Thursday, January 19, 2017

No Dust On Us

Entering Colon harbor at dawn

This much shipping traffic - our AIS screen. Drift to the wrong side of the channel and harbor control is going to let you know about it.
Roberto the Panama Canal admeasurer. Eric got to help measure the Mothership
I got to help with paperwork
We're thinking in big chunks of ocean on board Galactic.

South Africa-Cuba. Panamá-Galápagos-Hawai'i.

And so on, to the logical end.

But sometimes to make a big chunk of ocean go by under your keel, you have to get through a little hoop first. Like, for instance, the Panama Canal.

Alisa and I both get instinctively nervous when the movements of the barky are constrained by forces outside our own control.

So when friends shared the news that booking a slot to transit the Canal might get difficult during the peak months of February and March, we saw a problem that needed to be gotten after, quick-like.

We hope/plan/intend to cross to the Pacific side in February, after I return from a fortnight of work in the Great Land and one of those Lesser United States. Like everyone else we know who is transiting the Canal this season, we're making our own arrangements, without using an agent. So, in order to book a slot, we had to clear in to Panama (that doesn't happen when you arrive in the San Blas), get ourselves to Colon to get the boat measured, and then pay our fees.

So it's been a hectic week so far. Ripper sail to the Port of Entry Sunday, on Monday talked the Port official down from a $20 bribe request to $10 to check us in (Where was the steely, "we don't pay bribes" spine of Carolyn Goodlander when I needed it? The official just said to me, "That's fine. Go ahead and check in at Colon then"), caught a ride from friends to the fantastic town of Portobelo to make our peace with Migración and get SIM cards the same day, made our appointment for the admeasurer Tuesday, then journeyed to Colon (where we do not care to anchor) and back today (Wednesday) to get into the Canal system.

Whew. This carefree wanderin' life can be a rush when you're trying to get someplace.

But we feel like we've gotten away with something to get Galactic measured before I jet to Alaska on Sunday.

And meanwhile, we've been having plenty of fun in Panama in our spare time. The birds! The ruins! The Snails!

More soon...

Friday, January 13, 2017

Four Wet Dogs

They were four wet dogs who made landfall in the San Blas Islands yesterday.

We put to sea from Cuba expecting that we would get 30 knot winds on the passage to Panama. A certain "show me something I haven't seen" world-weariness may have infected the pre-trip preparations of the Galactics.

The wind would be behind us, we reasoned.

Well, no.

A closer consideration of the geometry involved, including the crucial vector of our 8+ knots of forward progress, and what that does to the apparent wind, would have revealed that we would spend most of the passage on a beam reach. And as any sea dog will tell you, an entire world can be held in the difference between a broad reach and a beam reach at 30 knots.

We hadn't made quite all of our heavy weather preparations before the trip.

We knew that there was no need to get the trysail bent and lashed prior to departure, and the series drogue fixed to the stern cleats and lashed firmly on deck, so that a quick cut of its lashings would be enough to deploy that air bag of the sea. We do that for crossings that have some measurable, but small, chance of getting *big*. Thirty knots in the Caribbean doesn't count.

But it might have been really nice if *someone* (maybe the *someone* who has the t-shirts saying "The captain is always right and I'm the captain") had remembered to plug the naval pipe with plumber's putty. That would have been a nice touch. Ditto remembering to cover the stack for the propane heater in the aft cabin.

And it might have been nice if *someone else* (maybe the *someone else* who is the living walking sea goddess for the lucky dog in the funny t-shirts) had remembered not to dog the saloon hatch on top of the little knot in the bungie cord that holds the hatch cover in place, so that the gasket was deformed around the little knot, and each wave could send a little emissary below to the spot on the sole where Eric likes to sleep while we're at sea.

Pauvre Eric! His seasickness is getting so much better, but he still got to enjoy Alisa's famous tamale pie twice, once on the way down and again on the way back up.

And in addition to these little oversights in the ship's watertight comportment, there was the issue of the dodger. Tired stitching and design limits were both at times inadequate to the seas that came aboard. They who will beam reach in 30 knots will have to get used to the dubious pleasure of boarding seas.

It's amazing how much water that dodger blocks when it's all in one piece. When it wasn't, quite impressive amounts of the wet came through. The chart table and all of the electronics that it houses even got a hit. And the cushions that we normally sit on became saturated affairs. Alisa and I did some emergency at-sea stitching which helped things quite a bit. And we rigged the famous Antarctic Entry quite early on to give us some protection on the aft end of the dodger.

But for all that, the area under the dodger remained no refuge for our saturated crew. It was far too warm for raingear, so we passed the days and the nights in our saturated swim wear. Salty skin discomfort ensued.

Sitting around in salt-soaked shorts for day after day is enough to make anyone want to be an armchair sailor.

The interior of the boat was something of a salt-caked scenario. But it's amazing how quickly, once you gain a nice protected anchorage and give the interior a wipe down and have your dinner with victory chocolate pudding for all hands, that interior goes back to being your comfortable domestic refuge.

And, for all that hold-on-kids, we'll-be-there-in-a-couple-days excitement of this crossing, we did manage to put up some good numbers. Noon to noon runs of 152, 182, 177, and 186 nautical miles, the whole 750 miles in four and a half days.

And now Glenn Gould is tickling the 88s, and Alisa is baking bread, and we have the promise of catching up with friends, old and new, who are also in this famous archipelago.

All is right with our world, thanks very much.

This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Vicissitudes

For all that a sailing boat of one's own is the nonpareil way to see the world, there are certain allowances that must be made in the realm of what some would call practical considerations.

On a sailing boat, you don't always go just when you would want to.

Take our departure from Cuba. For days we eyed a 36-hour calm in the forecasts. It stretched from Cuba way down into the southern Caribbean. If we left before the calm arrived, we'd find ourselves bobbing in place on the ocean, with no beach handy for throwing around the old pill.

The longer we sail, the less stomach we have for motoring at sea. There was no way we would consider anything so redneck as motoring all of a day and a night and a day to pass through that calm.

So we waited. The calm came, and we went snorkeling and played baseball on the beach.

The calm passed, and we cleared out. But the light southeasterly that had been forecast declared itself as a fresh southerly. An absolute headwind.

So after we cleared out, and satisfied all the quaint formalities that are beloved by nations and officials around the world, with the extra bonuses when clearing out from Cuba of a springer spaniel to search our boat and a dog handler in mini skirt and black lacy stockings, we motored away from the dock, at just the moment we had promised to leave the country, and made it as far as the anchorage a half-mile away, safely out of view, where we anchored for the night.

Early morning found the headwinds gone. We did that gauche thing that we hate more and more to do, and motored for quite a long time to make some distance on that first nearly windless day. The forecast showed the wind coming up northerly, but quite fresh. A little error on the part of the model might even see us catching a bit of gale-force wind. So we were looking to be as far south as we could, where the wind wouldn't blow so hard for so long.

And all that was what we considered just to begin the five day (or so) trip to Panama.

Is it any wonder that when we start making plans to meet someone in some particular place, we start to get nervous? The one thing we trust in our sailing lives is our inability to predict our whereabouts at much into the future.

We are amateurs, after all. And I figure that's the amateur's right, to be a bit vague about schedule.

This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: