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2012 Island hopping to Grenada
Bocas to Portobelo
04/03/2010, Portobelo, Panama

(Picture: Our anchorage in Escudo de Veraguas)

After five days of rain, the weather finally cleared on Wednesday, March 24, and we brought Alaunt to the fuel dock at Bocas Marina. We took on 75 gallons of diesel and had to say goodbye to all our friends at the marina. This was very hard to do as we met so many nice people in the 7 months we've been here. Alaunt sailed out of Bocas del Toro, downwind with only the jib out, to Crawl Cay. We anchored between Crawl Cay and Isla Bastimentos to finish last minute projects for our passage. After securing things down below and on deck, entering coordinates in our GPS, scraping the propeller and bottom of the boat, plus various engine check outs, we dinghied over to the Crawl Cay Resort for a goodbye drink. Then we winched the dinghy up on deck and were ready to go.

At first light, on March 26, we left the Crawl Cay channel and sailed towards the Zapatilla Cays. Then the wind completely died. Our first passage to weather was motorsailing for 8 hours to Escudo de Veraguas. We had just dropped our anchor off a beautiful sandy, palm-lined beach, when Florentino Santiago paddled his dugout to Alaunt to collect the $10 park fee. He also asked for some rice, beans and salt to tide his family over until the supply boat came on Sunday.

We awoke to wind and clouds and hoped to finally go sailing. after weighing anchor, we were hit by a squall and the wind colmpletely died. We fought the wind direction and sail trim for a few hours until a steady wind came up, of course, directly in front of us. Ron tickled "Airey", our windvane, and we were sailing along quite nicely, slightly off the wind and almost on the right course. The highlight of our sail was being completely surrounded by a large pod of 20-30 dolphins. There were several babies, only 2-3 feet long, jumping and flipping out of the water. My first night watch was 6 to 9 PM. There were gentle seas, a nice breeze and a full moon sparkling over the water. Beautiful! After I went below, the wind strenghtened, Ron dropped the main and the big seas made it difficult to sleep or walk.

Sunday, March 28th, found us a couple of miles off shore at the Panama Canal. It was very cloudy and rainy so we could barely see the cranes and buildings at the docks in Colon. Ron, Capitan de Pollo de los grande barcos del Canal de Panama (Captain Chicken of the big boats in the Panama Canal) tacked around two huge freighters in the traffic channel. the wind strengthened to 15-20 knots and we pounded up the coastline to Portobelo. We finally set the anchor in 15 feet of water just off Fort Santiago. Dave rowed ashore for ice and we had our happy hour in the cockpit looking at the beautiful jungle hillsides of Portobelo.

04/05/2010 | Linda
yep... remember doing all that you said. and the first thing we did when we anchored was to get ice :o).
04/16/2010 | Wolf
Portobelo ... as in mushrooms ?
04/24/2010 | Gail and John
Looks like you guys are having a lot of fun.....where are you now? Guess you don't have access to E-mail us. Be sure and let us know when you reach St. Thomas. Keep having a great trip.

The Geriatric Crews/Cruise
Carol - sunny, breezy
03/23/2010, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Dave Hewitt arrived from St. Thomas on Thursday, March 18, and we had an arrival party at Pirates Bar in Bocas and on Alaunt. Thanks to Sharon Allen for arranging Dave's travel plans, we have the final member of Alaunt's Geriatric Crew: I'm 60, Ron is 65 and Dave will be 70 on April 4th. We partied for two days, including our last Friday night at Calypso Cantina. Baby back ribs for dinner, live entertainment and Dyllan and Darrion's fire dance show. We had so much fun with our Bocas friends, including Chuck and Ann on "Mirage". Chuck is the General Manager at Bocas Yacht Club & Marina, and he helped me with input on writing an article about Bocas del Toro for Latitudes and Attitudes Cruising Magazine. I'll let you know when it's published.

