Directions

Our latest entry always comes up first...

Click this link if you want to start at the beginning of our trip from
South Carolina (where we bought the boat) to Lake Ontario Click this link:

If you want to see the story of our 2 1/2 year project getting
Blowin' Bubbles ready for our life on board click here:
FIRST "REFIT" BLOG ENTRY - March 2011

If you want to start at the beginning of our trip:
START OF TRIP - July 2014
2015, 2016, 2017

Monday, February 29, 2016

Our First Week in the Pacific...

Welcome to our Blog. Our latest entry always comes up first... 
Click this link if you want to start at the beginning:
FIRST BLOG ENTRY
If you want to start at the beginning of our trip:
START OF TRIP
If you want to see the story of our trip from South Carolina
(where we bought the boat)
 to Lake Ontario Click this link:
  SOUTH CAROLINA
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our first week in the Pacific has been a busy one...  We are still trying to get our provisioning and preparations completed for our upcoming journey to the French Marquesas.

Our planned departure date is April 12.  This is the day after our friend Christina arrives to help us crew the boat across the Pacific.  We have known Christina for some 20 years and she is like a daughter to us...  Her boyfriend is in the US Military and is being deployed for six months starting in March, so this created an opportunity for Christina to join us.  They hope one day to go cruising, so what better way to find out how much you like something, than to just do it!

For us, a third person on board means that eventually she will be able to take watches, which means that instead of a 3 on, 3 off watch schedule, we can enjoy 3 on and 6 off!  This will hopefully mean more sleep for everyone...

The journey from Panama to Hiva Oa is just under 4000 nautical miles...  This means that if we average 5 knots in 24 hours we should travel about 120 nautical miles per day.  Therefore, the trip should take somewhere around 33-40 days...  With the El Nino lurking about, the winds may be less than normal so we have planned up to a 60 day passage...  We are provisioned for 6 months, so food should not be an issue.

We carry 185 gallons (700 litres) of diesel fuel in our main tanks and have 35 gallons (130 litres) of extra fuel in gerry cans on the deck.  We burn 1.1 gallons of fuel per hour.  This means we have enough fuel to travel about 200 hours.  And assuming we make 6 knots with the engine, we have enough fuel to travel  approximately 1,200 nautical miles.  This is about  1/3 of the way.  The rest we must sail...

Our goal is to sail the whole way!  That said, it is nice to know that our engine is there if we need it...

As for fresh water, we carry 200 gallons (1000 litres) in our 3 fresh water tanks.  We also have a water-maker (de-salinator) that produces 15-20 gallons per hour.  The water-maker operates only when the engine is running, so we will "make" water whenever we run the engine....  Our goal is to also collect rain water and be careful with our consumption, so in all likelihood we will not run short.  If the WORST happens, we have an emergency hand de-salinator (watermaker) which can produce about 1 gallon of fresh water an hour...  

So there you go... we have worked many years to prepare as well as we can for what we hope will be a completely uneventful journey of a lifetime...

We will send position reports every 24 hours by means of our SPOT connect (a satellite positioning device) and with our HF SSB radio.  Our Spot positions will appear on Shelley's Facebook and our HF (Yotreps) position will appear here on our Blog page...  Top right corner... Just click on the picture of our sailing dinghy....

This week we endured the really rolly anchorage at La Playita and enjoyed a few days at Taboga Island.  Taboga Island is only an hour away from Panama City on our boat.  It is a beautiful Island with lots of walking trails and beautiful things to look at.  Here are a few pictures from our adventures this week....

Michelle stayed with us this week after our transit.  We really enjoyed having her with us...

We explored Taboga...

















Before Michelle left we took her to the old section of Panama City...







This week we have some running around to do and next Monday we hope to meet a bunch of other cruisers planning the same trip we are.  An American magazine called Latitude 38 has amassed a list of over 100 boats planning a trip across he Pacific this year.  Here is the link :

Pacific Puddle Jump

More news soon...
Cheers!


Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Panama Canal!

Welcome to our Blog. Our latest entry always comes up first... 
Click this link if you want to start at the beginning:
FIRST BLOG ENTRY
If you want to start at the beginning of our trip:
START OF TRIP
If you want to see the story of our trip from South Carolina
(where we bought the boat)
 to Lake Ontario Click this link:
  SOUTH CAROLINA
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Panama Canal is an American-built waterway across the Isthmus of Panama that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The 50-mile-long passage created an important shortcut for ships; after the canal was constructed, a vessel sailing between New York and California was able to bypass the long journey around the tip of South America and trim nearly 8,000 miles from its voyage. The canal, which uses a system of locks to lift ships 85 feet above sea level, was the largest engineering project of its time. (more info at: http://www.history.com/news/7-fascinating-facts-about-the-panama-canal)

Last weekend Blowin Bubbles made our historic journey across this wonder of the world... Our journey began at the Shelter Bay Marina where we stayed for a few weeks prior to our transit.  We decided not to use an agent so we had some running around to do.  In order for a small vessel like ours to transit the canal, we must first be measured by an official from the Canal.  Our 45' boat was officially measured at 49' 4" which was good because the price would increase by almost $500 if we were even one inch over the 50' threshold...

