approached at sea

Approached at Sea,100 Miles From Land!

Being approached at sea is a nerve wracking experience. Our hearts pound and our imaginations sink to dark depths. There are endless possibilities of what’s headed our way. The unknown consequences, good or bad, bring nothing but apprehension to the surface. Fear can settle in deep if we let it.

Hellen Keller was a remarkable human and her writings about fear and danger are spot on.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. God Himself is not secure, having given man dominion over his works! Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

With the “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” motto in mind, hit the play button.

Hello Ecuador! It really was a good passage that tested our nerves, courage and imaginations just enough.  It was also a chill out, hang out, be at one with nature experience too.  We had long spells of calm weather and seas which made for a lot of tranquility.

tranquility at sea

Safety and Security At Sea

There were some tense moments but nothing threatening. We’re more likely to encounter a mugging on the streets than we are a robbery on the high seas. And don’t even get me started on the statistics for getting into a car accident. But, that doesn’t mean we don’t do our homework and prepare ourselves. WE DO!

Safety and security at sea is a huge subject of its own. In general, encounters at sea are rarely life threatening. And they’re far and few between. Especially ones involving any real pirates. In general, pirates and other lawless sea scoundrels tend to go for the big commercial ships with lots of cargo to steal. But, it’s always important to know what dangers lie in whichever route we choose.  And, depending on the dangers, we can alter our route.  Just like our choice to skip the Pacific side of Columbia.  (Caribbean side of Columbia is very different and worthy of a visit.)

Here are some of the sources with info, tips, reports and general safety advice we use.

sailing and pirate scares

(Pirate) Encounters At Sea

The first time I ever read about sailors getting approached or followed at sea was back in our dreaming days reading Bumfuzzle’s book.  Now that we’re sailing we’ve heard (and read) lots of stories just like ours.  Granted it’s not often 100 miles from land, but the plot is the same:  Sailboat moves at 5-8 knots.  Fishermen spots a boat on the horizon.  Small fishing boat moves at 20+ knots and decides to ‘check it out’.  Sometimes it’s a friendly wave, sometimes they ask for food, cigarettes or booze. In most cases it’s simply curiosity.

I like to consider it from their perspective:  You’re in the middle of the sea, all alone.  You see something on the horizon.  It might be nice to see a friendly face and check out what kind of boat they’re in.  Or perhaps, that looks like a nice boat, I wonder if they have any cookies?

sailing the pacific ocean

Crossing The Equator

I know, I know, how could we muck up the line crossing ceremony!  When we were looking at routes and ports of entry we were originally thinking Esmeralda’s, which is before the equator.  Then, we decided on Bahia De Caraquez instead because I read it was a slightly bigger town with a little more to do.  Then, in all the chaos of trying to get out of Panama it never hit us that we would be getting awfully close to the Equator.  Good thing we’re not superstitious people, sheesh.   Oh well, there will be other opportunities coming up to get silly, possibly naked and partake in old Navy traditions.

Captain’s Hour

We’ve always stuck to a no alcohol while sailing policy.  And we still keep that policy while coastal sailing.  Then we read this book about heavy weather sailing where the author provides a good case at why one should have a Captain’s hour during passage.  Literally blew my mind!  How could this guy, talking about sailing in horrible sea conditions, think it’s OK to have a cocktail?!?

The author writes “I encourage a glass of wine, rum, or beer at Captain’s Hour, to help people relax and sleep.  A few days without sleep can be debilitating and can not only ruin your enjoyment of the passage but also impair your ability to make sound decisions when conditions deteriorate.”

