Tahiti to Vanuatu

French Polynesia

Tahiti

After some well-earned rest in Papetee marina it was time to move on, again. Tahiti and Papetee was a pleasant stay with friendly people. The city offered everything we needed as well as for Peach. Basically only one problem. We had decided to get new antifouling and to let the wharf in Papetee do the work. Unfortunately we had to turn their offer down when they asked for 5 000 US to do this rather simple work on our 38 feet yacht. A horrible price according to us. Thankfully it was very little growth on the hull west of Tahiti, compared to the situation in the Caribbean waters and around Panama and Galapagos. We decided to wait until absolutely necessary. The air compressor we purchased in Las Palmas make it simple for us to clean the hull temporarily when needed.
In the marina we met many fellow sailors and had a nice time spending time with all of them. In particular we spent quality time with Rasmus on Dies Natalie.
When it was time to leave we got our self the necessary inter-cruising permit and took off for Moorea, a stone throw from Tahiti as the first stop on our way west.


Moorea

A nice island with a spectacular view. There are two bays on the north side which give good shelter, Baie de Cook and Baie de D’Opunohu. We stayed in the Cook bay for a couple of days at anchor on 25 meter. Being that far out, we were practically alone when most of the neighboring yachts anchored in more shallow water. Although the island was pretty and the surroundings spectacular we did not feel that we wanted to stay more than a few days. Maybe because we had Bora Bora to much in our minds when that island was our current focus. We had also read about thefts on yachts when the crew was not on board.

Huahini Hui

We left Moorea late in the afternoon for a night sailing to Bora Bora
via some neighboring islands on the way. We arrived to Huahihi Hui early in the morning and sailed through the reef passage, Passe Avapehi, which was simple enough. The west side of the island offered several good and sheltered places to stay. We decided to go to the big bay, Potr Bourayne, where we anchored in the southwest corner at 20 meters. We stayed several days when we felt at peace in the bay. We were only two yachts in the corner with enough distance between us. The water was crystal clear and no disturbing wind at all. It was a really quiet place. We recommend a visit to the island if you are sailing in the neighborhood. We felt both safe and secure on the island.

Ile Tahaa

Our next stop was only 22 miles away towards Bora Bora. We decided to visit Tahaa after we had studied the sea chart closely. Several nice anchorages were indicated. We entered the island through Passe Toahotu on the east side of the island. The passage was well marked while it was no problem to sail through and continue to sail on the inside of the reef further north. We had decided to drop anchor at Coral Garden, a small resort on the west side. We did that and this place turned out to be one of the nicest anchorages so far. We stayed for many days and relaxed, inflated and used our kayak and did a lot of snorkeling among beautiful coral fish.

Bora Bora

After Tahaa it was finally time for Bora Bora. Many says it is the
most specular island in the Pacific. Maybe they are correct. It was spectacular but to tell you the truth (our truth) we have seen other islands as spectacular as this one. Anyway, it felt good to be here at last. We took a mooring buoy north of the town center although other places around the island might have been more scenic. Unfortunately many anchorage areas have been occupied by mooring buoys and anchoring has been somewhat restricted, probably due to a lot of visiting yachts.

While we were there, a kajak race was going on. Fascinating to see all these people in their kajaks struggling against the tide. On our trip around the islands we had seen that kajaking and racing is very popular.

It was ok to be close to the town when it was easy to take the dinghy to shore and get the supplies we needed after so many days of anchoring without access to food shops or vegetable markets. Even if we were in the vicinity of the town the water was clear and we had a good time bathing and swimming. Unfortunately it started to rain after a couple of days and it kept on raining for almost a week. It might had have something to do with the huge mountain close to us. Still, we enjoyed our stay! That the island is popular was clearly noted from all the big cruising ships arriving and staying for a few days. All these people on board were ferried to shore and probably directed to the tourist shops in the town. We saw many shops selling beautiful black pearls and of course other beautiful items typical for the Pacific area.
After more than a week it was time to leave. We were getting tired of the rain, we had all the supplies we needed and we had filled our diesel tanks with tax free fuel which was possible in French Polynesia in conjunction with clearing out of the country.

