The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.

Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.

Our favorite sailing quote:

"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Crossing the equator, January 29

If you have ever worked, lived or played on a boat that crossed a landmark latitudinal or longitudinal line, you will recall the significance of the event. Whether it is the polar circles, the equator or the date line it is considered a milestone event and veteran seafarers take it pretty seriously. Meaning, they like to hold it over the newbies when it comes time for initiation. When I crossed the Antarctic Circle, as a polliwog, I had to participate in a initiation ceremony including a practiced skit to entertain King Neptune, some of the guys were given less than favorable haircuts, we had to crawl though a weeks' worth of garbage and at the end of the garbage line we had to eat a maraciano cherry out of the belly button of a very hairy marine engineer! I still have nightmares, but let me tell you, the next year when it was my turn to organize, I was not any kinder! It is a rite of passage and everyone has to participate. Michael and I both crossed the equator as neophytes, so we simply toasted King Neptune, dumped a bucket of equatorial water over our heads, and called it good. This time, since we are shellback's and the kids are the polliwogs, we plan to make them understand the full importance of the event. We've got a whole ceremony lined up for them including a swim across the equator as the GPS rolls 00.

Fast forward two hours and we have 5 shellback's aboard. Our polliwogs were thrilled with the idea of a swim call and after they reluctantly kissed King Neptune's pet squid, got a pie in the face and threw a lock of hair over to the sea gods they anxiously jumped in the water and literally swam over the equator towards summer in the Southern Hemisphere. All three kids are totally comfortable swimming in water where the closest land is 4000 feet below you. They dive down under the keel, cannonball off the bow and give me a near heart attack while I do shark watch. Zander has become a really avid free diver and he can stay underwater for a minute and a half at a time. It is almost creepy watching him swim under the boat and hover at about 20 feet below the surface, as comfortable down there as if he had gills. He wanted to see how far he could swim straight down, but I vetoed that idea, I have enough gray hairs as it is!

Now that we are in the southern hemisphere, we are very much looking forward to all new adventures under the Southern Cross.

S 00 00
W 088 26

PS Just saw our first red footed booby. Kids are excited, that is a first for all of us.

Day 5, almost there, Galapagos, January 28

Damn the equator is hot! We are motor sailing with about 7 knots of wind. Enough wind to keep the sails full and the boat steadied some, but not enough to push the boat much. Fortunately the seas are flat, so we can take advantage of the little wind there is. Life aboard is pleasant considering the heat. We have not officially crossed the equator yet, it is still 70 miles to the south, but we have certainly found the ITCZ, or doldrums. The skies are clear and it is hot.

200 miles to go.
N 01 10
S 086 15

Friday, January 27, 2017

Day 4, Galapagos Transit, January 27

N 02 09
W 084 36

Mike spent the day making repairs, two of three being human error and this human was only responsible for one of them, so I'm grateful for that. I inadvertently turned off the inverter when Mike was making water this morning and it burned out the pump. Big oops, but he fixed and it and I feel like I should be given some credit for forcing him to acquire a new skill! He doesn't seem to see it that way though. Otherwise we had a spinnaker pole drop through a hatch today. Unfortunately the hatch was closed so we had safety glass everywhere. Hopefully we will find a machinist in the Galapagos that can cut some plexi glass for us. At the moment it looks pretty ghetto with duct tape, plastic garbage bags and plywood filling the space. Lastly, Mike was worried we had an engine leak, but fortunately all was well, just a lot of rummaging around in a hot engine room to be confident of that fact.

Making steady progress towards the Galapagos. Two hours ago we had to turn the engine on and we are expecting mostly light variable winds for the remaining 320 miles. Probably some light air sailing with on and off motoring.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Disappointment for Pelagic, January 26

Day two finds us still flying towards the Galapagos. We have a fast moving current going our way and perfect wind conditions and we are moving fast. We covered the first 315 miles in about 40 hours, and approached the rock of Malpelo just as the sun broke the horizon this morning, back lighting the precipitous cliffs. We were hoping to stop at Malpelo and visit the small Colombian Navy base (really just a hut with a couple of Colombians stationed there to keep the fishing poachers away). Malpelo is a pinnacle of jagged rock that juts out of the Pacific from the ocean floor from over 2000 feet deep. The volcanic pinnacle is surrounded by swirling, nutrient rich, water and it home to large numbers of pelagic fish, manta rays and hammer head sharks. We read recently that a cruising yacht stopped, was able to pick up a mooring buoy, meant for the supply ship, and visit the attention starved navy personnel. The entire island/rock has only vertical cliff faces, but they have a crane they deploy over the water and they dangle a ladder to get crew and supplies ashore. That is all my kids (and the 49 year old kid) needed to hear to want to stop. In addition this was a bucket list island for Michael and it is listed as one of the top ten dive sites in the world. It is one of the best places in the world to see Hammerhead sharks. Zander slept in his bathing suit he was so excited to dive this morning. Alas, it was not to be. The weather was rough, too rough to take a buoy on the windward side of the island and a navy boat had pulled the resupply ship buoy on the leeward side. Disappointed we had to turn away without going ashore at all.

