Join MERA and her crew around the world through this blog. Welcome to a discovery trip where you can feel the salty sea, hear the waves, watch the sunrise, know the taste of the great sea …
Join MERA and her crew around the world through this blog. Welcome to a discovery trip where you can feel the salty sea, hear the waves, watch the sunrise, know the taste of the great sea …
We made a soft start on our way to Galapagos, first heading out to a popular vacation resort 3 hours sailing from Panama City. We had to sail slalom between all tankers waiting to get a passage thru the canal. We also passed Espen’s next boat, a 200 feet sail yacht.
On the back side of the island, we found an almost empty bay. Sverker enjoyed the passengers on the starbord side of the other boat in the bay.
There was an interesting waterfall, that Ole and Sverker decided to swim ashore to investigate. However, when ashore, the water had stopped falling, and the small trickles still coming down was salt water. Possibly from a desalination plant?
8 hour sail to Isla del Rey
On the second day, we sailed a bit longer, 8 hours to Isla del Rey. En route we were approached by a flock of dolphins.
The shortest route out of the bay of Panama passes a cape called Punta Male. Male, because there are strong currents combined with strong opposite winds, creating bad sailing conditions. This area should be avoided, and we passed with a good safety margin. The word Male is found to describe other bad things, such as Malstroem (bad current), Malaria (bad area disease) BonusMalus (reward and punishment) and Malmoe (Swedish no go zone).
Really nice cruising the first few days, as there were no waves.
Catch of the day
We were lucky to catch a small tuna fish, good dinner for 3. Espen opted for canned meat instead.
On the Caribbean side, we used a 3 hour watch schedule on 3 crew. Captain on 24 hour stand by. Meaning we only got 6 hour rest in between the watches. On the Pacific side, considering lighter winds and less swell, we decided to try a 4 hour watch schedule. To achieve rotation over the days, we also gave Espen a 4 hour slot per day. Slightly more strenuous watches, but longer rest in between.
A bad day for the Captain
Water consumption is a hot topic for all long distance sailors. With the new crew, consumption had gone up. To measure exactly how much we were consuming, Espen connected the smallest tank (50 liters) of the total 500 liters of water, to see how long it would take us to consume those 50 liters. Mera has pressurized water, meaning there is a pressure pump between the tanks and the water pipes. If a tank runs dry, the pressure pump will go indefinetly trying to build up pressure, and eventually break down.
At the very beginning of this bad day, around mid night, one crew member, who just came out of the toilet (had used water), heard a strange motor sound from below the freezer. Another crew member, sleeping close by dozily also reacted on the strange sound. Espen, sleeping, was alerted, but he concluded it was the freezer and nothing to worry about. 3 hours later Espen found the pressure pump on, since the 50 liter tank was empty. Despite being run dry for 3 hours, it was still functioning well. Luckily. Espen had no memory of being alerted.
Later, in the morning, Espen was at the helm, cruising along with the small spinnaker hoisted. As he wanted to write some emails, focus was not 100% on steering. With the unfortunate combination of going too high up against the wind, a tightly trimmed spinnaker, focus on the email, and a sudden gust of wind, the spinnaker was ripped apart. From the top, along the port side and along half of the bottom, the sail cloth was separated from its frame. Bringing down the remains was not a big problem, as we had a sock on the top that was still fully functioning. The rest of the crew thanked their lucky stars that it was captain himself on the watch.
Unfortunately no picture was taken of the ripped spinnaker, but it resembled this
Swimming in the ocean
Cruising along at 7 to 8 knots makes it difficult to swim in the ocean. This did not stop Sverker from cooling off. He made knots on a rope and climbed down when speed occasionally went below 4 knots. Faster than that, it is difficult to hold on.
Hundreds off miles of the Columbian coast, we passed this small island, where cruisers are not allowed to land.
Passing the equator
With 2 days remaining to Galapagos, we passed the red line of the equator, and the strangest of things started to happen: Toilets started to flush in the opposite rotation, the sun started to go anti clock-wise, the stars in the night took all new formations, fish started swimming upside down, all winches on the boat had to be rotated the opposite direction, starboard became port, sun started rising in the west. The crew turned from Pollywogs to Shellbacks. And south became the direction of where it is cold. Strange!