Cook Islands

The plan was to sail to Suwarrow, one of the most northern islands of the Cook Islands, a distance of more than 600 miles. After a visit and a few days rest on the island our plan was to continue to Samoa Islands. This would require good wind most of the journey especially when no fuel could be purchased on Suwarrow and we would still be having more than 400 miles to Samoa Islands. It turned out that we had no wind at all despite the wind in the weather report. We needed to use the engine for about 300 miles until we noted that reaching the island only by engine was not possible and no wind were predicted for several days. Instead we had to change our minds and turn towards an island we could reach with the use of our engine.

Change of destination

We settled for Aitutaki further south at a distance of 300 more miles from our position. Still no wind which was the case more or less all the way. After arrival we planned to anchor outside the village on the west side of the island. It did not look inviting when it was no beach but lots of coral reefs and rocks. We tried to hail the customs but did not get any replay. The narrow channel into the village had a depth of maximum 1.90 m which we considered to shallow and the small area just outside the village had only room for a few, small yachts according to the pilot we used. What to do? Well, we simply took of and did a night sailing, first motoring and then sailing, to the main Island Rarotonga, another 125 miles south of Aitutaki. As it turned out, we ended up 500 miles south of our planned destination!

Rarotonga

Although it was not planned but still nice to be here. The town, Avatiu, was on the north side which was good when the wind finally arrived. We hailed the Authorities before and after we have entered the tiny harbour but did not get any answer. We knew we were not allowed to go on shore why we tied us to a big cat anchored in the middle of the harbor. It was not space enough for two yachts at anchor in the tiny harbor. We learned later that the day we arrived was a public holiday and no one was working. Anyway, the day after we got in contact with the Port Captain who notified the Authorities to come on board to carry out the clearance into Rarotonga. They were very friendly and the matter was carried out quickly and we could remove the Q-flag.

We were told to stay at the dock/pier, Mediterranean style, with our stern towards the dock which was made of stone and huge. We used our CQR-bow anchor to keep a distance. We had a space of 3-4 meters from the dock not to bump into it when the tide was strong. We were lucky that the wind was weak during our first days when the basin was open towards the sea and with strong wind from north it was recommended to leave the harbor. Well, the strong wind arrived a few days later but we stayed and with assistance from port staff we could drop our log anchor, which we call our cyclone anchor. With the help of that anchor we were perfectly safe although it was bumpy. A neighboring yacht actually smashed into the dock with a damaged stern as a result.

If you go there, be aware of that no electricity or water is provided.

The stay was nice enough, despite the bumpy water, with friendly people. We actually came into contact with a Swede who had been on the island for more than 30 years, taking care of his business, a printing company, he took us around the island in his car and we had a great time.

It was clear that we were on a very south parallel when it was chilly during the evenings. A peculiar thing to say by two Swedes accustomed to colder weather. We had got used to really hot weather and we were eager to turn north towards Fiji perhaps via Tonga. We bring good memories from Rarotonga but hope that the Port Authorities put some money in developing the harbor suitable also for small crafts.

Fiji

The distance from Rarotonga to Fiji was 1 200 miles, to Tonga approx. 800 miles and to Niue around 600 miles. We had planned to stop at both Niue and Tonga on our way but the sailing was so good that we decided just to move on. Mostly the wind was around 20-24 knots which was perfect. South of Niue and northwest of Tonga we faced 30 knots for about 30 hours in total but with proper amount of sail, Peach behaved nicely and it was just to let go and let her do the work she is built for.

We sailed together with another yacht up to Niue but that sailing yacht got problems with the autopilot why we came apart 12 hours from the island. We did however help out by sending e-mails via our SSB to a friend of the vessel in order to speed up the shipment of spare parts to Niue. We later came together in Savusavu, Fiji, for a short while before we left for Vanuatu.

We arrived to Vanua Levu, Savusavu, after 10 days at sea. Being so many days at sea we always find the routine for sleep and watch-keeping. It works very well.

In Savusavu we were docked at Copra Shed Marina which was a great place to be. We actually arrived only three hours before the time we had said in the pre-notification we provided Fiji customs with from Rarotonga via mail. Not bad after a journey of 1 200 miles. Nice people, lovely environment and decent prices in the marina as well as in the restaurants close by. As Europeans it is also nice to get 240 V and 50 Hz. The water was drinkable although we used a carbon filter before letting the water in to our tank. This for getting rid of chlorine. We use tank water to flush the water-maker and the membrane does not go well with chlorine.

