Bookmark and Share
Cruising with Vida Dulce
2012 Holiday Letter
Jerry / Sunny, light winds, 85 degrees
01/03/2013, Isla Provedencia, Colombia

Happy Holidays All!

Susan and I are contemplating this past year from Provedencia Island, Columbia. The locals, or at least the chamber of commerce, says it's "where God takes his vacations." It's been a great year, with a good mix of great times with new and old friends and family and exploring new and old places, and a fair amount of work.

Provedencia Christmas Tree

Here we are in front of the town's Christmas tree, decidedly not an evergreen.

in October we had the 1st anniversary of our arrival in Panama.

We have spent most of the time in the San Blas islands on the north coast of Panama. Yes, Panama actually runs east/west even though most of us think of it as running north/south.

The San Blas are one of the most unique indigenous lands in the western hemisphere. An archipelago of over 365 islands, one for each day of the year the locals tell us. It's crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches and warm water are an alluring paradise. It is run "semi-autonomously" from the Panamanian government. As a result it is quite pristine with absolutely no development. The Kuna people, although they rule the islands and lots of land inland as well, choose to only live on the islands.

Kuna Island

It is a popular spot for cruisers to visit during the hurricane season as it is well south of the hurricane zone. That is not to say that it doesn't have it's own storms, especially in the summer. There were 6-7 boats that we know that were hit by lightening this past summer. Not a pleasant experience. It doesn't hurt anyone but typically wipes out every electronic device on the boat, leading to a costly and time consuming refit.

Sandy started out as a tropical depression about 200 miles north of us. Even at that early stage in it's development and being so far from us it still significantly impacted our weather by causing very low barometric pressures and strong winds from the south which is quite unusual for that time of year.

Because of the remoteness of the San Blas there are virtually no sources for provisions there. You can get diesel and on occasion, but you never know when, a fruit and veg boat will show up but little else. Oh, and you can buy fish and lobster from the Kuna's as well as hunt them your self.

As a result we would go back to Portobello every 2-3 months or so and do a big provisioning trip into Panama City.

We made two trips through the Panama Canal helping S/V Millenium and S/V Kaija Song through the "ditch" as line handlers. The trip in February with John and Nat was a special treat as my long time friend Jim Erdman was along as well, coming down to spend several weeks with us from the snowy mountains of North Idaho (as I was corrected after referring to his home being in northern Idaho). The second trip through the Canal was with S/V Kaija Song with friends Gary and Kaija.

We had a great time with Jim, here he is manning the helm on our passage from Portobello to the San Blas.

Jim At the Helm

In mid-May my daughter Ellie graduated from the University of Puget Sound. It was a grand celebration and I'm sure her face hurt at the end of the day as she wore an ear-to-ear smile all day long.

Ellie at Graduation

Ellie at graduation.

Ellie and Mona

Ellie and Mona

Since we were returning to the States for Ellie's graduation we took the opportunity to stay for about 2 months and visit family and friends. We spent a week with Mike and Tatiana at their beautiful place on Vashon Island. We stayed a couple of times with Rex and Sharon in Seattle, enjoying Rex's homemade spirits. The last week of May we traveled to Oregon and spent time with long time friend Stan Curtis in Portland and at his beautiful cabin in Maupin on the Deschutes river. Then back to Seattle to see Linda and Mike Ranz.

Around the middle of June we were off to North Idaho to see Jim and Kally in (or just beyond) Hope, Idaho. Then to visit Susan's mother Sandi and her husband Bob, and Susan's father Vern and his wife Lois in the Spokane area. We then took a bus trip (haven't done that in a while) through beautiful central Idaho from Spokane, WA to Donnelley, Idaho to see my cousin Renee and her husband Bob. While there we took a few days and drove over to Prineville, Oregon to see cousin (and Renee's brother) Ron and his wife Carol and their beautiful new house. Finally a quick trip back to Seattle and on the plane back to Panama and Vida Dulce which was waiting patiently for us at Panamarina. Whew!

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful hospitality. You all know you have an open invitation to come down and we are hoping to host your some time on Vida Dulce.

