Day 8, Arrival in Panama!

1715Z 09APR19, Day 8, USVI to Panama Passage. We have arrived in Panama, Shelter Bay Marina!

We did our best to be sailors and not rely on the engine. We crawled along at 2-3kts for 50 or so of the last 75nm in light winds and opposing current. I guess it is a lesson in patience? Lifting our spirits was a fellow sailboat outside of the Panama traffic zone who was also going very slowly on a parallel course. We saw him on AIS and could see his lights for hours. Then he gave up and turned on his engine and was gone before morning. There is comfort to know that you aren't the only one being set back by current and struggling with light winds!

All's well that ends well. This morning after sunrise, we turned on the engine and brought in our sail. There were no signs of any shaking or vibration which was a huge relief. We did some maneuvering and felt like the rudder was still a bit hard to turn. As we are sure that we had something caught in the rudder back on the 2nd it still seemed important to dive the boat and see what we could see. We had planned to go to a spot to anchor, but the area along the coast on the way to Colon settled down to a small swell and the winds were light. We deemed it safe and decided to dive off the coast. Megan dove and found absolutely nothing out of order. What a huge relief! We delayed our arrival and were overly cautious, but we arrived in sunshine and everything looks good again. The saying that sailing is a series of high highs and low lows is quite true. 

Current Position: 09 22N 079 57W

24 hour progress: 76nm, 3.5kts avg SOG

Passage statistics:

1068 nautical miles

7 days, 22 hours

5.6 knots average speed over ground

7.6 hours of engine time

60 liters of fuel consumed (approximately)

285 liters of water consumed

1 swim in the Caribbean but close to shore (but only 1 person and not for "fun")

1 Dolphin sighting

0 Fish caught

2 Things broken - 1 x lazy jacks; 1 x head water drain pump sensor

Post was delayed for some lunch and some cold on to a nap!

Final Cribbage Passage Tally: 

Jon-11, Megan-3 

Jon-1, Daxton-0

Day 7, Passage to Panama

1915Z 08APR19, Day 7, USVI to Panama Passage. Well, we are still a ways out. The winds have fallen considerably. They were 8-12kts last night, but have come back up to around 10-15kts today. However, we are being set by an opposing current and moving slowly.

Yesterday afternoon, after the wind started falling and before sunset, we took down the sails and put up the asymmetric. To do this, we turned on the engine and discovered that something is not quite right. There is a slight shaking when the engine is up at normal operating rpms turning the screw. We assume something happened back on the early morning of 2 APR when we had the issue with the rudder. We had not used the engine since 1 APR so we were unaware. Before we go into the marina, we will stop and dive the boat to see what is going on. There is no impact to our ability to sail, and we can maneuver with the engine. The boat is responding to throttle inputs appropriately but there is a slight shaking / vibration that should not be there. It may just be minor fouling of the screw.

Normally we probably would have been motoring or motor sailing, at least over night in the light winds. However, we are erring on the conservative side and leaving the engine off for now. We will continue to sail for as long as we have wind, and only use the engine when we must until we are able to see what has occurred.

Current Position: 10 12N 079 02W
24 hour progress: 109nm, 4.5kts avg SOG, 992nm completed, approximately 75nm to go. Current weather is very hot and humid. There are clouds and haze again today, yet plenty of sun too. There is very little breeze across or through the boat—it's an apparent wind thing as we're sailing deep downwind under the asymmetric spinnaker.

We are all doing fine. We will sort out our issues and should enter the marina tomorrow. Still looking forward to a good, long shower and a cold drink or two!

Random fact: Zephyros has gone more than 13,000nm as of this morning! We passed the mark just after sunrise.

Cribbage Tally:
Jon-11, Megan-2 (obviously it was Jon's idea to track this and Megan is less and less pleased about the tracking every time she loses)
Jon-1, Daxton-0 (opening of a second front)

Day 6, Passage to Panama

1915Z 07APR19, Day 6, USVI to Panama Passage. Well we thought the winds had calmed down yesterday but they were right back up around sunset. They have been slowly decreasing since sunrise. We are back to comfortably sailing with full main and full jib. We gybed yesterday and our course is around 250T, now on a starboard tack instead of a similar course that we had yesterday on the port tack. We are hoping the wind will swing a bit more, but we likely will gybe back south again later today.
Current Position: 11 25N 077 45W
24 hour progress: 146nm, 6.1kts avg SOG, 883nm completed, approximately 180nm to go. Current weather is still hot. There are more clouds and haze today, but plenty of sun too. We continue to sail a broad reach with winds now around 20kts +/-5kts true wind.
We are looking forward to and anticipating landfall. It is shaping into another after dark arrival so we are thinking out alternatives and have a few good options, depending on progress over the next 24 hours. We would love to make the marina before dark tomorrow, but it isn't looking likely, unfortunately.
We are all doing fine and catching up on rest as the conditions are calming down. We are looking forward to arriving in the marina and are all looking forward to long showers! There are also a number of kid boats there and the marina is reportedly quite nice. So lots of things to look forward to, back in the real world.
Cribbage Tally: Jon-7, Megan-1

Day 5, Passage to Panama

1915Z 06APR19, Day 5, USVI to Panama Passage. The wind and the waves picked up last night to around 30kts with higher gusts. We have really been moving with some good sized waves pushing us around. We've even seen our highest sustained speed surfing down a wave - 11kts speed over ground.

