end the wind followed. Seas were not always so comfortable and it was often pretty rolly.

What followed is the day to day posts that I made to Facebook using the Iridium Go. I was even able to load a couple of images. Our Predict Wind programme, which supplies our up to date forecasts, was very reliable on this passage and we felt comfortable about continuing to Panama instead of diverting to Bonaire when an unfavourable early forecast showed heavy wind and seas off the Colombian coast. The forecast moderated and we continued with good weather. Bonaire we were sorry to miss but we've a plan to get into the Pacific as soon as possible now.

Taipan is back at sea. Passaging 1200nm between Grenada and Panama. We left on Tuesday and have had pretty plain sailing. Our route has us over 200nm from the Venezuela coast and running almost due east. Wind a fairly constant 18 to 22 from the East. Swells unformed and some crosswind waves make it a bit rolly. Found a nice slot and covered over 50nm in the past six hours. Wind and waves aligned. Very little shipping and only a couple of birds for company One little swallow stopping by for a rest and a drink from the sink below decks. Keeping well clear of the coasts of both Venezuela and Nicaragua in view of the latest incidents.

1.30am 17th April. Left St George, Grenada just 13 hours ago. Full main up with staysail. Nice n frisky out here after a slow start getting clear of the island. About a 1200nm run to Panama. 15 to 18 knots just aft of the beam. Fairly comfortable. Nice to have a clean hull

Wednesday 18th 630pm we've had light following wind. Poled out around midday. We will cut south tomorrow though. Change of plan as we to the west of us is looking very unpleasant over the weekend. May make Bonaire instead.

We sometimes you lose track out here. Today is the 18th and it's Thursday just past midnight here. We've been going 36 hours and covered 260nm in relatively comfortable seas. They have flattened considerably in the last12 hours, along with a slight wind shift and drop. Still poled out with wind around 14 to 15 kn astern. The past 12 hours would be about as good as it gets. Full moon over the masthead, flat sea. One ship about 10 miles away. And it's tank top temperature. We were shooting straight for Panama giving the coast of Venezuela a wide berth given the two attempted piracy incidents in the past two weeks but as I said. We will shoot for Bonaire to avoid heavy weather. This eastern Caribbean Sea can apparently throw up some nasty steep seas in gales. So, suddenly Venezuela didn't look so bad!!!

Thursday 18th 11pm 400 gone under the keel since leaving Grenada. The wind picked up just after we put in a reef on dusk. Good timing. Still poled out, but reefed headsail. 20 to 22 knots right up the clacker. Rocking and rolling. Abandoned plan to Bonaire as forecast seems to have moderated slightly. Heading on to Panama. Plenty of surfing in this sea. Few 10s n even the odd 11 on a big surf!! Not much good for sleeping, but the moons bright and the foods good. And seems like a mighty fine sail when compared to the book I'm reading. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard? Its a memoir of the 19101913 British Antarctic Expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott. Wikipedia About Scott's expedition to the Antarctic in 2011. At least we're warm!!8.00pm.

Good Friday, April 19th. 560nm gone under. Sometimes you wonder, as you rush headlong down the face of these inexpertly formed seas, just why it is that we do this. Seas as opposed to oceans seem to have messed with the nice uniform ocean swell and inserted a bunch of malformed mischievous cross waves just to ensure the passage is as rolly as possible. Today we lashed a deck chair in the centre of the cockpit in an attempt to find a more comfortable position. Occasionally you can almost get ejected from it though. There are ships and showers around tonight and wind remains the same. Tomorrow we might gybe! We're still reefed and polled out. Still three or four days to go. Happy Easter everyone.

12.30am. Sunday 21st. My watch and there are no Easter eggs!! Hope everyone out there has done well. Seas have moderated and this new angle produces less roll. It's easier to sleep! Progress is steady with the pole to port now and still one reef. I think we've gone soft! There's mostly only 12 to 14 over the deck! Wind fairly close to dead behind. No wildlife today and impossible to fish as the Sargasso weed is very thick. It's probably caught up all around the prop too. It's a beautiful night. Moon glowing and occasional puffy clouds. No showers tonight. 770nm gone under and we are expecting to arrive in Shelter Bay at the northern end of the canal either late Tuesday or early Wednesday Cheers from Team Taipan. Enjoy the eggs!!

Sunday 21st Easter Egg day. 8.30pm The day started with nice even low swell but as the day wore on the swell increased but without much increase in the wind so we rolled a lot later in the day. It's dark and the moons not yet risen Stars very bright. No rain about. No ships. Not much of anything really. In choosing to give the Venezuela coast a wide berth it's taken us north and out of the favourable current, however, now that we want to make more south we are encountering that same current on the nose as it sweeps round north to join the Gulf Stream. Frustratingly this is knocking about a knot off us. Overall though it's been pretty fast. We've 380 to go to Shelter Bay. Our agent has advised he's setting up inspection and measuring for our canal transit for Thursday so it will be a busy first couple of days. Managed a radio comm with our friends on SENTIJN in the Bahamas tonight which was fun.

Monday 22nd. 900pm. Done 1055nm 200 to go. A glitch with the autopilot caused a slight drama in the middle of the night! Shutdown. Continued to shutdown randomly during the day. Fortunately, we have three autopilots so it was easy to switch to the first spare. It's been working fine for 12 hrs. Touch wood. We've one more spare!! Can never have too many spares said, Captain Dave. To be sure to be sure to be sure!! Seas are bigger. Closer to 3m. Wind same and sails same Think we've a knot against us again It comes and goes but the seas build against it. ETA Colon northern end of Canal is??? Yes, the middle of the night! Won't that be fun with all those big ships to play with???

Tuesday 23rd 1130am 1176 gone and 50 left to run. Beautiful night. The remainders first the moon and a sky full of stars. Sloppy seas, little wind and a 2-knot countercurrent have played havoc with our ETA though so we will not arrive at Shelter Bay till around midday.

Arrived at Shelter Bay Marina Panama at 11.30am, six days and 23 hours. 1274nm Last 36 hrs pushing current and with very light wind, so it was a pretty good average in spite of that.

Next challenge is Panama Canal Transit. Stay tuned

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