We are expecting for the wind to lessen in the next 24 hours and we may have to motor the last few days into the Galapagos. With 450 miles to go, we have plenty of diesel, but each hour we can sail is a bonus.

N 03 21
W 082 39

Scheduled post, photos from the San Blas

Just a few more pics before we head out into the land of only radio email.  Hopefully we will find a place in the Galapagos to load a few pictures, but otherwise it will be text only. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

In Darwin's Wake, January 25

Actually Darwin sailed from Chile to the Galapagos, not from a non existent Panama Canal, but we have a destination in common hence the title to my blog. We are headed to the Galapagos Archipelago, as Darwin did in the 1830's, to see for ourselves the islands that inspired his theories on evolution and natural selection. I see some fun science lessons in our future! It cost $1200 to visit just one island and the price goes up from there, so they will be expensive lessons.

Our short (900 mile) passage has started on a good note. We spent the morning, before leaving, walking miles of beach line, body surfing and picnicking on the beach.....all things we won't be able to do for awhile. Back at the boat we kept the kids in the water an additional few hours as we prepped the boat and tired them out.

Finally we put the islands of Panama on our stern and motored out into the big blue on glassy flat seas. While a true sailor doesn't like to motor, the flat seas provide such a fantastic opportunity to see wildlife, we don't mind it for a while. The Pacific seems so much more alive to us than the Atlantic. Everything is jumping out of the water, as if the sea is too full and the animals need to go somewhere. We've had numerous schools of dolphins swim around us. We've seen the water frothing with fish to the point that we have to double check the charts to make sure we aren't approaching a shoaling reef. Flying fish are numerous and rays are air born all around us. Fishing has been fantastic. We caught and released a Dorado, landed and ate a Sierra and lost two Yellow Fin tuna. In two years of fishing I'm not sure we've ever lost a fish and we lost two big ones in a row. That is what you get for fishing with 30lb line for 40 plus lb tuna. Personally I'm sick of fish, but I'm sure Mike will dig out some bigger line and we will be back at it tomorrow. We caught Black Fin in the Atlantic, but we have yet to get a Yellow Fin aboard.

Just as the sun set on our fist night at sea and we were settling in for the night the winds started to fill in and within 10 minutes we went from zero wind to 15 knots. Before long we had 25 knot winds and we were able to fly all our sails, turn off the motor and sail through the night. In fact we were flying. The Humboldt Current rushes up the South American coast, pushes into the Gulf of Panama and is spitting us out the north side. We will take it, we averaged about 8-9 knots for the night and hope it keeps up at least a little longer.

At the moment it is about 6 am, Zander has just come off watch and Michael is snoring. I've just brewed a cup of tea and the sun is starting to color the horizon. A dawn at sea is always magical and it has been a few months since I've experienced one. Life is grand aboard Pelagic.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A glimpse of the Perlas on our way out, January 24

En-route to the Galapagos we decided to stop at the Perlas Islands off the coast of Panama for a few days of exploration before we make the first big jump offshore. The Perlas are beautiful Islands, but they are only 50 miles from Panama City and we were anxious to get moving so we didn't plan a long stay. Once the boat is loaded and prepped to go, we find ourselves itching to make some miles, even if it means missing some lovely stops on the way. As a compromise, we decided to leave Panama City and wait out the weather in the Perlas. Waiting out weather meant three days of swimming, freediving and beach combing. We caught a huge Sierra on the way out, so we had fish for three meals in a row before we threw the rest in the freezer. We got a stash of passion fruit from a local we met on shore, but otherwise we didn't see anyone. On our way to the islands, on a Sunday afternoon, we passed a dozen big fishing boats and huge mega yachts heading back to the city after a weekend visit, but mid week the islands seemed to be empty.

I think after a few days of weather watching, relaxing and getting some good sleep, we are ready to start our epic Pacific trek and our long slog home (hopefully not a slog, hopefully we will have some fantastic sailing). For the first leg to the Galapagos we expect to motor our first day out, but the models show that the winds should eventually fill in, at least for a few days. After that, it looks like more light variable winds. We could wait out perfect weather, and sailors with more time than us would probably take that option, but we have enough diesel to motor, so we are choosing to get out there and see what we get. At a minimum we don't see any heavy contrary winds or bad weather coming our way. We are currently at about 8 degrees North and the Galapagos straddle the equator so we will be crossing the ITCZ (inter tropical convergence zone), which is usually an area of low winds between where the trades blow in the northern and southern hemispheres, so motoring in not uncommon. We expect it to take about a week to get to the Galapagos. We will be hitting the spot as we travel, so hopefully that will update with our track on our blog.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Sloth sighting, January 18, 2017

