Bonaire to Bocas Del Toro, Panama
13 April 2017 | Red Frog Marina
April 09 around 7 PM.
The few days leading up to our anticipated departure date from Bonaire for Panama were quite windy as predicted. The wind was carrying this brown dirt and everything was covered. Our lines, canvas and even the two of us were turning brown. It will take a LOT of rain to get rid of it. I took a shower before we left and the water was brown! All of the boats in Bonaire were slowing changing color….
We ended up departing on the morning of Friday April 7 at 7:30 am as it was still over 3.3M seas on Thursday and bit breezier than we would prefer. We departed about 30 minutes behind Paul and Gloria, a couple that we met while in the marina on their sailing cat, “Scallywags”. They are from New Zealand and having crossed the Atlantic from the Mediterranean this past fall, they are heading for the Panama Canal and are planning being back in New Zealand in the late fall. They have already sailed the South Pacific including Indonesia. We are keeping in touch daily during our trip although we are (I am writing this under way…impressed? I am.) heading to Boca Del Toro which is about 130 miles past Colon, the entrance to the canal.
So far the trip is going well. We set a 24 hour distance record for us on the first day out, 184 miles which equates to 7.6 knots average for the day. I am happy! The first night out was uneventful and once the sun came up on day two we were north of Aruba; time to turn more westerly. Up on the deck and set up the Whisker Pole and sailed downwind for the morning; until the wind died. The seas were still running so we took the pole down and turned south west and closer to the Venezuela coast and better winds according to the Grib files. (Computerized wind map) Sure enough it did pick up and we picked up speed but only did 154 miles on day two. Not bad though.
Here it is after dinner on day three and we have been having a great sail today. SOG (speed over ground) has been up over 8 knots for a good part of the day and we saw the high “9s” a few times. We are again sailing with the pole, main sail out to Port and Genoa out to Starboard; “wing and wing” the call it. Not “wing on wing”. Not sure why….
We passed a big tanker literally drifting in the middle of nowhere. We had to change course a bit to go “behind it” but since we were “wing and wing” our maneuverability was limited. We saw him in plenty of time though and passed behind. I figure going behind a 948 foot ship vs. cutting in front, even if he was drifting is the wise choice. Oh, as we were approaching him I did take some photos that I will post and then was looking at the ship close up in the binoculars. What did I see? Someone on the bridge looking at me in his binoculars! I waved.
Paul and I talked on the SSB again this evening. They are about 40 miles ahead of us. We went too far north on day one….damn. Oh well. Straight downwind their catamaran has a speed advantage. (edit: April 11, we have actually kept up with them since although our courses are diverging) Laurie and I spent some time with them on their boat in Bonaire and it is very nice. LOTS of living space…. Paul was nice enough to spend some time with me to show me how to use a mapping program; ActiveCPN. I have not been able to get it to work but now it is and it is great. He also downloaded a few charts to my hard drive, just about the whole Planet! Thanks Paul!
Laurie took the night watch. It was pretty breezy with gusts to 40 occasionally. Seas were up to 2.4M (8 feet or so) at times. Since we were running straight downwind it made for some pretty good surfing but we needed to slow the boat down. We already had a single reef (reef = reducing sail area for those who care what a reef is…) in and opted for a second reef later in the evening. We managed to still hit 11.9 kts during the night. Glad I was asleep at the time!
It was a fairly bouncy night last night as you can imagine but the boat held its own as usual. One of the first morning chores this morning was to clean the deck of about 8 flying fish of various sizes. If only we could get Mahi Mahi to jump aboard! Emailed with Paul and Gloria on Scallywags this morning (we are looking out for each other) and it looks like we made up so distance on them yesterday. In fact; we set yet another distance record yesterday, 191 NM in one day! I don’t think any Outbound has ever done the magical “200 mile day”. We had it in reach having done 98 miles in the 1st twelve hours but it would have been a bit rough(er) if we had not slowed down last evening. Still am happy though!
Wind is holding up well but we will be losing it in a couple of days as we approach Bocas Del Toro. We will see, weather does funny things.
