02/19/2012, San Blas
Jaime and Mike came to join the ship on the 18th of February after a few days exploring Panama. We took them for a short tour through the Island of Carti and then sailed to the West Limon Islands. There were many boats and we had a challenge finding a spot but the good Captain found us a safe anchoring spot near the entrance. Another boat went aground here at Christmas coming in from the west, a route we have done before. It is humbling how a simple miscalculation can put you in harm's way. We talked with the boat coming in just a head of this boat and they said it was heartbreaking to watch, every sailors nightmare. They had their dingy on their boat and couldn't help the solo sailor. There is a big current there so they may not have been able to help any way. A little scary for Jaime and Mike to see on their first hours on the boat, a boat shipwrecked! We took a swim, met some Cubans and then off to shore to the local hut / bar for you guessed it - Happy Hour!!! Off to Cambombia the next day and Jaime and Mike had their first snorkel swim of many. The day after we joined Better Days, friends from last year at Waisaldup. Just when you think it can't get any better, WOW. A beautiful small island, with starfish all around! Jaime and Mike were brave and even swam to shore! Had a great snorkel ending with a shark siting! Jaime wanted to go back for pics but I talked her out of it. I know nurse sharks don't hurt you, but he was in a corner having a nap, and I just didn't want to tempt fate! All fun and games until someone gets eaten by a shark eh Jen! Spent a few days there then off to my favorite East Cocao Banderos Islands. Wind generator has been not doing well for a while and finally died so after advertising it on the 0830 radio net it was decided we would leave it for Panda (the boat) to try and play with. Jaime and Mike worked on the stainless steel, as the rust grows overnight in the salty air. Had a few great days anchored behind Bug Island. Jaime had an exciting thing happen. She picked up a sea shell on the beach. A very cool octopus crawled out and headed for the sea. Mike got a video of it and if I ever learn how to download it to the blog I will, it was amazing!!! Toured a plantation that the Kunas' tend to and saw some very large avacadoes and very small bananas. Of this life, I love the snorkeling best of all. So many beautiful creatures of the sea to watch. The last dive of the holiday was fabulous. Clear water, many fish out showing their colours, it was so fine, I didn't want to get out! Mike has a cool video cam and took lots of wonderful shots to help us get through the next while home! The good Captain Randy is getting ready for projects next year! Jaime and I are to leave the guys on March 2, through the Panama jungle to Panama and then home on March 3rd. 5 weeks not enough holidays now for me. I have been spoiled with the year off! Time to revisit our financial plan and sail away for longer!!!
02/11/2012, San Blas
Our friends Pat and Brad came to visit us in the San Blas . After their early morning flight into the island of Nargana we motored up the Rio Diablo in the dingy for a ways. There were dugout canoes along the shore, coconut palms and native cemeteries we could see tucked into clearings in the jungle. It felt like we were in a river scene from African Queen with Humphrey Bogart. Back at Nargana we searched the little tiendas for vegetables but didn't find any, just the usual canned good selection of sardines, soup mixes and ketchup, so we had to be creative with our menus. The local trader boats hadn't been able bring anything from Panama City for a week due to protests in the city by natives over mining explorations on their lands. After a gentle sail five miles to the East Cayo Coco Banderos the anchor was set in sand in the lee of a palm covered tropical island group surrounded by coral reefs. That night while lying on the deck watching the stars the ocean came alive with phosphorescence glow as tiny microbes drifted by. We spent our time swimming over the coral reefs for hours, and walking the beaches. As the Kuna paddled by in their ulus ( dugouts ) in the afternoon we waved them over and bought lobster and fish. After a couple days Brad and Pat were as endeared to the Cocos as we are.
A morning sail took us to the East Cayo Holendes. We worked our way through the reefs into the center of the island group with Dawn spotting from the spreader at the top of the ladder. When the anchor was down Pat looked around at the sand beach, palm covered islands and clear water surrounding us and asked if they would ever have to leave here.
After filling the days with spear fishing, beaches, happy hours and suppers with our boating friends anchored by sandy palm covered islands surrounded by coral reefs, same old same old, you know how it is, it was time to get to the Carti Island Group for Brad and Pats' connection to Panama City. Arrangement had been make for a launch to take them to shore and a two hour 4X4 taxi ride along a mountain jungle road to the luxury resort on the Pacific coast where their daughter was getting married the next week. It was the same ride Arlen took a few weeks earlier. Brad's version was our driver raced along rough mountain roads talking on his cell phone while adjusting the radio station while shifting gears. A real talented man. Must have been a different driver.