Cleaning the hull
Just outside Galapagos, we stopped for cleaning the hull, removing any live material from the waterline downwards. Galapagos authorities are strict on not allowing any hairy hulls in their waters. Some curious sealions swam by to check us out. Violetta kept a look out for sharks.
We arrived in Galapagos 9 days after leaving Panama, with 6 nights on the open ocean. A heavy rain preceded our entry. Luckily it blew in front of us.
In Galapagos, at 90 degrees west, Mera has reached 28% of the longitude goal.
The day after we arrived in Panama city, as planned Per left Mera. Tim also decided to leave. While Ole joined. 3 days later, on the day of departure Violetta also joined, creating a new crew taking over from PETS of Mera: SOVE Mera. A sleepy bunch.
Sverker. Presented earlier
Ole, A happy Norwegian from Oslo originally trained in chemistry with a PhD in atmospheric chemistry, but now working with supercomputers at University of Oslo. A technical geek. Boated since childhood, sailed since late teens when I got own boats. Explored the Oslo fjord, Danish waters and Swedish west coast (from 2.8m rubber inflatable to yachts) for decades. In later years the Croatian waters. Cruised with wife, family and friends. Later years ocean passages. Raced on ‘Visit Finland’ during the Clipper Round the world race on two legs, Rio to Cape town and Cape town via the southern ocean to Australia. Did the passage from southern Norway to Spain in 2013. Sailed the ARC in 2015. In spare time working on a project called ‘Internet of things onboard’ (IoToB), to replace all the instruments with laptops, pads and mobiles.
The reason for sailing with Mera is to get out on the open waters, my family love to be afloat, but in archipelagos like Sweden or Croatia. I love longer ocean passaged to just sail away and knowing it is weeks until the net landfall. Bluewater has gotten me on the hook. The leg from Panama to Marquesas is one of the more lonely legs on the whole circumnavigation, and hence even more appealing.
Violetta. A sailing instructor, aims to advance her skills in off shore sailing. The 3100 mile passage from Galapagos to Marquesas will be a welcome addition to her sailing resume. Keen to keep contact with friends and family.
Espen. Presented earlier
Cockroach, part III: Who you gonna call
Though we had not seen more than 2 cockroaches, Espen wanted to minimize risk of infestation, so we asked our good agent Roy, who called in an expert exterminator. He gassed the whole boat, and when we opened the cabin after 1 hour, we had to hold our breath from all the grey smoke inside. After this exercise, we found one more cockroach, lying dead on the chart table. The end of a trilogy.
We only got one of these guys.
Long distance sailing adds wear and tear to the equipment. In Panama we took the opportunity to fix and repair some items that had gone bad. Espen climbed the mast, and we oiled the winches. We also helped the neighbor boat by sending up Sverker in that mast.
As we did not expect to be able to purchase much in Galapagos, we had to provision for 30 days at sea, in Panama. We made a rough plan where we planned types of breakfast, types of lunch and types of dinner. Plus snacks.
For the meat, it was important we could get everything frozen from the supermarket. First supermarket we went to was not interested in freezing the meat we planned to buy, whereas we had better luck in the second supermarket. They offered to freeze, but not to deliver to the marina. No major problem, first day, we purchased all the meat and all dry foods and cans. The meat were left in the store’s freezers, and picked up day after, when we also bought all the fruits and veggies.
30 days of provisioning takes space. We had a good discussion whether it was better to pack “per day”, or whether it was better to pack “per function” (all breakfast in one place, all meat in one place etc). Conclusion was some mix of these 2 principles, which was also the traditional way Mera had been packed previously. Beer was also a big discussion. Some crew was concerned that islands in French Polynesia could be “dry”, or expensive, and that we needed to bring whatever beer we planned to consume. Mera’s storage capacity had to be flexed to its limits, considering we wanted no loose items in the cabins in the unlikely event Mera would do a 360 degree spin in bad weather. This could happen, and if, any loose items will become dangerous projectiles.
