- Port of departure: Puerto Mutis, Panama
- Departure date and time: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 7:30am
- Port of arrival: Isla Cebaco, Panama
- Arrival date and time: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 11:30pm
- Total travel time: 16 hours
- Miles traveled: 41.9 nm
- Engine hours: 1216.8 begin - 1216.9 end - 0.1 hours
- Fuel consumption: 32.6 begin - 32.6 end - 0.0 gallons used
- Fuel economy: ∞ mpg
- Average speed: 2.69 mph
- Tides and currents: High tide was at 6:30am, though the current didn’t really start ebbing until about 7:30am. The current pushed us out of the Gulf of Montijo until around 12:30pm, then worked against us for most of the afternoon. We entered the bay at Isla Cebaco on an outgoing tide.
- Weather: Light and variable!
Our plan was to ride the tide out of Puerto Mutis and hopefully catch some wind along the way to hasten our exit. Slack tide was at 6:30am but the current didn't really start ebbing until around 7:30am. Over the previous few days in Mutis we had drug anchor twice (our friend Colin on SV Vagabundo drug once), prompting us to throw out a stern anchor to keep us steady when the North wind and incoming current inevitably did their battle royale. We took advantage of the slack tide by letting out most of the rode on our stern anchor (Danforth), pulling up our main anchor (Bruce), then swinging around and tightening up the scope on the Danforth. The sails were full and limp, waiting for the slightest breeze. With coffee in hand, we waited.
When the tide flipped and started pulling us towards the Gulf of Montijo, we freed ourselves from the mud and started drifting. The current gave us a little bit of control (enough to keep our nose more or less pointed in the right direction), but without wind we were really at the mercy of the river. Barely one mile out of Mutis, we found ourselves swirling around in a bit of an eddy so Jeff hopped in the dinghy, fired her up and started nudging us back towards the center of the channel. Then the wind arrived. Just a couple confused puffs at first, enough to keep us guessing where it was coming from and if it would indeed be enough to sail by. Within half an our our main sail and genoa were full with a building NE wind at our back. We were cruising.
After clearing most of the shoal areas and potential hazards, I took first shift so Jeff could attempt to snooze (after pulling a nearly all-nighter repairing our outboard motor - again...this man needs to write a book about his Herculean struggles with that thing). Our original destination was Isla Gobernadora, about a 26 mile day, which for us could mean anything from 5-12 hours of sailing, but with wind at our back and the current carrying us along, we were making swift progress. In fact, at times we were going 7.6 knots - I don't know that I've ever seen Serenity go 7.6 knots. In the absence of big seas, the doctor was holding his own, though I did do a minor amount of hand holding in a few big gusts.
SV Vagabundo had departed around the same time, but made it to Isla Gobernadora about an hour ahead of us. When I emerged from a deep slumber, we were nearing the potential anchorage. The wind had not abated and the anchorage did not look at all protected from the NE. Plus we'd had an unpleasant experience at this same anchorage a couple months prior. We're making great progress, we both thought, let's just keep going to Cebaco...with this wind we'll be there in no time. Ha. Within just a few minutes Vagabundo seemed a speck on the horizon. That's when I noticed one of our fishing lines was MIA - "Where did our black fishing line go?" I inquired.
"It's on the stern railing, right in front of you." How did I not notice.
"Oh. Why isn't it in the water?"
"Because we caught a fish." Jeff said matter of factly.
"I don't know, you're basically standing on it though."
My toes were literally inches from the sharp incisors of a Barracuda. How I failed to notice this beautiful, if not a tiny bit scary looking, fish for nearly 20 minutes continues to baffle me. A new lure acquired in Santiago had done its job beautifully.
As we edged towards the Western side of Cebaco the NE wind completely died, leaving me to wonder if the decision to go on to Cebaco was indeed the right one. Too late now. Eventually a very slight, 5 knot wind from the SW met up with us and kept us moving forward at a little under 2 knots. Our new destination which had only been less than 2 hours away (8 nautical miles and we were going 4.5 knots), was now over 4 hours away. Ooph.
On the West side of Isla Cebaco, just South of Punta Zurron, there are several tempting beaches. We figured we'd just stick our nose in to see if there was a good spot to anchor, thereby shaving 5 miles off of our trip. Unfortunately the little bay was littered with uncharted reefs and the water was a bit deep for our liking. This little side-trip cost us nearly 45 minutes and the sun was not far from setting. We rounded the rocks at the SW corner of the island and now, only 3 miles from our destination, the wind completely died and we were sloshing around in some sloppy seas. At this point we probably would have just put the motor on and finished it up before nightfall...but that's not really an option these days.
"Guess I should put dinner on."
Jeff has a theory that if we don't have wind, all I need to do is start cooking and eventually the wind gods will get a whiff, turn the winds back on and thwart my attempts to cook anything other than pop tarts. I was nearly finished with a pot of gourmet mac 'n' cheese (just add broccoli, cabbage, onion, mustard and hot sauce!) when Jeff called me up on deck. "The wind is coming, we need to get the sails ready."
Within moments we were heading into sustained 20-25 knots of wind with gusts from 30-35. From 0-30 in half an hour and of course it was coming from exactly where we wanted to be. We raised the working jib and after a particularly gusty blow, we reefed the working jib. When we raised the reefed main the wind had us heeled over 25 degrees and waves were crashing into us. Okay then. Don't try to do the math on this one, it will make your head hurt and then it will make you feel bad for us, but it took us the next 3.5 hours to go 3.5 miles (actually with all the tacking it turned into nearly 7 miles, but still). I don't know how that's possible...but it is.... and it was painful. Once we got closer to the lee shore of Cebaco the wind steadied enough to, comfortably, let us shake out the reef in our working jib and that's when we really started scooting.
At about 11:30, just as the moon was rising above the hills of Cebaco, casting light on the anchorage, we let our Danforth spill overboard in 32 feet of water, catching quickly and easily. Cold mac 'n' cheese anyone? At least we had Barracuda to look forward to for breakfast!