After some consideration, we decided it was a great idea for passage making aboard Curiosity.  This sail from Panama to Ecuador was our first test and I’m happy to report it was an overwhelming success!  We didn’t do it every day but Captain’s Hour brings everyone on board together, to relax and discuss the days events.  We prep a small half-shot (.5oz) cocktail, share a beer, or half a glass of wine.  We think it’s a grand idea and it gives everyone an extra reason to look forward to the sun dropping below the horizon.

beautiful sunset at sea

Sailing Report – Las Perlas, Panama to Bahia De Caraquez, Ecuador

To see our full map with interactive pins, click here:

Sailing Panama to Ecuador

  • Sail Started January 16, 2018  12:36pm
  • Dropped Anchor January 22, 2018  7:45am
  • Nautical Miles Sailed –  680
  • Average True Wind Speed – 10 knots
  • Averaged Boat Speed – 5 knots
  • Gallons of Fuel Used – 45

Gear Used In This Video

Thank You!

Sharing our lives and what we learn along the way is possible because of viewers like you. A big shout out to our Patreons! If you enjoyed this video, post or perhaps learned something new, check out our Say Thanks page. There are lots of ways you can help keep these videos flowing. Best part is, most won’t cost you a penny but they make a BIG difference to us. Thank You!

land ho! we made it to ecuador

Curious About Kate

Kate is a salty sailor hailing from South Africa (we introduce her here). You can snoop around on Kate’s blog  and poke around on her Instagram account  and while you are there, give us a follow if you haven’t already:

land ho! we made it to Ecuador

What’s Next

We have a 90 day visa in Ecuador. We will apply (and wait) for our long stay French Polynesia Visas. We have some killer plans in store to explore this country, so I hope you’re ready for some adventures!

And, Because the question keeps rolling in…

I can’t tell you how many people in the comments (especially YouTube) ask if we have a gun on board. This is an extremely opinionated topic and one I have zero desire to dive into. But purely from a practical stance, it doesn’t make sense for us.

We are travelers, asking permission to enter a foreign country. Once we’re allowed in, we’re bound to their laws and any consequences should we break the law.

You must declare guns on entry in a new country. Most countries will take them from you until you clear out. Trying to lie or hide guns is always a terrible idea. Gun laws are drastically different from country to country. The penalties for not declaring firearms are steep and could involve anything from heavy fines, prison time or at worst, death. For us, at this point in our lives, it’s just not worth it.

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (49)

  • Dennis Fussell

    The passage to Ecuador made me nervous watching, having contact with a small boat 100mi from land just makes think of the worst. One would wish everyone you come in contact with would have goodness in their hearts. I hope for only good, safe times out on the seas. Your journey is a good watch.

  • Elizabeth Stacey

    Hi guys;
    A quick question…we are currently in Panama and trying to decide on going to Ecuador prior to French Polynesia. The Galapagos are not in our budget but we considered stopping for a few weeks in Ecuador. The costs to clear in on Noonsite are pretty ambiguous. Would you mind sharing the fees for clearance? I understand we don’t have to use an agent but sounds like maybe you recommend it? Thanks for the advice! Will be in French Polynesia for the “season” and then headed to New Zealand via Tonga. Hoping we run into you somewhere along the way so we can buy you a beer! Being from Oregon, the Panamanian beer is killing us….

  • Lexi

    Congrats on being shellbacks (granted, I think that this happened to you ages ago)! I’m sure Neptune didn’t mind–the gin & grapefruit looked so yum! When I crossed the Equator, I was forced to do a series of crazy things. First, we were “cordially” invited by the captain to a special ceremony to which we had to wear our craziest clothes. Next, we pollywogs had to muster in the cockpit for a ridiculous group photo, dance, chant, and prayer to Neptune. After that, we had to complete an adventure that toed the line between hazing and obstacle course that included crawling through a mess of wet flour / hot sauce / chocolate syrup / corn starch / pepper, being pummeled by a fire hose, licking marmite off of ladies’ thighs, eating a “mystery concoction” that tasted vaguely like throw-up, shaving or cutting our hair, dancing again, and proclaiming in front of our captain, Neptune, why it was that we were worthy of crossing the Equator, at which point he would deck us in the noggin with his scepter. It was a blast!

  • Aubrey

    Seal Jason really made me laugh!!

