255 Miles “On the Nose”
After a very peaceful evening back in Portobelo we woke at dawn to clear skies and a light nor’easterly breeze. The time had come to leave Panamanian waters and head north for the Caribbean Cruising Season. Our intended destination – Isla Providencia, a group of small islands and reefs located off the Nicaraguan Coast north west of Panama and governed by Colombia, a mixture of Spanish and English speaking, Colombian and Afro Caribbean inhabitants ~ sounded quite a mixture really.
Our weather forecast was for light north to nor’easterly breezes and slight seas. Experience tells us that forecasts can often be very wrong, this trip was to be “hard on the wind” so we really didn’t want anything more than 15 knots maximum. With anchor stowed and sails hoisted we left the bay and headed out to sea. We started with choppy seas until we were well clear of land then things calmed down and we had a comfortable passage considering the whole time we were sailing as close to the wind as we could without stalling the sails. Our British friends on Samarang had left the day before us from the San Blas and were having a horrible time, winds up to 25knots and very lumpy seas. We kept thinking it would come to us but besides a few squalls, most of which we sailed around, it really wasn’t too bad.
Our biggest problem was the wind angle, and no matter how many times we adjusted course to pinch a extra degrees or two we just couldn’t lay our course without tacking. So we slipped in 8 tacks, it is quite soul destroying when your target is around 335 degrees and you are sailing off pointing at 90 degrees, with strong current against and doing 2.5 knots over the ground, (I can walk faster than that) just so you can get back to a point where you can tack back again and vaguely point at the desired destination!! At times we had huge pods of small dolphins playing with us, they had pink bellies that glistened as they showed off their somersault skills. At night we had the full moon, almost bright enough to read by and such a bonus on 12 hour nights. On our 2nd and 3rd nights before the moon rose a maze of stars glistened, the conditions were just beautiful.
We persevered with our tacking and after 2 nights at sea we had only covered 160 miles (in a straight line but we had sailed many more), quite possibly an all time low record for us but at day break on our 3rd day conditions improved and the wind kept moving to the east all morning, at last we could point above the island. Around 10pm on our 3rd night we saw the loom of the southern lighthouse and finally after slowly motoring around the well lit seabuoy and down the straightforward entry channel at 1.30am under brilliant moonlight we dropped anchor in the bay. Definitely time for a rum! It may have taken 66 hours but after 4 months in the marina …
We had arrived in Paradise
For all the info on entry waypoints, anchoring, checking in etc to Providenica and more details on the passages to and from click here to view our Cruising Info Blog