I counted 42 ships at anchor, all waiting to transit the Panama Canal. This is *not* an anchorage you’d want to come in to at night!
Just as you’d expect (being a karma-observing slightly-superstitious sailor), after all that worrying and fretting and waiting, we had a pretty good passage around Punta Mala and up in to Panama City.
We flew along from Benao with a flood tide ripping to the point (doing 7+ knots — madness for this boat!), came tearing along in to the Gulf of Panama proper, and then… well, then we pretty much stopped. The ebbing tide brought 3 knots of counter-current against us, and the knot meter on Brio became more and more depressing… 3.2… 2.4… 1.7… 1.2… 1.2!!!
At 1.2 nm/hour, I could leisurely swim faster than Brio. I think I could even dog-paddle faster than that 😉
Other than the current — which we continued to fight for most of the night — we had a nice breeze of 10-15, just enough to keep the sails fully pulling while we iron-gennakered along, trying to eke out every tenth of a mile we could.
One interesting phenomenon we experienced was the section of the chart marked “tide rips (1928)”. Apparently they knew what they were talking about in 1928, cuz we hit that part of the ocean and suddenly it looked like we were in a giant cauldron of boiling water. The best way to imagine it is that it was like baseball-sized raindrops were smashing into the ocean, and the ocean was getting splashed up vertically all around us… except it wasn’t raining, the ocean was just being jumpy and splashy all on its own. Weird-looking!
Anyways, once we managed enough easting to get out of that horrible current, our progress improved and we even eventually caught a bit of a favourable push for the last 25 miles.
The important part of all those nautical mile per hour figures?!? We went from sad mutters of “well I guess we won’t make it by nightfall” to “hmmm, maybe we can have McDonalds for dinner!“.
Yes, we are those cruisers, and yes, we did have McDonalds (with ice cream!!) for dinner 🙂