A night out in Panama City
The night before Violetta arrived, three gringos decided for a night out in the city.
We managed to attract some smiles from perfectly ordinary Panamanian citizens.
Local military leaders play an important role in the history of Panama. But the most important role was played by a cock?
Eventually, we ended up in the local fish market’s food court, enjoying a meal of sea food.
Violeta came on board with a clear target to join until Galapagos. And possibly continue to Marquesas in French Polynesia. Espens view was Violeta only could come aboard if she committed to stay until Marquesas, with the possibility to step off in Galapagos if she was not comfy. Luckliy this was solved the first day. As Violeta had not arranged for her return flights, she did so the first day, with a ticket out from French Polynesia. Via NZ and Australia back to New York. We suspect refuelling stop in French Polynesia. Taking the long way home.
We set off towards Galapagos the same afternoon.
Passing thru the canal meant that the “Øverland Nautical Circumnavigation Expedition” finally went overland. The majority of the canal is the dammed up Chagres river, forming the Gatun lake, 28 meters above sea level. To get up to the lake, there are 3 locks at Gatun, close to Colon on the Atlantic side. To get down from the lake, there are 3 locks at Miraflores, close to Panama City on the Pacific side.
The Canal company requires each vessel to have a pilot and 4 line handlers. The pilot comes from the canal company, and his role is to make sure the vessel gets smooth thru the canal. The 4 line handlers can be crew, or rented if not enough crew. Since we were only 3 crew (Per, Tim and Sverker), Espen would have to hire one more line handler at 100 usd. Also required are 4 * 40 meter lines, to be used in the locks. At the locks 4 line handlers ashore was provided for by the canal company. The purpose of all these requirements was to ensure smooth transit for the boat, and more importantly, to avoid any clog up incidents that would hamper the canal traffic, which runs 24/7.
LAPD suffering from Noa Satall
Sid (without a cushion!)
The evening before our passage, Espen and Sverker was grilling with the cruising community in the marina. By chance we came in contact with a retired Los Angeles police, Sid, who had passed thru the canal 11 times. He would love to do it again, and volunteered to be line handler #4. Saving Espen 100 usd. Though Sid warned us that he suffered from “Noa Satall”, requiring soft cushions when sitting down. You might want to read the disease slowly. He was on his 3rd wife, but still had the same sailingboat, giving stability in life. During the passage he told us many interesting episodes from his service with the LAPD, including his role in the OJ Simpson highway chase which was broadcasted live from helicopter TV teams.
OJ Simpson highway chase
Hector and Moses
The passage West-to-East (yes Atlantic-to-Pacific goes eastwards in Panama, due to an S-shape of the isthmus) takes 2 days for sailing yachts. Including an overnight anchorage on lake Gatun. The canal company provided 2 pilots who were both very competent and pleasant. They taught us a great deal on the history of the canal and of Panama.
Hector, or was this Moses? Bridge of the Americas in the background.
In the first 3 locks, upwards, we were tied up with another sailing yacht, meaning we only had to use 2 ropes and 2 line handlers.
PICTURE 2 yachts tied up, going as 1 vessel in the locks. Per inspecting.
The second day, in the locks going down towards Pacific, we were lucky enough to tie up to a small ferry, meaning we had to use no ropes or line handlers.
Tied up to passenger ferry. Per inspecting.
On the last 3 locks, we were locking together with a Panamax sized ship
Panamax ship. Not much spare space on the sides meant a tidal wave of water was pushed in front towards us. Big ships get automatic train line handlers
Lake Gatun was like cruising along a river
All inclusive resort
We passed some nice hotels along the lake Gatun. One of them was an All incusive resort with maximum security. Panama’s ex president Noriega spent several years at this resort. Amusing for an old police.
PICTURE all inclusive resort
Crocodile in the canal. We did not take the opportunity for fresh water swimming in Lake Gatun.
In Panama, at 79 degrees west, Mera has reached 25% of the longitude goal. Actually further from the goal than at the Atlantic side of the canal in Colon, as the canal runs south east towards the Pacific.
