Bon Voyage shindig
Feb. 09, 2002
Ocean Planet People,
If you didn’t make it to our Bon Voyage shindig last Sunday at the Encinal YC, you missed a GREAT party. Just ask anyone who was there!! I’m also happy to say the surprise guest musician got a very flattering response…;-)
The show of support from so many local sailors was overwhelming, what a boost that gives me. Which I really need, since I haven’t slept much since the last few days….
We’re all ready to go….NOT!
Actually, Ocean Planet is as ready as any other boat, I’m just kinda maniacal about preparation. Fortunately we will be sailing a lot of miles with crew before I do the qualifier for the Around Alone….so there will be time to keep dialing things in. As the saying goes, you are never done with a boat.
It sure helps when you have dedicated helpers, and also if you know who to call when you need the best people. This is one of the (rather few) talents I have garnered from 20 years in the SF Bay area sailing scene…I know who is good! Which reminds me, there are few key folks that I forgot to mention in my last update who have been helping out:
Liem Dao: Liem of LTD Marine is the local god of electrical systems and fortunately for me a great friend and dedicated supporter. Without his help I don’t know what I’d do!
Jason Winkel of Argo Rigging: Jason has put in major hours on OP, much to the dismay of his regular clients. Good surfer, too.
David Brayshaw: David Brayshaw is the creator of “Local Knowledge” marine software (http://www.goflow.com/) and “Force 4”, a brilliant routing software suite that has a number of interesting new features. I can’t wait to get sailing and get more familiar with this and some of his other products…
Marilee Schafer and Don Melcher: Marilee of “Waypoint” and Don of “HF Radio on Board” have been long time supporters, going back to my “Rumbleseat” days. Amazing, considering my constant niggling questions to them….
And also I want to give a special thanks to Svend Svendsen of Svendsens Boatworks. I started working for Svend in 1980 and stayed for him until the end of 1999. Svend has always believed in me even if he thinks I’m crazy, and he let me race his own boat “Svendle” in my first singlehanded race in 1984(?), which I won. Over the years he pretty much gave me free rein with the rigging shop. I’m proud to say “my” shop was very successful, and it still is. I raced with Svend a few times on his beloved Folkboats, and on Svendle in an Ocean race to Catalina. In 1996 he and the boatyard really supported me and my beloved Rumbleseat: in the the Singlehanded Transpac race to Hawaii (Won it!)
Rumbleseat is now in Tortola, perhaps I’ll get to go see her while we are in Antigua.
In 1998, Svend let me and my friend “JP” Jim Plumley take his new sportboat “Azzura” doublehanded to Hawaii in the Pacific Cup race, where we were first in our division. When I left Svendsens to do this “Open 60” thing it was beyond the level of what Svendsens could sponsor, but Svend, his son Sean, and everyone there has been tremendously helpful. I definitely still feel like part of the family there.
Fyi, here is our schedule on Ocean Planet for this spring (all arrival dates are guesses, of course):
San Diego to Puerto Vallarta (the “PV” race): Feb 23 to 28.
PV to Panama: March 3 to 15.
Panama to Antigua: March 20 to April 5.
Viewing of Antigua classic regatta: April 18-23.
Racing in Antigua Sailing Week: April 28-May 4.
Antigua to Charleston: May 6-13.
East Coast schedule is being planned, we need to hit the boatshows and events where we can hopefully garner the support we need for my transatlantic qualifier and the Around Alone Race, which starts September 15th. Stayed tuned to these updates for details.
I will be sending daily updates out during the PV race, the posting times will vary. Keep an eye on http://www.sailinganarchy.com/ for my reports (and additional commentary….).
Ocean Planet – Update – Puerto Vallarta Race Update
Feb. 26, 2002
Hi Mates!! You know I got on board in SF to head to San Diego with a sack of oranges from my back yard, and obviously all the other boats have apples. Welcome to Open 60 racing. On the one hand, it’s frustrating to be grinding against these boats that have been optimized for moderate conditions, on the other, it’s great for us because we’ve been able to really focus in detail on trimming in running conditions to optimize Ocean Planet.
For instance, in light air running, when you’d think that you should throw all weight overboard, we are faster tanked up with water ballast and sheeted in hard. The trick is to go as fast and high as possible on the apparent wind. Takes some getting used to for our crew (I can’t drive all the time…). With more wind you can ease the sheets and even dump ballast as you square up. Last night was beautiful, with a full moon and warm, moderate air. At one point we flew by a boat from the fleets that had started in the days before us like they were standing still. What fun, they must have wondered: “Who in the heck is that!?”
