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The Jackson Four on Tour
Operation 'sell Pegasus of Jersey' begins""
The dirty business of laundry
Catherine
05/27/2011, Colon, Panama


So, we phone up the office in charge of dates and heh presto, our date has been changed to 29 May (Sunday) with a chance it may be Saturday, so that's better! Whit, Lochy and I head to the laundromat to do about 5 loads of washing. Unfortunately, the taxi driver took us to the dodgiest part of town and Whit got his bag snatched, complete with his computer, cameras and his and my wallet (that I had given to him for safe keeping!) The police came along within 10 minutes and we spent the next 6 hours at the police station giving statements and descriptions. Lochy by far got the best look at the kids as they nearly took his Harry Potter book, whereas Whit and I were so incredulous we didn't even look at them. They very inconveniently snatched his bag before we had tumbled our washing (pouring with rain) and we then proceeded to carry 5 bags of wet laundry around in the police cars, looking like right plonkers. Today, as I hung them out to dry, I realised they were ponging due to being wet all day, so I still have to do it all again! Crap for Whit to lose his computer, however, luckily, we were all fine and that's the main thing. Having cancelled all our cards today, we were relieved that no money had gone out of accounts (they had plenty in cash, anyway.) The police station phoned club nautico who sent along their agent (who we are not using) who spent the day being our interpreters and promising that they would drive to the area as they know the gang leader and get our stuff back. We are not holding our breaths. When we told our agent, Erick, he said "that's why I don't come over to Club Nautico area; it's too dangerous." We still haven't met him! Whilst we were gone, Mark and Mia had successfully signed us in to Colon, luckily with all our passports, so at least we have those.
Latest update - we transit tomorrow: Saturday 28 May. Yippee!!

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05/29/2011 | Kirsty Swart
Just caught up on 3 mths of your blog adventures...in between checking the webcam at Mirafloris however looks like that red container ship is blocking all traffic! What an amazing adventure you're having! Tell Lochy it was a great idea not to swim with the Portugese Man O' Wars as their tentacles are torture!!! We get tons of them in Bda at this time of year.

Where are you going in Galapagos? We were there this time last year and had an amazing time!

Happy sailing.

love
Kirsty
An overnight sail
Catherine
05/23/2011, Colon, Panama

We've arrived!

A pretty straight forward motor from San Blas to Colon and at 7am yesterday we were asking permission from Port control to enter the canal area. We went straight to the Flats (the supposed anchorage) in thick fog, trying to avoid all the huge container ships lurking in the vicinity. We were really disappointed to find no other yachts there and it wasn't until we heard a child on the VHF calling another yacht that we were able to connect with another boat and find out where everyone was - Club Nautico - a little fishing port just round the corner, still within the canal entrance and closer to town. Gruffalo (the other family boat) were going through the canal that day, so were heading over to the Flats where they were meeting their advisor. We were able to hook up for about an hour or so where Lochy and Mia had great fun with Emma, 5 and Joshua, 3. In fact, Lochy and Emma hit it off really well straight away and so it was a shame they were heading off straight away. Such is sailing life. Maybe we will see them on the other side of the canal. They were able to impart great snippets of advice, especially regarding the politics of the local agents situation. It seems our agent covers the Shelter Bay marina area and not here, however, we simply can't afford to stay in the marina, its prices extortionate, especially after spending so much on fuel these past couple of weeks and with the prices of transiting the canal and Galapagos isles ahead. And we quite like being at anchor. It's very exciting, starting the process of the transit. We expect we will be going through in about a week. Watch this space.

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Swimming with Dolphins
Catherine
05/22/2011

21 May 2011

An early start to the day so I could go up the mast before it got too hot to check out our AIS aerial as ever since I went up the mast in Grenada it hasn't been working properly. I re-connected the socket at the top as it had come loose, but I think it will need some more work when in Colon. We are on our way there now, leaving Porvinir at 6pm as planned (for a change!) We decided to go back the way we came from Isla Elsa, so as to face our demons and show we COULD navigate through tricky reefs. It made a big difference that the light was directly above us (highly recommended!!) Oh, also that Whit was up the spreaders (half way up the mast) being spotter. His directions agreed with mine that I was giving using the computer charts (thanks Pete!) and we successfully navigated our way out. Once anchored in Porvinir, we were delighted that A) the water was clean enough to swim (the first time we arrived, I think they had just emptied their sewage into the sea. Nice.) and B) there were four dolphins that came and joined the kids whilst they were snorkelling. For about an hour, the kids were watching the dolphins in the water and at one point one of the dolphins stuck his head out of the water as if to see where they were, and then started to swim over to them again. Amazing. Mark treated the kids to a whizz around the bay, towing them behind the dinghy on the boogey board so as to get some energy out of them before going on the boat again. There was just some time for Mia and Whit to find some gigantic sand dollars before heading off into a beautiful sunset. Now I've got to start reading up on the Panama Canal....

