04-15-2018 – Crossing the Pacific

We have finally made it out of Panama! We made some new friends, and had a few setbacks, but we finally made it out of the gravitational pull of the to-do list and the city of services, society and stuff!
We met a family on a boat named Shawnigan. Coincidentally, our friend Jonnie had already met this family (or at least the mom!) in her yoga class in Mexico months previously. She suggested to both of us that we might enjoy meeting up. This family came over to dinner on Lungta one night, and Dave enchanted the 4-year-old with stories and a few magic tricks (well, truthfully, he captivated all of us with his magic!) The boy called Dave “Santa” and gravitated his way whenever we encountered them again over the next few weeks. Shawnigan left well before us, but we’re hoping to catch up with them again either as we pass the Galapagos or after we all reach French Polynesia.
Another boat we hope to meet again is called Tribasa Cross. Gary is sailing on his own, but his wife meets him when he’s in port. He was searching for crew for the crossing, and we compared notes about our experiences. He appeared at our door with a membrane from his watermaker which he was replacing with a different size – he arrived just as we had removed ours because it wasn’t working. What serendipity! We exchanged a few practical gifts like that in the 3 or 4 weeks we were both in the anchorage. Kathy sewed a pair of small awnings for him; he gave us a couple of spare fuel pumps for our generator. Dan advised him on an air leak in the fuel system for his generator, and he gave us some pointers about configuring our Iridium satellite device. Just days before he departed Panama City, he found a crew mate that seemed to be a good match. We waved them goodbye, but are staying in touch along the way to the South Pacific.
The biggest setback we had to our departure was when our windlass motor stopped working. We were about to bring Laura up the main mast for another day of painting, but when we stepped on the pedal nothing happened! Being able to deploy and raise our anchor is a critical function which we cannot live without. The motor is a relic from U.S. Navy vessels during WWII. It was designed to be used in a cargo crane, although we don’t know if it was actually deployed that way. There’s no information about this 80lb behemoth online, and we gingerly approached a local electric motor shop for help. As far as we know, the motor had never been removed from its mounting spot in the ceiling of the forward stateroom. It was a bear to remove, with mounting bolts that were nearly impossible to access and a few that were stuck so firmly that the heads tore off before the shaft of the bolt was willing to turn. As always, though, we managed to get the job done, and we sent it off to the shop for diagnosis and repair (they actually came to us, and picked it up at the the dock where we tie off our dinghy when we come ashore). While the motor was in the shop we turned our efforts to removing the broken bolts so we’d be ready to reinstall the motor when it came back. The shop took only a couple of days to work on the motor; it turns out that there was nothing especially wrong, just years of corrosion, dust and wear. It’s back in place and working as well as ever. What serendipity that it didn’t go out one week later after we had left for more remote places!
We found a new crew mate, a multi-cultural 28-year-old named Baban. His parents are Iranian Kurds who were freedom fighters in the 80’s. Eventually they found asylum in Denmark where they settled when he was 5. He is now a Danish citizen, but still feels ties to his family’s roots. He has a real gift for languages and speaks 5 languages fluently. He’s extremely bright and full of energy and curiosity. He came aboard the day before we left on our last trip to the Perlas, a shake-down cruise of sorts also intended to give our new crew some experience underway before there was no turning back. Laura returned the same day from a side-trip to the Caribbean side of Panama, where she made a new friend and joined her on another sailboat for several days. We had a short but sweet trip back to the Perlas, and it was delightful to see Dave shine as he schooled our two young crew mates in short courses on useful knots, weather, sail management, navigation, the night sky, and more!
The day after we got back to Panama City, Laura spent some time in town, making some important phone calls and doing some important soul searching. She came back with some exciting but also disappointing news – she had decided to leave Lungta and join the boat that she had met the week before. She had made some decisions about starting a graduate program later this year, and her schedule was no longer as flexible as before. This other boat, named Isis, had a tighter itinerary than ours and seemed to be a better fit. We all joked about her having been recruited by Isis. 🙂 So, we were 4 again. We spent a bit of energy looking for a replacement, but there was so little time until our departure that it felt unrealistic to find and orient someone new.
Our final setback happened when we made plans to leave on April 1st, with the steps of checking out at Immigration on Friday, final provisioning on Saturday, to leave on Sunday morning. Friday morning arrived and we learned that all government offices were closed for Good Friday, one of the nation’s biggest holidays – oops! So we waited until Monday when the offices were open. Our provisioning actually consisted of three stops: PriceSmart (a Central American version of CostCo), a wholesale farmer’s produce market, and a standard grocery store. All three of these trips turned out to be much bigger events than we’d done before; we wanted to prepare for a month on the seas and another month of island hopping before reprovisioning, and also include a hefty buffer for spoilage and a safety margin. We were surprised that our PriceSmart bill totaled more than $1000 (we’d expected half that)! The trip to the produce market was especially fun. We hired one of the local guys with a stu rdy hand-truck to follow along with us and collect all of our purchases. As it turned out, Alfredo also helped us find the stalls with the best prices and quality. We got a 30lb bag of mangos, 10 pineapples, half a dozen papayas, some melons, a bunch of small sweet bananas and a box of the usual ones; we got a 50lb bag of winter squash, 20lb of carrots, 6 cabbages, 10 bunches of spinach, and some onions, broccoli, and tomatos. Alfredo was great, and he even helped us flag down a taxi to get back home.
We left Panama City on April 5th, spent two nights near Isla Contadora where we were able to access internet for our last-minute on-line needs. Among other things, Baban helped Kathy set up a tool to allow her to post blog entries – like this one! – via email. We did the final coat of paint on the last bits of both masts, cleaned the waterline of the boat one last time, and topped off our water tanks. Then, at 8am on Sunday the 8th, we pulled up our anchor and sailed out of the anchorage, beginning our journey across the Pacific. Although there was little fanfare, all of our hearts were singing as we began this most romantic of all sailing passages to the islands of the South Pacific.
I’ll keep this posting shorter than past ones, and try to post more frequently to keep you up to date on our progress. Remember that you can check on our location at the tracking page forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Lungta
Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.

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