Saturday, March 31, 2007

Killer Whales

That's right. I didn't think it could be true either but they're here and they look terrifying. We had 2 pods circle Barraveigh today. I just finished reading a book called "Surviving the Savage Sea" about some Scottish family that survived in a life raft for 40 days after their ship was holed and sunk by killer whales. My mom's on a plane to Tokyo right now or else I wouldn't have told you. By the time she gets this email we'll be safely out of their zone. Apparently it's easy to run over them when they are sleeping, and then because of territorial macho bravado they have to, by the code of the killer whale, sink your boat. It's all animal kingdom stuff dude. I'm going to learn a lot more about that in the Galapagos. Like which turtles you can't eat.

No wind at all. We are sweltering in the tropical heat and the motor only makes it hotter. The stove is even worse, but Suzi's upside down pineapple cake is worth it. That girl bakes daily. Awesome.

We've been motoring for the last 24 hours. We've covered 280 miles and have another 620 to go. The sea is so calm it looks like oil. This is the ITCZ. The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone. You've probably heard it referred to as the Doldrums. The Spanish explorers of 500 years ago called it the Horse Latitudes. They would chuck their horse into the sea in order to lighten the boats when their provisions ran low. I'll bet that freaked out the Orcas.

Capitan Bobby

Friday, March 30, 2007

7 knots in 14 - on the way to the Galapagos!

We weighed anchor yesterday at 13:30 (that’s 1:30 pm). We’ve been in transit for 24 hours and have made 123 miles. That’s an average of 5 knots, if you don’t have a calculator handy. She did it all under sail. We only used the engine to leave the anchorage and charge the batteries. That’s pretty good for this old girl, weighted down like she is. I think it was the bottom cleaning that she appreciated so much.

Suzi’s first night at sea went smoothly. She only had to wake me once and she followed all the rules perfectly. It can be rather daunting for a neophyte but she is doing very well. We’re both a little sleep deprived but catching up throughout the day. We have to; we probably have another 9 nights of this.

Suzi’s on watch while I’m down below typing this. We had a “row” early. She was being “stroppy”, but she was sure that it was I who was being “stroppy”. How cute is that word; “stroppy”? I start liking her again every time she says it (even though it was her who was stroppy). Then when she cooks a meal – oh yea, all is forgiven. Who says the English can’t cook? That might have been true a couple generations ago but she might even be better than Colin. Sorry Colin.

We saw dolphins, watched a shark catch and eat a fish, and I even spoke to the captain of the biggest containership you ever saw.

“Sir, do you see me on your radar?”
“Yes. I have you on the radar.”
“Sir, are we on a collision course?”
Long pause. “No.”
“Thank you for checking.”
“Snowdrift standing by on 16.”
“Barraveigh clear.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Return to Saltwater

Time to Leave

I have been issued my zarpe (exit papers) and the kind lady at the Port Captain’s office waived the $500 fine that I should have incurred due to my lapse in cruising permit coverage. In fact, she went so far as to fabricate new entry papers so I couldn’t be fined. Then the immigration lady banged her final stamps into our passports, and we were ready. No oil pressure.

10 days later we have a new zarpe and updated stamps next to the canceled ones. I think I’m almost a diesel mechanic now. But that’s a dead end story that isn’t any fun to relive. Suffice to say that I am typing this enroute to Las Perlas. I just spotted land 10 minutes ago. We’ll be anchoring before sunset.

Barraveigh is sitting quite a bit lower in the water. The 350 pounds of new anchor chain I put in the bow makes her look like she’s dipping her head to the Emperor. She is, in fact, so loaded with the year’s worth of provisions that we have stowed aboard that she was seriously heeling to port – an issue I remedied with diesel and H2O placed on the starboard side. The future sailing will no doubt be sluggish, but I’ve been warned that the prices in the South Pacific islands can be 10 times what we’re paying here, if you can even find it to buy. I want my 15 cases of beer, 5 gallons of rum, 6 gallons of wine, and 1400 pounds of canned everything. I’ll pay the price in speed to save the cost of provisions. It is, after all, a pleasure cruise, and I’m still doing 5.6 knots in 18 knots of wind on a beam reach.

