Monday, August 8th 2o22
1:00PM: Official time of departure
1:05PM: I send the departure message on the Garmin sat phone while Yalçın manually retrieves the anchor. Our windlass has died when we arrived at the anchorage in the Cay of Coco Banderos in San Blas. He says retrieving the anchor by hand wasn't as bad as he feared. We had stressed about that moment since the few days we were anchored here.
1:30PM: We are leaving the shallows of San Blas, threading the needle between the reefs and high bottoms on the chart. Breakers help indicate those points and make for a scenic departure. I'm hand-steering and we see fins and a few dolphins as if to say goodbye.
Before 2:00PM: We are sailing full rig with the wind vane steering. We are making consistently more than 6 knots, we must be feeling the current already. We are close-reaching and the sea is built mistreating our stomachs. We put the bimini up as it's quite sunny. Yalçın eats some rice salad as I start my napping on the leeward side.
3:15PM: Yalçın goes in to lie down as well as shelter from the sun. I take on my shift, grumpy to have been woken up at first. The alarm clock helps me keep napping in 10 minute intervals. We can't see San Blas already and we are surrounded with horizon, somewhat impressive waves and still going fast. It's breath-taking. I hope the wind doesn't build up beyond what's expected.
4:00PM: Time for a new Garmin point. A cloud is building at our stern, it's less sunny. I'll go back to sleep.
Before 5:00PM, Yalçın pokes his head out of the companion way. He was boiling inside and wanted some fresh air. I am happy to have him here, he takes over the shift and sits on the windward side looking at the horizon listening to music, as only him can do. He is feeling sea sick, and so am I. "I may puke", he says. "Me too. I'm ready to turn off the swell", which is a little private joke between us. He smiles, "but we just turned it on".
That was true but at the same time, so wrong. Yes, we had just departed, but shit had been piling up for a few days now. It has started still in Holandes, in the western anchorage where we spent two nights. The slope to the beach was shallow and another boat was anchored already so we didn't get much of a choice in the anchor spot. After some shenanigans to set the anchor in the sand on our first evening, the second night, we had to weather a storm at anchor with our stern to the beach, hoping we wouldn't slip and run aground on the pretty coral patch we had snorkeled in the afternoon. The rain was at 45 degree, the visibility close to zero except during the lightning and overall, a shaky nerve-wracking night. We had moved the next morning, only to find out the windlass had decided to give up when trying to reanchor on a neighboring cay. We picked a spot we knew could be bouncy but was clear in every direction, knowing we wouldn't get the luxury to reanchor. It was bouncy indeed for the two days and three nights we spent there before taking off. So really, the swell had been on for a little too long already but, still haven't found the switch, so... just time to enjoy our first sunset at sea as the sky clears out and the wind slowly calms down.
6:40PM: The orange sun just disappeared behind a cloud. It feels like the swell is less pronounced but it's not enough to make us feel better. We are both craving for a burger. From my lying down spot, I can see the wave run to the horizon in our starboard quarter. Yalçın seems to be enjoying it already - he is back with his physics questions - I'm not there yet. Waiting for the next Garmin point at 7:00.
8:00PM: I went down for 3 hour sleep, after a first failed attempt that resulted in barfing. Ah that prosciutto sandwich that went so nicely in. There's a cloud developing vertically in front of us. Fingers crossed it's not going to be a mean one.
10:30PM: Second time barfing. I came up too quick alarmed by recurring metallic sounds that sounded like the shrouds are coming in and out of the spreaders. I wouldn't have been surprised to see the mast fall. Of course, wasn't the case - knock on wood - or I wouldn't be writing it all that chill! We decided to switch and a trip to the head was enough to get the second half of the sandwich and the nice pineapple for desert. A little more than a half moon is playing hide-and-seek with the high clouds. Slowly trying to recover and get into my shift: dress up some more for the breeze and back into the 10 minute interval rythme. Let's hope Yalçın gets some sleep too.
