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Breaking Free
San Blas Islands

San Blas

We have found a different world! After a few days sail and passing many freighters' in Panama waiting to get through the canal we arrived!! All is well on Nirvana Now. After killing humidity in Shelterbay Marina, in Colon we are now in the San Blas! It is still very humid but we at least get to jump into the ocean and almost cool off. The water is 86 degrees so not very cool! We have bought our token Molas and lobster from the local Kuna population but they keep coming up to the boat! Randy bought 3 lobster for $5 dollars today! Found out last night lobster are out of season for the rest of the month so won't do that again! They have very strange looking crabs as well, also off season! The Kuna's have dug out canoes but some have motors, some have sails and all have hand carved paddles. They live in bamboo type shacks but have store bought clothes. Strange meeting of two worlds. The Kuna population are trying to keep ancient ways. One feels obligated to buy Molas from everybody. I am sure my family and friends all want one! We meet some boaters last night at the little island near us. World travelers, some left home years and years ago, others just out for a few years! Randy made us a water catcher as one can't buy water here. Got 2 gallons after hours of effort! We put it up and down 3 times before the rain really lasted long enough. May modify another type of catcher for the bimini cover or dodger cover. Went snorkelling today, beautiful coral and some nice fish. May not be able to do many entry's for the next while. They say it takes 1 hour to download 1 picture so they might not be too plentiful either! I am at a Kuna bamboo shack, on an island ¼ city block, sitting outside someone's home. No one speaks English here. The speak Kuna or Spanish. My ten weeks of Spanish has helped a bit but needs practice. We have taken to study it a few hours a day. Randy can do magic with the language and the r's but not me! Expecting our friends Wendy and Jess in a few weeks. Randy was in Africa with them many years ago. The airport they are landing in is impressive! Hope I can load to pics to the blog! Discussing today how to make this lifestyle work for us! In 2 months today we fly home. It is too soon! I miss home but we want more! I think we have the traveling bug! We shall see... Til later Dawn and Randy

05/14/2011 | Sheila & Chris
Enjoyed reading your blog and seeing photos. Look forward to reading more. Better start on the spanish lessons. Sitting in Grand Cay, The Abacos waiting for weather window to the US.Take care of each other.
05/16/2011 | Patty
Thanks ever so much for sharing the wonderful world you both are experiencing.Enjoyed catching up. Does not mean I miss you any less though.Go easy out there.
05/17/2011 | Tom and Rita
Now it's getting exciting! Grass huts in the jungle; amazing huge container ships! No doubt there's a little more adrenalin coursing through your veins these days. Glad that you're still 'into' sailing. Where there's a will, there's a way! So much more world to explore. Wishing you many more joyfilled days. Rita
05/17/2011 | Jess
So glad you're figuring out the Kuna life before we arrive! We're packing, planning, and anticipating the wonders of Panamanian culture. Happy to read that the season for lobster and crab will be open after June 1! Can't wait to see you soon! Stay safe and cool...
05/29/2011 | Brenda Carter
My eyes teared with longing, reading about your journey. Enjoy, it may be a once in a life time experience. Stay safe
Panama Still

Panama Still

Hanging out in Sheltered Bay Marina these days, doing boat repairs and waiting on a weather window. Sounds like Tuesday may head to the San Blas Islands. Went for a few trips into Colon, had to go across the Panama Canal to get to town. Very big boats going through there. Many of the boats at the Marina are waiting to go through. It takes about 2 weeks to get space booked to go through. Many people need rope handlers - to help them lock through or else you hire local guys to hold the lines for you. It takes two days to lock through so you end up having people for sleep overs! Maybe when we get back to here in July we will have the opportunity to help someone go through. It is recommended to go through on some one else's boat to learn the routine before you go through on your own. A woman was by yesterday promising a massage to those who came with her. She is a registered massage therapist and has her things set up on her boat! Went for a walk today in the jungle, didn't set any monkeys but heard howling ones! Sounds like they are 200 pounds but Randy says they are only a foot and a half or so. It is sooooo humid here. The temperatures are much the same but the humidity is something else. Hard to breathe, to sleep to even move! Slow mode I am in! Kimba's posture in the photo gallery says it all! Had a pot luck and happy hour under the eves at the marina a few days with some hearty sailors. It was pouring rain but hey we're sailors! There are people from all over the world here, mostly couples but some single handlers who have crossed the both oceans at least once! We feel quite humbled to be in their presence. Over to the neighbours boat "Better Days" yesterday - Connie and Steve, who gave us a wealth of information about the San Blas as they have cruised them for over 3 years. The adventure continues for only a few more months. We are both concerned about going back to work - and how hard it may be after this wonderful world of exploring, sailing and living the dream! But may need a new engine and sails and .... Til later! Dawn and Randy

