North American Tour 2017-2019

From Portland, OR through Panama Canal to East Coast of USA and back via Caribbean, Panama Canal, and Hawaii

08 August 2014 | Math Islands, Pitt Island, BC
06 August 2014 | Prince Rupert, BC
06 August 2014 | Barrier Islands, Prince of Wales, AK
04 August 2014 | Craig, AK
03 August 2014 | Coronation Island, AK
02 August 2014 | Petrof Bay, AK
01 August 2014 | Port Walter, AK
31 July 2014 | Red Bluff Bay, AK
31 July 2014 | Cosmos Cove, AK
30 July 2014 | Baby Bear Cove, AK
28 July 2014 | Sitka, AK
23 July 2014 | Krestof Sound, near Sitka, AK
23 July 2014 | Tenakee Hot Springs, AK
20 July 2014 | Hoonah, AK
20 July 2014 | Glacier Bay, AK
19 July 2014 | Glacier Bay, AK
18 July 2014 | Glacier Bay, AK
17 July 2014 | Glacier Bay, AK
15 July 2014 | Glacier Bay, AK
15 July 2014 | Glacier Bay, AK

Preparing for our Panama Canal Transit on March 25

21 March 2018 | La Playita Marina, Panama
George Stonecliffe
Arriving back in La Playita Marina, we were preparing for our Canal Transit. First, we discarded our trash; then Sue did the laundry!; we plugged into 110V electricity; turned on the portable air conditioner; took on potable water; washed down the boat; and hired two men to wash the bottom of the boat, removing barnacles, plant growth, polishing the propeller for speed, and changing the shaft collar zinc. Today, I got a haircut! We picked up some provisions, went to the local chandlery for boat supplies, and stopped at a coffee shop! Tomorrow we top off our fuel for the Canal Transit. And the pace will continue towards Sunday, and the Transit! A couple days ago we noticed the engine water temperature was higher than normal. I cleaned the raw water intake basket that was 40% blocked, cleaned the raw water strainer, and replaced the impeller in the raw water pump. Hopefully we will be good to go!

Panama Canal Transit Preparations

20 March 2018 | Las Perlas Islands, Panama
George Stonecliffe
We have been out in Las Perlas Islands for 10 days, an archipelago where only one island has groceries. Yesterday we found a smattering of picked over vegetables in a cooler, large unripe pineapples, and green pears. We departed empty handed and ordered hamburgers at a restaurant next door. Nothing tasted good. But perhaps the 2 nice restaurants at resorts would have good food if you ordered the right thing. Visiting the resort where the sky divers had repacked their chutes and ordered food from a patio restaurant, we were no longer welcome. No trespassing signs and cables had been put up across access to the beach I guess you needed a wrist bracelet with the name of a particular resort. But we enjoyed walking along the inland roads bordered by jungle trees with hanging vines, counting the abandoned houses set for removal when a new development would be built. (Houses along the waterfront are lovely, white stucco with red tile roofs and shady verandas, nice gardens with bouganvilia draped along walkways and over verandas.) Upon approaching the beach where we had left our dinghy, we found the sky blackened by hundreds of Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds, and the sea shoulder to shoulder with those paddling, all fishing the millions upon millions of little minnows in the surf and shallow water, trying to school and keep away from all the birds including diving Terns and Cormorants. We observed open water with black swaths, swarms of the little fish wondering where to go and how to stay away from the birds. We had never seen anything like this before. The tide had gone way, way out while we were ashore exposing bands of rocks we had been unaware of. The surf pounded the shore as swells from the currents and boat traffic came ashore. (Since it was Sunday, there were lots of boats at anchor here.) We managed to find a lull and get the dinghy out into the water, the engine quickly started and back to Julia Max, a little wet, but no one minded that. After dark, while talking to your family, Jenna, Bill noticed white clouds in the water streaming by Julia Max in the dark water, lit up by phosphorescence. We shined a light on them and discovered more millions upon millions of fingerling fish heading out away from shore, finally, no longer harassed by the birds. Along with the fish floated what we finally decided were strings of fish eggs about to hatch enveloped by a jelly-like substance. They looked like dead eels with yellow spots all along the side. Apparently this phenomena continued all night as we were still seeing the egg strings floating by in the morning. The fish accompanying them were bigger, deeper, maybe 4" long and fatter, still in huge schools. Imagine what it was like bringing up the anchor this morning with a jelly-like substance covering 180' of chain? Good sport Peter put on George's gardening gloves. They had to wash it all off the deck too! While motoring to Tobago Island, an injured juvenile Laughing Gull settled on our bow pulpit. He stayed for at least an hour, allowing us to photograph him and sit nearby until his parents finally came to find him. A few of its tummy feathers were bloody. We hope it will survive. So what is left in the larder? We still have a pound of hamburger and some stew meat in the freezer, but with 4 hungry mouths to feed and limited refrigerator space, there's nothing else now other than an old loaf of bread, 10 lbs of potatoes, 15 eggs, one zucchini, and a few onions. Oh yes, and 3 Hefty Bags full of garbage! We have managed to eat quite well, actually. We had leftover chicken casserole for dinner with cooked carrots last night; bacon, eggs, and fried potatoes for breakfast. The 30 lb bag of juice oranges was finally dispatched last night. Most of my stores of canned fruits and vegetables are gone too. I had spent $500 on groceries before leaving on the 9th, plus really cheap but excellent quality produce at the farmers market: 60 eggs, 2 watermelons, celery, lettuce, zucchini, cucumber, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, all for about $20. On March 23rd, I expect to repeat the same grocery purchase. We will be feeding 7 adults during the canal transit, lunch at least, then dinner and breakfast and lunch the 2nd day. But I have to plan for our Caribbean segments ahead, and grocery shopping will be limited after leaving Panama City. George has some engine work to do, today having found the raw water pump not working as well as it should to cool the engine. Probably has some of that jelly from the fish eggs stuck somewhere in the system!

