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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bahia Pina to Punta Garachine, Golfo de San Miguel

7 December 2008

After agreeing with Sarana that if we woke to rain we'd postpone the day's passage, we departed under a mostly starry sky. It was amazing to pick out constellations again (John spotted Polaris for the first time in probably seven months) and to see starlight reflected in calm seas. I enjoyed three idyllic hours watching the sky for satellites, planes, shooting stars, and flashbulbs of lightning behind clouds on the southern and eastern horizons.

Pause for the errrkk of a phonograph needle scratching across a record album or the screeching sound of a car hitting the brakes...

At 6 AM someone flipped a switch and we literally went from la-di-dah bliss to 18 knots of north wind and its friend, 3' wind chop. Did I mention we were motoring north? An hour later whoever was controlling the switch turned it off and we were bouncing around in no wind trying to sail. Forty minutes later the wind was back. This went on for another couple of hours with all the accompanying jib in, jib out, reef the main, take the reef out, engine on, engine off, etc.

The reason we were trying to sail is because of a problem with the engine oil pressure. That first time we tried to motor into the north wind and waves John revved it up to 2000 RPM, our normal cruising speed when we don't have the benefit of current behind us. The engine overheated and we lost oil pressure (according to the gauge). Until John could troubleshoot the problem we needed to sail as much as possible to our destination. To get the most out of the variable wind strength John hand steered most of the way. By early afternoon we were entering the gulf and were feeling the adverse affects of all those Darien Province rivers ebbing against us. Plus the wind had died to almost nothing again.

But this gave us perfect conditions for John to do an oil change. We've had a problem with the engine "making oil" (fuel leaking into the oil) and an oil change would at least eliminate that issue for a little while. John quickly dispatched the sweaty job and we consulted Sarana about diverting to a closer anchorage than we had planned on. They agreed it was useless fighting the ebb and that's how we ended up in this relatively exposed location.

We were fortunate to have calm conditions for one night here but we knew we couldn't count on it to stay that way for long. The original plan was to buddy boat a couple of the Darien rivers with Sarana but with our engine problem appearing to worsen we feel the prudent choice is to press on to Panama City to effect repairs.

Linda and John