Speaking of membrane we discovered that the oil in our compass was escaping due to a crack in that membrane. To get a new membrane was not possible why we has removed the large cockpit-compass and store it upside down until we can get a new membrane.
We took a “vacation” flight to Suva, the capital of Fiji and spent a few days there looking into some chandleries searching for boat stuff. It turned out we did not need anything, except for the compass membrane which we knew we could not get in the city. Well, we bought the carbon filter including the compartment for the filter and nothing else, which was the first time we did not have any great need for additional spare parts other than those stored on board.

The Fiji archipelago is beautiful and to properly visit all nice places would take at least a whole season, probably longer. We however were on route why we settled with our rather short stay and wanted to move on. The plan was to continue to New Caledonia but sailing friends told us that we must visit Vanuatu why we change our minds and set course for Vanuatu instead, 700 miles from Fiji.

Vanuatu

Arriving at Port Vila on Efate Island early in the morning after good, normal sailing. We have been rather skilled at calculating and adjust arrival time not to approach in the dark. Based on what friends have told us we looked forward to explore Vanuatu.

We left Port Vila after a couple of days and sailed north, still around Efate. Due to strong trade winds it was necessary to find sheltered water for comfortable anchoring. Still, there were a lot of nice places to visit. We first went to Esema Bay on the northwest side of Efate and stayed there longer than planned. It was quiet, no other yachts and very sheltered in the northeast corner of the bay.

On our way we met a large family of dolphins. They acted crazy and our guess was that they tried to impress on each other. They jumped very high and spinned around at the same time. Obviously trying to make a show out of it.

Every day we had locals visiting us offering vegetables for sale. Some also asked for 2-stroke oil when they had the petrol but no oil. We helped out as much as we could.
One morning we saw a large rowing bot with 6 small children with parents. We hailed them and handed over presents to the children. Presents we had bought in Sweden just for this purpose. At the same time we told the father that it is some large fish swimming under Peach and in the neighborhood. He said that he does not have any fishing gear at all why we gave him fishing lines and some good hooks. They were happy for the presents. In the afternoon they came back with a lot of vegetables, something we had not expected but warmly welcomed.

For the next leg we wanted to check the Palao Bay on the north side of Efate. We have heard that the bay offered shelter as well as a nice beach. Well, when we arrived we had wind of 28 knots why we turned back, catched a nice barracuda on the way and just regarded the day as “a nice day of sailing”. The strong wind in the northern bay was probably due to that the wind accelerated somehow around the northeast corner of Efate. Well back in Esema Bay, the barracuda was prepared for dinner and it was delicious (and lasted for additional two meals).

We agreed on a night sailing and set course for the island Epi at 21.00 in the evening. The distance was around 55 miles to a very small bay on the west coast by the name of Revolieu Bay where we planned to stay a day or two. However, on our way north we were hailed by another yacht going south, coming from the bay. The captain recommended us to continue a little further north to Lamen Bay which he said was much better. We followed that recommendation and he was probably correct. We anchored in black sand at a depth of 6-7 meters. It is a really nice bay, with a small village with friendly people, an airport, a school and a few small shops where we could buy some things just for the fun of it. The Captain was actually looking for beer but that was sold out and next delivery was planned for next week.

We had some plans to continue north and look at those islands but the weather report told us about very strong winds for more than a week why we went back to Efate and anchored in Esame Bay as far north as possible. No other yachts but Peach. Now we are back in Port Vila doing maintenance and preparations for the journey to New Caledonia and further Brisbane.

By the way, we have noted that Marinetraffic does not keep up with or journey which probably is because there are no land based stations in this area. We have finally solved this problem by using an app that send our position to Marinetraffic on a regular basis. As far as we know we should, currently, be positioned in Port Vila.

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Galapagos to Tahiti

Tahiti next

After 72 hours on Galapagos we left on a Sunday morning for the Pacific crossing. We had discussed whether we should sail to Marquesas or directly to Tahiti even if Tahiti would mean an extra week of sailing. We decided on Tahiti! We agreed on that our first waypoint would be to go south of the 6th parallel in order to catch the trade wind coming from southeast. We set a course of approx. 200 degrees. We actually needed to go close to the 7th parallel to catch the wind we were looking for. We were lucky to get wind most of the way south why we needed to use our engine for about 24 hours only. Fortunately we had, this time, the current with us and well in the trade wind we had used surprisingly little fuel. The distance we sailed from Galapagos to where we turned west was around 450 miles which meant that we only (!) had 3300 miles left to Tahiti. From the waypoint we went west and slowly moved south to the 18th parallel which actually means that we moved south 660 miles while going west.