While in Panama City we were anchored off the last island in a handful of islands connected by a causeway to the mainland.  On the last island the Marina is adjacent to a few acres of forest land that is untouched by the surrounding development. Somehow at least one sloth has found residence there.  We have no idea how he could have made it out there, located just a few miles from a major metropolis and far from the jungle, but there he is.  This one fell out of a tree and we almost stumbled on it.  In this picture he is scampering (slowly) up the embankment back into the forest.  We scoured Costa Rica looking for sloths and here we find one in the parking lot of a marina with a view of Panama City. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Canal Transit, #2, January 15

Entering Gatun Lock

Another uneventful, Panama Canal transit under our belts and we've cleared another hurdle in our quest to get back home! Getting back into the Pacific Ocean felt a little like coming home. The Atlantic was kind to us, but the Pacific is home. We don't expect to stick around Panama City long, just enough time enough to provision and get ready for several months, mainly at sea.
I'm getting ahead of myself. We've never traveled in the canal from North to South before (the canal actually moves traffic north to south rather than east to west like many people think), so there were a few things different. For one, we needed to plan to stay in the lake overnight with our extra crew of two passengers. We picked our pilot up on the Flats, directly outside of the Atlantic city of Colon, and headed to Gatun Lock, the first of the three locks at about 5pm. The three Locks are located one right after the other and once we established our lock configuration we repeated it throughout the three locks. A large freighter entered the locks ahead of us. When they were securely tied in place two smaller sailboats tied up to us and Mike motored our small fleet into the locks under Pelagic's power. Once tied together the other sailboats had to do all the work in line handling. The Canal requires that all boats have four separate line handlers and 4 sets of 100 foot line, although boats aren't always required to use their line handlers. The Canal workers throw a monkey fists over to the sailboat at four points, the sailboat ties their lines to the monkey fist, the lines get pulled back over an enormous cleat at the top of the lock and then passed back down to the sailboat. Since we were at sea level and needed to be raised up the level of the lake, about 75 feet, the line handlers took in line to keep tension on the lines and keep our position in the middle of the lock while the water was flooding in. It isn't a hard job, but if line handlers are not paying attention the swirling water can cause the boat to get pushed up against the lock walls. Fortunately everyone was prepared and it was uneventful. In fact, on our port side we were rafted to a boat we didn't know, but on our starboard side we were rafted to a Swedish boat with two young Swedes on board and we had spent a little time with them prior to our transit. In addition they had asked three teenage girls off a boat our boys had been friendly with to be their line handlers. While Mike kept us in the center of the locks, the rest of us were able to relax and hang out with the neighboring boats. Mike may not agree, but for the rest of us it was like a party in the locks. After about an hour in the three locks, we motored to a large mooring ball about a mile away, in Gatun Lake, and we continued our small party with the Swedish boat. Guitars were brought out, beers were shared (amongst the adults) and good company was enjoyed by all.

boat prep

The following day our pilot was the first to arrive at the mooring and we took off to cover the 35 miles across the lake solo. Once across the lake we entered the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Locks, lowering us down 75 feet to the Pacific. This time we tied up next to a large ferry and once secured to the ferry we were able to relax and enjoy the ride down. In total we traveled about 50 miles across the isthmus, we were in the canal for less than 24 hours, saving us about 8000 sea miles and at least 4 months of sailing down South America and around Cape Horn. Well worth the $1000 it cost us to cross!

In the locks

Our line handlers were fun to have aboard and the kids enjoyed some different company. One thing we love about cruising is the exposure to other cultures via fellow cruisers. This time we were able to learn a little about Hungary and Russia. Our new friends wanted the experience of crossing the Panama Canal, and we needed the help, so it was a mutually beneficial arrangement. I told them I was happy to cook for everyone and I only asked a local recipe in exchange. Looking forward to some Hungarian Goulash and some Russian soup in the not too distant future.

Leaving a lock

Tied up the ferry, waiting on instructions to cast off.

Zander and Alexei

This is how Ana spent much of the crossing

We now have a list of errands to do in Panama City to ready the boat for some big Pacific Ocean miles. Next up is the Galapagos Islands, with the possibility of a few stops along the way, depending on the winds.

Monday, January 16, 2017

January 2017 issue of Latitude 38

The above link will bring you to the January issue of Latitude 38.  The second part of our update can be found in this issue on page 98.

