Feb
11

The Virgin Islands

There was more we would have liked to see and do on Culebra but the Christmas Winds were taking a short break and we took the opportunity to get some easting done. We checked out, said adios to friends and headed out of the anchorage.

St. Thomas is not far from Culebra and we had the anchor down on Water Island just off St Thomas in time to contact our friend Katie who lives on the island. Katie met us at a local hangout on the beach in Honeymoon Cove where we enjoyed catching up and making plans for the next few days. After a rolly night in the anchorage Katie took us on a tour of the island in her golf cart and ended at her lovely home. Robin enjoyed the hospitality, view and lack of rocking so much she spent the night while Mike returned to Mermaid.

We moved Mermaid over to Charlotte Amalie where the anchorage was crowded but quite calm. The anchorage was so big a large navy could fit. We would regularly have four large cruise ships, lots of boats and yachts and even sea planes taking off or landing. It was busy but very convenient to provisioning, restaurants, wifi and chandleries.

We moved to Brenners Bay alongside the runway for Christmas and found the anchorage flat calm. Lovely! We snorkeled and enjoyed the bay until it was time for Alan to visit and moved back to Charlotte Amalie for convenience. Alan and his girlfriend Rachel flew in and we had a nice beach day at Honeymoon Cove on Water Island. The following morning we had a boisterous trip over to St. John. We played lots of games, had many snorkeling adventures and an all around good time. Their trip ended all to soon so we returned to Charlotte Amalie where they took an early flight out on New Years Day. After a day or two of rest and recovery, we moved to Hawknest Bay on St John for more snorkeling before heading to the BVI.

We had a lovely, quick sail to Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands and grabbed a mooring ball as is required many places. The Virgin Islands has installed many moorings to try to protect the reefs. We went to shore and enjoyed Corsairs and Foxy’s remembering lots of memories of our numerous times at these restaurants.

We sailed down to Benures Bay on Norman Island and anchored for a few days. We snorkeled and had dinghy adventures enjoying the peace and beauty. Winds were predicted to become strong and last a couple of weeks so before they moved in we took the opportunity to sail to the North Sound on Virgin Gorda where we would wait for the opportunity to sail to Sint Maarten. We anchored on the west side of the bay off Prickly Pear Island between the Lunch Box and Saba Rock. We were the only boat anchored until the winds kicked up then many, many boats joined us in the calm. The wind blew as predicted for 11 days. We didn’t just sit and wait, this was the North Sound; home of The Bitter End Yacht Club, Saba Rock, Levericks Bay as well as other fun spots. We enjoyed them all! We ate good meals, took in a Michael Bean Happy Arrrrh (or two), enjoyed a few happy hours, watched the Cowboys loose the playoffs, rented a car with Bob and Sarah of Rhapsody and toured the island.

Robin on the Bow from the top of the mast

Robin on the Bow from the top of the mast

Alan's pic of a nurse shark taken in Francis Bay on St John

Alan’s pic of a nurse shark taken in Francis Bay on St John

Red Hind pic by Alan from Francis Bay snorkel

Red Hind pic by Alan from Francis Bay snorkel

Alan limin' on a beach day

Alan limin’ on a beach day

Exploring ruins on St. John

Exploring ruins on St. John

Rachel snorkeling in Francis Bay on St. John

Rachel snorkeling in Francis Bay on St. John

Rachel on beach day

Rachel on beach day

Rouge II in St Thomas

Rouge II in St Thomas

Robin buying a copy of Cruising Outpost at Corsairs on Jost Van Dyke

Robin buying a copy of Cruising Outpost at Corsairs on Jost Van Dyke

Micheal bean doing his thing at happy Arrgh!

Micheal bean doing his thing at happy Arrgh!

Robin, Bob and Sara at happy Arrgh!

Robin, Bob and Sara at happy Arrgh!

