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biggest storm and longest sail

Mission Panamania: Longest Passage and Biggest Storm Ever

Time is a funny thing.  Most of us growing up in western civilization have a keen sense of time.  There are clocks everywhere and schedules rule most of our lives.

Travel, especially by sailboat is chock full of variables and uncertainties. It’s a world of never ending scenarios. Schedules are nothing more than good intentions and clocks are one of the tools used for dead reckoning.  At sea, we have no control over time or circumstances, only how we react to them.

Pulling up the hook and preparing to leave Great Inagua in the Bahamas had us filled with nervous excitement.  It’s our longest passage…nothing but us, endless scenarios and the open sea for well over 800 nautical miles.

Can you believe all that action and we’re only three days in!  It’s incredible how quickly things turn from low key to off the charts.  I can’t think of any other mode of travel that is filled with such extremes and everything in between.

Sailing is like a really good rollercoaster. It’s filled with anticipation, a little bit scary, but only for a second, then it’s thrilling and as soon as it’s over I want to get right back in line!

Sailing passage to panama

Sailing to panama

curiosity crew reeling them in

the calm before the storm

Sailing passage to panama

Our Biggest Storm Ever = New Top Speed

We’ve experienced some storms while sailing but never anything over 35 knots of wind, we’ve always seen them coming and had time to prepare ourselves and Curiosity.  This storm, on the other hand, appeared out of nowhere, or perhaps formed right there on top of us.  There was nothing on the radar and it took us completely by surprise.  We went from cruising along with 15 knots of wind to 30 to 40 to 45 to almost 50 knots all in less than a minute or two.

With all that wind comes some serious speed.  With nothing but a wildly loose mainsail we managed to reach a new top speed of 16.1 knots!  If you would have asked me at the time, I would have sworn we were going even faster.  Curiosity felt like a rocket taking off for orbit.  Exciting, exhilarating and frightening all at the same time.

What We Learned

Because we were sailing downwind at 120 degrees, we had the main sail out as far as we could get it.  We attached a preventer to help trim the sail and keep it from slamming because the waves were closer to our beam.  This is a pretty common setup for light wind days on our catamaran.  When the wind quickly picked up, the trouble wasn’t our preventer, Jason was on that like white on rice.  The issue was once we removed the preventer our main sail was way out there.

What made it tricky is the sail had quickly bent itself around the shrouds (that’s the standing rigging holding our mast up) and it seemed the only way to get it off and down was to head up…which is not the best thing to do in a storm with heavy wind. With the mainsail so far out to starboard we were afraid to crank in the mainsheet because the sail had a ton of pressure on it.  We were able to center the traveler and that helped but centering the main just seemed unsafe.  This all had us slightly puzzled which means it took far more effort and time to get the sail down.  But that’s the “fun” of learning in real-time, right?

For storm tactics, we had been taught to loosen the sheets first thing.  This allows the sail to spill more wind which means less pressure, slower speeds and less opportunity to break stuff.  But, every storm we’ve hit so far has been while sailing upwind, not downwind.  In this case, because we were already so far down wind, loosening (or easing) the mainsheet was not the correct thing to do.  Combine a loose mainsheet with the intense wind and waves and now we’ve got a recipe for a disastrous jibe.  I was afraid to point the boat any further down wind than my controlled 120-130 degrees.  This kept the pressure in the main sail, so it was impossible for the boys to muscle the mainsail down.  This is why we decided the only solution was to perform a controlled turn upwind.

In the end, we successfully brought the sail down without any damage to our crew or Curiosity. Next time we’re faced with a squall while on a Broad Reach point of sail (downwind) we plan to do the following: Remove preventer, center the traveler, tighten the mainsheet while turning further downwind, sail dead downwind, lower mainsail.  Of course, all while clipped in to jacklines and wearing off-shore life vests.  😉

And, if anyone knows of a good a catamaran storm tactics book please let us know (everything I have found is written specifically for monohulls, since catamarans are so very different the same rules don’t always apply).

What happened to The Inverter?

That’s a good question!  We think it’s heat related.  We push our inverter pretty hard with our high draw electrical devices (intentionally for testing purposes), so keeping them cool is a priority.  Sadly when Just Cats installed our new inverter we didn’t connect the extra 12v fan.  We’ll order a new temperature switch for the 12v fan in Panama so it kicks on at 90 degrees or something.  Once we get it solved we’ll share the solution.

