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BriZo - Downwind, Colombian Coast guard and Cheryl Cole - 7th Jan 2014 (St Lucia to San Blas passage)

With enough Marmite on board for 7 months we slipped lines Saturday late afternoon at Rodney Bay, St Lucia where BriZo had been during our return over Christmas and out into a Caribbean Sea evening. Pat and I would now be sailing for the next 6 days and nights 1200nm directly to the isolated San Blas islands, just off the Panama Canal entrance at Colon.

We are sorry to leave before the main WCC World ARC event starts but after 5 weeks of prep since BriZo’s re-launch in Antigua the draw to get back to sea is irresistible and we have friends already in San Blas.

For a cruiser, this is exhilarating downwind sailing, 20 knot+ winds to F7, a ‘white sail’ rig setup that allows the Autopilot to steer hour after hour down the swells, averaging over 200nm miles sailed on each of three days so far. But downwind sailing is tough on the rig and frequent rig inspections are required to check for chafe and damage. At twice the distance of crossing UK-Biscay this is excellent preparation for the passages to come.

The first morning job is to clear the decks of flying fish which seem to always fling themselves on board as they try and avoid our bow wave. At night you never get tired of watching the tiny light show of luminescent creatures in the wake, igniting their warnings as BriZo swiftly transits their habitat.

So Pat and I are already into a ‘loose’ 3 hour watch routine overnight, both feeling well although Pat now has my nasty cold that I bought back from the UK. Its very dark as I write this blog with just the sound of the water rushing by the hull. So we plough at up to 10 knots into the darkness ahead, over 100 miles offshore, no fishing buoys or small vessels to worry about and trusting the law of averages that we will avoid semi submerged objects such as the hundreds of huge trees washed out from the Venezuelan and Columbian rivers just South of here.

The now familiar sound of the sea was suddenly broken late yesterday (Tuesday) by a low fly over from the Columbian Coast guard but no radio contact or follow-up from a surface vessel so we obviously looked honest. I am not totally sure how safe the Columbian coast is these days but keeping a respectful distance off seems a wise choice. We are expecting winds to build further over the next 24 hours as is the pattern just North of the Columbian coast but we think our timing puts us just ahead of the worst early Thursday.

We expect to arrive in San Blas Late Thursday/Friday morning, the winds will drop off as we approach the last day which works well as we will need to slow down a bit Thursday so we arrive in good sunlight Friday allowing us to pick out the multiple reefs. Started taking malaria tablets this morning (precaution for San Blas/Panama) as this and Yellow fever are a risk from here until we clear the South American Isthmus. We obviously don’t see mosi’s at sea and few while at anchor but don’t want to end up like Cheryl Cole (not with a flower tattoo on the bum, but getting Malaria) – well actually either.

Stu. (main blog/photos

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