Hope and despair – arranging for canal passage
Espen had been in contact with an agent to help us thru the Panama canal, since a couple of months. Espen had made clear that he wished to pass thru on Feb 12, and the agent had not dismissed this, though he had indicated there normally was a 10-12 day cue in February due to seasonality. When in San Blas, Espen again contacted the agent who said that if we want to have a chance to go thru on Feb 12, we need to be in Colon by Feb 8 for measuring the boat.
We arrived Feb 8 at 08.00. Within 2 hours, the admeasure guy came and measured the boat. At first he concluded Mera (a Swan 48) was longer than 50 feet. He included the pulpit in the front and the windwane in the back, which arguably adds more than 2 feet. But since 50 feet meant 50% higher cost thru the canal, he wanted to measure again. After 2 minutes he came down and noted 49 feet.
The agent, Roy Bravo, turned up at 18.00. Espen reiterated what he thought was an agreement: that we should pass thru the canal on Feb 12. Roy tried to be as clear as possible: the process starts with the admeasure. Once this is done and payment received, the canal company will give a date. As we sat, Roy called the canal company who confirmed they had got all data, and that we were scheduled on Feb 24. 16 days waiting was a bit (read: Much) more than what we had expected. Roy explained that it could be shorter, since he would call the canal company every evening. Sometimes they have last minute openings when other boats cannot stick to their dates. The only thing we could do was to pray, explained Roy.
Roy, who looked like Denzel Washington, promised to call us every day around 19.00 to give a status update. When he had not called Feb 10, and not returned SMS, we slowly understood that there was a large likelihood we need to wait the full 16 days, until Feb 24. So we started to make plan B: Feb 11 Panama carnival, Feb 12-13 sail to Portobello, Feb 14 return to Colon to let off Per, and to welcome Ole, Feb 15-17 sail again towards Portobello, Feb 18 return to Colon to pick up Violetta, Feb 19-23 sail, Feb 24 go thru canal.
Provisioning in Colon
Shelter bay marina is located across the bay from Colon. To provision in Colon, we took a 1 hour bus ride, including a ferry passage between north America and south America. A bridge was under construction, and looked as if set up for stunt car jumps for the next James Bond movie. Not far fetched, as we later learned that parts of the last James Bond was filmed in Panama City.
Don’t mess with Panama police force
Colon is a notoriously dangerous city, but we kept to the safe areas.
The largest ship in the marina was the Norwegian sail ship Sørlandet, rebuilt into a floating high school. We got an interesting tour of the ship and its 60 students + some 20 sailors and teachers. As the ship sailed off towards Florida, you could sense some national sentimentality from the eyes of Per end Espen. (no they were not crying).
Just outside the marina was something that looked like a ship graveyard, or perhaps a ship retirement home. Panama is a place where many sailing dreams a crushed. Passing the canal is big step towards circumnavigation, and ahead of this big step it seems many dreams are reconsidered. Hence, some boats end up deserted in Panama.
There was a 4 day carnival in Panama city during our stay in Colon. Agent Roy had explained that this did not increase our chance to get a passage thru the canal. The bottleneck was the pilots required onboard each boat in the canal. During the carnival, most pilots would be off.
Tim and Per took the opportunity to go into Panama city, a 2 hour commute to go see the carnival on Feb 11. They were not overly enthusiastic when they returned in the evening; the carnival was similar to what we had experienced on Aruba, with the difference that some younger females had laughed at Tim and Per due to their age.
Not what Per and Tim saw in Panama City
Meanwhile, Espen and Sverker relaxed by the marina, walked a few km thru the jungle to a nearby beach.
Slow jungle creature
Espen and Sverker ended the evening grilling with the cruising community at the marina. Contrary to Tim and Per’s experience, Espen and Sverker found themselves to be the youngest by the grill. The cruising community mainly consist of pensioned americanos.
That evening, Roy the agent had finally reverted by SMS, confirming that our passage date was Feb 24. So we were all slowly accepting our fate and the plan B. But later the same evening, Roy called up and asked if we were ready to go next afternoon. “Yes!” Espen almost screamed in the phone.
So we got to go on Feb 12, just as planned from start.
