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.

1 comment:

  1. No mas bombing or Navy presence on Vieques since about 2003. Rosie Roads also closed.