Nation — Another solo circumnavigator sent us an update. We were delighted to hear from the legendary Webb Chiles, who, after a unique transit of the Panama Canal, is about to embark on the last leg of his sixth circumnavigation.
After a 17-day passage from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, to Colon, Panama, that saw a 43 knot gale, the Bahamas become a dangerous lee shore, failure of three tiller pilots and the wind instruments, the port pipe berth sheer off the rivets attaching it to the hull, and far too many ships, Gannet, my Moore 24, was trucked across the Isthmus and is now on a mooring at the Balboa Yacht club almost prepared for what hopefully will be the final passage of her circumnavigation, the 3,000-mile sail partly against prevailing wind and current to San Diego.
Gannet presented insuperable problems for making the transit in the Panama Canal, which I have done three times previously in larger boats: There was no way to feed or sleep four line handlers, no sun shade for the advisor, no enclosed head, too small cleats for lock lines. Another problem, speed, could have easily been solved by renting or borrowing a bigger outboard.
I do not know if the Canal authorities would have permitted the little boat to be towed through by another yacht. No offer of a tow came forth, so I arranged for a cradle to be made and the truck ride. Gannet made the fastest crossing of any sailboat — at times clocking 43 knots — and probably the most expensive. I do not yet know the final total, but it will work out to be considerably more than $100 a mile.
The charge alone for the travel lift to put Gannet in the water was an outrageous $856.
I will not push hard against strong wind on the sail to San Diego. I will sail wide angles, slow down, even heave to and wait for favorable conditions. It is possible that I will divert to Hilo, Hawaii, which is easier to reach and where Gannet would also complete a circumnavigation.
I will probably sail next week, sometime between March 11 and 15.
For those who might be interested is seeing what happens, Gannet’s Yellowbrick tracking page can be found here.