  • Paul Gagne

    Hi Jason and Nikki, my wife Andrea and I have been following you for about a year now. We love your videos and have learned so much. We have been planning to buy a sailboat for some time and I have looked at so many but now we are hooked on the leopard catamaran.

    FYI, we looked at a 2003 40 foot leopard last week. An interesting piece of Maintenance you may have overlooked. The diesel tanks were being repaired. One of the aluminum tanks had leaked. The cabin smelt of diesel fumes throughout. It’s an easy fix but I don’t know if there’s any way of testing how good your tanks are. Just thought I’d pass this along.

    • Thanks for the love Paul. Sailboat shopping can be quite the hunt. It’s no small feat to figure out what boat best suits you. We do know lots of people that have had to replace their fuel tanks. Ours are still good for now. Each model of boat has it’s own quirks and we’re slowly learning of them. We just had to rebed our side windows for the 2nd time. The lifestyle is grand, but the maintenance is never ending.

  • Love You Jason Nikki.Lots of us praying for you.


  • Alan Solomon

    Hey, what up Nikki and Jason.
    I was so looking forward to seeing this weeks video and there was none to see. I have gotten to know the two of you after watching your videos from the beginning of the RV excursions up to now. I am not sure if I have become a worry wart or not but, it would be cool to know you and everyone on the boat is okay, especially in these current waters.
    I watched last weeks video and felt a little better. I cannot fathom or imagine 10,000 feet of water. I am fearful of 100 or 200 foot depths. You are really conquering your fears Nikki in 10,000 feet of water. I saw the comments from Curious Minion about the waves, the size of the vessel and the radar. So that is an explanation for me about that. Also, it is amazing about the sandbars moving so quickly on the Columbian coast. You were close to the rocks there. A wise move to be piloted in but difficult to wait for the genuine article.

    Be safe and safe travels to you all on Curiosity.


    • Curious Minion

      Hey Alan, they’re fine. Nikki posted on Facebook yesterday: “No new video today as we have some impromptu kinks to work out (never a dull moment). Jason flew back to Dallas to take care of biz while I’m solo on Curiosity (full scoop soon). He’s squeezing in a little fun with a Patreon meet up. …”

  • Doreen & Jack

    I remember we thought when you left traveling with the RV thinking that we wouldn’t be interested in following your adventures because we didn’t plan on ever sailing (I am scared to death of the water). However, we love you two and stayed with your videos. All we can say is WOW, this is so exciting for us to watch. We admire your courage and sense of adventure. We love how Nikki puts together such wonderful meals in the middle of nowhere, impressed with Jason that he speaks Spanish (and maybe Nikki does too, don’t remember), wonder where Nikki keeps all her clothes, that are all so pretty, your videos are great, We do worry about you, but we see that you take all the precautions you need to. Although Jason going out while hanging on to a rope makes us nervous. Maybe tie it to you? We truly look forward to your videos. Stay safe and keep on.

  • Mike

    Hi Nikki
    Great video as usual. My wife and I always enjoy your latest adventures. I want to address the problems with the screws always backing themselves out. I have a solution that guarantees it won’t happen again. Back in the day I used to fly experimental aircraft. As you can imagine, a bolt coming loose that holds the propeller (or anything critical) Is a bad thing. So what we did was wire (safety wire) them to prevent that happening. A small hole drilled right through the side of the all the screw heads is all you need to do this. Then simply thread a wire through the holes and tie it off. A hex head screw works best for this. You can google this to get an idea on how to do it. It will never come undone again and you don’t need Locktite or anything else. Just a small drill bit and a vice to hold the bolt.
    Have fun and stay safe.

    • Michael Sneed

      Hi Nikki and Jason
      Please let me know which Loctite product you’ve used on the roller furler, and I will forward technical information to ensure it doesn’t come loose again. Stainless steel is an “inactive” surface and some of our older products require a primer for stainless steel, where our new products do not. I’ve seen both episodes with this problem, and want to help. BTW, coincidentally, my beach VB team name is Roller Furlers!!

