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Sound Effect does the big U
Isla Pedro Gonzales

Thursday morning update from Isla Pedro Gonzales. Typical cruising since last we chatted. Hiking in the jungle enjoying tropical flowers, showering under a fresh water waterfall, exploring a world war II airstrip carved into a hill top. We had sundowners with an eccentric author now sailing Panama with a succession of female "book editors" on one night, and cocktails aboard a mega yacht based in Punta Cocos that is a floating hotel for millionaire sport fishermen who fly in for the catch and release bill fishing. In between we did more hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling. Just your typical cruising!
Update on the "papaya" we cut it open and the smell was not pleasant so we tossed it. It appeared to be a cross between a melon and a squash, but the juice actually caused a rash on my arm.
Also full disclosure the "no seeums" are now biting the men as well so we have reverted to screens at night with a bug coil burning.
A few more days out here in the Perlas and then back to Panama city to get ready for the trip to Ohio.

Punta Cocos

Monday morning and we are anchored in a small bay called Punta Cocos. We arrived yesterday afternoon after a short trip 5 miles south to get some protection from the south winds and SW swells at the previous anchorage. We got 3 different canoe loads of people trying to sell fruit etc. We asked for a papaya and got a fruit we don't recognize. Instead of football shaped it is completely spherical and very green and hard. One of Connie's cookbooks suggests it may be more of a vegetable. We are letting it ripen a bit. We also got oranges that are colored green but we were ready for that as it is what we had when we lived in St. Vincent. (We made juice).
Earlier when we had been walking Mogu Mogu we found what appears to be a genuine "Survivor" torch. It has a metal cone riveted and attached to a 6ft wooden shaft decorated with tribal symbols and more metal bands. They have filmed survivor on Mogu so it is possible? Denny and Becky came over for dinner at dusk last night rowing their dinghy and with the lit survivor torch. They have never seen the show but seem to be into it, so I need to find an episode from survivor Panama and show it to them.
Poor Connie has bites all over her body from what we don't know. We checked with Kokomo and Becky has the same. Neither of the men have bites. We have been very lucky in Panama to this point with bugs and have not been using the window screens, but last night we screened up and lit a bug coil inside the boat to repel the critters. They are not mosquitoes but may be "no seeums" although why they bite only females I don't know. Of course my skin is like leather from a year in the sun?

San Miguel

Wednesday morning, we decided to go ashore at the village of San Miguel, to look around and of course buy cookies!. This little village is reported to be the largest village in the Las Perlas Islands. Unfortunately it was low tide of a 15ft tide so the bay drys out and there is no landing. We had to go into an adjacent island and walk across a spit of land only dry at low tide to make it to the Vilage
This village was very Caribbean. Brightly colored houses and populated by very dark skinned people of slave background. We got the cookies , made a quick tour of the cemetery (Denny's favorite) and back to the boat before the tide stranded us.
Later we moved to Isla Espiritu Santos and anchored for the night. This once again was a trip of only 8 miles. For the first time we are simply gunkholing, and not heading in any direction. We cruised down the coast of the US always heading for San Diego. We went down the coast of BaJa, up the Sea of Cortez, down the mainland coast of Mexico, on to El, Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama.
Now, after visiting Panama City we are truly just hanging out in the Perlas. We plan to be back in time to get the boat ready for a week absence and then fly to Cincy to see Elizabeth and company.

09/16/2011 | Larry Cristy
Jim and Connie--- Diane and I have been following your adventure. WOW. It seems simply wonderful. We vacationed in Panama about 1979. (long tome ago). Went to Mira Flores (sp) locks. Memorable. We'll be thinking of you
Belgian Waffles and Construction

