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A family travels from Florida to New Zealand aboard their St Francis 50 catamaran
Arrived in Colon
02/20/2008, Colon, Panama

We arrived in Colon on Wednesday February 20th in the morning. We are staying at Shelter Bay Marina located on an abandoned US military base. Very nice with lots of other catamarans...Nathalie is taking over...
Well, we made it! We arrived last Wednesday in Colon and settled in a very nice marina called Shelter Bay marina just after the breaking wall of the entrance of the port of San Cristobal (the port of Colon). We had a beautiful sail both days 15 to 20 knots wings on wings, cannot get much better! We spent the night in Portobello which was interesting , not great holding , mainly in mud but a small town with a fort, a well-known church , and a busy road with colorful buses leaving every hours or so. The kids (and ourselves too) are really excited to get back to civilization, Wi-Fi, laundry, lots of other catamaran cruisers in this marina. We are going scheduled to transit on Friday 29thy of February. We met a couple on a lagoon catamaran who are going to be our line handlers and David is also going to get a firsthand experience this Wednesday on a big catamaran going this Wednesday. It is all working out pretty good. We went one time to Colon, mainly a grocery shopping trip. It is not the type of town that you can really get excited about, very dirty, noisy and dangerous but it is always interesting to see.
The kids met the daughters (12 and 14) of the dock master and they are off on their bike in the afternoon when they get back from school! The marina is located in a park which previously was a US military site. It got evacuated in 2000 and the building are now abandoned but the park is still beautiful and it is safe to ride your bike around and see white face monkeys and slugs. I managed to call mom with Skype and was really excited, I will use it more... so, that is it.... Waiting comfortably for Friday.
Notre premiere grande etape est presque franchie!!! Nous sommes a Colon pres du port de San Cristobal ou les bateaux passent de la mer des caraibes a l'ocean pacifique depuis Presque 100 ans (ouverture du canal en 1914). C'est incroyable mais vrai !!! Nous sommes dans une tres jolie marina avec beaucoup d'autres bateaux, en particulier beaucoup de catamarans, sur un ancient site militaire americain abandonne en 2000. La marina est donc assez neuve , dans le parc et de ce fait, il n'y a pas de problem de securite ce qui est un souci a Colon. Les touristes sont avises de ne pas se deplacer a pied meme sur une courte distance et en pleine ville dans la journee, de ce fait il y a des taxis partout (peut-etre que cette insecurite est aussi un peu exageree a leur avantage) mais la course est tres peu chere, entre 2 et 3 dollars. Nous sommes alles reapprovisionner le bateau hier et avons trouve l'essentiel, pour le surplus, nous attendrons d'etre du cote pacifique ou la ville de Panama city offre tous les grands magasins comme aux USA ou l'Europe. (Alec se demande si on trouvera du nutella!!!!) Nous avons déjà notre date de transit, vendredi 29 Fevrier. David va aider un autre grand catamaran mercredi afin d'avoir un peu d'experience et savoir ce qui nous attend. La famille francaise a bord de ce catamaran va aussi traverser le pacifique, ils ont deux jeunes a bord de 17 et 20 ans,tres sympas, qui ont commence leur vie sur le bateau au meme age qu'Emilie et Alec. Nous profitons bien des avantages de la civilization dans celle belle marina (machine a laver, internet Wi-Fi, restaurant) et je suis sure que nous serons aussi heureux de quitter la civilization pour les Galapagos! A bientot......

02/24/2008 | Nancy & Joe
Great photos! The fruit & Vegie boat came full of goodies! Joe has the dining room table spread out with his Panama & O'Vive photos! What's your Canal schedule? We Love you...Smooth Sails! Nancy
02/27/2008 | Matt and Linda
Wow guys, This is the first time we've checked into your blog and we're impressed with how fast you're moving. It seems like you just left Tavernier Key! Colon is a "pit" isn't it? But the Free Trade Zone is pretty interesting - we picked but cases and cases of beer and wine there (we hooked up with some other cruisers and bought together) - they delivered right to the boat!

And enjoy the transit ... we'll try and see if we can catch you on the webcam. Let us know if the date changes.

Matt & Linda
02/29/2008 | Genevieve
Je suis ravie d'avoir eu de tes nouvelles et de savoir que tout est OK dans cette grande aventure.

Je t'embrassse,
03/02/2008 | Davina Geddes
Have just been to Florida with my Mother and Brother to visit everyone, so sorry you weren't there. It looks as though you're having a wonderful voyage. I'll follow it with envy! Safe sailing. Love Davina x
02/19/2008, Portobello, Panama

Arrived in Portobello today at 3pm. Nathalie and the kids are ashore exploring while I stay on the boat as we are not anchored very well. Will probably leave for Colon tomorrow due to the poor holding in this anchorage.
La petite ville de Portobello
Nous sommes arrives a Portobello cet apres-midi avec un tres bon vent arriere de 15-20 noeuds, c'etait tres agreable. Nous sommes alles voir la petite ville de Portobello mais David est reste sur le bateau, l'ancre est dans la boue et pas tres securisee. Les enfants et moi avons donc visite les ruines d'un ancien fort espagnol, la ville de Portobello a toujours ete un tres bon port utilises par les conquerants espagnols mais cela a ete aussi le repere de pirates, beaucoup d'hitoires et de tresors englouties!!!! Nous avons aussi eu la surprisede voir un petit singe a la grande joie d'Alec. Emilie a bien rit quand ce petit demon s'est mis a fouille les cheveux d'Alec !!! Portobello est aussi un lieu de pelerinage ( le christ noir) ou les gens viennent de tres loin esperant des miracles. Les bus du Panama sont toujours tres colores et tres rapides, ils assurent la liason avec la grande ville de Colon.