Click on the picture to view the movie

Well settled in the wind we looked ahead to an easy sailing, although a long one, but it turned out that the wind was not stable and from day to day it changed direction as well as speed. Using the whisker pole (sometimes both of them) as we always do when crossing an ocean, it turned out to be a lot of work changing the set up frequently. Despite this the sailing was smooth and strong winds only accord when we had rain showers then the wind speed reached 34 knots several times and 42 knots at one occasion. Many days we sailed in 6-14 knots which is not really enough for Peach being heavy as she is only doing 4 kn in that wind. We had the best sailing conditions when the wind stayed between 18-24 knots which happened from time to time.

You may wonder how it is to be at sea for four weeks which was the time it took to reach Tahiti. Probably normal considering it take three weeks to reach Marquesas from Galapagos. Well, the days pass very quickly. We are comfortable with four hour watches which works well for us. It is a lot of sleeping of course and especially to catch up when something needs to be done in the middle of the night when both of us needs to be awake. Remember the whisker poles and the change of sail set-up. After 3-4 days the routine is there and the days just go on. Each day we downloaded grib files via our SSB radio to check the weather forecast. We are happy with the communication system . When in Panama we subscribed to Sailmail which meant that we had 2 systems to use, Sailmail as well as Winlink which is free of charge. Both systems worked well.

Annoying birds

We had some hope to see whales on the way but certainly not to go to war against big backed gulls. Two of them insisted to park every night on our davits or on the pull pit. They moved around a little after we had started to yell at them but they always came back and reclaimed their seats. We did not want to hurt them but to scare them off. We had tried to scare them by yelling, waving, producing high sounds and rushing towards them but nothing helped until we made a small bundle of a tiny line which we threw close to them. They did not like that and left, thank goodness. If you wonder why we were eager to get rid of them just imagine how much they shit during a night. Took us an eternity to clean the deck afterwards. We actually touched one of them once and the bird looked at us like “what in heavens name are you doing…” but did not move.

A couple of days later another sea bird arrived, a gannet, and settled down on a davit. The bird was big but had nice colors and we let him/she rest during the night. A big mistake! Took a long time to clean the deck, again.

Well, that was the only wildlife we saw during the journey across the Pacific. We kept looking for other yachts, merchant ships or fishing boats but during the four weeks we saw only one boat rather close one morning which was a fishing boat, not actually fishing. The first yacht we came across was not until we reached the Tuamotu Archipelago approx. 200 miles from Tahiti. From there we just had around two days of sailing left and we were looking forward to set foot on land again. When Tahiti emerged in the distance we were happy that we had made it across a big part of the Pacific Ocean without any other problems than those in relation to our 72 hours on Galapagos and related matters.

Finally at rest

On Tahiti we are staying in Papetee Marina preparing for the next leg. The location of the marina is at the city water front with a nice view of the city. When doing the clearance, one has to visit the customs and the Port captain in the city area. After that the immigration office at the airport has to be visited. All visits are expected to be done on the day of arrival. All services are available such as gas, fuel, food etc. why it is a good place to be. After a couple of weeks in the marina we are now longing for being at anchor with the possibility to swim, do some snorkeling and just be in an environment with crystal clear water.

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72 hours on Galapagos

72 hours on Galapagos Islands

It felt nice to finally be in the trade wind area. Suddenly we had wind of 18-20 kn compared to nothing and we looked forward to some nice sailing on the Pacific to French Polynesia. The trick was to slowly move south to the 10th latitude covering a distance of approx. 2000 miles.

Once in the trade wind we needed to get into our daily routine bearing in mind we had at least three weeks of sailing before landfall. One important routine is to produce water on a regular basis. We make around 60-70 L water/hour and in order to keep the membrane in good shape we had decided to run the system every third day. The electric motor for the system require up to 40 amps why our main engine needs to be engaged when doing this.