Today’s morning sched put us in a good mood. While not caught up yet with Merlin and Magnitude, we have put away the SC 70’s and TP 52’s and are sailing fast. This is in spite of having our big kite flying from the upper genniker halyard which is almost 10ft lower than our (now missing) masthead halyard. Yeah that was our Saturday evening entertainment. A full-on shrimp which Steve Hodges heroically managed to reel in and organize. We had to re-set from our jenniker halyard, and in the course of heading up to straigthen things out, “lost” a garden full of kelp that we’d been carrying as passenger since early in the race.
By mid-day Sunday it was apparent that our tactic of heading out to catch bigger breezes than the 9-11 that the race was serving up, may have cost us. Monday and Tuesday have been spent getting squared up on an attack line of the course. Magnitude is well ahead and Merlin is gunning for her. Last nite, Merlin made an interesting move close to shore which at first looked wacky, but a westerly shift has made their jibe angle coming off the beach pretty good. But Magnitude maintains the controlling lead in our division. Victoria is leading the TP 52’s and the SC 70’s Mongoose and GI (Grand Illusion) were locked together as of roll call this morning.
Merlin and Magnitude are turbosleds optimized for light-moderate offwind running and have much more sail area than Ocean Planet. But we are lighter and have the water ballast at our disposal. In the heavy running that Ocean Planet is designed for she will come alive, and of course you couldn’t even race Merlin or Magnitude singlehanded in those conditions.
This race is far from over, especially given the light easterlys that are predicted for tomorrow. In very light air upwind OP is lethal, which we demonstrated on the starting line saturday where we easily pulled away from all. So our goal is to get positioned for the wind change and look forward to the chance to strike back!
Skipper, OCEAN PLANET
Puerto Vallarta Race Update
Feb. 27, 2002
The good, the bad, and the smelly:
What a night (and day). Besides trying to sail fast, I was going nuts last night about a strange crackling noise coming from somewhere around the batteries near the keel. I spent hours (or at least the time between the sail changes) checking the cabling, feel the batteries for heat, and in general worrying that we were going to catch fire and sink.
No answers, and no fire, so I quit fussing with that and went to our other headache, trying to have the right sail up. Our big masthead kite doesn’t fly right on the genniker halyard, but still works ok if there is enough wind. In the light spots, our “Borland” genniker (Borland Software bought us this sail with a giant “Borland” on it) works better and is much easier to deal with. So when the wind drops down to 5-6knots, time to snuff the kite and go for a bald headed change since the two sails now share the same halyard.
Now of course the goddess of Mexico seabreezes has an active since of humor, so naturally the wind picks up soon after your change. Now you can’t sail low enough, the genniker is smaller and doesn’t have the oomph. So roll up the genniker, lower it down to the rolling deck in into the foredeck hatch, switch halyards, sheets, and tacklines to the big kite and try to get it up before we lose too much ground.
Say the wind is up to 10 knots after the change. In this much wind our best VMG with the big kite is when sailing hot with some water in the ballast tank. The wind soon picks up to 15+kts (hurray!) and you can ease the sheets, dump the ballast water, and start to zoom along like a giant skateboard. This lasts 15 minutes, the wind drops, in goes the water ballast and grind in the sheets. Down to 5 knots a little later, out goes the water, down comes the big kite which is now trying drag in the water on the (too) low halyard, and switch back to the Borland genniker. Oh, we got lifted, better gybe again too…. Repeat over and over until dawn. This will be more fun singlehanded. Did I mention it’s boiling hot?
Relief on several fronts this morning when we dangle a jibsheet from the bow and I jump in to pull off the kelp that has these little mussel clams hanging onto it that are making the clattering noise on the keel. The threat of burning to the waterline is over, I’m cooler and smell better, and we aren’t giving kelp and mussels a free ride to PV.
We have cut the distance to Merlin and Magnitude in half, as everyone skids to a near halt in the slow end-game of this race. We sat in a hole long enough ourselves to let the darn TP 52’s catch back up and we are finally putting them back into their place behind us.