Have to go and get the boat ready. Dawn's newlywed daughter and her husband are coming out on the taxi taking Brad and Pat away.
So finally got to join the good ship Nirvana Now. Left home with 8 inches of new snow, shoveled tire pathways and hired a guy down the street to do the rest of the drive way and I left! Drove to Detroit to see my son Adam and his new home and work place at Revolutionary Engineering and had a great night catching up with him! Caught the plane the next am for Panama, and travels went well. Spent the night in the Costa Hotel but it was not as fun without Randy and the cats! Next day took a 4x4 Kuna driven cab ride through the jungles of Panama! Arlen -crew for the first leg of the journey described it best! "The road to here is through the jungle mountains.. wicked road and worth the ride. Up down.. switch backs ... armed guards.. sawed off shot guns.. the works.."
Jaime and Mike will be doing this adventure on the 18th to join us and Brad and Pat Sutherland, who are coming by plane, with be taking the trip out! I feel quite the seasoned traveler now doing this trip by my lonesome!
Having had a great time getting together with friends made last year - Respite, Better Days and many more and making new friends! Swimming and fish hunting and happy hours with friends are the joys of the days! 28 - 38 degrees most days! More windy and cloudy than last time but it is not snowing!!! Have a new pet on the boat! A little creature that hangs out in the nav station and visits with Randy. Must of moved in when the boat was on the hard! Very cute. Also one day one of the Kuna men had his sails burnt so there was a call out for replacment a replacement donation. Randy gave him our 150 jib as soon we will not need it. He should be able to make 10 sails out of it! We have a new roller furler so no more hanked on sails! Yipee!!!Internet challenges so will update blog with pics soon! Life is fine in the San Blas!
01/28/2012, San Blas
I'm back in the San Blas, or as the native Kuna call it Kuna Yala. The first week is gone and so is my crew Arlen. I'm alone for the next two days doing boat work and eagerly waiting for my playmate and love Dawn to arrive.
To go from Colon to the San Blas in the windy season against the trades is a challenging seventy five miles. First to decide how bad a weather window you are willing to accept and then to endure your decision. We motor sailed to windward in eighteen kts and through two - three meter seas the first day leaving Colon. Laying over in Puerto Bello a day we saw the old forts built by my Spanish ancestors to guard the amassing fleets of Galleons and took in a Conga festival in the evening, the drummers and dancers lasted a lot longer than I could. The next day was our only rough day as we made three long tacks motor sailing into twenty five knots of wind pushing three and four meter seas across the full sweep of the Caribbean. Ten miles up the shore we tucked in for the night. Getting an early start we got out around some outlaying islands and tacked for the forty five miles to the San Blas. We were able to keep ten degrees off our highest pointing angle in fifteen kts, and with the seas diminishing we had a great day. Just after noon I threw out a line and caught a three foot long Barracuda. The weather was the best for the trip we have seen in our weeks here. We picked it just right.
While I cleared in at El Porvenir Arlen watched as a three masted square rig puled a Tyana 37 of a rock shoal. The yacht had been there a month, and while we were laying over in Puorto Bello we met the agent for the Argentinian owner making arrangements with the square rig. With the excitement over we wandered ashore for supplies.
Sailing within the San Blas island group rivals the Exuma chain of the Bahamas. Seas protected by barrier islands and fresh trade winds make for great sailing days. A short day sail put us in the Pool, a popular anchorage over sand surrounded by low palm covered islands and coral reefs. The afternoon swim over a small reef off the stern completed a perfect day in our idea of paradise.
With spear pole and Hawaiian sling we set out for and early afternoon swim over another reef the next day and speared the biggest lobster I had ever seen. Then it was back to the boat to finish the water maker installation project we had on the go. Feasting on fresh lobster ended another perfect day.
Checking into the Panama Connection net several days later I had to apologize to our boating friends we had agreed to meet the day before. My explanation that we were sailing over to see them and got mixed up on which day it was. We tacked and ended up in Carti to drop Arlen off a day early. The explanation received as normal here would have people back home questioning our sanity. You gotta love it. Have to go. Someone in a dugout canoe is knocking on my hull. Randy
We are in the water! Arlen who is coming to help me as crew, and I, were able to get a nonstop flight to Panama. Really nice not having to run around airports looking for departure gates while checking your watch wondering if your luggage made it too.