So, in our first trade wind day, the water system was turned on and everything ran smoothly until the engine suddenly stopped. We tried to restart but nothing happened and we could not get the engine running again. Not good at all being 2000 miles from the Marquesas, 750 miles from Ecuador and 350 miles south of Galapagos. We looked into the problem. Cleaned all that had to do with the fuel system, changed filters and still no response. We needed to make a decision. Without a functioning engine we could not produce water or recharge our batteries fully when the solar panels and our wind generator could not be 100% trusted depending on the type of weather, wind speed and cloud cover.

The best course of action would be to try to reach the Galapagos Islands for engine repair. The islands were 350 miles to the north and we knew that we would, again, get in to the ITCZ as well as face strong current against us. Nevertheless, this was what we had to do. We had plenty of food why this was not an issue. Our problem, if unlucky, would be the water supply and battery power to last especially the latter if the sun decided to hide behind clouds.

To make a long story short, it took us 13 days to cover 350 miles.

Before we turned north we contacted Sweden Rescue (JRCC) and our insurance company to make them aware of our situation would we be forced to leave the boat due to lack of water and electric power not being able to run e.g. navigation lights. Sweden Rescue whom were very supporting and helpful, provided us with the contact information to the corresponding services in Peru and Ecuador. They also helped us with informing the Peru officials when we at that time were within their area of responsibility. The recommendation from JRCC as well as from MRCC in Peru was to turn on our Epirb should we run out of water and electric power. It felt good to be in contact with JRCC and MRCC via our SSB radio (emails) and our Sat phone.

We turned off the freezer of course as well as the fridge and used only the equipment necessary for navigation and this only part of the time.

On our struggle towards Galapagos it happened that we sailed 20 miles in very weak wind during some days and drifted backwards 15 miles during the nights when the wind disappeared. The current against us was also strong, 1-1.5 kn. Very annoying to say the least. It also seemed that the Dorado’s were aware of our situation and our lack of interest to fish when they kept us company around Peach.

After 9 days we still had 74 miles to sail and it was impossible to get further north due to lack of wind and the strong current against us. In contact with the Ecuador coastguard they promised to tow us the rest of the way. We believe that JRCC in Sweden assisted us to convince the coastguard that we needed towing to prevent us for ending up as the forever drifting Swedes. It was a relief seeing the coastguard ship arrive late in the afternoon. They towed us at a speed of 9 kn to the closest island which was Floreana (Isla Santa Maria) were we arrived late in the evening. They helped us to move into an anchor position where we lay still for three days awaiting further towing by a private company to the main island, Isla Santa Cruz, where help with the engine could be found. The distance to Santa Cruz was 34 miles. The cost for the 34 miles of towing ended at 520 US dollar.

72 hours on Galapagos started with a two hour inspection of us and Peach. We explained the circumstances, presented our logbook and the route as displayed on our plotter, Peach was also carefully inspected. Pictures were taken of the relevant pages in the logbook, e.g. the day the engine broke down and the day we stopped at Salinas in Ecuador to get diesel. By using the 72 hour stop, claiming an emergency, we did not have to pay all the fees they charge sailors with visiting the islands.

The Galapagos officials were satisfied and our 72 hour stay begun with a lot of work to get someone to repair the engine and take care of a million other matters that needed to be done before it was time to continue our journey. Luckily the engine was repaired quickly and the problem was a faulty Solenide (stop magnet) connected to the injector pump. We did not carry a spare for that problem. Other matters we dealt with were,

  • Get a local sim-card for internet access
  • Fill up the diesel tank and our extra diesel containers
  • Fill up the water tank with drinking water when running our water-maker where we had anchored was not an option
  • Use a laundry service in the village
  • Struggle with bank transfer to get money for paying the towing
  • Engage two workers to scrape the hull before leaving
  • Buy supplies, fresh food and prepare the food accordingly.

All this was done during the weekend. We arrived on Friday and was suppose to leave on Sunday before lunch time. In addition, it was an election day on Sunday why sale of liquor was forbidden why we could not get some decent bottle of wine. Maybe that was ok when the prices of wine was through the roof.

Anyway, we did all these things and were ready to leave on Sunday. The island and especially the village was really nice with nice people but very high prices on basically everything.

On top of everything we had the chance to see some of the wild life such as the famous lizards, turtles and some birds special for the Galapagos. The question however is whether the sea lions can be regarded as wild life…….occupying the side-walks and benches.

