Thursday, October 29, 2009


I have two articles published in the last month or so. The first was a reprint of my Chesapeake Sailing Yacht Symposium paper on the new Navy 44's, and was published by Professional Boatbuilder. You can see the table of contents here, and pick up a copy at your local marine bookstore. This one even ended up being a paid gig.

My second article is paying in satellite airtime only, but it will help a bunch as I can do my testing with data I actually want to send and receive anyway, so there is some benefit to the boat for all the time it is taking. My first of a series of articles on small broadband capable satellite phones just came out on Panbo. It gets credit as the longest Panbo article to date, and hopefully, combined with my next phase of testing will make a decent magazine article in a few more months. Exciting for me and something I hoped to have more time to spend on during the trip, if I could stop spending all my time fixing things.

Friday, October 23, 2009

La Libertad - Ecuador

La Libertad - Ecuador

It has taken a few days and over 12 hours of adjusting lines, but we are finally settled into the marina. We are tied up "med-moore" style, with the stern against a fload and the bow held by mooring balls. There is a 12 foot tide and an amazing amount of surge that makes it pretty tricky to get the boat close enough to the dock to get on and off without ramming the dock and dinging the transom. Yesterday we moved after finally getting everything adjusted in our first spot, but the new spot is much better with a little less surge and much better things to tie off to (including several lines to shore). Not to complain, as we heard the news of snow in the northeast, but it is actually almost cold here, with highs around 75 and lows down to 68 at night. Great sleeping weather and for the first time in a while you don't go to bed sweaty. Wouldn't mind it a bit warmer as there are two very nice pools here that are calling my name.

We head off to Guyaquil tomorrow to send Bill home for work. It is a 2 to 2.5 hour bus ride which hopefully isn't too interesting (i.e. no barnyard animals). Mom, Zak, and I then bus back Sunday afternoon and kill some time before Sierra, Rob, & Emma fly back with Bill in 2 weeks. I will try to back post some images and upload some web albums next week when I finally have some time, so stay tuned.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pollywog No More

The Equator - 00 00.0N/S 81 04.99W

1:43:10 Eastern Standard Time

We have just crossed into the Southern Pacific Ocean, marking the first Equatorial crossing for all onboard. Haven't tried flushing a toilet yet, of course since the heads were designed to induce rotation, I don't think that will very exciting anyway.

Another raunchy night, but the end is in sight so we are pushing hard.

Panama to Ecuador Day 3

88 miles west of Colombia/Ecuador Border - 01 49.5N 80 21.8W

Our 24 hours of horror seem to be over. We are still motoring directly into the wind/seas, but the wind is down to 8-10 kts and the waves are down to 3-4 ft, so we are back up to 7.5 kts (was as low as 6 kts last night) and we aren't quite as misserable. We still have a day and a half left to go, but the last 12 hours shouldn't be as bad as we turn the corner and should have a beam reach into port. The lastest weather routing has us getting in at about 2:30 am so we will either need to make better time (average faster than about 7.3 kts) or slow down towards the end to come in at first light.

Otherwise not much to say. I am writing to you via our new KVH FB150 SatCom which we now have operational. Looking forward to our impending equatorial crossing. Still not sure what we will do for the occasion. Our eta to the equator is about 16 hours, also putting it in the middle of the night. Also, we are all pollywogs on board, so not sure how to innitiate all of us.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Panama to Ecuador Day 2

70 miles of Colombian Coast - 03 44.9N 79 47.6W

Day one was beutiful and quite enjoyable, but today sucks! We are effectively beating our heads against a wall, pounding into moderate seas with 15 kts on the bow. We are safe, but far from comfortable.

Too hard to type much more. Hopefully this weather breaks a bit soon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