05/08/2011 | Jen
Hello there. Can almost feel the humidity, just looking at your pictures. Glad Happy Hour is celebrated in Panama. Safe travels to San Blas,looking forward to more pictures and stories.
Be safe. lot of love
Jen & Mark
05/09/2011 | Sheila & Chris
Great to hear you made it safely! Will look forward to the blogs on the SanBlas Islands and your adventure thru the Panama Canal as handlers. take Care of each other!
05/11/2011 | Kat & Paul
Just took a look of your Pics Hon..... GREAT, wish we had been with you. Love Kat & Paul

April 20th we left Clearance Town, Long Island at 0300 for Great Inagua, the south eastern most island in the Bahamas. The wind was 15 kts with 1m - 2m seas on the beam making for a lively sail. That night the wind picked up and gusted 22 kts as we romped along in the dark. The moon two past full was hidden in a partly cloudy sky after it rose just before midnight.
We set the anchor off Mathew Town at noon just before the rain squalls hit gusting to 25 kt. Our buddy boat BAKA wasn't so lucky. They lagged behind us several hours by mid night and got hit with some squalls that we made it past. Having their boat knocked down by the wind and waves caused Jewels to fall on the stairs down to her cabin and bump her head. That, and some generator malfunctions, and loosing their dingy the first night anchored in Mathew Town, made them decide not to carry on with us but to sit back and regroup. Some times it is a very fine line between riding in your personal comfort zone and too much.
We spent three days in the VERY rolly anchorage off Mathew Town, talking to boats coming from other Caribbean islands to check into the Bahamas at this remote spot.
We ourselves checked out Easter weekend for Panama, leaving Saturday at 1700 after a southern squall. We had been in the Bahamas five great months. I think we will always keep the Bahamas as a place to go for some easy living.
We arrived in Colon, Panama this morning, Saturday, making 850 kt mi in 7 days. The first day we had good winds, 15 kt and 1m -2m seas.
The 2nd and 3rd day were almost calm and we just drifted along east of Cuba and Jamaica at about 3-4 kt.
The 4th and 5th days were very windy and wavy, 16 kt- 18 kt gusting 22 kt with 2m-3m seas on the beam, so we made good progress. At night the phosphorescence in the water gave us a sparkling show that made us feel as if we were sailing on a fantasy ocean.
The last day was light wind and we started the motor at supper and motor sailed to Colon arriving at Shelter Bay Marina at 0900. We were advised by Henry, the previous owner and friend that by the time we left the Caribbean we would be used to 20 kt winds. We now conceder them acceptable if not on the bow!
On this passage, our first long offshore sail, we realized the importance of good equipment. I am convinced that the best money I spent was on (1) the Marine Single Side Band Radio with which we receive our weather routing info and keep our family updated daily with position reports via e mail. When a medical emergency arose hundreds of miles and days from shore we were able to e mail for advice. (2) The Monitor wind vane self steering unit. We would never have been able physically put in the hours of concentration needed to steer the boat for days in 20 kt winds and 2m - 3m seas. At no time was I able to keep as good as course as it did! Using no power I am sure it will be the last piece of equipment working in a deteriorating situation. If you are planning trips longer than just an overnight passage, where an electric auto pilot would suffice, I would recommend considering this unit.
We will be here about a week I think, making minor repairs and arrangements to leave the boat in July. There is a marked difference in the boats down here as compared to those in Georgetown, these are more of a function over form variety, set up for offshore work and remote sailing. Many of the sailors here have been where we want to go so we will spend some time with them taking notes. It used to be called networking but now we call it happy hour. A much preferred name and attitude.

