A different kind of passageAnn
03/09/2013, Isla Mujeres
I ended my last entry encouraging the armchair sailors to brave the waters. Dave told me that after this passage he is ready to buy a Lazy-Boy. We waited in Providencia for a weather window. The wind howled around the island, but up North the weather was perfect. How to get past the first 100 miles? Then the weather talk turned to a big cold front coming down to the Gulf. Nothing gets cruisers talking more than the potential for a big weather system. Would it really happen? What about the weather until then, could we get an early window? On Tuesday it looked like our next break in the weather would be a week from Thursday. On Wednesday it looked like the next Wednesday. On Thursday we decided Tuesday was the day. Friday came and it looked like the waves would abate early, so we could go on Monday. We noticed a pattern, so on Friday I bought all of our passage supplies, and began prepping the boat, and Dave started our check-out procedure. On Saturday Chris on Marine Weather Service said Sunday things would calm down, and anyone wanting to go north should do so soon. I began to cook. Our original plan was to sail to the Cayman Islands, but with this big weather system coming we wanted to get as far North as possible, plus this big weather system would make the Cayman's ugly. We set our sights for Isla Mujeres. Ahh Mexico.
How I Tip the ScalesAnn
02/20/2013, Isla Providencia
I cried when we left the San Blas. There was a huge mixture of things that set me off: the sleepless night worrying about the upcoming passage and what a terrible mother I am to Kara; saying goodbye to Serendipity; seeing Kara say goodbye to Freddie (yet another boat friendship cut short) and feeling that our cruising days are over, for now we are delivering the boat to Sag Harbor. So I looked at the idyllic islands and cried. I gained perspective as my tears dried. First, we were well prepared for the passage. Our friend Brandt from Seattle had joined us to help bring the boat through the Caribbean, so we have an extra hand, who is a very good sailor, easy to get along with, eats any and doesn't get seasick. I had food in the fridge, so most of my work was already done. Dave, Kara and I took Sturgeron, so our Mal de Mer was unlikely. We had strapped down and protected all of our precious things. I couldn't get back the hours of sleep I missed, but at least I knew I was ready. Then I put my parenting worries on the scales, the day before I was a horrible mother (think Disney mother figures), but the months before that I was pretty good, so maybe the scales are tipped in my favor. I resolved to never give Kara schoolwork the day before we leave for a passage. She may be a week or so behind, but we aren't set on a strict schedule, so what does it matter? Saying goodbye to Serendipity was just plain hard. Just as we were leaving the islands I realized I forgot the frequency of the net we planned to check into. No problem I'll just call Anne and she will know it. She did, but then I realized in a few hours we would be out of range for this kind of help. No midnight chats or 2 AM commiserating about the lack of wind or too much wind. They gave us a video montage of our 17 months together, that I will always treasure. I love cruising and meeting all these new people, but I pay with goodbyes. Again the scales are tipped in my favor, but it hurts when the weight of goodbye lands in the pan. Kara had the double whammy of saying goodbye to Hugh and Anne, plus leaving her friend Freddie. Nine year old Freddie on Shiver became a fast friend, and for two weeks they were a good pair. Freddie would paddle up in his Kayak and take Kara off on an adventure. Or our salon would be transformed with Playmobil, Lego and a fort. To make things really nice, Dave and I liked Freddie's parents Red and Liz, so dinners with the two boats were easy. I hope Kara and Freddie will meet again, either they visiting us in New York, or we seeing them in London. I had the most trouble finding resolution to my final lament. Are our cruising days over, and are we more on a delivery type passage? In some ways this has been true since we decided to head through the Canal. We have been progressing to New York, but with stops and side trips. The San Blas were not on the way, but now our stops will be bumping us along to a new life. We plan to meander through the Chesapeake and maybe go up the Potomac and visit the other Washington, definitely not following the rum line. We have a timeline, and a date we wish to reach Sag Harbor, so maybe that is the difference. All I know is that in my mind things have shifted and I feel more tethers to a land life than cruising. That was the first hour of the 48 hours it took us to get from the San Blas to Isla Providencia. The other 47 hours were much happier. The sailing was exceptional. We sailed at between 45 and 100 degrees off the wind. This means things were comfortable down below, but we were still fast. The swell was six foot, but the frequency was kind, so there was no slamming. Kara and I felt great, Dave is still on medication for his banged up knee, so he didn't have an iron stomach. Dave wanted me to call this entry �"Mama said there'd be days like this, too�" because a sail like this will make any armchair sailor put on foullies and brave the wind and waves. Once again I feel the scales are tipped in my favor.
