Fiu in Adriatic
From Panama City to Galapagos, June 28 – July 13, 2004
Leaving for Galapagos Thursday, 1 July 2004
10:40am after refuelling and taking water from the fuel dock in the Balboa SC (paid ~ US$1.0 per gallon for diesel) we were ready to go – course SE, ~1400 heading towards the Las Perlas islands. No-one else seemed to be taking on fuel or water at Balboa, but we did with no adverse effect. Water is free of charge, I should hope so, with the amount of rain falling in Panama.
Log 12087 nm and Eng Hrs 1262. Fuel topped up with 32 gallons (~120 l) of diesel and 15 l of petrol for dinghy engine. Diesel was last refueled in Isla Margarita when engine hrs were 1220 h, meaning that we spent approx 120 l of diesel in 60 engine hours – giving the fuel consumption of approx 2 l/h – this is a very conservative figure as often we used engine at low revs just to charge the batteries and/or to speed up when sailing with the low wind.
Very nice day, NW stern wind 10-12 kn, motoring towards the Las Perlas. Tony and Julian, two NZ-ers who recently bought two secondhand Beneteau/Jeanneau yachts in Caribbean will follow and hopefully catch up with us tomorrow morning. There is a concern of piracy on the way to Galapagos (an incident happened in April when a yacht was stopped and robbed by a fishing boat, 400 nm north of Ecuador) and people tend to sail in flotillas now for increased safety.
Susan making her famous vegetable soup and preparing tortillas for lunch, Peter playing and setting up his GPS, Lesley on the watch till 1 pm, and Ivo updating and organizing the log. At 1 pm when Ivo is taking over the watch… delicious tortillas for lunch at 1:15 followed by the compulsory siesta!
At 2 pm got a 4 kg bonito!! Nice fish .. Ivo made fillets from one half of it and small slices for marinade that Susan is going to prepare according to Margo’s recipe. Stopped the night at an island called Pedro Gonzales in a small bay which at first appearance did not look to be protected from the westerly wind but due to a row of rocks that appear at low tide, it was relatively sheltered and where two Canadian yachts were anchored. We are now experiencing the tidal effects in the Pacific ocean – Balboa and here in las Perlas it is a variation of 3-4 meters particularly since right now it is full moon.
Friday July 2 - Holly B, one of the NZ yachts arrive late morning and tie up to us during the few hours of rest before we take off for Santa Catalina where we’ll meet up with Alexander III, the other NZ yacht. On our way there we stop at another little bay on Isla San Jose in Las Perlas for a swim and lunch. Susan has made couscous and we invite Tony and Ivan over to have some too. Some local fishermen come across to sell langoustines but want 6USD for one pound (about 3 tails) and Ivo is unable to negotiate the price down so we don’t buy.
At about 4.30pm we take off to do the overnight stretch toward Santa Catalina.
Saturday July 3 - After a night’s sail which saw in the distance several freighters either bound for or leaving Panama Canal we arrived close to Morro de Puercos on the Panamean peninsula and from then on all along the rest of the peninsula we encountered strong current against us which slowed us down considerably. The weather also deteriorated and the rest of the afternoon and evening was spent in wet weather gear under heavy rain. Ivo and Susan feeling queasy with the rolling of the boat, a bit strange taking into consideration how long we have been on the boat. Perhaps general tiredness contributes to this feeling.
We eventually arrive at 6.30 pm at a small anchorage on Isla Cebaco where 3 fishing boats are also stopped for the night. We have pancakes for dinner and wait for Holly B and Alexander III to arrive finally at around 10.30pm. We help the find the entrance to the bay by shining the new reflector torch onto the silhouette of the coast line and the rocks at one side of the entrance.
All in all one of the worst days of sailing so far, rain, cold, current and wind not favorable, rolling anchorage, constantly overcast and misty so nothing to see.
Sunday July 4 - A leisurely start and we are away to sail toward Santa Catalina which is now only 16 miles away. This island is supposed to have good surfing which is why Julian wants to go there. Tony was there 2 years ago with his sons and recommends the spot for its beauty as well.
We follow, more or less, the two other boats and enter the anchorage with no problem. The three boats tie up together so that we can meet and talk without putting the dinghy into the water. For the night though we separate and anchor each boat. Everyone goes over to Holly B for drinks after dinner.