Tuesday, we arose to a dead calm in the anchorage, a nice change from a rolly night. The water was so clear we could see the bottom easily through 20ft of water. In fact as we raised the anchor we watched every link of chain come off the bottom which was very interesting (at least for us).
We motored in a flat calm to a new anchorage at San Miguel on the island of Del Rey. Naturally there were whales frolicking on the way. We need to do some research as I suspect these are southern Hemisphere whales . We were told that both Northern and Southern hemisphere whales migrate to Panama to calf. These appear to be humpback, but the humpback we have seen in Mexico are covered in barnacles and these are not?
Tuesday night was Belgian waffles aboard Sound Effect to celebrate Denny's birthday off Kokomo Belgian waffles are his favorite and he enjoyed it more than the fresh lobster we had two nights ago! (Me too but don't tell the girls) Once again I am struck by the cruising grounds in Panama. Beautiful anchorages with clear water close together and nearby to a population center, but too far away from southern California to every replace Mexico. The other impression of Panama is construction. There is a new canal being built to open in 2014, then a full on suspension bridge over the canal to come next. There are 8 or more T cranes building skyscrapers in downtown Panama City, and even out here in the island there is development ongoing. The growth here is phenomenal and who knew??
We will continue to cruise through the Perlas for the next 10 days or so. No internet so sent via Sailmail no pictures possible.

Mogu Mogu
New Dad is partially awake and at work

Friday, we left the anchorage in Panama City and motor sailed south to the Las Perlas islands. We left two days after Kokomo because we needed to finish business with the Canal Authority and change the engine oil and transmission oil. In the "it's a small world" category we met an American mechanic who works in PV Mexico but was in the Volvo Penta dealer in Panama for a conference. It turns out he is the mechanic who had worked on Lovely Lady and who had been asked via email to comment on our problem with engine previously. He gave us a couple of tips and a new service bulletin for the transmission.
We arrived just before dark on Friday at Mogu Mogu supposedly the site of the TV "Survivor" realty game show. One of the cruisers we met at Mogu Mogu said it had been set up the previous week.
As fans of the show we know, Survivor Pamana was several years ago, but they may set it up to encourage tourists. Water is warm and clear and snorkeling is very good.
We plan to explore several more islands and stay out here until just before we fly home to see baby Elizabeth.
No internet in the islands so this is posted by the new Dad.

09/12/2011 | SUE MAST
The Big Ditch
09/08/2011, Panama

Well, Sound Effect is now officially scheduled for an Oct 10 transit of the Canal. I must say this is a pretty large check mark for the bucket list to captain my on boat through the canal.
Anyone wanting to fly down and hold a line on deck is welcome, you have one month to figure out how to get here. First come first served.
I recommend website for those interested in history, how it works, and web cams of the actual locks. Bookmark the site and click on beginning about 9am Oct 10 to see Sound Effect and Kokomo. Another idea is to click on the last position for Sound effect on this blog and widen the shot you should see the start of the canal. (we are that close). You can than create your own trip through the canal.

For those of you coming some day in your own boat the process has been painless.
1. On the Balboa side go to Building 729 to the admeasurer office (you can tell the taxi "edificio 729) and pick up information, fill out a brief form , and make an appointment to get measured
2. Our appointment was for the next morning so we upped anchor and steamed out to the area designated and were met immediately by a pilot boat which dropped off our own canal official.
He measured the boat asked a few simple questions, we signed some forms and he killed the rest of the time with stories and jokes. Piece of cake.
3. Pay for the privilege. There is only one bank on each side. In Balboa Citi bank in Nikkos plaza accepted my $1500 in cash. It must be cash as of now. We will get a little more than half back if we don't break the canal.
4. The next day we called the canal office (number is on information picked up in #1 above)and scheduled an appointment. We asked for a specific date one month out so we can transit with Kokomo.
All of the above can be done by an agent for a fee but why?. The last item remaining is fenders and lines that must be rented. We plan to rent them from a taxi and negotiate for a return trip for our line handlers.

Today we changed the oil in the engine and transmission and bought fuel for a trip to the local Las Perlas Islands. We will be away from internet and my editor had a baby Monday so I may or may not get a blog posted for a while.

09/10/2011 | Deb McAdams
Boy do we wish we could take you up on that offer! But between lack of vacation time, a kid in school, and lack of a lottery win, we will have to watch from blogdom for now. It would be so fantastic to transit the canal with you guys and be another part of the journey. But since we canít, at least weíll make sure people know about the offer on the table, if they arenít regular readers, at the general meeting on Monday. That will give them a chance to update their passports and book a flight. Have a great trip to visit your new granddaughter.

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Who: Jim & Connie Merritt
Port: Tacoma WA
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