Monday 9th June 08
For several days now, I've been studying the daily grib files which I've been getting, showing 5 days of wind forecasts for the area from Panama up to San Francisco and several hundred miles out to sea. I'd hoped to have maybe just a week or so of needing to use the motor to get through the expected area of light winds W-NW of the Panama Canal before getting to more useful winds and then the NE Trades. But from what I can see, I'd run out of diesel, even motoring gently, well before getting to
any useful breeze - in fact, as the days have progressed, the forecasts seemed to be showing the Doldrums extending on my course.... I've already had to motor/motorsail all the way from Balboa, with one period of 4 hrs yesterday and today's period of just 1hr when I could actually cut the motor to sail properly in decent breezze - in both cases due to rainclouds around.
Not wanting to get caught in the Doldrums with no fuel left, hundreds of miles from anywhere, I decided my only option was the alternative route up the coast, also in light winds for quite a distance but with the possibility of picking up fuel at regular intervals, rather than continuing to head out to sea in an effort to catch the Trades (the 'Clipper' route of old).... So, after seeing the usual 3-4 knots of true wind from astern yet again, on writing up my log at 0130 this morning, I decided
to change course & head NW, instead of due W, and make for Guatemala to refuel, with a fair current heading in the same direction to help. Port Quetzal seemed a good choice - about 500 miles away, so still within reach under motor, & a small but modern port with Navy presence. I was so pleased to have 'The Forgotten Middle' on board to help in the decision-making - a pilot book on Guatemala, Honduras & Nicaragua W coasts I'd picked up some time ago and had thought recently I'd never use...! I've
even got the courtesy flag! So I'm unexpectedly going to visit Guatemala again (last time was 2004 when I sailed up the Rio Dulce to see friends and later went overland from Belize to the impressive Mayan site of Tikal)!! Talk about plans 'set in jello'! All rather exciting... did I say the adventure was just starting again??!
My present plan in the forecast light winds & calms is to continue motorsailing up to Mexico in the fair current that the pilot chart shows extending as far as Cabo San Lucas at the S tip of the Baja. Conveniently, Zihuatanejo, where I started from on March 26th last year, looks like the next useful stop for refuelling after Quetzal if needs be. .... It would certainly be nice to 'tie the knot' properly on my circumnavigation by pausing at Zihuat... even though it would be a one-person party to
celebrate there! I know fuel is availabe at next-door Ixtapa easily - no need for jerrycans. Then, depending on the wind, I could either go on up to Cabo San Lucas and then hop on up the Baja coast or possibly head out to sea sooner to get offshore in stronger winds (which I'd need to do, probably, to round Pt Conception if the usual strong N wind is blowing there). Then I'll beat north to make for San Francisco and the start of the SHTP08 (Single-Handed TransPac Race) out to Hawaii, starting
12th July. I'm officially entered but will have a problem making the start line in time at this rate - it's a long way north against north winds & current!! Of particular concern down south here between Panama and Mexico is the fact that I'm right in the hurricane area - & in hurricane season as of 1st June... so another very good reason for not dawdling offshore or inshore but motorsailing northwest as fast as I can to get out of the risk zone! Hopefully, I'll be able to sail properly from Mexico
to San Francisco in decent winds but time will tell. It will almost certainly be an uncomfortable, wet beat upwind.. but I'll have to wait to see what the winds are doing when I get nearer!
Talk about wet.... I watched a dirty dark grey raincloud inshore for most of the morning, and then, by midday, it was clearly about to come our way so I hurriedly closed all hatches and took in two reefs, expecting strong winds in the squall. In fact, not too much wind came with the very heavy rain - which gave the boat a good wash down - but there was only one hour of nice (wet!) sailing without the need to motor, unfortunately.
Distances: To Quetzal (from now): 445ml (13/14th), on to Zihuatanejo: 675ml (19/20th), on to Cabo S.L.(25th): 680ml, on to Turtle Bay: 360ml (28th), on to Pt Conception: 540ml (2nd), on to Golden Gate: 210ml ...SF (4th July!) Ho, ho..!! In my dreams...!!!