71. In the Pacific!

Saoirse has transited the Panamá Canal and left the Atlantic Ocean behind. My first impression of the Pacific is that the water is colder, less salty and that it is a lot more tidal. The climate is also a lot less humid and I have not seen any rain this side of the canal. It’s obvious from the vegetation ashore that this part of Panamá is a lot drier than the rain forests along the Atlantic coast.

More noticeably though, there is a lot less wind here. Both next to the coast and along my intended route towards French Polynesia. My daily routine here at the anchorage includes downloading weather routings using forecasts from PredictWind. This tool suggests routes and tells you what to expect in terms of wind, waves and currents. Based on information that you provide regarding your boat and your sailing ‘style’, it also tells you how much you are likely to need to run your engine due to light winds. At present its telling me that I’ll have to motor more than half of the way. That would not only be incredibly tedious but also require more fuel than I can bring. What I’m looking for is a forecast that tells me that I can sail in a south-westerly direction for a couple of days until the wind dies, as I’m getting closer to the equator. Then I will probably have to turn on the engine and go south where I want to see westerly currents and easterly trade winds that can carry me towards Marquesas. The trick is to pass the Intertropical Convergence Zone (the ITCZ or the Doldrums) where it is at its narrowest. This is an area around the equator that is associated with no wind. At all. If you get it right, you can pass it in a couple of days. If you get it wrong, you can end up becalmed for a very long time. I’m planning to bring diesel for up to six days of motoring but sincerely hope to get away with a lot less. But ultimately, I guess you get ‘what it says on the tin’ when you cross the ‘Pacific’ Ocean.

Getting here involved going through the Panamá Canal. Something that I always dreaded. Primarily because you rely on others to get where you want to. And more importantly, when you get to go there. This sort of dependence doesn’t really go together with the mindset of a solo sailor and this is the primary reason for me electing not to stop in Galapagos on my way to French Polynesia. I have had my share of restrictions, inspections and people in uniforms. That said, the actual canal transit turned out to be a really enjoyable experience. Largely thanks to my crew. Two paid line handlers that pretty much did all the work and an advisor from the canal company that, in an incredibly polite way, told me what to do behind the wheel while telling us everything about Panamá and the canal. And, of course, my parents that flew all the way here to help me through the canal and with all sorts of boat projects. I really can’t thank them enough for all the help I got and it was really nice to show them how Saoirse has gone from the boat they were on last in the Mediterranean into a home. A home that is ready to cross the Pacific Ocean.

Manuel. Our incredibly polite canal advisor
Goodbye to the Atlantic. For now
Saoirse was ‘nested’with two other boats through the locks
Smaller boats are moved manually in the locks
Ships are moved with purpose built locomotives
This guy came in fast in one of the locks and almost hit us
You can see the broken wire to one of the locomotives, They only just managed to bring the ship to a halt. With locked wheels screaming as the locomotives were being dragged by the ship
These spectators could have had a real show
Welcome to the Pacific Ocean
Sailing to Las Perlas
Dad in Las Perlas. Spot the shorts. Epic!
Ships waiting to transit the canal in the opposite direction
Boat party. With the Pacific Posse

13 thoughts on “71. In the Pacific!

  1. Fantastic pics, Tomas! So cool that your Mom and Dad could share in the adventure of the canal with you! Sounds and looks like it was a memorable occasion, for sure — just so glad that you all were safe and didn’t get hit by that huge ship! YIKES! Looking forward to hearing more about the upcoming passage to French Polynesia — will you be buddy boating at all?


    1. Thanks Chelle. It was really great to have my parents onboard for a couple of weeks. I’ll probably be in Panama until mid-March waiting for the trade winds to kick in. I plan to leave for Marquesas together with my friends on SV Traveller but it we will no doubt be outside of radio contact within a day or two. It only takes a ten degree difference in direction and a knot or so in boat speed difference. But we will be able to stay in communication via satellite phones. And I will be able to see where they are in the same way that you can see where I am. Its nice to know that someone else is out there with you even if you can’t see them. Can’t wait to get going. Best. Tomas

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thomas!

    Hi friends congratulations on arriving to the pacific! I’m grateful to be able to read your updates. How’s life treating you? We are enjoying Puerto Rico. We’ve been here a month and got to explore lots of the island and now our friends arrived from the states who are from here so that’s been fun. We have another friend on board which also has been lovely and we are getting ready to cross the Mona to the DR.

    Also Benjah would like to get your emails can you add him? His email is crystalroots25@gmail.com

    All the best on your journey forward!



    1. Hi there Chazlynn. All is great here. I’m with Mike and Daisy in Panama City. Getting ready for the Pacific crossing in a couple of weeks. We miss you guys. I will of course add Benjah to the distribution list.

      You will enjoy DR.
      All the best. Tomas


  3. Dear Son, thank you again for a memorable trip on the boat! It was great to have this chance prior to your long crossing. What is the situation with your start battery and the result of the work we did with the rear brace?
    Mamma och pappa


    1. Thanks for all the help onboard Saoirse. I’ve changed the starter battery now. Had to rebuild a little as the new one didn’t fit perfectly. I haven’t checked our work at the back yet. But with all the 5200 sealant we used, it must be leak tight now. Provisioning now. Should be ready to go as soon as I get some decent winds. Thank you and all the best.


  4. Hej Tomas!
    Coolt att Christer och Florence kom och gjorde sällskap genom Panama. Och jag blir så glad av alla bilder som du delar med dig av. Och av allt du berättar förstås. Ta hand om dig! kram Tina


  5. So Tom…you run but you can’t hide!!

    Met Jenny from NV last night and she updated me on your adventure. A little different to a cruise on the Thames!

    If you get to Bora Bora, look out for a Windsor YC burgee from when Gill and I visited a few years back. Paradise….

    Brilliant to see that you are following your dreams – I’d like to think that the good years together helped you on your way!

    Safe sailing….M


    1. Hi there Martin. Long time. So nice to hear from you.

      Yep. I did get to follow that dream in the end. And I will most certainly get to Bora Bora as that is where you check out from French Polynesia. So probably some time in your Summer. I’ll look out for that burgee.

      The good years we had in sales most certainly helped me on the way. I hope all is well with you and that you get to keep enjoying boating. I really enjoyed the trip on the Thames on your boat. A different type of cruising but still very rewarding.

      All the best and take care of yourself. Tomas


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