Ad Astra to Panama Sail Plan

16:00 January 25, 2019

We just finished checking out of Mexico – our second visit making 8 months we have spent here in the Hermana Republic.

We are now watching the weather very carefully and trying to decide on leaving tomorrow morning, or 48 hours later on Monday morning. There is a northern front coming in tomorrow and we could roll with the front and sail south for a bit, and then make a left and make our easting as the front slows down as it goes south. The seas would be about 1.7m on the beam, just on the edge of our no-go size.

If we wait for Monday, we get a beam or even aft of the beam sail to make our easting, and lower overall swells in the 0.8-1.2m range. Much more comfortable, for sure, but 48 hours delay – and the weather always changes.

So I am posting this note now, and will check the weather again at midnight and in the morning, and will update this post on we do final anchor up.

900+ nm to Bocas de Toro

900+ nm to Bocas de Toro

Follow us on our satellite tracker here…

At the moment, the anchorage is uncomfortable with 20 kts and scattered rain and a lee shore behind us. We have 200 feet of 12mm chain out and have backed down very heard on the anchor. Second night at this spot – feeling actually good about the anchor.

Kaiwen and Sue are cooking several meals so we will have delicious lasagna and spaghetti and a few more meals prepped.

The passage is a little over 900nm, estimated time for passage is 5 to 7 days, and I suspect 7 days it will be. But depends on how many RPMs we use when making the easting, the adverse waves and the winds. The bottom is clean, and Ad Astra made 7.9 kts with two engines doing 2400 rpms against 15kts from Puerto Aventuras to Cozumel – but the island blocked the swells.

Our strategy is to make a very wide lazy right hand turn, see the chart snapshot, we need to get to 81W before settling in for the southbound reach. We do not want to get closer than 50nm of the piracy reports from early 2018. In case of strange vessels our plan is simple – 2800+ rpms into the swells and run away. Lots of reports that this works – and also we are 50 nm away from their operating range.

Our path also takes us conservatively more east first, preserving an option to the Caymans after 2 days if we need that bail out. But the crew is anxious to get on to Panama as we have a date with a certain canal!

In early December we raced back to Mexico to go see my dad before he passed, and we had some beautiful time with him.

Getting back to Ad Astra, has been, well frankly, a lot of work. The bash from Honduras to Mexico hurt Ad Astra’s feelings and she gave us a list of things to attend to.

The largest item was our Onan-Cummins generator failed 15 minutes into running when we came back from California. No error code, but did not take long to discover the shredded impeller from the water pump and the salt-water in the engine oil. After much YouTube and consulting with two different trusted mechanics, I planned on doing the head gasket change myself. After the parts arrived though, I chickened out, and decided that I would trust the dealer to do the repair properly and I would assist and learn.

We spent 3 days on the engine, and I learned a lot. We replaced the head-gasket, impeller, and changed out the water temperature sender as it failed to shut off the engine previously.

After 3 days and a little north of $1200 for parts and labor – the generator worked – for one hour – then blew its head gasket again.


Well damn, we were out of time, we need to move on.

I changed the oil and oil filter one more time for the generator and decided we would live with out it for the passage to Panama – and will repair it there.

While waiting for the parts for the generator we went on a forced march repair schedule and accomplished the following boat tasks:

  • Replaced the shattered solar panel
  • Changed the impellers, engine oil, and sail drive oil on both Yanmar diesel engines (the belts are close to new).
  • Replaced the flickering LED strip lighting in the Salon and the two STBD cabins
  • Resurfaced the cockpit table
  • Found two different leaks on the dinghy patched them, and made a new large-sized wear patch across the bow seam.
  • Re-mounted the wash-down pump that got bumped out of its stock position with the repair to the house water pressure pump back in Honduras
  • Replaced and improved the outside shower head
  • Replaced both engine starter batteries
  • And a host of smaller tasks including hauling all items and tools out of our lockers, cleaning, pruning and re-organizing.

Ad Astra is in really great shape and she is eager for the passage. Just down a generator, but we do have 2200 watts of solar and two diesel engines with 80A alternators on each.

Looking forward to seeing Panama!