Finally after 72 hours, we left at 10 am on Sunday morning after some hard work and a lot of US dollar left behind. At last we were on our way to French Polynesia.

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Leaving Panama

Leaving Panama

Planning, supplies etc. for the journey across the Pacific to French Polynesia was carried out at Vista Mar marina on the pacific coast of Panama. The marina had the facilities we needed such as drinking water, electricity, possibility to get propane via service by marina personnel who was very helpful in all matters. The berthing fee was acceptable and the lowest so far in Panama which might relate to the rather difficult swell and strong winds coming down from the high mountains. Anyway, it was a fair place for taking off. The nearest village/city, Coronado, had several supermarkets why getting supplies was easy enough.

Bearing in mind that the growth of barnacles on the hull was quick we decided to pass Isla las Perlas on our way just to be able to clean the hull, again. That was indeed necessary. Our propeller was hidden behind barnacles and the hull looked awful. We need new antifouling rather sooner than later not to be forced to scrape the hull every 3-4 week. The antifouling we put on in Sweden before we left is obviously of no concern to the barnacles in this part of the world. Moreover, next time we will mix approx. ½ kg Cayenne pepper with 5 L paint which will do the trick according to the “expertise” we have talked to. To get that much pepper is another question which we will get back to.

We left the Perlas at the end of February and had the plan to reach Galapagos after 6-8 days to fill up with diesel which we knew we would have to. We carry 575 L in total which should be ok for Galapagos assuming we got wind as well. The distance from Panama to Galapagos is approx. 860 nm and the distance from the Ecuador coast, around 550 nm.

We got 10-12 kn wind a couple of hours during 5-6 days which was not enough of course. Being in the InterTropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) (doldrums) we knew this was likely to happen and that the engine probably would have to be engaged. We could of course have waited in Vista Mar for enough wind to push us out of the Panama Bay but we were tired of waiting and eager to start our crossing.

After being on the move for a week, we decided not to continue towards Galapagos when the weather forecast continued to predict no wind at all between our position and Galapagos. Instead we sat course towards Salinas in Ecuador, calculating with that we had enough diesel to reach Salinas. Our course took us 150 nm from the South American coast to stay clear from the northbound Humboldt Current which could be strong. We had also identified some other places along the coast where we knew we could get diesel if the need would arise. Please remember that along the coast of Ecuador, right on the equator, there is no wind and, has never been…

We reached Salinas just before lunch time a beautiful day, contacted the marina, got our diesel and took off without the need for formalities of checking into the country. The whole procedure took just under two hours. Perfect, we were in business again. The course was set for the Marquesas although we were not yet clear on Marquesas or directly to Tahiti. On our route in and out of Salinas we had to be on full alert due to a large number of local fishing boats with floating fishing nets during the night as much as up to 100 nm from the coast. The boats were lying still without any lights. When we got close they suddenly turned on their lights to alert us to stay clear. We had to do some quick turns to avoid some nets.

Our plan was to go ( not yet any wind) southwest to the 6th latitude where the north westerly trade wind together with the South Equatorial Current should carry us all the way to French Polynesia. We did hit the trade wind although the plan we had decided upon not fully worked. why, see next article “72 hours on Galapagos”.

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Panama (3)

Through the Panama Canal and beyond

Finally the time had come to take on the Panama Canal. Three line-handlers came onboard bringing 4 lines each 40 m long and a couple of big fenders. The fourth line-handler was Karin, first mate on Peach. We left Shelter Bay Marina at lunchtime and First Matepicked up two canal pilots on our way to the first lock which was part of the Gatun locks. In total we were 7 persons onboard to handle the canal transfer. Just before the first lock, one of three, was a giant crocodile resting on the shore. The biggest one so far. Anyway, we had been told that the plan was to get attached to a tugboat during the three locks which seemed to be simple enough. Unfortunately the currents in the locks were strong why it took some effort to get close to the tug and tie the lines without damaging Peach. This procedure were repeated twice before we had cleared all three locks and was able to enter the Gatun Lake which is huge. The lake is the fresh water reservoir for Panama City. Actually the drinking water (tap water) in Panama was surprisingly fresh.

