Panama Bound

Whew! Long time, no write! Ed and I have been burning the candle at both ends. Since last I wrote, we wrapped our second round of major boat work and dashed south from the Chesapeake Bay to Florida for round three of major boat work. We ended up making our jump to Florida in basically three steps.

Leg one opened up a nice, big weather window to sail south through the Chesapeake, and around Cape Hatteras with calm wind and seas (which is the only way to do Hatteras in my opinion). We had originally intended to make Charleston, SC, but ended up stopping short in Beaufort, NC, because we had a few hiccups with our recent upgrades on the evening we rounded Hatteras. We finished our battery, solar, and navionics upgrades literally the day before we had our weather window south, despite my begging the work crews to not run it up to the last minute. The weather in the few days leading up to our departure was also completely atrocious which made it harder for the work crews to plow through the remaining work quickly. I think a few short cuts were made, and a couple of important pieces got overlooked which reared their ugly heads as we rounded Cape Hatteras on our second night. We had new chargers put on our engines which allows the alternators to put out higher amperage to charge our house battery bank as back up to our solar panels. There was one wire that didn’t get hooked up correctly, so the alternators weren’t charging anything while we were underway. We had enough light on the solar panels, so this wasn’t an issue for the house bank, but the engine start batteries weren’t getting charged, and we eventually depleted them. Ed was able to jumper the house bank to the start batteries and keep our engines running (yes, they require the batteries to run), but this happened just before the sun went down so we ended up pretty depleted on power by the following morning. About three hours later, we then ran into an issue with our “autopilot” not steering the boat any more. Ed was able to quickly figure out the cause, and get it fixed fairly quickly. The work crew who installed our new autopilot drive unit forgot to put lock tight on the nut that basically holds the whole thing together. We are capable of hand steering, but having to do that on a multi-night passage with a two-person crew is a really quick way to get fatigued. Autohelm units are essential when running a small crew or single handing. With all our gremlins that came up, we decided pulling into the next closest port would be the smart thing to do, and that was Beaufort, NC. Once we got anchored just before noon the following day, we rested for a bit, and then Ed got the alternator charging units hooked up properly and got the nut on the autohelm secured properly. By this time, the next cold front was arriving, so we hunkered down for the next few days to wait for the next weather window. Boy, that storm was a doozy.

In any case, we had a nice, but cold, stay in Beaufort, but it was time to continue south for warmer weather. I figured we had our next window open long enough for us to make it to Fernandina Beach, FL. If for some reason it closed in sooner, we had plenty of other good places to duck in along the way. We had a very uneventful trip on leg two which made us very happy. We picked up our new sail bag (the old one had torn) that we had ordered while we were in Brunswick. The fabric was back ordered, so they were not able to deliver it before we left Brunswick, but we told them we would just pick it up on our way back south. We spent a few days in Fernandina Beach getting the new sail bag installed, and then it was time to head south again. We overnighted to Stuart, where we had hoped to catch up with friends, but we had to leave early the following morning to make Fort Lauderdale before weather closed in. We ended up anchoring in Fort Lauderdale for three days before our slip became open, got our boat nestled in and headed off to CA to visit family for Thanksgiving. We figured three weeks would be ample time to make that trip, but because of the early delay in Beaufort, we were struggling to make our date to Florida.

What’s the saying? The worst piece of equipment you can have on a boat is a calendar.

After returning from CA by way of Annapolis to pick up our car, we dug into round three of boat work. We needed new windows, and we elected to upgrade and rehab the galley and salon. The windows were all leaking, and the galley was pretty worn out from years of abuse in charter. We had a few delays because of holidays and Covid, but we finally wrapped up in early February with our boat looking like new!!

We had originally intended to make our way south to Panama via Mexico, but given how late we ended up leaving, we figured going via the Bahamas would be the better choice. We’ve mostly been camped out in George Town, Exuma for the last few months, hosting family, and we are soon making our passage to Panama! We have crew coming to help us sail this leg because it will be a minimum of seven days which is a long time to run a two person watch schedule. They are arriving in about a week when Natalie leaves to return to London. I intend to write daily posts via our satellite tracker while we are underway so you can follow along!

We are excited for our crew to arrive on May 2, and then we head to Panama with the next weather window!

Ed feeding the “pet” sting rays at Chat ‘n’ Chill

4 thoughts on “Panama Bound

  1. Love the updates! Have a wonderful experience. We just loved our time cruising and have a lifetime of stories to tell. Love hearing yours!


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