The behind the scenes work for the final leg of Izzy's journey on the catamaran XALOC began April 2, when Izzy flew from Panama to Guatemala, where XALOC has been docked since last July. Since coming to the river, XALOC has undergone quite a bit of repair work, including engine work, a new propellor, replacement of toilet hoses, replacement parts for the water maker and the second refrigerator, parts for the windvane, and most importantly - the repair of the holes and leaks that nearly caused XALOC to sink in stormy weather between Cuba and Mexico. Added to that is a new captain's chair. And a new port replicator (so that the GPS and the SSB radio can be connected simultaneously) as the original one seems to have disappeared.
Izzy brought with him a new crew member, Orlando, the assistant chef from Hotel Las Delfines in Bocas Town. The remaining crew members, Gerry and Galvino Ack, arrived on Sunday, April 13. Gerry is very happy to hear that he will no longer have to sit on a bucket while steering. And the auto pilot is working perfectly too!
Tuesday, April 15:
After provisioning, XALOC is finally off. The weather reports look favorable. First to Livingston, to clear out of Guatemala and make a few final purchases. First stop on Wednesday afternoon is La Ceiba, Honduras, for a rest after 24 hours of sailing.
Wednesday, April 16:
Izzy reports that he caught a tuna around 10:30 AM and its destined for tonight's dinner. The weather has been great, and continued good weather is forecast through the weekend. Everything is working properly! The plan is for the next stop to be one of the Bay Islands. After that, a straight shot east out to sea before turning south, next scheduled stop is San Andres, and from there, to Bocas!
Friday, April 18:
I missed Izzy's call this morning because I was at the local $.75 per hour high speed internet cafe (Belizeans eat your heart out!) so he left me a voicemail: XALOC sailed from La Ceiba to Castilla in the Bay of Trujillo yesterday. This morning at 8:30, XALOC left Castilla heading for Guanaja, the outermost of the Bay Islands, to clear out of Honduras.
Everything on XALOC is running smoothly and Izzy feels ready to head east and then south east to round Cabo Gracias a Dios. Getting around Gracias a Dios has a reputation for great difficulty, hopefully the weather will cooperate. Guanaja is the last land stop for at least 7 days, next stop will be either Providencia or San Andres. With four on board, XALOC will sail day and night. So far, so good.
Friday, April 18:
XALOC checked out of Honduras at Guanaja. Izzy had planned to check out at Castilla, but when the crew arrived, they were told that the harbor master had gone to the beach, it being a holiday. They were advised to check out at Guanaja, so they headed out, getting there at 3:30 PM, just as that port's harbor master was taking off for the beach too. It was a quick clear-out!
XALOC is heading for the Cojones Cayes (yes that really is the name!) and from there, to round Cabo Gracias a Dios. XALOC is now heading directly into wind and waves, but they are mild and low, which is good because bad weather can make this part of the journey slow and unpleasant. Once they round the cape, they will proceed south to San Andres. Izzy hopes to reach San Andres by Sunday night, if the weather continues to cooperate. The plan is to spend a day or two there and then head straight for Bocas, hopefully arriving by the end of next week.
Izzy reports that he and Gerry are teaching Orlando how to cook Belizean style (more habanero, more pepper, more garlic, more onions, etc.) and he will return to his chef job with new gourmet skills. The crew is eating well, lots of fresh caught fish tacos with rice and beans.
All the repairs continue to pay off, everything is working great. The water maker is pumping out water and the crew are getting freshwater showers. The only problem is the satellite is not charging in the cradle as it should be }, so Izzy has to take it off and charge it with the cigarette lighter charger.
Saturday, April 19:
Izzy called just now to relay the first "OOPS" event of the trip (what journey is complete without at least one "OOPS" adventure?) - early this morning, a steel bar that is part of the structure that George built to hold the wind turbine and solar panel suddenly snapped in half, threatening to launch the turbine and panels into the sea. Luckily, Gerry saw it, yelled for Izzy, and together, they managed to pull the panel and turbine up. They were able to jury rig the solar panel with lines and straps so that it is still up, but the wind turbine is now de-activated for the duration. (George: bring your tool box!)
The crew took a break from fish and had chicken, which had been prepared at Mario's Marina and frozen) with rice for lunch.
Izzy reports that XALOC is now approaching Punta Patuca. There is no wind but the waves are short and choppy and the current is strong (and, of course, in the wrong direction) So the sails are down and XALOC is motoring chuggily towards Cayo Cajones. The crew will sail through the night and should reach Cayo Cajones early tomorrow morning, then start turning south. XALOC will probably arrive at San Andres around Tuesday.
12:15 P.M. Sunday, April 20:
XALOC is about 48 miles northwest of Cabo Gracias a Dios, sailing between the various small Cayos Cajones, and has begun the turn toward the south, moving at about 7 knots with sails up.
Early this morning, Izzy caught a fish, so breakfast was fish with onions and rice, with tortillas. The plan is to anchor behind one of the cayes so that Izzy can climb up the mast and tighten the windvane, which appears to be loose. This morning, Izzy did some preventative maintenance on the engine - oil change, replace cooling hose, etc.
Izzy expects to be at San Andres by Tuesday and head for Bocas Wednesday evening or very early Thursday morning, with arrival in Bocas probably sometime on Sunday.
