Panama to Galapagos

We left Panama City on 3 Apr with the aim of getting to Las Perlas, a group of islands about 50 miles S to stage through to the Galapagos. Ben, the Panama Net weather guru had declared that from the 4 Apr the weather looked good for the first time in a month with plenty of wind pushing S from Panama, giving anyone leaving for the islands a good push towards them.  Having spoken to Lorna on Quatsino II, her friend on a 70′ cat heading straight for the Marquesas had left three weeks before and had taken all that time to get 150miles W of the islands at an average of 45 miles a day, we knew we would be mad to miss the window.
The Las Perlas islands are lovely and we would have really liked to explore them.  However, having missed an obvious weather window once before (a crossing from BVI to St Maarten – boy, did we get a kicking), we knew we simply didn’t have the time to. We sailed at a reasonable rate and immediately ran into fish.  First something very large that simply wasn’t for playing.  I sat, tightened reel, cut fingers and watched it slowly strip line out, taking its time and not getting anything back.  In the end it thankfully got off.  Should have got a bigger reel…… Not long after a Spanish Mackerel of a more moderate size bit that we got on board with no trouble.
We anchored in the channel between Mogo Mogo (used for the “Survivor” programme) and Chapera.  Good holding but a lot of current. Starcharger, another OCC boat parked behind us.  On the back of our good fortune, we were to have Lumiel and Starcharger on board for a BBQ.  In the end, Lumiel hosted – just as well as we would have run out of deckspace.  In excellent company, our fish (baked in a oil, worchester sauce and lime mix – lovely) and steaks went down well as did a beer or two.
We wanted to scrub the bottom to make sure that we didn’t fall foul of the bottom inspectors at the Galapagos (really anal these days apparently…) so after H and I explored Mogo and found the camp used for the TV programme, we moved Skylark around to a bay on the W side of the island. 2/3 of a tank of air later and the bottom was clean.
We left Mogo at 1100hrs in good wind and headed S, out the island chain and then got on course. We had decided to go the more northern routing which is near a rhumbline course.
From our daily email

Day One.

On the drag stag but loving the fact I am steering with clear skies, the Milky Way blazing and the Southern Cross in front of me! Wind good (about 20kts true) and running at about a 6 av. Jib only.
We did have the parasail up earlier but won’t be flying it at night. Lou scared by dolphin coming up to the boat stirring up so much phosphorescence, they looked torpedoes! So much more obvious life here than in the Caribbean. Lots of birds, dolphin and people radioing in whale sightings.

Playing dodgem with the big container ships heading for Panama. Should clear them tomorrow.

Only issue so far was that the topping lift shredded today. Had to cut 15′ out. Replaced with another line tied in with bowline. Not pretty but will have to do until I get more line and a chance to get up the mast.

Fishing is going well – 2 Spanish Mackeral – big things. E very pleased to announce she gutted and filleted her first fish all by herself.

Day Two.

Expanded the distribution list for today. Into day two towards the Galapagos and we are going along at a fair lick. We only managed an hour with the parasail this morning as the wind, having dropped after first light strengthened again. I lost my nerve watching us go along at 12.5kts with 21 true so we are back to the jib only, running at av 6-7kts.

After a slow start, 145Nm in first 24hrs. Fast enough. Wind this evening seems to be moderating and dropping which is line with the forecast.

News today? Woke up to lots of mini squid on the deck. Lou refused them for breakfast! No more container ships so must have passed the shipping lanes from the US W coast. Boat holding up well with no issues today.

Day Three
Well, I suppose our luck with the wind had to run out which we haven’t seen since this afternoon. 148miles yesterday but currently at 04 43N 82 46W with <3kts wind. Have the engine on tonking SW to try and get out of this hole, which I am hoping will be around the 04N line. Tedious.
GRIBs say I should have 8kts. GRIBS are lying!
Today’s efforts have been centered around some bread making, more dolphin visitors (x2), Lou making cerviche with the last of the mackerel we caught and lots of reading.
I’ll send personal emails once we hit internet and a faster connection but in the meantime…
Soren – we can’t be that far behind you unless you have managed to jump into more wind.
Robert – safe riding and love to Dani from the girls.
Taia – yes go for a chat tomorrow morning.
W&K – fingers x’d for a swift fix on the metalwork.
No answers required. Love to all. Hx4
Day Four
Cloud overhead and glassy seas…. Lots of dolphin. We have had 4 pods so far all come for a look. Unfortunately a problem. We noticed a knocking sound. Took a bit of tracking down (also found the main sheet track was loose and needed new rods – more knocking) but root cause seems to be the port rudder lower bearing. Not good. Most likely needs to be replaced urgently says Calder. Gulp. Epoxy putty and the rest out and on immediate standby.

Day Five
Day of the Red Footed Boobys. What is the spelling for that?? Ended up with three of them all parked up at the front of the boat croaking away at each other and shitting in quantity. The adult spent 24hrs with us with a couple of fishing trips away, the jouvenilles the night and all provided us with piles of guano.
Day Six
The wind is dying away now. Lot a lot about so we have decided to cheat a little and motorsail. It also allows us to point straight forthe islands rather than being knocked down wind from them. Now we have Boobies around we have had to pull in the line. 2 birds have tried to take the lure. Foolish beasts. Even managed to get some school done this morning. Very long flat sea.
Day Seven
We crossed the equator at 0053hrs this morning! We waited until Lou was up then had a wee ceremony for the girls and presented them with certificates. No more polliwogs on this boat! The wind is coming and going. Occasionally 10kts; more often 6-7. Still, moving along in the right direction. Saw what we think was a whale (huge green phosphorecence lump) during the night. Confirmed whales in the area in daylight when one surfaced a couple of hundred m behind us.
Day Eight
Land ho! Had a morning of mist and a very wet boat with heavy dew. Had dolphin come for a look, a monster Tuna whose dorsal fin and tail we could see at 300m then saw turtles playing on the surface. Stopped the boat to have another clean. Waterline covered in brown scum (whale poo? Squid ink? not sure) which came off easily. Then, finally, land ho! Spotted the huge cliffs at the N end of San Cristobal. We ran down the side of the island within a wind acceleration zone. Reached Wreck Bay at 1730hrs local and dropped hook in 40′ of water. Lumiel welcomed us with a beer.

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