02/06/2013, San Blas Panama
I have dreamed of sailing in the San Blas for twenty years. I knew very little about them, other than that they are isolated islands in the Western Caribbean, where the people are kind, welcoming and the water glorious. I'm ashamed to say that is all I knew until I made Kara read some history of the islands before our arrival. The kind people are the Kuna, an indigenous tribe of Panama, and they call these islands Kuna Yala. When Panama fought for independence the Kuna's remained loyal to Columbia. These passive people held firm and while part of Panama have maintained their own government and language. The Kuna people we have met have been incredibly welcoming and gracious. They come up to our boat in their ulus - dugout canoes - selling fish, lobsters, crabs, fruit, veggies, beer and molas. Molas are the traditional art of the Kuna people. It is part appliqué and part fabric sandwiches. The traditional designs are geometric shapes, but they also have animals and plants incorporated in their art. In Panama City we saw a Santa mola. The women wear shirts with molas front and back. As for isolated, well it is possible to find an empty anchorage, but there are at least 200 boats in the archipelago at the moment, so know that the cruisers have found this haven. We met a boat that has been coming here for 15 years, and is proud of his record of not moving his anchor for two and a half years. Not something I would brag about, but I'm prejudiced against people who don't sail their boats. That is why we have one. The sheer beauty of this area is incredible. The shades of greens and blues seem infinite. The water takes on a chartreuse glow over the reefs, then turquoise over the sand. The marine blue denotes the seagrass and depth is accompanied by navy blue. We have had a fair amount of cloud cover, so at times there is a gray tint to the spectacular blues. When the sun shines then the seascape is without gray or black. The islands have white beaches and palm trees, lots of palm trees. The Kunas sell cocoanuts to the Columbians (also aluminum cans, which we are happy to give and contribute to their economy), so each island holds as many trees as possible. Each cocoanut is recognized to belong to a Kuna family, and so not available for us cruisers. The sailing here is fantastic. The trade winds blow a steady 15 to 20 knots, but we are surrounded by reefs and islands, meaning no big swell or waves. There are anchorages every two miles or so. We have taken to sailing from one end to the other end of the archipelago just because it is so much fun to beam reach in 15 knots. The first time we went to weather here Kara emphatically said �"This is NOT beating!�" She has her mother's aversion to pounding into the waves hours on end. The final piece of this paradise is that there are kids. Yesterday Kara played with a 9 year old boy from Britain, and today it is an 8 year old Australian girl. She is so happy to play with someone who doesn't need prompting. Dave and I try, but our imaginations just don't go in the same direction as hers. I knew so little about this place, and what little I knew was not completely accurate, but it has lived up to my expectations. Dave calls this the apex of cruising.
02/06/2013, Portobelo, Panama
It is hard to write about Portobello, now that we have left. Portobelo holds an important part in Spanish Colonial history. This was where they stored the gold found on the Pacific side of the continents and then trekked across the isthmus - the forty miles of jungle covered hills and valleys. Naturally the pirates knew about the importance of Portobelo, and attacked, often and viciously. So the Spanish built forts, four of them with watch towers, cannons and upper strongholds to hold the gunpowder. The remains of the last set of forts guard the entrance today. The last custom house burnt down, and now there is a replica. Pirates, forts and gold what more could you want to spark your imagination.
Mama said ther'd be days like this...Ann
01/12/2013, Green Turtle Cay, Panama
Yes, my mother did say there would hard days. In my world that means going to weather. In all our sailing, we haven't gone into the wind very much. It is why sailors call it beating.
Our trip through the canalAnn
01/02/2013, Colon, Panama
After all the worry, preparations and work our trip through the canal was pretty dull - just as we wanted it to be. Our crew was great. This was transit number three for Dave from Andiamo and new for Rob and Judy who are crewing for a boat going to New Zealand. The regular crew did just fine as well, and Taking Flight motored like a champ. We picked up our advisor (Gillermo) for the first day right outside Balboa Yacht Club, and then went back to our mooring to wait for our transit time. Plan A was to raft to another sailboat, but they had engine trouble and canceled at the last minute. Plan B was to tie up to a tour boat. Plan C was to center tie alone. Plan D had us with a ferry. And the winner was plan C, which for our crew and boat was the easiest. We used all four of our 150 foot lines we rented from Taxi Tony. We went through the MiraFlores locks with ease. For the Piedro Miguel locks the tour boat caught up to us, and we tied to them. I found this more nerve racking, because their deck was four inches over our deck. We had used double tires as fenders, and that extra thickness is the only reason we didn't lose a station base. I chatted with a couple on the tour who were from New York. I hope they will send me a picture of us sitting in the lock. At 1:00 we were motoring through Gatun Lake, finished locking for the day. I gave everyone lunch, and passed the big test. We had heard that an advisor could request a lunch delivered (costs over $200) if they do not like the food. Gillermo ate heartily, as did the rest of the crew. We arrived at the "cheese ball" (the mooring buoy near the Gatun locks for boats that need two days to transit) just before 5:00 pm. We said goodbye to Gillermo, whose company we thoroughly enjoyed.
Taking Flight Adventures