Leg 3 - Acapulco to Panama
May 1, 2000 2020 16.28N, 99.33W Log: 33,636 Baro: 1007
Broadreaching at 6kts in 14kts W winds, calm seas.
Cabin temp: 85F, outside temp: 81 water temp: 82 humidity: 66%
Back to Sea!
Whoever made the comparison between Acapulco
and Honolulu had obviously never visited Hawaii!
Aerial view of Acapulco Bay
Our week at the Club de Yates passed
in a blur with boat maintenance, touring around with Dan &
Debi and making new friends at the club. We met a lovely family
from Mexico City - he worked for Hewlett Packard, who had trailered
their Compac 27 sailboat from Mexico City to Acapulco. Their 5
& 7 yr old sons were either fishing or in the pool, and Amanda
helped them rig their reefing set up for their first forays into
Leg 3 crew dropped passports off on Sunday
and we were able to sign them on and clear customs (Monday was
a holiday) thanks the yacht club harbourmaster to Sr. Marquez.
We enjoyed the stay at the club, but Amanda and I were overwhelmed
by the intensity of the city in Easter party mode and couldn't
wait to be at sea!
By 1500 we were underway on what has
been a very calm, 1015 mile passage to Cocos Island, 350 mi off
Costa Rica. We have had some great sailing, interspersed with
a lot of motoring, as we expected. Originally we had planned to
sail along the coasts of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras,
Nicaragua, Costa Rica to reach Panama, but several boats who had
just arrived in Acapulco from Panama said there was no wind and
lots of unlit fishing boats to dodge, so we opted to sail straight
to Cocos and then to Panama. With temperatures on deck between
90 and 100F and cabin temperature never dropping below 85F for
a week, our biggest challenge has been keeping crew hydrated.
We have found that 1/2 liter per hour is necessary and that we
can't rely on thirst as an indicator for dehydration. For the
first time we have rigged up a sailing awning to cover the helmsperson
who isn't able to hide from the sun under our hard dodger.
Leg 3 crew.
Sail orientation leaving Acapulco.
We've only spoken with one person who
has sailed to Cocos, and he said the tiny 2 x 4 mile island was
a tropical paradise, with hundreds of waterfalls, famous for buried
pirate treasure and thousands of hammerhead sharks! We also learned
that the island is a Costa Rican National Park, uninhabited except
for 6 park rangers.
May 8, 2000 1000 5.41N, 87.12W Log:
34,585 Baro: 1010
Cabin Temp: 86F, Cockpit: 84F,
Now that lush island looms on our bow,
just 11 miles away! This will be a new country for us and hopefully
we will be allowed to do some hiking and exploring ashore!
May 10, 2000 0720 5.54N, 85.31W Log:
34,693 Baro: 1010
Motorsailing @ 7.5 kts in 7 kts
of S wind
Isla Cocos was a Treasure!
When we were 2 miles from Wafer Bay,
James spotted what looked like a patrol boat, speeding toward
us. In minutes a 20' Parc Nationale boat pulled alongside and
motioned for us to call them on the radio. Mounted in the boats
cabin window for all to see was a stainless steel 12 gauge short-barreled
It seemed funny talking on the radio
to the ranger who remained inside his boat, only 20' away but
I gave him a call on Channel 16. He identified himself as a national
park ranger, asked us if we knew we were inside their 8.5 mile
park boundary and what we were doing.
I replied that we were headed to their
station at Wafer Bay and hoped to be granted permission to rest
for one night before continuing on to Panama. I invited the rangers
(there were four, two dressed in military fatigues) aboard for
chocolate cake and the tenor of conversation changed to a friendly
Freddy checks our papers
at Cocos Island.
Once anchored two rangers came aboard.
Freddy Salazar and Sr. Gutterez accepted brownies, hot out of
the oven and cold juice while looking over our clearance papers
from Acapulco. Freddy explained that they had been on patrol since
0300, asking Costa Rican boats illegally fishing inside the park
to move outside the 8.5 mile exclusion zone. He also said that
before the island was a park, yachties had spent a lot of time
anchored at the island, leaving rubbish ashore. Now with the modest
park fees of $15 per person, per day, plus $15 per day for the
boat, few yachts visited. (More likely because you can't dive
for lobster thought Amanda.)
