05/13/2013, St. Georges, Bermuda
Well ... this is basically it for this season. While Heidi is in Italy with Nico, I have stretched the season a bit by doing a passage with friends from Tortola to Bermuda. We had a spectacular crossing. We had beautiful weather (after a day and a half of very little wind), and sailed beautifully with only the gennaker for most of the rest of the way into Bermuda. As the wind clocked too much near the end, we took down the pole, raised the main and sailed across the finish line under a broad reach. (We came in third overall, after the handicaps were factored.) After cheering and exhaling, we close-reached straight through the channel into the bay ... and we were, I think, the only boat to do so. Glorious! Go to Nyctea's blog at http://www.nyctea1.blogspot.com/ for some great shots and narratives of the crossing.
After some end-of-passage tasks, a scooter ride around the islands of Bermuda (all connected by lots of bridges), I said good-bye to our wonderful friends on NYCTEA ... a great Captain, the "Admiral" and of course, Baby Oscar, on NYCTEA.
It was a great ride, Michel and Danielle ... keep on keeping on!
But ... I get to do one more passage this summer ... Yay! I am crewing on a J39 in the Annapolis to Newport Race in June. That should be only about 3 or 4 days. I am looking forward to this, because I'll learn a lot about sail handling and trimming.
So, unless we post over the summer (we may, so do check occasionally), we'll catch up again next October, when we arrive back in Panama to start up Season Three.
Cheers to all and have a great summer!
04/15/2013, Isla Bastimentos, Panama
Motoring through a mangrove channel this morning, rainforests rose up from the mist into a bright, white-gray sky. Ahead were two dolphins that appeared to be sleeping as they moved very slowly at the water's surface. I suspect the sound of our boat woke them, as soon one was lazily swimming through our bow wake. With Dennis at the helm I rushed to the bowsprit where I lay down, hand hanging towards the water, to be as close to them as I could be.
The closest dolphin was about seven feet long and swam right below me for about 10 minutes. I could very easily see her powerful body, light gray underneath and a slightly darker gray tone on top. It is such a joy to feel aligned with dolphins, feeling their energy and the energy of the waves.
Thirty minutes later we arrived at Isla Bastimentos, off of the northwest Caribbean side of Panama, where we found a lovely, tranquil anchorage, surrounded by islands of lush mangroves and a backdrop of rainforest. Our friends Mike and Kay on sailboat Finisterre led the way around the mangroves and past reefs. We anchored next to them in a large, very peaceful bay.
Red Frog Beach
Our midday excursion took us to Red Frog Beach. This beach is named after the small, 18mm, strawberry poison dart frogs that are prolific on the island. We walked here with Kay and Mike where we found a long, lovely sand beach with the perfect body surfing waves. It was quite refreshing to romp and surf in the waves. Afterwards the four of us enjoyed a lunch of delicious, pungent ceviche marinated in fresh lime juice and spicy fish tacos. Yum! We have yet to see the famed frogs.
A second highlight for us was Turtle Beach. Dennis and I had it totally to ourselves, as Kay and Mike headed back and no one else was there. It took my breath away. I remember just standing at the edge of the water with large crashing waves in front of me, and a cliff overflowing with jungle-like greenery hanging over my head. My every sense was heightened, from the crashing surf and distinct caw of the Oropendola, a large black Panamanian bird with a very bright yellow tail, to the stunning views in every direction. I stood and just tried to take in the fullness of such an amazing place.
Turtle Beach has very old and very large trees, perhaps 50 feet long, which have crashed onto the beach, ending their lives but starting something new and wondrous. These trees seemed to have their own mini ecosystems, with epiphytes and various flowering plants, white and yellow, rising up from them. The shapes and textures are so interesting and full of new life. Behind the trees is lush green rainforest. On the other side they stretch their trunks out into the clear turquoise Caribbean waters, pointing their limbs towards newer mangrove islands. I have never seen anything like it in my life. I felt one with nature, surrounded by beauty, grateful to be.
04/13/2013, Isla Bastimentos, Panama
Tree People. Don't these amazing creature look a bit like us?!
03/30/2013, Isla Providencia, off Nicaragua
We had an aggressive, challenging 800 nautical mile passage from the Dominican Republic to Isla Providencia, an island off of Nicaragua belonging to Columbia. It took us a full six days and nights. Some days the wind blew hard and the seas built as high as seven feet, possibly more. On those days the passage was difficult for me, exhilarating for Dennis.
Every day was filled with perfect sunshine and the nights offered picturesque sunsets and a lovely full moon. One evening as the moon began to rise in the east and the sun was setting in the west a pod of about 12 dolphins put on a most amazing show for us. Centime sailed herself into the sunset with the autopilot on and the sails correctly set. We donned our life jackets for front row seats to the show.
Up at the bowsprit the dolphins raced to catch the waves off the bow and would strategically cross above and below one another passing in front of our fast sailing boat. We rode with them at the bow, hooked in and holding tight, as Centime rose up and down with the waves. Below and around us the dolphins played. They were dark gray on top and silvery underneath, and as they maneuvered around each other their stomachs would shine and sparkle with the light of the setting sun and the thousands of bubbles they were creating. A few would even jump higher with their tails fully out of the water. It lasted nearly a half hour and it was spectacular.
On the sixth morning I had the watch from 4:30am to 8:30am. As the moon set and the sun rose, the winds turned north and strengthened to about 28 knots. The seas began to slap us broadside pretty hard and I had to head her upwind just a bit to keep her steadier. Soon Dennis was up making coffee and adjusting sails, reefing in the mainsail and putting out a reefed genny. For the next 14 hours or so we flew, for six of those hours we sailed at around eight knots.
The most challenging part of the passage was trying to come into Provedencia at night. We had read that it was safest at night to anchor off of a northern reef rather then enter the harbor. The reef is invisible in the dark and we arrived before the moon came up. It was truly scary for me attempting to navigate inside a semi-circular reef in the pitch black of night. I had visions of the boat crashing into the reef and Dennis and I being pitched into a rough, wild ocean, miles away from solid land. As we made the approach, I was at the wheel and Dennis was at the anchor. The boat pitched like a wild horse in the wind and Captain Dennis fortunately decided to abort.
Once we turned around to leave the wild reef everything began to look up. First the most beautiful red-orange, fat, full moon rose and began to light up the sky. Then with the wind and seas behind us the sailing felt easier. As we came closer to the lee of the land the winds and seas began to diminish. While it was calming slightly, we still had to navigate through what we had read was more difficult then the reef. Dennis got on the VHF radio calling any vessels in the harbor for information. Thankfully the Captain of a large well-lit freighter responded and guided us in. We thanked our lucky stars to finally have arrived and to be safe and snug at anchor.
The Island's name is Providencia, which means heaven. When we finally arrived in this most peaceful beautiful harbor and set the hook - it was heaven. I am so very very glad to be here.
Photos to come
03/22/2013, Casa de Campo, DR
We venture out early tomorrow continuing our journey to Panama, with a couple of stops, weather permittin,g on Isla Beata, off the SW coast of the DR, and Isla Del Providentia off the east coast of Nicargua. We hope to be in Panama by early to mid April and back to New Hampshire for a visit in May.
Please wish us Fair Winds and Calm Seas!!!!!
Heidi and Dennis