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

Feb
08

Island Life

After being at anchor since early December we’ve settled into island life. The days seem to melt together punctuated by boat chores, snorkeling trips, dingy adventures, pot lucks and the occasional trip to town. We’ve moved from one idyllic anchorage to another whenever the whim struck us. Here’s a typical day:

Robin is the early riser. She’s up with the sun making coffee and sitting in the cockpit in the cool of the early morning. When we’re in an area that that gets internet this is the time that it works the best. We get internet through cellular and there are two towers in the San Blas. During the day the system gets overwhelmed and you yearn for the days of dialup on AOL but before 7:00 am it’s usually pretty good. At some point Mike stumbles into the cockpit with a cup of coffee and we survey our realm until the sun gets to intense. That’s usually a little after 8:00 and we move on the Panama Connection net. The net is on the single side band and comes on at 8:30. We get a weather update, local news and information and where people are and where they’re headed. After the net we fire up the generator to charge the batteries for a couple of hours. Robin is often starting the bread machine so we’ll have fresh bread by lunchtime and cooking what we will eat later in the day. The rest of the morning is all about boat chores. There’s always something to do from tinkering with the engine to polishing the stainless on deck.  Many days we are visited by locals in their ulus (a dugout canoe) selling whatever they have caught that day: lobster, conch, crab, octopus and an occasional fish. Believe it or not, we have grown tired of lobster and Robin has been perfecting different recipes for conch fritters and crab cakes.

After lunch it’s playtime. We often start with a little chillaxing before heading out. Usually it’s off for a snorkel on a nearby reef, a walk on one of the white sand, palm lined beaches or a get together on another boat. Mike has been on a mission to identify every fish on the reef for several weeks and has spent many hours poring over his Caribbean Reef Fish book. Robin just likes to look at the pretty fish. Over the past few weeks we’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Lanny and Ginger on Swiftsure as well as Kyle and Shelly on Blowin’ Bubbles. Kyle and Shelly were dive instructors for many years and Kyle had a compressor onboard to refill tanks. He and Mike spent many days diving on the reefs near Esnasdup where Kyle took it as his personal mission to rid the reef of Lionfish, an invasive species that is decimating the fish population in some areas. Lanny and Ginger, both very experienced divers, joined them for one of the dives while Robin and Shelly snorkeled nearby.

Back at the boat we get a shower on the transom and the sun sinks it sundowner time. Over the past month our favorite has been rum and soda with the juice of half a lima. A lima is a cross between a lime and an orange. It looks like a large lime but the meat is orangish and the flavor is a refreshing mix of orange and lime. Of course, it’s not always cocktails on Mermaid. We put away a few brewskies on Blowin Bubbles and you can’t beat Lanny’s gin and tonics on Swiftsure.

Most nights find us reading or watching the stars until cruiser midnight or around eight o’clock. However, we’ve enjoyed several jam sessions aboard Blue Sky with Breeze playing the guitar, Mike blowing the harps, Robin pitching in on a variety of percussion instruments along with other cruises. One night we even had an impromptu jam session on the Mermaid with Blowin’ Bubbles and their guests.  Kyle and Bob played dueling ukuleles, Kelly had dynamite vocals and Mike tried to keep up on the harmonica. Big Fun was had by all.

It’s great to meet other cruisers but part of the deal is that cruisers are transitory. Both Swiftsure and Blowin’ Bubbles headed for the Panama Canal to transit to the Pacific and head for the South Pacific this spring. We’ll miss them but look forward to new friends and new adventures.

Mermaid in Cambombia

Mermaid in Cambombia

Gorgidup

Gorgidup

Robin and Mike on Gorgidup

Robin and Mike on Gorgidup

Robin snorkeling

Robin snorkeling

Mike heading out for a dive

Mike heading out for a dive

This is Gorgidup but we renaned it Gorgeousdup

This is Gorgidup but we renaned it Gorgeousdup

Herman's house on Cambombia

Herman’s house on Cambombia

Hanging out in the Easnasdup Lagoon

Hanging out in the Easnasdup Lagoon

Robin collecting sand dollars near Sabudupored

Robin collecting sand dollars near Sabudupored

Esnasdup LAgoon

Esnasdup LAgoon

Mike at the Esnasdup lagoon

Mike at the Esnasdup lagoon

The veggie boat at Swiftsure with Lanny and Ginger

The veggie boat at Swiftsure with Lanny and Ginger

Snorkel treasure, a sand dollar with a brittle sea star

Snorkel treasure, a sand dollar with a brittle sea star

Kyle and Shelly on a dingy adventure

Kyle and Shelly on a dingy adventure

Buying lobster from a local.