Robin at the Baths on Virgin Gorda

Robin at the Baths on Virgin Gorda

Mike at the Baths on Virgin Gorda

Mike at the Baths on Virgin Gorda

with Bob and Sara at the Baths

with Bob and Sara at the Baths

Saba Rock

Saba Rock

Feb
10

The Spanish Virgin Islands

We’d planned to set out early from Ponce, Puerto Rico and head east for the Spanish Virgins. The plan for the first day was to make a stop at the fuel dock to take on diesel then hop down the south coast of Puerto Rico and spend the night at Patilla. Fate intervened. As we were preparing to cast off a power outage put the fuel dock out of commission. After more than an hour of waiting we got a call from the fuel dock that they had rigged a generator so we filled up both the diesel tanks and motored out of the harbor. The wind was light and we got a few squalls along the way but pulled into Patilla an hour before sunset. There was a bit of southeast swell running that rolled right into the anchorage but we arrived too late to head anywhere else making for a very rolly night. We left early the next morning for Sun Bay on the south coast of Vieques where we thought that we might get some protection from the southeast swell. We were wrong. The swell was sneaking around the corner right into the anchorage. We decided to head down the coast to Ensenada Honda near the southeast corner of the island so we headed back out. Ensenada Honda is a remote spot that’s well protected by barrier islands but after looking at the chart closely we noted that there were several spots that you had to navigate around where the depth was six feet or less so we turned around again and headed back to Sun Bay. A rolly night being far superior to a night on the stones. The next day was Robin’s birthday and as the tradition on Mermaid we were underway. This time we were heading for Culebra. It was a nice sunny day and as we motorsailed along a big drop off along the south coast of Vieques we hooked a couple of nice barracudas before turning north for a nice sail to Culebra. Culebra is a great natural harbor. The large lagoon is protected by a ring of hills on three sides and by a reef on the other. We came through the well marked cut in the reef and dropped the hook in the calm waters of the lagoon. Culebra is very laid back and we took to it immediately. We enjoyed a wonderful birthday dinner with Sue and Rich along with other new cruising friends.

Many cruising boats make Culebra a stop on the way to the Eastern Caribbean island chain so we met a number of the boats passing through as well as a few that were long term residents. A favorite hang was the Dingy Dock Restaurant where a school of Tarpon swim along the dock waiting for handouts. We had a nice dingy raft up one evening and rented a golf cart and toured the island with some new cruiser friends Bruce and Tammy. We got in some very nice snorkeling and would have loved to spend more time there but the Christmas winds were starting to fill in so when we got a break in the winds we decided to head east to St. Thomas.

soon to be on the menu at the Dingy Dock on Culebra

soon to be on the menu at the Dingy Dock on Culebra

Tarpon at the dingy dock

Tarpon at the dingy dock

Robin checking out the tarpon

Robin checking out the tarpon

Robin and Tammy in the carrito

Robin and Tammy in the carrito

This tank was a target for bombing practice back in the day.

This tank was a target for bombing practice back in the day.

A new painter for the dingy

A new painter for the dingy

Robin heading out the bridge in Culebra

Robin heading out the bridge in Culebra

P1150304

Open some days closed others - that captures the pace of life on Culebra

Open some days closed others – that captures the pace of life on Culebra

Feb
09

Puerto Rico!

After a four day passage from Santa Marta Colombia we arrived the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club on the south coast of Puerto Rico just after sunrise. We had reserved a slip but it was hours before they opened. Robin hailed them on the radio anyway and the security guy at the fuel dock responded and pointed us to a slip that would handle our eight foot draft. It was right next to an over the water restaurant with a patio below. We pulled in, tied up and called Customs on the phone. Wow! The friendly, welcoming official on the phone gave us clear instructions on what to do and welcomed us back to the USA and all in perfect English. Mike napped as we waited for the Customs man to show up at the boat and by late morning we were visited by Homeland Security and checked into the country.

Early that evening we heard music and went in the cockpit to see what was going on. There was a party on the patio with great Latin music booming from a boat tied up around the corner from us. We were sipping a cocktail in the cockpit when one of the party goers stopped by the boat to see where we had come from and were surprised when we told them Colombia. One thing led to another and the next thing we knew we had a small crowd at the boat. One lady brought us excellent home made paella from the party and we were introduced around and the commodore of PYFC invited us aboard his large power yacht for a trip to Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island) with his family. The next morning it was off to the island in a big Hatteras. It was a blast at the island with this gracious family and their friends. Late that afternoon a big squall moved in and we roared back in the big Hatteras at 30 knots beating the squall to the marina. The people at Ponce Yacht and Fishing club were fantastic! They gave us phone numbers in case we needed anything, offered us rides and gave us some great ideas of places to eat, shop and get sails fixed.