Monday July 5 - Next morning Fiu leaves before the others who want to stay on and have another day of surfing. We want to sail down to some islands on our way and stop and have a look: Coiba, Jicaron and Jicarita. We motor some of the way and then are able to set sail. During the trip – some 30 miles – we see whales – first time since sailing on Fiu, a turtle, lots of fish jumping, Lesley and Susan saw a shark the day before, lots of pelicans and other birds. Coiba is an island preserved from too much human build up – it has housed a penal colony for many years and has a research station with many areas restricted. So we sail close but with no detailed charts for the area we don’t really want to anchor up. Some uncertainty with regard to the tides in the area also restrict us somewhat.
We continue onward to Jicaron – again on the chart isolated rocks and shoals are indicated in the middle of nowhere and knowing that there is a shift on the charts we eventually make a fairly large detour in order to make sure we miss these things.
Lesleys description of this day which became one of our most memorable stops;
"Sail down along the eastern side of Jicaron till the tip and across the small channel that separates Jicarita from Jicaron. Re-anchor a couple of times but then find a nice spot that is fairly safe as long as the wind does not increase. This small island is quite extraordinary and we decide to stay the night – also so that we can wait for the others who should be passing by sometime in the evening or during the night. The island is extraordinary because of its obviously primitive and untouched jungle which reaches right down to the beach. There is an overwhelming sense of stepping back into pre-historic times and I would not be surprised if suddenly a dinosaur stuck it’s head up over the trees. We walk on the beach and admire in particular a huge tree that must be very old. On the way to Coiba, the wind died to nothing, the water became glassy and the sun played hide and seek as the clouds dissolved away. Thirty five or so miles later we cruised along the southwestern coast of Coiba, the largest island in Latin America. It is a national land and marine park, as well as home to a prison. The jungles are reportedly the most wild left in Panama and have numerous species of birds, reptiles, and plants unique to the island. The ocean is also teeming with life, from beautiful corals and tropical fish to the huge predators of the deep. There is a strong current that brings nutrients up, making the area flourish. We head for two small islands off the western end of Coiba, as there is protected anchorage there between the two.
The setting is incredible with the dense jungle completely covering the cliffs, a sandy beach protected by rocky reefs, and the turquoise water. We anchor in late afternoon to await the Kiwis, hoping to set sail that evening. By sunset we have not heard from them and have decided this location is so beautiful we should stay until morning so we can take the dingy in for a quick walk on the beach before leaving.
We re-anchor in a lagoon between a long natural rocky breakwater and the beach of the smaller island. It is nearly high tide and we are guessing as to the amount of tidal variance. For lunch we ate the bonito we had just caught, but for dinner we decide to not eat the jack we had also caught.
Although it is a great eating fish, there is a bacteria, ciguatera, that grows on coral and is in fish that eat coral, as this fish is known to do. Ciguatera causes severe food poisoning and can be deadly. After dinner I go out with the torch to see the large bats that are fishing in the water around the boat – what a sight! However, I also notice that our stern has turned with the tide towards the beach and it looks very close. I call Ivo to take a look. It will still be another 3 hours before low tide, and the rocks that are off the beach, previously hidden from view, are becoming visible. Within an hour and a half, Ivo has decided we must move the boat. It would be terrible if it become so shallow that the rudder banged against the rocks, or worse, leaving us high and dry. So, by the full moon thankfully not covered by clouds, we re-anchor closer to the lagoon opening.
The next morning we have still not heard from the Kiwis. We take the dingy off the foredeck and row to the beach of the small island, Jikarita. It is beautiful, with enormous trees, palms, and bushes growing up to the beach. Thousands of hermit crabs scamper along the jungle edge just out of reach of the hide tide surf. Striking black land crabs with orange legs and purple claws command patches as their territory. Orchids, ferns and other air plants grow on the limbs of the larger trees and on the palm trunks. Rocks in the water’s edge are covered with mussels and little black crabs. Numerous colorful birds flit about and sing their tunes. If I had proper gear, I would love to explore beyond the edge. Boots above the ankles, pants and shirt, bug spray, machete, etc.