  • Dave Spangler

    Jason and Nikki,
    You have produced an amazing adventure for me and thousands of others to live
    along with you. I first found your Panama Canal transit, and intregued, went back to
    all your sailing vlogs, and some of the RV Bounder videos.
    The massive viewer responses must be overwhelming. You are not on vacation, but you
    make it look like your escaping to a dream. I’ve worried along with you as you master
    tough situations. Now I’m feeling a little guilty that I you take the risks and we viewers
    get the thrills. You have built such a connection with your viewers with your transparent ways.
    Being safe far from home. I trust you guys to think it through. I’ve been in several African
    crises, Mid East, China, India, and there were many times I thought “What have I gotten myself into.”
    Sometimes there were guns moving my direction. Sometimes Fear played in the shadows.
    You do what you do for the right reasons, have Faith, and “Be Prepared”.
    You two just be who you really are. You are real and you care about life all around you.

  • Bill Allison

    Different topic, couldn’t you solve your Amp issue with a higher amp rated battery charger/inverter or add a 2nd charger fed by the Genset? Ask your Li battery manufacture what the max safety/allowed charging rate is for your batteries. If for example, your Li batteries can except a charge rate of 25% of their total rated amp hours (C .25, 300amps) then add an extra 200 amp charging capacity in addition to your 100amp charger/inverter. This would be way less expansive, more efficient, min modification and the extra load shouldn’t be a problem for your Genset.

  • Nicolas Palacios

    Enjoy Ecuador. It’s a tiny place but amazingly diverse. Do yourselves a favor and visit as much of it as possible before sailing off to the Galapagos. Bahia and San Vicente has the best ceviche in the world. Manta has great Chinese food (they call them Chifas), and is a short drive to where Panama hats originate from. The whole coast of Manabi has great hang gliding along the cliffs. It really doesn’t matter if you head to Guayaquil and then up into the mountains from the south, or just cut straight inland to Quito (but if you take the shorter route you miss Cuenca and Otavalo).

    I wish I was down there, I’d have loved to show you guys around.

  • Phil

    Hello all on Curiosity Since the loctite you used did not hold you may want to try loctite thread locker 248. It comes in a stick form is much less of a mess to use and holds better in slightly loose threaded holes. It is for fastners from 1/4 in to 3/4 inch in size and is removable when needed. Fair winds and a following sea to all.

  • Deborah Kerr

    I’m thinking those ghost boats are undercover DEA verifying you’re not drug runners- or just the opposite, maybe they are wanting to buy drugs. How can they not show up on radar? Congratulations on your equator crossing!! ? Now moving on to Ecuador adventure!! I’m so excited I can’t wait to see that country & its people, food, buildings, cars, culture!! Buenas Dias Amigos ?☀️ Gracias for sharing!?⛵️

    • Curious Minion

      The smaller the vessel, the less of a radar “signature” it produces. Add to that the bumpy seas and part of the vessel is going to be “out of sight” to the radar because it’s hidden by waves. You might not see a small vessel (like the one the fishermen were in) until it’s really close to you.

  • Patti Jo

    I was thinking…. It does not matter what kind of ceremony you have for crossing the equator, it is the fact that you took time to do Something! Enjoying you videos since your RV’ing days. Buying our first RV this month. Class A. Can’t decide on Diesel/Age/Price, If we buy a Diesel it will be much older for what we can afford. Or if we go Gas, the mountains of Colorado and the engine/generator noise is our concern! Hugs and hoping calm seas’ ahead!

    PJ & Mark

  • Anita

    Like many others I’ve been following you since back in the RV days and your spirit and courage never cease to amaze me. I was feeling very stressed just watching the video so can’t imagine what it would have been like for real. Glad you are safely in Ecuador having many adventures by now. Question – maybe I missed this on some video but where is Rufus? Is he going to join up with Curiosity at some point? Thank you for letting me live vicariously through you and please stay safe.

