First day of passage to Panama

We left Bonaire yesterday morning at 09:20 am EST. To my
surprise, the trip northwest to get around Curacao and Aruba was
still sufficiently downwind that we did not have to take down
the balloner, which we had left furled on the head stay on
arrival to Bonaire, or remove the downwind poles. We sailed
north of our plotted course in anticipation of an evening wind
shift. Seas were quite rolly and confused at first, making for
an uncomfortable ride, but then became more regular. On leaving
Bonaire, we found ourselves about 10 miles behind another
sailboat seemingly headed in the same direction. A Netherlands
Antilles patrol plane made a couple of low passes to check us
out in the waters east of Curacao. (When we approached Bonaire
last week, a patrol helicopter dropped down off of our stern to
check us out as well). We saw much less tanker traffic than
anticipated as we crossed the shipping lanes into Venezuela’s
oil ports.

We made excellent speed last night and the ride was decidedly
more comfortable. This morning we passed that other sail boat
and quickly left him behind. He called me on the VHF at about 8
am to tell me that we looked good with our “spinnaker” out and
that he was envious of our speed. His vessel is “Vera” out of
Germany and is heading to the exact same place that we are —
Provenir, in the San Blas Islands of Panama. We agreed that we
would try and meet when we arrived. We have had the balloner
set to starboard and the big 155% genoa set to port on identical
poles that whole way and expect that this sail configuration may
take us all the way to the San Blas Channel.

It is great to have Claus Portner with us as crew. He is
easy-going and fun to be with, not to mention a very competent
sailor. His presence also enhances our rest. Instead of a “3
hours on, 3 hours off” watch schedule, we have a “3 hours on, 6
hours off” schedule. Having 6 hours to sleep or whatever is way
better than 3 hours.

It is now 11:10 am EST (16:10 Z) and we are making about 7.5
knots (down from the low 8’s) at a heading of 276 degrees
magnetic in about 5-6 foot following seas. Our position is
North 12 degrees 59 minutes, West 71 degrees 22 minutes. The
crew is well-fed and feeling fine and the boat is making easy
miles. Our professional weather router, Commanders Weather, has
warned us of 30-40 knot winds Saturday night into Sunday morning
when we are off the coast of Colombia, so we may see a few
raucous hours before we make landfall in Panama on Monday.

PS. Claus (pictured above) sends special birthday greetings to
this mother and little sister.