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Little Green Boat
Spruce left New Zealand at the end of May 2014. We had a memorable time in NZ, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. We are now in Australia at the end of October 2014.
A Striking Illumination.
Sue & Andy
03/Oct/2012, Hollandes Cays - Panama

More chores and tasks and lots more weather this morning. We discovered that friends aboard Rivers2Seas (Brad & Lindsey with younger crew members Ella & Chase) took a short piece of film yesterday that captured the lightening strike between us and the folks anchored in the pool. We are just off screen to the left and the rest of the boats are to the right. Here is a frame grab from the film clip. BTW yesterday's blog upload had the wrong date of 30th Sept.

Hope to do some snorkeling tomorrow and then head off westwards on Friday morning... weather permitting.

News & Updates
04/Oct/2012 | Shane and Ali
Blimey!! Just make sure you keep dodging those bolts. Some of us in Blighty rely on the daily Little Green Boat update to help us ease the pain. The last thing we need to hear is that you didn't duck quickly enough.
A Whole Lot More Weather
Sue & Andy
30/Sep/2012, Hollandes Cays - Panama

An ideal spot to tick off tasks on our chores list. Fixing things, deep cleaning and generally making sure we don't have too many items to tackle before we head into the Pacific early in 2013. A major evolution is extracting the stove from its gimbals and partially dismantling for cleaning. Other jobs are not huge but take an extraordinary amount of time, often with little visible to show for the efforts. Some tasks are just routine, for example working all the seacocks back and forth to ensure they are free to open or close when required. A thankless task taken on by Sue is cutting and polishing the gelcoat on the topsides; certainly we need to raise the waterline a few inches to avoid the staining from muck in the water, particularly the stains from a diesel spillage back in Prickly Bay, Grenada, still need more work.

More thunderstorms have been passing by in the last few days. This morning was a huge one that came right overhead with lightening strikes all around. The closest bolt hit the sea only 400 metres away and near to boats anchored in the pool. An enormous spark whacked into the surface and then re-sparked brighter back up the same path, the thunderclap was coincident and the sea was steaming at the point of contact. Later, while chatting on the SSB Net, another vessel anchored in the Pool thought we had been struck which gives an idea of the proximity. After about an hour of close crashes, Sue frequently scurrying into the aft cabin to hide in the dark, the storm moved off to the west. A sunny and hot day and now the grey ominous clouds are gathering for another pop so need to pick a moment to plug the antenna back in and send this update.

The photo is a bit of a Nexus (Star-trek fans will know what this is) effect in the sky, a lot of crazy cloud formations and gorgeous sunsets/moonrises at the moment, when we can actually see the heavens, that is.

News & Updates
Three Rays in Sunshine
Sue & Andy
30/Sep/2012, Hollandes Cays - Panama

A visit from a dug-out canoe with two Kuna ladies and a small babe in arms. Molas for sale and the toughest sales drive we have seen so far. Haggling was the order of the day; showing what we had purchased further east and a discussion of the quality required secured three more good examples.

Late yesterday afternoon the skies clouded over and we were subjected to the torrent supplied by two separate thunderheads that took turns to deluge the anchorage. While we were negotiating the mola purchases these storms were girding their loins; a conch shell mournfully sounded, blown by a lone man in a distant canoe. We were told this meant "Muchos Viento" (lots of wind) from the south. Unsurprisingly, a south wind would be quite a threat for the kunas in their dug-outs as it might drive them offshore and into the Caribbean Sea, they seem to be constantly bailing water anyway, using a calabash shell as a scoop, even in fine weather. Fortunately, the wind only came to below 20 knots and proved our holding to be adequate.

A short snorkel between chores this morning offered the treat of a fly-past by three large Spotted Eagle Rays in clear water, their snub nosed beaks seeming to twitch like a rodent, eyes warily peering at us, the tails thin and long snaked behind as they manoeuvred, skillfully keeping their distance before swooping off into the murkier depths. Unlike the Southern Stingray they don't hug the bottom nearly as much and give a far superior aquabatic display. Hopefully, we'll manage to capture them on film before we depart from here.

News & Updates
Swimming Pool
Sue & Andy
29/Sep/2012, Hollandes Cays - Panama

Today we travelled a few miles north and east to the spectacular Hollandes Cays. Another visit by passing dolphins always a delight, this time a very small juvenile with the group who enjoyed himself immensely frolicking in the bow-wave before the adults spoiled the fun by breaking contact for more important matters. We have anchored near to the area called "Swimming Pool" but have dropped our hook in 20m depth. Hopefully there won't be any coral to snag the chain as has been the case in many of the anchorages indicated in the pilot book. Shallow areas usually mean coral with poor ground into which to dig the anchor, hopefully this deeper spot will be a collecting pit for sand and provide secure holding.