Buying lobster from a local.

Robin with Lanny and Ginger on Greene Island

Robin with Lanny and Ginger on Greene Island

Mike cleaning a Lion Fish

Mike cleaning a Lion Fish

Jan
05

San Blas At Last

It took us more time than we had hoped to get to the San Blas Islands but it was worth the wait. The San Blas are a group of islands located on the Caribbean coast of Panama adjacent to the Columbian border. The islands are scattered in an archipelago near the coast with several main island groups separated by only a few miles. It’s a picture postcard tropical paradise. The Islands are covered by palms with white sand beaches and often surrounded by reefs. The water is clear creating that azure water in the shallows that always looks so inviting.

The area is inhabited by an indigenous people called the Guna (pronounced Kuna). The government of Panama created a semi-autonomous state called Guna Yala that includes the islands as well as the mountainous interior. The Gunas have a distinctive culture that is the best preserved of all the indigenous societies in the Americas. The society is hierarchical with the Sailas or chiefs of every village controlling all the activities of everyone in the village. Many Gunas still live in the traditional way and many still wear traditional dress however, some villages have adopted more western ways as technology and tourism have encroached on the area.

Our first anchorage in San Blas was at Yansaladup.  We’d only been there a few hours when a dugout canoe that the locals call an Ulu pulled alongside. It was Lisa, a master mola maker peddling her wares. Molas are a hand stitched rectangle of cloth that are made from different layers of colorful cloth. Each mola is unique and usually has a geometric pattern or abstract form of a bird, fish or other marine life. They are traditionally worn by Guna women on the front and back of their blouses but have become Panama’s most famous handicraft. Interestingly, Lisa is a well-known transvestite. Transvestites are not uncommon among the Guna and apparently carry no stigma. Robin, who’s been looking forward to mola shopping, invited her aboard where we sat in the cockpit going through many dozens of molas. After much discussion about quality and price Robin became the proud owner of a couple of Molas. Over the next few days we were visited by several other ulus with Guna selling molas. Robin added to her collection with purchases from Venancio, another master mola maker as well as something from everyone who was hawking their goods. Most of the islands are uninhabited which means the small stores are very few and far apart. We provisioned in Bocas and Colon but get our fresh goods from the locals who come out in their ulus selling veggies, fruits, Guna bread, sea food and occasionally eggs and chicken.

Jake and Jackie from the sailing vessel Ho’kolea out of Redondo Beach sailed into the San Blas. They left Redondo back in 2010 and having sailed across the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans were nearing the end of their circumnavigation. We spent a memorable day on a hike up to a waterfall on the mainland guided by Lisa, the transvestite mola maker. The water was clear and cool and there was a very nice swimming hole just below the falls. We jumped off a big rock around 20 feet above the water and over rocks sticking out several feet. After enjoying their company for a few days Ho’kolea headed for the Canal and the trip back to California.

Of course, everything didn’t go as planned. We started having issues with the generator proving the old adage that cruising means working on your boat in exotic places true yet again. Mike spent many hours fussing with it and talking to other cruisers about the issue to no avail. We eventually got in touch with Mike on Gillana, a South African who was formally an engineer on a diesel submarine. After only a few minutes he diagnosed the issue and it wasn’t good news. The pulley that held the timing belt on the cam shaft was slipping due to an improper installation. Ugh. We were thinking we’d have to head back to Shelter Bay and perhaps be in for a long repair. Nope, Gilana Mike turned out to be an engineering genius. He fabricated a part we needed from a spare that he had on hand, then installed it on our generator. Viola! The genny was back in business. It’s amazing the people that you run into “out there.”

With the Generator back in business we turned our attention to more mundane boat chores and having fun. We settled into a routine of a couple of hours of boat maintenance in the morning followed by a fun activity in the afternoon. We took dingy adventures to walk the beaches of nearby small islands or went for a snorkel on one of the many reefs. The snorkeling has been good bit some of the reefs have been quite effected by coral bleaching. However, we did spot a multitude of interesting marine wildlife: an octopus, a big moray eel, a monster sting ray, lobsters as well as many colorful reef fish. Mike spotted a large French Angelfish under an overhand that was 18 inches across.

