The RACE from Panama to the Galápagos Islands -The contestants ‘Khiimori’(Bavaria 44) & ‘Roaring Meg’(Beneteau Oceanis 405)

As my daughter Kirstin quite rightly said, “whenever two yachts set out at the same time for the same destination it is a race whether it has been discussed or not!” GAME ON.

After spending 4 days ‘on the other side’ at Las Brisas anchorage while we sorted all those last minute shortcomings, both yachts were finally ready to put to sea.

The Plastimo inflatable dingy, purchased in Iraklion, Crete, which had served us well for 10 years finally gave out during the Canal transit. George McGuigan had managed to patch the slow leaks and things were looking good, however the extra heat in the locks over pressured the seams and it was good night nurse for the faithful dingy. I managed to buy a new inflatable from the chandlery at the Flamenco Marina and traded in the old one as it was repairable with time and patience.

All systems were operating except for the A.I.S which is very important for those busy shipping lanes but the course that we had chosen shipping would be few and far between and we still had our trusty Radar for those night confirmations.

At 1730 hrs on Thursday 18 April both yachts weighed anchor and nosed out to sea with Khiimori leading the way – speed underway 5 knots. We threaded our way through the shipping as the skyline of Panama City faded off into the distance with night lights slowly switching on. The Bridge of the Americas could be seen in the etched against the sky.

We were loaded to the gunnels with food water and diesel not just for the immediate leg of the voyage but with long term dry stores that would be expensive to replace in remote areas like the Galápagos Islands and the Marquesas. Meg has storage for 160 litres of diesel in her main tank and in addition we had a further 9 x 20 litre Jerry cans stowed in the lazarette. Meg has 2 x 200 litre fresh water tanks, one Starboard Forward and the other Portside Aft and in addition we were carrying 8 x 20 litre Jerry cans strapped to the stanchions on each side. Washing deep sea is minimal and every week we will arrange a compulsory swim around the Hove to yacht if conditions are favourable.

Khiimori had the luxury of a water maker which can make 110 litres per hour which is enough to shower daily do the washing when you feel like it but with four children plus extra friend and sailing buddy Glen Davis, it becomes necessity rather than luxury. They did the hard yards across the Atlantic without the water maker.

Off into the Big Blue we went and by 2130 that night we were able to set sail in 10 knots of breeze and make 6.5 – 7 knots of boat speed. We actually overtook Khiimori but it was to be short lived. The wind eventually died and we had to resort to the ‘iron Topsail’ and burn some of that precious diesel.

We had been studying the wind/weather patterns and we knew that in order to make the Galápagos Islands we would first have to negotiate the dreaded Doldrums.

The ‘no wind’ band is narrowest in the east near to the South American Coast(Columbia) and so our initial course was around 205 degrees as we headed for the East side of Isla Malpelo. We had agreed that we would save our westing until we found some reliable wind below the Doldrums and then set a course for San Cristobal where we intended to clear in.

George was in charge of the Ministry of fishing and had invested in his favoured pursuit. He fished day and night without catching so much as a cold but he never gave up. On the Monday I was penning some notes on each of the crew as we had a line crossing ceremony coming up and each of the lowly Pollywogs would have to appear before King Neptune’s Court and face the music and punishments would be duly administered by the Master at Arms, none other than Captain Matthew Young, with his Cat O’ Nine Tails. George was down as a miserable failure as Minister of Fishing as he had failed to produce so much as a sardine however on Tuesday 23 April just before midnight the fishing reel started to sing …. and within a minute we were ‘Hove To’ and all hands were on deck to help land a beautiful Mahi Mahi of around 10 -12 Kgs. Well George was forgiven – off the hook as it were! He had broken his duck 🦆

We called Khiimori to crow about our success and Isla (9)came back with, ” we don’t fish at night for reasons of Health and Safety”! Well stay on hard tack and water while we savour the freshest fish that Neptune has to offer!!

Standing orders for my crew were “DO NOT LOSE SIGHT OF KHIIMORI DURING THE NIGHT” In the morning I asked the watch Captain ” where is Khiimori?” ANSWER “I don’t know – they are somewhere over there I think”. We needed to use the radio to establish their position and they were 15 Nm ahead of us!!

Along the way we saw numerous pods of dolphins and a lonely turtle swimming on the surface and minding his own business. We thought about turtle soup but then decided that we had not been at sea long enough to be that hungry and so we did nothing more than photograph the lonely soul and he was most obliging.

The agreement was that we would complete the Line Crossing together at 00 deg 00′ and at 088 deg 20′ W. Depending on sea conditions we would attempt to raft up.

As it turned out the sea state was quite lumpy and although we came together briefly and managed to get on a bow line and a stern line it was not safe to raft up as there a danger of the rigging of each yacht becoming entangled. Discretion being the better part of Valour we separated after much shouting and horn blowing as we wanted Neppy to know that we had arrived – YEE HAA !!!

Festivities were deferred to a more convenient time. Kirstin had made pancakes to offer Neptune King of the Sea. El Capitano with the help of Betty Crocker had baked a chocolate cake which looked a little like the lumpy sea with rises and troughs which the chocolate icing partly covered and the candles gave even more camouflage.

That was early morning on Thursday 25 April(Anzac Day) and we had about 80 Nm still to sail to arrive at San Cristobal. The breeze had been steady for the last couple of days and Khiimori took off with a conventional sail set and Team Roaring Meg decided to fly the Assymetric Spinnaker otherwise know as ‘the BIG FROG 🐸 ‘ a red white and blue light weight sail of 1080 sq ft. We were off after a slow set with a Rookie crew, but we were gaining on Khiimori and they knew it! It was then that the wind continued to build until we were constantly rounding up with too much wind in spite of the fact that I tried shadow the spinnaker with the Mainsail. Right let’s douse the spinnaker and unfurl the Genoa. Big problem – the spinnaker control lines had wrapped themselves around the Radar reflector clamped on the upper shroud. Bugger!

I sent George McGuigan up the mast to sort out the mess with Meg well heeled over as George is skilled aloft and holds a certificate for working at heights. The big thing is to hang on with one hand so you don’t get swung out over the side in no man’s land. He quickly sorted the problem and down came the spinnaker with no damage.

This delay caused Khiimori to increase their lead and they entered the anchorage of Wreck Bay before us and therefore we must grant them line honours however in the absence of a handicapper we will claim ‘winners on handicap’ with a shorter waterline length. This decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into!

We entered Wreck Bay at 2200 hrs on Thursday 25 April 2019 and cleared in the following morning. Total time at sea from Panama 🇵🇦- 7 days, 4.5 hours and distance covered 900NM. Our first leg was complete.

THERE IS MUCH TO TELL ABOUT OUR ADVENTURES ON THE ISLANDS OF SAN CRISTOBAL, ISLA ISABELA AND SANTA CRUZ.

THE GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS ARE ONE OF THE MOST UNIQUE PLACES ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH AND FOR GOOD REASON WHICH WILL BE EXPLAINED.

I WOULD LOVE TO TELL THE STORY WITH PICTURES NOW BUT IT MUST WAIT UNTIL OUR NEXT PORT OF CALL…..WHICH IS HIVA OA, MARQUESAS……3,200 NM AWAY AND WE DEPART TOMORROW MONDAY 13 MAY 2019 @ 1400 hrs HOT ON THE HEELS OF KHIIMORI WHO LEFT US ON THURSDAY 1MAY…….THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY SMOKING IT MAKING 173NM ON THEIR BEST DAY RUN(24 hrs)

PHOTOS TO BE INSERTED AT A LATER DATE WITH HIGH SPEED INTERNET.

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