5/6th May Lots of shipping to avoid on run in to Panama - to complete Caribbean/

Tuesday 6th May - This is the "Windy Corner" of the Caribbean....! One white-tailed tropic bird sighted! Excellent downwind sailing conditions just now!

With AIS not working, it's been radar or eyes for 'seeing' ships now, since Trinidad. The good news is that my 'new' Raymarine C70 chartplotter/radar has MARPA - which acts just like my AIS unit in giving me the closest approach distance, and timing of it, for ships close by... Unfortunately, unlike AIS, it can't tell me the ship's name so I have more difficulty getting ships I'm calling on the VHF radio to respond to me - but they usually do... eventually..., after I've given them my 'guestimate'
of their approximate position, my exact position and where they are in relation to me (distance off and compass bearing is useful). I usually have to point out that I'm a small sailing yacht with no AIS transmitter & that I'm seeing them on my radar. I've had nothing but polite, friendly, helpful responses of late... although I well remember one ship close by who didn't seem to want to respond to me at all, although I'd heard him talking to another nearby ship, down in the S. Atlantic off Namibia...
reminding me of stories I'd heard of some Captains/skippers not responding to female voices on the radio...

Lots of shipping around now - had a tiring night last night because of it (and being close to Curacao & then Aruba) & had to call two ships, who obligingly changed course to avoid me - I have been goosewinged on almost a dead run most of the way since Trinidad.

It never fails to amaze me how things suddenly have to be done at night - with no moon over last few days, it's meant regular use of headlamp in the pitch dark for sail-handling/reefing when the wind suddenly gets up or switches direction!!

I'm about to gybe onto my final approach to Panama in a few hours' time... wind is E 22-25 kn, gusting 27-28kn, so I just took in a 2nd reef on the mains'l to be better prepared!! This is the "Windy Corner" of the Caribbean.... renowned for strong winds (and resulting big seas), partly enhanced by the high mountains in Colombia not too far inland. The last time I passed this way, in 2004, I had 45 knots and very big following seas for quite a time.... hopefully, not this time! Have been making
well over 7 knots consistently since leaving Bonaire and regularly surfing in the 4m swell to well over 8kn! Current is giving an extra boost so we're making around 8.2 knots SOG!

All is well, despite a painful left shoulder - from the heavy weather I had to contend with over Saturday night whilst handsteering in to Trinidad, I think - having trouble raising my left arm. The weather is sunny & settled and I hope to arrive in Panama on Saturday 10th May.

I was very sad to get the news of Glenn Wakefield's forced retirement from his attempted west-about circumnavigation when so close to rounding the Horn - rolled in the Southern Ocean, concussed, loss of liferaft & with bad damage to 'Kim Chow'... He's had a tough time and was so nearly on the 'homeward run'... He was so looking forward to some downwind sailing when we chatted over the radio in the S. Atlantic.

I'm sitting with a nice cup of delicious, freshly-brewed, Cairns coffee, after writing my midday log & position report.... I just saw yet another ship pass close by, going the other way - but at least I'm highly visible in the daytime - especially being goosewinged!!

24-hr noon-to-noon run: 162 n.ml. 560mls to Colon as of noon... eta Saturday?

Written by : Mike

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