Solar Power is Fantastic

If you noticed in the video at 8:27 our aft panels are in full sun while our hard top panels are completely shaded.  While we’re sailing the shading issue is REAL, and it can completely destroy the input of any solar setup if it’s not wired correctly.  We’ve planned for this issue with our new sailboat solar array and we’ll dive into this a lot deeper with a future tech video. However, one must have device is the little Xantrex Pro Battery Monitor we installed, it’s crazy cheap and way more accurate than the crappy analogue battery gauge that’s standard from the factory.  Not sure what a battery monitor is or what it does, check out this video:  gonewiththewynns.com/how-to-monitor-batteries-rv-sailboat-tiny-house

AIS

Our new Garmin AIS 600 is a huge safety upgrade. It alerts us with time to impact or closest approach (that’s what I was showing at 19:07 seconds in the video).  When we’re out in the middle of the ocean it’s fun to scan around the chart plotter and see the vessel details of other boats…even if they’re a 100 miles away.  It’s almost like a video game and it can distract a bored helmsman for hours.

Sailing Report

To see our full map with interactive pins, click here: gonewiththewynns.com/map

sailing to panama map

Dates: July 26-29, 2017
Nautical Miles Sailed: 445  (average of 148 miles a day)
Anchorage:  None!  This is our first long passage!
Cell & WiFi: No cell coverage out in the middle of the ocean.  This is where our Iridium Go and Predict Wind for weather and communications comes in: bit.ly/PredictWindIridium

Gear Used In This Video

Cameras Used to Capture This Video

Dale and Justin

Want to see more of Dale and Justin?  You can find them here:

Thanks for being a part of our journey!  If you liked this and want to help us keep the videos and posts flowing, check out our Say Thanks page. It lists out some ways you can show us some digital love and most won’t cost you a penny.

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 (54)

  • Gerardo Amechazurra

    You are really fantastic…
    Sois fantásticos…

    reply
  • Merrie

    Love your video’s
    Came across you guys watching less junk more journey when they crossed into Alaska.

    reply
  • Kevin Black

    My wife and I are in the process of purchasing a catamaran for blue water sailing and close in a week. We recently watched the beginning of you sailing series of videos and thoroughly enjoyed them…although I wish we’d watched them 6 months ago. Watching them has us even more excited to start our cruising lives! The more we watch, the more we learn. You two are amazing. Thank you so much for taking the time to make these videos and post them. Your experiences show us that with patience, determination and elbow grease, we can do this. I hope our paths will cross some day. Fair winds and following seas.

    reply
  • Eddie Fucci

    Just found your site. videos,and info are outstanding. Hope to see you out there soon!

    reply
  • I’m sure you all are fully aware of what’s happening with the 3 hurricanes . Bahamas with heavy damage, making landfall in kW on Saturday evening. Right now a cat 5 sustained winds of 180 mph. The entire state of Florida is in for it plus the caralinas.
    There’s another one right behind this one on same path and a 3rd one out by Mexico somewhere. Please be careful!!

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  • Deborah Kerr

    Love the sound of the ocean waves on your cat, love the rainbows and just imagining all of the stars, milky way, and shooting stars up in the sky!! What fun – this is the closest I’ll ever get to a sailing adventure like this, so thank you for sharing!! Oh, those big 15 ft waves that Nikki was describing, I could tell they were high waves because in the background the waves were way up and even over her shoulders!! That was cool!! Great video and pictures!! Keep smiling 🙂

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  • Dana

    Even a catamaran can heave to, create a slick, and ride out a storm in relative comfort. When you solo sail, you can’t expect to muscle your way out of a problem. And as soon as everyone else takes sick, you can find yourself solo sailing. Don’t count on your whole crew being there to help you. The sea doesn’t suffer fools and I would like to see you stick around. Your adventure could have turned out a lot differently. Trying to learn storm tactics when in a storm is like reading instructions for a gas mask during a chemical attack. Learn how to heave to before you need to. Good luck.

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    • We never said we couldn’t heave to? We know how to heave to and do so all the time to eat lunch, take a break and so on. That simply wasn’t the issue here. We didn’t have the genoa out, only the mainsail and we were already downwind at 120. We have since talked the whole scenario through with sailing captains and very experienced sailors. It was a learning experience and one where we didn’t do anything necessarily wrong. We’re always learning, growing and will continue to do so. Nobody can learn everything all at once. Comparing our storm and our reactions to reading instructions for a gas mask during a chemical attack is a big stretch.