5 Fish Day

Bahia Pinos - Southern Panama - 07 30N 78 13W

Wednesday (14th) we headed down to Bahia Pinos, right along the southern border with Colombia. It was a bit of raunchy sail (motor mostly with 10-15 kts on the bow), but was made brighter by an amazing day of fishing. First we caught two Bonito, a small (10lb), light fleshed Tuna (possibly a dogtooth Tuna, but unsure of the American name), both in quick succession. Before I had even started cleaning the second fish, we had another bite...this one a 15lb Yellowfin Tuna, the holly grail of Sushi Fish. Before we could bring the other line in we had a small Dorado (10 lb). We decided to put the head of the Yellowfin Tuna out on a hook and see what happened. I finished bleeding and filleting the Tunas and left the Dorado for Bill. Just as Bill was finishing the small Dorado, our reel started whirring with the sound of line being pulled out at a clip. We slowed the boat down and I started fighting the large fish that had bitten the tuna head. It was quite the fight, and as I got the fish close to the boat we could see it was a LARGE Bull Dorado. Just as I had gotten it up to the surface and Bill way trying to grab the leader, he took one last dive, driving under the boat and forward. Luckily Zak had come out to help steer the boat and was able to drive the boat forward fast enough he couldn't pull the line into the prop. He took about 70 feet of line before tiring, and then I was able to slowly pull him back in. Bill grabbed the leader, I picked put the rod down and picked up the gaff and on my third try drove the gaff home and hauled him aboard. He came up to Bill and My chest and we guess he was about 50lbs. Another half an hour in the Galley and he was bled, cleaned, and in the rather full freezer, taking up 3 gallon ziplock bags.

We finished out 10 hour sail at about 5, and I got started making Sushi with the Yellowfin. We ate like kings with the best Sushimi I have ever had, and made spicy tuna rolls with the trimmings. It is not often you can be completely full eating Sushi, but boy is it a good feeling. Last night we finished the one yellowfin loin I had reserved, and used a Bonito for spicy tuna rolls and my latest creation, Miso Encrusted Seared Tuna Loins. I cut up the Bonito Belly meat for sushimi, which pretty much tasted like fatty bluefin, with the similar whitish pink flesh.

This morning we departed Panama, on our 4 day passage to Ecuador. We should have time to update daily and will try to, but of course, technical problems do occur, so don't get too worried if we miss a day.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Panama Canal

Las Perlas Islands - 8 29.5N 79 02.9W

We have been quite busy since my last post....apologies for the lack of updates, but I just haven't had the time in the day to write for 10 minutes. The day after our last post we had a bit of a fuel scare when our last storage tank read significantly lower than we expected. In the end we think is is just reading a bit low when 3/4 empty, but at the time we were afraid we had 50 less gallons on board than we though we did. Luckily, we have made great friends out here and both Better Days and Alpha Wave gave up some of their spare fuel so we could stick around a few more days as we had originally planned. We headed over to the East Lemons and had a few great snorkels there, played volleyball, and caught up to Philippe on Renegade as well.

On the 30th we headed up to Linton to visit the Sloths, but outboard problems kept us away. Luckily they offered to have "their boys" pick us up in the morning so we could still visit, and what an amazing experience. They have raised 3 orphaned sloths from infants, and they are very cool animals. They love to be held, are very friendly, and quite affectionate. Princess, their two toed sloth even has a teddy bear that she is lost without...very cute. Late morning we headed to shelter bay, picking up fuel for the crossing on our way in.

Friday (2nd) mom and I headed to Panama city to provision while Bill stayed to work on refrigeration and Zak stayed to use the Internet. It was a brutally long and exhausting day, made worse by our complete lack of food all day long. After a shuttle to Colon (1 hr) and a bus ride to Panama city (1.5 hrs), we finally got started driving around a city with a serious traffic problem. Roger took us around, but had some other errands to run as well, so it led to some wasted time. We finished at Mega Depot around 5:00, then had to wait an hour for him to pick us up, so we skipped the grocery and headed back to shelter bay (2 hrs), which meant we didn't even get everything on board until 10:00. Saturday morning was spent finding homes for all the food, then Zak and mom went to the grocery in Colon in the afternoon while Bill and I finished putting away the food and got started laying out the Air-conditioner ducting. We also had Connie and Steve (Better Days) over for dinner as they had limped into shelter bay having been struck by lightening on Thursday morning, loosing all electronics, and their gen-set.

Sunday Bill and I installed all the air-con ducting and louvers (much nicer than a duct running across the room) and fixed the VHF mike in the cockpit, our two jobs we needed to get done at shelter bay. Monday we had a Canal transit scheduled for 5:00, so the early afternoon was supposed to be fairly relaxing, but luckily they moved up our transit time, so we had less pool time, but more sleep Monday night. On-board we had Meg Crofoot, my old friend from Sunshine Nursery/John Bapst High School, as well as Connie and Steve off of Better Days who were a late edition.

