061115; 2010 UTC,
En Route from Isla Isabela, Islas Galápagos, Ecuador to Balboa, Republic of Panama
N 03 degrees 15’ / W 085 degrees 51’
We are in day four of what we hope to be a ten or eleven day passage. We experienced light winds and unfavorable currents while trying to escape the clutches of the Galápagos archipelago; barely logging 150 miles during the first two days and feeling a little disheartened. But since then the winds have increased considerably and we are presently enjoying southerly winds between 18 to 25 knots and seas of 6 to 8 feet. Carina's longest 24 hour run has been 130 nautical miles; pretty respectable for such a small vessel.
After the first day and a half of sailing we watched the swell and wind pick up as we sank the Galápagos Islands to our stern. Since then we've seen little in the way of other vessels, though we ran right over a fishing net that had no visible attending boat. It is hard to contemplate just how huge the Pacific ocean can be until you sail it; nothing as far as you can see but white-foamed waves and wheeling storm petrels and blue-footed boobies. Occasionally, flying fish, looking like so many miniature fighter jets, explode from the sea and glide considerable distances before crash landing into the face of a wave.
We are broad reaching or running before the wind with large following, sometimes confused seas the result of both tropical depression Sergio and another low off of Nicaragua. The seas are amazing to watch as they curl and swirl and pop up tiny spouts of turquoise blue water. Carina is in her element though and when a particularly large wave seems to threaten, and as we wonder whether this particular one will poop us and fill the cockpit, Carina daintily lifts her skirts to allow the swell to pass under and we accelerate towards our landfall. We have sometimes averaged six knots of boat speed but have seen considerably more speed when Carina corkscrews down the backside of large waves. There are growlers out there though and occasionally a wave will sneak up and strike Carina's side with a wallop and the wave's lower lip will splutt out a gallon or two of water on Carina's side deck only to have it drain harmlessly down the deck and through the scuppers back into the sea.
The ride gets even more exhilarating at night, enhanced by the shooshing sound of the invisible water that rushes past the hull, the singing of the wind as it blows through the rigging, and the complaining creaks of the hull and mast as they flex under the tremendous forces of wind and water. The moon is just a crooked, smiling quarter of its former round self and, along with the few stars in the mostly cloudy sky, little light filters down to help guide our way.
We rocket along through a luminous sea leaving phosphorescent contrails in our wake. Meanwhile, the on-watch person strains to detect the navigation lights from large ships that may be traveling these waters on their way to or from the Panamá Canal. One of our biggest concerns is a collision with one of these behemoths; we would certainly suffer damage, so we are diligent in our watches. Legend has it that many large vessels post no, or at most, minimal watches; and that even those people are often found asleep at the bridge. To further complicate matters, our radar pooched on us during our passage from Panamá to Ecuador last May. Since then we've missed the reassurance of the faint glow of its LCD screen which pointed out potential "large hard things" in our path. We plan to get it repaired in Panamá City.
Dougle Robertson, in his book "Survive the Savage Sea", tells the tale of his and his crew's survival after his sailboat was rammed and sunk by killer whales in these very waters. We've seen no killer whales but, just today, spotted a pod of pilot whales or sei whales. We had to disengage our wind vane to hand steer around them as they lounged on the surface, seemingly oblivious to our passing. We're not sure what might happen if we came upon these animals at night. A collision with a whale may cause little more than cosmetic damage to the animal but we think it would smear Carina's makeup considerably.
We are both well and enjoying the spirited ride in spite of our constant concerns about keeping the boat safe from navigating hazards while moving efficiently forward. After an initial pout, Jake has again gotten his sea legs and seems happy to get our undivided attention.
We hope everyone enjoys the Thanksgiving holiday.
Philip Leslie and El Gato Supremo, Jake
p.s. As you may remember, Cruising World published in the September 2006 issue, an article that Les wrote. In addition, they receive copies of our passage notes as we post them. The magazine has asked us if they could post our Galápagos passage note and some photos on their website. If you are interested, you can view the story here:
And the photo gallery here:
The Cruising World Galápagos piece will also appear in "CW Reckonings". If you want to subscribe, you can do so, for free, at cruisingworld.com