World with Catherine Nurrsaw
June 14, 2006
Just a brief trip report this time as there's a bit of a queue for
this computer, and anyway it turned out to be a rather short race.
We left Victoria under motor instead of sail, because strong currents
in the wrong direction combined with a distinct lack of wind meant
that otherwise we might have been 24 hours just getting away from the
docks. Well, most of us left under motor - Cardiff had to turn back
almost immediately as their engine broke down. A quick repair later
and they were following us down the channel, but the engine broke down
again so they eventually rejoined the rest of the fleet under tow.
Fortunately there was enough wind the next morning for us to start the
race, and the wind kept up for a few days. However, it died down again
and we were falling further and further behind our schedule for
getting to Panama. Then the news came in that there was a TRS
(Tropical Revolving Storm) a'brewin up ahead of us, with the
possibility of winds of 70 mph or higher. Under the circumstances,
Clipper decided to finish the race early, so that we could motor when
necessary and hug the coast to avoid the storm and be ready to take
shelter if necessary.
So we finished the race with 2000 miles still to go to get to Panama -
and Durbs was in 2nd place after Singapore! This now puts us in 1st
place overall - ecstatic applause, hooting, skirling and wild cheering
would be appropriate at this point.
The TRS eventually fizzled out into virtually nothing, but the wind
never really came back in any force, so we were motor-sailing for the
next 10 or so days, all along the coast of Mexico, Costa Rica,
Nicaragua, Guatamala, Panama...(those are probably not in the right
order and I may well have missed a country or two out). For the first
week the weather was glorious, but then we had rain almost solidly for
five days which washed away much of my tan.
We saw plenty of dolphins on this leg, and the occasional squid would
hurl itself suicidally onto the decks. Yet again we were a handy
stopping off point for exhausted birds, while just as we were arriving
in Panama a flock (herd? flotilla?) of butterflies surrounded the boat
- literally thousands of them. Extraordinary sight.
We had a few days in Panama - not in itself a particularly attractive
place, but the marina was good and the coastline is lovely. Plenty of
crew partying going on, as usual.
Today we went through the Panama Canal, which is a wonderful
experience. Three of our boats rafted up together to go through the
gigantic locks and a raft of another three would go through at the
same time, with acres of space to spare in front and behind the boats
and a fair amount of space on each side. When you see the size of the
cruise and container ships that go through you realise just how huge
the locks really are.
The canal is surrounded by lush tropical rainforest, and it was
wonderful to lie there in my hammock (oh, it's a hard life!) watching
the world go by. You are required to have a pilot on board each boat
as you go through the canal, although their function is not entirely
clear - our pilot spent almost the entire trip fast asleep with a
sinus spray tube stuck up his nose. Not sure whether the contents of
the tube was Vicks or some other white powder, but it clearly left him
We are spending the night in the rather unfortunately named Colon, and
will probably be starting the next race tomorrow, if all the boats are
ready to go (Cardiff still has no working engine and Qingdao has keel
problems - again!). Wish us luck!
Must hand over the computer now - no time to amend or proof-read so
please excuse typos etc.
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