We leave this idyllic island and embark on the passage to Galapagos by 9.30 a.m., with still no word from the Kiwis. We have no idea if they have left Santa Catalina yet or not".
Tuesday July 6 Left Jicarita island 7.16N, 81.48.382 W at 9.30am to head for Galapagos Islands 0.18 S 90.41W. Set sails and are doing a course of 205 degrees compass at the moment, with engine on as well. Wind is 6-8 knts, seas with a long low swell. Sun out with a cloudy layer, but it no longer rains.
Miles log is 12421 & engine hours are 1297.
The chart shows the distance (681 nm) and course we have to take to reach Galapagos islands.
Thursday, 8 July 2004 - 4:19 AM Ivo’s watch is over – it was an uneventful watch .. sighted two planes, few stars and occasionally moon. Wind still on the nose W-SW, 10-12 kn, motorsailing with the main on, speed 5.5 to 6.5 kn, course 220, making slow progress as the current is against us as well – now only 1 to 1.5 kn and used to be 2 kn. Sea temperature is coming down, from 28 C to 27 now, air temp 26 C. Generally it feels colder since we entered the Pacific – and incredibly now that we are only a few degrees from equator, even during the day when it is squally and overcast, it is sufficiently cold outside to wear a sweatshirt and when it rains, all the wet weather gear comes out and woolly hats. Very strange.
Chart below shows us coming close to a Rivardeneyra shoal, 3.2 m in the middle of the ocean!
Still 457 nm to St Cruz and in 2 days made effectively 230 nm from Jicarita and actual log shows 321 nm in two days (in average 160 nm per day, giving us cruising speed of 160/24= 6.66 kn, or after correction for 2 kn current and wind on the nose 115/24= 4.8 kn)
Log = 121746 and engine 1317 hr
Friday, 9 July 2004 - Beautiful morning. Sea is dark blue with white horses, wind SSW to SW, 14 to 16 kn.
Sailing the whole day on port tack - course 240 to 260
At 9:30 log 490 nm meaning that since yesterday morning we made 170 nm in 24 hrs. Still too far north of Galapagos – waiting for wind to shift to S. No fish.
Shifted clocks one hour ahead .. 20 is 19 hrs when this screen dump is taken. Still a long way to go
Saturday, 10 July 2004 2:10 AM turned south with the main only and the engine – 2000 revs
at 5:49 am still making very slow progress,
At 8:26 am came closer for 12 nm in 2.5 hrs, making approx 5 kn. Still long way to go.
Log 13077 nm, and in 4 full days made 659 nm on the water and effectively, 460 nm measuring from Jikarita.
Temperature is dropping, when overcast and windy feels like the arctic temperatures. Sea water temp is now 25.7 deg
11:51 am made approx 30 nm since 5 am this morning. Will finally tack soon,
At 12:10 changed to starboard tack … so Lesley can cook and boys can (finally ) take a shower using the sea water pump!
The screen dump above shows the tacks
10:27 pm wind and current pushing us to the W – deciding to tack again and sail more to the south during the night.
Lesley gives a good description of life onboard when sailing closehauled for days on end:
“For three days, the heeling pushed 20-30 degrees steadily. This presents a unique way of being for all activities. Bracing occurs, not just while walking or standing, but also while sitting, sleeping, reading, cooking, eating, cleaning dishes, and using the toilet! Of course, the boat is not just tipped at an angle, but it is moving forward through waves and swells. For the entire passage, the seas were choppy, with waves and swells coming from two to three directions at the same time. Occasionally, swells would combine into two or three larger ones, but I don’t think they ever exceeded 3 meters. However, the wave length was also fairly short. Considering we were in the open ocean at depths of 2500-3000+ meters with a fairly consistent wind direction, it was both interesting and irritating that the seas remained so choppy for hundreds of miles. Fiu is a performance cruiser, thus has some of the comfort of a cruiser but also qualities of a racer. A longer fin keel and a flatter hull shape helps with speed, but does not slice well into these head-on swells, causing strong slapping, jarring, and pounding on occasion. It was loudest in the fore cabin and resounded through the salon to the aft cabins. In my aft cabin, I could feel the rippling of the vibrations as they moved from bow to stern.
