We made it to Colon on July 1st, after our June 23rd departure. Altogether a little bit more than 8 days for the passage, which is way better than originally expected.
I wouldn’t qualify weather conditions as being rough, but let’s say muscular: 20 to 25 knots from the east, with seas increasing as we were travelling west. Well, I realized you can get waves in our small Caribbean Sea. After day 3, swell over 12 ft. was the norm, and I trust we’ve seen several 15 ft., may be even 18 ft. waves.
The junk behaved incredibly well in these conditions, with numerous surfs over 10 knots. We even reached 13 knots. The vessel is extremely seaworthy. At least the hull. See below re rig. Out typical day was 180NM, and the best we did was 190NM. Almost 8 knots mean speed over 24 hours was very satisfying, especially on 17 tons+ vessel.
Things started to get a bit rough on the night of the 28th, when we lost our mizeen mast. Literally chopped off at deck level, in only 13 knots of apparent wind. The Oregon Pine wood got rotten on 2 sides, at deck level, due to the lack of a proper boot on deck. This leads me to think about the pros and cons of self-supporting masts. I still think they are great. They save you from the whole rumble of stays check, cable conditions, etc… When you lose one, a kitchen knife is enough to cut the sheets that still hold it. Your rig will hardly damage your hull.
On the other end, there is no warning. There’s nothing you can check. You can’t predict what will happen.
The second big issue is that these masts are one off. There is no mast supermarket available when you need to replace one. You only have the option to build another one. We’ve been checking around in Colon city for potential replacement, in aluminum, wood, or FRP but without luck.
Following Murphy’s law, the next morning after losing the mast, we lost the main sail yard (the upper batten, the one that holds the whole sail). It literally cracked in 2 pieces. We had several bamboo replacement battens, but no yard.
Anyway, in such situation, there is no way anymore to carry any sail. We were 300 NM from Panama, we had an engine and lots of diesel. I didn’t even bother to sort out a solution and we finished the trip on engine.
We had 2 bad shaking days at 4 knots speed in 15 ft. seas, but it’s OK. As mentioned, the hull is extremely solid and takes the sea very well. Moreover, the crew did not show signs of nervous breakdowns, so why worry?
Without a replacement mast, the Pacific crossing is seriously jeopardized. The best option we found is to ship our junk on a cargo ship. There is a pick up for sailing yachts in Golfito, pacific coast of Costa Rica, on the 16th of july. This is our next stop. Tomorrow we will go through the canal and head towards CR.
Feng Zheng – literally Kite in mandarin chinese – is a 46 footer junk, custom built in France from 2000 to 2005, and made of wood/epoxy, following traditional chinese design. She weights 17 tons.
She is powered by a 85 HP “Nanni” 4-cylinder turbo charged diesel engine, equipped with dual 12V and 24V alternators. She is shaft propelled by a 4 bladed fixed bronze propeller. She is also equipped with a 5000 W “Max Power” bow thruster. The engine is fed by 3 diesel tanks for a total capacity of 850 liters (2 X 250 + 1 X 350).
She carries one 360 liters PVC water tank, one “Lavac” toilet, one 100 liter black water tank and one 100 liter grey water tank. The plumbing system is wired in 24V with 2 submersible bilge pumps (in front bilge and in engine bilge). An “Echotec” watermaker is also fitted.
She is schooner rigged with 2 wooden keel stepped self supporting masts, carrying each a traditional bamboo battened sail.
As mentioned, she is wired in both 12V and 24V, using 12 “Mastervolt” high amperage 2V 490Ah batteries for the house bank, 2 extra 55 Ah 12V batteries for the windlass and the bow thruster, 1 emergency 12V 4D 200Ah battery (connected to radio equipment) and 1 12V 120Ah start battery. 4 solar panels and one wind generator are also used to provide electricity.
Electronic navigation aids include latest “Raymarine” GPS/plotters, dual hydraulic pilots, “Iridium Go” system, and a 24″”Raymarine Quantum” radar. Should I mention that she is equipped with AIS as well ?
She sleeps 6 altogether in 2 cabins and saloon.
We’re outbound for Tutukaka in New Zealand via Panama, Galapagos, Marquesas, Society islands, Cook and Tonga’s.
We’ve very busy preparing her these last weeks, but we should leave next week, weather permits.