Fortress and Chagre river
On the last day, Sverker went on 20 km hike to see the Chagres river and Fort San Lorenzo. This fortress, which was originally built by the Spaniards with the purpose of protecting the profitable trade route from pacific coast America, via Panama to Spain (the gold plunder route) had been destroyed 3 times. First time by a pirate, Captain Morgan, who went on to also plunder Panama city on the Pacific side. Second time by the British, who during a war found a reason to let its canon ships release its gun power. Third destruction has occurred by natural decay during the last century. Since the opening of the canal, the fortress lost its strategic role.
Fort San Lorenzo and Chagre River
The distance from San Blas to Colon, at the entry of the Panama canal is some 80 miles, which is a full day, or full night sail. Average speed of Mera is about 7 miles / hour. As we wanted to enter Colon in daylight, we opted the night sail, setting out from San Blas late afternoon, and arriving Colon early morning.
LEAVING SAN BLAS
What’s this deal about 80 miles, shouldn’t we be using metric system?
The metric system, introduced after the French revolution, used the earth’s circumference as basis for the length measure: the meter. Divide the circumference in 4 parts, and you get the distance from the equator to either of the poles. This distance was divided by 10 000 to get a kilometer. Divide the kilometer by 1000 and you get a meter. In most civilized countries, the metric system has replaced the yards (distance from king’s nose to king’s thumb, holding arm straight out), inch (width of king’s thumb?), pound (weight of king’s brain?), gallon (volume of how much beer the king could drink before falling drunk?), as the French wanted a more scientific measurement system. Besides, they had just killed their king.
But the French metric system never was able to change international maritime measures. Possibly due to British maritime dominance in the 18th and 19th century. So what is the difference?
A nautical mile is also derived from the circumference of the globe. Just like the meter. But the maritime system is based on degrees and minutes instead of the metric’s focus on 1000’s. The globe is a circle of 360 degrees, and each degree contain 60 minutes, where a minute is a nautical mile. Comparing the quarter circle, equator to pole, of the metric system (10 000 km) with maritime 90 degrees * 60 minutes, you get that 10 000 km equals 90*60= 5400 miles. Or 1 mile = 10 000 / 5400 = 1,852 km.
To complicate things, an American mile is shorter than a nautical mile. Probably Trump’s fault.
Since Mera will pass all 360 degrees, and thus all time zones, it could be interesting to dwell a bit on the relation between degrees and times zones. The globe rotates 360 degrees in 24 hours, meaning 1 hour is 360/24 = 15 degrees. Hence, for every 15 degrees we pass westward, we gain 1 hour. As compensation, we loose 24 hours when we pass Date line east of New Zealand. Otherwise, Mera would return to Norway with a calendar 1 day ahead. Circumventing the globe is unfortunately not a way to travel in time. Since we are sailing close to the equator the 15 degrees per time zone corresponds to 15*60 = 900 miles per time zone. On the north pole, you can pass all time zones, and all 360 degrees, by just turning around one full rotation. 360 degrees. Enough theory.
Pirates approaching, well shaved
In the middle of the night, Tim came up to cockpit claiming he could hear the sound of an outboard engine thru the water, asking if we could see the boat on AIS. Nothing visible on AIS. This supported the conclusion that we were being approached by pirates. Espen went down in the cabin and could confirm that a foreign engine was approaching on the front port side. Moving up further front, he could more accurately locate that the foreign sound approached close to the front toilet of the boat. And opening the toilet cabinet, he found the source of the sound. In the rough seas, a shaver had bumped around, and turned on. Causing the pirate engine sound.
The cockroach, part II: Under pressure
While steering the boat, in the darkness of the night, Sverker felt something tickling on his left foot toes. Turning on the flash light he saw a cockroach on his foot. Damn, it was not a lone wolf that we gassed a few days earlier. Within a blink of the eye, the cockroach found himself under Sverker’s heel, under quite a bit pressure.
In Colon, at 80 degrees west, Mera has reached 25% of the longitude goal.
