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Day 7

Monday was just another day at sea. We debated what to eat for breakfast then planned lunch and supper menus so we could look forward to them through the day. Crew read in the cockpit or snoozed down below.

One of the things Erica wanted to achieve on this trip was to learn to use a sextant and how to do the calculations to work out where you are without a GPS. Having read the book Sextant during the trip we have some empathy with the mariners of old – either there were too many clouds or it was new moon so nothing to sight, no wonder they were fearful of the Western Approaches.

Then there are the tables – not one of our many astro nav books on board explained exactly how to use them to look up stuff like GHA or Declination but simply said things like “…and from the tables Dec on 26 November 1966 can be seen to be xyz…”. So far though we have a few sights with times taken and a record of our actual position from the GPS we have yet to actually complete a calculation and plot it! However we did manage to work out the deviation of the handbearing compass using a sunset angle and the tables – it was 1.5 deg when used at the mast!
Noon to Noon: 161

Day 8

We’ll be in tonight! But first we will need to motor sail as the wind is lighter and the required point of sail is dead down wind, even with a spinnaker up it would be hard work for the crew in the confused seas.

In the afternoon there was still no sight of land. The pilot guides told us that the coast here is very low lying so difficult to spot but just inland from Punta Grande is a 993m peak which we calculated should be seen from our lowish deck level at 62 miles but it was far to hazy. Ships disappeared and reappeared in to the warm foggy surroundings as they like us converged on Colon and the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal.

Before supper we had a massive fish haul first a blue fin tuna large enough to make six steaks. Then soon after we’d cleaned up the fishy mess in the cockpit and dispatched

Panama courtesy flag hand made on voyage

Panama courtesy flag hand made on voyage

the steaks to the fridge, a large mahi mahi decided it too fancied our blue rubber fish. Two large fillets each enough for three and a fish head were added to our chilled fish stocks. The lure was another casualty reduced to simply the shaped lead weight that kept it skipping through the waves and the hook. Lures have been added to our Panama shopping list. And our ploy of using a smaller one seems to pay off with fish of a manageable size… big is not always better!

Fortunately unlike some cruisers we are fairly used to busy shipping areas from Channel crossings and the Singapore Straits. It was dark as we called up for permission to enter through the breakwater. “Come in behind the stern of the ship” Cristobal Control told us. The only ship we could see was a large tanker exiting so presumed that was our target. Once the ship was clear and not on a collision course with us we slipped in on the starboard hand, red light side (red right returning in these parts) and turned immediately to head down the little channel inside and parallel to the huge breakwater. It’s only partially lit and the markers are like tiny traffic cones so we found our way with some difficulty and slowly using a torch to help pick out the marks though the skipper soon realised depth was a better indicator the channel being some eight metres and the rest around five.

Inside Shelter Bay the CG not so helpfully shone a wide search light at us then swept it down the mangroves on the port hand side. Our night vision was destroyed but we could just make out where to go beyond the CG station as there were lots of masts. The marina failed to answer our VHF call but a smiling face came running up just as we tied up. “Welcome to Shelter Bay, anything you need? Come to the office tomorrow, Buenos Tarde”. A quick tidy round and Temptress crew headed for a welcome beer or two at the bar – it was just before nine thirty ship’s time when we tied up and Panama is one hour behind. Eight days and a few hours was a good passage time despite the light winds early on.

Noon to noon: 160nm
Total distance Martinique to Panama: 1064 nm