A digression: Right before we left SD, my friend Erik Simonson the photographer sent me a genuine “Wilson” volleyball, a la Tom Hanks in the movie “Castaway.” I figured now would be a good time to get a picture of Wilson and our other mascot, “Teddy” Turner. So I hand Wilson to Richard in the cockpit, who says “what’s this for?” (he hasn’t seen Castaway), and promptly tosses the ball off the back of the boat. All hell breaks loose as I yell “Wilson!!” and we go into a ridiculous volleyball overboard drill. The LAST thing we need to be doing in the middle of a boat race. But Wilson is saved for other adventures.
OP @ 4pm 2-27: 21D 43N, 107D 24W. Wind: 3-4 knots, Boatspeed: 5.75kts, VMG: Terrible, no matter which jibe we take…
Bruce, Kevin, Greg, Lydia, Stephen, Frank, Richard, Wilson, and Ted
Skipper, OCEAN PLANET
Ocean Planet – Post Puerto Vallarta Race: March 3, 2002
Way behind on the updates, I know. We had a glitch in setting up our delivery system that I always do, but look for the e-mail updates to become fairly regular soon.
We had a great time great in the P.V. race, although not doing quite as well as we had hoped. We wound up with the fourth fastest elasped time, but I am not worried at all about the speed of Ocean Planet. The race was a minefield of light air and dead spots that were difficult to negotiate without tactical boo-boos. Also, our sails are somewhat specialized by Doyle sailmakers for super durability and for singlehanded racing. For instance, our indestructible Vectran D4 mainsail would be made a bit lighter if it was meant for just racing to Mexico, and we would have bought another light air spinnaker if we had the budget. It would be so nice (yes, I lust in my heart….) to have a full Doyle inventory for all types of racing, but I can’t forget that our primary goal for this year is to make the Around Alone in September.
I am very pleased with the performance of our equipment on what was our first long ocean race. Big kudos to our Nobeltec visual series charting software, it makes navigation so easy I feel guilty. Our Samson ropes were fantastic, especially our Amsteel blue sheets and halyards. Our AMD powered PC performed well under pressure in a very harsh environment. Thanks to Spectra Watermakers for our super watermaker that can literally produce a gallon of water for every amp/hr of power consumption. On the racing software side, I am learning more about our Force 4 race package by David Brayshaw and local knowledge.
One of the coolest features on Ocean Planet is the special unstayed rotating mast built by composite engineering with MAS Epoxies. It is amazing to watch the mast automatically flatten the mainsail as the boat moves through puffs and waves.
I also want everyone to know how thankful I am to Schooner Creek Boat Works for creating this boat with so much sweat and love. Have them build your next boat, you won’t regret it.
Jeanie left for the airport an hour ago, and we spent our last day (at least for several months) together and did some sightseeing yesterday. We took the bus to downtown and walked around a good six miles. Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful town with a rich history. There is quite an artistic community here and it a great place to find really beautiful art from Mexico and Guatemala, etc. It was great to spend time together in such an interesting place. The last couple of years of constant fundraising (begging?) and preparation had been very hard on us, but I carry Jeanie’s love for me with when I go to sea and it makes me stronger.
We are getting the boat ready to leave for Panama tomorrow with our new crew. I’ll send more news soon.
Ocean Planet – Panama Bound
March 6, 2002
Time: 4pm UTC (8am PST),
Pos: 19 07N 105 37W,
Wind: 318 deg @ 8kts,
“Wilson” 12-14 PSI.
Well, it seemed to take forever, but we are finally sailing for Panama. It was quite a logistical task to get fuel and food aboard since the keel depth of Ocean Planet prevented us from tying up at a dock. Also, there were lots of other errands to run picking up things like better fuel jugs (the ones we had were leaking), more storage bins, checking in and out with the Port Captain, getting papers stamped by Immigration, etc, etc. No big hassles, but time consuming stuff in Mexico where patience is a virtue. (I can hear all of you who know my patience level chuckling…)
There are still many misc details to do, but we can work on those while underway. In fact, Greg is wiring up and mounting new cabin fans (invaluable feature!!) while I am writing this.
Anyway, OP is chock full of food and junk (er, supplies) for the 7-10 day trip to Panama. I’m really looking forward to seeing the canal again. In 1974, my Dad took my brothers and I through on our old sloop the “Sara B.” I don’t remember as much as I wish I did, so this trip should reawaken many memories.
