Our TERRORIZING Cruise to Panama, It is a Nail Biter!…37

It was time to check out of Costa Rica and head to Panama. Checking out of a country is a bit complicated. You have to check out of customs and immigrations in addition to the normal port to port check in/out. We were in Golfito, Costa Rica at Banana bay. These guys made it as easy as they could, Thank you Andrei.

This Map shows planned route and areas we stopped with black “X”. Red “X” is at Punta Mala (Bad Tip) and our difficult nail biting path with red line.

panama to vista mar map
Map from Golfito to Vista Mar Marina, San Carlos Panama

Our plan was a 3 leg jump to Vista Mar Marina in San Carlos Panama. Our first leg was Isla Parida, Bahia Catalina. This is a nice quiet cove protected from wind and waves. We had some dolphins off our bow multiple times during the day and we had our fishing lines out. (see dolphin video at end of blog) We caught lots of Bonito, which we don’t really like, so they went back in. But mid afternoon we caught a Dorado which is Mahi Mahi. img_5308We were so excited, sorry no pics of the catch. It is really hard work with just two of us catching fish. Not only do we have to take care of getting the fish into the boat, cleaning and packaging, someone has to drive. Luckily we are in a big wide open ocean and Dan was able to help me get it in. Then he cleaned it and I preparing it for packaging while we switch off driving. I saved some for dinner and froze the rest. We had a great dinner with a fresh homemade pineapple salsa. It was awesome.  We had a nice evening.

Next morning we were off to Isla Cebaco. This island had a nice cove for us to pull into. It was calm spot for an evening at anchor. The only issue was the water was deep close up to the shore, making it hard to anchor. This caused us a bit of an issue, as we like anchoring in about 25-30 feet of water but that was only a few hundred feet from the shoreline. When we put out the anchor we were swinging way to close to shore. Time to pull it back up and try again in a different spot. Second try was a success, we were still a bit close to shore then we would normally like, but we put on our anchor alarm & depth alarm to assure we didn’t get pulled too far. We had a nice evening and we were all good, all night long, with our anchor spot. We had decided to sleep in a bit because our next run was going to be a 24 hour run, so there was no need to hurry.

We left the anchorage around 9:00 am. The first 8 hours were pretty uneventful, we had fishing lines back out, but didn’t catch anything worth keeping. Around 4pm the waves started picking up a bit, but it was no big deal, it happens often, just a little rough water. (start of the red line on map above) We decided to pull in the fishing lines. It was getting almost dinner time, dark would set soon and it is no fun catching & cleaning a fish when it is a bit rough & dark. The waves and wind continued to pick up, it got worse and worse. By 6pm it was dark and we were getting hit hard with waves head on.

Funny thing about bad waves in the dark, you can’t see them coming, they just hit you!

Normally Dan and I do swaps “on watch” where I sleep between 10-2ish, then he sleeps and I watch until sunlight. So we started our normal routine. Dan went to rest sometime around 7 so he could take over about 10pm. Dan was starting to not feel well.

We were taking the waves pretty hard straight into the bow of the boat. I decided I needed to talk to Dan about it. We discussed  and we decided to turn a bit east taking the waves at a 20° angle on our port bow. This did help a bit but the waves were really big. Dan took over watch and I went and attempted to rest a bit but could not sleep. I could hear Dan getting sea sick and decided to let him take a rest. For a while he just crashed on the floor at the helm, but he eventually moved to the couch in the salon. I was in auto pilot, standing at the wheel, holding on for dear life. I used my legs as springs for up, down, side to side over and over again. It was exhausting. These waves were about 8 feet tall and we were taking green water over the bow on each hit. You have to understand that this was not a easy run and we had no choice about going forward. There was no turning around or a bay to hide in, as the nearest anchorage was exposed to the open sea. It was go forward, slowly, period!

The waves were now increasing in frequency to about 4 secs apart at 8 feet high.

If you are a boater, you know the golden rule about square waves. If the frequency is 4 seconds, you want the height of the wave to be much less than 4 feet. When height is taller than seconds, it is not fun.

Well, we were in a considerable amount of discomfort at 8 feet, 4 seconds. I was just focused on doing my job and not focusing on any fear, won’t do any good to be afraid! WELL, until a crazy unexpected wave hit us so hard, BANG, CRASH, BOOM! it is dark and I couldn’t see a thing. I was very concerned, I wasn’t sure what broke but something did!! Then the water started to pouring in on me at the helm. The side helm doors were closed, so it wasn’t that. It was coming down the flybridge hatch over my head. Water was just pouring in and I’m now standing in water and was really frightened of what could have broken.

My first thought was, the sink in a cabinet on the flybridge, maybe it broke loose and the water pipe broke.

Whatever happened I was going to need Dan and quickly! I hollered for him to come see what happen up top. (he didn’t tell me at the time) but said later, the flybridge had a couple inches of water moving around up top. BUT, It wasn’t fresh water, it was sea water. We had taken a wave so big and at such an angle that it hit over top of the flybridge windscreen, 20 feet above the waterline. Ok, now I was frightened!!! My fear was related to, what happened if more waves hit us in the same way. We cleaned up the floor, but we were still not close to being out of the woods yet.

