Tuesday, January 15, 2013

At land, at last

Position: 07°16'N, 80°56'W – Ensenada Naranjo, Panama

Pacific Ocean – tick.

Just after lunch on Monday, it seemed that the voyage across the Pacific
had finally taken its toll on our mental states. A Panamanian Aeronaval
patrol boat had appeared on the horizon and wide-eyed, not daring to
believe what we were seeing, we pinched ourselves to make sure it was
real. We only really did believe it when the VHF radio crackled into
life and a naval officer announced that they would reach us in five
minutes.

We scurried around setting up lines and fenders, not knowing what was
about to happen but trying to prepare for every scenario. Would they
give us fuel? Would they tow us to land? Would they come on board and
search the boat to make sure that we weren't some Columbian banditos
trying to pull a fast one?

Thankfully they had an English speaker on board so the First Mate got
busy on the VHF and next thing we knew, we were being towed for the
final 25nm back to land. At 8 knots per hour, the Aeronaval Skipper was
struggling to keep the engine going at minimum speed; Ashling was
struggling to keep up with speeds she has never seen before, even in the
best or worst of weather conditions.

We arrived at the secluded bay of Ensenada Naranjo in the northwest of
Panama just after sunset. This morning the Skipper went ashore with some
of the Navy crew to buy fuel and do the equivalent of a supermarket
trolley-dash, running around the Super 99 in Santiago like a madman,
grabbing items randomly from the shelves – bread, beer, ham, milk, Betty
Crocker's Instant Chocolate Cake mix (forget Coca Cola, Betty C is a
case study for globalisation!). They returned a few hours later to fill
up our fuel tank and check that everything was working as it should
before leaving us to a sunny afternoon alone in the anchorage.

Words cannot describe how we feel right now. The past 24 hours has been
such a whirlwind of activity that our emotions haven't quite caught up.
One minute we had resigned ourselves to a further 3-7 days at sea; the
next minute we were at anchor, surrounded by trees and birds and land.
It will take a few days (and a few beers) to fully come to terms with it
all but already, relief, ecstasy and bewilderment make a good start.

We cannot thank the Panamanian Coastguard / Navy enough. They were so
professional in everything they did for us, even when at first they
thought we were some silly kids who had run out of fuel after only a few
days of sailing down the coast from California. Once they heard that
they were the first people we had seen in 54 days, their stunned faces
showed that they had suddenly revised their opinion of us.

And from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you to all of you who have
sent us encouraging messages over the last two months and the last few
days. You have brought tears to our eyes but they have been tears of
joy, gratitude and appreciation for the many people who are thinking of
us. You made this long ocean crossing so much easier for us; your
support, your encouragement, your positive words made a world of
difference to our days and worked wonders to re-energise us both
physically and mentally. We will never forget it.

And now with a cold beer in one hand and a massive bowl of spaghetti
bolognaise in the other, I find I have no hand left to type with. What a
dilemma!

7 comments:

  1. I'm so jealous of your trip, while you've definitely had your share of ups and downs so far it sounds amazing and your updates are definitely showing how well you're coping with everything that's thrown at you. Enjoy the next few days and the sense of your accomplishment!

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  2. Woohoo!!! Felicidades!! Fantastic news guys, looking forward to the Facebook updates x

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  3. Amazing amazing amazing. Well done you guys. You are legendary!!! Xo

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  4. Congrats lads, I'm absolutely thrilled for you. What an adventure, and I'm really loving your weekly updates :-)

    Now enjoy, have a rest, crack open a few beers, etc.

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  5. Wow 54 days....
    Enjoy the lay of the land... with the emphasis on the land bit.
    Love hearing your stories.
    Paula

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  6. Congats on completing the toughest leg, all plain sailing from here ?

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  7. Ya made it! Congrats you guys! What an epic journey :) And still so much to come... This would've made a better case for a TV show you know Eithne ;) hehe

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