We left yesterday at 3 p.m. (5 p.m. PST), and as soon as night fell the dolphins were back to greet us. OP is very happy to off anchor and is very relaxed at 9 kts in 9 kts of wind. Our Big “Borland” genniker is flying peacefully on our custom Forespar carbon bowsprit. We might put the full size kite up later, but then again, we are not racing now….it’s time to relax and catch my breath before we cross the legendary Gulf of Tehuantepec in a few days.
Look forward to regular updates on this little jaunt to Panama, our canal transit, and our bash against the trades to Antigua.
Ocean Planet –
March 7, 2002
Position: 17 28N, 102 46W.
Heading 95deg @ 9.5-12kts.
Wind from 300deg @11-13kts.
“Wilson” 8-11 PSI.
After so much seaching for wind in the PV race, we have been delighted with a nice steady breeze so far this trip. It’s nice and warm at night, and in general, totally awesome mellow sailing on a fantastic sailing machine. We have been using the autopilot a lot (ok, all the time…) and I have been fine tuning the various settings thru our Nexus instruments to make it seem like I’m driving. We briefly hits 17kts in a puff (and a perfect wave) with the autopilot a little while ago, driving straight an arrow.
The biggest treat of all has been our big Doyle genniker/spinnaker/code 5/hybrid sail. For shorthanding sailing this sail is spectacular: fast, forgiving to trim, and roller furling so it easy to hoist and lower. For reaching we grind the luff tight and it is basically a giant light genoa. Then when the wind pipes up and we crack off, you just loosen the halyard and ease the sheet so that the sail can fly forward…and it’s a heavy running spinnaker! The tack of the sail is attached to a continuous spool furling drum that slides out on our custom Forespar bowsprit. Almost too easy…
Our crew for this trip is Greg Nelsen (still here after PV!), Hank Grandin (at a spry 75yrs, he has about ten times the sailing miles that I do…and is a great cook!), Dave Olson (he has doublehanded across the atlantic), Howard Holmes (who is blown away at how much faster is than any other boat he’s been on), and yours truly.
Ocean Planet –
Friday March 8th 1557 UTC, pos: 15 09N 100 05W,
wind from 300 @ 4kts.
Speed 6kts @ 85deg.
Temp 85 @85% humd,
The seawater temp is 83F!
“Wilson” 8-11 PSI.
Great morning dolphin show, while Hank was frying up a canadian bacon breakfast. One of the best jumps was only about 35ft off the port bow, right in full view: a good 7ft of air, full twist, big splash. We gave him a high score: 8 for technical (good “backside grab” landing), 7.5 for presentation, and a 10 for proximity which weighs heavily in our scoring system.
Made good time last night in a nice NWesterly, right on on desired course at 10+ knots until early morning. Then we had northerlies at 4-6 which is pretty much what is here now: Friday March 8th 1557 UTC, pos: 15 09N 100 05W, wind from 300 @ 4kts. Speed 6kts @ 85deg. Temp 85 @85% humd, pressure 1010mb. The seawater temp is 83F!!!! Still a bucket bath is refreshing. Then we rinse with plenty of freshwater from our Spectra watermaker.
Looks like the big winds in the Gulf Tehuantepec have died, we will entering the area tomorrow sometime. I actually hope it does blow a fair bit as OP and I are getting tired of light air and need some action. Besides it should be a reach where we can really haul along. But it looks like it will probably be anticlimatic…
Later, Bruce, Ocean Planet, and friends
Ocean Planet –
Saturday at Sea
March 9, 2002
Ocean Planet at 1637 UTC (8:37am PST):
Position; 15 17N, 97 18W
Course 065 @ 7kts (motoring).
Temp in cabin: 95F(!)
Wind 085 @ 2.5kts
“Wilson” 8-11 PSI.
Hot! hot! hot!! The wind has petered out for now so we have been motoring pretty steadily since last evening. With the engine running it is extremely hot inside the boat. Fortunately, Greg has successfully rigged air fans in each quarterberth and at the nav station. At least moving hot air is better than still.
Hank Checking Course
Big winds are now predicted for the Gulf of Tehuantepec, so I have made a heavier reefing strop (broke the old one on the way to San Diego), rigged the staysail stay and will hank on the stysl soon. We have elected to stay close to shore for crossing the gulf, where the winds will be greater (up to 40kts!) but the seas smaller. Another reason for this is that the winds are likely to be easterly south of the gulf and we would like to stay upwind and close to shore in case we need to stop in somewhere for more diesel fuel. I had a feeling the wind we had a couple of days ago was too good to be true…
Crew Reading and Writing
We are having a good time, with the guys doing a lot of reading and storytelling. The best ones I will have to take to my grave….just kidding! Hank has been carefully doing some navigating and research on the options on where we might stop to refuel. Nice to have his 50+ yrs of experience aboard, he questions everything I do which keeps me honest!
