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Cruising with HappyCat
Chichimay, San Blas

Now why is it that no one warned us to make sure you pick your time when heading to San Blas from the West? As predicted the winds were rising, but we had no idea that the swell could truly be as large as forecasted, 3-4mts! At least the winds were never over 22kts. The skies were hazy and on one occasion a volumous amount of water poured on us, which we welcomed to wash away the dust of Colon. A bumpy unsettled 9 hr. ride, got us to the isloated island of Chichmay. We found as much shelter as we could from the howling winds, the coconut trees struggling against the winds. Stayed on the the outer side of the leeward island.
San Blas is home to the indigenous Kuna Indians, which are one of the few remaining authentic indians in the Americas. They are short, and slender, extremely friendly and happy, beaming immaculate white sets of teeth. The ladies generally dress in their original colorful garments of various molas. They arrive to your yacht rowing their dug out 'ulu's' selling you these applique swatches of fabric, made by sewing and cutting different layers of cloth.
We were very lucky that Venancio, the master 'mola' maker, who is gay, (Being gay, or even a transvestite, is totally accepted in the Kuna culture) came by our boat, with his young driver, and showed us over 50 of his molas. He carries the higher prices, but his craftsmanship is unparalleled. It was tough to decide which to buy.

Porto Bello, Panama

We had a hard time taking ourselves away from the comfort of Shelter Bay, but if we did not leave today, chances were that we would never make it to San Blas. There are strong NE approaching, getting worse as the days progress. We managed to sail most of the 20nm there, and it was nice to feel the seas again. We had been told that the setting of Porto Bello was lovley, and it did not disappoint. The long natural harbour is surrounded by low lying mountains, lushly vegetated with tropical forest. Despite the amount of yachts at anchor, there was plenty of room. As the sun set we could hear the settling of the monkeys howling away in the jungle.
And early next day, before dusk, James awoke to hear once again the orchestrated sounds of these creatures, amongst the many sounds of the birds. Wonderful

Shelter Bay, Colon, Panama

As we left San Andres for Panama, and were nearing Bolivar Island 15nm SE of San Andres, our Raymarine screen litteraly overheated in the afternoon sun, and packed up. No radar or charts. So we decided to anchor in Bolivar, and leave at 5a.m., making our journey one night rather than two. We have the iPad Navionics app. plus some other charts on the computer, just in case it still did not work by morning. - which it didn't but we were covered. Great run, beam reaching all the way, with barely 1.5mt. swell.
Ahhhh but the check in process!! Makes Greece and its paper work look like a walk in the park! Hours at the tiny cubicle here at Shelter Bay, and today, hours at the immigration office, in Colon, (almost missing the shuttle bus) with their 'new' requirements! 3 stamps in our passport, and we are in! And $143 later.
But Shelter Bay marina, ands its surrounding, an abandoned Marine base, is wonderful. The old ancient tall palms, and manicured grasses, the sound of the birds, and monkeys, all makes this a special place.

San Andres Island

Just came back from a fun trip around the island on a super quad 'mule', with our friends from Trumpeter and Orion. Delicious local lunch in San Luis.
It is truly a small island and it wont take you long to get to know the place. It grows on you, and look beyond the chaos, you will soon love it.
James keeps on wondering why we came, but I say, if anything it was to meet some lovely new friends!
-On our mule, touring the island-

San Andres Island

-2-3-4-5-6- our coordinates, fun!!
Unbelievably as we approached San Andres, once again a pod of playful dolphins came rushing to great us. And I am sure I recognized one particular dolphin as being the same one from the beginning of the trip 7 days ago! White nose and a circular blotch near is upper fin!!
Beautiful approach, to be done through the coral circle, and out lying island, with crystal clear aqua waters.
Have met already the only other two cruising boats anchored in this friendly quirky island bay.
-The island as you enter-

Passage to San Andres, Caribbean Ocean

What a great run we are having. After a few hours of a jibing main, on the first day, we decided to drop it, and have not raised it ever since, just sailing with a combo of Genoa, Genniker, or both. We've clocked our fastest 24 hr. run with the help of 2-3mt. swell pushing us along from behind. Its been a bit jerky, with no real brakes, so not much room for activity. A lot of lounging and reading, between watches. 175nm per 25 hoour 3 days in a row!
On the first morning we were visited by a pod of very very playful dolphins. I have never sean so many jumps and belly flops as they played in the braking swell in front of our boat.

