Preparing for Ecuador
September 26, 2017
We’re back in Panama City, but our time in Panama is coming to a close. Our next port will be Puerto Lucia, Ecuador! The passage will be approximately 725 nautical miles (as the crow files), but all will depend on the wind and our actual course. Our guess right now is that the passage will take us 7-10 days, which will definitely be our longest non-stop passage so far.
The passage from Panama to Ecuador is not exactly an easy one. The prevailing winds pretty much the entire year are from the south-southwest. That is the exact direction we need to go. You can’t sail directly into the wind, and we do not carry enough fuel to motor the entire way to Ecuador! So, we need a plan.
We’ve been studying the pilot charts and reading up on Jimmy Cornell’s advice for taking this route. The pilot charts tell us the historical winds and currents for this time of year. On average, we should bet on SSW winds about 15 kts. At least the predicted calms are virtually zero, and there are no real weather patterns, just random squalls. Of course, as another boat recently said to us, “with climate change, can you really rely on that historical data?” Hmpf!
Here’s an example of a pilot chart from one of Jimmy Cornell’s books…
Right now our plan is going to be to depart Panama City and head over to Taboga Island, which is less than 10 miles away. We want to fill our water tanks before we depart (which is easier to do at anchor than underway). The anchorage here in Panama City is pretty dirty. Yesterday there was a ton of fuel that someone dumped just floating in the anchorage (pretty horrible). That kind of thing with ruin the membrane on our water maker. So, we’re going to head out to the island to fill up on water first.
From Taboga, we are going to head west toward Vista Mar to fill up on fuel. It is really the last place we can fuel up on our way out of Panama. We only carry 70 gallons of diesel (which won’t get us even half way to Ecuador), so we are going to have to use the motor judiciously on our passage. From Vista Mar we will head south to Punta Mala. When we rounded Punta Mala on our way into Panama, we had an adverse current. So, we are hoping this time we’ll get a favorable one.
After rounding Punta Mala, we plan to head west toward Isla Coiba. We want to head as far west as we can to get a better attack angle when we turn southeast toward Ecuador. After we make the turn, it will be all about following the wind. If the wind angle isn’t favorable, we’ll just have to tack back and forth and try and make as much southward progress as possible. It will definitely add some length to our trip.
In addition to planning our route, we have some other tasks to accomplish here. We will have to check out of Panama with the officials and get our zarpe. We also have to send our agent in Ecuador lots of documentation. Ecuador requires you to have an agent to enter the country by boat. And, it is not cheap! We’ve also been told by our agent that since we visited Panama, we have to have a certificate of yellow fever vaccination (which we don’t have). So, while in Panama City, we have got to find a way to get that vaccine.
This morning we already accomplished another important task which was to inspect and adjust our standing rigging. We made some adjustments back in January in La Cruz (Mexico), but we have come a lot of miles since then. We noticed that the forestay looked a little loose, so we dropped the jib and worked on getting it in better condition. We also took a look at our halyard to make sure there wasn’t any chaffing. It’s always good to have more confidence that the rig is going to hold up on a long passage.
Also on my “to do” list is to make sure we’ve got plenty of food aboard. Since we don’t know the exact length of the passage, we’re making a couple of provision runs to make sure we’re stocked up. We also don’t want to just eat cereal and sandwiches for 10 days, so we are making lots of meal preparations. We don’t know if we are going to have calm or rough sea conditions, and we want easy to prepare meals.
If it’s possible, we like to at least have a hot dinner. The best way to do that in most sea conditions is to make one-pot meals that have been cooked ahead of time and stored in the fridge or frozen so that they can be easily heated up underway. I have a pressure cooker with a locking lid and a gimbled stove, so we can make sure that a pot of something does not get dumped all over the interior of the boat while trying to make dinner!
So, I’m working on making batches of chili, pasta, chicken curry and taco meat that are all cooked ahead of time and can be easily frozen and reheated for several meals each. Everything will be in individual zip-lock bags. It is a lot of work (and cooking) to make a week’s worth of dinners!
There are a few other menial tasks we need to do aboard before we depart, but mostly we are just working on getting our heads around being at sea for so long. We’re excited about it. It will be a great challenge for us, and it moves us to another continent! South America, here we come!
I’ll do my best to update the blog, Facebook and Farkwar via the sat phone as soon as we depart and along the way, so those of you who want to can follow our progress all the way to Ecuador.