After returning to the boat and on the way back to the San Blas we caught this beautiful Mahi Mahi, it was tasty!

Mahi Mahi

In September we did the "big job" that all boaters don't look forward to. We hauled Vida Dulce out of the water, sanded and painted her bottom as well as did other maintenance that you can't do with the boat in the water. It's never very comforting seeing your 14 ton home swinging from a crane as it is pulled out of the water and moved and set down on the ground.

Vida Dulce

In October my cousin Renee and her husband Bob visited us. It was a grand time. We caught fish, ate lobster and tried to keep up with Renee dancing when the evening music came on. One morning Bob got up and threw a line in the water to see if there were any fish awake, he's an early riser. He hooked something big. It took us both to fight it and about and hour to get it to the boat, it was a ray, with about a 2' wing span. We cut him loose. I think it qualifies for a Most Unusual Catch award as no one in the anchorage had ever heard of a ray striking a fishing lure.

We had lots of laughs and some sun burn. Below is a typical afternoon, relaxing on one of the islands.

Renee and Bob

After they returned to the snow and cold of Donnelley, Idaho Susan and I got to work on prepping the boat and provisioning for our passage to Providencia. We returned to Portobello and did a monster provisioning trip. Providencia is remote, a small island 150 miles east of the coast of Nicaragua with a sister Island called St. Andres 50 miles west of it. We knew that there was little available on these islands and what you could get was expensive. So we provisioned for 3 months this time. And worked on the boat, the wind instrument had failed, I think due to a close but not direct lightening strike and the water maker wasn't working.

After weeks and lots of work we were ready to go and left the San Blas on Saturday, the 15th of December. The first day started out calm, then the wind came up and that evening was very rough confused seas that were tossing us all about, but we were making good time. Things calmed down after that and we pulled into Providentia Monday morning.

It's quite and wonderful here, everyone is very friendly and most people speak English. We rented a scooter and drove around the island, on Christmas day we had a pot luck dinner on our boat with the other cruisers in the anchorage.

Susan this year developed a dormant green thumb and now we have some great plants on the boat. Below is a basil plant that grows relentlessly. We love basil and pesto but it's hard to keep up sometimes. In additional she has grown tomatoes, jalapenos, mint, dill, parsley, oregano and a little cilantro.


It's been a busy year, keeping the boat running is a lot of work. In addition to the haul-out we had issues with the dinghy and had to replace it's hull and then it's carburator. Ongoing engine maintenance (3 diesels and an outboard) keeps me changing oil on a regular basis. The freezer quit working earlier this year but after months of working with it it's behaving it self at the moment. Wind instruments, autopilot and watermaker all requred TLC. Toilets, enough said, you don't want to hear the details! It truly is endless.

I've continued working with my partner, David Burch of Starpath School of Navigation in Seattle. We now have 3 iPhone apps for sale. NavRules - used to learn the Navigation Rules, InterPlus - an interpolator, the only one I know that allows you to choose units such as feet, time, degrees, percent, etc. and our International Code of Signals app (ICOS Plus) that provides simple ways to use the codes that are required by all ships on the high seas.

The most ambitous project todate that is close to being ready to go to production in an electronic barograph or recording barometer. We use it daily and it's great.

My girls, Mona and Ellie have had a good year. Mona has decided to go back to school to get a Master's degree in engineering. Her undergraduate degree was in French so she has had a lot of engineering and math courses to take before she can apply to graduate school. She is enjoying it and doing well. And despite the heavy course load she still has time to teach and lead the Women's program at the Seattle Sailing Club.

After graduation Ellie spent the summer in Aspen, Colorado at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and has decided to stay there through the winter teaching skiing to people with disabilities. And because she gets a free seasons pass she is enjoying skiing Aspen as well. She has even been teaching blind people how to ski. It seems to be very satisfying to her to see the satisfaction and glee of her students as they learn to ski.