We've started our departure check-outs for Alaunt: Aires windvale, rigging check (Ron went up the main and mizzen mast), ditch kit, plus safety equipment (EPIRB, an Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon monitored by NOAA internationally, and our SPOT), and provisioning (can we really carry enough wine, beer, gin and rum?). We've also been showing Dave around Bocas town and dinghying to nearby islands for sightseeing. Our last day on Isla Colon, we hired a taxi driver to take us around the beaches, and coast line where the surfers were catching some very big waves. We stopped at the Hotel Coralina for a drink and had this picture taken by Carlos, our taxi driver. We hate to leave this cool town, but we're ready to go home. We're sailing to Portobelo and will post our next sailblog from there. Keep checking our sailblogs and we'll keep having fun.

03/24/2010 | Linda
Happy sailing guys!! and Carol, here is a Happy Birthday message in case i can't get in touch with you on your b-day. no matter where you/we are, we'll be havin' a b-day toast to you!!!! xoxoxo Linda/Robb
03/29/2010 | Jean

finally found you. Lost data when software updated Good sailing.
03/31/2010 | Robin
Been in the BVI since march 20th.Really lovely weather, and hope you get here before this weekend when winds are forecast from due North for a few days! Happy Birthday Carol, whenever it is?Coming to Foxys WBR??Robin.
04/16/2010 | Wolf
Belated happy b'day Dave. 'Trust you had a celebratory shot of soy, er ah, Jaegermeister.
04/16/2010 | Wolf
Great photo of you'all !
09/12/2011 | christine( hewitt) Rivers
Hi, my name is Chris Hewitt Rivers and I believe Dave, from the picture is my father. I googled his name. I haven't seen or heard from him in 30 yrs. I was just curious as to if he were still alive. You could ask him if he has two daughters named Chris and Beth. If so, then that's my father. You could also tell him he has three beautiful grand daughters, 26, 21 and 12. Thanks! Enjoy your sailing adventures!
Shipwreck Party and We're Going Home!
Carol - rain, water tanks full
03/03/2010, Bocas del Toro, Panama

This picture was taken at Darrion's birthday party. Darrion and Dyllan own the Calypso Cantina and the theme was "Shipwreck". As you can see, we had our lifejackets on and we were up "S--- Creek" without a paddle. The other costumes were funny as well: Aliens shipwrecked on earth, survivors from the Titanic and many tattered t-shirts and cutoffs. There was free food (a curry dish), a cash bar and a slide show. I was in one of the pictures with Darrion taken on Christmas Eve.

We are sailing back to St. Thomas! Yeh! Our good friend Dave Hewitt (from St. Thomas) is joining us. We miss our of our friends so much, plus there are some business things we need to take care of, so we decided it was time to come home. We're very excited about our sail (1,100 miles to windward - are we crazy?) and are planning our anchorages from Bocas del Toro to Portobelo. From Portobelo we'll sail into the San Blas Islands to get our zarpe (exit papers) in Porvenir and get a better angle on our sail towards the Dominican Republic. Monitoring the weather will be a major factor in our departure date as we will be seeking our "weather window" across the Caribbean Sea. Our approximate date is April Fools Day - don't say it.

I mentioned the Bocas Carnival in my last sailblog. On Fat Tuesday I inquired on the local VHF cruisers net as to the time the parade would start. I was told 10:00. Ron and I dinghied to town around 11:00 to give the parade time to start and catch some lunch. There was no one there. We found out the parade started at 10:00 PM not AM. We were only 11 hours early. Oh well, we walked to the La Cabana beach, had lunch and a few beers and went back to the boat. That was our carnival parade and I was fat.

I'll be posting a final Bocas del Toro sailblog after Dave arrives and we get ready for our sail to St. Thomas.

