11/08/2011, Bocas del Toro
The day started as usual (no rescues) with the morning net. By the time coffee was over (excellent Panamanian coffee), it was 9:30 am and time to face the day.
Project No 1 was clean the water line. Things grow quickly in 80F water. So I spent an hour in the dinghy on my side, alternately on my stomach or back, depending on how deeply I probed, and then went over it with Starbrite Hull Cleaner, a magic product that instantly wipes stains off (thanks to Oxalic acid).
Then ashore. By now it was lunch time and no word about our engine parts, so I furtively sent off an email as we passed The Golden Grill, our internet cafe. Lunch at a seedy-looking Mexican restaurant was above excellent! We'll be going back for dinner.
Then the day began to really bloom. Back at the Golden Grill I received an email telling me our engine parts would be released from Customs tonight... here tomorrow or Wed! And from there the day just got better.
We have been trying to buy a local cell phone, but without any luck. It needed to be:(1) unlocked) (2) digital capable, (3) hold a Digicel (carrier) SIM Card. All week we tried at various places, with Digicel signs, only to be met with blank stares or shaking heads. Today our luck changed. Most stores in Bocas are run by Chinese families. Today we met the best of the lot, a girl of about 20, with no English. But within minutes she understood. She pulled out a phone. When we said we wanted a Digicel SIM card (Chip) she yelled and a young local took off down the street at a full run. Minutes later she was testing it. She used it to call her cell phone and then reversed, calling ours from hers. Perfect! So now we're on the phone network. The best part is Digicel's North American package, 100 minutes for just $1.99! There is something to think about here when Rogers "Special Panama Package" was $1.00/min.
To end the day I put on mask and snorkel and scrubbed some accumulation off the prop and rudder. Dinner was a nice "Corvina" (Sea Bass) grilled in a lemon/dill sauce. Cold white wine an essential part. Dessert is like breakfast... lots of local fruit.
So we're now looking at a departure later this week. We'll have to decide whether or not to wait for the "Bocas Day Parade". The bands, particularly the drum section have been practicing, and it sounds like quite an event. In any case, we're starting to look at weather for heading west along the coast, in company with Astarte, a boat we were anchored next to here for a few days.
Many boats seem to be looking at moving, some north to the Guatemala/Belize area, others, like us, to the San Blas, and others, like Astarte, through the canal and across the Pacific. On a good, sort of, note, our friends on Sapphire made it to St Martin. I highly recommend reading their blog about their experience in a hurricane. Read it at: www.sailblogs.com.
11/08/2011, Bocas del Toro
At 5:15 am I was nudged awake by Jeannie telling me someone was yelling outside. Sticking my head up, I could see little in the dark but could make out something in the water about 100 yds off. With the binoculars I could just make out someone in the water clinging to an upturned cayuka (small dugout canoe). On the VHF I chatted with the next boat who was also awake, and a boat across the anchorage. We jointly decided to investigate.
By the time I had paddled my dinghy across (we take the engine off every night) I found a native with his head barely above water and his cayuka pretty much the same. Dragging him aboard the dinghy, Geoff from a neighboring boat arrived in his panga (20'open boat with outboard motor) and we managed to right and empty the cayuka. With that, our guest hopped back in, begged a paddle from Geoff and a bailer from me and was off. In exchange, Geoff kept the half bottle of gin that had fallen unnoticed from the cayuka as we dumped it. And I was back in my bunk at 6:00 am!
So this morning's lead on the VHF net was our rescue. Our VHF traffic had been overheard by the net controller, so he called for details, so the story was the news of the fleet by 8:00 am. For Bocas, pretty exciting stuff!
We're still waiting for our engine part, hoping it will arrive tomorrow. In the mean time we still seem to have lots to do. The day starts with reading the Globe & Mail that arrives on the Kindle each morning. Then the VHF net and we're into the day!
Yesterday was a cool 72 and pretty much steady rain, so I spent a frustrating day trying to get our satellite radio to access the internet, but no luck. Today we explored the outer reaches of Isla Colon on rental bikes, Then more shopping since we have been going through our food inventory (not to mention gin and wine) quickly. So we are starting to re-stock in anticipation of our part arriving tomorrow! Just like Christmas!!!
It will be a couple of uncomfortable hours work to replace the old with the new, then off east to the San Blas Islands (known by the natives as Kuna Yale) or so the theory goes.
11/08/2011, Bocas del Toro
The New Fans!!
The mornings start with the Bocas VHF Net. It starts at 7:45 am and runs for 20-30 minutes. A big part of it is "Checking In", or saying Good Morning. Then we get a weather report followed by announcements from various commercial enterprises, mostly restaurants, about what is on offer. Then it moves into things like boat problems where you can talk about a problem you have and ask for help or suggestions. Then it moves to general stuff like "where can I find ...". Then to closing, and you have just successfully wasted another half hour of your life!
Then off to the internet cafe where we are now regulars. A quick check and all is well in our e-world, although we continue to worry about friends.
Last summer, we met a couple in Charlottetown at the yacht club, Moby and Caroline Burton on Sapphire, a Bristol 41.1, the mate to our boat. They departed Norfolk last week for the Eastern Caribbean and have sailed straight into Tropical Storm Sean. We have followed their progress through Sailblogs, and with correlating their position with weatherfaxes, have watched as they have been hammered for days with storm (35-50 knots) winds and 12'-20' waves. They continue to make progress, but life on the boat must be challenging. We do know, though, that the boat is strong and they will pull through.
