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Old 14-10-2018, 11:57   #1
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Antigua to Panama run

We decided that while we wanted to get an early start on this 1200nm passage, we didn’t need to get up at the crack of dawn – I mean – we had 8-9 days of sailing ahead of us – a few hours more or less wouldn’t mean anything in the greater scheme of things.
But the best laid plans of mice and men………………There is a saying that life is what happens while you are busy making plans.
We had decided to sail around the corner to English Harbour to bunker fuel instead of doing in Falmouth Harbour where we have been at anchor. Now why would we make a decision like that? Well, mainly because the fuel dock in English Harbour looked to be much easier to lie into than the one in Falmouth. Yes – laziness is king!
So we sailed over into English Harbour (1/2 hour sail) and docked at the fuel dock. Hmmmm – suspiciously quiet here – in fact there was no one here – not even a pickpocket. I wander around a bit and finally come upon a fellow enjoying the shade and a cup of coffee.
Ahem – fuel dock closed today? Of course it is – it is Easter. Ahhh – Easter??? As a cruising sailor you quickly miss all sense of time, dates etc. But I wouldn’t have thought we would forget Easter.
Ok – nothing for it but call Falmouth Harbour fuel dock on the VHF and see if they are open – which they thank-fully are – and we can now sail back the ˝ hour to where we were at anchor and now bunker fuel.
And then we’re off! – The first 15-16 hours in fantastic sailing weather and damn! We flew across the waters. We passed by Montserrat and could see the smoke from the still active volcano.
But unfortunately at 5 a.m. the wind died and we were forced to start up our iron jenny (engine). The wind was under 8-9 knots and the sails were flapping.
We spent the next 1 ˝ days on the engine before the winds returned and we were able to turn off the engine and set our sails again. This time we poled our genua out to port and our mainsail to starboard and - well – away we went. Little to no effort from here on in on our part, we made 5 – 7 knots the next many days and there was nothing - I repeat – nothing to do while on watch.
The windvane kept us right on course and the days and nights sort of melded together. For once, Vinni and I chose a good weather window and the were no squalls (ok – vinni said she had 2 on one of her watches, but I was sleeping and didn’t experience them and you know – pictures or it didn’t happen), almost constant wind and Capri glided across the waves like the beautiful swan she is.
But we wonder – there are supposed to be really many humpbacked whales in this part of the Caribbean this time of year, but we see none – not even a spout. Almost no ships either – the world seems completely empty. When we finally spot a ship on our AIS, we follow it closely – just so we have something to do.
No dolphins either, until just at the end (more about them later) so for once on our travels, Vinni and I can use our time to read, work on Sudoko’s or just relax – even when we are on watch.
The ocean raises up some waves on occasion, otherwise the swell is 0.5 to 1.5 meters, but when the tide turns some of them rise up to 3-4 meters. They’re coming from behind (following seas) so Capri just lifts her derriere and glides over them without problems.
We log 120-130 nm in this ultra-relaxed sailing. We’re not in a hurry and have our sails reefed down a bit so we don’t have to constantly be trimming them. The passage is roughly 1200nm so we can easily figure out that this will be a 9-10 day passage.
But – as I keep saying – we’re not in a hurry.
We’ve made lots of chili and spaghetti sauce before leaving so dinner (a subject that can be discussed endlessly amongst our crew – what do we have, what can we have – how ambitious is cookie?) is simple. That does not stop the discussion, however. I’m the cook so I always end up having the last word (in your dreams Carsten), but I can be convinced to make something else than what I was thinking of. More about this further down in the text.
But into each life a little rain must fall, as the saying goes. Suddenly one evening our chartplotter emits a loud “beep” and boots itself. Uh, uh – not good. Not supposed to do that. I look at our battery monitor and se 12.5 volts. Hmmmm. -I suppose it might be a coincidence and the freezer and refrigerator both started at exactly the same time and the autopilot was working overtime and that coincidence caused a nanosecond drop in the voltage. I tell Vinni we need to keep an eye on it.
Unfortunately, it happens again – twice with a couple of days in between and these times it is in the middle of the day – the solar panels are producing like mad so there is no chance that this is due to a sudden voltage drop.
****! Well nothing to be done except soldier on to Shelter Bay where we can work on it.
The days pass and Vinni decides to try gybing our poled out genua by herself and finds out that she can actually reach the front end of the spinnaker pole – so she is able to do this without my help.
Well done Vinni!
We’ve heard from various sailors that there is a sandbar right at the entrance to Shelter Bay Marina. A couple of friends of ours ran aground on it (they got off without problems). We would find out later that the reason many run aground there is that the bar is not shown on the charts. But there is a tiny “I” on the charts and if you click on it – it tells you that there is a sandbar here that is constantly moving – therefore it is not charted.
We decide not to chance it by coming in in the dark and reduce our speed a bit. Of course, when you want less speed, the tide changes and you get 2 knots of current speeding you on your way, which means we will get there before dawn breaks. We’ll just have to sail in circles outside the Canals big breakwater and the huge pylons that mark the entrance.
As we close in on Panama, about a day before we get there, I hear Vinni yelling “whee – whee” and I know that we have the company of dolphins. And what company! 20 or more. These dolphins are smaller than the ones we’ve seen out in the Atlantic, but they are extremely playful and stay with us for over an hour. What a wonderful gift!
To celebrate, the cook (moi) decides to go into high gear and surprise Vinni with a pizza. But, I’m lazy and instead of making my own pizza dough, I decide to use a tortilla. That works out just fine and we each get our own mid-sized pizza with jalapeno peppers – the only thing missing was cold beer (sigh). But we don’t drink alcohol when we are sailing. The cook bowed to a round of applause and promised to do it again some day. Some day was already the next evening when Vinni looked at the menu and ordered pizza again for dinner – yes these women quickly get accustomed to luxury…………………….
We sail around in circles for a couple of hours while we wait for dawn before going in. Jesus, there are ships here – our chartplotter is thick with AIS triangles showing ship anchored in long rows. Some say there are over 300 ships lying here waiting.
Dawn breaks and we turn towards the breakwater entrance, staying outside the traffic separation system and at the last moment we slip around the starboard breakwater buoy and into the huge harbour area. The harbor area is so big it is actually a bay.
This is a great moment. Everyone says that the big moment comes when the lock gates open and you sail into the Pacific, but I can promise all of you that the moment you sail in between those big red and green lighthouses - you’ll have a lump in your throat.
We’re here! This is the Panama Canal! If you can sail in here without feeling emotional then you are one very, very cold fish. Vinni and I look at each other – this is a surrealistic moment. Like sailing into New York. We, and Capri, have sailed here from Copenhagen. Unbelievable, our log shows that we’ve sailed almost 15,000nm since we left the pier in front of our house. We’ve got probably the double of that to go before Capri’s keel again tastes Danish waters…………………………..
Shelter Bay is to our starboard and we sail along the back of the breakwater towards the mast we can see behind the pam trees (yes when you sail out here you get used to seeing palm trees). We call them on the VHF as we are supposed to and tell them that we would like to bunker fuel before going to our slip.
No problemo! Just wait a bit until the catamaran bunkering is finished and we’re next in line.