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Kuna Yala
Catherine
05/22/2011

21 May 2011
Yesterday at 8am, Justino arrived in his dug out canoe - an ulu - to take us on a trip up the River Mandinga - Mark and Whit were in the dinghy, towing the rest of us in the canoe towards the river. Once we were in the river, we all rowed up river and then had a walk through the rainforest. Loads of beautiful butterflies and a squirrel but no sloths or monkeys which we were hoping for. Lochy took the walk in his stride, this being what he wants to do when he is older - save animals and live in a jungle. Mia was rather distracted by the several midgey bites she had all over her legs and eventually I had to suggest to Justino that we made our way back to the canoe, as I think he would have walked all day! We passed a pineapple crop tended by the local Kuna school and also, children were collecting large blue crabs for dinner.
Once back on the canoe, Whit took over the rowing from Mark, and somehow, they took a little longer to emerge from the river than we did; Whit reckoned that they went back to look at some wildlife, but I did see them do an inexplicable 360 degree turn just after Whit took over!
An enforced siesta after lunch and then Justino invited us onto his island to see his home and meet his wife and kids. We didn't take our camera as the Kuna are camera shy, but it was fascinating to look around his island which is home to 9 families. Justino showed us the water pipes and taps that are in place ready for fresh water which hopefully in June will be connected from the mainland.
So, an interesting day in Kuna Yala. Mark has looked at the bottom of the boat and, whilst there are some scratches, it was a very slow grounding and so the damage is not too bad. Today, we will check out of the San Blas islands and then leave at 6pm so as to arrive in Colon at first light.

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San Plastic fantastic
Catherine
05/20/2011

It's abit weird. When we arrived in the anchorage we had chosen, we noticed that there were no dinghies attached to the many surrounding yachts, no-one around on their yachts and no flags on any of the yachts. It's like a ghost town anchorage. Now either there has been a party on shore that we didn't know about, which is unlikely because the Kunas like visitors to be off the islands after dark or.... or..... or....well, I just don't know. There are only three islands in the vicinity and there was no sign of life or dinghies on the beach. So, after going snorkelling for a little bit after school and still not seeing anyone, Lochy Whit and I decided to explore the islands. The first we approached had a vicious looking dog barking as we approached "let's try another island!" The next had a sign saying "private property" in English, which is strange as there is supposedly no private property in San Blas. The third one, we landed on. It looked from a distance a very beautiful idyllic island. As we approached we could see that the beach was made up almost entirely of rubbish, plastic bottles and flip flops. Really upsetting to see how spoiled these islands have become. We continued with our exploring until we noticed we were getting bitten alive by no-see-ums at which point we beat a hasty retreat, then realising why there were so many flipflops on the beach - probably left behind as visitors rushed to get off the beach and back into their dinghy.
This has been the first day where I have needed to sleep in front of a fan at lunchtime just because it is so darn hot. After lunch, we headed back to Isla Elsie as tomorrow we are going on a river tour with a Kuna - Justino - who advised us the quickest way to get to his island. As we approached, we were flagged down by four Kunas who had run out of petrol (or were just looking for a tow to save petrol) As we towed them towards the island, we hit an underwater reef (not a pretty one - just a bunch of rocks) at which point the Kunas jumped into the water and standing up to their waists, pushed us back off the reef and into the deeper water. Hopefully no damage done (except to our pride) but we will need to check fully tomorrow as the sun was setting as we dropped anchor and were accosted by about four boats selling molas and asking us to charge their mobile phones.
I'm really annoyed that we hit the underwater reef as we have been super careful with our navigation, however, the light was low and I guess we shouldn't have taken the advise of someone whose boat draws about 50 cms!! Whilst we were abit peed off at first that the men might be taking the mick, asking for a tow, in the end we were so grateful that they were there as they didn't hesitate to jump in the water and push us off and then one of them came aboard and navigated us through the narrow channel safely into deeper water. Current position: 9.31.15N 79.03.27W

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Trouble in Paradise
Catherine
05/19/2011

We've arrived in the picturesque San Blas islands - a vast archipelago of coconut tree strewn islands. But don't think of taking a coconut - the local Kuna indians have all their coconuts accounted for and until recently used them as currency. Obviously the US dollar has become more attractive now as all transactions today have been in US dollars; whether it be the beautiful molas for sale, or the Panama cruising permit, a snip at $193 for the year, regardless of whether you stay one year or one week.
This afternoon we visited Dog island which has a sunken cargo ship on the beach, which has become a magnet for fish - that was pretty spectacular, and then Mia was delighted to find a sand dollar, which we hadn't even heard of til Steve Manning educated us! Google it. Now we are in the Lemmon Cays looking forward to snorkelling tomorrow on the extensive reef here.
However, despite the fact that we are in apparent paradise, Mark is stressed. The rudder is working fine, but is making a noise that it shouldn't be. We think it's a loose bearing whic we'll need to fix in Colon. Also the AIS aerial isn't trransmitting as it did, the water filter has slowed done considerably and needs attention and the starboard engine is taking its time going into gear. Now Whit might have been very good as an insurance broker, but handy with the tools he is not (and that's self confessed, not me going behind his back!) COnsequently, Mark can't rest on his laurels and is still working on some of the jobs on his list. It's true that a boat owner's job is never done. And to boot, there is no wind. So it's hot. Poor Mark' maybe a trip up the Clyde would have been more his cup of tea!

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Jackson Four on Tour
Who: Mark, Catherine, Mia and Lachlan
Port: Lefkas, Greece
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