Pacific Ocean 15 February 2020
at 11.30 local time
Third day of navigation from Panama to San Cristobal, Galapagos, Ecuador
Position 02°25′ North 083°14′ West
Missing 430 miles and 440 covered so far. We have just passed halfway.
We are inside the so-called “doldrums“, that is the strip north and south of the equator, or no man’s land, where the prevailing winds of the northern hemisphere, or north-east trade winds have exhausted their strength, and the trade winds of southern hemisphere, those from the southeast have not entered yet. This means a windless area, with significant humidity, skies not always blue, but milky, with probable occasional rain showers, or squalls. The stretch of ocean that goes from the Gulf of Panama to the Galapagos Islands of about 900 miles enters this area in full, so much so that the San Cristobal island where we will land is already in the southern hemisphere, at 1 degree of lat. south to be exact.
Victory! And departure: the regatta restarts
From Panama our flotilla moved to the islands of Las Perlas, where we stayed 3 days waiting for the start for this actual 3rd stage or leg, where the competition is back alive. By the way, in Las Perlas, in the evening dedicated to a barbecue on the beach, guests of the ARC, with surprise we were called on the podium to collect the first prize also of leg 2! I say with surprise because it was the battery deal that had blown, and we had something else on our mind. But Ariel is really a very fast great lady of the sea. Departure full of emotions from Las Perlas, with hoists of colored spinnakers to conquer the first places. We set off slowly, with white sails for the two shoals that surround the starting area and to be able to maneuver easily, but being overtaken is not nice,then we too just safely hoist our electric blue Genny which wraps up and makes us lose a good 10 minutes. But once we hit the mark, the comeback begins, and in 3 hours we run seconds, like Milanto, which we pass downwind of the newcomer, an apparently very fast trimaran. The Discovery 67 of the British follows us with a beautiful red gennaker, then in the sunset everyone chooses their own way to run towards the paradise of the Darwin Islands. We are aiming for a direct route, at the moment, because we really fly, in fact in the 24 hours we will register 191 miles, in third place. However, the textbook wind drops terribly on the second day, so much so that we can hoist our Nello, but he too can do little with the calm. We resist sailing in order not to pay too much penalty on the motor, but below 3 knots of speed,with 4 of real wind, we lower and rely on Oliver.
Now the dilemma of every off shore regatta: what strategy? when and where will the wind return? Direct route or passage to the South? We download weather models, talk to our router, and everything seems to lay down to head south, even if we go more miles; while the direct route seems to end in an absolute calm of wind. We try to make the engine as little as possible, taking advantage of every breath of wind, using all the sailing equipment, but these rallies are evil because at the morning positions on the radio network ssb we are in seventh position on the second day and in 12th today, without however knowing how much engine one or the other did What he paid is that since last night we are sailing, with zero tail, mainsail and yankee, with a bit bad cutter rig and we are spinning at 6 knots with 9 of wind going up at 7 as soon as it strengthens.Ariel magically glides as the models give us a 14 knot wind increase over the next 100 miles, and we are confident in that to recover positions. In the meantime, life on board flows pleasantly, between straight lines of sunshine with the sextant when it does not disappear behind the carpet of clouds of humidity, we listen to music while the Ceci does not give a shot doing gymnastics with Ariel in slight heeling on port tack, and they are restored Gourmet lunches and dinners, always washed down with Argentinian, Chilean or Spanish wines, more rarely Italian ones, since the original cellar is now empty and we have to be satisfied with what is around. Fortunately Panama City is a metropolis and we have found from Nespresso capsules, to the good Spanish albarino Paco & Lola, which reminds us of Menorca.
We study the arrival in the Galapagos, where we will stay at anchor until departure, where it is not possible to use your tender except to disembark people or things and then it must be returned to the boat, where each route with your own boat must be planned and communicated first. to the authorities, and where it is strongly advised to rely on tourist agencies that are full of proposals for small organized tours. There are few places that can be visited independently, while many opportunities managed by the locals. It is certainly part of a local project to guarantee an economy and above all total respect for nature.
On arrival, we foresee the assault on board from 8 to 12 people from the Ecuadorian government for all administrative procedures, but above all to check the boat, the black coffers, the waste management, what soaps we use, what food we have in the galley, why non-biodegradable soaps will be requisitioned and foods that do not comply with the list they gave us will be seized, some eliminated and others frozen and returned on departure. Then the systematic check of the hull, the safety equipment, the rockets, the on-board pharmacy and the first aid kit. A regime.
On board Ariel we have tried to comply with the ARC rules, we have placed stickers in compliance with the requirements of the governors on the garbage, and on the fact that every unloading at sea must be done 3 miles from the coast. Fortunately Ariel has black boxes of 80 liters, which allow a stay in the bay of 3 days, then we will move around the island, and we can then unload. We are rather Naive with food, in the sense that on the one hand they force you to replenish stocks in Panama which seems to be the last real supermarket supplied and on the other then probably if you take beef they seize it … country you go customs that you find. We will see live in three days, estimated time for landing in San Cristobal.
It’s sextant time, I’m going to calculate the sundial.
See you tomorrow from Ariel.
Paolo & team