An unexpected Darien diversion

Trip Start Aug 03, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  , Chocó,
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The fleet departed the San Blas islands with a sense of eager anticipation at the prospect of our crossing the open ocean. Aboard Impetus a number of us had agreed to take turns at the helm during the course of the night to allow Captain Dave a brief respite from the 30 hours of sailing that lay ahead. The first hours passed by swiftly, I dosed on the deck enjoying the sunset and unpolluted night sky - truly spectacular!

I awoke around 2100 and took my place at the helm with strict instructions to keep Casaopeia directly ahead, at a sensible distance - but should I somehow manage to get in some sort of a pickle, I was to keep her heading due East. Cap'n Dave took up a spot on deck to try and get some shut eye and there I was, a veritable Master & Commander.

Over the course of the next hour, Dave rose on several occasions to trim the sales (despite hours of practising the bowline - thanks Phil - I still felt that actually doing something to do with sails was a little beyond me), I remained focused on the wheel, compass and shimmering lights of Casaopeia in the distance. The wind certainly appeared to be gusting a little stronger and the frequency of storm clouds around the boat increased. The sea became choppier and choppier, the rain harder and harder, the wind more ferocious and the helmsman (that'll be me) increasingly uncomfortable with what was going on. The point finally materialised (and I cannot recall exactly what happened) but after the boat pitched to such an extent that I found myself on the wheel (akin to a knife thowers assistant) rather than holding it with my feet firmly on the deck, I beckoned Dave to properly wake up and bring some professionalism to the proceedings.

Dave donned his heavy duty wet weather gear resembling a character from The Perfect Storm and took over from me. I was advised that I ought to retreat down below and that I should secure the shutter and door to the cabin. I think it only appropriate at this time to give a simple lesson in why (and Florian pointed this out to me) it is that boats actually swim. In short, if a boat displaces more than in weighs it will float - this goes to explain why it is that maintaining water tightness throughout the hull and cabin is so important. I headed into the cabin and with no bed available found myself falling on to a cushion on the floor suffering from a monumental headache brought on by the concentration of the previous hour or two.

I awoke a shortwhile later (through a combination of garbled chatter coming over the radio and people stepping on me) returning to the deck to find Jay at the helm with Dave watching on. Jay and I continued to feel a little tense, he working the wheel hard and me trying to be useful offering my opinion on how far Casaopeia was in the distance. Dave went down to the galley (I hope my use of nautical terminology is impressing you) and whisked up a delicious cup of lemon, ginger and honey tea that so hit the spot!

Enjoying that cup of tea, I marvelled at the flashes of white that appeared high above the boat on either side as the swell and waves towered over us....... by this time the decision had been made to head back to the coast and divert to Zapzurro to the south. I returned below deck to try and grab a few more hours sleep.

The following day, in calmer seas, we followed the coast until on we saw a small Panamanian flag on a cliff top , marking the end of Central America and a new Continent. A while later we crept into the natural harbour of Zapzurro where we anchored and all headed to land (everyone keen to feel terra firma under their feet) It was at this point we discovered that the other boat had been turned into the "vomit comet" and that whilst Impetus had been relatively calm below deck, the passengers aboard Casaopeia had enjoyed a slightly rougher night!

A good nights sleep was had by all and the following morning we headed by fast launcha around the headland tro the slightly larger town of Capagarna where we were to clear immigration. This sleepy little town is an absolute gem of a place - CatalAna and I decided on a whim that we wanted pizza for breakfast (both of us struggling to contend with the endless portions of rice and eggs we had consumed on the journey) before heading to immigration where, probably for the first and only time in my life, I was granted entrance to a country by a man wearing pyjamas!

With everyones paperwork in order we returned to the boat and after some faffing (stocking up with diesel etc) and general larking around, we set off (with Tiesto playing loudly) to, hopefully this time, make it to Cartagena.

The next 30 or so hours of sailing were a delight in comparison to stormy seas of the previous day. With good winds we scampered along at a fair pace, joined by huge pods of dolphins on several occasions (Pepe jumping in and capturing some amazing video footage).
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