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  • Capt'n Ricko

    Some things are common to all sailboats, monohull or catamaran or trimaran…

    In weather:

    1) slow the boat down
    a) reduce sail area BEFORE you absolutely need to, and if still too much speed
    b) tow warps or Jordan Series Drogue

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    • Very true but those basics we know. It’s all the little details and various scenarios we’re curious about.

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      • Well,…… multihulls are special, you cannot apply monohull methods all the time. Going too slow can be tricky as can drouges or warps. Multihulls sometime have to be sailed thru situations. At sea there is no such thing as “park I want to get off”. Sure heaving too etc are useful tools but multihulls , those with fixed keels , like most cruising cats, can risk tripping over their keels if sliding down big waves sideways when wallowing around rather than sailing.
        Multihulls also depower by bearing away rather than heading up wind like in monohull , ( applies more to high speed multi’s as the increase in apparent wind as you head up wind at speeds of 20+ knts can be dramatic!).
        Jason and Nikki are great studies and have done an incredible job of sailing safe. It’s always scary to a greater or lesser extent doing manouvers in tricky conditions , managing that ‘fear’ is all part of sailing safe.
        Seamanship is the skill of juggling safety vs getting on with the passage/trip. There is no perfect method in every situation it’s is the application of seamanship that gets you thru safely.
        Keep up the great work you, sharing your experiences and fears is incredibly honest , thanks.
        Cheers Warren

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  • Brian

    As always, a great video. Two Thumbs UP.
    I do have one question. You talked about the insurance and you had to be at a certain Latitude before a certain date to maintain your insurance. My question is. what do other sailboats do that remain in the hurricane area. Is this a restriction because you’re new sailors? or ? Really enjoy your videos. Keep em coming. Be safe and blue waters.

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    • Curious Minion

      It’s not related to sailing experience. You have a couple of options if you don’t want to leave: 1) pay a ton of money for full coverage in a hurricane zone, 2) pay a slightly higher monthly premium but your deductible for hurricane damage will be significantly higher, 3) don’t insure the boat. Thanks!

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  • Ellen

    You guys got me started watching sailing videos for some crazy reason. I’ve seen a couple other channels on YouTube and you guys really do a great job with your videos. Congrats on your first big crossing. Watch out for ciguatera poisoning. Saw that happen to one of the Aussie sailors.

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  • Michael

    Another fine vid. Especially liked that you guys got close to really exciting sailing. it was very entertaining, and I want to thank you for it. As an old surfer, I really don’t buy the 12 foot waves though. Maybe you’ve got to show better perspective in the pictures.

    I also am extremely glad to see you have the great safety gear, and are using it. Well done!

    Thank you for the info on insurance. Glad you put that in.

    I am in agreement with Archie about the sail configuration. Why not?

    Finally, glad to see Dale and Justin. May I suggest that they do some of the dialogue? That might be fun.

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  • Pat parker

    Wonderful video as usual…lots of excitement this time and glad you all are keeping safe.

    reply
  • This was one of my most favorite videos yet! Not only was it crazy to watch (holy 50 knots) but y’all handled it like total badasses. Pretty sure I’d be either a) in a ball on the cockpit floor crying or b) slinging rum below deck.

    PS: Jason, I think you should petition to change the Y in the phonetic alphabet to Yogurt. I like that way better than Yankee 😉

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  • Jay Driscoll

    I’m thinking hurricane Harvey is not looking good. Looks like it is crossing your path

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  • I really like that you have guest crew on board and think Dale and Justin seem lovely and down to earth. Always look forward to your videos! Happy sailing x

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  • Fan

    how long are the guests staying with you? I don’t really enjoy watching them at all and would love to know when it’s going to be back to just you guys and the kitties?

    reply
    • Curious Minion

      The plan is to have guests onboard (but not always the same ones) for quite awhile. Want to tell us why you’re not enjoying them? Anything we can change?

      reply
  • Mary

    Cheers! Great video!

    I was afraid to watch it last night in fear of crazy dreams. I heard about those huge waves. Jason looked a little worn out – for a short time.

    Nice to see you guys catch a few tuna!

