Last Monday was an excellent start to the day. We had finished our provisioning, and were ready to hit the high seas. We picked up 2, 6 gallon jerry jugs filled with booze (one of Jack Daniels and one of Ron Abuelo) from Jane and Ean from More Joy Everywhere (long story but we got the benefit of their purchasing and efforts) and dropped off “marina jewelry” (dock wristbands – those of you that know, will know). We then set the sails for the southwest and with any luck, the sighting of the Ecuadorian coastline in about a week and ½. Sigh, it was not to be.
|Can we get more wine, please?|
|Seems we're going to be gone a long time - at least a week|
|That's not water in there|
The first 24 hours was uneventful, and we made good time riding the south flowing current down the western coast of the Bay of Panama, averaging about 6 knots, and made Punta Mala in decent time. Let out a little whoop-whoop when we crossed our ill-fated track from 6 months ago, arriving to Panama Bay. The windicator we had tried to fix the week before was intermittent with information, but we could deal with it, as we had lots of telltales on the sails and shrouds to at least give us wind direction.
With words of wisdom from Terry on Oh, Baby! we kept tacking through the southwest setting wind and swell, heading either west or south, and while it was slow going, it at least was going.
So of course something has to happen (this is the short version). The stitching on our outhaul clew board gives up the ghost, and we are left with a flapping main sail. Oh, well, we’re a ketch, and we’ve probably sailed 50% of our time without our main, so no tragedy. Another 24 hours passes, and Ron notices that we’ve got some horizontal wrinkles in our jib. Mmmmm. The loop for the halyard had ripped right through. Gulp. The mantra begins….we are a ketch, we’ve still got 2 more sails to use, and we’ve got an excellent John Deere engine.
Now by this time, the benign weather had changed. We were in 35 knots of wind, and 10 foot breaking waves. These waves were coming at us directly from the dreaded southwest direction, our "go to direction" and as such we even had them coming over the bow AND over the pilothouse. We’re not sailing in Mexico anymore, Dorothy!!!
So of course something ELSE has to happen. The autopilot chooses this moment to say, “nope, not gonna play.” We were about 50 miles away from our first waypoint of Isla Malpelo, after a hard won 2 and ½ days. NO AUTOPILOT?!?! (After not being able to find my boat in a dark anchorage after a night on the town drinking, it is my worst nightmare to not have an autopilot) After about a minute of discussion, we decided the prudent thing to do would be to head back to Panama City, and get ourselves sorted out. So now the fun REALLY begins….
30 HOURS OF HANDSTEERING, 10 FOOT FOLLOWING BREAKING WAVES, 20 KNOT WINDS, CRAPPY WEATHER.
|Notice the Pigpen like squall surrounding our boat|
|Yup, it's raining AGAIN|
The sailors out there reading this, yes, it was as bad as it sounds. With our trusty 3rd crew member declining to participate, it was a 1 hour on, 1 hour off schedule.
Upon arrival back in the Bay, the seas set down enough to be able to recalibrate our autopilot. It took, thank god, but we were still committed to heading back.
All told, our little burn around the Bay of Panama took 5 days, and cost about $500 in diesel. Yay!!!
Good friends treated our arrival appropriately. "We’re sorry you’re back, but great to see you." Last night, Mike on Hartley said, “I hoped to never see you again.” So funny, but only sailors would see that this was not a slam, but just a part of the life. Because you see, he took off 2 days after we did, and also returned with the same blown out clew on his mainsail. Weird!
Our autopilot is operational again, and a new spare “brain” has been ordered. A new skookum Garmin windicator/gps/barometer/thingymabob has also been ordered. The sails are getting picked up today for repairs (I tried yesterday on the machine that our friends Matthew and Jill on Rock and Roll Star have but the thickness was too much – oh, for a Sailrite onboard!) Ean from More Joy will hand deliver our new gear, plus a new starter motor that Ron had ordered months ago for the generator, when he returns to Panama on the 10th. Until then, we eat, drink and attempt to be merry.
Meanwhile……the lightning continues.