Sunday evening, April 20:
XALOC crossed over the midpoint of Cabo Gracias a Dios at approximately 6:08 P.M. Sunday evening. Wind is good and XALOC is moving along quickly with the increasing turn to the south. Izzy expects to be in San Andres Tuesday morning. The crew dined on prepared chicken, with onions and potatoes, black beans, and rice.
Monday morning, 10:20 A..M:
XALOC is about 80 miles north of San Andreas, having navigated between many small cayes throughout the night. This was a trickly proposition, because the water is very shallow, with lots of rocks and coral heads. The antenna for the GPS fell down, rendering the GPS unusable, but Izzy stuck his handheld depth sounder into the water tank and it was able to read the bottom, allowing XALOC to avoid obstacles until they reached deep water.
When Izzy awoke at 5:30 this morning, everybody was asleep and XALOC was moving along on course. They will check into San Andres tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.
Monday evening, 5 P.M. April 21:
The "isolated thunderstorms" predicted seem to be following XALOC as she approaches San Andres. Then, the wind shifted inexplicably to the south, which forced the crew to take down the sails. After a couple of hours of no progress, the wind shifted back to the east and the large sail went back up. Izzy expects to reach San Andres by around 3 to 5 A.M. Tuesday morning.
To make things a bit more interesting, the SSB radio antenna fell off, but was luckily rescued from a watery grave, it will be put back up in San Andres, but for now, no more weather faxes. So I am sending Izzy the forecast reports via text message on the satphone.
Dinner soon, chicken, rice, beans and tortillas. Everybody but Izzy is still asleep. I located a couple of maritime agents, and have given Izzy their names and phone numbers. San Andres requires the use of a commercial maritime agent for all boats entering.
Tuesday morning, April 22:
Just when you thought these reports were way too dull - The I Don't Need No Stinking Anything Day...
Sometime during the middle of the night, the computer went dead. Thinking it might be low battery, Izzy plugged it in...it still won't start up. No more electronic charting, so Izzy is back to the old fashioned way - paper charts.
About three miles from San Andres, Izzy turned the engine back on and found it was empty of fuel. Not to worry - they hail a passing fishing boat, throw a bag of money to it and an hour or so later, he comes back with the fuel. Unfortunately, the engine now refuses to start and is still balking. There is no obvious reason why it won´t start and a look through the owner's manual fails to reveal anything.
So, XALOC is now sailing towards San Andres, Izzy will go past the island and turn around to tack back in order to get into port without a motor. XALOC is now doing everything the old fashioned way (Peter and Ray will appreciate this!) - no computer, no radio (other than VHS), no electronic charts, no engine. The maritime agent is waiting and if they cannot maneuver into port, they will anchor and come ashore in the dinghy and hopefully bring a mechanic back to check the engine after the paperwork is done.
Tuesday afternoon, April 22:
After a couple of hours of watching XALOC attempt to get through the buoys and over the reef sans engine, the Colombian Coast Guard, whose ship was anchored nearby, offered a tow, which was gratefully accepted. They were very nice, after assuring themselves that there were no drug dealers or other undesireables aboard, and quickly got XALOC into port.
The maritime agent is on his way to clear XALOC and her crew into Colombia, and the plan is to dinghy to shore, get a hotel and a nice dinner and crash for the night. Tomorrow, Izzy will resume trying to get the engine running again, replace the SSB radio antenna, fix the computer, etc. Right now, Izzy and crew are pooped!
Wednesday late afternoon, April 23:
Izzy called to let me know that the engine was now running fine and they will make sure it does not run out of fuel again. The SSB radio antenna is now up again and Izzy is working on the rack for the solar panel.
Unfortunately, the computer is still dead. Even when fully charged, it does not turn on, the screen does not light up at all. We will take it to the local computer repair guy when izzy gets to Bocas, but for now, weather information will have to come via the satellite phone, as there is no screen to play weather faxes. This is a 5 year old Gateway laptop, maybe its reached its shelf life, or maybe it got bounced around once too often (though if that was the problem, you would think it would have died on the last voyage which was far more bouncy...). One thing is for sure, telecommunications redundancy is a good thing!
XALOC will probably set sail for Bocas Friday evening or very early Saturday morning, and should arrive by Monday morning.
Sunday, April 26:
Izzy left San Andres about 6 PM Friday night. By Saturday morning at 8:30 they had gotten half way to Bocas (about 100 miles). Everything is working except the computer which may have gone to techno-heaven. All three sails are up. Wind was great coming out of San Andres but has now shifted to variable, which means a lot of tacking but they are still moving along at about 6 knots.
Last night, XALOC passed near some reefs, which lit up as though someone had shined a flourescent spotlight. It was very beautiful, and dolphins have followed XALOC since early morning.
Izzy expects to arrive in the early hours of Sunday morning. Arrangements have been made for the port captain's secretary to do the clearing in paperwork for an extra fee (they are closed on weekends) so XALOC's crew should be on land in time for an early breakfast on Sunday!
Sunday morning, April 27:
XALOC is here! It arrived at 2:30 A.M. and anchored near the port captain's office. The crew dined on leftovers and beer and then got a few hours sleep. Izzy is going through the clear in process now.
Dolphins continued to play around XALOC last night until the boat passed over the reef.
Mission accomplished! The journey took twelve days, including the 3 days in San Andres.