We left the last of the Gatun locks at 5 pm why we needed to stay in the Gatun Lake during the night. We tied us to a big buoy which had been anchored in a nice place where also the pilots left us. It was now time for dinner and a lot of food was prepared to feed the young line-handlers. We had been told that the chance to see crocodiles swimming around Peach early in the morning was great. Unfortunately no croc showed up. At around 8 am the new pilot arrived and soon after that we were on our way again. It took close to 6 hours to reach the Miraflores locks on the south side at a speed of 6 knots. On the lake we saw one of National Geographic’s research vessels anchored just outside a well known bird watching station linked to the Smithsonian institute in Panama. That reminded us of where we actually had brought Peach.

Click on the picture for the movie

The transfer through the remaining three locks were smooth. Instead of being tied up to a tug we were placed in the center of the lock(s) via four lines. This was easy despite strong currents.

Finally the line- handlers had to do some work! It was a nice feeling to leave the locks and continue to the Balboa yacht club where we took a buoy and said goodbye to the pilot and the line-handlers who also brought with them the 4 lines and the extra fenders we had hired.

We stayed one night at the buoy at a price of 40 US which was a too high price according to our opinion. Sure, it was special to be very close to the big ships passing us to and from the canal but it was also very bumpy… The day after we moved further out to the bay La Playita at Isla Flamenco. This is also the place where we check out from Panama later. The anchorage was nice and not to many boats. We stayed a couple of days just to get the feeling of suddenly being in the Pacific Ocean. Our plan was to visit Las Perlas for a week or so and then set course for Vista Mar Marina, 40 nm south of Panama City.

Las Perlas

Las Perlas is a group of islands 35 nm out from Panama and well known for the extensive pearl diving 4-500 years ago until the Spanish came… Well, still people can get pearls and we were offered to buy from locals but chose not to. We sailed around the islands, anchored in remote areas where Peach was the only sailing yacht to see, especially in the southern part. Up north there were more boats. The most northern island, Isla Pacheca, had a large number of Frigate birds lovely to watch when gliding above us. All islands had many beautiful beaches. Unfortunately the cold, north- going Humboldt Current had brought in cold water of around 20 C and very poor visibility as well. Locals said that blue water will come later in April. Anyway and at last we spotted Humpback whales east of Isla Del Rey, twice actually. Fantastic! The area is well known for their feeding ground as well as for a place where they are bringing up their young ones. While anchored south of Del Rey we also scraped the hull of Peach wearing a 7 mm wet suit for protection against the cold water. We have heard stories that barnacles grow very fast and get big in the Pacific water. The hull was pretty ok due to that all of the antifouling had not yet disappeared.

After the Pearl Islands we set course for Isla Otoque and Isla Bona halfway to Vista Mar. We anchored off both islands and our favorite was Isla Bona, a small bay with calm water. When we left we had very strong wind accelerated by the larger island, Isla Otoque. Vista Mar Marina was 25 nm from where we were and it took half a day to get there.

Currently we are in the marina fixing a lot of things before we take on the Pacific. The marina is newly built and the price is fair although it is really windy this time of the year and the strong wind in conjunction with a tide of 4-5 meters makes the mooring very, very bumpy. The water is for free in the marina but we pays extra for electricity. With the help from the marina we have managed to get propane. All shopping has to be done in Panama City or in the closest village from here; Contadora, so it is important to plan ahead and to be effective. We have already made several trips to both places for ordinary supplies as well as for special items. So far we have repaired our toilet, our boom canvas for the mail sail and the bimini. We have bought all dry food we believe we need (Two hours at Rey,  Super 99 and eight hours of storage!) Extra water and other beverages are also in place. The refrigerator and the small freezer are now defrosted. We have also preserved a lot of food.

Important matters pending are e.g. fill up the fuel tank, put the dinghy on deck, hook up the rudder to the Hydrovane, buy fresh food, do the laundry, fill water in jerricans as well as top up the water tank, pay all bills and make final preparations in regards to  weather/wind and navigation.

Anyway, Vista Mar Marina is the place we start from in February and we plan to sail straight to the Marquesas Islands although one can never tell if we make a short stop at Galapagos which would be necessary if we need more fuel. The trip between here and Galapagos might be without any significant wind if we are unlucky. We estimate the journey to the Marquesas to take approx. 40 days if we manage an average speed of five knots. We look forward to the crossing and the destination.

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