We visited several anchorages and found Eric Bauhauses’ “The Panama Cruising Guide” exceptionally well done. It’s a must have for new cruisers to the San Blas. There are many reefs and sand banks and the water depth can go from 100 feet to 1 foot over a very short distance but “The Panama Cruising Guide has excellent charts and navigation information that allows you to plot a safe course and keep the boat off the bottom. After beginning our stay near Yansaladup in the Lemmon Keys we moved over to the “Hot Tub” anchorage in the Hollandes, then on to the Coco Banderos before heading to Cambombia in the Naguarandup Cays where we spent Christmas and before heading for Waisaladup. For Christmas we gave some small toys to the seven kids living on the Island who frolicked on the beach with the water toys and balls. Robin arranged with the locals to have a pot luck on the beach Christmas afternoon which drew a big, international crowd. We had Americans, even a young couple from Oklahoma, Italians, Norwegians, Portuguese, Brazilians as well as a big contingent of Gunas. New Years Eve found us aboard Blue Sky for a fabulous pot luck followed by a jam session where Mike shared his lack of Talent on the Harmonica with everyone.

Our first month in San Blas was a memorable one. We overcame a challenge with the generator and enjoyed the beauty of the archipelago both above and below the water. We also caught up with some old friends as well as made some new ones. Many people ask us what our plans are and we usually say that our plan is that we don’t have a plan. We find somewhere we like and we stay there until we want to go somewhere else. This is a place we like.

Robin takes a leap of faith

Robin takes a leap of faith

Robin and Wilson

Robin and Wilson

Starfish

Starfish

Gunas sailing an ulu

Gunas sailing an ulu

P1040168

Dingy landing at Waisaladup

Dingy landing at Waisaladup

reef near Cambombia

reef near Cambombia

Octopus peeking out from under a rock

Octopus peeking out from under a rock

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Robin and the Conch

Robin and the Conch

flower lip boys

flower lip boys

Flower lip girls

Flower lip girls

Dingy snorkel trip at the Hot Tub

Dingy snorkel trip at the Hot Tub

P1030971

Mike jamming on New Year's Eve

Mike jamming on New Year’s Eve

P1030858

Snorkel selfie

Snorkel selfie

It's Langosta for dinner tonight

It’s Langosta for dinner tonight

Gallana Mike checks out the generator

Gallana Mike checks out the generator

Heading for a hike to the waterfall on Rio Sidra with Lisa

Heading for a hike to the waterfall on Rio Sidra with Lisa

Mike finds a sea urchin

Mike finds a sea urchin

Robin checks out the brain coral

Robin checks out the brain coral

P1030918 P1030919

Dec
31

FINALLY LEFT BOCAS!

We departed Bocas Marina on Friday, November 20th. We know what you are thinking… they left on a FRIDAY!? Yep, we did. The weather window was good for our course to the San Blas Islands, Mermaid was provisioned and ready and we wanted to get out before something else made us stay… again. Robin was not happy to begin the voyage on a Friday, but old salt superstitions aside we left. We most likely won’t be starting any voyages on a Friday again. It seems the old salts know what they are talking about.

We had light winds on the nose and large seas on the nose so it was a motor sail, but it was a beautiful, hot day and we were happy to be making our way to San Blas. Just before 1:00am our oil pressure dropped. Mike checked the oil and was surprised to find it a gallon low. He added a gallon and we decided to check it again in a half hour and went back on our way. A half hour later the oil was gone again. Hmmm, we decided to sail and not run the engine. The only problem with that decision was that there was very little wind and good size seas so not a comfy or fast sail. When daylight came the wind died completely and we were rolling so much that we were blowing out the slugs on the mainsail (the slugs are the sacrificial plastic thingies that attach the main to the mast. They are sacrificial to keep the sail from tearing.) so we dropped the main and hung on as we rolled while going nowhere. We called Shelter Bay Marina near Colon to see if they had a slip and a diesel mechanic and were happy to hear yes to both. The downside to heading to Shelter Bay was that it is inside the Panama Canal Zone and the authorities do not allow any sails up which meant we would have to use the engine from the entrance to the marina. After rolling for hours we decided to try the engine one more time to get us in, but found sea water in the oil – not good at all! We let the marina know that we would not be able to use our engine and they called the powers that be and arranged a tow from the entrance to the marina. A little wind came up and we managed to make it to the entrance of the Canal where we met Red Dolphin, our tow. They tied a line off our bow and towed us inside the breakwater where they then put us on a side tie tow to the marina where we were very happy to tie up and head to the pool for a float before a shower and a burger and cold drink in the bar.