After a few days of boat chores we were ready to explore inland. Time for a road trip. We rented a car on Mike’s birthday and drove over the top of the Island to San Juan on the north coast. We stayed in a small, boutique hotel in Old San Juan. While touring Old San Juan we came across what looked like an old time barber shop and realized that Mike was overdue for a haircut. We popped in and told them he just needed a trim… The lady that gave him the haircut was a bit OCD… she took a very long time and for about the last 15 minutes she was actually measuring and cutting one hair at a time. In the evening we strolled the narrow streets browsing through the shops stopping frequently to sample the libations of the many bars in the area. For dinner we went to the historic Barrachina Restaraunt where we took in a flamenco show and made new friends. After dinner we ended up in a local bar where Mike made a new Puerto Rican buddy who seemed so happy that we were having a great time on his island. When you’re a cruiser inland trips have to include stops at chandeliers to pick up boat parts. We hit just about every one on the island. We stopped at the big West Marine in San Juan and made a significant donation when we left, but it had been a long while since Mermaid had been near a West Marine. We headed back for Ponce but stopped to eat at Restaurante La Guardarraya, a place that both our LA friend Alicia and our new Ponce friends said we must try. The spot is off the beaten path, has been there forever and is given the reverence that someone from Fort Worth would give Joe T. Garcias. The specialty of the house was Chuletas Can Can. One of our new Puerto Rican friends described it to us as “You know in the opening of the Flintstones where they carry out the huge hunk of meat, its like that.” He didn’t lie. Chuletas Can Can is a pork chop with the rib still attached and a thick strip of fat around the edge. It’s seasoned and fried until the fat is crispy and the meat is tender and juicy … ¡muy sabroso! On the morning that we returned the car we stopped at the Plaza Delicias in the historic part of Ponce. The colonial architecture around the square was way cool and the old fire station was an impressive sight.

Caja de Muertos fun

Caja de Muertos fun

Caja de Muertos Friends

Caja de Muertos Friends

Great day at Caja de Muertos!

Great day at Caja de Muertos!

Big fun on Caja de Muertos

Big fun on Caja de Muertos

Ols San Juan alley

Ols San Juan alley

Mike ready to tear into his Chuletta Can Can

Mike ready to tear into his Chuletta Can Can

Robin at the city wall in Old San Juan.

Robin at the city wall in Old San Juan.

Mike and a new Puerto Rican buddy

Mike and a new Puerto Rican buddy

Flamenco at Barrachina in Old San Juan

Flamenco at Barrachina in Old San Juan

Happy hour in Old San Juan

Happy hour in Old San Juan

Ponce Colonial building

Ponce Colonial building

Fountain in Ponce

Fountain in Ponce

Ponce Fire station

Ponce Fire station

Ponce Fire Station

Ponce Fire Station

Robin with the main sail at the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club

Robin with the main sail at the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club

