An adventure to Panama

Antigua challenges behind us. We continue with new people, new friends, new waters, new energy, just the same old heat.

We’re at it and underway again. Disco is currently humming along, the eastern Caribbean Sea underneath her. Un-sailed waters on her current endeavour as we tick off the miles and venture ever more west.

Antigua was productive, slow, interesting, fun, and frustrating; all in equal measure. Our primary objective was to replace our beloved Penelope the Propeller with a different version that will get us through the Panama Canal and up to San Diego. Because we like to make life interesting and the easy way out is never the most fun, we decided to do this without lifting the boat out of the water. SCUBA time!

However, before the underwater excitement could take place, the first challenge was to get the new propeller ‘un-detained’ from Antiguan customs. The hardest bit of this actually ended up trying to find the correct building and department at which to make the negotiations. Once we finally ended up in the right place the rest of the process was relatively straightforward and surprising inexpensive.

Next up was removing our damaged propeller. Penelope is a very special propeller, a Bruntons Autoprop. This makes her a highly effective and efficient propeller for Discoverer, however it also means a rather specific tool is required to remove it from the shaft. Somewhere in the extensive operation to get everything arranged for us in Antigua, the provision of this tool slipped through the net… This left us with no option but to make one! Myself and our new crewmember and resident aeronautical engineer, Jonathon, knocked up a quick design for what we needed and took it to a local workshop. A short few hours later our very own custom prop puller was ready. Armed with some hired SCUBA kit, plentiful enthusiasm, and very large spanner, the underwater antics began.

Myself and our other new crewmember and onboard scientist, Renaud, went for a paddle, and without too much difficulty had the old prop off and safely aboard Discoverer. First step complete. We then began the interesting manoeuvre of taking the new prop down with us and attempting to fit it to the shaft. With an underwater visibility of about 6 inches this was not a simple procedure, and even less simple was trying to establish why it was in fact not fitting properly in place of the old one.

The rather extensive task of identifying the issue began, we eventually had to bring it back up to the surface and compare both propellers with a pair of measuring callipers. In the end it was only after attempting to refit it a second time, taking lots of macro photographs, and then analysing them in the dry without the challenges of being underwater did we realise that the problem lay with the way the shaft key fitted the new propeller. Some more diving to retrieve the rogue key, another trip to a workshop to get it milled down to what we hoped was the correct measurement, and the final attempt was prepared. Success! With our newly adapted key we were in business, a propeller fitted, and the boat whole again.

Big thanks to Bruntons Propellers for their collaboration in getting us underway again, and we look forward to continuing to work together to get our awesome Autoprop driving us once again.

Other than the propeller shenanigans, Antigua saw many of our Atlantic crew head back to the ‘real world’, and it was emotional to see them all go after so long and so much shared together. The only upside of their departure is the new crew we have taken on. Disco is now a busy boat, with 13 crew, between us 10 different nationalities, 7 languages spoken, 15 passports (making customs a lengthy procedure…), and a rich variety of life and experience. I think we’re all looking forward to the dynamic that this much variety brings to the boat, and hearing the many, many stories there are between us to tell and share.

Another great connection to make while there was with Team Maverick, a very exciting racing boat concept and team who were in the same marina as us. I know several of the crew on Maverick from previous sailing, and they were kind enough to support us throughout our time at Jolly Harbour, from advice and tools, to the use of their washing machine! They’ve exciting times coming up with the ever increasing success they are having on the racing circuit, and I wish them the best of luck with the upcoming Caribbean 600 race. If you want to see a seriously cool boat and follow their success story check out

It has been a common theme throughout my involvement in this project, in terms of how it reaches out to and brings together different groups, businesses, organisations, individuals, from all around the world and many different walks of life. Just feeling the energy on the boat in the last few days has reminded me why we are doing this, and re-inspired me as to the incredible potential of what The Longest Swim can achieve.

It is an amazing thing to be involved in a project such as this, which provides a platform for so many different concepts, and such a range of global involvement and outreach. The sky is the limit for what potential there is in this, and everyone can be involved in making this a success. Keep an eye out for our updates – there is a lot of exciting progress going on at the moment, and share what you can about the project. The more people we reach, the more it will achieve, and the more we can do to share the story, the research, the journey, and the adventures to come.


Date: 12th February 2017
Time: 1801z
Position: 15°45.7N 063° 35.7W
COG: 220°T
SOG: 6kts
Wind: ENE 3-4
Swell: E 2-3ft
Sky: 0/8
Weather: Fair weather sailing


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