We are very pleased to be able to share the letters we
received from the voyage of a British crew of three, which started in Trinidad
Having bought 'Prana', in spite of the last boat he had crewed aboard being shipwrecked, the skipper,
Chris Baily, fills us in on a bit of the background to the trip:
" 'Prana' (apparently this is a Hindu word, meaning 'the breath of life') is a 1968 Steel Cutter,
56' (16 metres) length overall and 46' on the water line.
At 18 tons she's quite heavy but only draws 5 ½', which is very handy for shallow
anchorages. With over 1000 sq. feet of sails she's not the slowest boat
I spent several months working on her to get ready for the trip ahead. Truth be told, I could probably have done all the work in a couple of weeks, but Trinidad was a fun place.
I made a lot of very good friends there, and spent more time socializing than working.
The first trip was to Tobago, 60 nautical miles away. This confirmed that 'Prana' although hard work, was capable of being sailed single handed.
Back to Trinidad and a bit more work, then a quick plane trip back to the UK for a month and, all too soon, back to Trinidad just before Christmas.
Tobago is such a nice place, that a whole group of yachts decided to go there for Christmas. Unfortunately due to some very unseasonable weather only four of us made it.
Even worse was the fact that that did not include the boat with Christmas dinner on it."
(Ed: Oops! Guilty as charged - that was your editors! Leopard Normand was
forced to turn back for Chaguaramas by unbeatable headwinds and a split
exhaust pipe, bearing the
materials intended for the Tobago Christmas dinner!Don't worry, we found
an alternative crowd of yachting locusts to share it with, so nothing went
"Anyway a good time was had by all that made it. Stayed until after New Years'
then went back to Trinidad to start the job of provisioning and getting everything ready to leave.
This included fitting radar and long range radio (in theory around the world) and various other bits and pieces.
My girlfriend/first mate, Sam, flew out to join me at the beginning of February, and we started work in earnest, provisioning the boat for the trip.
By the time we had finished, the boat must have been two or three inches lower in the water. After a round of farewells and several parties we decided it was time to set
off and so, on the 27th of February '99, the anchor was lifted and we headed out to Bonaire in the ABC islands, off Venezuela."
THE VOYAGE STARTS HERE!
"Four days and 465 nautical miles later, we arrived in Bonaire. It
was the longest time I' had been at sea thus far and the furthest trip. A very nice steak and a bottle of Chateau
Neuf-de-Pap, at the first restaurant we came to, seemed a just reward.
Bonaire is a lovely island and one of the top dive sites in the world, the whole
of the area around the island being an underwater nature reserve.
After a very relaxed five days it was time to move on. This must have been one of the nicest places with regards to Customs and immigration formalities, and everything was completed in about 20 minutes. They even apologized for charging us 25 cents for overtime as it was a Sunday!
Most other places take about half a day and involve a lot more money.
From Bonaire our next destination was Panama, and we had to be there to pick up the third member of the crew, a friend,
Joe, who was who was flying in on the 11th of March to join us for the trip to New Zealand.
A fairly uneventful trip of 835 nautical miles saw us in Panama six days later.
We were getting better at this long distance sailing!
It was quite an emotional entrance into Panama - the gateway to another ocean, different people and cultures, a definite milestone in the trip.
We stayed at the yacht club for a few days filling up with water and more food for the long trip across the Pacific.
We'd heard so much about a group of islands 60nm from Panama that it was decided to delay our transit of the canal and go out for a week or two and have a nice relaxed time.
Describing the San Blas islands I leave to Sam (see Coastal Communities on
the Around And About pages of Lay Days) but I have to say, most definitely,
that this is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.
After nearly two weeks in the San Blas it was time to head back to Panama and begin the preparations for transiting the canal, or 'The Big Ditch' as it is fondly known by the locals.
Several boats each year are seriously damaged by the turbulence, caused by the force of water entering the
locks, so we were a little nervous but after the first three locks it was a very pleasant motor sail across the
lake to the second three locks and out into the Pacific. (Ed: You can
read Chris Baily's excellent article on transiting the Panama Canal in
'Remember To Breathe In And Out
Slowly' in 'The Big Ditch', also in this section).
We stayed on the other side for just under a week, getting odds and ends, filling up with fuel
and also water, again.
Then, finally, the time came when we were ready to go to the Galapagos islands.
On the first day out, we caught 4 Bonita (small tuna) and, later on, we caught a 25lb Dorado, otherwise known as Dolphin Fish, which was delicious.
The first few days were great, we had good winds and could see hammer-head sharks, basking in the sun, turtles, some dolphins and even a whale.
We found the doldrums fairly early on, and that is where the fun stopped, with no wind and rolly seas.
We had taken on enough fuel to motor through them, only to have the gear box die on us.
Joe and I managed to fix it, but it lasted about 10 hours and then gave up the ghost.
We had a very slow trip, the highlight being the crossing of the equator and the appearance of King Neptune.
The trip took 15 days and 1183 nautical miles, and we had to launch the dinghy to tow us in when we arrived. The sea lions were there to give us an escort in, which was a lovely sight.
Galapagos was a complete eye opener. I was expecting a few flat islands with a lot of very big tortoises. We had great fun, and several very enjoyable evenings consuming rather more than a healthy amount of alcohol.
The islands are governed by Ecuador, whose currency, the Sucre, is not very strong.
As a result, it was possible to buy a two course lunch, with a soft drink, for the equivalent of a pound sterling, less than two US dollars.
We had a day trip, up to the hills, to find some giant tortoises and see the lava tunnels.
We decided to do the trip on horseback. Has to be a first for everything!
When we turned up the horses had wooden seats and potato sacks as padding.
Despite the pain, we all had a fantastic day.
Sam and I went on a diving trip, for the day, which was one of the most memorable things I have done in ages.
We were swimming with the sea-lions and their pups, and about forty hammerhead sharks!
After seeing everything we wanted to, we started to arrange for water to be sent out to the boat, fuel etc., and also get some more provisions.
Sam and I went up to the back streets, to find a shop we had been told about, where you can order vegetables and fruit.
We finally managed to find the shop which was, just slightly, different from the ones back home. Rotting fruit and vegetables everywhere!
Sam's Spanish had improved, enormously, during our trip - she was able to order everything we
needed and quite a bit extra!
US$ 77.50, and one hour, later, we had a huge list of things which we were to pick up, on the dock, early on Monday morning.
We had everything imaginable. There were sacks of onions and potatoes, a hand of green bananas, pineapples, lots of veggies, plus three dozen eggs.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the first part of Chris, Sam and Joe's voyage as much as we
did. Next issue, Chris takes us into the Pacific Ocean, visiting Isla Isabella first. Hope you'll join us for the continuing saga!
In the meantime, you may like to read about their somewhat fraught transit of
the Panama Canal, in 'Remember To Breathe In
And Out Slowly´ in The Big Ditch. Sam, on returning to the U.K., opened a delicatessen in Salcombe, with her