Road Town, Tortola

Provision up, and check out was the aim here, and, a treat, dinner at 'The Dove'. Also met Gemma, a potential crew to Panama, but unfortunately she could not join us. Lovely girl.
Anchored just out of the break wall of Moorings marina, a very tidy little area, behind which there is a supermarket which is big, clean, and very well stocked, of primarily US goods.
And that night, on the old main street, in a cute little original island cottage, was 'The Dove'. As Gemma said, great happy hour, best in town, in its little court yard. And the food was sensational. I was in heaven, an xmas present to ourselves. (Prices were really reasonable, we thought, too.)

Peters Island

Another bonus for us at this anchorage is a good signal of internet, ( with our little wifi booster, unfortunately not for Mac's though). A lot of catching up was done via internet.
On Peters Island, there are some lovely little roads, leading up and around from one bay to the other. Made in the 60's by Conrad and 3 others, when the original resort was built. (Conrad still lives here, half blind, in his original shack of a home, which looks very out of place in the flash surroundings.) This road comes with scenic bench at the top of the hills under a thatched roof. Along side, in its own shaded unit, a tub of iced water and paper cups! Now why can't we have this at the top of Te Mata Peak?
We felt no need to hurry out of this lovely anchorage, but do come with provisions, there is nothing to be bought, though on our last day, the 'deliverance' boat showed up, with beverages, a bit of fruit, and a few baked goods. Also took our rubbish, at a minor cost.
The coast guard boat did its rounds on all our boats, inspecting the paper work. They were pleasant enough.

Great Harbor, Peters Island

A fun little sail over to Peter's Island. I was at the helm, really deciding to finally give this a go at learning how to sail, and as we rounded in front of Soppers bay on Tortola, a squall came through, out of the blue, with a gust peaking at 42kts! I have to say, I did not pass the test in handling this event! Bizarre weather going on here, more rain and winds than normal.
Great Harbor is a fabulous anchorage, we tucked ourselves close to the little bay and threw out a stern anchor. Just as well for the winds picked up over the following days, but we were nicely secured.
That is not us in the picture by the way....

Little Jost Van Dyke

On our walk over Jost a few days ago, we saw this anchorage in front of Little Jost, and decided to give it a go. After dropping anchor in white sand, we took the dinghy over to this little island in the picture, and had a snorkel around the area. Dinner at Foxys Taboo was a perfectly cooked piece of tuna.

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke

We tucked ourselves into this beautiful little anchorage. The water is so crystal clear, and the sand so white. We enjoyed a casual buffet barbq dinner at Ivan's.
-Perhaps though, for $3 more the next day you can eat at Foxy's for what seamed a better fare. And you ate out of real plates as opposed to plastic.-

Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke

Jost Van Dyke has definitely got a more laid back feel, with some of the original unaltered beach bars. We anchored in Great Harbour, and today had one of the most beautiful walks on the old road up to the ridge, and than down to White Bay. The path/road is like a manicured lawn, with amazing views. Grasses like in the field of NZ, just growing lushly, and no one grazing them.
At White Bay, after our must have original 'pain killer' rum cocktail, we discovered Ivan's Beach Bar, at the East end. We liked the more sedate and quiet feel to this place. Tomorrow we hope to drop anchor here.

Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda, BVI

Early start, and a very gentle nice day down wind sailing to Spanish Town, British Virgin Islands. Check in was the most unpleasant so far, with the highly pressed uniformed officials with a bad attitude.
Already one feels the proximity and influence of the US. The supermarket in Spanish Town is full of US products, unfortunately not the best of their products! The quick, convenient, mass produced 'stuff', and imported fruit and veg.
Next day we had a great sail to Gorda Sound, a very nice large protected bay. Anchored, and went ashore to Saba Rock for a drink and a bite. I am beginning to understand peoples reluctance to BVI's, we felt like we were in a mini disney land.
Great walk up the road, than path to the Gorda Peak, well worth it.

Road Bay, Anguilla

I think we will always have fond memories of Anguilla. A flat island, with a sad state of stagnation. Bad politicians and bad timing, has stalemated a lot of 'grand' projects of making Anguilla a holiday destination.
We anchored in the sheltered Bay, and delighted in the check in procedure, with super convivial, lovely ladies, and as long as we stayed put in the bay, we were not charged a dollar!
We decided that exercise was in call for after all those French pastries, so we headed out on foot, to the beautiful beaches of Shoal Bay, ( and back)! Which seemed endlessly far away, as we lost ourselves in a shingle quarry! But its always good to see the country on foot, one learns a lot!
Limited super market 15min. walk from bay, on top of 'plateau', with good veggie stand before you get there, produce all from Dominica.
We met anchored next to us, John and Caroline Charnley, owners and creators of Discovery Yachts. They were on Hull No. 1 of the Discovery 50, catamaran. It was amazing, I still can not stop thinking about it, and also what a lovely couple they are... I am dreaming....