Bruce, Greg, Dave, Hank, and Howard, Ocean Planet
Ocean Planet –
Adventure in Guatemala
March 14, 2002
We are now reaching in a light westerly off Costa Rica, after a night of bashing to weather across the Golfo de Papagayo. Pos: 09 30N, 085 13W. Temp 91F, pressure 1008mb.
You heard on my last update that we were stopping in Guatemala for fuel. It turns out that we had more of an adventure there than I expected.
On Monday the 11th we approached Puerto Quetzal, the main Guatemalan shipping port on their pacific coast. We have books on many of the central american ports, and knew that it was a good harbor for our deep draft, but had no idea what logistics we might face with customs and getting supplies. Surprisingly, a few miles from the harbor we came across another sailboat (skipper John Malone of Vancouver, BC) that had just left the port. We talked on the VHF and he gave me some pointers on working with the port captain, immigration, and the man to talk to for getting fuel and supplies. That man was capt “Big Al”, a well traveled american who has the giant salvage tug “Megaton” and a big floating drydock in the harbor.
“Hello, Mom? We’re entering Puerto Quetzal”
Big Al was every bit the character our sailing samaritan described, and more. His center of operations, the 220ft “Megaton” was located on the local Guat. navy base where he knows everyone. After we cleared with immigration and the porto capitan (a several hour process) Al came by in one of his small workboats and offered to help us find supplies and show us around. Good thing or it would have taken us days to find the local markets and gas stations that Al drove us directly to. Every few minutes of driving (if that’s what you would call Al’s seemingly careless dodging of cyclists, pedestrians, and trucks) someone Al knew would honk and wave. What pandemonium the local markets and stores are! In spite of the overwhelming poverty and dirt, The people there seemed happy and the food available was impressive. There were a few sad souls begging here and there, but not much more than one would see downtown in a big weathly US city.
Quetzel from the water
We bought Al dinner at one of his favorite local restaurants (the owners of which were of course good friends of Al’s) and had too much beer to drink and stories to hear and tell before stumbling back to the water and the boat. BTW, the anchorage was in a tight security naval base so the boat was safe for the few hours that we were gone…
We pulled out of portal Quetzal on tuesday morning afer getting clearance from the port captain. What remains with me from our visit is how very lucky we are in the US for our standard of living, but also how impressed I was with the spirit of Guatemalan people that I met. I would like to come back and visit the multi-cultural town of Antigua (not to be confused with the caribbean island we are headed for!) that I have heard a lot about. So little time, so much culture to see… And so much of it is all connected by the wide highway of the ocean.
My biggest regret is that I forgot my camera when we went shopping!!
Bruce, Greg, Dave, Hank, Howard, “Wilson” and Ocean Planet
Ocean Planet –
Another day in the tropics
March 15, 2002
Time: 1550 UTC (9:48 PST)
Position: 08 12N, 083 34W
Wind 5knts from ESE
With steely resolve, we bypassed the Costa Rican port of Puntarenas yesterday. This was despite our somewhat lengthy discussions about the legendary beauty of the women of Costa Rica.
The truth is that although we have had to motor some, we have enough fuel left to get to Panama even if the wind quits permanently, so there was no real reason to stop. We’ll have to go sight seeing there some other time!
Last night was absolutely beautiful, sailing on flat seas in a light westerly with porpoises putting on hourly shows. There was an amazing number of fishing boats pulling their nets along, so we had to divert around a few. They must have wondered who in the heck we were. We are again motoring into a light headwind and in the usual oppressive heat. This morning’s entertainment included seeing a brief waterspout (unfortunatly, not a drop on us!) in a big rain squall a few miles away. Also, we snagged a fishing line and float, and I had to jump in and cut the lines away. There was a nasty looking hook on one end that I cut before it got any ideas about who was in charge…and no fish, drat!
Anyway, time for a nap on deck, too hot below…I don’t how our AMD powered PC survives this heat, but she keeps on chuggin. Just like Ocean Planet.
Below is a modified shot of OP’s designated swimmer drying out….