03/05/2010 | Sue
Fair winds dear friends - whatever, the weather will be better than the snow we've been getting
03/09/2010 | Linda
hah!! when i saw the pix i knew exactly what it meant: up ....w/o a paddle!! you guys have so much fun. the calypso sounds like your/our kind of place. please be safe on your sail back up. how long do you anticipate it will take?? xoxo
03/12/2010 | Smith J. Brown
Following up with you is so fun for us. But, you're working much too hard. All the things that have to be caught up on seem to all come at once, but must be done and ya'll are good at taking xcare of business. So many people will be so glads to see your faces in person again. Have a safe happy sail, not too much on the nose. and Happy St.Paddy's Day !
03/12/2010 | Kaarin Brown
Hi again. Our friends are now in San Blas on a catamaran "Salida". We met them in Georgia and had a nice time with them. Told them of you. Hope you spy them and hook up. Great people. Elizabeth and Craig Harmenning.
03/13/2010 | the redhead
Hey, wondered where you were?! Eduardo had his first snowboarding lesson; created a monster! I skiied (carefully) and look forward to being in shape to do more next yr. Guess we watched too much BC Olympics. J.Doe is staying on the hard, but I am coming odwn for the regattas, E for Rolex... going to Tortola to check on her. Hope we can catch up again soon! hugs, Cyn
03/15/2010 | kathy
Ahoy! Boy did I miss you. We had fun but somehow its just not the same without you two there! I am definitely retiring in end of this year so we can come and go as we please (then I won't have to miss you!!!!!) Saw Dave H. he is looking forward to the trip, can't wait to hear all about it. Safe sailing!!!Luv, Kath
Big Bight Break
Carol - hot and sunny
02/15/2010, Isla Colon, Panama

That's me sitting on my beanbag with a glass of wine at Happy Hour in Big Bight. We took a break from Bocas Del Toro and Carnival by going "around the corner" to Big Bight. It's only about an hour away from town and is one of our favorite anchorages. This was our fourth time there and there still wasn't another boat anchored in the Bight. We even skinny dipped in broad daylight. From time to time we saw some dugouts come in to fish, but no one else. Ron finished installing our new sump pump we'd ordered from the Marine Warehouse in Panama City. We took a dinghy ride around the anchorage exploring a short river and then finding a huge mangrove lagoon. We had to cross a shallow sandbar at the entrance and followed it quite a ways back into the mangroves and trees. We found a dock and a wooden pathway leading to a clearing. Saturday, February 13 was raining all day so we took the day off to read and let our rain catcher put fresh water in our tanks. It was so weird to wake up to the howler monkeys calling to each other from the trees surrounding the Bight instead of watertaxis whizzing by close to our stern in town. On Monday we motored back to civilization and Carnival in Bocas del Toro.

02/16/2010 | Linda
ahhh the life, eh guys?! nice that you have a place to get away to that's so close. agree the noise of a busy marina can get wearing (sometimes). ~ interesting story about your adventure to get your mariner's card. can relate, had similiar experiences. have fun at carinval! enjoy your blogs and pictures. xoxo Linda
"Yo Soy Marinaro"-The Panama Mariner's Card
02/15/2010, Changuinola, Panama

Look, I have my own hotel in Panama! As our Tourist Cards were expiring, we decided to go to the mainland town of Changuinola and apply for our Mariner's Card. The watertaxis to Almirante were fast and only $14 round trip for both of us. They cruised across Bahia Almirante at about 35-40 mph and we were there in less than a half an hour. The port of Almirante is very busy with a Texico Fuel Dock, barges, dredgers, and freighters. We continued up to a narrow inlet lined with stilt houses and outhouses in dirty water with lots of trash. We were advised to hire a private taxi from Almirante to Changuinola as the bus travel was uncomfortable and not that much cheaper. Our taxi driver, Javier, was very friendly, spoke English and drove us through the beautiful mountains and hillsides to Changuinola, about 13 miles away. We saw many banana plantations, appropo for the "Banana Republic". Changuinola is a large city of about 50,000. Javier took us directly to Immigration and in less than an hour our paperwork was processed and they relieved us of $70. Unfortunately, we misunderstood that the Mariner's card was good for 90 days. It is, but we have to "check in", in Changuinola, every 30 days - tricky! We walked along the main drag of town lined with "malls" (glorified variety stores) and met up with another cruising couple from Bocas del Toro. Ron and Dorothy, who were also obtaining their Mariner's Cards, found a washing machine for their boat for $109.99 - what a deal! We had beer at the Chiquita Banana Restaurant and Bar and called Javier for a ride back to Almirante. He loaded the washing machine in the watertaxi (no extra charge) and we speeded back to Bocas del Toro taking a short cut through some very shallow water. The town is in full preparation for Carnival which begins Thursday, February 11. The big parade and party is on Fat Tuesday, February 16. We're going sailing to Big Bight for a few days and will return for Fat Tuesday.

