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San Blas Islands, Panama

January 14th, 2010

San Blas Islands

We left Shelter Bay at the eastern entrance to the Panama Canal on New Year's Day looking forward to our arrival in one of the most beautiful areas in the world, Panama's San Blas Islands, a vast archipelago of more than 340 islands arcing southeast along the Caribbean shore. The islands are home to the indigenous Kuna Indians who have preserved their culture by peaceful and non aggressive means for hundreds of years. Looking around the offshore islands you can be lost in time as it could just as easily be 1910 as 2010.

The Holandes Cays have the clearest water in all of San Blas and we spent five nights anchored off of Banedup. Our days were spent reading, playing cribbage, swimming, snorkeling and completing a much needed bottom cleaning. One afternoon we were approached by a Kuna family from an adjoining island, Tiadup, selling beautiful lobsters and crabs for a minimal amount of money. Walking around their small island the next day we were able to take some pictures of the beautiful family and their eight children. It was wonderful to see such happy people existing on so little. When we returned the following morning we were greeted with warm smiles as we surprised them with many photos of their family. Oh if life could only be that simple!

Leaving this morning for Coco Bandero Cay we will look forward to returning in a few days to bring them more pictures and perhaps some miscellaneous medical supplies and clothes to remember us by.

January 18, 2010

A Dutch cruiser who has circumnavigated the world three times once told me that "PARADISE IS WHERE YOU ARE"! The San Blas Islands are PARADISE!!!

We have been talking about leaving here for the last couple of days and pushing on to Cartagena whilst knowing that as soon as we do we will be missing the beauty and serenity that these islands have afforded us for almost three weeks. Spending time on Coco Bandero Cays, Green Island and Morbedup have been as close as one get to Nirvanna. Clear azure water and temperatures in the 90's ,with little humidity set the stage for a boaters paradise. If this is retirement I am sold. Where else can you have lobsters and crabs delivered to your boat via dugout canoes and the smiling Kuna's.

Yesterday we spent the day at Isla Maquina, which means Mola Making Island in Kuna. Mola's are the Kuna's traditional embroidery work that often times tells a story while others are very geometric in their designs and passed down from one generation to another. As we found a place to anchor we were immediately surrounded by canoes with the Kuna women coming out to our boat to show us their Mola's . We felt a bit intimidated to go ashore as we had already purchased a couple of Mola's from Venancio a Master Mola Maker who had come on our boat while we were anchored in Bannedup Happily we made the venture in as we were immediately embraced by an English speaking Kuna, Alphonso who not only gave us a grand tour of the village but shared his family hut with us and allowed us to get some great photos both candid and posed. At our invitation Alphonso and his family came out to our boat for a visit where Greg printed up some of the photos that we had taken. We left with some beautiful Mola's and a wonderful insight into the village life of the Kuna's.

San Francisco to Panama

This leg of our travels was going to be interesting but quick...almost just a delivery to the Caribbean. We enjoyed Mexico but we are ready for the better sailing winds of the Caribbean.

Hanalei, Kaui to San Francisco

This is the delivery home from our beautiful downwind sail from Cabo to Maui. Expectations are greatly lowered for this leg home.

Cabo San Lucas to Maui 5/14/09-5/29/09
05/01/2009, Pacific Ocean

As we sit here in beautiful Gustavia, St. Barths in the French West Indies we have time to fill in our blog with highlights of our adventures aboard Escapade from last season to the present.

When we set out from San Francisco in September 2008 there had been no intention on ending our first sailing winter on Escapade in Hawaii. However, driven by our struggle to rectify all of our Spectra watermaker problems we decided that we needed a true "SHAKEDOWN CRUISE" so Hawaii seemed like an enticing adventure.

Enlisting the help of Jay Watts from Kat Den Rie, owner of a San Francisco based Catalina 42 we had met on the HaHa and Ken Scott, Greg's son from Los Angeles we were able to round up a perfect crew of four which would make the watches easier and give us a foursome for hearts. After a night spent in Cabo San Lucas and another day of provisioning we left at 0600 rounding Los Arcos at the tip of the Baja peninsula a couple of hours later. At the corner of the Baha peninsula we were instantly thrown into action as the winds piped up to 20-25 knots. We unfurled the Solent and were off. Initially sailing just cracked off hard on the wind we were on a course heading to Australia but sailing smoothly san motors. At 8-11 knots SOG we were ecstatic after having very light winds all winter cruising the coast of Mexico.

