It is a distance of 879 nautical miles (0r 1011 land miles or 1628 km) to Amador from Puerto Quetzal. That makes a timely departure necessary and then all the way we have to keep up the speed to ensure that we arrive on time for the evening tours in Panama. On the way we have the current against for the last part of the voyage, plus we can have the wind when we sail of Nicaragua. When you look at the map you can see that Nicaragua is located in this recessed section of Middle America. We are sailing on a straight course and that means that we have a large open water area to the port of us until we reach Costa Rica. Nicaragua is a low lying country with a large lake in the middle so Caribbean Trade winds can easily blow through to the other side. It is never as bad as in Tehantepec where the gap in the mountains is much smaller, but still it can be very windy here. The problem is you never know from which side it will be blowing. This time we were lucky, the wind was with us and that might have even helped with the speed. But at least it did not slow us down. It is very peculiar to see this phenomenon, at 11.55 it is blowing a good wind force 7 and then 10 minutes later it is wind still when the ship has sailed passed the windy area. It looks indeed as if somebody just switched the wind off. It caught my fourth officer completely off guard. He is preparing my daily voice from the bridge and takes great pride in having the figures exactly right. Thus it was a bit startling for him when he gave me the paper, and then to turn around and see that wind force 7 had just changed in a wind force 0.
With the changing wind the birds re-appeared. Now the bow was producing an uplift of air current and that made it possible for them to hover on it and have the ship push them forward. They remained drifting on the wind until they spotted a shoal of fish. Then we saw some diving acrobatics and when the shoal had passed they resumed their position off the bow again. By sunset the fights broke out as they all wanted to sit on the four little ledges we have on the jackstay on the bow. 20 birds for 4 parking places do not work and so a “pecking order” had to be established. “Pecking” being the right word as there was some nasty poking with sharp beaks going on until the strongest won out. Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” on a small scale on the Statendam. For me this was a morning of paperwork. The weekend is always a problem as far as ports are concerned. In most middle and South American ports, the paper work for a ships call has to be approved by the harbor masters office and they normally close for the weekend. Or at least the person who has “the stamp” is not there. So you have to make sure that you get all the files in on time. It all goes electronically by email and hard copies are printed out by the agent if needed. Thus this morning the paperwork for Cartagena was dispatched and late afternoon we got the green light that everything was ready for us. We will be the only cruise ship in port, which makes things already a little bit easier as normally cruise ships tend to arrive and depart at the same time. The entrance to Boca Chica, the entrance bay to Cartagena is fairly tight, so you do not want to jockey around there with other ships if you can avoid it.
By noon time we were under the coast of Costa Rica and with only being 6 miles off we could clearly see the mountains ranges and the steaming jungle against them. So I advised the guests that there would be a fair chance to see some fireworks in the evening by means of lightning. Well, they were not disappointed it, it was one of the better ones that I have seen through the years. The lightning was exchanged between two cloud patterns and as we were far off, it lit straight through the first set of clouds giving the impression of a white movie screen with a flickering projector behind it. (With a very big bulb of course) The cadets on the bridge were mesmerized as it was not something that they would ever see at home in England.
Tomorrow we will still be at sea. Sailing under the coast of Panama and then by lunch time heading North into the large bay where at its end the Panama Canal is located.