April 11 – Noonish
Currently about 70 miles North of Colon and about 160 miles to go. We had a bird land on our dinghy at about 9PM last night. It was almost a full moon and I thought he was trying to come into the cockpit. I turned on the cockpit lights, clapped my hands and shouted but nope, he was coming in for a landing on the dinghy; period. After about 4 or 5 “missed approaches” he finally touched down on our boat while it was pitching up and down as well as side to side on about 6 foot (2 M) waves. He fell off twice that I saw in the next half hour or so as a set of “rollers” came through up our stern. Being a bird, he didn’t hit the water…
He posed for pictures, the flash did not bother him nor did Laurie while she adjusted the solar panels at 5 AM this morning even though she was less than 2 feet from him. He departed after sunrise back to wherever he was heading.
Looking not bad for a Wednesday arrival except as predicted, the wind is letting up and expected to go well below 10 kts as we approach. We could motor but we really don’t want to motor for 24 hours. Working the sails to keep the boat moving. Still “wing and wing” but as it gets even lighter we will probably bring out our Spinnaker.
In my spare time I have been reading up on how to update our Blog via email. I might try it this afternoon. If it works I will finish up this post upon arrival in Bocas.
So, if you are reading this and it is Tuesday; it worked!
OK. It did not work.
Around 2:30 AM the wind completely died and the sea looked like a mirror under the full moon. Not being able to keep the sails from flopping around we furled the Genoa and started the motor. Still hoping for the wind to fill again as we approached Bocas. It didn’t.
So, we motored the last 12 hours of our journey. We didn’t “have to” but we didn’t see the point of just drifting around when we were only 50 miles to destination and the forecast was no wind. We entered the channel and came right in. This place is beautiful! We came into Red Frog Resort/Marina which is going to be Hedonism’s home for the summer. The marina is situated in a nature preserve that the owners of Red Frog have set up, 1500 acres. We have Mangroves all around us and there are NO waves or ocean surge. The highest wave is about 1 inch. Water is like glass mostly.
Once we docked the Dock Master called for the Customs, Immigration, Port Authority, Quarantine and one other who I forget what he did. So, about an hour later we were boarded in the marina by 5, yes 5 officials to do mountains of paperwork, inspect and so on. And, we didn’t know beforehand except the Dock Master tipped us off (thanks DC), supply snacks and drinks for everyone. Problem was, we didn’t have too much as we are getting ready to leave the boat. Just before they arrived we scrounged the boat to find food and drink. We were told not to give the alcohol. We found 4 cans of Coke and a single Red Bull drink as well as an unopened can of Pringles we had bought last fall in Martinique and a fresh bag of Blue Corn Chips. They were happy with that when they arrived. The inspection went well but only ONE guy went below to check stuff out. He looked at Laurie’s cigarettes, the liquor cabinet and a couple of closets and asked about 3 times if we had weapons on board. (We don’t) Generally, everyone sat in the now crowded cockpit and drank and ate Pringles. And yes, did paperwork. More paperwork that the last 5 countries we have visited combined! All was well and everyone was friendly and happy. Just really different for us. So, for about $360.00 USD plus the cost of 4 Cokes, a Red Bull and Pringles, we were checked in with a 1 year Panamanian cruise permit. A bit more that the $2.00 in St Martin.
No problem, as we head west things will be much different than the East Caribbean. I knew the cost was going to be around what we were charged as I had done some research and we were caught off guard being short of Coke. More research required next time.
And shortly after they left Tanya on the boat “Take Two” walked over to say hello. They were at Le Phare Bleu in Grenada last fall on the dock in front of us. They (family with FIVE kids on board) have been here since December. Small world.
After a good night’s sleep I spent a good chunk of time trying to figure out how to post to our Blog via email. It is easy if you have internet and just do it on line but via email; well that is different and apparently I have to go through a learning curve. I “think” I have it figured out. HTML vs. Rich Text vs. Plain Text. Can’t I just sent a damn email? Nope.
Later in the morning we went up to “check in” and got a tour of the Marina and Resort. WOW! We could hang out here for a long time. Some people do and we see why. Red Frog Beach is great. There are four restaurants hidden throughout the area, you can go “Zip-Lining”, tour the areas and look for “Red Frogs”, 6 FOOT long Iguanas, Boas and Sloths. DC the dock master who took us on the tour was saying the Boas will not bother anyone, they like to be left alone. He saw a 15 foot one the other day. There are no poisonous plants or dangerous animals on the island at all. Island? Yes, Red Frog is on Isla Bastimentos, less that ½ a mile from the mainland in the Bocas Del Toro archipelago. Something like 60 islands here. We will be busy getting the boat ready for our departure but when we return we will be spending a month or two exploring the area.
