San Blas Islands - an amazing other world
January 15, 2012, 1:00 pm, 9 35.25'N:78 52.89'W, Cayos Chichime San Blas Panama
We have been relaxing in the San Blas Island off the coast of Panama since we arrived on the 15th of January. This place is so special that a blog posting cannot adequately describe the beauty and serenity found here. Unfortunately, we have to leave today. We are sailing to the entrance of the Panama Canal and will arrive at Shelter Bay Marina in Colon on January 20th. With internet access there, we will tell you all about this haven and the beautiful Kuna Indians living here. Stay tuned.
First leg of circumnavigation is behind us
January 15, 2012, 12:52 pm, 9 42.9'N:78 28.1'W, Ten miles from San Blas Archpelego Panama
Again they said that this leg of the trip was one of the more challenging and I hope they are right. But the good news is that we managed the 20 foot waves and 40+ knot winds very well. At Last really demonstrated her capabilities in heavy weather sailing. She was very stable no matter what mother nature threw at her. The crew did just as well. Many thanks to Joel Chadwick for his major contributions. He is going to a unversity in Wales GB to be a mega yacht captian. I know he will certainly acheive his goal and make a fine captian as well. We will enjoy being at anchor tonight and watch the sun set in a calm bay. I could not wish for a better birthday present (because Janet tells me that is all I am getting for my birthday). We will update the blog again after we catch up on our sleep.
Surfing by South America
January 12, 2012, 3:33 pm, 13 10'N:72 09'W, 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela
At this moment, I am ecstatic that we picked up another crew person before we left St. Lucia. Joel Chadwick works for the World Cruising Club, is from Wales and is currently taking a year off from University. He was given the opportunity to sail to the San Blas Islands instead of flying there if he could find a member of the fleet who would be willing to take him along. We met Joel when he did our safety inspection on the boat and we offered to have him sail along with us. We have quickly learned that Joel is a very experienced sailor and a huge help on the boat.
Mark is sleeping right now, I am blogging and Joel is sailing the boat in 15 foot waves and 25 - 33 knot winds. We have reefed the jib and the main sail and are going about 7 - 8 knots. Last night we hit over 10 knots at one point and today we hit 11.5 knots surfing down a 15+ foot wave. There is a very strong current pushing us due to the ocean water being funneled around the tip of South America. The boat is rolling around quite a bit as the following seas are coming up behind us and causing us to "surf" down the waves. It will be another two days in these difficult seas. We understand that this is probably one of the worse passages on the round the world trip. It is tolerable but somewhat uncomfortable at times.
With three crew on board, life at sea seems to be a bit more manageable. We each have a three hour shift followed by six hours off shift. You tend to get much more sleep than with the four hours on and four hours off that we did on the way to Tortola. The three hour shift seems to go by much more quickly than the four hour shifts. Much of the day all three of us are up which makes the passage much more social. Every third night you only have one shift during the evening so the rest of the time you can sleep while it is dark out.
We have had quite a few laughs during the trip already. Mark had an unexpected visitor in the cockpit the other night. It was pitch dark and Joel and I were both sleeping when all of a sudden Mark yelled, "Expletives, expletives..., there is something in the cockpit." Joel and I quickly went above deck as Mark was trying to avoid the rather large flying fish (eight inches or so) that had miraculously found its way into the cockpit. Joel bravely picked the fish up and tossed it back into the water.
This is the only fish we have caught despite reading the book that Tony and Eileen gave to us - Salt Water Fishing Made Easy. Twice yesterday we were reeling in a fish and it got away. At the time the boat was going over 8 knots and we were not inclined to slow down so there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the reel and the fish. We are determined to try again once the conditions settle down. Joel kept talking about cooking a fish on the barbie and I threatened not to prepare anything for dinner to motivate my fishermen. Mark became quite concerned when it was dinner time and they had no fish to eat. Luckily, I had a backup plan for dinner.
We received our handicap ratings before we left St. Lucia. Although this is a pleasure trip, they do give out small and silly rewards for winning different legs of the trip. Our boat is ranked 23rd out of the 28 boats currently on the trip. We are clearly a cruising yacht not a racing yacht. At this point, as long as there are five boats behind us we think we are doing quite well. One boat has lost their auto pilot and another has broken their boom vang. We are grateful that nothing has gone wrong as of yet. We do speak with the other boats twice per day over the SSB radio. We check in and give our position. They also have a question of the day like what books are people reading on board or what are they most looking forward to once getting to San Blas. It is very reassuring to have so much support around you. It is also very exciting when we plot everyone else's positions while eating breakfast to learn where we are in relation to the other boats.
We should be at sea for another four or five days so we are at about the halfway point of this trip. Please remember that you can chart our current location through the World Cruising Club's website at www.worldcruising.com. We are equipped with a GPS transponder for the next sixteen months so you can see our current position at any time.
Yes, this is really happening
January 9, 2012, 12:32 pm, 14 49'N:63 55'E, Leaving St Lucia
We left St Lucia Sunday 1/8/12 at noon local time (11 am est) for Panama. Start of the passage was quite the site to see. More than 30 sail boats sailing in close formation for a few hours past the starting line.