Goodbye Panama
Panama City is the place pirates would come to replenish crew. This place looks like the bar scene from Star Wars. White, black, brown, and then there are the Kuna Yala Indians with their psychedelic blouses and skirts. Not to mention the wildly colored leg beads. They are all exactly the same height, 4’ 8”, and add even another language to this mash of linguistic stew. The buses are large, aggressive and constant. They cost only 25 cents and are very convenient to use as they choke the air with smog. The other pollution is the noise. There is no sensitivity to volume. Your ears are constantly assailed, but at least it’s never boring. If you want to play “USA”, you can go to Albrook mall. It’s like the Mall of America. Everything us Yanks love. They even have a Pricesmart here.

On the other side of the coin, you can lock your doors and take a cab to the questionable slums of Casco Viejo. The French based themselves here when they took their shot at the Canal back in 1881. The architecture makes it look like New Orleans, with old Spanish churches punctuating the plazas. If you’re feeling bold, get out of the cab and drink a lot of ice cold 24 oz. Balboa beers for $1. A couple weeks back I went with Jimmy and Caroline from Bluemoon on a pub crawl. First bar we went to, a drunk threw his bottle across the room. It exploded on the wall next to us. He was ejected, and as our seats were wet, we left too. It was clear he wasn’t welcome back in the cantina and in my inebriated condition I reckoned the polite thing would be to invite this antisocial violent drunk to come along with us. He later stole $20 and ditched us at a brothel. But meeting new and interesting people is why we travel, right?

There really is nowhere else in the world like Panama. It’s the only place I can think of where two oceans meet, two continents meet, it has European history dating back to the 1500’s, and the US purchased it into existence less than 100 years ago. Then there’s the Canal. You need to see that for yourself. And the story behind it – utterly amazing! Get here and soak it up. I’m sure going to miss it.

Life On Barraveigh
Here’s a little candy for you techie gear heads: all electrical connections have been lubed with dialectric grease, we have the brightest cockpit after the sun sets thanks to my directional solar lights and their own dedicated panel. We’ve re-stitched the mainsail, chafe is constantly hunted down and eliminated. I've backplated the padeyes and strapped all the new containers in place so no matter the sea state, all our provisions in that forward head should stay put. I have noted all the net frequencies and the emergency channels and they are posted next to the long range radio. I've installed the replacement batteries for the house system and they are strong and powerful. New is good, and amp hours are luxury. The water collection system has been perfected and all the hoses and couplings are brand new. I changed the tranny fluid, all other oils, and filters, rebuilt the sewing machine box, bought a brand new outboard (5 hp and it won't touch saltwater until we get to the Marquesas islands), lashed 10 more jury jugs to the rails (we'll have enough fuel onboard for 1000 mile range), replaced a frayed halyard, perfected a complete paper library of all charts from here to Papua New Guinea. I bought a new kayak and paddle, padded the stern ladder so Suzi can't complain anymore due to her tender city feet, installed a new tach (this one complete with an hour meter and inbuilt light. Nice!), filled the scuba tanks, upgraded to a 1500 w inverter and bagged the 700 w for future use, belted down all batteries, fixed a leaking sink, made copies of our friends movies, mounted a swivel bracket in the aft cabin for better movie viewing, and stowed ample spares for the next 18 months. We’re very ready. The waiting is over. Let the trip continue.

Captain Bob Friedman

P.S. / Our friends are already waiting in the anchorage ready to wash us in sundowners. It’s so good to be a cruiser again.


Crossing the Border The Georgian immigration lady literally put a diamond loupe on my driver's license and passport and went over every ...