So, that is about it for now. I could now post this on-line vs. email but I need to get used to doing this under way.
OK. I finally have it figured how to post via email. I need to re-type and cannot copy + paste from Word. So, I am NOT re-typing this one! I will do it in the Satellite email program next time!
Our “Map” on our home page has been updated as well.
To recap, our trip:
Left Bonaire at 0730 Friday April 7 and arrived Red Frog at 16:00 EST Wednesday April 12.
5 days, 8.5 hours or 128.5 hours total
Distance covered: 919 NM
Average speed: 7.15 knots
Average speed if we take out the last day of no wind or motoring: (first 4 days) 8.28 kts!
Distance covered per day:
Day 1: 184 nm
Day 2: 156
Day 3: 191 – our new record!
Day 4: 184
Day 5: 124 – our final day into Bocas
02 April 2017 | Bonaire
12.09’669N 068.17’039W – Current Position
April 2, 2017
Kralendjik, Bonaire (pronounced: “Crawlen-dike”), Netherlands NV
We arrived back in Antigua at the end of February after a quick visit back to Thunder Bay and Ottawa. Laurie spent the first 2 weeks training new pilots and I flew the line a bit as well as visiting Sheldon, Payton, Atari and of course, Mom + Dad.
Anyways, as we mentioned previously, time to move on to new places. We left Jolly Harbour on March 3 and headed up to Low Bay, Barbuda to position for our next leg to St. Maarten to provision and have a rig survey done. We left for St. Maarten at 0500 from Low Bay. To our surprise, 3 other boats left in a group about 30 minutes ahead of us. Wind was pretty light to start out but after the sun came up it started to pick up and so did we. Those 3 boats were about 2.5 miles in front of us when we departed but they were all over 5 miles BEHIND us approaching St. Maarten. No competition in our blood! Not to mention we landed a tuna and a Mahi Mahi while passing them! One was a Catamaran and the other was a 54’ mono hull which made it even better!
We anchored in Marigot Bay and went into clear customs (love checking into the French Islands, $2.00 and stay for 90 days) We immediately ran into Mike on Toocanoe from Thunder Bay. He had a charter going on but he still stopped by for a quick beer and to say hello.
Next morning we dinghied over to FKG rigging to see about the rig inspection. No need to go on their dock but they did want us “in the Lagoon” to go up the mast. Not having been in the French side entrance we decided we have better check things out to make sure we did not run around – which happens to A LOT of boats going in on that side. We took our hand held depth finder and set off to “find” the channel. Fortunately, new buoys have been placed part of the way in BUT when they end you are supposed to be able to turn left towards the Dutch side. And you can, if you draw 4 feet! The bottom have numerous gouges in it where boats had grounded. Anyways, we figured out which way to go and brought Hedonism through the bridge in the afternoon and no, we did not ground. Depth sounder chose this time to quit but we made it. The rigging inspection went well, we provisioned over a few days, bought our “bottom paint” for the next haul in Panama and even went to get our Yellow Fever vaccinations. After the vaccinations neither of us felt well for 2 weeks. Not sick but run down, tired and achy. We Google side effects for the Yellow Fever vaccine and they were tired, achy etc. Go figure.
We had to wait a couple of days for the weather to be right for our next leg to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. We departed the Lagoon in the morning and anchored out in Marigot Bay for a few hours. We then departed Marigot in the afternoon of March 15 for an overnight sail to St. Thomas arriving at 0915 in the morning. Our only reason for going to St. Thomas was to get our Life Raft recertified at the only certified Winslow service center in the Caribbean. That went well. We rented a car for the day and did a bit more provisioning since we were “in the USA’. Even went to Kmart! While we were waiting for the life raft recertification we also trouble shot our depth sounder. It ended up being the transducer so there goes more $$$ and we ordered in on Friday and had it Monday, again, we are in the USA.
