[Note from Eric: in 1997, one of our instructors, Carl Strange and his wife set off to sail the world. Everyone wanted to know what was happening with Carl, Karen and later with the addition of their new crew member, Rebecca. So, we started to publish “The Strange Chronicles” so everyone could travel with them. I was looking through some old files and found the Chronicles. I started rereading them and decided it would be fun to republish some excerpts from them. They are an insight to the cruising lifestyle.]
15 March 2002 13°07N / 071°46W
Headed towards the Panama Canal. This is an area of unusually high winds and seas so we’ve been waiting for a decent weather window for days hoping to have an easy trip. Twelve hours into the trip we’ve run out of wind and turned south towards the Colombian coast hoping to find it again.
0100 Local Time – Getting any sleep during the first night of a trip is hard for both of us. I’m in the back cabin, dozing fitfully in my carefully arranged nest of pillows that help stop the rolling. It’s two hours into my three-hour off watch period and I’m finally getting a snatches of sleep when a large wave breaks just at our stern and throws a few buckets of sea water through the hatch. This soaks the curtain, sheets, a couple of pillows and me. I yell for help. Karen strips the bed, rolls everything into a ball and sends me back to bed saying we’ll deal with the mess in the morning.
0300 Local – I’ve been on watch for an hour now, sitting in our well protected cockpit. The rolling isn’t so noticeable when you’re not trying to sleep. The early morning skies are gorgeous with Sagittarius and the Southern Cross high in the southern sky. In the middle of this uneventful watch, a flying fish buzzed past my head, flew down the companionway and onto the floor under the Nav. station. I wasn’t sure what had happened till I heard the desperate flopping of the fish on the clean carpet. I threw the fish and loose scales overboard, wiped up the mess, poured a cup of coffee and went back on watch.
0730 Local – Up early to enjoy the beginning of a beautiful, cool morning. We jibed in light winds and the gooseneck fitting on the main boom broke – before my first cup of coffee! It took three hours to get the main sail down and the broken boom and sail securely tied along the side deck. It would have gone a lot quicker if the topping lift hadn’t managed to snag the main halyard requiring a trip to the top of the mast. I don’t mind going up in a calm anchorage, but the top of the mast swings wildly offshore. Back on deck, after dropping the sail, I sat and enjoyed a large glass of water before I calmed down enough to help Karen clean up the mess of lines, blocks and heavy sail and boom. This fitting was replaced two years ago by an experienced, high-priced rigger in Houston. Half of his rivets in the fitting missed the boom. When we reach Panama I’ll order the parts and do the job myself.
Meanwhile, we’re continuing on in light airs. This long distance cruising is rough!
19 March 2002 In Panama!
W E MADE IT!!! We arrived in Panama this morning. Had to slow down yesterday because we were going to make a nighttime landfall and we avoid that at all costs. We are anchored in the area known as the flats. Lots of rolling from the tug boats and pilot boats coming through. “Flats” must have been a euphemism. “Yacht Club” is another euphemism. We took a quick tour around there with the boat. Tomorrow, we’ll go in and put our names on the list so we can get a slip. It might not be much, but hopefully, it will make getting work done on the boom easier. We’d like to get it fixed here instead of the Pedro Miguel Yacht Club because that would mean doing 2/3 of the transit with the boom and sail in the way.
14 April 2002
Your email arrived on the same day as one saying our parts have been shipped. The $190 FedEx charge helped push this project to the usual $1000 (1 Boat Bill) range. Hopefully everything will match Isomat’s catalog dimensions. Knowing it’s on the way, we’ll start the process of having the boat measured and scheduling our transit. Our transit should be one week or so after starting the paperwork.
Last week I went through as a line handler on another boat. The locks are very impressive but not nearly as large as I expected. Our raft of two boats tied alongside a tug and shared the three up locks with a huge container. After a long motor across Gatun lake we rafted back together and locked down center chamber in front of another container ship. Interestingly, sailboats cross the lake as quickly as large ships. We get to take shortcuts outside the main channel, don’t have to reduce speed when passing dredging operations and don’t need the assistance of tugs for the tight turns going into the lock area.
I worked on a letter describing the city of Colon but haven’t finished. On the plus side, there are some very nice locals and excellent Chinese food is cheap!
Hopefully we’ll get everything together and be on our way to the Marquesas in a couple of weeks.