San Blas immigration
Immigration in San Blas was not smooth. They needed copies of passports, which only Sverker had brought along, so we had to go to another island to get copies, and then head back to the immigration island. Entry was expensive, and we really did not understand what we paid for. Immigration fee, cruise permit, subsidy to Kuna Yala Indians, or a contribution to the local administrator? We left immigration island with a feeling of being fooled.
Espen and Tim paddling to Immigration island. 3rd time, they decided to mount the outboard engine.
Tim spotted a cockroach in the aft section of the cockpit. Despite Espen’s hygenic rules of not bringing any cardboard aboard and to wash any vegetables before bringing on board, we had a possible cockroach colony on the boat. This could thrive until the boat hit the cold waters of Norway in 2 years. So we were pretty eager to exterminate. Espen bought a gas can of insect spray, while Tim and Per held a watch out. When the little bastard finally showed up, the can was half emptied, and the insect fell out dead. He got a naval burial. We hoped and prayed this was a lone wolf.
Life on the outer islands
The outer islands of San Blas easily fall under the definition of “paradise islands”: Blue water, protective coral reefs, white sand beaches and coconut palm trees. Some islands are inhabited by one or two Kuna Yala indian families, while other islands were deserted. One was deserted since a crocodile resided there. Sverker and Tim quickly abandonded plans to swim there after receiving this info. But later built up courage to swim anyhow. Yes we are still alive.
Occasionally, Kuna Indians would approach Mera with their canoes crafted from a single large log, selling their catch of the day: fish or lobster. Bread and beer could usually be found on some of the islands.
Marketing in paradise
Catch of the day: Lobsters or curves?
Catch of the day
Anchored in the lee between 2 islands, we had a wonderful lobster meal. No females included in the deal.
We found the hand crafted canoes very useful, and decided to trade our dingy to something more appropriate for San Blas
On one island we found this wreck, that Per and Espen thought looked like a Hallberg Rassy.
Espen and Sverker in the Wreck
Later Sverker googled, and found that back in in the 90’s, the Lady Allicat of Gothenburg, a Hallberg Rassy 42, ran into the reefs of this island. Nature is slowly grinding this boat to pieces.
Wreck pictures from 2000
Outer islands had no wifi. Inner islands also did have no wifi.
Sverker, Tim and Espen trying to decide what to order, besides beer
Espen and Sverker contemplating
Sverker, cracking a coconut
Life on the inner islands
After a couple of days, we had to go to one of the inner island to do provisioning. The restaurant of the island had a roped monkey in one corner, and a sealed off fish pool in the other end. What we thought was the fresh fish repository, after lunch we found out to be part of the garbage recycling system. The fish were some type of Piraya species, and when left overs were thrown at them, all you could see was boiling water for a few seconds. And then all was gone. After that, we decided not to sit too close to the ”pool”. Nobody wanted to accidentially put a foot into that water.
Sverker close to the fish pool, before understanding the appetite of the fish
Visiting the rest room, we saw another interpretation of the biological circle: All toilets were at the end of the small piers, with rudimentary walls, and just a hole down to the water. San Blas version of Water closet?
Inhabitants did not seem too preoccupied with anything. 6 people were tending one of the shops, who had customers that could have been served by a half timer. As we understood, the Kuna Yala Indian society is run like a large socialist cooperative, where each individual can request where he should contribute (work), but where the chiefs decided. Hence limited incentive to drive efficiency. Though, they were digging up the streets, or rather sand paths, to put in new tubes. Not tubes for fiber internet access that is popular in Europe, but tubes for fresh water. Or sewage.
No asphalt on the island. Still skating.
No plane landed here in a looong time
Seeing the Kuna Yala flag, you could suspect they had a large influx of german asylum seekers in 1945. But the flag is much older than that.
Kuna Yala flag
New canoe in glass fiber along old canoe from single log
On the inner island, we got in contact with the local cruising community, consisting mainly of retired americans who would spend some 6 months per year in San Blas
As it happened, we were at one of the main inner islands on the Sunday of the super bowl, American football final. A bar, that is 2 windows open towards the dust street, arranged a TV set and a couple of chairs under a roof so that we could watch the final of the American football season. A great game. New England Sewage Ditchers against Philadelphia Retards. Not 100% sure their names are right. Tim’s team won.
