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11/22/2012, Shelter Bay Marina

So much to thank for today.

Our insurance approved repair of Gps and wind instrument, paid for all our marina cost and bought us brand new radar! We've made good friends in Shelter Bay Marina and had Thanksgiving dinner with all of them.

The marina put together the thanksgiving. For $8.99, they provide all utensils, plates, service, roast (real) turkey and gravy. The rest of the gang brings side dishes and dessert. Last month, we celebrated Canadian thanksgiving and it was a huge success. So all in all, tonight was our second thanksgiving celebration.

Next week, the gps and new radar should arrive and hopefully will be installed before December 1st. We are planning on heading for Portabela then San Blas islands to spend Christmas with the Kuna Indians.

Thank you for all your good wishes and karma - thank you for praying for our safe trip. We are hoping to be in Seattle January to take care of some minor medical issues. Hope to see you all then.

Marie, Angel and Steve

12/14/2012 | Bugsy
Good to see you both enjoying the holidays... Hope we see you soon!
Still in Colon
10/29/2012, Shelter Bay Marina

After 15 days in Seattle, it was hard to get back into the groove of Panama. The lunches, brunches, dinners, happy hours, gifts, spa - spoiled the heck out of me. The vacation started with a day spa at Olympic Spa in Lynnwood - a treat from my sister Beth; followed by Chinese dinner treat by my sister Marcy; then brunch from my bicycle team (Elle, Marlene, Rosemarie, Cheryl and Darlene). Can't ask for anything more.

The trip to Seattle was accelerated by the repair of our GPS, Wind instrument and radar damaged by lightning. To ship these instruments from Panama would have taken at least 3 extra weeks. We thought that if we overnight them UPS from Seattle would save us those 3 weeks enabling us to take off to San Blas with our friends from SV Talaria and SV Blue.

It's been over a month since we sent out our instruments and here we are, sitting in Shelter Bay Marina twiddling our thumbs waiting for approval from our insurance company to either repair or replace our damaged instruments.

This place is not a bad place to hang out. There's a swimming pool, a gym, a nice huge cruiser's lounge equipped with wifi and big screen tv. There's a good restaurant, a small store, lots of hikes and good company. It's been raining a lot and squalls of lightning and thunder mostly at night. Walking Angel is so much easier than if we were anchored somewhere in the Pacific side. At night when it's not raining, a group of fireflies entertains us and Angel.

Because of United Airlines' cabin pet restrictions, our family will not be able to go home for the holidays. We've researched holiday activities in the marina and Chris, the restaurant manager said that the restaurant will provide the roast turkey and the cruisers will bring the side dishes and desserts. As for Christmas, we'll wear our Christmas hats and splurge on huge chunks of tenderloin. For New Year, we have a tradition of sharing a chilled bottle of champagne to a chosen cruiser. The first year we were out, we celebrated New Year with SV Feliz (Hannah, her husband, little Max and little Mia ). Last year, we toasted with SV Tequila Mockingbird. This year, we haven't picked a boat yet although the marina is full of them. If by chance we get out of Panama before the holidays (i.e Columbia or Costa Rica??) we will go home to celebrate with our families.

We'll keep our fingers crossed.

11/17/2012 | Paul
Well, I guess we didn't hang out with you guys long enough to get the Champagne bottle! I like fresh oatmeal cookie better.

Paul and Chris
Panama Canal Transit
09/30/2012, Shelter Bay Marina

Deep cleansing breath of relief!!! WE MADE IT!!!!

Crossing the Panama Canal as a line handler for someone else's boat is a completely different experience as crossing it with your own sailboat.

We got the authorization from the Panama Canal authorities at 1800 hrs on Sept 28, in the middle of celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary with family and friends at TGIFridays. They scheduled the transit at 0630 hrs, Sept. 29. The whole crew committed to cut down on alcohol so we can all be alert for the early transit.

At 0715 hrs, the advisor Robin boarded Saben and we're on our way. We tied up starboard to a tug at Miraflores locks and were slammed by the force of water filling up the canal. Saben started pulling tout away from the tug and started healing starboard. Everyone on deck including Robin hang on tight and he called the canal controller to slow the water down. We eventually found out that the canal was behind schedule and was filling up the water extra fast to make up for time. When they slowed the water down, the surge calmed down and settled Saben. We stayed tied on to the tug until they cleared the big ship in front of us - then we untied from the tug - let the tug go forward and followed closely behind him to the next set of locks. After the tug was secured, we tied starboard again. This time, there was minimum surge - very manageable. By the time we reached the third set of locks, we were all pros.

The 28 mile trip from the last lock to the mooring buoy in Lake Gatun was extremely hot. We got to see Noriega's condominium (penitentiary) and some really cool islands. We were so lucky that buoys at Lake Gatun was empty so we tied our bough to one of them. Deena, Rick, Brian and Steve jumped into the lake for a quick swim. After they got out of the water, security guys came and told us that there are alligators and anacondas in the lake and it's not safe to swim. Oh well... too late.

Our advisor Robin told us that our transit to Lake Gatun locks for Sept. 30, is at 0930 hrs but when we called at 0930, they told us that it's been changed to 1445 hrs. It was extremely hot but Deena noticed some thunder clouds hanging a few miles off the horizon. By 1100 hrs, the sky started to get a bit darker and it started drizzling. The rain was a welcome respite from the excruciating heat from the previous day and the whole morning. At 1300 hrs, Deena noticed an advisor boat heading our way - sure enough, it was for us!! Our advisor for Lake Gatun locks is Moses. How cool is that? Moses to lead Saben to the promise land of the Carribean!

