Day 3 (and 2) – Sint Maarten to Panama

NOTE: I originally intended to just add onto the initial post each day, but since updates don’t get pushed out automatically to subscribers (and I’ve not had the time or inclination to figure out if that’s even possible) I will simply create a new post for each day. So here follows Day 3 (and below that, the Day 2 updated that was originally tacked onto the first post).

Day 3 – 22 July 2021

Noon position: N 17°33.953’ W 67°56.057’

Yesterday I complained about our lack of noon-to-noon mileage we progressed. Today is even worse. This is mostly due to the fact that we continue to gybe to make westing, while jumping from one surface current to the next to ensure we don’t end up in a counter current. 

I posted on our Instagram feed that it feels like we are playing an oversized game of Frogger. Come to think of it, that reference does date me a little, doesn’t it …?

While our average speed remains consistent, we only progressed 117 nautical miles toward our destination. It seems increasingly likely that we will now only arrive on Wednesday, making it an 8 day passage.

C’est la vie. 

Bow Pointing West
Our bow pointing west, trying to find the most favorable combination of current and wind to get us to our destination in safety and comfort.

When passage-making there is always a fine line between too much wind, and not enough wind. We’ve encountered everything from 12 knots to 32 knots so far on this journey. Wind direction plays as big a role as wind speed.

Because we are generally sailing with the wind from behind us on this leg, we need to subtract boat speed from wind speed to determine the effect of the wind we are actually feeling – called apparent wind. 

So if we are doing 4 knots of boat speed, and the wind from behind is 12 knots, we are actually only feeling 8 knots of wind. Of course we have slowed down to 4 knots precisely because the wind is only blowing at 12 knots and from behind, so the boat is only feeling the effect of 8 knots of wind. 

If we were in a carbon fiber, foiling racing boat we could sail at or near the speed of the wind – so we could do a respectable 7.5 knots or so. But in a big, beamy, luxury cruising boat like DOUBLESTAR we can only expect 4 or 4.5 knots. This lady is built for comfort, not speed!

Especially since we are using our main sail and heavy genoa (headsail).

Why then do we not bust out the fabulous DOUBLESTAR spinnaker? Because the winds are constantly changing. We’ve literally gone from 12 knots to 32 knots in a matter of seconds on this trip. Now at 32 knots, the same principles apply, but the boat will be shooting forward at nearly 10 knots, meaning our apparent wind will still be in the low 20s. 

Since the spinnaker (made from an extremely lightweight material – so thin it’s somewhat translucent) is rated to a maximum of around 20 knots, we would be at real risk of blowing out this very expensive sail – a risk we are not willing to take.

Sunset Caribbean Sea
Flying the genoa, our all purpose, heavy duty forward sail, en route to Panama.

Tonight we hope to finally turn toward our destination, and put the gybing behind us. We will have made enough progress to the west to allow us to point more south, meaning the wind shifts more to the side (beam) of the boat. This is a great point of sail for DOUBLESTAR and we are looking forward to making some excellent miles in the next 24 hours.

Let’s hope we do.


Day 2 – 21 July 2021

Noon position: N 17°29.025’ W 65°42.844’

Our noon-to-noon mileage was a paltry 127.50 nautical miles, even though we averaged 6.3 knots over the 24 hour period. That means we covered 151.2 nautical miles, but only progressed 127.50 nautical miles.

In land-based terms, think driving along a windy road for 15 miles to get to your destination that may only be 5 miles away as the crow flies. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we’re required to zig-zag along our intended course to allow for a sufficient angle between the wind and our sails to power the boat forward.

This means we traveled an extra 23.7 nautical miles. At 6.3 knots, those extra miles account for a little under 4 hours. The upshot to all this? We may as well be standing still for 4 hours out of every 24! This is one of the reasons why sailing to a schedule is not practical. Things just take as long as they take.

We had a decent day. If nothing else, our gybing (jibing for the US readers) is getting fast and slick, and Chef and I are able to move this 45+ ton vessel from one tack to the next without losing too much speed. I’m really proud of us.

Waxing Gibbous Moon over Caribbean Sea
Waxing Gibbous rising over the Caribbean Sea. Sailing has turned us into mild selenophiles.

We’re both also really grateful that we have finally timed our moon phase for this journey. For some reason or another we seem to always have our overnight passage-making under a new moon. While that does make for some spectacular star gazing, it also makes it hard to discern the sea state and approaching squalls. It’s much nicer to be out under a full moon at night.

This time round though our weather window aligned perfectly with the moon phase. Tonight we have a Waxing Gibbous at 93.3%, with full moon expected on Friday. 

The undisputed highlight of the day was the freshly baked cookies that came out of Chef’s newly installed GN Espace oven. These cookies are just the absolute best thing you have ever tasted, and having them fresh from the oven while under sail is an almost transcendental experience. 

Cookies baking in oven
Yes, chef bakes the MOST DELICIOUS cookies while underway. Usually the absolute highlight of my day.
Copycat Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies
Check the galley section of our site for this and other great recipes.

Fortunately for you, Chef likes to share – check the recipe out in the Galley Section.

Tune in tomorrow for the next update.

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