Add to the heeling element, a lot of forward and back rocking, a bit of side to side rolling, and the occasional lurching and pounding from waves mistimed and misplaced in respect to Fiu’s hull shape and length. This is 24/7 – everything you do is affected by this constant motion and heeled position. Not a big deal for a day sail or overnight between anchorages, but it is tiresome for days on end. Even a couch potato gets a workout!
Most meals were eaten in the cockpit, so it became an athletic feat to maneuver pots of steaming food ten feet from counter to companionway, up the four steps and over the hatch opening. Afterwards, dishes are cleaned on cockpit’s deck, dried and then the task of returning them to the kitchen without dropping is again a gymnastic event.
Possibly the hardest job is the cooking. Although the stove/oven is on gimballs, which keeps the top surface parallel to the earth and not at the boat’s ever changing position, the countertop is in constant motion. The double sinks become hold-alls rather than wash basins. On Fiu, the galley is on port side. Therefore, on starboard tack, items on the counter will slide into the cabinet. It still requires a bit of finagling keeping things tidy, but it is do-able. On the port tack, it is much harder, as everything wants to slide, jump, and otherwise leave the counter, onto the cook and the floor, only to slide far away as quickly as possible. Hopefully it is not a neatly chopped pile of veggies, anything oily or greasy, a bowl of beaten eggs, or something steaming hot. Pleasing presentation of the meal onto plates is often nixed in favor of any presentation at all.
We sailed on port tack a lot. So difficult was cooking on the port tack, and so appreciated was a hot meal when cooked by someone else, that when I announced I would cook the main meal on day six IF we were on the starboard tack, it was immediately agreed that we would tack for one hour, even if that sent us in a less desirable direction!
My starboard-aft cabin, identical to Peter’s on portside, had the hull as an outside wall and a shared inner wall behind the engine compartment tucked under the companionway. Overhead was the cockpit and winches. Depending upon the tack, I slept against one or the other wall. Tacking is very noisy, as the echoing of the genoa winches resounds in the cabins below. The lifting and dropping of the bow is like a rollercoaster ride in the forward cabin, but much more gentle aft. However, the slapping and pounding from the mistimed waves reverberated throughout with noise and vibration. Only by sitting in the cockpit is this lessened. Sailing boats are a full orchestra of sound. The slap of halyards, the creak of sheets under tension, sloshing of water along the sides, chiming from the hollow aluminum mast and boom, slapping of the bow on the swells, and so on, provide a continuous cacophony of creaks, snaps, groans, moans, rumbles, slaps, bangs and rattles. An extra strong swell or change of tack provides a flurry of noise as items onboard settle into new positions. Noise – 24/7. If the engine is added, it overrides all other noises – especially in the aft cabins”
Sunday, 11 July 2004 at 2:57 AM noticed light on our 2 o=clock starboard – did not change sails/course, waiting to see if/where the boat is moving. After a while realised that this is most likely another fishing boat, possibly trolling as it was moving very slow – we sailed by it at the distance of 5-6 nm still with no navigational lights.
1.50 N 88.30 W, temperature is still going down – at 4:46 AM outdoor temp was 22 oC, indoor 25 oC and the sea temp 24.5 oC.
9:03 am log13249, trip 830 nm since the beginning 5 days ago (830/5=166 nm/day) and effectively we made 520/5=104 nm/day (including sailing against the current which was typically 1.5 knx24=36nm and tacking). Sailing SE the whole night to gain better position to sail straight to Isla Genovesa which is the most northerly island of the archipelago or maybe even to Santa Cruz. On starboard tack since 10:30pm last night, made 67 nm in 11 hours – will still persist on this tack few more hours, hope the wind will change more to SE so that we can sail straight to the I Genovesa??
Another picture perfect morning – dark blue sea, crystal clear sky, wind (still on the nose) 13 to 15 kn S-SSW making white horses on the ocean.
Today’s morning exercise: 10 minutes ago almost lost our racing main sail that was packed in the bag placed on the port side deck – Peter noticed that first quarter of the bag is in the water and called all hands on deck to recover it from the water. Peter was on the wheel, slowed down Fiu by sailing close to the wind and Lesley, Susan and Ivo were on the deck trying to get the sail back on the deck – it was quite a job as the sail is really heavy, and big and it was tough job to pull it back on the deck through the narrow space between the rail and the life line. After 10 minutes of intense ‘exercise’ the job was successfully done and our expensive racing main sail and genoa #4 safely tied back on the deck.