At anchor, Cocos Island.
Park Headquarters, Cocos Island.
Waterfall at Cocos Island.
Tom and James enjoy a refreshing waterfall shower at Cocos.
He invited us to hike the island on one
of three trails saying we were welcome to stay longer.
Freddy mentioned that 25% of Costa Rica's
territory is National Park and that conservation and eco-tourism
are important to their country. Dive tourism is the only thing
happening on Cocos, other than an occasional yacht stopping by.
There were three dive boats and they also provide transport for
the three rangers and 11 park volunteers every three weeks on
a 34 hr. voyage from Costa Rica. We saw moorings for the dive
boats in different spots so their anchors would not damage the
Freddy said that there was a $4 per day
charge for scuba diving, but said snorkeling was free and marked
several "don't miss" spots on our chart.
We visited ashore in the afternoon, the
hardy boys off on a jungle adventure until an afternoon tropical
downpour drenched the land turning the clear streams to brown
raging rivers forcing us to retreat to the boat.
We changed evening anchorages in rain
and rested quietly in Chatham Bay, 2 miles east of Wafer Bay for
the night. Snorkeling in the next day was number one priority
and we weren't disappointed with the kaleidoscope of marine life,
from lobsters sauntering along the bottom in broad daylight, to
spotted leopard rays, turtles, spinner dolphins, octopus and sharks,
yes hammerhead sharks the size of Buicks! (Well, maybe the size
Ready for snorkeling at Cocos.
Nowhere in the world have we seen such
a profusion of sealife, totally tame and unafraid of humans, seemingly
knowing they are protected. After everyone was well-broiled from
snorkeling in the tropical sun we had a break for lunch then landed
ashore to climb the nearest peak for a spectacular view of the
We thought of staying another day but
decided to take advantage of the wind and clear sky. Following
the coastline halfway around the island we were astounded by the
sheer cliffs, waterfalls and verdant vegetation.
What a treasure to stop and explore this
island paradise! I pulled out a chart and figured that we will
be able to stop again on Leg 1-2002 including the uninhabited
Clipperton Island, a welcome break to the 4,000 mile passage from
Panama to Hilo, Hawaii.
The winds held last night and one watch
covered 24 miles in three hours! We sailed much of today, occasionally
dodging squalls and only powering when the rain stole the wind.
We have 300 miles to the Perlas Islands,
off Panama which we know little about. Time to pull out the cruising
guides on what to see before our appointment at the canal Monday
Eva navigates into Panama.
May 26, 2000 0530 9.00N, 79.36W Log:
35,257 Baro: 1006
Cabin Temp: 82F Cockpit Temp: 74F
(Coolest yet) Humidity: 85%
Moored inside the Panama Canal!
Just 100' off our bow a huge Panamax
(maximum possible size for the Canal) tanker is being pushed into
the Pedro Miguel lock. The prop wash from the two tugs pushing
has us rocking and straining at our 11 docklines, our gangway
threatens to jump off the dock, but this is normal! As a person
who has always been fascinated by shipping, this is an exciting
place to be. All day and night we see a parade of just about every
type of vessel imaginable, from a US nuclear attack sub to the
funkiest looking old coastal freighters.
Pedro Miguel Boat Club,
Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama Canal.
The Pedro Miguel Boat Club where we are
moored is the last reminder of the American Canal Zone which was
officially handed over to the Panamanian government Jan 1, 2000.
The club was built in the 1930's and used to host small motorboat
races (along the canal!) and dances with big bands. Now it is
a funky retreat for mostly budget cruisers, a place they can be
hauled (with a 1930 crane that works like a dream!) to work on
their boats, or just hang out. Craig Owings, the commodore for
many years is ex-US military and his wife and past commodore,
Sarah Terry is the only female Panama Canal Pilot and Port Captain.