Bruce, Greg, Dave, Hank, Howard, and Ocean Planet
PS: Just went for another swim, another fishing line. This one DID have a fish on the hook end…..the bait. I’m not that hungry so I left it…;-)
Ocean Planet –
We’re in Panama!
March 18, 2002
Ocean Planet has arrived in Panama!
Stay tuned for a full update later this afternoon, gotta clear immigration and run a pile of errands today.
Here’s some pics for now…
Bruce and Team OP
19th March 2002
Now, where was I?
Last report was a quickie so there are is a lot left out about our last few days.
The last couple hundred miles were mostly upwind. For the last hundred miles you sail almost due north to get here. An interesting fact is that the pacific side of the Panama canal is further east than when you come out on the Atlantic side! Look at a map and you’ll see what I mean, it’s kinda hard to visualize.
It sure is nice that Ocean Planet is good upwind for an Open 60 (at least we think so!), that last beat was a piece of cake. The water was relatively smooth (a result of a 1-1.5 knot current running with the wind against us) so it was a good chance to check some tacking angles and speed data. Here is one performance snapshot: In 10-12knots true wind, Ocean Planet sails upwind with the ballast tank full at 8.5-9 knots and tacks thru 75 degrees. I’m still working out details like optimum runner versus jib luff tension (we don’t have a fixed headstay, so can adjust the “headstay” length at will with the 4:1 jib luff halyard), which affects prebend in the mast, etc. It sure would be nice to have two boats, like an Americas cup or Volvo 60 campaign so we could test them side by side. Har! Now I’m really dreaming, eh?
We are tied to a mooring bouy in front of the Balboa “Yacht Club”, which isn’t really a yacht club but a fuel dock pier and a big outdoor bar. This is very busy spot with cruising sailors from all over the world that have just come through the canal from the Atlantic side or are getting ready to go through, like us. The bar has a great crowd at night, we met sailors from Canada, Sweden, Norway, the U.S. and more!
Panama is a fascinating place. The city here is far busier and modern than most Americans would think, the city skyline looks like it has more skyscrapers than LA or SF. There are banks from all over the world downtown, Panama has a repution for doing a lot of “Laundry” in overseas finances, but I don’t really know. Obviously there is a lot of money here. The last two nights Hank found some incredible restaurants which were world class, dining there was a far cry from our little galley stove…thanks, Hank, for cooking and finding such nice spots!
We are going through the canal tomorrow, all the paperwork and detailed measurement inspections are finished. I’m glad I took the recommendation of my friend Robert Flowerman to call Agent Peter Stevens of Delphino Maritime to smooth up this process. Peter took care of the running around so that I could concentrate on getting the boat ready. One thing that requires special attention is the mooring lines for the locks. All yachts are required to have four lines at least 125ft long to hold the boat in the huge locks. I brought along a whole spool of new Samson ‘2in1’ 1/2″ nylon rope just for this. This rope by Samson is very well priced for the level of quality and smoothness. It’s going to get a workout tomorrow but should still be great to use for our caribbean style mooring coming up in Antigua…
I still need to read up on some of the procedures, but we will have Panamanian pilot aboard too. There is a real-time website that shows the Miraflores locks (the first of the huge locks that raises the ships up to the level of the inland Panama water level). Look for the link at www.pancanal.com, you should be able to see us entering the locks starting at about 7:30am Panama time…that’s 4:30am PST!
The rest of the crew is ashore sightseeing while I’m here writing to you and working on budgets. Yesterday we went shopping for provisions. It is a lot of work to pack food and supplies on to the boat, it never looks like it will fit in here but somehow it does. It takes lot of organizing and packing….I get frustrated with all of the “junk” and start throwing a lot away! Greg stops me before it’s too late.
Howard had to fly off home this morning, so our crew for tomorrow’s canal adventure is Dave Olson, George Luna, Greg Nelsen, Hank Grandin, Serge Martial, and myself. The last time I went through the canal was going the other way in 1974 with my Dad and brothers…that was a long time ago!
Btw, Greg Nelsen has become sort of a revelation as a sailor on this trip. He is big, strong, has figured out all the boat systems and rigging, works fast and gets a lot done. If he ever gets his own Open 60 (or 50), look out! My advantage over him is that I am more detail oriented and better at seeing mistakes before they happen. Our skills complement each other well so he takes a bit of the load off me, glad to have his help.
