13/05/14 – From San Francisco to Panama

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We were really yearning for some real sailing. We were kind of fed up with surviving, obstacles sometimes bigger than what we can handle, the always drenched clothes, the cold rain and grey (black) ocean, the heavy storm uniform and the lack of sleep.

On our way from San Francisco to Panama, we got everything we wanted: we had a few extra crew members (+6 people) compared to the North Pacific, the weather was a lot better too, and we liked the direction of the wind as well. We could finally use the spinnakers – even the one with the tear in it that I actually ended up sewing together (which would fill an entire post) –, finally the food didn’t spill from the pots because of the tilting ship, there were no plastic containers flying around, and the sun came out as well.

And we found ourselves on the top of the race. This of course gave us the drive, there was no trace of being tired.

I cannot remember the crew putting so much emphasis on team work since the beginning of the race. We really wanted to win, so the classic question after every suggestion more often was: “OK, but will this increase our speed?” The work after this was a lot faster and a lot more precise.

But of course there were still – as we like to say – challenges. One of these challenges was a change in the line of bearing at the wrong time at the wrong place. Of course the fact that it was the wrong time and place now seems very clear. However it seemed like a good idea at the time. This resulted in a 24-hour long fight with the elements: the near doldrums and stormy winds alternated with each other in quick sequences, because we ended up sailing into a storm zone. This was the most times we changes sails in the entire race as far as I can recall: we took the reef in an out every 15 minutes, changed the jibs constantly. In the meantime the rain kept pouring, since it is the rainy season. Needless to say, these tumultuous circumstances did not result in an optimal speed (understatement).

But: the clouds were incredibly beautiful – maybe we’ve seen similar ones on the first phase on our way to Rio, and the sunrises and sunsets are still gorgeous.

And not to forget: the whales, dolphins, birds, giant turtles, fish jumping out of the water are incredible – especially the dolphins that swim with us at night. We were able to follow them, because their skin is luminescent under the water showing where they are. And there were many of them, thank god. They usually showed up in big groups at sunrise – making our mornings special with their uniquely elegant movements.

Once I saw a photo of a bird traveling on the back of a giant turtle and I thought that can only happen once – well, I was wrong. I saw it with my own eyes this time, it was pretty funny.

To also mention my sailing career, I was steering a lot this time, which wasn’t easy for me under the spinnaker. A lot depends on how well one can predict the movements of the ship. An instant reaction ends up being a late reaction when it comes to keeping the direction and speed of the ship. There is more to learn ad experience, but I can say, I’m making progress.

There was a moment (although I brushed it off quickly), when I got worried: how am I going to live within four walls after this?

But that’s still a while. Tomorrow at dawn (5/11/2014 to be precise) at 5 am we will begin our way to Panama and the Atlantic on the other side.

Ps: we ended up placing second in this race.

When we take over the other teams:

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