Within minutes, we were untied from the buoy heading for the locks while we got the cabin prepared just in case another exciting experience awaits us like it did on the Miraflores locks. These next 3 locks, we are to tie port to a tug. Brian was kind of disappointed because he's been practicing bowline tie and is so ready to catch the monkey fist from shore - a true line handling experience. The lightning and thunder started, the sky turned dark and soon, we were pelted with rain. We took our raingears off because the rain after the scorching heat felt so good. The transit through the first 2 locks was uneventful but the 3rd one proved to be a challenge. The surge from the huge ship behind us plus the surge caused by the mixture of fresh and salt water gave us a scare. Thanks to all your prayers and good thoughts, we made it out safely.

When we exited the last lock, the whole crew including Moses was shivering. I can't remember ever being this cold since we left Seattle over 2 years ago. Although we were all soaking wet, we put our raingear on to protect us from the wind. When we got to Shelter Bay marina, it was a welcome sight to see the familiar faces of SV Blue and SV Palm. We all immediately jumped in to take a hot shower and met up for dinner to celebrate the successful crossing.

We will be in Shelter Bay for about a month then the adventure continues. Thank you Brian, Beth, Deena and Rick you all were great, fun and patient. The trip would not have been the same without you.

Love from the Hoilands

PS Angel stayed in the cabin through the transits because the rules said that, "if your pet falls overboard, do not try to save them."

02/24/2013 | The Monkey's Fist
you been monkeyfi'ed!
Canal Transit Rescheduled
09/27/2012, Balboa Yacht Club

Our refrigerator's packed to the gills. The overflow vegetables and fruits were divided among makeshift coolers. We have our tires, our lines, our 4 very able line handlers, and enough food to feed an army and then we made the call to the Panama Canal authorities to ask for transit time tomorrow. Their reply - Rescheduled for Saturday, September 29 and this is a maybe. We can't find out if it's a "go" until after 6 pm tomorrow. The rates are going up by quite a bit on October 1st so we're hoping that they don't push our transit until then to get more money from us.

In the meantime, the bread's getting stale, the cookies getting old, the fruits and vegetables are wilting. If we don't transit by Saturday, we'll have to shop for fresh bread and vegetables again.

Can everyone please send us good "transit" karma?

Getting Ready to Transit
09/24/2012, Balboa Yacht Club

Getting the boat ready to transit for September 28. The tires around the boat should help minimize scratches if we get rafted to a power boat or a barge. Our 4 125 ft. required lines will be coming in via SV Kaya Song on Wednesday. Our line handlers, my beautiful skister Beth and her hubby Brian, and 2 of our friends from SV Talaria, Deena and Rick.

Tomorrow we got to Pricemart to shop for stuff to feed the crew because we may have to spend the night at Lake Gatun. In fact, I know we'll spend the night at Lake Gatun because our max speed is a little over 5 knots. It will be a cozy night with 6 people on board but we love all these people so it'll be so much fun! Also tomorrow, a surveyor will come from Miami to check on lightning damage on our boat. Very minimal so far - GPS, radar and wind instrument.

We're getting really excited!!!

09/26/2012 | Paul
Have a smooth transit!!!!!
09/27/2012 | Mike & Judy
Happy be-latted birthday Steve - you are living your dream. Have a safe fun transite. Looks like you have a full boat!
Marie, I've been following your blog, It's great. You should seriosly think about writing some stories about your travels for Cruising World Magazine and/or 48 Degrees North. You write very well and are a good story teller. All of best to you and crew. Also a big hello to Beth & Brian - Hope you are getting your sea legs and keeping your food down.
10/03/2012 | Hoiland
Thanks for the birthday wishes, Mike. Paul, we're at Shelter Bay and we're looking forward to hooking up with you at Bocas del Torro.
10/03/2012 | Hoiland
Thanks for the birthday wishes, Mike. Paul, we're at Shelter Bay and we're looking forward to hooking up with you at Bocas del Torro.
Perlas Islands and Back to the City
09/21/2012, Balboa Yacht Club

Picture above are two hitchhikers from Perlas Islands.

Just got back from Perlas Islands. The first night was at Mogo Mogo where "Panama Survivor" was filmed. SV Espiritu and a British sailboat were anchored with us. Although the water was clear, the wind did not let up and with 2 devil dogs on the beach, Angel was confined to use the deck to do her business. Yes, she's very boat trained and loving it.

We woke up with the boat bouncing precariously too close to the beach. At 3 am, it got so bad that the 2 boats anchored with us moved on. We stayed until 0700 hrs then pulled anchor for Isla Espiritu Santo. SV Doolittle was anchored with us (Timo) and the next day, we were joined by SV Larka, SV Itusca , and SV Millenium. Perfect timing because it's Steve's 58th birthday and he was complaining of not having to do anything.

A potluck was organized by Nat from SV Millenium and all the boats attended. We dinghy'd on to the beach for a barbeque and I baked a pan of instant brownies for the gang. When we got back to the boat, we noticed a huge sea turtle moping on by. Steve jumped in the water to join him even with his ear infection - (Steve had the ear infection, not the turtle). They swam for an hour and it completed Steve's birthday with a bang. His ears suffered the next day but he's okay now after 7 days of antibiotics.

We're moving to Balboa Yacht Club sometime today to start getting Saben ready for the canal transit scheduled for September 28. Here is a live webcam where you can watch us transit:

We will still transit even with the instrument damage we got when the lightning storm got too close to us. Oh yes, we did not sustain a direct hit but after a lightning storm, we noticed our GPS, Radar and wind instruments were not working. SV Millenium's instruments also suffered but after they reset everything, it seemed to be working okay. The main thing is our family's safe and instruments can be replaced.

All is well in the Hoiland household.

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