05/02/2011 | Jen
Glad you made it to Panama! Pics of sunsets are spectacular. What an adventure, what memories!
05/03/2011 | wendy
Glad to see a new posting and to know all is well. Love all the pictures. Continued safe travels. Enjoy!!!
05/03/2011 | Susan
Glad to see that you made it safely to Panama. Those waves looked big out in the ocean. The sunsets awesome. Three more months of fun & adventure. Enjoy!
05/06/2011 | KAREN
George Town to Long Island

Georgetown to Long Island

Cats have taken over the big bunk as all the company is gone!
Had a great sail over to Long Island, then the rest of the day spent reading. Next day up early and off to Clarence Town, 2/3 the way down Long Island. Eventful trip.
1) Randy caught a beautiful Maui Maui after loosing a big something, maybe over 50 pounds! Lost yet another lure! Another fish with a lip ring! Hope he shakes it!
2)We saw our first water spout! We able to steer around it and the pictures don't do it justice, but the surrounding winds and drop in air temperature were impressive!
3)We were healed over so much that the low fuel tank got a air lock and the engine died. As we had to get 50 miles in, because it is recommend that we don't enter Clarence Town Harbour in the dark that was an issue. Randy saved the day and fixed it.
4) Saw the monument up in the hill acknowledging Christopher Columbus! While we are waiting on weather here toured the town. They have a small population but 2 churches. The local fellow we hitched hiked a ride with, yes mother I hitch hiked, told us most of the islanders were Anglican. He thought he would be able to sell more fish with upcoming Good Friday! Saw some interesting flowers, salt beds, and surroundings. As I write the boat is rolling side to side significantly, hanging on the hook! Randy and I just came in from lying on the bow, looking at the almost full moon. How blessed are we! Went to the Blue Hole and how lucky are we, there is a diving competition here! We saw the women's recorded being broken - a Russian woman went 100 meters down! She is in the yellow wet suit. Canada is represented by the guy in the Speedo beside her! These folks are true athletes. Sunday we saw Serbia represented by Lena do almost 68 meters! Her cirrent record is 62 meters! Wow! Too bad there isn't more money and fame in it for them! Spectators can get in the water and watch from outside the white ring. Got a ride home with a boater we helped yesterday. The motor boaters didn't like the ringing in their rigging through the previous night so she had to turn her 48 foot sail boat around. Not so easy a feat but her hired Captain and a few helping hands did a good job turning it the other way! On the way home saw some wild goats running about and more salt ponds. It is hard getting used to travelling on the left side of the road. One of the fishing boats at the marina had a fighting chair. Reminded me of a birthing chair from work! Took a few picks of refuelling. Sometimes it is easier to get fuel and water with cans rather then bring the big boat in. Our aluminium dingy is making quite the impression. I love it and it feels more secure and sea worthy then many of the inflatable's we see. The dingy is our car and the 15 horse power is barely enough at times to get us where we need to go. Had some new friends over for happy hour. They sailed from Spain, are from Holland and have been to St Lucia and are on their way to the states. Wonderful couple. So many adventures, brave people and fun things to do. A sailor's life for me! Tonight I asked Randy if this was his dream come true and he says yes, but the constant watching of weather is more work then he though it would be. It is our life line, to make wise decisions based on what weather is coming our way. Hope all is well in the great, less white, north! Dawn

04/21/2011 | wendy
Hi Guys
Wishing you a very happy Easter. Wishing we were enjoying the sun , sand and surf with you as it is cold and windy here and I want spring to get here. Hope to see you on Skype soon. Love and miss you both. Happy sailing....
04/23/2011 | Jen
HAPPY EASTER, better eat those eggs before they melt. Safe travels, enjoy your once in a lifetime adventure, wish we were still with you. Its all fun and games til.............Love Jen and Mark
05/01/2011 | henry orszula
great to hear you're trying to go without crew - it's actually fun if you're not to close to land! wish to be with you..lots of luck and good weather! henry & judith
05/08/2011 | Patty & Beverly
Happy Mother's Day. Really enjoyed reading your blog & seeing the great pictures. Please bring some of that sun back home with you. Love & miss you.
Randy and Dawn