Our engine mechanic came to Mermaid the next day and diagnosed with Mike that the problem was the heat exchanger and not anything as serious as we had worried. Those of you who follow our blog might remember that this same heat exchanger issue happened when we left Hawaii in 2004 and caused us to sail all the way to Long Beach, CA. When we arrived in Long Beach we bought two replacements so we would have a spare on the boat incase this ever happened again. So, we spent the next couple of days digging through every nook and cranny aboard Mermaid looking for the spare exchanger. Then we looked again finally deciding that we must have helped some cruiser along the way and couldn’t remember it.

Wednesday afternoon (the day before Thanksgiving in the USA) we ordered a new one and stressed to them several times how urgent it was to fedex out today otherwise it wouldn’t happen until Monday. We did not get a tracking number or confirmation so we assumed that it had not been shipped. Oh well, we’d make do with our time in the marina and get other boat projects done. Plus there was a cruiser potluck on Thanksgiving, which turned out to be great fun. Also, every afternoon the cruisers gather for a cold one in the pool and we made new friends and heard some good stories.

Friday night we got a call from a delivery guy that he was in the marina parking lot with our part. Wow! Two days from the US to Shelter Bay Marina! Thank you FedEx International! We got the old part out and the new one in. We changed the oil several times which meant several trips to Colon to buy lots of oil and filters as well as finished the other boat chores we had started (replacing the slugs on the sail, re-seating a window, lots of laundry and a few other chores) and ran the engine for a long time to make sure all was well.

San Blas is only around eighty miles from Colon but we wanted to arrive around mid-day so we’d have good light to navigate through the reefs. We decided to break up the trip into two segments. We’d head out in the afternoon to arrive in Linton Bay, around thirty miles down the coast before dark, then head out from there just before daylight to arrive in San Blas around noon. Finally, on the afternoon of November 30th (a Monday!) we departed Shelter Bay Marina and motored out of the Panama Canal Zone while keeping a watchful eye on the oil pressure before hoisting the sail. We sailed into Linton Bay in the late afternoon. We dropped the hook, went for a swim and had a lovely evening in the cockpit enjoying the stars while listening to the parrots and monkeys ashore.

Early the next morning we departed Linton and sailed and motorsailed to San Blas. We anchored in Yansaladup behind a large sandbar, some reefs and some tiny islands. We were so happy to finally be in the San Blas Islands where clear water, white sand beaches and small, palm tree dotted islands greeted us. It took us about a year and a half longer to get to the islands than we had planned but that’s all part of cruising life…

Bird near Shelter Bay

Bird near Shelter Bay

Guna Island in San Blas

Guna Island in San Blas

Linton Bay

Linton Bay

Mike navigating through the reefs in San Blas

Mike navigating through the reefs in San Blas

Final provisioning run in Shelter Bay

Final provisioning run in Shelter Bay

Taking a dip

Taking a dip

Getting towed into the Panama Canal

Getting towed into the Panama Canal

Hope our part isn't on this truck.

Hope our part isn’t on this truck.

Nov
20

Zarpe in Hand!

Domino Collge

Domino College

Courtney at Work

Courtney in his office…

No Dink Parking Sign?

No dink parking sign?

Bocas 150831 001

Mike enjoying a snorkle

Jim Rohn

Jim Rohn in the jungles of Panama…

Bocas 150831 015

Harmonica Playing Man

Bocas 150831 021

Mike playing in the band…

After a long year of dealing with health issues (our own as well as family). We are finally heading out of Bocas. We visited family, returned and have gotten Mermaid provisioned and ready for sea. Our intention is to head out tomorrow after breakfast, overnight at sea and arrive Linton on Saturday. We will rest and sleep before heading to San Blas early Sunday morning.
Bocas has been a great place to be stuck but it is time to get back to the cruising life we love so much… Bocas 150831 019 Bocas 150831 013 Bocas 150831 002

 

Older posts «