They are what keeps the place ticking over, and the folks that
organize mooring and potlucks. There is a huge galley in the clubhouse
and most evenings you'll find several families or crews cooking
and eating dinner in the clubhouse, glad to have the additional
space and a chance to get off the boat.
Amanda and I are enjoying our week between
expeditions - we have found an excellent run on an abandoned railroad
bed and then cutting up into the hills with a spectacular view
all the way out the canal to the ships anchored in the Pacific.
Our passage from Cocos was slow with
mostly light winds and a 1-2.5 knot current against us, so we
skipped a side trip to the Perlas Islands and stopped for a night
a Taboga Island, "island of flowers". Just 8 miles from
the canal entrance, this has long been a getaway and holiday island
for Panamanians. There are no cars, a few hundred little cottages
perched along the harbor edge and running up the hillside, and
tons of flowers.
Our crew enjoyed a dinner ashore while
we watched the boat and had a little walk around, and the next
morning we motored the eight miles to Flamenco Island at the canal
entrance. We counted more than 40 ships anchored off, waiting
to transit, and checked into the vessel traffic control system,
Flamenco Control on Ch 12. They instructed us to anchor in the
quarantine holding area near their control tower and called the
As it was Sunday morning, we really didn't
expect anyone to show up until Monday, so I was shocked when just
an hour later a canal pilot boat pulled alongside, dropping off
Mick Perkins. Mick is an American, married to a Panamanian who
has been asked to stay on after nearly all of the Americans left.
He handled not only Quarantine inspection, but also as an official
canal admeasurer, all of our initial canal paperwork, including
actually measuring Mahina Tiare. We were relieved to find out
that she is 3" under 50' overall, as then we would have had
to pay $1750 instead of $500 if we were over 50'. Mick had lots
of interesting tales for us as he waited for the pilot boat to
pick him up. We had heard that hiring a ship's agent to expedite
our transit could save us up to a week of waiting, and as I really
wanted our Leg 3 crew to be able to have the experience of a partial
canal transit with us to Pedro Miguel Boat Club, I hired an agent
- thus the reason for the prompt clearance on a Sunday morning.
Canal admeasurer Mickey checks our measurements for canal transit.
Bridge of the America's at Panama City.
Mahina Tiare entering Mira Flores lock in the optimum transit
position; side tied to a canal tug.
We were given permission to proceed to
Balboa Yacht Club, just underneath the Bridge of the Americas,
where we fueled, watered, picked up a mooring and waited until
Monday morning when our agent arrived and completed the inbound
Three of our crew decided they needed to return home early, but
Jon, Tom & Eva were aboard Thurs morning when we went through
the Miaflores locks, side-tied to a 70' canal tug. Our Canal Advisor
(a pilot in training) was an interesting young man who had completed
the Colombian Naval Academy and done several courses at King's
Point Academy in New York. He was very helpful in explaining the
immense forces and exactly how the lines needed to be tended.
After all I've read about the canal,
it is far more impressive than I ever imagined. The men that designed
and built it 80 years ago did a brilliant job, not only on the
canal, but on all the infrastructure surrounding it. There are
rows and rows of handsome old colonial homes and buildings from
the 20's & 30's, still in perfect condition. Many of them
have been recently sold to Panamanians who are redecorating and
fixing them up even nicer. Hugo Garcia, the PMBC's do-anything
taxi driver has driven us through three US military bases that
have been converted into park-like residential neighborhoods.
Many of the local people we've talked
with have said they were real sorry to see the Americans and the
thousands of jobs they provided leave, but nearly all have said
it was the right thing to do. We have encountered no hostilities,
only very open and friendly people, hard-working and eager to
help us find parts or supplies we have been tracking down, or
just to chat.
Yesterday afternoon we met our Leg 4
crew which will be aboard through the canal, to the fabled San
Blas Islands, home of the Kuna Indians, across the Caribbean to
the Dominican Republic, possibly Puerto Rico, St. Croix and whatever
other islands we can squeeze in before Tortola, British Virgin
Islands. They join us in just 4 hours, and we are scheduled to
transit the canal tomorrow morning sometime after 0600.
Sail on to Leg 4, 2000
Stay tuned for more adventures!