    Happy sails!
    Mom

    reply
  • Pamela

    Awesome is all I can say to describe Jason and you Nikki! I have binged watched your RV days and all of your Sailing videos up till now. Whew caught up with two of the greatest humans on video. You inspire me to follow my dreams and handle the hard work to get there. I won’t be sailing as I am a land lover but greatly appreciate the journey with you and the lessons learned. I will be following my dreams and bite the bullet. Step off the ledge. I want to say “Thank you” for sharing this amazing journey” I can’t wait to see where it lands up. Your blog is great. A great read! Like Martha Sunday’s ours include The Wynn’s and Game of Thrones!

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  • Jaime

    Great video, that picture in black and white, the best!. Enjoy Panama

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  • Douglas Gandy

    whisky Yankee November November

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  • Steve

    I have watched you guys since the early RV days and let me say your videography has improved 1000%.
    I look forward to the next one.

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  • Hi Nikki
    Sorry about the code 0 comments, thought you added that in Lauderdale, my bad. Overall, in high winds down wind, ends above 20+ your jib reefed if higher, works fine. No main needed. We went from Charleston to Chesapeake had a surprise 12 hours of 35 mph wind on our aft qtr, 2 reefs in the jib doing 9 kts. So during high winds only the jib is needed. And you can roll it up if it gets worse.
    Winds Under 20, my point was try to avoid the main down wind, use asymmetrical, spinnaker, etc. easier to put up when winds accelerate, without having to go head to wind. Hope that helps.
    wind on the beam, use the main all day and night.

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    • Archie

      I’m curious what the ‘multihull consensus’ is on rigging an inner forestay and sailing downwind wing-on-wing with just the two headsails poles out? Does this sail configuration result in too much force on the rigging? Seems like it would make it very easier and quick to reef when the inevitable unsuspected heavy winds show up, not to mention a nice ride since the boat is being pulled along. If I’m not mistaken Curiosity came with two forestays? Thanks

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  • Jeremy Fern

    Hi Guys,
    Thoroughly enjoying your shared experiences.
    “And, if anyone knows of a good a catamaran storm tactics book please let us know (everything I have found is written specifically for monohulls, since catamarans are so very different the same rules don’t always apply).”

    You may already have it but I highly recommend Gavin LeSueur’s ‘Multihull Seamanship’. Possibly a bit basic for you guys now you’ve been through it but some good tips in there.

    reply
  • Angela Krause

    Love, love, love all your videos.

    reply
  • Wendi Bloedorn

    First of all I have to tell you that your photography is stunning! This part of your trip had me glued to the screen in anticipation and excitement! What a great adventure you are on. Thanks for allowing us to follow along in the experience. Enjoy Panama, Costa Rica ( my perfect place ) and all that comes along in your travels. Until next Sunday. Cheers ??

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  • Marsha

    Oh sweet Lord, that one was a stomach churner! I know I could not be that brave, you young whippersnappers. I love Sundays, Game of Thrones & The Wynn’s. Both action packed. Stay safe?

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  • Randy Thorne

    Great episode, when you had to eat all of the ice cream I got up to get some, none in the fridge, had to drive 45 min round trip to the store ( we live rurally) so I could watch the rest of the vlog. Love the length of the vid, fair winds mates!

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  • Scott

    Jason, something for the wish list that you’ll think back on and say “why didn’t I do this earlier!”. Rig your spreader & deck lights for a Red light option. It’s a small add on, but one youll really appreciate once you have it!
    Good work managing the storm conditions. Wish you safe travels in Panama!

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  • Tev

    Wow. How exciting and scary. I was wondering about the cats too. Glad you are all safe and catching fish!! Look forward to each video and thanks for sharing your adventures.

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  • Lisa Anderson

    It would be fun to see pics from the old days of you RV’ing,sorry but I remember them as sorta dorky 🙂 Compared to the pictures of you matured by the time spent at sea…

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  • Diane Sanderbeck

    P.S. Super vid! Glad you all made it safely through the storm! Love to all aboard Curiosity ❤️

    reply
  • Diane Sanderbeck

    I’d give Carolyn Shearlock a holler. She and Dave sail a cat and they could probably tell you everything you need to know about sailing in storms on a catamaran. You can reach her via [email protected]. Fair winds and following seas!

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  • Brenda Wilson

    Can’t believe you are halfway already. Such an inspiration to see people just “going for it”. ?

