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Last Updated on September 28, 2020 by Amy
We have arrived in Panama! Starry Horizons is safely tied up to the dock at Shelter Bay Marina, thanks to some excellent maneuvering in close quarters by the Admiral. There are lots of other cruisers here prepping for the Pacific so we’ve already started making friends.
Sailing Passage Summary
The final day of the passage started out a bit grey and dreary but right about at the time of our arrival to the massive gathering of ships anchored awaiting passage through the canal (I guess that’s where they all were), the sun started poking through the clouds. The winds today were quite light, but rather than the low single digits they were forecasted to be, they hovered in the upper single digits and even a few 11 and 12 knots true. We did quite a bit of motor-sailing, but there were a few periods where we could unroll the screecher and actually sail for a while.
With the sun out and the light winds, I managed to work up the courage to launch the drone off of Starry Horizons as we worked our way through all the anchored ships. To say I was nervous is quite an understatement, but my shaky hands didn’t seem to have too much of an effect of the shots. They turned out awesome! As soon as we get some wifi, I’ll try to give a quick preview. And even better still, I managed to get the drone back to the boat without crashing it in the water!
Final Passage Recap:
Average SOG: 7.48 (new record!)
Average NM/Day: 179.4 (new record!)
Best NM/Day: 209 (new record!)
Total Time at Sea: 7 Days
Total NM: 1,249
Fish Caught: 3 Tuna (new record!)
Sailing to Panama Passage Journal
Feb 19th: 36 Hour Passage Report
Written by David
We’re a little over 36 hours into our passage to Panama and we’ve gotten off to a great start. Our strategy for this passage was to head a bit north from Grenada and then turn west. There are two reasons for this.
1) Our weather reports are showing a pretty consistent band of wind in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, while a bit further to the north and south there are lighter/more variable winds.
2) The area right along the coast of Colombia is renown for high winds and rough seas. By deviating to the north, we will be adding almost an additional day to the passage rather than sailing directly, but hopefully, we can avoid the worst this area has to offer. A worthwhile trade-off in my opinion.
My favorite part of this passage is that it finally is a return to downwind sailing. Leaving Grenada was a deep reach and then once we made the turn west, it’s been almost dead downwind. To keep things easy as we get back into the passage groove, we’ve just been using our genoa and mainsail in a wing-on-wing configuration. My hope is that we’ll try getting our spinnaker up today and see how that works for us.
If I had to guess, I’d say Amy’s favorite part of this passage is that Poseidon listened to her prayers and we caught another tuna! Yesterday morning, I saw a large churning in the water, and flying fish going everywhere. I put both lines out and almost immediately, we got hits on both! Amy came up to help while I got the boat slowed down, and while one fish pulled a Houdini escape act, we got the other one on board.
A dinner of fresh tuna sashimi was delicious and tonight is going to be tuna ceviche. The rest we’re saving as an added treat for our friends who come to Panama, so consider that an additional incentive to join us!
Feb 21st: Over Halfway
Written by Amy
We’ve passed our halfway point, and are making good progress towards Panama.
David’s sister Julie sends us all the comments on our blog and facebook page, and that’s a lovely treat to read every night.
We did get the spinnaker up on Friday and sailed with it for a little while, only to have it rip! It’s a small rip, by the foot; hopefully, something I can fix once we get to Panama. David is REALLY displeased with that sail. Does anyone want to buy us a parasailor?
We’ve changed to a starboard broad reach, pointed slightly north. Had a little bit of rain overnight and this morning. The winds have picked up well, hovering right around 15 knots of apparent wind. Over the last 10 hours, we’ve averaged 8 knots. David is hopeful we will hit a 200nm-day.
Before leaving St George’s, I bought a bag of about 20 small green mangoes from a guy at the dinghy dock. I’ve been very glad that they’ve ripened well…just a few a day, nice and juicy…makes for a lovely snack in the afternoon.
No further fishing luck after the two twin skipjacks. But we have 7 loins in the freezer – about 28 servings of tuna. That makes me a happy camper!
I’ve been reading (I’m on the last book of the Outlander series) and David has pieced together our next video – just some detail work to do; hopefully we can get it published fairly quickly once we reach Panama.
Other than that – nothing but blue sky and blue seas all around us!
Feb 22nd: 209 NM Day!
Written by David
While we’re on passage, I track our 24-hour progress from 7AM-7AM to try and keep things consistent. Yesterday’s 7 am Mileage Log was 607nm. At 7 am this morning it was 816nm.
Do the math and that is a 209nm day, averaging 8.71 knots! And that number completely obliterates our previous record of 187nm! And while we certainly won’t be challenging our friends on the Gunboats ‘Tribe’ or ‘Fault Tolerant’ anytime soon, I feel that 209nm is pretty damn respectable for our type of catamaran.
Sailing tactics is definitely an area where I still have a lot to learn, but I feel I called this one pretty well. Our weather forecasts were showing a shift from E winds to ENE winds, and knowing that we wanted to move a bit further north to try and avoid the typically nasty weather along the Colombian coast, we sailed wing on wing almost all day yesterday, staying further south than where I knew we wanted to end up.
Once the wind started it’s shift around 4 am yesterday, we changed to a deep broad reach to start heading north. From there it was a fortunate set of sailing conditions, with the Apparent Wind Speed hovering right around 15 all day (max sail according to our reef table), waves consistently on our aft quarter but not so big that we had huge surfs (slowing us down as the waves pass under us) and a current that appeared to actually be helping us for a change.
And the cherry on top of our new record is that we did it completely under mainsail and genoa (and no engines!) since our spinnaker ripped AGAIN when we launched it on Friday. (For those keeping track at home, that’s twice it’s ripped in the 4 times we’ve flown it. Not a great success record.) Once we get it fixed, AGAIN, maybe that will be the secret to launching an assault at an even faster record.
For now, it’s back to slower sailing as the winds are forecasted to die out a bit, but I’ll just keep basking in the glow of 209nm!
Feb 24th: Where Are All the Ships
Written by David
Today should mark the last day of this passage to Panama. Thanks to my awesome sailing tactical prowess (I’m expecting to hear from Team Oracle any day now) we’re actually going to be arriving a day earlier than I had calculated based on our historical average SOGs. We’ve pretty much run the gamut of weather conditions on this passage, from the ideal conditions that lead to our 209nm day to 35 knots of true wind and large waves (fortunately still downwind), to now we have grey skies, tiny waves and less than 10 knots of true wind. It most likely won’t be the most beautiful day for our arrival into Panama, but as long as we get there safe, that’s all I care about.
One thing that is a bit disconcerting, since we’re 65 miles away from Colon, is that there are practically no ships around us. I had these grand visions in my head of a line of cargo ships and tankers streaming towards and away from the Canal, and instead we have 2 AIS targets right now (oh wait, it just jumped up to 3!). Rather disappointing and in truth, has me a slight bit nervous that all of our charts and GPS plotters are leading us astray and we are instead aiming for some long lost island where we’ll encounter Tom Hanks and his buddy Wilson. Though I suppose that wouldn’t be so bad, Tom Hanks does sound like a pretty awesome dude.
A special thanks to all of you who take the time to comment on Facebook and our blog while we’re out sailing, and an even more special thanks to my sister Julie for taking the time to forward them all to us each day. Even though we can’t respond while at sea (we promise to reply once we get decent land-based internet!) it is a ton of fun for Amy and me to read the comments and know that we aren’t just throwing words into the abyss of the internet. You guys are awesome!