19 November 2010 | Panama
The s/v Blue Sky crew as we clear the Panama Canal. We are now back in the North Pacific after an absence of nearly 5 years.
The advice from the Panama Crusing Guide re: Transiting the canal is, " ...every transit is different..." Wow what an understatement!
I was able to 1st transit on another sailing vessel as a line handler. The passage was totally uneventful. The weather aside from some light rain overnight in the Gatun Lake anchorage was the only adverse weather experienced. The wind was nonexistant and the cloud cover made the passage cool and we did not have to constantly dive for shade.
Our friends on another cruising sail boat made the transit next. They had such heavy rain in Gatun lake both overnight and into their passage to the Miraflores Locks that they were forced to use their radar in order to spot the channel markers and see the oncoming ships!
Our transit was marked by sharing the accending locks at Gatun with a tanker that nearly took up the entire lock. We were center tied but we also were "nested" or as we say rafted to a small sail boat. The line handlers on Blue Sky were responsible for the entire raft and with the assistance of one memeber from the other vessel, the line handlers had their work cut out. The turbulance and constant pulling in on the slack lines made this their toughest part of the passage (so I thought from past experience).
Their real challenge came when the tanker in front of us moved forward into the 2nd, 3rd Gatun Locks and finally into Gatun Lake. Here the strain on crew and lines was put to the test with not one failure. I'll say I was less stressed on the passage locking up into Gatun Lake than locking down into the Pacific.
I'll add another blog about our overnight stay in Gatun Lake and then a third blog about the passage down through the Miraflores Locks into the North Pacific Ocean.
21 July 2010 | Curacao
Curacao, Netherlands Antilles
We are currently anchored within the protected waters of Spanish Waters in Curacao. This is home to nearly 100 cruising vessels. The vessels are mostly long range cruisers who are using this "Hurricane Hole" to wait out the sever weather that plagues the Caribbean during the summer and fall.
The high concentration of voyagers makes for a busy social schedule. The VHF radio net announces the daily activities. We have attended the weekly happy hour to get to know our neighbors. There the children are able to get together to plan their own social activities. There are quite a few children here so birthday parties and beach BBQ's are high on their list. Water sports within the bay are also a priority and the children enjoy wake boarding, knee-board surfing & surfing behind the dingy.
The entrance to the bay is dominated with a just opened Hotel/Resort. The resort has dedicated a portion of the beach to the public. The children enjoy the clearer water and sand beach several times a week. Outside the entrance to Spanish Waters we all enjoy snorkeling around the sunken tugboat. The fish are regularly feed by the tourist dive boats at this site. Each time we snorkel there, we are surrounded by huge numbers of expectant fish.
Daily boat necessities are simplified with the local food markets providing free bus shuttles daily. The public buses allow us easy access into Willemstad. Willemstad is divided into two sections with Punda "the point", is the oldest part of Willemstad and a unique mixture of Caribbean and Dutch influences. Otrobanda lies on the other side of the Annabay and means "other side". The majority of shopping and entertainment is located here. Punda & Otrobanda are connected by the Emmabrug also called the "swinging old lady", a floating bridge constructed in the 19th century. The children love to get caught on the bridge when ships either enter or exit the main commercial harbor via the Annabay channel.
There are many boats from the United States of America here. This is the first time in many years where we are not the only US flagged vessel. It was a real treat to have July 4th, Independence Day BBQ at Caracasbaai. Caracasbaai is a beach just to the west of Spanish Waters. The US is not the only country represented by visiting yachts. There are vessels from Brazil, Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland & Venezuela.
Phoebe and Drake are having a challenge learning Dutch. They also communicate with other yacht children in French, Spanish and German. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to practice so many different languages. There is also the local language called Papiamento which is a compilation of several languages. It is really a tongue twister!
The future has Aruba, Cartagena, Columbia & the San Blas Islands of Panama in that order. The voyaging life style is one where a change of plan is always possible so we'll see if we make the next three countries before we transit the Panama Canal.
02 February 2010 | Hout Bay / Cape Town
The picture is of Drake after he broke his arm in a fall at the boat yard. We have been is Hout Bay since January 4th. Here we hauled Blue Sky out of the water for her 8th time. We removed the anti-foul that I applied in Malaysia. It was the International Interswift 655 and it really held up well. We could not get the 655 here so we went up to the Intersmooth 306 with the appropriate primer put on first. We repaired the slight damage to the keel we sustained in the Maldives when I drove Blue Sky on to a mound of coral rubble. When I looked at the damage underwater with a scuba mask the scrapes looked a whole lot worse than they turned out to be. We had Blue Sky craddled up high enough that I was able to sand, fill and fare the entire keel. Blue Sky now has a really smooth bottom! Emma's parents flew in from Tucson and the children were able to spend some great quality time with Ruth and Edward. We joined them for a trip out to Robben Island & up the cable car to the top of Table Mountain. We also made a couple of trips out to the wine farms and Phoebe and Drake had the opportunity to pet cheeta & lion cubs. The whole Cape Town area has just been a dream. We have been looked after not only by Emma's parents but Emma has a cousin here and Liz & Paul de Beers have been fantastic guides. We also have been able to connect with SoCal native Erik Bjerring who lives here now with his wife Colleen and daughter Tanille. Erik is managing the sales and marketing for Bavaria Yachts in the V and A waterfront. He knows where all the yacht supplies are and has helped us tremendously sourcing all the replacement parts to get Blue Sky back up to perfection. One more special thanks goes to Tony Gervais of 3M. He knows all the practical and ingenious solutions that made the re-fit of Blue Sky a pleasure instead of a chore! If I ever have a choice between a 3M product or a copy, I always insist on 3M.
We are now back in the water and just finishing up all the little installations that did not require us to be out of the water. Sails are being re-stiched and new UV covers sewn on. I'm having a brand new stainless radar mount manufactured that will be engineered better and stronger than the original. We are waiting on a few parts for the Yamaha outboard and I received brand new Carefree Tires from California for the dingy.
From here we will head north along the coast working our way to Namibia. From there we will make the jump to St Helena then to Brazil.