After our official measurement we took a taxi into Colon to visit the bank where we were to pay our transit fees.  This whole transaction happens with cash, so we first had to visit an ATM to withdraw enough money.   The cost for our boat was:

Transit toll:  $800
Inspection charge:  $54
Security Charge:  $130
Buffer*:   $891
Total:  $1875

*The "Buffer" is like a damage deposit, in case we incurred any penalties or damages along our transit.  At some point we hope that the money will be deposited into our bank account, less a "fee" for handling our money...

Now that they had our money, we were able to make an appointment for the actual transit.  We requested February 20th.  We were granted our requested date and we spent the rest of our time at the dock getting many jobs completed that are difficult when at anchor.  

The biggest job was re-painting our deck.  Our year and a half out has taken its toll on our deck and our brightwork.  We took this opportunity to make our home look beautiful again...  Along with the provisioning (talked about in our previous entry) we made the boat ready for our long upcoming journey to the South Pacific...

The canal requires that each vessel transiting the canal has 4 line handlers, an adviser, and a captain.  Two good friends, Lanny & Ginger from s/v SwiftSure were getting some work done on their boat at Shelter Bay Marina so agreed to be two of our line handlers.  Michelle, our good friend from Oklahoma came all the way to Panama to be our third line handler.  Shelley was the fourth, and I was stuck being the captain.... :)

We left the dock at 1330 (1:30pm) and motored to Anchorage area "F" where we waited for our first transit adviser to arrive by launch.  His job is to make sure we safely make it through the canal.  

When transiting from the Atlantic to the Pacific the trip takes two days.  We departed anchorage "F" around 1630 and arrived at the first lock just before 1700.  Our first advisers name was Jose.  Jose got us and two other smaller sailboats to raft up together and enter the first lock.  Since our boat was the biggest, with the strongest motor, we were the center boat.  The two outside boats sent their rented 120' lines up to canal line handlers who kept the whole "raft" centered in the lock.  In front of us in the lock was a huge cargo ship!

We locked up the three Gatun locks without incident.  By the time we cleared the last lock it was dark and we motored to a mooring in Gatun Lake.  Unfortunately there was a big boat tied up to one of the only two mooring balls, so our three boats and three others were all rafted up and tied to the remaining ball... We were told our next adviser would arrive as early as 0630 in the morning.

The next morning a new adviser (Larry) arrived at 0830.  We broke away from all the other vessels and began to 35 nautical mile journey to the Miraflores locks on the Pacific side of Panama.

Our trip was completely uneventful and lots of fun!  The flora and fauna of Panama is beautiful, and the crew was great!  Larry decided that since we were so far ahead of the other two sailboats we started with, that we would transit the Miraflores Locks with a larger, siteseeing boat, called Panama Queen.  

This boat was filled with tourists who paid to take a trip by boat through the Panama Canal...  We entered each of the three locks on our own and rafted up to Panama Queen in each lock.  On the down bound journey, small vessels go in AHEAD of the larger cargo vessel...  That is even more scary than following one!

The transit down the last three locks went well and around 1530 we journeyed the last 6 nautical miles to the La Playita anchorage where we anchored and celebrated our epic two day journey!

Following are a few pictures from our actual transit.

Entering the Miraflores Locks - Jackie McAlister did these screen shots from one of the live canal cameras.




Michelle learning a few knots....

One of the 57 canal tugs...

The "Captain", Ginger & Michelle

Lanny

Michelle & Shelley entering the first lock...


No turning back now!

The "foredeck" crew....

Rafted up...

Our first adviser, Jose

A view from the "top"

Exiting the last Gatun lock

Traveling the canal....






The Miraflores mules which pull the large boats in the locks





Our new buddy boat...



Notice the dent... Someone had a bad day...



This boat is too big for the old locks...  

The Bridge of the Americas

Our adviser, Larry is finished for the day...



La Playita anchorage...

CELEBRATE!

Our first Pacific Sunset...

Our friends, on S/V HAVEN

Safely in the anchorage


Following are a few pictures taken of us from the Panama Queen.  A gentleman sent them to Ginger who sent them to us.  As soon as I find out who took them, I will give the proper credit..











 This last photo was taken by Kerry from s/v Haven when they were on a hike...


Thanks for coming with us!
Cheers!