In the "passing the torch" category several family and friends moved on from this life. Early this year Gerry Hagedorn, my mothers husband passed away. He married my mother late in life and they had a wonderful time together. About the same time Mary Brockman, the girl's grandmother passed on. And late in the year Marion Davis, my aunt and my mother's sister passed away. They were great people from a great generation, they are all missed and cherised.

Well this is gone on too long and Susan and I want to wish all of you a great coming year. Hopefully we can catch up with many of you this spring as we are coming back to Seattle to put our house back on the market.

Fair winds and following seas,
Jerry and Susan

01/05/2013 | Monica Hanlin
What a wonderful 2012 letter! I really enjoyed the lengthy recap and the photos too. I look forward to seeing more photos of you two. Stay safe and have a blast! Super love you, Monica and Travis
01/21/2013 | Mike Ranz
Been enjoying following your days on the water and the year in review was a great piece. Stay safe
Seaocean Runs Aground
Susan / mostly sunny, windy, 86 degrees F
01/02/2013, Isla Providencia, Colombia

Late in the evening, in darkness, on the 28th of December we hear a ship hailing the Providencia Port Captain requesting a pilot. A pilot?! The channel in here is too shallow, and the one commercial dock is too short for a ship needing a pilot to dock, yet he calls again. Someone finally replies telling him that there are no pilots. A few minutes later we see three enormous spotlights high in the air. Seaocean has entered the anchorage. We hear them drop the anchor just outside the channel behind us. This should be interesting.

The following morning one side of the commercial dock is cleared and Seaocean pulls up their anchor and heads for the channel. She looks pretty empty, with the majority of her bottom paint exposed and her prop just below the water. Shortly after rounding the last set of buoy markers we hear them call again, they've run aground in the channel. In addition to there being no pilots, there are no tugboats here. Several lanchas motor out to see if they can assist but none have the power needed. The anchor is dropped again. The cargo holds open and the multiple day process of transferring the goods from the ship to shore via lancha begins. Very large, heavy white bags are placed in a lancha which then slowly makes its way to the dock where a yellow CAT Excavator / Bucket lifts them one by one onto the dock. There are at least four lanchas going back & forth.

The morning the cargo transfer is complete, she lifts the anchor and while lighter than when she arrived still finds herself aground. Engines rev, the bottom churns. After an hour, she's managed to get turned around, pointed in the outgoing direction but not any farther on her way. The water in the anchorage around this toil has gone from clear blue-green to a cloudy beige as the bottom is churned up and dispersed with the current. A few hours later a second plan is put into action; the addition of three lanchas closely circling the cargo ship to create a wake to roll her back & forth and perhaps temporarily lift her off the bottom while powering forward. While entertaining to watch, it also fails to get her moving. They finally quit and the water starts to clear.

We thought they would use the night high tide to leave but Seaocean is still here the following morning (2 Jan). Once again they rev the engines, this time forward then reverse, and go no where. We are surprised we haven't seen someone dive the bottom to see where she's stuck nor dropped the anchor in one of the lanchas and have them drop it in the water several yards ahead so that they can use the windlass to pull her forward as the engines push from behind. Hmm. When the fast motor catamaran Sunsation arrives from San Andres, a fairly regular service between the two islands, the captain calls Seaocean on the VHF to ask his intentions. The reply is that he has no steerage and no engine, which really means she's well and truly stuck.

We hear additional VHF radio traffic from them in the afternoon, they're transferring something between the cargo holds. This must have done the trick as by late afternoon they're moving. We can feel the collective sigh of relief from those on Seaocean, the Port Captain's office, and those of us sharing the anchorage.

Happy New Year from Isla Providencia
12/31/2012, Isla Providencia, Colombia

2012 was largely a Panama year for us aboard Vida Dulce, meeting lots of other cruisers and enjoying life in-between boat projects and other pursuits. We were blessed with visits from friends & family, and with the opportunity to transit the Panama Canal twice (on other cruiser boats). Susan started using the oven, and in-spite of its temperamental nature, baked yummy breads, snacks & meals. She also started a container garden to supply us with fresh herbs, jalapeƱo peppers and even a few tomatoes. Jerry published new iPad / iPhone apps and continues to work on additional ones along with a very special product. In December we finally got the weather window we didn't get last year and sailed to Isla Providencia, Colombia, from where we wish everyone a glorious start to 2013.