Jan
15

San Andres, Colombia to Puerto Rico

Sometimes going from point A to point B is not even close to a straight line! Our intention was to go from San Andres (a small island off the coast of Nicaragua that belongs to Colombia) to the Dominican Republic or Jamaica if necessary, then hop along the southern coasts of the DR to Puerto Rico and beyond. We checked out of Colombia November 1st with a zarpe stating our next port of entry would be the Dominican Republic and got underway.
We headed east hoping to avoid a counter-current and reach some southeasterly winds to head to the DR. It seems the weather had other intentions. The weather in the northwestern Caribbean was squally and northerly winds were blowing. This put the wind on the nose with rough seas if we wanted to head north. However, in the Southern Caribbean the wind was light with flat seas and when the trades filled in the forecast was for southeast wind. We decided to head out of San Andres and motor sail due east while the winds were light setting up a nice reach to the Dominican Republic when they filled in. We checked in with Caribbean weather guru Chris Parker by radio each morning and evening for a weather report and his advice on what weather was coming. We made nice progress for a couple of days but the forecast changed and now the trades were going to be out of the northeast turning our nice reach into a beat right into the wind. We decided to head for Santa Marta, Colombia and wait for better weather. The last night the wind filled in and we bashed into a steep, short sea so we were very happy when we made port and in a slip in the marina in Santa Marta. Four days after departing Colombia we returned to Colombia – no big deal right? WRONG! It seems Colombia or at least Santa Marta customs and immigration was not at all happy with a Zarpe saying we were going to the DR and here we were in their backyard. A few extra “tips” to a few extra “officials” and we were checked back into Colombia.
As we tied Mermaid to the dock we noticed Second Wind, friends we hadn’t seen in quite a while two slips down. We took a picture and posted it on Facebook. Much to our surprise, Roger and Susan were aboard. We all had a good visit and spent the next week or so enjoying the lovely town of Santa Marta waiting for favorable weather to head north. We walked to town in the evenings enjoying mojitos, good food and people watching around the town square. We spent the days working on boat projects, combing the town looking for parts and provisioning.
After about a week a weather window to head north formed. We fueled up, checked out of the country and headed to Puerto Rico. The first night was not fun! The Caribbean coast of Columbia is notoriously windy with the highest wind between 2:00 and 6:00 am. By Colombian standards what we got was mild but we still had big square seas with a gusty wind right on the nose for several hours. By morning things had calmed down and we continued motor sailing east in mild conditions, rounding Cabo Vela the evening of the second day. That evening the forecast for the southerly winds were were hoping for changed to easterly. If the south easterlies didn’t materialize we decided to head for Bonaire and wait. Bonaire looked like a place we would like with clear water and great snorkeling. We were actually looking forward to it. Meanwhile, we kept going east passing about 10 mile north of Aruba where we realized that a cruise ship that was passing us didn’t have their AIS on to identify them. We were only about 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela, not a safe area so we decided to turn ours off as well. That evening the winds filled in from the southeast. We were looking forward to Bonaire but realized if we stopped there may not be another window to cross and it would put us in PR late in the season.
So, we turned left, waved at Bonaire and headed to Puerto Rico. We had a great sail through the night with Mermaid galloping along at 8.5 knots but that didn’t last. The next day was ugly. It was squally with no wind between the squalls and the wind in the squalls was unpredictable. Sometimes the squalls literally were black when we entered them and calm as we passed under them. Other times they didn’t look so bad and would suddenly hit us with 35 knot gusts of winds with driving rain for long periods of time. They really kept us on our toes!
As we approached the entrance to Ponce, Puerto Rico in the early hours of the morning, one last squall passed behind us and gave us a beautiful rainbow. We decided this had to be a good omen!

Street Dancers in Santa Marta

Street Dancers in Santa Marta

Santa Marta local art

Santa Marta local art

With Roger and Susan of Second Wind in Santa Marta

With Roger and Susan of Second Wind in Santa Marta

Santa Marta

Santa Marta

Ice Cream!

Ice Cream!

Shade underway

Shade underway

Robin trimming the main in a squall

Robin trimming the main in a squall

Sunset at Sea

Sunset at Sea

Booby on board

Booby on board

Ponce Rainbow

Ponce Rainbow

Nov
01

San Andres, Colombia

We headed out of Bocas Del Toro, Panama early in the morning and headed north for San Andres, Colombia. There was little wind and we motored through flat seas all day and night. We were planning on stopping at the Albuquerque Cays, an atoll about 30 miles south of San Andres, but when we arrived there were squalls all around including right over the entrance. The pass through the reef is full of coral heads and you need good light to enter. This wasn’t in the cards so we headed on for San Andre. The entrance to the anchorage is well marked but navigating through the small anchorage surrounded by shallow sand flats was a challenge. We ended up moving a couple of times over the next few days before finding a place we were comfortable with. San Andres belongs to Colombia but is off the coast of Nicaragua. It’s Colombia’s version of Hawaii. A beautiful island with white sand beaches, fringed with coral reefs and full of tourists. We spent out days hanging out on Mermaid, walking around the island and snorkeling. One day we rented a carrito (a souped up golf cart) and headed out to circumnavigate the island. We stopped at a little stand of a beach bar and had the requisite drink out of a coconut shell, stopped at the Cueva de Morgan, a tourist trap built over a cave where the pirate Henry Morgan may have hidden his treasure. After a nice lunch we headed for a small lake where we fed a group of caymans then were heading back to the south tip of the island when we got caught is a downpour. The carrito had no windshield, windows, or doors for that matter, and we got a bit damp before pulling over at the blowhole on the South point where we waited out the squall with a beer.