Yeeah, touch down!
The bar had the meat for tomorrows stew(?) nicely tied up with the legs behind its back on the floor.
Tim and Sverker outside the local hospital. Espen tried to park the dingy on the sea side, but was ushered away: “If no sick, go away”
Cruising between the islands
Every other or third day, we sailed to another island. Sailing in San Blas is very comfortable, as the 365 islands are protected by reefs from the swell of the Caribbean sea.
Per cruising along
Sailing in San Blas
Pessimists and Optimists
Lets not anchor in the lee behind the island, it will be too warm. Lets not go provisioning on the inner islands on a Sunday, all shops will be closed. Lets not go to the inner islands, there will not be any shops, the lights we see are likely just some industrial terminal. Lets not open any coconuts, its not worth while. Lets not use the fishing rod, we will anyhow not catch anything.
Luckily, we listened more to the optimist side of ourselves, challenging our pessimistic views. And most of the time, but not always, our optimist side proved right.
Sverker trying to mimic Il Capitano?
Kuna Yala indian
550 miles from Aruba to San Blas, Panama
In order to reach San Blas during day time, we left Aruba one late afternoon, with a plan to spend 3 nights on the high seas. However, weather reports indicated strong winds outside Columbia, so we slowed down with the hope those strong winds would calm down before we came into this area. A later weather report had a gale warning just north of our route. Again we slowed down, and took a more southern turn. All in all meaning we kept a lower pace, and spent 4 nights on this passage. A little annoying was that we used 2 different weather services, sometimes giving contradicting forecasts.
PICTURE LEAVING ARUBA
What a fantastic machine
With one day left of the passage, Espen read in a book that we were supposed to fill in Panama immigration forms 48 hours before ETA (estimated time of arrival) via internet. Espen called up his wife Robin on the sat phone and asked her to fill in the internet forms, which she gladly did. His comment after the call was “What a fantastic machine”, holding the sat phone. Or was it a fantastic person in the other end of the line?
Who has been fiddling with the Gps again?
The chart plotter of Mera can be set to show gps position and charts in either of 3 directions: North up, Heads up, and Course up. The preferred setting has been Heads up, so that what you see on the screen is what you have in front of the boat. However, since the plotter receives a new gps location every few seconds, and since the gps accuracy is some +/- 20 meters, the calculated direction, or heads up, of the boat becomes somewhat erratic. And the plotter rewrites the map every few seconds with the heading fluctuating +/- 20 degrees. This flickering of charts does not help for sea sickness.
On one night shift one of the crew members swapped the plotter settings to Course up, leading to a stable map, but a flickering direction line. Only draw back is that the boat actually moves up the screen, and the map is not rewritten until the boat has passed half screen. Then moving the boat back to bottom of screen.
The (lack of) gps accuracy means the speed displayed will flicker +/- up to 5 knots. This was also the case when we experienced extreme high speed during the passage to Aruba, seeing 18,8 knots on the screen. Unfortunately it cannot be ruled out that part of those 18,8 knots was due to gps inaccuracy. Nevertheless, boat speed was very high surfing down a wave, and water was splashing all over.
PICTURE 3-4 meter waves with Tim at helm
2 hour action movie
We had 3 hour shifts on the steering wheel. Night shifts could be somewhat boring, unless something unexpected turned up. Like another ship, spotted via AIS, on the chart plotter. That meant you were in for 2 hours of pure action. Seeing how the foreign ship entered our 24 mile range, slowly moving closer, possibly changing course, culminating with a climax at 3-4 miles from the boat, and then slowly disappearing in the night. Exhilarating shift. Will be seen as a luxury on the long passages on the Pacific, where we expect to see no boats what so ever for days or weeks.
Starboard to starboard passing
In one of those 2 hour action movies, we actually came head on collision course with a ship en route from Panama to Rotterdam. We called them up on VHF, they adjusted their course, and confirmed “starboard to starboard passing, over”
ESPEN & CREW (PETS of MERA)
In San Blas, at 78 degrees west, Mera has reached 24% of the longitude goal.
Approaching San Blas, Panama