  • Roger B

    WOW! Another incredible video, especially with the drama. Now I’ve got to look at your video on the big screen with YouTube and absorb myself again in your incredible video drama and excitement. Thank you for sharing your travels with us.

  • Tash & Will

    We are a couple planning to retire in 3 years, sell up and sail the world, health permitting. We have followed your adventures since you purchased curiosity and loved every episode. You are giving us so much inspiration for our planning and love your travel ethics. We will continue to watch avidly your adventures around the globe. Safe travels and Fair winds.

  • Ron

    ‘Interesting’ transit. 8^) Who would’ve thought that calm water sailing 100 miles offshore would involve drama??

    Unrelated question: Kate & Rufous left their boat to earn funds & work for a while. How/where do boat owners stash their precious boats for months while they work (in random/foreign countries)?

  • What an experience. I don’t see all of your videos but do check in once in awhile. Cant wait to see some of Ecuador.

  • Tom Taylor

    We’ve really enjoyed watching the videos, especially the catamaran aspect. We’ve always sailed a monohull – so it’s got us thinking. But, in the northeast where we are, its difficult/impossible to ever enter a marina with a catamaran.
    Good luck as you continue your sailing.

  • Jan

    That was really something – it was a long wait this week to learn the outcome (yeah, I knew you were okay but geez, what happened . . .) I guess you need to have extra cookies ready at the wait. I’m looking forward to seeing your adventures in Ecuador. Safe passage!

  • Hassenboehler Charlie

    Lock-Tite might have to set up with no load -stresses -on the system especially if the screws fit loosely.

  • Julie

    Great videos! So, I was thinking, maybe just run up the old quarantine flag and those aggressive boaters will stay away. Ha! We always look forward to your videos, so proud of how you face every challenge. Is there a cookbook in the making? I also, hope you will write a book about you adventures, complete with the beautiful photos, or maybe just a book full of sunsets for the coffee table. Every Blessing and Pleasant crossings. God did not give us this world for sitting still. Love y’all,

  • Terry

    Wow, that made my heart race. As Brian said, ‘Think I’ll keep my motorhome’. Long time follower, that’s how I found you. My wife and I are Bounder owners, still watch your old videos now and then. I envy your youth and adventure plans, would love to do what you are doing. Just retired and hope to travel lots in the Bounder. Look forward to seeing the world through your lens. Stay healthy, happy, and safe.

  • mary vancompernolle

    Whew! That was a little heart escalating! Looks like you are in a friendly country again. Looking forward to seeing the countryside in your next videos.

  • Dr. Mike

    Nothing wrong with a cocktail……good for you! Another sailor tradition. Rum for all!
    Great videos, great adventures…….I envy your youth and freedom. You are truly fortunate.
    Keep it up!

  • Scott

    I see you are still in Ecuador. I expect some of the imminent vids will be on prep for the puddlejump. Have you sorted out that pesky furler yet? What color LocTite are you using? Any DIYer can empathize with frustration over that-which-refuses-to-stay-fixed. I cannot imagine how you must feel about such an essential difficulty as you prepare for a Pacific crossing.

  • I always felt like night-watch was like flying a magic carpet across the ocean through 180 degrees of stars. So I can relate to Nikki’s frustration at having the magic overshadowed by uncertainty. I am sad to hear the shoreline of Colombia is not considered safe for yachting. It’s such a beautiful country in the interior. Maybe you will return to tour by land one day. I went there solo and felt very safe, but understand it’s different at sea. Looking forward to Ecuador through your lens.

  • Brian

    That was exciting and very interesting. Glad to hear you have a plan, and very glad to hear you don’t plan to share it. I think those long lonely nights at sea, with the threats and no one out there to help you, well, I think I’ll stick with my motor home. I do love following your adventures. Nikki, you are one amazing lady, I’ve said it before, how cute you are, but besides that, the meals you fix out on the high seas are amazing. You and Jason make quite a team. Happy and smooth sailing, looking forward to future adventures.

  • Joey Pompano

    Pardon my ignorance, where is the country of Columbia?

