Leg 7, Race 10: Seattle to Panama

We left Seattle to a ceremony which involved the navy band playing us out along with a fire boat giving us a watery display during the parade of sail. As Seattle has a major shipping lane leading up to the city we motored out to sea for another Le Mans start.

The climate was noticeably warmer then on our way into Seattle which was reassuring as I’ve learnt that I’m not good at coping in the cold during this race!

For the leg I’ve been given the role of navigator for our watch (haha I hear you cry!) so am glad that all that needs to happen really is ensuring the land is always on out port side and then we can’t go wrong! It’s good to be pushed with new skills and I’ve enjoyed learning more. Dan has also begun to teach me how to use a sextant which so far I’ve not been that successful with but hoping to get better as time goes on.

We have been treated to much more wildlife this race and I’ve ticked off turtle in my spotting list. They always seemed to be waving at us as they floated by. We have had lots of Dolphins of all shapes and sizes and have been treated to their dancing across the bow and jumping out the water. There have been a few sail fishes passing us which are another impressive sight. One evening we were treated to the most spectacular moon – it was so bright and then was encased by a halo of light and fluffy clouds. I wish I could have taken a photo of it to share but sadly it doesn’t work in the dark nor is it ever possible to capture these amazing skies in their full glory.

The weather has brought lighter winds and less challenging conditions which has meant the fleet has stayed closer together. This has also meant for the majority of the race we’ve had sight of other yachts which makes for a different kind of race. The weather continued to warm up the further south we got so back to living in a sweat pool. As disgusting as it sounds I’m still happy to be hot! At least the racing hasn’t been as strenuous as the last hot leg was although the conditions have been tough for some of our joiners!

This race started with a number of possible finish points due to the timings for transiting the Panama Canal. This meant that we weren’t sure where the end would be as it all depended on the progress of those at the back of the fleet. It also meant that we could have crossed a line before knowing it was to be the end, which is what happened. This meant that when the message came that the race was over it was a little deflating as we were racing hard to catch those in front of us still, we had just run out of water! I know we can’t win them all, and I’m glad that ClipperTelemed+ have got their first podium, however this hasn’t helped me being a bad loser!

As the race ended so far from Panama we had a long motor sail to get us there. This did allow for more of a cruising existence rather then our full on racing mode. We carried out jobs on the boat to make sure we were ready for the next race and also had daily swims in the sea. These were magical for not only cooling us down but also how often do you get to swim in 3000m deep seas?
Because of the long motor we had to refuel which meant we have added a Costa Rica stamp to the passport (even though we were only there for about 3 hours!).

We arrived on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal and found out we would be transiting the next day. This left us with half a day to explore Panama City (thanks to Ruth H for the suggestions of where to go!) before being ready to transit. We also visited the canal museum to get some of the history under our belt. The transit begun at 6.30am and we were to go through with UNICEF and ClipperTelemed+. We went under the bridge of the Americas and then rafted up with the other two boats to head into the first set of locks. We were going through with a massive container ship that was nearly as wide as the lock! I have to admit that the first set of locks was quite exciting but once the rain came the transit became less exciting. We had to moor up half way through the transit to wait for a second pilot to come and we saw a crocodile! I helmed for part of the second section of the canal which was good fun and another item to tick off the ‘done’ list. The last set of locks we reached just after sunset and went in with the same large vessel but this time in front of them and as our raft edged past them you could almost touch it.

We arrived in Shelter Bay marina at about 10.30pm after a long day on the canal. We are here until we depart for the next race in 4 days time – there isn’t a lot here so we have enjoyed an informal relax with outdoor pool and walking in the jungle!

I’m ready for the next race and hope we will be able to do better than the last. Fingers crossed we get lucky this time! We are now on the ‘right’ side of the world and nearing home. I still, don’t know what life holds when I return or what I want to do but know that I am going to miss the sailing life I’m currently having.

Until New York xxxx