12:04 pm at 11 am changed to a port tack – finally heading towards I Genovesa.
Still sailing with the one reef and ½ genoa – making 7 to 8 knots when the sea is relatively low and dropping to 6.5 kn if we hit a few successive 2 m waves.
At 8:38 pm tacked again. Wind was low (7-8 kn) and on the nose – turned the engine on at 9:45 pm, motor sailing with the main only.
12:05 am at last going in a straight line toward our goal. How frustrating it can be to sail but at least we live in an era where we have motor power.
Monday, 12 July 2004 - 4:14 am Ivo’s shift .. however, Lesley still on shift, writing her log on the notebook. Wind is picking up, time to hoist the sails again .. but, the engine is already turning off on it’s own!! The obvious happened, we have run out of fuel!! I did notice that the fuel level was low and told everyone but to Lesley that we should carefully look to the fuel gauge as we might have not enough to last till sunrise .. luckily, there is 13 kn of SSW wind which will hopefully get us closer to the I. Genovesa and when the sun is up we shall add some fuel to the tank and pump it to the fuel delivery system of our good old (new) Yanmar engine. Only 40 nm to go
5:35 am outside air temp 20 oC – lowest so far and we are only 45 nm N of equator! Sea temp is 24.1
7:55 am wind is turning more to SSE and we are sailing close hauled straight to Isla Genovesa. Only 22 nm to go!
9:30 am finally land on the horizon! After 6 days and 1 hour we can see Isla Genovesa on the horizon. Still 15 nm to go. Interestingly, our bow is pointing to the southern side of the island and the GPS prediction bar is telling us that we are actually aiming 4 nm north of the island!
As shown on the chart above, current is approx 2 kn and it is so strong that we are actually moving significantly sideways.
At 10:29 am log 13403.8 still 11 nm to go – log was reset this morning and shows – now 32.5 nm. The actual mileage we made is (13403-13249=154, 830+154=984+32.5=1016 nm) 1016nm.
Eng 1338 hrs – 1262 = 76 hrs spent 200l/76l= 2.6 l/hr -
Isla Genovesa, Equador. Again the Cmaps has a shift and show us on land.
Lesley’s description of our arrival in Galapagos:
Six full days of sailing plus one hour, we sighted the first Galapagos island – Isla Genovesa. It is 9:30 a.m. local time (Central Standard Time in the States). It takes a couple of tacks and five hours to reach its northern end. We had run out of fuel in the tank in the middle of the night during a five hour lull of the wind. So, the time spent approaching the island was used by Ivo and Susan to refuel from the jerry cans, change the fuel filters (from my casual suggestion since they had to bleed the lines anyway!), and bleed the lines. Peter and I stayed in the cockpit on watch and had to reel in the fishing lines. By now we had three dozen or so frigates and boobies trying to pick the lures out of the sea. We were concerned that one of them might get hurt by the hook.
Isla Genovesa, like the other islands, is volcanic in origin. On the south side of the island is a bay created by the crater. Two large markers on the inner shore of the bay are used as guides for boats to navigate the brief shallows at the entrance where a portion of the crater rim stays submerged. Most of the interior is quite deep 150+ meters in the center to 70 meters deep within a few feet of the cliff walls. We start on the right and cruise close in a counterclockwise direction. A few sea lions are lounging on lower rocks. Hundreds of frigates, boobies, red-billed tropical birds, and other sea birds use this island as a rookery and line the tops of the cliffs. In the water, we see a manta ray and a couple of turtles. Several large tour boats are anchored in the far left corner, and numerous launches are ferrying tourists to the steps in the cliff or to the beach behind the anchorage.
We are enchanted with this place, despite the bleakness of rock and minimal desert type of vegetation. We are also thrilled to finally be here, and at the thought of anchoring for the night, cooking and sleeping in peace, and venturing ashore. After a short cruise around the other vessels, Ivo selects a spot and we anchor. This time, Ivo has attached a lightweight polyester line with plastic milk bottle to the front end of the anchor as a means of freeing the anchor from a different angle should the chain not be able to free it from this rocky bottom. He and Peter are still dealing with this nuisance when the first launch full of tourists pulls up. The Galapagos guide asks Susan if we have a guide on board, and informs us we are not allowed to anchor here without first checking in at Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz getting permits and hiring a guide. Just as that boat leaves, another one arrives, asking the same question and giving the same reprimand.