With hurricane season winding down and the weather looking favorable we plan to head toward the eastern Caribbean in the first week of November. Right now the forecast is for light winds the first few days of November. We plan to motor or motor sail east and then sail north to the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico.

Robin at Tourist Island

Robin at Tourist Island

Nice View

Nice View

fish-guy

Albuqueruque Cays Squall

Albuqueruque Cays Squall

Mike snorkeling

Mike snorkeling

Wow! Great snorkeling.

Wow! Great snorkeling.

Mike with our agent, Rene. Passports stamped and Zarpe in hand.

Mike with our agent, Rene. Passports stamped and Zarpe in hand.

Local Boats

Local Boats

Gray Anglefish

Gray Anglefish

City Map

City Map

They just want the dogs

They just want the dogs

Mike snorkeling

Mike snorkeling

Waiting out the rain

Waiting out the rain

Driving the carrito

Driving the carrito

And another thing ...

And another thing …

Nene's

Nene’s

Nurse Shark

Nurse Shark

Beach Barito

Beach Barito

Enjoying the beach

Enjoying the beach

Traffic Control

Traffic Control

Nene's Marina

Nene’s Marina

Oct
05

Bocas Del Toro

We pulled into Bocas Marina in late August to get a few more boat chores done and wait out hurricane season. We scavenged a part off an old Honda outboard to fix the problem with the transom clamp, re-bedded the stanchions and Robin made new curtains. Of course, we also managed to squeeze in some fun. We caught up with Craig and Liz of Salida who we hadn’t seen since Southern California and spent a great beach day at Nacho Mamma’s on Bastiamentos Island. Whenever conditions looked good we took off for a snorkel and enjoyed hanging out at happy hour at the Calypso Cantina. Mike whipped out his harmonicas a few times and sat in with the players on Friday night. (The guy in the picture playing the drum played with Santana once upon a time.) Mermaid is ready to go and we’re busy scouring charts and guides preparing to head to the Eastern Caribbean.

Nacho Mammas

Nacho Mammas

Liz, Craig, Robin and Mike

Liz, Craig, Robin and Mike

Waves break into the Calypso Cantina in a squall

Waves break into the Calypso Cantina in a squall

Robin holding the moon

Robin holding the moon

When in need anythings a boat

When in need anythings a boat

Sea Star

Sea Star

Caribbean Reef Squid

Caribbean Reef Squid

Four Eyed butterflyfish

Four Eyed butterflyfish

Mike playing the harp

Mike playing the harp

Oct
05

Shelter Bay and Escudo de Veraguas

We returned to Panama and Mermaid in Shelter Bay Marina near Colon on the Caribbean side of the canal. We had every intention to head off to the San Blas on our return but it didn’t work out that way. Every few days there would be another report about a boat hit by lightning in the San Blas. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor we decided that getting some boat chores done in Shelter Bay might be a god idea. We had Mermaid hauled and had the bottom painted, replaced all the zincs as well as greased the prop before returning to the water and the slip. We spent our days doing boat chores (all those little jobs that we would do someday) and getting Mermaid in perfect order all while provisioning away. We kept waiting for the lightning in San Blas to ease so we could return, but we kept hearing of boat after boat getting hit. We finally decided to return to Bocas Del Toro instead to wait out the rest of the hurricane season.

On the way to Bocas we stopped at Escudo de Veraguas. We have wanted to visit this remote island for over two years, but the weather has to be very settled in order to stop there. We finally saw our opportunity, threw off the dock lines and headed back to sea. Leaving in the early afternoon the conditions were what we call “trawler weather” which meant no wind and no seas. We motored all afternoon and through the night to Veraguas. It was a beautiful, clear night. In the early evening we saw Mars and Saturn very close together and very bright. Later the milky way was bright across the sky and we saw several large falling stars in the southwestern sky. One, around three in the morning was so bright that it lit up the boat for a second or two.