Tuesday, August 9th 2o22
3:30AM: The moon has set revealing the dark sky full of stars. I wake up Yalçın 1H30 after his 3 hour off-shift. He is amazed at the sky and happy to take over. We are still making good progress under sail, the wind has picked up again and despite being due East, instead of the North East that would lead us to Cartagena, we make good VMG. The cabin inside is hot and it takes me some time to find sleep. Yet, the waves are less pronounced and it's way more comfortable than a few hours ago.
7:30AM: I wake up. It's daylight. Yalçın doesn't need help yet, I go back to sleep.
Before 8:30AM, the wind has died and I hear the big bangs of sails flapping. Again, from the inside, it feels like anything could break from those loud bangs anytime. I go out. Unsurprisingly, it's not that bad, just sails flapping. Yalçın is in bad shape with an unhappy stomach. He needs to eat something but doesn't feel like anything. I hand him the joker, our only pack of regular potato chips, his favorite food underway (we have tortillas otherwise, but it's not quite the same). He eats some with some precut pineapple, he seems better. I convince him not to turn the engine right on, as I want to try to tie the boom to prevent the flapping. The jib is filled and we are making 1 knot, maybe we can still sail. Soon, it becomes even worse. Yalçın barely has steerage as the knot of speed may well be current. I start to loose hope too, I want to take a dip to refresh myself which feels like the only way I can wake up and start the day. There are little things in the water like kiwi hair and the transom is going up and down with the waves. I undress nonetheless and dip. It's cool and nicely refreshing. The swell is impressive from that low. Soon after, I come up and we start the engine. 90 miles to go, we are half way, making 6.5 knots direct to target. Yalçın has passed out in the cockpit next to me, I'm also lying down and back to my 10 minute checks. He said he did 20 minutes during the night as nothing was happening. Sticking to 10 for now.
10:00AM: Another Garmin point in between sudokus. First booby of the trip circling us, majestic bird! Trying to see the color of its feet.
11:00AM: Still motoring... No breeze except our apparent wind. Still waiting for this South breeze that was supposed to come in in the morning... Time for a rice salad for me, Yalçın is still sleeping. Soon it'll be time to deploy the bimini.
5 minutes later, bimini deployed. It makes it possible to stand up instead of lying down and still be shaded. The water is bluuuuuue and some tiny flying fish are opening the passage for Tirb. They leave a small V shaped trail. Stange creatures, half fish, half bird. Or maybe 3/4 fish, 1/4 bird? Still haven't attacked that rice salad.
2:00PM: Second tentative to sail. The waves are making the sail flap again. 60 nm to Cartagena, that's 10 hours at 6 knots. Certainly we don't want to arrive in the middle of the night. We saw couples of dolphins and a dragonfly that ended up onboard with us. Time for me to snooze and Yalçın is in action. He has his white T-shirt around his head, he looks like a handsome pirate. We are listening to Turkish music.
2:30PM: Spinnaker is up. We are finally moving (slowly) but it doesn't solve the flapping.
4:45PM: We have been flying for quite a while carrying the spinnaker on a beam and sometimes even closer to the wind. We made good progress and the seas seemed calmer. I hand-steered most of it, probably the bliss of this trip. Yalçın took over but we soon doosed as we wanted to be more upwind than what the spinnaker allows.
6:15PM: We decided to go main only as we are only 35 nm from our first way point offshore of the entrance of Cartagena, and we don't want to reach it before sunlight tomorrow. Yet, the strong East going current is pushing us at 4 knots still. The sun set behind clouds and we are having dinner while listening to NYT Dailies.
8:20PM: As we are starting night shifts, trying to sleep outside this time, we noticed we passed into double digit latitudes again. At around 6:15PM probably, we crossed into 10° latitude. The sky is clear with a lot of moonlight, and the wind has picked up to the teens/high teens. Yet, we are still main only trying to go slow being a little shaken with gusts and waves as we don't have the stability of the jib. Trying to go for some rest.