Hmmmm- 10 minutes later and no sign that they are leaving anytime soon. We sail up alongside them and ask if they are almost done?
Sure – just another 1- ˝ hours. WTF? Well they have to bunker 2000 liters most of it in jerry cans sitting on the deck.
Well ****. No way we were going to wait for that – so we docked at the reception dock and waited for our turn. An hour later they were finished and we moved over and bunkered.
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Old 14-10-2018, 12:48   #2
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Re: Antigua to Panama run

Thanks for posting your long account of your passage. I find things like this interesting to read, and I think others will too.

Fair Winds!
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Old 16-10-2018, 19:10   #3
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Re: Antigua to Panama run

Thanks again for another entertaining piece of reading.
I actually enjoy reading sailing texts much more than watching videos as it gives me the emotions and excitement without spoiling the views.

May I ask what has been your experience with Jeanneau ?
I'll start looking for a boat in march/april 2019 and my family is based in South of France where plenty of Jeanneaus are available in my price range. (Sun shine, Sun Charm, Sun Fizz, Sun legend, Sun odyssey, Sun fast etc)
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Old 17-10-2018, 08:56   #4
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Re: Antigua to Panama run

Glorious, glorious sailing! Thanks for the account of your passage. Makes me yearn to get out there again. After the canal, are you planning a trip up along the West Coast of the US? It would be a difficult trip, but harbor hopping on good weather windows ain't too bad a way to do it if you have the time
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Old 18-10-2018, 13:07   #5
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Re: Antigua to Panama run

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Morane View Post
Thanks again for another entertaining piece of reading.
I actually enjoy reading sailing texts much more than watching videos as it gives me the emotions and excitement without spoiling the views.

May I ask what has been your experience with Jeanneau ?
I'll start looking for a boat in march/april 2019 and my family is based in South of France where plenty of Jeanneaus are available in my price range. (Sun shine, Sun Charm, Sun Fizz, Sun legend, Sun odyssey, Sun fast etc)
Ours is Sun Fast 40.3 from 2006. A very strong and fast boat. We moved the traveler from across the cockpit to the top of the coachroof. We felt that in heavy seas, a traveler across the cockpit was a potential legbreaker, especially at night.

We've been told that moving the traveler would slow the boat down, but we haven't experienced that. We did have to, on Jeanneau's suggestion, install a new, heavier boom. We have plenty of speed, as witnessed by the fact that we won the first leg of the ARC+, literally beating everybody except a Pogo 12.5 with a full tracing crew.

We have the 2 cabin version and that suits us well - we're double handing so no issues there.

Jeanneaus are good solid boats, we see quite a few of them out here. The Sun Fast sports a heavier rig than the others and you might want to think about that. I believe Jeanneau also made a 43 foot version of the Sun Fast
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Old 18-10-2018, 13:08   #6
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Re: Antigua to Panama run

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Originally Posted by gamayun View Post
Glorious, glorious sailing! Thanks for the account of your passage. Makes me yearn to get out there again. After the canal, are you planning a trip up along the West Coast of the US? It would be a difficult trip, but harbor hopping on good weather windows ain't too bad a way to do it if you have the time
We already in the Marquesas. We are thinking about making the pacific loop...............
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