We are fortunate to have one of the staff of the World Arc, Joel, join us for this leg to panama. Though he is young, he is quite an experienced sailor. This will make the down wind passage to Panama all the more enjoyable. We expect the 1100 mile trip to take about 7 days. Weather for atleast the first half of the trip is forecasted to be comfortable.
You can follow our position and the rest of the fleet by clicking on the link on the left side of the page for the World ARC.
The World ARC Check In - (Is this really happening?)
January 2, 2012, 1:36 pm, Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia
We had our week of fun in the sun, and a special week it was, thanks to Tony and Eileen. Now it is time to get back to the more serious side of this trip and prepare for the next big passage to Panama.
We checked in today with the World ARC office. The rally includes thirty-three boats from 14 different countries. USA, Great Britain, and Germany top the list at eight, six and five boats respectively. This is the biggest fleet ever for the World ARC. There are 11 other boats who, like At Last, will be will double handed or sailing with just two people aboard. The boats range in size from 38 feet to 67 feet. We are right in the middle of the pack at 49 feet. Two of the boats have children on board, both two girls ranging in age from six to ten. A handful of people like us have taken a break from work to do the trip while many more are retired. Surprising to me, quite a few boats have all male crew and the wives will be joining the men for different times during the fifteen months we are at sea. How do these men do it? I cannot imagine having Mark go without me! Although my guess is that by the end of the trip I would be willing to forgo the three week passages and meet up with him at the next tropical island! Also surprising, there are a handful of boats that will be meeting us at some other port along the trip, mostly in Australia. Many of these boats started a previous World ARC and left the trip to spend a year or two in the New Zealand/Australia area and will be rejoining the trip to make the return. Oh, if we only didn't have to return to work!!!
We wanted to let everyone know that we had our swim platform fixed by a fantastic carpenter, Tyson. We also had two gentlemen refinish our teak. Mark just did not have the time and they did a fantastic job. It was 1/3 of the price we would have paid in the United States.
Best of all, Tony and Mark installed the companion way doors which Mark had purchased prior to leaving the States. Mark said that without Tony it would have taken him at least twice the time and at least twice the amount of frustration.
We will spend the rest of the week doing other needed maintenance projects and getting the boat ready for our trip to Panama. From what we have already heard, the trip to Panama may be the most challenging of the trip inlcuding the Caribbean 1500. We will be leaving on Sunday at noon for a seven day trip to the San Blas Islands located just off the coast of Panama. Once there, our good friend Andrea will be joining us for the transit through the Panama Canal. We will begin the canal transit on January 26th. We are really excited about this portion of the trip! This adventure is starting to get real. We will update the blog again before we leave and along the way.
Happy New Year’s from the Edge Restaurant
December 31, 2011, 1:30 pm, Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
After all of our crazy adventures in St. Lucia, no one minded when we had a lazy Saturday on the boat. We got dressed for a special New Year's Eve at The Edge Restaurant, one of the best if not the best restaurant on the island. Chef Bobo who runs the restaurant is an award winning chef who owns three restaurants in St. Lucia. We ate at all three! There was a special menu for New Year's which came complete with a pre dessert - a basil cheesecake. Tony and Eileen enjoyed this the most. I had an appetizer of duck and my main course was sushi - I surprised even myself. There were fireworks on the beach and tons of people walking the streets to get there but we opted for a quieter New Year's celebration back on the boat. Actually, we were all asleep by midnight if the truth be known.
The next day, Tony and Eileen left. We are incredibly grateful to them for being the first guests to join us on our travels. We love you both very much and are thrilled with all we were able to do together. It was a magical week and I only cried a little bit after you left. We cannot believe we never took you out sailing. I guess you will have to come to Australia to go sailing!
Zippin' through the rain forest canopy
December 30, 2011, 1:18 pm, Rainforest Adventures, Daughin, St. Lucia
We were picked up at Eileen and Tony's hotel, Harmony Suites, at 8:25 am to go zip lining through the rain forest. This was Tony's idea and he thought if anyone would go with him it would be me. This seems remarkable given both he and I are afraid of heights. We all signed on for the adventure with some level of apprehension. Mark quickly asked one of the guides if anyone had died zip lining. I quickly informed him that the question was like "the number we don't talk about" while playing craps.
We were instructed to "empty our tanks" and get harnessed up. The harness reminded me of the ones we wear boating but I was happy to see that there was no crotch strap. We got to practice zip lining on one small line and then we were on our way. We took a tram to the top of the mountain and again got excellent information regarding the rain forest trees and flowers from our guides, Terry and Jibri. There were ten zip lines through the forest. All the zip lines were from platform to platform and all were off the ground at least 100 feet. The last zip line was the longest at 500 feet and landed you safely back to the ground.
During the last three zip lines, we were allowed to go hands free and what the guides called free style. We were given some excellent suggestions for this such as playing dead, bicycling, doing the back stroke, etc. By far the most creative was Mark who grabbed his ankles behind him and began flapping his knees in and out. Now, that was a sight to see. Mark quickly stated that Jibri had given him the suggestion. Eileen thought Terry, the rather serious guide, was going to fall off the platform laughing. He stated quite clearly that he had NEVER seen anyone do anything like that before.
We all thought the zip lining was very worthwhile. Tony and I were relieved that it was not as scary (height wise) as we thought it would be. We were also unaware that we would have to hike as much as we did during the trip. We really zip lined around the top of the mountain and took the tram up and then down to the base of the mountain.