Around The World Voyage : Commentary : Leg 4

May 22, 2002

Heading north at 5 knots, 1500 rpm.

It’s about 15:00 and we’ve been trying to soak up as much island time as we can in a few short hours. This place is breathtaking. Beautiful tropical islands sprouting coconut palm trees and a nice light turquoise blue tint to the water. But there is coral and it is a bit tricky to get around. So far we’ve managed to keep NORDHAVN in the brine the whole time, but we did have to beat a hasty retreat at one point this morning.

We arrived Tuesday evening, spent Wednesday seeing some sights and are now back underway. Making our way into San Blas was a little tricky. It was a race against daylight. We shouted our first ‘land ho’ at about 17:00 and from then on we all were busying ourselves getting ready to shift from a ‘sea’ mind set to a ‘land’ thinking process.I had figured that we would have reasonable light until about 19:45, maybe even to 20:00. An hour earlier, at 16:00 we had increased the rpm’s from 1800 to 1900, and even shut down the generator and centered the Naiad fins, but we must have been getting some kind of current because we couldn’t get much more than 7 knots.

We could smell the air change as the shore beckoned. The clouds were hugging the coast and through some dark ones we saw lightning. As the sun descended we knew our timing was going to be close.

Dan manned the helm with Mike monitoring the depth sounder (an instrument we really hadn’t looked at in over a week). I had binoculars out and was looking ahead for breaking waves to indicate a reef. Mike saw the first boats tucked in and around the islands. The islands were best described by Dan as ‘fuzzy caterpillars’ from our distance, but through the binoculars you could see the tell tale signs of palm trees. I was ready to jump in when we got there!

The sun ducked behind some clouds and slipped out of view about 19:30. We still had a mile or so to go. The islands were distinctly separate and our C-Map C-Cards were spot on for showing us our position. Our GPS position put us right on that electronic chart and even the depth from our sounder coincided with the depth registered on the chart.

Slowly Dan altered our course a couple of degrees to starboard, towards the islands. Basically we could drop anchor here in 70’ of water and call it a day, but we inched closer to one of the near islands. Dusk was happening fast, but there was still some light reflecting on the water. We were throttled back and poking forward cautiously. With 50 feet of water Dan gave the word and I let the anchor fly – chain spooled out from the venerable Maxwell windlass – 50’ the yellow flag, 100’ the red flag, 150’ the red and yellow flag – good. Dan had been backing down and we felt secure. About 20 feet ahead of us I heard a big splash and the water rippled. That was all I needed to know to delay my swim until the morning.

20:15 and we had arrived at the San Blas. Just about three hours short of seven days at sea. The last major sea crossing of NORDHAVN’s circumnavigation was complete. 1250 miles from Barbados to the San Blas archipelago. There's still a long ways to go to get home to Dana Point. And though it will be mostly coastal work, it is going to be tough, pounding uphill struggling. No more Caribbean sleigh rides. Hopefully though, the wind will be soft and the seas will be smooth... but that would be an exception. There are a lot of hard miles still ahead for Dan and Mike, and for Crew 5 getting on in Acapulco.

Safely anchored, we gathered up on the foredeck to just sit out in the balmy wind and enjoy our new surroundings. We’d made it, safely anchored with a great sense of relief and pride. Our routine was going to be different tonight. No watches, no log entries, no constant hum of the engine. Hey, this is sounding better all of the time.

They make a famous rum in Barbados called Mount Gay Rum. We allowed ourselves a cup each night at 17:00 to celebrate our day and prepare for dinner – very moderate, but it became one of the daily rituals. If you are a sailor, you know Mount Gay Rum. Take out a bottle, and look at the outline of the island of Barbados. We departed from the ‘O’ in Mount. Someday I’d like to do it again. I now know that roughly a week later I can pour my shipmates a nice Mount Gay Rum and Tonic with lime and say a toast for completing a passage.

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