We realized, as the bow of our boat was down at the bottom of the wave a another big wave quickly hit us while we were at a vulnerable position sending water over the flybridge window and down the hatch at the helm!

Dan went and laid back down and I kept at it. We turned a bit farther east. Dan came to check on me around midnight. I was tired, my feet hurt, my nerves were rattled and I hadn’t had any sleep yet. Dan was planning on going back to the couch, since he was still sea sick. But I had another idea and told him I couldn’t take it any longer, I was just too tired. Dan had to take over, vomit bag in hand. Yay.

I slept for 3 hours, pretty hard sleep, even in the rough seas. We had discussed earlier in the evening that as we passed Punta Mala, translations: bad point/tip (red x on map), and cut across the bay, we were expecting a bit calmer waves/wind situation. Obviously NOT!! When I woke up around 3am the waves were still big but had adjusted a bit to our benefit. We were still not counting our chickens before they were hatched! Dan went and laid back down to sleep some more and the sea condition continued to get better & better.

By 5:15-ish the sun was starting to come up, the waves continued to get better and I cracked open one of the side helm doors for some fresh air. I saw our life ring laying on the side deck. I didn’t want it gone, so I pulled open the door a bit more to grab it. img_5312Then I saw something else, I wasn’t sure what it was and had to get a flashlight. I understand now what the noise was when we took that big wave over the flybride. Our heavy dock box that was filled full of cleaning supplies was picked up, flipped over and shoved down the side deck.  Underneath was part of the life ring, cushions from the bow seat piled around the box. WOW, the bow seat had a cover over it. I wondered where that went along with the other cushions and all the contents of the box and anything else that was on the bow. I opened up the other side door to find our heavy stern anchor and rode laying on the other side. I could see another cushion, but wasn’t going to get it yet.. still too dark. I was sure we lost many of the pillows/cushions overboard along with cleaning supplies & the bow seat cover. Who knows what else?? 

As the sun came all the way up, Dan woke to see how we were doing. We found some items that had slid all the way along the side deck to the back door. We picked up some cleaning bottles that survived, a couple cushions/pillows and found our bow seat cover too. I was feeling pretty good we didn’t lose too much. We still needed to take inventory once in the marina. Dan was doing a bit better and we headed into Vista Mar Marina, San Carlos in much calmer seas on the last hour of our trip. 

We were both pretty wiped out after arriving at the marina and were really happy nothing worse happened to us or the boat. We lost some items, but with all the inventory done we had just a few items gone. Feeling very lucky that all my cushions and seat cover were all recovered. Later when Dan analyzed the snaps on the seat cover to see why it came undone. The dock box had hit many snaps and destroyed them and the wind/waves took it the rest of the way off. We were grateful for our Hatteras, she performed well in such rough seas!

We also should have been more prepared. We didn’t take the rough seas and dark night as seriously as we should have.  We just didn’t think it was going to be that rough. We are always so cautious and always take safety first. We just needed to be a bit more diligent about it, remembering the items on the bow.

The prediction of the waves and wind were off…as we all know, they are just predictions. We do the best we can with the forecast we have. We feel lucky and keep focused on the positive side…. We could have lost more items, the rough seas could have lasted longer than our horrible 14 hour journey, the dock box could have slammed into the helm window and we could have both been sick. But we made it, we learned stuff and don’t ever want to get caught in that rough seas, for that long of a time again!

We are grateful for you as readers and that we are both safe and sound to report back to you of our adventures. The good and the BAD!

Next Blog… A Panama Transit, A time lapse adventure on film! And photos too, of course.

Dolphin video…that I mentioned about above. If you watch closely you will see a mom and her baby side by side.

 Thanks again for your continued support!

The crew and owners of Angelique CPMY

Side Note: We fixed the snaps on the seat cover, installed padeyes to hold the dock box in place and stowed the rest of the items.




21 thoughts on “Our TERRORIZING Cruise to Panama, It is a Nail Biter!…37”

  1. OMG! What a wild adventure you two had! I’m so happy everything turned out ok, it could have been so much worse. Like you said, you learned a lot and don’t ever want to do that again.
    Take care, rest up, and take it easy 😉
    Love you guys 😘

  2. I am speechless!!!! You are my hero! I’ve had meltdowns over much less than that, hence why we’re back home.
    I’m glad you’re both safe and I pray that the rest of your journey will be calm winds, and fair seas, (or is it the other way around 🤔). ☺️
    Hugs for all!

  3. Well, you could be here in the lovely North Pacific Ocean
    NW wind 35 to 45 kt easing to 30 to 35 kt in the
    afternoon. Combined seas 24 to 27 ft with a dominant period of
    14 seconds.

    NW wind 25 to 35 kt becoming N 20 to 30 kt after
    midnight. Combined seas 18 to 21 ft with a dominant period of
    12 seconds.

  4. Wow….that’s an adventure you will never forget, I’m glad it’s over for you and hope for calm seas from now on .

  5. There is a reason they named it Punta Mala! It’s well known for bad seas! Best to stay well offshore, cross to the east end of the Bay of Panama, then go North with the prevailing current. Glad you are all OK!

  6. Amazing story and so glad you’re safe and sound! Love that dolphin video. Miss you girl and stay safe! I bet your legs LOOK AMAZING!! 😁💪🏽

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