Anchor Down: Panama to Galapagos


Last Updated on September 28, 2020 by Amy

We have the anchor down in the Galapagos (and have 45 minutes of free internet!) so another successful passage is in the logbook!  Now waiting for our agent to come by to help us clear into the country.

SH in the Galapagos!
SH in the Galapagos!

Despite ripping our spinnaker, we had a great time sailing over from Panama. The winds were better than expected. We only reefed our Genoa once, and we did use our screecher a lot. It’s kind of interesting because you may be getting an apparent wind speed of, say, 8 knots from 130 degrees off your port side. But once you get the screecher up, the boat starts moving faster forward and that forward momentum clocks the wind vector around to about 80 or 90 degrees, and then your apparent wind speed starts to increase up to 12 or 14 knots. Very cool. The winds did drop at night and a few times got under 5 knots, so once our speed dropped to about 3 knots (or our autopilot started having trouble steering) we rolled the headsail in and motored.

We calculated that we only used about 30 gallons of fuel over 5.81 days.

As for wildlife, we saw dolphins our first few days, and even two whales. One whale was REALLY close to us but he didn’t surface again that we could see. The other one was far off, only identifiable from its spout. We did have a lot of birds though!  Thursday night a red-footed booby camped out on our port bow cleat for 12 hours, and Friday night, a frigate stubornly clung to the top of our mast. We were worried that the frigate was going to take down our wind vane, and of course Starry Horizons has a lot of bird poop goin’ on right now…


Watch the Video: King Neptune Talent Show

Watch the Video: Sailing to Galapagos

Sailing Journal

Mar 21st:  Dear Neptune/Poseidon/Zeus/Whomever

Written by David

Dear Neptune/Poseidon/Zeus/Whomever,

It has taken me quite a bit longer than it probably should have, but let me say: message received. No more spinnaker use.

I tried to put a positive spin on all the previous rips in order to take them as learning experiences and searched far and wide for the text that became known to me as “The Chute Gospel”. Armed with these holy words, I had new confidence in my ability to use our spinnaker to sail upon your fine seas.

Perhaps, the small tear (no idea where it came from) we discovered when deploying the spinnaker yesterday should have been a hint, but instead, we were undaunted and worked hard to repair the sail, yet again, while we were underway. The night was soon at hand so, in an abundance of caution, we dropped the spinnaker and continued sailing under genoa.

This morning, the conditions were perfect. You had sent us a beautiful sunrise that burned through the morning haze, revealing blue skies with not a cloud to be seen. Your seas were exceedingly calm, befitting the 10 knots of true wind that we’d seen throughout the night. Once my Admiral had awoken and the weather for the day had been checked, we decided that it was time to use the spinnaker once again.

The swapping out of our screecher for the spinnaker went flawlessly and I moved the furler over to the windward hull to ensure the sail would have access to clean air once set. I bubbled in excitement as I double-checked our set up and envisioned the big blue sail flying in front of Starry Horizons as she whisked us down towards the Galapagos. With Amy ready at the aft winch, I took one more look at the wind. True wind speed of about 12 knots and an apparent angle right at 130 degrees. Perfect.

My hands and arms went into a flurry of motion as I pulled on our continuous furling line to unwrap the sail. I could hear the winch singing to me as Amy worked on keeping tension on the sheet. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect start to a morning while on passage.

Unfortunately, when the sail was just about finished unfurling, you sent your final and greatest message. Rather than filling with air, the spinnaker suddenly folded in on itself. Amy cranked furiously at the winch while I checked the helm and had to blink hard to confirm what my eyes were seeing (in all fairness, this was at the end of my first night watch and I was probably closer to Zombie than Human).

True wind speed above 20 knots and an apparent angle at 90 and getting higher!

Well, shit.

The forecast had indicated this would happen gradually starting 6 hours from now! I guess you had gotten fed up with our continued persistence and decided to send the increase in wind and shift in wind angle all at once to really hammer your lesson home.

I immediately tried to get us back downwind in the hopes that the spinnaker would fill or get blanketed by the main, but it was not to be. The luff had already caught on the spreader and was in the process of ripping the sail completely in half. I watched in stunned silence as half of the sail fell down to the deck and rippled in the wind out over the bow of the boat.