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  • You guys did great, every event is a learning. I had flashbacks watching the video. Since you asked for downwind advice – We sailed your same route from Florida to Thailand in 2015/16 in our Lagoon 450. Lots of squalls to come for you, and we got stuck in a couple of terrible storms, so definitely gained some experience. Overall have a plan for these situations. Example, we always reefed before dark, no matter what. We knew all reef points on the sails ( apparent wind forward of the beam being different than downwind) and agreed to stick to it regardless. But more specifically:
    1) if you have squalls in the area, e.g. lightning etc, look at them on radar, mark as a target and track wind speed and direction of the squall. if you will be within 5 miles, you likely will get downdraft, ie, winds jumping from 20 to 40 in seconds, from a new direction, lasting half an hour or more. Prepare for that in advance, reef, etc. If a squall was anywhere near us after the first few we encountered, we drop the main. because gibe potential, chafe on the shrouds, and over powering the boat / speed going down backside of the waves. Nothing worse can happen than pitch polling your cat in the trough at the back side bottom of a15 ft wave.
    2) we had a parasail, and used it extensively. If possible you might consider an asymetric you can put on your code 0 halyard – would be easy to roll up in a squall.
    3) use more of the code 0, since you were at 120 deg wind angle, it would work perfectly.
    4) When the wind gets closer to 160 / 170 chances of accidental gibe are much greater. Just not worth it.remember – you wont have access to specific parts ( e.g. a boom) until you reach Tahiti, then not again until Australia so lower the risk.
    4) as 2 and 3 imply, I try not to use the main in down wind situations. Why? only goes out to the shrouds – don’t let it chafe, to drop it you really need to head to wind. This is painful in high wind / high seas situations. So much easier to bring in the code 0 or asymmetric on the furler.
    Overall, we loved sailing downwind – by far the best angles to sail a cat. Avoid wind forward at all costs – the waves and storms only get bigger past the canal. We would bear off in rough weather to get the wind behind the beam and manage the miles to make up the next day, just to keep the boat together, rigging less stressed, and crew comfortable. My 2 cents. Good luck.

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    • Hello Nikki and also to Patrick. Thank you for the advice on lowering the mainsail going down wind. I think the critical point is what you said about turning up wind. I imagine removing the preventer and tightening the sheet will get the sail away from the shrouds – but brings you closer to an uncontrollable jibe. The greatest risk turning upwind is getting broadside to the waves – also a bad thing. Patrick, How do you escape this situation on your boat?

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  • Well may the sales of your ship be full and your Crossings pleasurable and always be safe Verizon traveling water that are are ahead of you and Pastor them with safety and hopefully is it the sea kind to you

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  • Roeh

    It is possible to get sea sick just watching this post. 🙁

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  • There used to be a book about heavy weather sailing in multihulls, but I can’t find it. The RYA do this one which includes a section on this, but I have not actually read it. http://www.bookharbour.com/seamanship/g92-rya-multihull-handbook/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIw7TEutPm1QIVrr3tCh3p1glzEAQYAyABEgKoIPD_BwE. Good to see you using PFD’s and life lines! Nice video with some super artistic touches. Great.

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  • Darren Martin

    Guys,

    I’m one of your Patrons. What’s your plan to address replacing your faulty inverter? IF, IF it’s gonna be a cumbersome logistical issue, email me privately – I can possibly help. If you can easily address in Panama without an excessive price or ungodly shipping fee, then great.

    Let me know. BTW, great video!

    Darren

    reply
  • George Hofmann

    Amazing! Well said Jason 50 minutes of sailing, 5minutes of unbelievable beauty and 5 minutes of sheer terror! ‘Tis the sailing life for ye! Everyone is doing a spectacular job and the memories will last a lifetime. Good on you all!
    Love, George

    reply
  • Connie

    That was exciting! I think I got a bit of a whirl in my tummy, just thinking about this one and seeing the huge waves! I love you guys, so glad your safe….I like those safety things your wearing too! How did the cats do on this part of the trip? Sending Big Love and thank you also for sharing! ❤

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  • Archie

    One opinion on catamaran downwind sailing in heavy weather. All that matters in the end though is you got it done.
    http://www.yachtingworld.com/catamaran-sailing/catamaran-sailing-techniques-part-6-heavy-weather-70405

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