Escudo de Veraguas is a small, pristine island around 10 miles off the coast and 50 miles from Bocas. We dropped the hook only to find that the clamp screws that hold the outboard to the transom had corroded and we couldn’t get the motor off the stand on Mermaid. ARGHHHH! Oh well, we got the oars out and rowed in. Veraguas is paradise. The island and the beaches were lovely and you can see that sea turtles were nesting everywhere. There is a scientific study of the turtles and hundreds of nests were marked. Walking down the beach we saw several places with turtle tracks from recent nesting activity. Back on the boat we were visited by a local fisherman who agreed to take us for a tour of the island in his panga. Martin was friendly and we had a nice circumnavigation of the island going places we never would have found on our own.

Robin painted our name on the wall at Shelter Bay

Robin painted our name on the wall at Shelter Bay

Mike and Robin with our Mermaid tag.

Mike and Robin with our Mermaid tag.

Robin doing boat chores

Robin doing boat chores

Paradise

Paradise

Robin at Veraguas

Robin at Veraguas

Big sand dollar

Big sand dollar

Veraguas Arch

Veraguas Arch

Turtle research assistant

Turtle research assistant

Mike at the arch

Mike at the arch

turtle tracks

turtle tracks

rowing ashore

rowing ashore

lovely beach

lovely beach

Mike and Martin

Mike and Martin

Oct
04

Back in the USA

We spent a couple of months back in the USA visiting friends and family in Texas, Alaska and California. We spent some time in Juneau hanging with Stacy, Frank and the grandkids. We celebrated (early) Autumn’s 5th birthday, got in a bit of hiking and exploring and Robin even got to watch Stacy perform in the Play “Sweeney Todd” in Anchorage. Down in LA we had a great visit with David and Kathy in Pasadena. Mike and David played a few rounds of Frisbee golf, we had a great day at the horse races and we even hopped back aboard Dark & Stormy for some racing out of Marina Del Rey. Robin and Kathy spent a day at Disneyland (of course) and got to eat dinner at Club 33. The 4th of July meant watching fireworks at the Rose Bowl. We had the best burger ever with Austin at a burger bar called Stout’s and learned about Jameson Pickle Backs with Alan on father’s day. We also got to catch up with some of Alan’s high school friends. It was so great to see them all grown up and responsible. We went with Jan and Andy to Catalina Island aboard Enchanted Lady and the Seal Beach Yacht Club. Just like old times!

Alasaka Beach Fun

Alasaka Beach Fun

Autumn at the beach

Autumn at the beach

Playing at the beach

Playing at the beach

Mike and Kaash heading for the water

Mike and Kaash heading for the water

Carved into a tree on a mountainside

Carved into a tree on a mountainside

Mount Roberts hike

Mount Roberts hike

Robin and the big log

Robin and the big log

Autumn at the playground

Autumn at the playground

Make a wish

Make a wish

Austin on Dark N Stormy

Austin on Dark N Stormy

Mike and David on Dark N Stormy

Mike and David on Dark N Stormy

Robin on Dark N Stormy

Robin on Dark N Stormy

Dolphins in the Catalina Channel

Dolphins in the Catalina Channel

4th of July at the Rose Bowl

4th of July at the Rose Bowl

Frisbee golf in LA

Frisbee golf in LA

Three stooges

Three stooges

Sep
03

End of the Season

With Mike’s mom ailing back in the US we took Mermaid to Shelter Bay Marina in Colon so Mike could fly to Texas for a couple of weeks. While he was gone, Robin met a new good friend Donna Lange. Donna was in the middle of completing her second solo circumnavigation. She had planned to sail by the great capes but when issues with the boat developed crossing the Pacific she headed for the Panama Canal. Robin wasn’t just making new friends, Bob and Sherry of Nirvana, our friends from Southern California and Mexico, had arrived in Panama City on the Pacific side of the canal. Robin and Donna made the trip to Panama City and the two line-handled for Nirvana through the Canal to Shelter Bay. The transit went smoothly except that Robin got smashed in the face by a monkey fist thrown down to the boat as they entered the Gatun locks and ended up with a nasty black eye.

On Mike’s return, Robin had Mermaid provisioned and ready to return to San Blas. Mermaid and Nirvana sailed to Linton, spent the night and sailed to San Blas early the next day. We dropped the hook first near the swimming pool in the Hollandes Cays and then in the western Coco Bandaras. It was great fun catching up with Nirvana, snorkeling, playing cards and dominoes and enjoying many meals in both cockpits.

