Category Archives: 4. Key West to Panama

One Day to Scheduled Start

Although we’re not ready to start tomorrow, we are doing better than some of the other entrants. Originally Jimmy Cornell was concerned that we might have too many boats to be manageable for going to small islands. Of that initial burst of interest, only about 15 boats actually registered for the rally. Seven planned to start from Key West (3 more from Martinique, plus 2 others starting in the Pacific, plus Jimmy’s boat). But one dropped out a week ago due to health problems. Another is unable to start due to lack of funds. They hope to start in March and catch the fleet in Tahiti, but that is very uncertain. Tonight we hear that there is some uncertainty about yet another boat. In the end we will be one of only four or five BPO boats to start here, plus there is one Pacific Odyssey boat (sailing only as far as the Marquesas) also joining the start. The fact that we will be several days late in departing seems like a minor point in this context.

Today has been a blur. We got our repaired saildrives back in place. Our rebuilt port engine got tested in the shop, was working in record time, and got put into the boat. Both engines need to be wired in to the electrical controls again, so we can’t use them yet. Nevertheless, we went back into the water…


…and got a tow from the boatyard to the marina where the other BPO participants are docked. The mechanic says he is coming tomorrow (Saturday) to work on the boat. The hope is that we will be able to use both motors by Monday, so we can test them and leave maybe mid-week.

We also had our safety inspection with Jimmy. He summarized his review with, “It’s better than I expected.” We balked at that “compliment,” but he explained that given the problems we have had, he didn’t expect us to be ready with all our safety gear, and so it was indeed a compliment that we are ready. He had one suggestion for an improvement, which is a good suggestion and should not be difficult to do. Photo below shows Jimmy and his daughter Doina standing by our boat, unfortunately somewhat hidden in the shadows.


This evening we had the “captain’s briefing” before the BPO start tomorrow at noon. Suddenly it is getting very “real” that we are about to head off around the world, despite our delay. Routes and winds and currents and forecasts and starting time and daily radio check-in procedures and satellite tracking devices and information about arriving in Jamaica and in the San Blas islands off of Panama. Exciting!  Is it safe to start dreaming about tropical islands again…?  We need to start thinking about food shopping!!


Still Counting the Days

Four Days to Scheduled Start

Let’s start with the good news. I found the cause of last night’s alarm. It was a faulty engine-stop button/switch that we replaced last month. Easily fixed. And not a sign that the boat is bewitched or cursed.

The bad news is that the cylinder head for our port engine rebuild is not available (backordered from Japan). So the old head must be sent to Miami to be reconditioned. This of course adds days that we don’t have. We tried to rent a car to drive it to Miami, but we found that there weren’t any rental cars available today in Key West. So it is shipped overnight. Our mechanic got the shop in Miami to promise to move it to the front of their queue. But I think it is safe to say that our departure will not occur on Saturday. I’m gradually coming to terms with that thought.

We are on the hard again, so the saildrives can be worked on. Frustrating, but lucky that we could schedule this on short notice.  Tim guides a repaired saildrive back into the engine room:


Two Days to Scheduled Start

No chance that we will make the Saturday start. The cylinder head that was sent to Miami was found to have a crack. Luckily our mechanic had the foresight to also sent our old engine head (from the starboard engine, where we bought a new one). It was inspected today and passed muster; it should be back to the mechanic tomorrow. With only a little luck we will get back in the water Monday. Then we need to give the engines a thorough workout before we leave the area. If everything works (does it ever…?) we might start chasing the fleet Wednesday or Thursday.

Nice photos of the Blue Planet Odyssey boats/people/preparation are on the Cruising World magazine web site at

And a shot of the other boats at the marina, in formal attire with their signal flags.


Counting Down the Days

Saturday is The Big Day, culminating almost two years of preparation. All but one of the boats leaving from Key West are here, and the last will arrive shortly. Jimmy Cornell is here, with his boat Aventura, and his wife and daughter and crew. We’ve had our first briefing, plus a social gathering. I look forward to getting to know the other crews better. So far I’m mostly trying to remember names and who’s on what boat.

Two boats have just withdrawn. One due to health issues of the owner, one due to lack of funds. Both crews are here, and delightful people. Very disappointing that they won’t be voyaging with us. The size of our fleet is much smaller than originally planned. We will have 7 boats leaving from here, if we include Jimmy, who will be sailing on a different schedule, but meeting us in Tahiti. There will be 6 boats leaving from Martinique, and joining us in Panama. Two or three other boats are leaving from other points, and will join the fleet in the Pacific.

We still have issues to deal with. Number one on the list is of course engine-related. In our last episode we were rebuilding our starboard engine. That was completed, and the boat returned to its liquid element. But, believe it or not, on the sea trial to test that engine, the other one started to smoke and make unsettling noises! So the port engine is now in the shop being rebuilt. Can we get it back into the boat and tested in time for Saturday’s start? Stay tuned…

Some think our engine rooms are cursed, and we are going to suffer ongoing problems. I prefer to think that, like getting my appendix out, we are doing some serious preparation, and things are going to be better for our efforts. It would be naive to think all the problems will suddenly stop, but I do think we are doing everything we can do now to improve the situation.

Lots to do this week. Today we started finding places to stow some gear that has never had a proper home. That makes me happy — finding places for things. And, in fact, finding out exactly what things we have. We discovered that we have 6 inflatable life vests with safety harnesses, plus 2 more without harnesses, plus 4 additional harnesses (not inflatable). Of the twelve total, we gave 6 away to the boat next door. Better to have less stuff, and be clear about what it is and where it is… Much more to do along these lines. We’ve done an initial big shop for non-perishable food; we will of course have to do another toward the end of the week for perishables (though not much room left left in the galley to stow them).

Another potential hurdle is our safety inspection to be done by Jimmy Cornell. I think we’ve done all the right things to pass this inspection, but a lot is open to interpretation, and Jimmy will be doing the interpreting.

Things are going to start happening in rapid succession, and I’m sure that many smaller items will get pushed off the list as Saturday approaches. All part of the fun. 🙂

Here we are, with our Blue Planet Odyssey flag flying.