Lat: 06 05.959′ N
Long: 80 32.356′ W

We finally left Balboa Yacht Club late Friday afternoon and started motoring toward Punta Mala, the point of land marking the southwest corner of the Gulf of Panama. For the most part, the winds were light and on the nose in the Gulf, but we were able to sail close-hauled on a starboard tack on a heading of about 200 degrees once we cleared Punta Mala. Since then, we’ve been trying to hold a similar course, although after a series of squalls today, we’re motorsailing a SW course on a port tack. We’ll download some GRIB data when we send this blog and get a better idea of what we can expect in terms of weather in the near future.

The seas have been pretty calm, so the sailing has been pretty non-descript so far, but we’ve had some interesting sightings in the water. There were of course the numerous large ships headed toward the canal, but we haven’t seen any more shipping traffic since Punta Mala. The Gulf of Panama itself is a virtual floating minefield of logs & trash. Much of the floating wood and bamboo is only a 2-3 feet long, but there are some logs with stubs and branches still attached that are large enough for several birds of different types to hang out on. Plastic seems to be the ubiquitous trash of the ocean. It’s the one type of waste that is illegal to dump any distance from shore, but it’s not uncommon to see floating oil bottles, water bottles, plastic bags, etc. Wes told us he read that there are some parts of the ocean where there is more plastic (which simply breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces) than plankton. As we were approaching Punta Mala, and I was on watch, I spotted what looked like big birds jumping out of the ocean ahead and to the starboard side. I called everyone else on deck and as we got closer we saw what looked like a group of about 10 rays, leaping out of the water to the height of several feet and the doing a belly-flop on the surface of the ocean. They continued to jump as we passed them and we have some cool pics we’ll post when we get back to the land of the Internet. We’ve had numerous dolphin sightings since leaving, but the coolest one was this morning when I spotted at least 50 dolphins about a quarter mile off to port. They were doing shallow jumps, not leaving the water, and stretched maybe a tenth of a mile. Groups would jump in sets of 2-5, and several groups would jump at the same time, spaced out by 100 feet or so. Taken as a whole, it looked sort of like the ancient drawings of sea monster tails, where there are several humps of the tail visible coming out of the water. They were on a rhumb line heading for the Galapagos and crossed a hundred yards or so in front of our bow. As they started to pass us, some of them began jumping completely clear of the water, at least 6 feet in the air and landing head-first or on their back as part of a flip. We have one picture with two in the air at the same time and some short videos as well.

Other than that, just more of the same. The food’s been great as usual and we started having tea time after enjoying it on Dragon. We’re all digging into new books and thanks to Wes, are enjoying audio books, French lessons, etc. on mp3 players as well.

The port engine has picked up a bad habit of setting off the low oil pressure alarm when shifted back into idle after it has been running a while and the port alternator conked out, but other than that no mechanical problems as yet.