Thursday, February 25, 2010

Now ready to cross the Pacific.

We’ve been pretty quiet on our blog since we crossed the Panama Canal at the beginning of February and the main reason is that we didn’t explore much the country. In fact, we spend most of the last three weeks preparing to cross the Pacific Ocean, which is our next step and what a step it is! There are close to 4000 nautical miles between Panama City and the Marquesas islands in French Polynesia. This is about the distance we travelled so far in our voyage! Luckily this passage will be in two steps. The first step is a passage about 1000 nm between Panama City and the Galapagos islands, where we plan to spend one to two weeks, and the second step is a 3000 nm passage from the Galapagos Islands to the Marquesas Islands. The first part should take about 6 days at sea while the second will take more than three weeks. During the passages you will be able to follow us on our blog by clicking the “Where we are” button at the top of the page. By clicking on the pin, you can read a small comment Danielle sent with our position. The blue one indicating our last position Again remember that the map on the side of the page is not going to be updated during that period since we need internet to update it and that the fishes in the middle of the Pacific are not really into the WiFi craze. You absolutely need to use the “Where we are” button since we can update it using our SSB radio or our satellite phone. Also take note that we are not going to update our position every day due to the fact that the distances involved here are so large that the pins would be one on top of each other’s anyway. Also, we don’t want to tell you at what frequency we will update our position because if for a reason or another we cannot do it we don’t want everyone following us to start panicking and thinking that something wrong happened! (especially our moms ;-) ) So, no little pin one day = don’t panic. It only means that we are probably too lazy to do an update.

Travelling such distances on a sailboat is not an easy thing and I am not talking about the endurance it takes to be bumped for weeks by the waves at sea but really of the potential breaks on the boat during the passage. Let’s put things in perspective here. During the next month and half we will use the boat nonstop under sail with all the navigation equipment turned on most of the time to travel the same distance we covered in the past 15 months. For one this boat never did a passage that long and for two neither did we! The probability that something breaks is practically 100%. The question is not whether something is going to break but how are we going to deal with it when it happens? This is exactly what we’ve been doing for the past three weeks; preparing the boat and ourselves in order to minimize all the major problems that can occur and we can try to prevent. Concretely this means to inspect thoroughly the engines and the riggings, to ensure that both autopilots are in perfect working conditions and well oiled and to ensure that all other equipments are in order. Danielle spent hours analyzing all the possible routes as well as the wind patterns of the past two months. We don’t joke with these things and we very well know that we can prepare as much as we want there will always be a high probability that something turns wrong. There are presently two boats here in Panama City who never made it to the Galapagos. The first one saw his mast snap in two and had to motor his way back while the other had a sudden wind change and got his spinnaker, a large balloon shape sail at the front of the boat used for light wind, slid under the boat, and the line got caught in his rudder and propeller and broke them both. They drifted for hours before the rescue arrived and bring them back to Panama. Thankfully in both cases nobody got physically hurt but we can assume that the cost of the repairs or associated to the rescue are probably high.
We top up the diesel tanks and our two propane tanks. We also bought so much food the boat now barely floats! Actually, we have big long green hairs growing on the two last steps because they are underwater all the time. The point of stocking so much food that we could feed all sub-Saharan Africa is not that the trip is that long, it is only a month and half, but because of the fact that in the South-Pacific Islands food is either scarce or very expensive while in Panama prices are about half of what we pay in North-America. So we did what we always do and stocked enough food for the next three or four month just to realize on the other side that it was probably not necessary. But hey, at least our little squirrel side is satisfied.

But the main reason we spent so much time in the Panama City is not as much the length of the preparation but the absence of a proper weather window to cross to the Galapagos. Thus instead of turning our thumbs in the very uncomfortable anchorage of La Playita in Panama City we spent a few days in the nearby islands where the water is much nicer and where we even caught two big fishes with the line we pull behind the boat. For us it is quite an achievement knowing that for the whole past year we never caught a fish with this line! We didn’t fish these large shrimps but instead bought them from a passing fisherman. Each of the 15 or so shrimps is about 7 inches long and we paid $8 for the lot! The fact is we are very bad fishermen. Sometimes at anchor we try to fish in the fish banks around the boat. Once the water was so clear we could see the fishes close to the hull, we threw our line directly onto them and I am sure we knock one once with our bate but it was either that they were not interested or then they would nibble at our bate until it is all gone and all this without touching the hook of course! In a few days we plan to return to the Las Perlas Islands to wait for our weather window for the crossing. We will then see if fish is on the menu again!