Wednesday, August 10th 2o22
Midnight: We have started to sail for speed again and unfurled part of the jib. We had to tack as we were hitting the coast too South of Cartagena. The bow is slamming into the wave. We are making good speed N-NW. The wind is in the 15s and there are white caps on the swells. The weather isn't as expected, we should be getting low speed wind from our backs, I'm worried it's the trade spilling all the way to Cartagena in full force. Yalçın's turn to sleep, I'm staying with the high moon. Planning to tack again as we approach a submarine exercise zone that I'd rather not sail in at night. We have started hearing the radio calls to Cartagena port control.
I took my turn to sleep at around 1:30. It was difficult to stay awake in these conditions. Shortly after, Yalçın tacked again to avoid the lightning strikes that were building up around us. And then it came, a squall of 30-35 knots sustained as soon as the moon had set behind clouds. I was half asleep. Yalçın tried to furl the jib, it came a bit and stopped. The windward sheet for which we stupidly hadn't done a stop knot (neither actually) started to tangle badly. Both sails were flapping hard. Then something was flying with the sheet, it looked like our flag halyard had been taken down, I prayed the stays were still up. They looked like it. In the rain, Yalçın tethered and went on the deck. Detangling the sheet seemed impossible but the furling was not jammed, it just required a bit more force as the wind had doubled in strength. I wasn't responding as well, I was puky but I still had the reflex to say "we need to run with it". Run with the storm, a technique to feel less apparent wind and go with the swell. Yalçın needed me at the helm, downwind then, which was also somewhat blanketing the jib, while he tried to furl again. "The helm is loaded" he said. It was hard to fall off at first, but once downwind, it felt like a relieve. No more sail flapping, or at least as soon as the jib eventually furled, and a way more comfortable boat motion. I read 9.1 knots of boat speed, all in the dark, with white caps surrounding us. I got instantaneously wet from the spray and the rain. Our tropical clothes were doing little to help, but I was full of adrenalin. One goal: allowing Yalçın to furl this fucking jib and not gybe accidentally, which would probably destroy the boom in that wind. At some point, the bow burried in a wave in a loud bang, I genuinely thought the forestay was done. Luckily it wasn't, the inner cabin probably was the source of the noise, it was upside-down as we had never seen it when we got a chance to look later on. The jib eventually furled but the sheet had ended up in the water. With our speed, never mind for now. Yalçın took the second reef on our main sail while I headed up. Some more splash but a good call. By that point, I was cold and dead, Yalçın took over at the helm and very slowly the wind started to die down. He headed up progressively as the wind allowed to let the squall pass a bit faster. When the wind slowed down significantly, it was time to retrieve our jib sheet in the water and make sure it didn't tangle with anything under water, in particular the engine propeller. I peeed over the side, changed to waterproof gear, got my shoes and went to the foredeck. The jib sheet came easily but the second one was a ball around an unidentified piece of sunbrella. With everything secured and quite happy it went smoothly, I came back and gave what was left in my stomach to Poseidon. That was the worst one of the trip. Yalçın was hand-steering and did so for a few hours. With no jib, we couldn't set the hydrovane. He eventually set the electric autopilot and collapsed for a few hours of sleep. I took over, watching auto-Nick steer. I was still sick but the sun was finally rising.
8:00AM: We are motoring in between the islands at the entrance of Cartagena. The engine sometimes makes a worriesome high-pitch sound but there was no other option to make progress, with our reefed main only, we were making 3 knots in the messy waters. The waters are calmer now as we approach shelter. We are both resting and controlling the course and traffic once in a while. The cabin looks even worse in daylight. And we can see some thread on the approximately furled jib, probably where the fabric teared off. We are both ready to arrive and drained. Empty stomachs, fatigue, eager to arrive and as Yalçın likes to say "lick our wounds".
12:30PM: We are finally tied up to our slip in Manzanillo marina club, waiting for our customary instant noodle to brew and our agent to come for the paperwork...