We got our Life Raft back on Monday so we departed Tuesday afternoon (March 21) for Bonaire which we figured was about 2 ½ days. Once we left the waters of the US Virgins we only saw commercial vessels and the odd cruise ship. On Wednesday morning shortly after sunrise I spotted something on the distant horizon. Nothing on the AIS but I was able to ‘paint’ two targets about 15 miles out on radar! Grabbing the binoculars I realized that the main object was a LARGE oil platform. Shortly after the AIS showed both a Tug Boat (250’ big one) and the Atwood Condor oil platform. The AIS said the platform was “not under command”. Being towed. The tug’s AIS said the destination was the Barbados. We ended up passing within about 2 miles of the platform. Pretty cool seeing it that close up. It was big enough we could probably have sailed between the legs. Once we got to Bonaire I looked up the Atwood Condor and the company website said it was being towed from the Gulf of Mexico to Singapore for a refit and was then heading to Australia. At 4.5 knots. I looked it up on Marine Traffic to see where it was and it was just passing St. Lucia. I have a couple of photos I will be uploading.
The sail to Bonaire we basically good except the wind died after sunset on Thursday evening. We had been thinking we would need to heave-to for a bit so as to approach Bonaire in the daylight but….the wind dying looked after that for us! By sun rise the wind was down to 5 knots so we ended up motoring for a couple of hours until we got around the SE tip of the island when a nice breeze set in so we were able to sail into the anchorage an hour later arriving at 1045 on the Friday.
Pretty cool here. You MUST take a mooring. Anchoring is forbidden and the whole island is a marine park. The bow of our boat is moored in about 15’ of water and the stern is in about 200’. This is a diving destination and wow, there are divers everywhere. Flash bulbs and light below us until late at night and yesterday morning we woke to the sound of bubbles against our hull at 6 AM!
We moved into the marina for 2 days as we needed to do some maintenance on the boom. It had to be removed along with the vane and re-shimmed and we didn’t want to do that with the boat rocking. All went well. We stayed the 2nd day and washed the salt off the boat. The water here is CHEAP compared to elsewhere in the Caribbean, only 0.10 per gallon. And it is clean. No water spots and the pressure allowed me to rinse out first set of spreaders from the deck! Do I sound excited?
We rented a truck for a day to drive around the island. We were told that we needed a truck as the road conditions in the parks were not good. Glad we got the truck, they weren’t. So we drove around and toured, saw multiple Iguanas (they are everywhere here), Pink Flamingoes and so on. It is pretty hard to get near the Flamingoes but we lucked out as you can see in the photos. The other thing you will see is this island is basically a desert. Did I say dry? Cactus, blowing dust and more cactus.
So, here it is Sunday April 2 and we are waiting for a “weather window” to make the hop to Bocas Del Toro, Panama. That will be a 6 to 7 day sail. The weather off the north coast of Columbia can be pretty bad (it is right now) so we will be heading a couple of hundred miles north of the coast to stay out of the worst of the “Colombian Low”. The weather inland in Columbia is pretty bad right now, 250 people died from flooding and landslides yesterday. That was inland and is not expected to impact us. At the moment it is looking like we will be departing on Thursday morning but we won’t be making the final decision until later. I spend a couple of hours a day watching the wind and weather patterns. If we leave Thursday it will be windy when we depart but we will be riding it downwind and on the “downward trend” in the wind cycle. At least, that is how it is looking today….
So that is about it. Some boat chores to do (always) and perhaps some diving this afternoon. Laurie is going too!
BTW: Our MAP has been updated and I will try posting to the album with my data connection. Hope it works.
January 26, 2017 - Antigua
26 January 2017
We spent over a month in Barbuda. Did lots of hiking including the full length of the east coast from Spanish Point to Two Foot Bay, about 6 hours one-way. Took a taxi back….
Not a lot to report, we had great weather and it was even “cool” a few nights where the cabin got down to 77F. Laurie had a sweater on at night. The last couple of days spent in Barbuda the wind was non-existent so we took the opportunity to go out to Palaster Reef, about a mile off the south coast. The water was like glass and we might have been in glass bottom boat. Lots of different reefs are included in the area which is about 2 miles square, give or take. We did get a school of “fairly large” (2 feet) Barracuda come for a visit and circle / follow us for a bit. Laurie did not go for a swim….
Anyhow, we are back in Antigua and have met up with Steve and his dog Spinnaker. We are getting ready to head into the marina in a couple of days and will be heading to Thunder Bay for a bit. Nice to see snow again; not.
Upon our return we will be heading for St. Martin to have a rigging check done, provision, buy new bottom paint (for later – it is cheaper there) and will then make our way to Panama.
In the process of uploading NEW photos into the “Cruising 2016” album as well as a new Cruising 2017 album. They should be uploaded by the time you read this.