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Cruising with HappyCat
Mar/30/2012, We are off at last!

Finally the day has come to leave Panama!! We highly recommend that any one thinking of spending time on the Pacific side, to think again. If we did it again, we would totally provision at Shelter Bay, go through the canal, and keep moving. Other the the very friendly locals that we met, the taxi drivers in particular, it was so dirty and a hassle to do anything..
In the picture, this is how you negotiate getting to land!
We will be at sea approximately 27 days, arriving at Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands.
You can email us at
Until later...

La Playita, Panama City

We are beginning a rather long stay in this not so pleasant anchorage of La Playita, in front of Panama City. The dhingy dock in the 'marina' area, is the most expensive, dangerous and the most inconsiderate to cruisers that we have ever experienced. As soon as we can we will move across the causeway to Las Brisas.
We have been whizzing around in taxi's getting a few boat parts and provisioning for our long journey. Whilst there is huge building boom, and betterment of infrastructure within the city, the disparity in the classes is so obvious. We are constantly reminded of how the other side lives, which seam to be more than 80%.

Panama Canal Transit

Alex, from Centenarios (we highly would recommend him) was our agent in organizing everything for our transit, At 1:30, we left the docks of Shelter Bay, with our new crew who will be joining us across the Atlantic. (They live in Panama, and offered to help us with the lines, which was great to have them and meet them.) By 2:30 we were on our way towards our first docks.
The first part of the canal, is up three docks taking you into one of the largest man made damned lakes. After about 20nm you enter the hardest part of the building of the canal, which is cutting a canal through solid granite, and down the 3 locks. Its an amazing engineering project, which has been operating now 24/7 for the last 100 years, with not a day of closure!
This video released by PBS is really interesting and worth watching.
8 hours later, 6 locks later, a delicious lasagna, and a meeting of new friends as we experienced the passage, we arrived on the Pacific side! You immediately could feel a difference in the air, and the sea temperature went from 25 to 17.5 degrees and a tidal difference of 3-4 mt.!

Porto Bello, Panama

The weather has finally calmed a bit, and mericully so had the seas, when we made our sail back to Porto Bello.
Not so the next morning though. 6a.m. we are alerted by a fellow yacht owner, that we were slowly dragging back. We raised the anchor and tried 7 times again, before giving up and heading straight back to Shelter Bay, Colon. Just as well we did, for the hours and days following were gusting to 30 + ! We were very happy to be in Shelter Bay....

Robsons, Gerti, San Blas

Justino, a native Kuna from the Robsons group was our guide. At 8:30 we all gently piled into a large ulu dug out and motored down to the river mouth. The river, is more of a dredged creek created by the American banana co. some 80 years ago, Along the sides are the remains of pillions that used to support large wharfs.
Shortly we came to the end of the creek, and began our gentle 5km. walk to the Kuna village, walking through native bush , with surprisingly little wild life.
It was really interesting to see how the Kunas live, in their palms houses. We were also fortunate to sit through a christening ceremony, which was a very haphazard 'organized' affair, of drinking 'chicha', a crushed fermented sugar cane and coffee drink, smoking cigarettes and another herb, and... sucking on lollipops!

Robsons, Gerti Island, San Blas

The atolls of the Robsons are completely inhabited, with neat and tidy palm houses hugging the edges of the atoll. Dead coral is used as infill, to protect the atolls, and maximize the small parameter of space.
The first few hours of our arrival was entertained with one ulu after another of primarily children, 2-3 to an ulu, rowing to the boat, just to say hello, beaming with smiles. in hopes, of course that we might give them something. We came prepared with crayons and pencils and a few lollies. When we thought we had seen the last, another lot came! We were really amazed how these young girls and boys 4-7ys old, would row around with their brothers and sisters and nephews, in an unstable dug out, and with quite a task to get back against the wind!
Met Monty and Chris and heard about the arrangements for the river trip we were lucky to join.
The dug out in the foreground has 3 children, ranging between 3-5 years old, in total balance, and what strength to row against the winds!

Mar/21/2012 | Christine
Hi, hope all is well and looking forward to an update ....seems a while and we are wondering how the river trip went xxx
Mar/21/2012 | Christine (Jims sister)
Hi, has anyone heard from Jim and Marina since their last blog 29 Feb???
Mar/21/2012 | Christine
Just had an email and they are both fine!
Green Island, San Blas

Great sail over to Green Island! A tight reach with 18-22kts of wind, and a sea of gentle rolling waves. Now we are starting to see the appeal of San Blas. And Green Island anchorage was great, well sheltered from swell, and o.k. on wind.
Had a walk around the small atoll, no houses, just coconut trees, and at the end, met Jerry and Terry, Canadians, who kindly gave us a few tips, and even arranged for us to join their friends on a river trip from Robsons Islands. (Thank you, for it turned out to be a wonderful experience.)
Pic. shows a typical cluster of palms of a tiny atoll, and yes a family live there!

Lemon Cays, San Blas

So, on we went, in search for shelter, and Venancio suggested we head here. Whilst the coral surrounding these islands protects one from the swell, there is not much to protect one from the incessant winds.
The atolls have a scattering of houses, made of different palm leaves. The walls, and the roofs. Sand for floors, and hammocks, and thats about it!
There were quite a few boats in the lagoon, feeling the grunt of the wind, but our anchorage was on the South side of the atolls, tucked as close to the palm trees as we could.

Mar/14/2012 | Lynn
That is quite some wind!
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.

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