    • Joey , that’s what google earth is for! I use it all the time when watching sailing/traveling videos. We are so lucky now , we used to have to get out the Atlas and find the right page in the index, a magnifying glass and have fun!
      Actually a great experience but much slower than google earth. Or just google maps.
      Try it sometime. Cheers Warren

  • Thank you so much for sharing your adventures with us. I am a 60 yr old lady between adventures at the moment so your videos really help my wanderlust. Be safe!


    This is your longest no-shore-in-sight leg yet so I think that a quote attributed to André Gide is fitting. It says:
    “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

    Of course, you already knew that didn’t you? Looking forward to your land based exploration videos.

  • RICKY Barnes

    Fascinating experience. You guys rock with you sharing your journey. One question, why were you not able to see the small boat on your radar?

  • Ellen L Ringsrud-Matthewson

    My hear rate speeded up just having that boat approach you! I am so glad it was an ok encounter. Also, I totally agree in the wisdom of keeping your security plans to yourself. As they have said in times of war, “Loose lips sink ships.”. Have fun, learn lots, make friends and Stay Safe!

  • Roger

    I agree that you can’t live in fear but I think you approach is a little naïve. I cruised in the 80’s with a special lady and dealing with third world countries, laws and Pirates of the Caribbean was a real thing. stealing dinghy, boarding and looting unattended boats, several cruiser were killed because they brought cookie dough to a gun fight. There were major discussions in the cruising community about firearms on board and which laws prevailed and when, Admiralty Laws in international waters, US Documented boats flying the Stars and Stripes following US Laws , Country and State laws when within 24 miles of land. All that and the real question, if you had a gun, could you pull the trigger? I did two tours in VietNam, I know I could. But I still think guns on boats are just not worth it. To much of a problem.
    Additional headache with customs, checking in and out of any country, they confiscate most firearms at the port of entry and you have to return to the original port of entry to pick up your gun when you check out.
    That’s why a lot of cruising boats in the 80 traveled in packs. Some say flares or flare guns might be effective. A ship crew had some luck in repelling pirates not so long ago by making and lobbing Molotov cocktails from the aft deck – easy to create but a bit dangerous to use.
    Still others say the best deterrent is a Mayday on the VHF, as well as firing off a satellite message to the Coastguard and setting off an EPIRB. The trouble is that there are some situations where none of these deterrents is likely to work. We cruised our entire life, taking time out from cruising only when real life demanded it.
    I lost my first mate five years ago after 36 years of life both on and off the water. I single hand now. Leaving Portland Maine May 1st for a 377 mile run south to my home port in Forked River NJ.

  • Tracy H

    How scary and exciting. I’m sure that raises the blood pressure up. So glad it was all o.k. My daughter would say those boats with lights, but not on radar would be ghost boats. Anyhoo, so love seeing your videos, you do them so well. Kates a natural in front of the camera, as you two are. Can’t wait to see the next installment on your adventures. Hope you all are having a blast. Blessings and Happy Easter

  • I look forward to your new videos every week. Although i’m a NW power boater a lot of your experiences are common and of great interest to boaters everywhere. Question, for Nikki; where do you come up with all the cool shades and when are you going help Jason with his fashion choices? Or lack there of? Be safe and keep smilin! Kerry

  • B Bartholomew

    OK, that was fun! Heart rate increase just hearing you two describe possible close encounters with the pirate kind. Glad it was smooth sailing for the 3 of you.

  • Jack

    I love following your adventures. Welcome to the shellback community!

  • Denny Kent

    Long, long time follower of you guys –first time comment: My favorite video for sure!
    Stay safe please…

  • C. Harrison

    Thank you for sharing what the weapons law is. I would be afraid for my safety (and others with me) and I have seen videos where ships use water for protection, but obviously, you do not even have that. (fire hose)
    I am so glad that all of you is safe.

  • Dennis

    You wonderfully captured the excitement of arriving in a new country.


Post a Comment