The shallow areas are a gorgeous turquoise, coral sand positively glowing beneath the few metres of water. Further out on the reef, shallower still, and more yellowy. The several islands surrounding us are sporting the ubiquitous palm trees swaying in time with the rhythm of the wind. Some have remnants of the more native mangroves dipping into the sea; possibly the removal of these important stabilisers, to enable cultivation, has led to some islands collapsing into the sea. On this side of the reef is white sand with a coating of sea-grass; food for turtles and we saw the first one swimming beneath our keel, some 20 feet deep, as we approached. Friends already anchored here said they had nurse sharks close by a couple of evenings ago and a more worrying tiger shark - not helped by Brad, swimming alongside, asking his crew to "chum" the water to entice the nurse sharks closer when the tiger made his unexpected appearance from stage left. Brad exit stage surface in a tremendous hurry. "Squealing like a small girl" was his dear wife's observation.

A few boats are doing the rounds with supplies and things to sell. Already bought a large hand of bananas and the promise of some more molas to view coming tomorrow. We'll likely stay here a few days and enjoy this small corner of paradise before moving west towards Lemon Cays and Porvenir.

News & Updates
Meandering Along
Sue & Andy
28/Sep/2012, Salardup - Kuna Yala - Panama

A brief snorkel after breakfast. Very brief due to small, near invisible, stinging jellyfish in the water. The No-See_Ums of the marine environment. A small motor out through the reefs and 3.5 miles west along the Naguargandup Cays this morning to another anchorage. One yacht already here, apparently a back-packer vessel. These craft are often sailboats that seem to rather overload themselves with youngsters travelling between Panama and Colombia during gap years. We met one couple with a mono-hull who thought they could pay off their loan on the boat in 2 years. We also met three young people who had travelled aboard a 34 feet catamaran, from Panama to Colombia, earlier this year with 15 passengers, they said it should have been an extra two, but those people disembarked when the skipper could only produce two lifejackets and an 8-person life-raft. While some operators will probably be fully equipped others are certainly taking chances with the safety of those aboard for fast financial gains.

Tomorrow we'll move on north and east to the Hollandes Cays. This latest stop is very pretty behind the reef. A short snorkel excursion found many Cushion Starfish and a large Spotted Eagle Ray. However, the 2-hut establishment at the end of the island (see photo) looks geared up to entertain weekend visitors with loud music and beer. Somewhere quieter, and sheltered, where we can start getting Spruce prepared for a haul out in November and the Pacific crossing of 2013 is sought. Putting coordinates into the GPS revealed we are now closer to the Galapagos Islands than to Grenada back in the East Caribbean. The excitement aboard is growing palpable.

News & Updates
A Day in the Life of ...
Sue & Andy
27/Sep/2012, Naguargandup Cays - Kuna Yala - Panama

Only a few more nights until full moon. Evenings are especially atmospheric. An ethereal glow subtly illuminates a border of blue-white sand framing the nearby island. Silhouetted palms stand darkly, moving to the tune of the breeze. Occasional movement of a passing bird in the periphery of vision startles. The only audible noises are the thundering within a distant, towering, cumulo nimbus and the drumming of swells tumbling across the reefs. The stars visible are not familiar, unlike the winter months when old friends roll across the heavens. The books are aboard and a new set of constellations to be learned.

Pelicans brought amusement for breakfast. A lumbering airborne gait, always seeming quite inefficient, hauls them over the wavelets, beaks thrust forth with the smug demeanour of a far more successful fisherman. Almost a drunken stagger as the wings buckle and an enormous belly-flop into the sea. Finally a re-emergence to the surface within the splash zone, wallowing bemusedly while trying to ascertain whether any fish were trapped in the enormous mouth.

Bread baked, chores completed and we headed off to another group of reefs and islets to the south-west named Naguargandup Cays. Early afternoon and we dropped anchor behind a reef spanning the gap between two islets, shelter from the swell provided both by this stretch of coral and also the more distant islands and reefs of the Hollandes Cays, another 5 miles further to the north.

While under way we were briefly visited by some Bottlenose Dolphins, the bigger variety, who quickly became bored with our sedentary pace and swam away. Later this afternoon a Sooty Tern managed to fly into our rigging and crash landed on the deck with a thump. Once he had ceased seeing stars we picked him up and threw him into the air, off he flew on his merry way. In the nearby sandy shallows are a multitude of puffy fleshed Cushion Starfish, colours range from rusty-orange to vermilion. A couple of rays swam below the dinghy as we zoomed by. If skies are clear in the morning we hope to snorkel along the reef to explore what else lives here. A briefest visit to the nearby island was cut short when a plague of No-See-Ums - miniscule biting insects - descended for a feast. Fingers crossed that our position is distant enough from shore to deter any such unwelcome visitors this evening; they are not stopped by mosquito nets, the holes are too big.

Photo shows the remains of a nearby hut once standing on stilts, with Hollandes Cays in background.

News & Updates

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