Latitude 38 December 2016 part one update from Pelagic

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Panama Canal Transit, January 15, 2017

We are busily prepping the boat for a Panama Canal transit later this afternoon.  I don't know how exciting it will be to watch (or even if we will be visible depending on the boat configuration in the locks), but we transit about 4pm Eastern Standard Time (incidentally that is also Panama time which is often synonymous with Island Time).  As I told my mother, "don't rearrange your day to watch, but if you are online and interested maybe you can keep your browser open to the page". Panama Canal WebCam 

We will be transiting the Gatun Locks today and after a night in the lake, we will transit the other two locks tomorrow early afternoon. Vessel information for Pelagic This link should show our instantaneous position via our AIS (Automatic Identification System). We have two line handlers on board that we met from other boats, a traveler from Russia and one from Hungary. The canal requires 4 line handlers not including the Captain.  We will also have a pilot on board, so it will be busy aboard Pelagic. We hope to have an enjoyable, uneventful crossing.  Keep your fingers crossed for us! 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

And we are back........January 14, 2017

We are back on the boat and life has been a bit of a whirlwind for the last month. We finished our San Blas tour with my parents in tow. The islands are lovely, but they are certainly getting crowded as you move west and signs of progress are everywhere. We can't begrudge progress, but its sad to see the traditional ways disappearing. From the San Blas we sailed into Portobello and saw no less than 20 boats with significant hurricane damage and many total losses, from the late November hurricane. Some banged up, some still aground on the sand bar, some completely destroyed, debris scattered along the coast and even one totally sunk in about 15 feet of water with its masts still sticking straight up in the air. It was an eerie sight and a good reminder to be diligent in all things related to cruising, including watching the weather and storm prep even when you are in a relatively easy cruising area. Otto was the first hurricane to hit Panama, ever, and while it was predicted a few days out, it did not form in the eastern Atlantic like most Caribbean hurricanes, it formed off of the Colombian coast and was out of season. Possibly the remnants of El Nino, global warming, or just a fluke?

Portobello was a somber stop, but we perked up when we visited the Chagres River, just north of the Canal Zone. We visited the Chagres on our first stop through and rated it as one of our number one stops. This time around the river did not disappoint. We spent two nights anchored in the fresh water river which was dammed to create Gatun Lake, providing the waterway for the Panama Canal. I mentioned in my post 2 years ago that the Panamanian's are pretty protective of the watershed surrounding the canal because they depend so heavily on the water to run the locks (gravity fed, non circulating). If you overlook the fact that the area was artificially flooded over a hundred years ago, the jungle is healthy and teeming with wildlife. We caught glimpses of Capuchin Monkeys, heard Howlers call at dusk and we were even lucky enough to see a sloth. In the water we saw crocodiles and a large variety of wading birds. Above us flew parrots and toucans and we counted a handful of Blue Morpho butterflies. This time we took the boat right up to the dam and anchored. After a short dinghy to shore we were able to hike up to the first set of locks on the Atlantic side. It is quite a sight to turn a corner and see what looks like a huge freighter moving across the landscape, dwarfing the jungle. Apparently getting so close to the dam makes the canal authorities a little nervous and we had a large escort of friendly officials to see us back to the boat! Needless to say we re-anchored a few miles downstream for the night removing our threatening presence from the canal zone.

Our trip through the San Blas and sail back up the Canal will certainly be a highlight, not just because it was through beautiful islands, but also because it was leisurely and we had a whole 6 weeks to travel about 125 miles. It was the kind of cruising we'd love to do all the time if we weren't so restless to see what else was out there.

Two days after we were tied up in the marina in Colon and after a frantic readying of the boat, we left the boat and traveled back to Florida to join Mike's family for Christmas. Upon returning to the boat some clean up was in order as we had to attack the mold that is almost inevitable when you close a boat up in the tropics for more than a few days. It is a thankless, tedious task, but one of the prices you pay to bring your home through paradise. The boat needed a thorough cleaning before the next leg of our trip anyway, so no harm done. Three days after we returned from our Christmas break we got the news that my 94 year young Grandfather had passed away. While it was not unexpected it was heart wrenching. Ana and I made a trip back to the states and joined most of my family as they said their final farewells to an extraordinary man. During the Eulogy both my aunt and cousin spoke about how much my Grandfather appreciated his life, and how lucky he thought he was. He simply didn't want to depart his fantastic life and he fought his leaving every step of the way. My Grandfather was my biggest fan (as he was for all of his grand kids; bragging about, our often over inflated, achievements) and he read, printed and collected all of my blog entries into a three ring binder (actually in 7 separate three ring binders because it is all printed in massively large font so he could read it). He was always so supportive of everything we did, but particularly supportive of our trip and for that, as well as a hundred other things, he will be missed by me. He never questioned our safety, our decision to remove our kids from school, he never made us feel guilty for leaving family. He trusted my/our judgment completely. He would simply say, every time I saw him "You are doing an amazing thing". He was living our trip with us every step of the way. He will forever be in my thoughts as we continue doing this amazing thing!