Black point, Galliot to George Town

We had a great sail from Blackpoint to Galliot Cut. Arriving at slack high tide allowed us to snorkel over a shallow coral reef between Big Farmer's and Galliot. Tom and Marty who were down visiting tried spearing some fish but the tidal current picked up and forced us to move to a calmer reef before they had any luck. There was a bit of discussion on which fish they were shooting at as they look different in the water swimming away from you than the side view in the book.
Leaving at dawn the next morning through Galliot Cut was a bit of a challenge as the tidal current was against us, but fortunately the ocean was calm and we only had waves of several feet to motor through. The wind was light so we didn't get the sails up until late morning. After studying the manual we were able to get the Monitor Wind Vane self steering working better than ever. Tom for his want of blue water sailing said he found Lake Superior more challenging than anything we had in the Exuma Sound! Hope it keeps that way for our crossing to Panama.
In Georgetown we spent time on Stocking Island beach swimming and playing in the waves. Tom's may comments that the sun is so hot here that he feels like he is melting into the; sand, the road, the deck, prompted Dawn to do some sand art of a couple "melting into the sand", see photos. In the morning before it got very hot we went for some hikes along the Island's trails. The signs on one trail made identifying bushes easy.
Tom, Kelly and Marty were off on the 9th back to Pennsylvania and Ontario. Hope spring comes soon for them. They all got a good start on their summer tans! We have been glad to have had summer for a year almost now.
Randy is checking the boat over and doing some repairs for our up coming passage to Panama and had to run around town for some engine hose but now all is ready to go. Well almost every thing. The salt water really keeps you busy cleaning the rust of the stainless hardware. What we had to polish once a season at home in fresh water we have to do every two weeks here. The Sailing directions list April and May as the best period to cross the Caribbean to Panama from the Bahamas, the best wind and the least chance of seas over 10 feet. Here we go!

04/20/2011 | tom and rita
Nonstop adventure for you; a real pleasure to follow your blog. Glad to have 'brown' Tom home. He loved every minute; thank you so much for sharing your awesome lifestyle. An unusually prolonged winter here; not at all like last year. 8 F at the cottage yesterday and more snow!
Have a safe run to, Tom and Rita
George Town, Staniel, Blackpoint

George Town to Staniel Cay

March 26 had yet another birthday celebration at the Chat and Chill. I really like to work this birthday thing! Night before had a party with Kat and Paul from La Vita, they brought a cake! Company got delayed a day as they had a fire in Miami airport! Many people spent the night in the airport, Tom, Kelly and Marty drove 42 miles to find a hotel to stay for the night. Eventually they came after 7 pm on the 27th! Had a weather window so took off back up the Exumas to Farmers. Had a nice snorkle on the reef then settled down for happy hour on the boat. We are teaching them the Bahamian sailor routine and they are adapting well. Next day Randy took them to the cave and another snorkel. Then we sailed off to Staniel because yet another system is coming through. System used to mean another totally different thing to be in the working world! Staniel Cay stop has included trip to town to see the sharks and get propane, ships stores and happy hour on the beach. Today the guys are going to spear fish with another more experience couple from Owen Sound. Crew is hoping to get lobster for supper!
April 4: So the crew brought back 3 lobster and a grouper! Next day the weather being uncooperative with the wind out of the west made the anchorage rough so we spent the day onboard, reading. Randy is teaching the crew Bahamian Dominos. Tom swam to shore, and we braved the surf to go for you guessed it happy hour! The crew is mastering blowing conch at sunset, Kelly being the master next to Randy so far. Sailed out of Big Major spot and to Bitter Guana, where we had the anchorage to ourselves and swam, snorkled and visited the iguana on shore. Today are doing laundry and showering at Blackpoint! At the internet café we have to buy beer to use internet so excuse the ramblings! Love to all, Randy, Tom, Marty, Kelly and Dawn

04/05/2011 | Mike n Jaime
Love the Iguana!!!!
04/05/2011 | Jen
Glad everyone is enjoying Happy Hour, swimming, snorkeling, fishing. Never a dull minute in the Bahamas. It is all fun and games til you have to fly home. Wish we were there, take care
Love M & J
04/06/2011 | Jess
You all sound like you are having way too much fun! Our snow is finally disappearing and we've heard whispers of spring being somewhere nearby. I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog and living vicariously through your wanderings.Hope the blissful life continues to fill your sails!
04/07/2011 | Mom
Jen and I are drinking tea and eating biscuits, wishing we were with you for happy hour. Hope you have a wonderful time with your company and hope to see you soon.
love Mom

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Breaking free
Who: Randy and Dawn Ortiz
Port: Sault Ste. Marie Ontario
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