The land of Kuna Yala!!!
02/15/2008, San Blas (Kuna Yala) Panama

We have been in the San Blas (also called Kuna Yala) since about a week. The Kuna Indians rule over those islands located west of Colon on the Atlantic side of Panama. They are a part of Panama but very attached to their independent status. They are the descendent of the Kuna Indians who lived there for centuries and were decimated by the Spanish invaders. However, they succeeded to keep their community alive to this day. They are about 55,000 Kunas left and their law does not allow inter marriage, they would be excluded if they do. It is a matriarchal community, the women are dressed beautifully , they love vibrant reddish colors and their molas (superposed tissues sawn together by hand with geometrical pattern) look beautiful on them; They wear strings of bead rolled around their lower-leg and lower-arms and sometimes a big gold bead in their nose. They love lots of red/pink blush on their cheeks and they are very small in size. It sure looks like they have no problem to maintain their population ratio, there are small children everywhere! We visited a few Kuna villages near the island of Porvenir and Cartisugdup. All houses are made of bamboo sticks and the roof is palm straw (like the chikihut), their streets inside the island are patted earth and extremely clean with touch of colors (flowers, banana trees...) but surprisingly, on the back of each house, on the water, is where they pile what they cannot get rid off along with the out-house right over the water, so much for the bay view! They are nice enough with the tourists but yet it is not what I imagined, of course they see us as a dollar sign, and sometimes want a dollar just to take their pictures, it is unfortunate and I do not want to agree to that yet. We bought some molas and beadwork, Kuna women come by canoe around the cruising boats and we were able to communicate in Spanish and have a conversation and fun with three women, it was a great moment! The weather in February is peculiar, often hazy which is not the best for snorkeling. There are some very nice reefs but it is mostly fished out (a lot less or smaller than the Bahamian waters). The outer islands are the attraction of the San Blas for me, beautiful white sandy inlet covered with palm trees and surrounded by turquoises waters, a dream!!!!The anchorage are pretty busy, always 12 to 15 boats but it is nice and fun! We went to a potluck last Monday on the East Hollandes key and there were some cruisers who were in the San Blas for years, they were very open and eager to help and give advices to the new cruisers in the area, I really appreciated this, it is not always the case and we really enjoyed our evening with everybody.

02/27/2008 | Becky & Dave DeBell
Greetings from MA,
We are friends of Nancy & Joey and in 3 wks we will be sailing on the Princess line to the Panama Canal. Love your pictures so far and anxious to follow you thru the canal.
In the San Blas
02/14/2008, Carti Sugdup, Kuna Yala (San Blas, Panama)

Arrived February 9th after a 74 hour passage from Jamaica. Will be here for another week or so before heading for the canal. More info when we find wi-fi.

02/16/2008 | VINCENT DYE
Dear All ; still with you by watching your spot position on your blog ! Please insert some pictures again and enjoy Cruising the canal and i guess you ll be soon heading for the Galapagos !Ivana and the kids are going to Louxor ( Egypt ) for 1 week off.
With Love .
02/16/2008 | Philippe ALFONSI
Juste un coucou pour vous dire que nous suivons votre progression et redécouvrons la géographie au fil de votre parcours.
Pensons bien à vous et profitez en bien.
Grosses bises des ALFONSI
Port Antonio, a Safe Heaven in Jamaica
02/02/2008, Jamaica

We were going to sail directly from Georgetown to Great Inagua (the southern island of the Bahamas) then to Panama but we actually did not stop at Great Inagua, the wind was just too good, in the right direction for once, so we continued to ride this beautiful north-east wind. We had a thrilling night sail across the Windward Passage, reefed at the lowest point, without the jib, still going at 7 knots and surfing at 9 knots! We could not let more sail out because some huge north swells came from behind the boat and made us surf at 14-15 knots, it is a lot of fun during the day but a little too much for us at night. We were happy of our progress and decided to stop in Jamaica. The closest port of entry coming from this direction is Port Antonio. I was of course a little apprehensive thinking of the bad reputation Jamaica has but everything seems to have proved the contrary. Indeed, our interaction with the officials (immigration, quarantine, customs was quick and although there is a lot of paperwork to fill out - get 4 copies of the crew list-) was a very nice experience, everyone was extremely courteous and nice! We did check in the Errol Flynn marina which is a little jewel in itself! The manager, Dale Westin and the dock master, George Munro made us feel so comfortable and were extremely helpful. The marina has beautiful grounds, tropical plants and flowers, huge trees (Jamaican apple trees, breadfruit trees, and ackee trees), a delicious restaurant, clean and big showers and laundry facilities, and free Wi-Fi!!! The marina is gated and the small town of Port Antonio does have a very low crime rate. I went to the open market and wandered in town, I never felt unsafe. People are nice and eager to speak about their country, I learned how to cook "Cake and salt fish" the national Jamaican dish, just by asking a question about a strange looking fruit-vegetable I had never seen before. We tried it the next night for dinner (actually this dish is mostly eaten for breakfast, but we cannot eat fish for breakfast yet!), it was delicious! David got into the local scene and bargained a good price on a beautiful wood carved mask representing a women with her eyes closed, quiet original, and Alban, the artist carved his name on the back...
We are just having a wonderful time in Port Antonio, it was just going to be a quick stop, but it will be now a destination for us, we will be back!!!!

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