We left Panama City a little before sunset, and wove through a sea of anchored cargo ships.
In the morning, Andrew spent some time correcting tan lines, and we started getting used to seeing nothing but horizon in every direction.
Day three, we were still seeing a little bit of floating detritus; in the case of this bamboo log, accompanied by a turtle! But the water was clear and calm enough that we figured we should clean the hull. It turned out the paint was holding up pretty well, so it was just a matter of cleaning out the speed sensor’s paddle-wheel.
And since we were stopped anyway, Jazz also got in the water. And then took her turn tanning.
We took eight hour shifts, with Andrew sleeping 8pm-4am and Jazz sleeping 4am-noon. We absolutely loved this schedule. With the autopilot, eight hours isn’t as hard as it sounds. We had lots of alone time and plenty of quality time together. We were both mostly well rested, and we had sunsets together. Andrew got beautiful sunrises, while Jazz got to see beautiful moonsets. To compensate for Jazz taking the harder night shift, Andrew got to do the daytime chores like running the engine and watermaker, and swapping the cat’s pee pads.
It was a couple of days of motoring before we had enough wind to put up the sails.
Even then, though, it was calm enough for Jazz to cut Andrew’s hair, as long as we were both holding onto something for support.
The food on board was excellent. We were well provisioned, and well rested, and it was calm enough that we had plenty of time to make some good meals. Though occasionally “calm” still meant three points of contact in the kitchen. Andrew did the cooking, and Jazz did the dishes, usually around 2am.
Of course, we also had a little bit of entropy, because boats break. We found a machine screw on the foredeck; no idea where it came from. The mainsheet traveler didn’t seem to want to move, while the toilet seat bolts were eager to spin right off. And while it was mostly calm, it moved enough that Jazz missed a step and knocked off the edge. We eventually got around to putting it back together.
We had lots of time to relax.
We even got to play some games.
There were more sunsets.
We had a lot of squid and fish jumping on the deck, so in the morning we had to make a loop around the boat and dispose of the bodies. One way or another.
As we passed the Galapagos – and by “as we passed”, we mean when we were within 400 miles or so – we were often visited by boobies, who liked to sleep on the bow rail. They didn’t seem to mind the bouncing.
Our closest pass to the Galapagos was north of Isla Darwin. We got a little bit yelled at by the coast guard for being in the marine park, which was helpfully not marked on our charts…
That was about the point where we had to refill the gas tank. And speaking of gasses: at some point the LPG sensor started throwing an error on a sensor that doesn’t exist. We were puzzled, until we figured out that there was a can pressing into the other side. Oops.
As we passed through the convergence zone west of the Galapagos, we started to see light winds, which meant the spinnaker went up. And stayed up to see a number of moonrises.
The birds were still in evidence. This was also about when we started to see problems with our other bird products.
Light winds often got lighter in the evening, which made the spinnaker flop around uselessly. Below about four knots we had to douse it just to keep it from chaffing. Totally unrelated, we had occasional distant dolphin passes, but they never came close enough to give us a really good show. Except for the one time when we heard a whistling sound, thought it was something breaking, and came outside to find that it was huge dolphins passing right under the boat and chatting with each other.
The carpet around the doorway had started to come up, so we glued it back down; probably the only pre-planned boat project we did on the trip.
We saw a couple of green flashes, though not as many as we expected; the sun would often be fully visible until hitting a cloudy patch right at the horizon. We just barely managed a picture of one, but you’ll have to zoom all the way in to see it. Around this time, the moon was rising while the sky was still light.
Jazz, our existing shellback, decorated the boat as we got close to the equator. She even gave a crown to Otto, the autopilot.
Then we spent several days heading west instead of south, with the equator eluding us and the decorations hanging around mocking us. Not that we minded that much, busy as we were with domestic tasks like tanning, changing sheets, and de-icing the now-empty fridge.
More good times with food: throwing away limes and cabbage. When the fresh bread ran out, we started baking muffins and pizza.
One night we passed what we assume was a big fishing fleet, lighting up a huge swath of the horizon. Someone later pointed out that, given the number of squid we’d been finding in the area, that’s probably what they were hunting for. (How are they even getting into the cockpit?!)
When we made it to the equator, Jazz put on a ceremony as Captain and Andrew passed from Pollywog to Shellback. The weather had been beautiful for days, but crossing day was cloudy so we didn’t want to swim; instead, we pulled up a bucket of water for anointment. Captain tried to drink it. Jazz and Andrew drank a bottle of Prosecco, our only alcohol in the 32-day trip.
Moonsets, sunrises, workouts in experimental places, and still somehow floating bottles.
So many great meals.
Scheduled and unscheduled chores: Captain’s pellets needed changing. And the furler lost a bolt; it’s a good thing that there are two and that we carry spares of everything. Almost everything.
When the wind got too strong for the spinnaker, but we still wanted to go downwind, we put out the pole. It took us a couple of minutes to get around to tidying the cockpit afterward. Some days are lazy days.
The only problem with storing lots of food is that getting it out can be a challenge. Or an adventure if you’re a cat…
We noticed our batteries were lower one morning, and after some digging, discovered the culprit was a melted fuse holder. Our first attempt to replace it, three smaller fuses in parallel, immediately failed in the exact same way (melted holders, fuses fine). So we put in a breaker, totally the wrong shape but it got us the rest of the way with working panels.
As fresh supplies continued to dwindle, we started experimenting with pressure-cooker bread and powdered eggs. Both… edible.
There were several stops for swimming. One one occasion, Andrew went up front to drop the spinnaker and dropped himself along the way. The water was still nice though.
A lot of people find this trip stressful. We… did not. The scenery was beautiful, the sun shined on us, and the whole experience was just super relaxing.
We sailed a lot of the trip with the spinnaker. Then about 24 hours out, a squall picked up and we dropped the spinnaker in a hurry.
People talk about land coming into view in the distance, but for us, it was more that land was around us one morning when the sun came up. We wanted to arrive with good light, so we reefed the main and rolled in most of the genoa. It looked like we were going to get rained on, but the weather over the harbor cleared up as we approached.
On our way into the harbor, our friends on Searcher flew their drone out and got some footage of Villa!
We were honestly more sad to arrive than excited. This trip was absolutely fantastic, joyfully relaxing and restful. If we could guarantee good weather, we’d do it again.