This all ended way too soon when we got the call that we needed to return to Texas. Early the next morning we headed back to Shelter Bay where we got the news that Mike’s mom had passed away peacefully in her sleep. We buttoned up Mermaid and flew out.

Nirvana Canal Crew2

Nirvana Canal Crew2

Monkey Fist to the Eye Hurts!

Monkey Fist to the Eye Hurts!

Bob & Sherry saying good bye to the Pacific

Bob & Sherry saying good bye to the Pacific

Good Times!

Good Times!

Apres Snorkel

Apres Snorkel

Mike Snorkeling

Mike Snorkeling

Looks Like Dr Seuss Snorkeled Here

Looks Like Dr Seuss Snorkeled Here

Coco Banderas Beach

Coco Banderas Beach

Mermaid at Anchor

Mermaid at Anchor

Old Anchor

Old Anchor

Robin & Sherry

Robin & Sherry

Interesting Ocean Critter

Interesting Ocean Critter

Mermaid & Nirvana at Anchor

Mermaid & Nirvana at Anchor

Coco Banderas

Coco Banderas

Clear Waters

Clear Waters

Aug
31

Life in the San Blas…

Anchored out in the San Blas Islands of Panama is a mix of spectacular snorkeling, good friends, potlucks on the beaches, beautiful islands, seas and sunsets. We have really enjoyed our time in the San Blas Islands! And, we got to share a taste of living the dream. Our friend Jessamine came for a week of fun and Mike’s brother David along with our friend Kathy came for two weeks of snorkeling and jocularity. Mike always tells guests on Mermaid that “you can’t drink all day unless you start in the morning” and while we didn’t really take that to heart, everyone kicked back and let loose a bit. We had a great party with a Guna family on Cambombia with Jessamine. They brought the coconuts and we brought rum. Just chop off the top of the coconut, mix in some rum with the coconut milk and pass it around. A good time was had by all. David and Kathy enjoyed some world class snorkeling around the Hollandes Caves. We were anchored near the Swimming Pool anchorage in the Hollandes Cays ans a dingy ride over the shallow water of the back reef brought us to within yards of where the swell of the Caribbean crashed on the outer reef sending spray high into the air. We anchored the dingy in the safely of the calm water behind the reef and found outstanding snorkeling where a crack in the reef resulted in multiple large overhangs and caves that went under the reef, some connecting with the open ocean. The marine life was wondrous. The coral and anemones were beautiful and the reef fish were abundant with angelfish, damselfish, wrasse, parrotfish, squirrel fish, trunkfish and puffers in every nook and cranny.

The adventure for guests starts long before they board Mermaid. Getting there is an adventure in itself. With shopping limited to basic supplies at mom and pop stores in the San Blas, Robin took the opportunity to make a trip to Panama City to reprovision and meet our guests. She started by arranging for a water taxi to pick her up at dawn for the hour and a half water taxi ride from Mermaid to the Island of Carti. Often this was a ride in an open panga through big wind waves where everything not securely under a tarp got drenched. The only road into the San Blas ends in Carti and she would hop on a 4X4 for the windy, three hour ride through the jungle and over the continental divide to Panama City. In Panama City, or as the locals shorten it, Panama, she hit the supermarkets to stock up on things that weren’t available or much cheaper in the city. Rum, cheeses, olives and other delicacies filled the shopping cart. She spent the night in a hotel where friends and family would meet up with her then all would pile into another 4×4 at the crack of dawn for the reverse trip back to Mermaid. They’d arrive before noon, often soaked to the bone but always with a smile.David and Kathy drink delivery cooling off Coco Loco Cambombia Cambombia beach veggie boat haul Anenome anenomes baby squid BlueTang INT - Salardup Typhoo crew give local kids a ride SHARK! Sea fan with Flamingo tounge Robin Snorkel Robin and Kathy taking a dip Mike Robin Kathy David Mike Snorkel Pot Luck Robin and Jessamine beach combing Robin and Kathy on Gorgidup Mike gave a local a Harmonica Mike and Laura of Galana Longjaw Squirlfish - Hollanedes Caves Jessamine Mola shopping Jessamine Apre Snorkle hmmmmm Guna Ulu Guna kids coming by for candy Guna kid and dog EagleRays

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