Tomorrow I leave mainland Panama and start the long trade-wind passage to the Marquesas, some 3500 nautical miles to the west. I changed head-sails today after reflecting on the passage from St Martin to Colombia. The sailing angle and wind strength were much the same as I will find on this next leg, that is, a broad reach, and I felt the need for the 150% genoa many times on that earlier leg. So, I removed and stored the yankee, which is now quite old and getting tired, leach fatigue is setting in, and hoisted the 150% genoa. It is a big sail, a real handful for one person, but I think it is the right choice, at least as far Tonga anyway.
The Pearl Islands, or Las Perlas, a group of more than 200 small islands and atolls, lay just 35 miles from here, and it is there that I will stop for a few days to clean Next Chapter and mentally prepare myself. Next Chapter is grimy from the waterline up after two weeks here amongst all of the shipping and port operations, the canal transit and the comings and goings from a big dirty city. The water around us is constantly topped with a film of oil and the air is polluted as it is in any industrialised area. Sulphur coloured smog sits constantly over the city skyline. Also, the foredeck is covered in pelican shit. They have found her pulpit to be an invaluable aid to hunting, and left many reminders of their appreciation and success. Everyone here in Panama, pelicans included, have been very friendly. I’m ashamed to say, I speak not a jot of Spanish, yet all those that I have come into contact with have tried their best to understand and help, and always with a smile. Even the military, or possibly para-military, that guard this area of La Brisas.
It is a long time since I have sailed in the Pacific, eighteen years I think. It still annoys me that all of the islands in the eastern cruising area are under French control. It is also annoying that one is forced to go to Tahiti to complete immigration formalities. I hadn’t planned to go there and don’t want to, but there seems no alternative, other than a fine and a good bollocking when clearing out at Bora-Bora. I guess that like most things, it will not be as burdensome as I am expecting it to be once I actually do it.
I am looking forward to the long passage to the Marquesas. I have a great deal of thinking and writing to do during that time. So much so that I might have to slow Next Chapter down in order that I don’t get there too soon.
This will be my last post until I am in French Polynesia, some 30 – 40 days from now.