Our response is that we need a rest after so many days at sea. I make a quick meal, and while we are eating, yet another guide arrives, claiming to be a park official, and insisting that we leave. Ivo agrees to leave in half an hour. We finished eating and cleaning up and are ready to leave in an hour. Just as Ivo starts the engine, a fourth boat comes by, this time with only a guide and a driver. Ernesto is his name, and he says it is alright for us to stay and rest, but to not go ashore. He tells us that just last week two un-permitted yachts anchored and the people went ashore with a dog. The rangers were forced to arrest them!
Tuesday, 13 July 2004 Crossing the Equator
12:00 am departing from Darwin bay at midnight and heading towards the Santa Cruz island. Course 240 and desired course 190! Wind on the nose again.
At 4:28 am getting very close to the equator and we finally crossed the equator at 5:25 am, making sure of course that we observe the correct rituals toward Neptune in order to obtain future clement weather and protection for Fiu.
from Lesley's log:
"It is 4:30pm, and we decided to take it easy for a few hours, hoping that by leaving late we will arrive in Puerto Ayora in daylight hours. It is only 75 miles away – directly into the wind of course! After napping, we are underway and out of the crater’s rim by midnight. A brisk wind sends us on a southwesterly course. An hour after my watch, at 5:25 a.m., Ivo awakens us all for an equator-crossing celebration, complete with a rum drink, an offering to Neptune and the sea for past voyaging and blessings for future safe sailing, and a splash of cold equator water on all of us. We enjoyed the sunrise crossing and celebration, however, it is probably the coldest morning yet, and I scurry back to bed for warmth and sleep.
Late morning doldrums force the stowing of sails and turning on the engine for an hour. Then a new, strong wind from the SSE returns good sailing conditions – again head-on as we go around the northern and eastern sides of Santa Cruz. Puerto Ayora is on the southeastern end of the island. Ivo and Peter are forced to do numerous tacks for several hours. By my watch at 6 p.m. we can head due south on a port tack. Ivo goes below to cook the yellow-fin tuna he caught (finally!), and take a nap. It is sunset and we still have some 18 miles to go - so much for a port arrival in daylight hours! By 9:30, Susan and I had navigated to the southern end and turned west towards the port. By 10, all are on deck as we slowly motor around the anchored vessels to find a spot for ourselves. By 10:30, we are anchored with a couple of pelicans silently eyeing us in case morsels of fish should be thrown overboard. We feasted on a delicious meal of fresh-caught fish, potatoes and onions, and slept very soundly that night!"
Chart shows us crossing the Equator
6:56 am motoring since 6 am, wind dropped to 7 kn S. Motoring S to gain a better position to start sailing once the wind will pick up.
12:38 pm wind again .. ESE!!
On this chart you can see the tacking that was involved in making our way toward the South of the island of Santa Cruz!
This took us most of the day in pretty strong winds by now. We had plenty of time to admire the coastline whilst at the same time getting plenty of exercise and perfecting our team skills for any future racing! Tacking is hard work!
This chart shows us getting into uncharted waters and our abrupt change of course when we suddenly only had 11m of depth!
Entered unchartered zone near the Gordon Rocks – and !! hit the 11 m mark ! Luckily our internal ‘Gloria’ alarm system was activated on time and alerted us! Panic on the deck: turning, engine on, ready to reverse .. after few minutes we were again in the deep water, 100 + meters ..Phew!
Finally at 10.30pm we had entered the Puerto Ayora bay and anchored in the dark amongst all the other boats. This anchorage is exposed to the southerly winds and swells and is exceedingly rolly.
Santa Cruz turns out to be a welcoming small township with very friendly people who quickly get to to know us and the boat and who greet us in the morning as we walk down the street with a cheerful ‘Bueno Diaz’. Over the coming days we pick up the necessary basic Spanish words that enable us to get around with relative ease.
To read more follow this link: Santa Cruz