Sunrise the second day found a Coast Guard 277 slowly stalking us in a wide circle. After an hour or so of this, Greg hailed them on the radio and asked their intentions. They queried us as to who was on board, passport numbers and the documentation of the ship. Sometime later they came back on the radio and wished us a good trip. I guess they're used to boats turning north and heading up the Baja toward San Diego. Probably 1 in 100 head west to Hawaii which lies at approximately the same latitude (21 degrees) as Cabo. The 277 turned back to Mexico to pursue their drug interdiction run.

The first 200 miles were beautiful as we lifted up to a direct course to the Hawaiian Islands and were able to set the large spinnaker. Escapade glides smoothly thru the water when she has enough wind to push her along and life onboard was very comfortable with days spent reading, fishing and playing a lot of cards.

Being the galley "Cucinara" I enjoyed putting together some great meals supplemented by the fishing talent of Jay and Ken. We enjoyed fresh Mahi and Dorado as sashimi right off their poles and many other variations of seafood inspired meals. Days were spent in intense games of Hearts and Foot and Mouth with Jay always intent on riling up the rest of us to create intense competition.

Night watch in the middle of the Pacific was as close to a religious experience as there can be. We saw nothing but the stars, planets, moon and sea for fifteen days. Not a shore bird, boat or any type of man made creation. It was just us and the big sea surrounding us with Escapade coursing thru the water between 8-9 knots. I felt peaceful to be one with the experience and would make another "off the wind" ocean crossing in a heartbeat.

Our arrival in Maui came without fanfare from the local immigration and custom authorities as we had to twist their civic arms to get us checked in before leaving for the weekend and forcing us to stay on the boat until Monday morning. Anxious to feel our legs on land we disembarked in Lahaina to have a marginal meal at the Lahaina Yacht Club with a few bottles of wine to celebrate the occasion of our first ocean crossing aboard Escapade. Sharon, Ken's wife joined us in Maui where we enjoyed a few days island hopping between Kaui, Molokai and Oahu.

Escapade will spend a couple of summer months here in Oahu at the Ko Olina marina while we return to Tahoe to work. We will be back late in the summer for the return voyage to San Francisco.

Sea of Cortez and Sailing Week

The Sea in Spring is beautiful but the water is still chilly. Nonetheless,

Banderas Bay Regatta
03/19/2009, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

 Download latitude_may_cover_template.pdf (1.6MB)

After spending quite a bit of time in La Cruz Marina, using it as our base to explore Banderas Bay we were excited to have guests aboard to help us in the Banderas Bay Regatta. Alan Weaver Harbormaster from Marina Village in Alameda, Kellan and her friends R.C. and Molly. Albeit an inexperienced crew the overall dynamics were perfect for the locally sponsored regatta. There were a number of catamarans entered, most notable Richard Spindler and Donia's "Proflifgate", "Endless Summer" captained by Steve May and his girfriend Manjula, and "Sea Level", a home built Schionning that Kent and Jimmy Milski were using to jump start their retirement and dream of sailing around the world.

Over the course of the winter we had spent much time with all of these characters and there was a certain amount of mischief that went into the race dynamics. Steve May took the charge by writing LOSER on Jimmy and Kent's "Sea Level". They went around the course unaware on that first leg that their boat had been tagged. Their spinnaker ripped as they were charging downwind and Steve May's LOSER became a truism.

At the end of that first day Kellan was surprised in Paradise Village with best friends, Molly and R.C. arriving from San Francisco to help celebrate her 25th and GOLDEN birthday.....albeit not a sober day ahead.

Next morning found us all well and ready to start the second race. Had we been on our game we may have noticed the LOSER moniker having been attached to our Starboard side. True to form we headed to Port after the start whilst everyone else went to Starboard and ended up on the back side of the first buoy mark. We made up some time going down wind and finished second to Profligates first.

It was all a lot of fun...good sailing and being able to have Kellan, Molly and R.C. aboard with their enthusiasm made the short week a start in introducing "THE KIDS" to our sailing life

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