(“Sir”) Hank Grandin was the senior member of our trip to Panama. At 75(!) and still going strong, he has a ton of great stories and experience. He is certainly set in his ways, initially not trusting such new-fangled gagdetry like our Nobeltec navigation software. But after running out of space for his notes on the paper charts (see attached pic), he finally succumbed and sat down at the Nav station to use “that @#%%%!! computer”. He liked it even more than he admited….
More news and pics of the locks tomorrow, I promise! Thanks for following and being patient. I like getting the emails asking “where are you and where’s the update!”
Also attached is a shot of one of the panga drivers who take us to shore and back. The Balboa YC fuel dock is in the background…
Approaching the Miraflores locks
Mar. 20, 2002
Ocean Planet is behind a white freighter named “Swan Bay”, and we are now approaching the Miraflores locks. We are waiting for another freighter in the locks to clear out and then we go in. Check www.pancanal.com (I think that’s it) Here is a shot of the pilot getting on the “Swan Bay”….
First Locks Images.
Mar. 20, 2002
I went through the canal when I was 14, but I forgot how cool it is!
Entering the canal behind the tanker and tug:
Here is our last view as the lock doors close on the Pacific waters:
Tying up next to the tug:
Several million gallons of water enters the locks:
Now we are up in the air (sort of)!
On to the next (the Pedro Miguel) locks!
See ya up the river!
20th March 2002
Almost to the Atlantic.
We have been motoring through the canal and beautiful Gatun lake. The shoreside is very tropical, a ‘real’ jungle. I remember the last time I was here we could see monkeys in the trees, but no monkeys today. Also, back then there were iguanas everwhere, today I hear that there are far less now.
It has been very interesting to talk to our official Pilot, Luis, who is a very experienced professional. He worked for years as a ships pilot for big companies all over the world, but likes this job so that he can now stay here in Panama where he grew up. Since Ocean Planet is valued at over a $1,000,000 they assigned us a “level 3” pilot (a really good one!)
Soon we will be approaching the Gatun locks, which is three chambers one right after the other to lower us down to the Atlantic ocean. Ocean Planet (and her skipper) misses the Pacific already but will soon discover a whole new world.
We set thet jib for one stretch, but other than that we have been under power the whole way. Luis says his wife wants him to get a sailboat someday and go cruising, so we gave him a copy of Latitude 38 (our favorite NorCal sailing mag) to read! He steered the boat for a while but as soon as we unrolled the jib, he quickly wanted me to drive…. Here he is filling in while Hank takes a nap:
About a week ago there was a collision of two freighters in the canal. Here is the one that got the short end of the deal:
21st March 2002
Ocean Planet is now in the Atlantic.
It was very different going down in the Gatun locks compared to going up in the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks. I got a funny feeling looking out over the water and land in front of us, like we were on a giant wave about to come crashing down on it all. Going down, the freighters go behind rather than in front like before so the view ahead was pretty cool, aside from my giant wave ‘vision’.
Check out this whopping car carrying box behind us:
Once we got in the lock it looked like it was scraping on the sides, but they fit better than they look and the control system is quite secure. Of course there are accidents (you saw the wreck pic earlier), but considering the close quarters that the giant freighters have to maneuver in, it is amazing there aren’t more.
Over the last month on this trip, it has been very hot with hardly a drop of rain. So it was fitting that the instant we exited the first chamber in the Gatun locks (and officially entered the Atlantic in my opinion), we were greeted with a torrential downpour! We were drenched.
Here is the view looking fwd before we entered the last chamber:
And here is my Ocean Planet for the trip to Antigua, Serge Martial, Greg Nelsen (just can’t get rid of this guy), and our fellow SSS member (the Singlehanded Sailing Society of SF Bay) George Luna:
After exiting the final locks we motored over the Cristobol Yacht Club, but it wasn’t deep enough for us to get next to anyone. We needed to drop off Hank and Dave so we hailed a good samaritan cruiser going by in his inflatable with his family to help us out. They came right back out in the pouring rain after dropping off all but a driver and then we said goodbye to Hank and Dave. The great thing about sailors from all over the world is that always help each other out, no matter where they are from on this big ocean planet…
Now we are anchored out in the main harbor with a lot of interesting yachts around. Tomorrow we’ll get a better look at them in the light, and I’ll go find immigration so that we can check out of the country. There is still a bit of packing and organizing to do since the trip to Antigua will be quite rough. I’m not looking to beating against the trades but I guess I’d better get used to it.
I’ll try to get a note out tomorrow, if not you’ll here from us soon after we depart.