Marigot Bay, Saint Martin

Great chandlers, electric shops etc. and James is in heaven. At least we are anchored in the crystal clear waters and sandy bottomed large bay of Marigot. But I just don't get this place, and I am struggling to find a supermarket at walking distance. Fabulous bread shop though....

Gustavia, Saintes Barths

Great sail North to St. Barths along the Eastern side of St. Kitts. Nice to have a calmer passage for a change. Perhaps these Xmas winds are truly subsiding!
Fantastic anchorage in out of Gustavia harbor, We chose the Northern side, and found ourselves with a back drop of all the super yachts and mega super yachts. We are constantly entertained, as they display for us there flash dinghies and fun display of night lights, shining into the clear waters.
Very tidy, easy and friendly check in. While, yes, St Barths has countless of flash shops and obvious wealth, there is an unpretentious nature to the island.
A few more days exploring would have been nice. Great 'boulangerie', the best pain a chocolat, and a very tidy and well stocked super market! And.... one of the best deli, filled with every conceivable delicious bottled, jarred, tinned, frozen, or dried scrumptious item from around the world. Incredible, and all at incredible prices....
Taxid over to St. Johns, crazy that there is no footpath through the hill!

Charlestown, Nevis

In front of Charlestown is a large sandy coast line with great anchoring, or pick up a solid mooring of which there were plenty.
Today Nevis is still on holiday, and we struggle to find anything open, though really all we were looking for is for some bread.
Next day and we have taken an amazingly challenging walk all the way to the top of the peak! Just went prepared to the Tourist Office, and they managed to arrange a guide. Rita, our taxi lady took us to the beginning of the walk where we met Davito our 19yr. old guide. Within 10 min. we were at a steep incline, and Davito explained that their is 2 ways. There is the roots or there is the ropes. We were confused and asked what he recomended, 'well, sometimes I use the roots, and sometimes I use the ropes.' We later figured out what he meant, just grab what you can!
And up we went, and than seriously up we went, pulling ourselves on roots, and later slimy muddy ropes! Which I had become very grateful for!
We made it to the top in record time, (for us) 1:40, , and just in time to see a glimpse of the view, before it became covered in the typical cloud. Getting down was not as bad as I thought it would be, but all 4 paws were always in use! 4 hours later, with sore knees and very muddy hands, shoes and clothes, we were back to Rita! Oh Lordy Oh Lord of Mercy!!! Is what she cried!

English Harbor, Antigua

Saturday and since our immediate vicinity in English Harbor did not provide a lot of provisions at 7:15 we were already on a mini bus to St. John for the Saturday market. I did not have high expectations, and I was not disappointed! Again, lots of roots, and twisted clumps of carrots, clearly very home grown, selling directly from open pick up trucks. I finally did find a truck selling some beautiful different greens, bought some mustard greens.
The capital city looks quite forgotten, shabby, behind, poor. We wondered what appeal would a cruise liners passengers find in St. John.
NY was spent with Peter and his family, and friends in Paparazzi. Great atmosphere and dancing on the jetty, (forget the food aspect, which was sadly over pressured and badly managed). And than we carried our party on, across the waters back to Nelsons Dock until 2am.
Invigorating walk next day up and around the headland connecting the two bays. Just follow the well marked white dotted trail starting on the way to the fort of English harbor

Ffryes Bay, Antigua

Early start to Antigua, with a surprisingly nice sail along the Guadeloupe Eastern coast line. The sail across the strait was met with several squalls, so practicing reducing the sail and opening it out again, was the call of the day. As dusk approached we managed to make it here and dropped anchor in this lovely sandy bay, only boat...... hmmmm, not what we should be doing, we knew.....
After a bit of a pow wow, and verifying weather reports on surprisingly good internet coverage through our wifi booster, we decided to go to English Harbor and stay put through NY's. As it turned out, Peter, fellow ARC friend. and his family, were staying in the Nelsons dockyard marina, so we treated ourselves to a safe mooring on this historic harbor, surrounded by renovated buildings of the mid 1700's.

Les Saintes, Guadalupe

Really happy to have stopped here, and had no objections on paying for these really good solid, well monitored moorings that surround the small, charming hamlet. Best we have seen ever! Fresh 'real and delicious' baguette and nice croissants for sale at a reasonable price by the attendant, the next day, why not?
Dined at Chez Pipo, on the East side of the village, one street in of coast, and the 23 euros p.p. was well worth it.
Great hike the next day up to the higher Eastern fort, and beyond, down a steep well marked path down to the Crawen beach, eventually walking back along the road . Great day!

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Who: James Joll & Marina Jackson
Port: Napier, New Zealand
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