We have taken a few larger waves across the boat. Most annoying was a wave that splashed up from the side and into 3 cracked hatches in the middle of the night. Poor Jon was busy cleaning up for awhile while the rest of us tried to keep sleeping! We have had the hatches open to create inside airflow because it has been so hot, and we had not closed them completely in the increased winds and seas. They are all closed up tight now, but we are looking forward to getting better airflow again. Funniest was Daxton sitting outside today in his lifejacket and clipped in - when a wave splashed up and over the side and he was completely drenched. He was in shock and then we all had a good laugh about it. He's now had a salt water bath for the day, dried off and changed clothes. He was happy the lifejacket didn't inflate! (It is supposed to need to be in the water not just splashed.)

Current Position: 11 58N 075 27W
24 hour progress: 158nm, 6.6kts avg SOG, 737nm completed, approximately 310nm to go. Current weather is hot, humid, bright and sunny. Everything feels a bit damp inside and out. We continue to sail a broad reach with winds now falling back to around 25kts +/-5kts true wind. There were 3 reefs in the main and also in the jib, but as winds are calming we are back to 2 reefs in both the main and jib. We have continued to make a course of around 240T, but that is starting to shift as well. We expect the winds to continue to settle back down and shift.

We were all a bit tired and cranky this morning but have had a nice sunny day, and some naps, to cheer our spirits. Nobody seems to have slept well last night. All the wind, sun and speed does have our batteries fully charged and our refrigerator nice and cold.

Cribbage Tally: Jon-7, Megan-1

Day 4, Passage to Panama

1915Z 05APR19, Day 4, USVI to Panama Passage. It has been a fairly uneventful 24 hours. We have taken a reef out of the main. We put it back in, in the middle of the night when it got a bit gusty, just to be safe. And then shook it out with daylight to up our average speed over ground.

Current Position: 13 15N 073 08W
24 hour progress: 149nm, 6.2kts avg SOG, 579nm completed, approximately 465nm to go, past halfway! Current weather is warm and sunny with less scattered clouds today. We continue to sail a broad reach with around 20kts +/-5kts true wind. We have continued to make a course of 250-260T, giving us a decent amount of space from the Colombian coast without us needing to gybe. The swell has been pushing us along with some surfing down some of the larger waves. We expect the winds and perhaps the seas will pick up a little and are ready to reef accordingly. However, so far, the conditions have been more in our favor than forecasted, especially wind direction, so we are content and moving well.

The crew continues to do well. We are making better power today as it has been very sunny, a bit more windy and there is very little weed today. Still no luck fishing. Everyone is excited to be past the halfway mark!

Cribbage Tally: Jon-5, Megan-1

Day 3, Passage to Panama

1915Z 04APR19, Day 3, USVI to Panama Passage. The last 24 hours have been largely the same wind and weather as the previous 24. We did decide to launch an experiment to see if we could sail deeper. In the late afternoon yesterday, we started discussing options to improve our course. Gybing will have us make way north which is not the desired direction so we discussed ways we might sail more directly downwind on the desired course without loosing too much speed. We tried reefing the main but the headsail luffed as we went deeper. We then tried pole-ing out the jib. We do not have a really quick and easy setup for using the pole, nor much experience using it for a sail other than a traditional spinnaker. So the effort was clunky at best with both of us wobbling about on the foredeck and taking a long time to get everything set up properly. Then we watched and looked the setup over. We had slowed which made the boat roll a bit more and made things less comfortable. We didn't like the look of how we had the jib sheet run through the end of the pole - seemed like a line intent to chafe through, probably at an inopportune time, during the night. Things that work well when coastal sailing can't always stand up to the endless load/unload cycles of open ocean sailing. As all this was going on the sun was getting low in the sky. We tried to see if taking reefs back out of the main would help bring our speed back up. It did and it didn't. Then the sail-bag fell down! We have a lazy bag that helps to catch the mainsail when it is lowered and keeps it contained on the boom in one spot. The lazy bag is held up by lazy jacks that are attached up the rig on the mast. Well the line chafed through at a ring and the starboard side came down. It really is not a big deal, does not affect our sailing and can be fixed back in port pretty easily. However, it happened in the middle of everything else and added to the sense of defeated-ness. At this point we decided to call the whole experiment, regroup in the morning and just gybe if / when we needed to. We successfully got everything cleaned up and back to how we had been sailing before the experiment. We even secured the flopping half of the sail bag before darkness set in. The only change we kept was a single reef in the main.