Now, I grant you that we may go down as the worst spinnaker sailors in the history of the oceans, but other than that, Starry Horizons has a damn fine crew. We quickly worked to gather the torn sail and managed to do so without it falling under the boat and getting caught up in our rudders or props. After stuffing its remains in the forepeak locker, I went up the mast to free the other half of the sail and get it stowed away.

I’ve been accused of being stubborn more than once in my life, but to you Neptune/Poseidon/Zeus/Whomever, I finally admit defeat. Hopefully, the sacrifice of our big, beautiful sail will calm your rage and you will permit us to soon transition from pollywogs to shellbacks without further incident. But rest assured, we will perform a proper ceremony to the best of our ability.

Your (humbled) sailor,

David Alton

(PS: the dolphin shows and whale sightings have been awesome! Please keep those coming!)

Mar 23rd:  Points West & Cruising Doubts

Written by Amy

Crew morale has been a bit low since the spinnaker incident.

We always talk about how far we’ve come since we moved aboard, but a lot of the time it seems like two steps forward and one step back. We’d like to think of ourselves as good captains, but we have only successfully flown our spinnaker a few times. We play around with the idea that potential careers and kitty-filling endeavors would revolve around sailing (assuming we aren’t sick of it by the end of our circumnavigation). It’s a big hit to our ego – we need the confidence to depend on each other and make our crew of two work.

And of course, this spinnaker destruction comes at the worst time. We have a 3-week passage ahead of us to reach French Polynesia, entirely forecasted for light winds directly behind us. Ideally, we’d do what we should have done in the first place – buy a parasailor. However, getting a parasailor now is difficult and expensive. We’ve just had major expenses (Panama Canal and Galapagos, plus a thorough stocking of supplies), and we’ve got to stop hemorrhaging our money. Our cruising kitty is NOT happy.

So, we are not going to replace our spinnaker. Not now, and maybe not ever.

At least we are making progress. We are officially the furthest west we’ve ever been on Starry Horizons. Slow steps towards our goal of circumnavigating. We are also approaching the equator, to change our status from pollywogs to shellbacks.

Otherwise, things are fine here. The wind is light. We are currently wing on wing with our genoa. We had a generator day today, so we’ve topped off our water tanks and even enjoyed some air conditioning.

Thanks for reading my venting….I’m dreaming of sea lions, penguins, and Galapagos tortoises!

Mar 25th: Shellbacks!

Written by David

A very important event happened today aboard Starry Horizons. We have officially crossed the equator and, with King Neptune’s blessing, have transitioned from Pollywogs to Shellbacks! In order to secure said blessing, today was laden with ceremony. Amy started things off with a speech exalting the God of the Sea, offering our torn spinnaker as a sacrifice and promising appropriate libations if he granted us safe passage to the Southern Hemisphere.

Next, we moved back to the transom, to watch the GPS numbers tick down and drag our feet across the equator. It was both a surreal and normal moment all at the same time. Crossing the equator and seeing our Latitude go from “N” to “S” is a huge milestone for any sailor and further validation of all the hard work we’ve put in to get this far. It’s been something I’ve been dreaming about since we first stepped foot aboard Starry Horizons in La Rochelle almost a year and a half ago and to watch it happen was incredible.

Yet at the same time, the moment of crossing the equator is not that different from the thousands of other moments we’ve had while on passage. It’s not like there is a huge yellow line that you cross, there’s no confetti falling from the sky or crowds suddenly appearing to cheer in your honor. The boat just continues to slip through the waves and carry you closer to your destination. Well, I suppose one thing different about this moment is that it was celebrated with champagne, which does make it pretty special. Not wanting to risk our crystal wedding flutes, we brought out the plastic wine glasses, and with a very generous pour for King Neptune, offered a toast in his honor.

Next up on the agenda was the talent show, offered as yet another honor to King Neptune. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but let’s just say there were togas and lots of awesome (meaning terrible) white person dancing.

And thus concluded our ceremonies for King Neptune. All in all, it was a fun afternoon and we hope that our offerings will continue to grant us safe passage upon his seas. We’ve got less than 90 miles to go to the Galapagos and will be motor-sailing this last bit as the winds are very light. But we should be arriving tomorrow!

00°00.000 North, 088°54.484 West


  1. Nice news to wake up to. Sunny day in Seattle. My folks just arrived last night. They’ll be happy to hear of your safer progress.

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