We spent a day in Panama City taking taxis picking up my shipment of supplies which included a new water maker. Something you don't need in the USA, Bahamas or here in Panama in the rainy season. In the dry season the only option is to go to shore and buy river water. Bought a phone plan and an internet stick for my lap top at half the price of the set up in Canada. The e mail via SSB works great but for us to keep up the blogs, with friends, and family coming and going, we thought it was a bargain. The biggest challenge is understanding the Spanish terms on the menus. "Call not permitted" displays if it fails from no signal. Made me wonder why the call wasn't permitted for half a day until I figured it out. every time you gain signal it chimes and a mesage tells you to check operator messages. Theyn never come.
We took a taxi with our gear across Panama to Shelter Bay Marina in Colon where we left the boat for six months during the rainy season. It faired very well on the inside. We rented a dehumidifier from the yard and drained it out the galley sink. No mold anywhere! Dawn had laundered all things before we left and packed them in "oh my god" size zip lock bags from the hardware store. Everything was just as fresh as when she packed it. The cockpit didn't fare so well. The wood lifted off the cockpit seats so bad that it jammed the wheel in places and pinched you in others. I had to take it all off and start again. We scraped the bottom and painted two coats on the afternoon we arrived and launched the boat the next noon.
The weather looks like it will moderate enough to get east to the San Blas Thursday. Still looks like a slug 75 miles to weather in 15kt winds and 2m seas on the bow. After we get out into it we will have to decide if we should break it into two days or keep on going overnight.
We had planned from home to fly our crew, friends and family in and out of the San Blas (Kuna Yala). Here I have found one of the two small airports is closed causing all flights to be booked up. The air carrier not responding to on line bookings didn't help things. The Kuna Indians have closed the roads in their territory to everyone but Kuna. I was able to get a phone number for the Kuna District office from Gord on Island Dreaming, from Vancouver Island. A Kuna taxi can be arranged through them to get to and from Panama City. Their first language is Kuna, their second is Spanish. I talked to someone in English and got them to agree to a ride for Arlen. On second thought I got one of the marina office personnel to confirm Arlen's booking and to book Dawn for the next day. After listening to him for ten minutes explain the travel arrangements in fluent Spanish he confirmed Arlen's ride. When I asked him about Dawn's he handed back the phone and said the Hotel can arrange it and ran off. That took half a day. Tomorrows plan is to find another unsuspecting translator while Arlen makes a grocery run. Then it's fill the fuel and water, check the weather and cast off the lines. I'll watch for you from the anchorages of the San Blas. Randy
12/27/2011, 9 30.7N:87 37.1W
What have we done? Why did we ever come back? Those are the questions Dawn asked repeatedly after our return to a life seemingly over run by work. At first I laughed at her particular way of asking, but after a few weeks of work I seriously started to wonder as well. Dawn prompted me to wright a closing blog but I was just too far from where we were to get to that place. It has been harder than I expected returning and "fitting in", not that I ever really fit in. Maybe it's because I never fully came back. There is a part of me is still solidly anchored out there watching me go through the actions life here. At work it feels like I'm like a dog chasing his tail. I am running in circles trying to catch up while my brain is spinning between focusing on work and getting back to Nirvana Now where my sole is. Talking with Dawn on the cell phone daily we cheer each other on. Her prospective of life has changed too.
It's Christmas day and the last day of the shipping season for the ship I am working on. We are tying up in Hamilton as I write. My Bags are packed and I'm more than ready to go! Drifting through my mind are lists of projects, of people to invite, and of dates we hope to have them join us. I really should write it all down. I've maxed out my baggage allotment with boat stuff, and the only items in my carry on are shorts and bathing suits. I fly out on the 11th of January to get the boat back in the water, cleaned up and over to the San Blas for Dawn's arrival on the 30th. We will spend five weeks together sharing our joys. We have friends to see and friends coming to visit. There will be familiar reefs to swim over and new places to explore, people to meet, and always molas to buy. I then stay on a couple of weeks to lay up the boat again. I'm not thinking of what has to be done then until the time comes. Meanwhile I'm on my way. I'll watch for you out there. Hasta la vista. Randy