We met our Pilot at 3:30 and started our way toward the Gatun Locks, following a single medium sized ship. We had already set up our 15 tire fenders and four 125 foot lines (two bow, two stern) with large eyes tied in them to fit over the bollards. As you approach the lock, the shore-side line handlers toss you a leader line with a monkey's fist tied in the end. Must say, they have excellent aim. You then tie that line to your line and hold the leader line until the boat is lined up in the lock. At this point the line handlers pull your line up to the wall sides and put it on a bollard and we take up all the slack to orient the boat in the center of the lock. We were lucky that we didn't have any other small boats tied to us and had a fairly short ship in front of us, so we weren't right behind his prop wash. We also had set up our lines with some powerful help in the form of the secondary winches aft and an anchor windlass forward. This ended up being very handy as VofJ is awfully large to pull around by hand. Meg and I were forward with Zak providing photog and windlass button pushing help, leaving Steve, Connie and Mom aft with Bill at the helm. As the water floods into the locks from below, the lines must be shortened to keep you in the center of the lock. On top of that, the water boils up from below creating some decent currents. All went fine and we kept the boat nicely centered. Once the lock doors open and the ship moved out in front of us, the line handlers release your line from the bollards and we pull them back aboard with the leader lines (monkey fists) still attached. We hold the leader line while the line handlers walk the lines up to the next set of locks and the process is repeated three times. The final time, they just drop your lines in the water without a leader attached and you just pull it in. We then headed over to the mooring buoy's to spend the night.

Our Pilot, usually doing large ships (we got a true pilot, instead of the usual adviser, because we measured 65' with our dingy on the davits which is the cut-off for pilots) was unfamiliar with the yacht moorings so it took a while to find them. They are very large "balls" so you end up side tying to them with a bow and stern line. We then ate dinner and got to bed around 11:00 with plans to get up at 6:30 for a 7:00 Pilot arrival.

Our second Pilot didn't show up until 7:45 and then needed us to go 9kts to make our lock time of 11:00. Luckily we can do that fairly easily, but it does burn some extra fuel. At about 9:30 we got word they had added a ship to the northbound traffic which pushed our lock time back to 11:45 allowing us to slow down a bit, and eventually to basically drift for a half hour as we arrived a bit early. The southern locks are separated into two sets, the first one separated from the second two by a small lake. The process is almost identical, but it is a bit easier as you are easing your lines, not tightening them as you go down and the currents are much reduced as the water isn't boiling up from below. This time we were just behind a small ferry boat, so we had tons of room and all went smoothly. We got to the Balboa Yacht club in the early afternoon and headed to the marine store to get one errand out of the way early.

That night we had a wonderful dinner in the old city and then had to catch cabs back to the boat. We were having a hell of a time finding a cab, so I called the dispatchers and got two on their way which would be there in "5 minutos". Of course 10 mins later they still weren't there, and Bill got one cab which agreed to fit all 6 of us in his Toyota Carola. About 2 miles down the road we reached a police check point and were stopped and questioned. He was upset we had too many people in the car and wanted to see our Passports. What? Our passports were on the boat. We apologized, and tried to explain we didn't know we were supposed to carry them around the city, but he was ready to send us off to jail until he realized Bill was the captain and there was no one to bring our passports to us. Lucky at this point he let us go, but only 4 people in the cab. Bill and I stayed, and waited for him to hail us a cab. We all arrived unscathed and got right to bed with a great story.

Wednesday (7th) we had another shopping day, and were met by Meg's friend Robinson to drive us around. He was great and while it was a long day we got all we needed including a new 25hp dingy engine as we are sick of dealing with our old one (plus it is underpowered for the 4 of us). Thursday we got up bright and early and headed off to Barro Colorado Island, where Meg researches Monkeys, The island is situated in the middle of Gatun Lake in the the canal and was formed from the top of a mountain when the lake was flooded. It is run by the Smithsonian as a tropical research center. We went on a long hike through the rain forest, seeing lots of ants, spiders, some cool flowers and a fair amount of howler monkeys. Unfortunately we did not find the capuchin monkeys she reasearches, but had a great morning in the forest seeing what Meg does. Lunch was back at the compound, then some relaxation time (I took a 2 hr nap) in the lounge while we waited for the afternoon boat back to mainland. That night we went to a great Chinese restaurant and said goodbye to Meg, hoping she might come find us along the way for a visit.

Friday we got underway early, picked up fuel and then headed down to the Las Perlas islands, in the middle of the Bay of Panama off the Pacific coast. The look of these islands is completely different, and you could almost be in Maine with the rocky coastline. We caught two fish on the way (a small Dorado and a small Sierra, a Mackerel) We had wonderful Civeche, and grilled fish for dinner and then watched the first double episode of Grey's Anatomy which Zak had pulled down while we had internet in Panama City. Overall a wonderful day to end a wonderful and exciting, but very busy week.