So, all things considered, we are not complaining. And today, I installed the other fan in the V-berth, so nights will be cool! Tomorrow is Cell Phone Day! And Thursday, another holiday and parade day.
11/06/2011, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Well, I have now crossed six items off my repair/to-do list, and it still has six more. Every time I cross one off, another appears. Today's new job appeared first thing this morning... the propane breaker tripped off, leaving us with no propane for the stove. After some fiddling, it was clear the solenoid in the propane locker was kaput! So this afternoon I took it out and by-passed it. Its not a major issue, except we now have to manually turn on and off the propane each time we want to use the stove. I'll try to find a replacement, but if not, add it to the growing list of stuff coming back at Christmas. Not much other excitement to report. The town is as quiet as we have ever seen it. All the celebrations ended last night, and today's biggest excitement seems to be a cruisers game of Mexican Train Dominos in the marina. Unfortunately we had a prior arrangement. For our major project of the day we headed in to town to confirm our part order... 2-3 days delivery... can you believe it??? We can't, but we will see. Tomorrow's projects will be finish fan installation, repair leak in forward head and time for shopping again. We are quickly eating through our supplies for our trip. Yesterday I began varnishing the teak that got missed by the marina. I managed about half of it with a first coat. Because it is weather dependent, it can float to the top of the priority list if the day looks fine. Otherwise it falls back on the list. Lots to do... With any luck we'll be off later in the week, just a weeks delay. In the mean time we are gabbing with family and friends on our satellite phone whose minutes expire next month. Not too bad considering...
11/04/2011, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Our first day of waiting for parts was spent mostly doing small boat jobs...
-replace engine starter switch
-Clean hull with Starbrite
-Replace batteries in barograph
- Wax transom
and there is still a good list to keep me amused for a few more days.
In between, I sent and recieved emails to try to find our part. B-I-L Fraser has fouund a part in Ontario, but we have to figure out the customs stuff before we order it, otherwise it will in all probability end its days in some Panamanian warehouse. But its a good sign!
In the afternoon we went in to town to watch another parade, day 2 of Independence celebrations... more majorettes, officials, bands, complete with lots more drums!!
11/03/2011, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Colour Guard, Panama Independence Day Parade
Well, we're back in Bocas...
We left yesterday heading down Bahia Almirante and were no more than 2 miles from our departure point when the oil pressure alarm sounded on the engine. A quick check showed high, not low oil level! The long & short is that we appear to have a leak in our oil cooler. Not a major problem to replace, but a major problem to find in Panama. So we're back here for a week or so.
But the entertainment value in Bocas rose today. It is Panamanian independence Day from Colombia, and we witnessed an excellent parade. I have put pics in the gallery. There were at least 12 marching bands, consisting primarily of drums beating out the most impressive tatoo of marching drums. And about a dozen groups of majorettes, some young, many very accomplished. In a town 3 streets wide and about 8 cross streets it really made the place jump! They have also imported lots of police for the celebrations, which go on until Sunday.
So as we wait for our part, we're well entertained, although we're missing some beautiful sailing. Watching boats sailing down Bahua Almirante in the warm sun made me envious, but we have all the time in the world.
BTW, in the Bocas photos is a pic of Estelle's new shade awnings, a necessity in this heat.
11/02/2011, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Madcap Shrimp on the new BBQ
Well, this morning our provisioning should be complete. After 5 days and countless trips ashore wandering from store to store, we think we have just about exhausted Bocas' charms. And the weather is hot with little wind, so its time to set off.
On Monday night we christened our new BBQ with "Madcap Shrimp", a recipe from Beth Lusby that she served us in Halifax last summer... delicious! And the BBQ did its duty manfully.
Today it "Dias del Mordant (Day of the Dead), the first of a succession of holidays here in Pamana. The one day of the year when no liqur can be sold. The cruisres have been panicing for days planning how to survive it.
Next comes one of the many Independence Days (they have at least three, all in November).
This afternoon we'll head off down to Isla Popa, about 10 miles and two hundred years from here. The tiny native village consists of small huts with the natives surviving on a meager diet of subsistance farming and fishing by spear from cayukas, small dugout canoes. Last year we left them some medicine we had surplus and we recieved a very nice letter of thanks in the summer. So we have gathered some clothes and some more medicines that we will drop off to the Peace Corps worker.
Then off down the coast tomorrow morning. Winds continue to be light from the NW, so it will be a very light sail or, more likely, a motor-sail.
10/31/2011, Bocas Marina, Bocas del Toro, Panama
After three nights in the air-conditioned comfort of the Palma Royale, we finally moved aboard Estelle. Although we were concerned about no-see-ums, a tiny bug with a vicious bite that emerges for an hour or so at dusk and dawn, we were fine and had a great dinner in the cockpit with the new BBQ. The day was spent in a combination of continued re-stocking supplies and re-fitting Estelle. Things aboard are pretty well complete with only a couple of minor tasks (a joker valve replacement for one) left to do. Re-stocking is an on-going project, but we expect to be complete by tomorrow. The winds are still out of the west, an odd but favorable direction for us as we want to head east to the San Blas Islands. It will be a 3-4 day trip with one overnight as we leave here. For the next 120 miles there are no ports along the coast, so we just carry on. Next stop is the Rio Chagres, just 20 miles from Colon and the Caribbean entrance to the canal. It once drained Lake Gatun, but has been dammed to enlarge the lake as part of the canal. It is reported to be a beautiful tropical river. From there we will either stop in Colon if we need more supplies, or by-pass it if we are OK. Re-stocking is its only attraction. Otherwise its reputation is pretty awful! We'll see...