Current Position: 14 06N 070 46W
24 hour progress: 144nm, 6.0kts avg SOG, 430nm completed, approximately 620nm to go, current weather is warm and sunny with scattered clouds. Wind has been a bit more up and down and shifts directions, but we generally are continuing on a broad reach with around 20kts +/-5kts true wind. We have one reef in the main and one reef in the main jib, making a course of 245-255T. The winds have shifted enough to improve our course significantly! Perhaps it is poetic irony or the gods laughing at us that after our failed attempts yesterday to sail deeper the wind simply shifted enough that the previous sail configuration is now working significantly better. Whatever it is we will take it!

The crew continues to do well. The boys completed school work early and enjoyed an early afternoon movie with Dad. The refrigerator is working much better this passage than the Atlantic crossing, thanks to Jon's adding another two filters to the seawater circulation line. We aren't making as much power as we would like because our hydro generator keeps getting fouled with sargassum weed. Otherwise, things remain slow and the seas comfortable enough. The cats are getting plenty of sleep.

Cribbage Tally: Jon-3, Megan-1

Day 2, Passage to Panama

1915Z 03APR19, Day 2, USVI to Panama Passage. The last 24 hours have been uneventful and have reminded us of the Atlantic crossing. Similar winds, similar seas and not much traffic. There has been some traffic though which is more than we saw on the Atlantic and traffic will certainly build as we approach Panama.

Current Position: 15 18N 068 40W
24 hour progress: 149nm, 6.2kts avg SOG, approximately 760nm to go, current weather is warm and sunny with scattered clouds. We've been steadily moving at a comfortable speed on a broad reach with around 20kts +/-5kts true wind and full main and jib sails up, making a course of 230T. The seas have built a bit with the increased wind but are following and comfortable enough. We would like to sail just a bit deeper to make more westing and be sure to avoid the Colombian coast and a low that continues to sit over the area reportedly making the winds and seas a bit uncomfortable. At times the winds shift enough to give us a bit more westing which we happily take advantage of and we will certainly adjust our course as needed as we get closer.

The crew continues to do well and we're settling into our routines. The boys have spent a good deal of time on devices but some school work is also being accomplished. Though Daxton is currently protesting any and all school. Things remain slow and steady. And quite warm.

Cribbage Tally: Jon-2, Megan-0

Day 1, Passage to Panama

1915Z 02APR19, Day 1, USVI to Panama Passage. We departed Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, 1515 local time on 01APR19. We had a lot of trouble deciding if we wanted to leave Monday or Tuesday. In the end we compromised with an afternoon departure on Monday based on our weather prediction software, having finished up our major "to do" items and being ready to get going. The winds and seas were calm, but had built enough to sail, all as predicted. We motored and then motor sailed for a bit to help charge up our batteries that had drained a bit over the past days due to very little wind and minimal sun. We noted that we have not been in a marina overnight with shore power since La Gomera, 3.5 months ago!
We raised the sails and started with a reach that moved to a broad reach as we got a bit further south. The winds were 10-15kts true so we decided to switch to the asymmetric before sunset. We enjoyed a lovely sunset looking out over Vieques which Jon and I both remember planning training missions over back in our Navy days. We wonder if it still hosts a bombing range like it once did. Dolphins joined us for a bit, which was especially lovely at sunset. Daxton conjured them up as he sat up on the bow with me while I was taking the sunset pictures. He said we needed dolphins and about 20 minutes later there they were! He's alarmingly good at conjuring up wildlife.
The night was uneventful with winds continuing to be about 10-15kts true and the asymmetric happily moving us along at 4-5kts SOG. There was very little shipping traffic to worry about. The stars were bright and the light pollution from St Thomas, St Croix, Puerto Rico and Vieques were all visible for a good bit of the night keeping us company on our watches.
Around sunrise things got more interesting. The boat started turning into the wind and Nike (our autopilot) couldn't hold course anymore. Jon was on watch and started hand steering but the rudder was sluggish. I got up as I could feel the acceleration and knew something was going on. Winds had built to about 20kts and the asymmetric was still up, but we were still around 15kts apparent wind which should have been fine and comfortable with the asymmetric. We quickly decided we needed to get the asymmetric down and figure out what was going on. In the process of getting the asymmetric rolled up I took the helm and also felt the need to put in big rudder corrections and the general squirrellyness of how Zephyros was handling. I got her going downwind again and tried Nike again, but again she couldn't hold it. Jon was forward to furl (roll up) the asymmetric and I heard a thunk. I assumed Jon had lowered the center board (it was at half) to give us more stability & control. I did look behind us but it was too dark to see anything. We got the asymmetric furled, Zephyros was acting normal again, Nike could hold course and we were now sailing well with the jib. Upon later discussions it seems like we probably had something caught on the rudder and that must have freed itself with the thunk.
Current Position: 16 52N 066 41W
24 hour progress: 137nm, 5.7kts avg SOG, approximately 900nm to go, current weather is warm and sunny and getting warmer. Since this morning we've been steadily moving at a faster speed on a broad reach with around 20kts +/-5kts true wind and full main and jib sails up, making a course of 240T. The seas have built a bit but are comfortable enough.
The crew is all doing well and settling into our routines. Jon and I have napped throughout the day to get acclimated to the watch shifts. Things are slow and steady.