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The Jackson Four on Tour
Operation 'sell Pegasus of Jersey' begins""
today's the day! (hopefully!)
05/28/2011, Colon, Panama

Well, we've confirmed that we have to be at the Flats today (Saturday) at 2pm in preparation for the transit. It will be evening when we transit and then we will spend the night at anchor in the Gatun lake. Our agent wasn't able to get us two line handlers at short notice, only one, but we were fortunate to bump into a French sailor who was wanting to be a line handler for the experience, so we pick him up this morning. Then we'll be heading over to Shelter Bay Marina for fuel, to meet the elusive Erick for tyres and long mooring lines and pick up parcels and letters. Oh yeah, and to re-do the laundry that still needs doing! Whit spent all day yesterday on the internet trying to sort out places for cards to be sent and airline tickets. Getting his stuff back is looking unlikely. Now what shall I cook to keep the adviser and line handlers happy? Off to the shops for one last provision!

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Crossing the isthmus
05/28/2011, Gatun Locks

Arriving at the Flats in the most torrential rain, we waited 7 hours for our adviser to arrive, watching as the 6 other yachts received their advisers and headed off towards the locks. I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that no one was going to turn up but Ronaldo, our linehandler kept saying "no, he'll come." And so he did at 9.30pm. As we were the last boat standing, we were to go through the lock by ourselves, so no rafting up and all linehandlers needed. Mia and Lochy stayed awake for the whole process, being the chief photographers. Mark and I privately kept our fingers crossed that our starboard engine that chooses when it goes into gear would actually go into gear and not misbehave. Going through the locks was just an amazing experience. I think Whit and I felt a little bit nervous that one of us would be the weak link, however, we received the monkey fists they lob down onto the boat and tied a bowline and then once we realised we only had to do that once, we relaxed a little, bringing in the slack as the water rose, giving slack as the men on shore walked us to the next lock. By 11.30pm we were rafted up to a buoy in Gatun lake and saying cheerio to Rick, our excellent adviser.

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The dirty business of laundry
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 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.

An overnight sail
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

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

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