2012 holiday photo

Motor-Scootering Around Isla Providencia
Susan / mostly sunny, 86 degrees F
12/27/2012, Isla Providencia, Colombia

We hire a motor scooter for three hours, one of which is spent enjoying an enormous, tasty lunch at a recommended restaurant, Restaurante Divino Niko (Divine Child), on the beach at Bahia Suroeste (South West Bay).

Pretty little island with homes, small businesses and public artwork scattered along the main road.

Isla Providencia & Santa Catalina photo gallery

End Of The World & Winter Solstice Beach BBQ
Susan / partly cloudy, showers, 86 degrees F
12/21/2012, Isla Providencia, Colombia

Yesterday we met a nice couple from Barranquilla, Colombia here on vacation. After chatting awhile, they invited us to join them & their daughter and cousin to an End Of The World beach bbq. If it is all to end, they want to be enjoying themselves when it happens. We'd love to! They purchased several lobsters the day before specifically for the party; we'll bring something to share along with a bottle of champagne.

We wake to blue skies, and after surviving the day :) , a passing rain shower pummels the area as the meeting time arrives. So instead of walking to one of the small, clean beaches on Santa Catalina for the bbq, they grill the lobsters using gathered wood (the town is out of charcoal) in the front yard of their rented house. It turns out to be a party of nine; under a starry skies we consume almost as many bottles of sparkling wine while eating and chatting late into the night.

Rested, Checked In & Connected
Susan / sunny skies, scattered white fluffy clouds, 90 degrees F
12/18/2012, Isla Providencia, Colombia

After a couple of days of rest and general cleanup, we dingy into town for our first look around. We received our stamped passports from our agent, Mr. Bush, so are free to explore.

The tourist materials are titled, Divina Providenia y Santa Catalina and includes a poem which reads, in English:

Land of puritans, pirates, legends and myths
Where Islanders embrace you with coconut smiles
Where white sands are caressed by gentle waves and the sweet song of mermaids from long ago
Where Morgan buried his dreams and his treasure,
Where palm trees dance to the rhythm of calypso and reggae under a starlit sky
Where the moonlight entices lovers and inspires poets
Where magic captures your heart and your soul
Welcome to Providence & St. Catalina, my paradise, my home...
Arturo Robinson Dawkins, Mayor

Isla Providencia is actually two mountainous islands, Providencia and Santa Catalina, connected by a foot bridge called Lover's Lane or Bridge of the Enamored. Providencia is the larger of the two and where the small town, Santa Isabel, is located. There's one main road that circles the island. St. Catalina has no roads, just a lovely footpath studded with pairs of brightly painted chairs. On Providencia there are three banks, several surprisingly well stocked food markets, a fresh fish / seafood coop, bakery, liquor store, internet cafe, beauty shop, tourist shops and so on. All are locally run establishments, no hotel complexes or chain stores. The locals are friendly and appear to be well off. Spanish is the national language of course yet English is widely understood and spoken with an Islander accent that takes a bit of effort to decipher. Shops, streets & town squares are clean & well maintained. By far the most popular way of getting around is on a motor scooter, which are also clean and quiet. Christmas decorations are a large brightly lit electric tree in the main square and lit banners that hang across the street. It's a laid back piece of paradise.

Cellphone and internet: Tigo 3G, Comcel and MovieStar are all available. Jerry speaks with the internet cafe staff and is told the fastest is MovieStar so he purchases a SIM & time & learns how to top off. He puts is in our wireless modem and after a bit we're on! Email and slow Web yet faster than what we experienced in Kuna Yala. All is good on-board Vida Dulce.

01/03/2013 | David Burch
Thanks for the wonderful update and travel log. Happy new year!
01/05/2013 | Monica Hanlin
SUPER COOL poem! I love it! I love and miss you guys!

Newer ]  |  [ Older ]