Off the Dock!
Carol/hot, sunny 85
02/05/2010, Bocas del Toro, Panama

We're free!! Finally cast off our dock lines on February 1st from Bocas Marina after 5 months on the dock (except for sailing for 3 days with Frank and Sarah). We loved being on the dock as we completed many projects and enjoyed cheap electricity, free water, WIFI, showers and trash disposal. However, the marina is very sheltered and is close to the mangroves (no-see-ums and mosquitos). So after anchoring out in front of the marina, we opened the hatches to the breeze and sat out on our beanbags on deck for Happy Hour. Changing from "dock mentality" (AC, fans on, everything on) to "anchor mentality" (turn everything off unless you're using it) is a challenge. We're adjusting to using the solar panels and Honda 2000 generator - no problemo.

After Frank and Sarah left, we worked on a multiture of projects: removed 14 pieces of an old impeller from the heat exchanger (engine running warm), replaced rusted part on shifter cable, cleaned, degreased, derusted, primed and painted the engine, cleaned bilge, cleaned up engine room wiring, repaired zipper and velcro on main sail cover, sanded and varnished various floor boards, etc., removed, repaired, cleaned and siliconed two ports that were leaking, cleaned out sump pump (galley sink and shower), sump pump broke, ordered new one and set up temporary sump pump, vacuumed lockers full of water from ports and sump leaks, capped breather tube from water tank that leaked when we filled all water tanks, ran siphon hose to sump throughhull (was below water line from additional weight due to filling all water tanks), adjusted companionway boards to accommodate new woodwork, fixed DVD player, hauled, cleaned and patched dinghy. As we were carrying the outboard engine and fuel tank back to the boat, one of the kids who works in the marina said "and you call yourselved retirees".

Bocas del Toro is known as "Velcro Bay". We're finding this out as we missed our weather window in November to sail back to St. Thomas. After checking the pilot charts and Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes, we found we couldn't comfortably sail back until spring. We've been monitoring the website Passage Weather (Google Passage Weather, click on Caribbean Sea) and very strong winds and seas would be in our face. So we're hanging in Velcro Bay waiting for weather or a "sign" as to when and where we're going. We've actually bought a cel phone and we're signing up for our Panama Mariners card next week. So it looks like we're here for at least 3 more months. We love Bocas del Toro. Now that we're off the dock we'll be sailing to some of the secluded anchorages in this beautiful archipelago of islands.

02/08/2010 | Linda
phew, wore me out just reading this.. it's a good thing to keep busy though. with all the work you've already done, can't imagine you had that much more?? oh what was i thinking?? there's always work to do on a boat. i remember those days being anchored in lieu of tied up to a dock. running the generator, not using stuff unless absolutely necessary, hauling water and diesel jugs, etc. etc. etc. good part is no see-ums or mosquitos!! xoxo "L"
02/20/2010 | dewey
Call me,,,all moved in and love the Blue Rose Ranch. 683 County Rd. 329 Floresville, TX 78114. What is ur #. I don't have it. Have a friend who wants to help you sail back to St. Thomas.

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Who: Carol King, Ron Arens
Port: St. Thomas, USVI
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