Sailing in Panama Bay

16 March 2018 | Las Perlas Islands, Panama
George Stonecliffe
This morning we weighed anchor, and set sail for Mogo Mogo Island, one of The Survivor TV Show settings. Winds were N14-18, perfect for a day's sail. We started with a single reef in the Jib and the Main Sail, and a full Mizzen Sail. But for most of the sail we had the full Jib out, single-reefed Main sail, and full Mizzen. We tacked once. The boat was going from 4.0 to 7.0 with fine adjustments to the sails. There was virtually no need to move the rudder, the boat was so well balanced. It was great fun to be sharing this with our friends from Portland and Seattle. It was a four hour sail, with one tack. After anchoring near Mogo Mogo, we dinghied over to the island and snorkeled for awhile. Seeing some large fish, made it spectacular. But there were things in the water that got the best of Sue, stinging her in several places. So we sounded the retreat, and returned to Julia Max for vinegar treatment, fresh water shower, and so forth. Next time she may wear a light weight body suit.

The Deserted Isla Viveros

15 March 2018 | Las Perlas Islands, Panama
George Stonecliffe
We were attracted to the cell tower on Viveros. But we quickly learned it wasn't functional, and that no one was on the island. The Cruising Guide indicated that a developer was working on the island. But the work may have stopped. After snorkeling in low visibility, we spent the time walking the beach looking for shells and coconuts. We spent the afternoon, after lunch, napping, chatting about future anchorages, and planning generally where to go after the Canal Transit. Tonight we had a heated game of Mexican Train! Great fun!

Exploring Ashore and Buying Fish

13 March 2018 | Las Perlas Islands, Panama
George Stonecliffe
We went ashore to check out Rio Cacique, a small river on Isla del Rey, but found it too shallow to be navigable. Exploring the sandy beach, we found two old dugout canoes on shore, one in use with plastic bags plugging holes in the bottom The rustic paddle would have been used for polpulsion A few white ibis, a curlew, and a willet waded along the river bank. A tiger-heron flew up into a tree. At 10:45 we weighed anchor . Soon at a little fishing village, Esmeralda, we purchased two fish after hailing a fisherman. After lunch on board we left for Isla San Jose. Another fisherman roared up to us after rounding the Cape in hopes of selling us another fish. We figured the word got out quickly among the village after George paid $20.00 for our fish. We shared a bottle of water with this enterprising fisherman, and continued on to Isla San Jose.

100+ Year Old Submarine

12 March 2018 | Las Perlas Islands, Panama
George Stonecliffe
Today we explored a sunken 35' submarine just off shore of Isla San Telmo in the SE of Las Perlas Islands. It is in ten feet of water, partially awash at low tide, and submerged in high tide. Supposedly used for pearl divers by the its owner, the divers were getting a strange fever that even killed some of them. (The bends were the problem causing the ill effects of deep water diving.) Ultimately the pearl harvesting stopped, and the submarine was beached and abandoned. In its salt water environment, it is amazing how much of the vessel is intact. Numerous reef fish make their home in and around it. We were the only ones present today. The shore was covered with hundreds of brown pelicans and red crabs exploring the incoming waves for food.
Vessel Name: Julia Max
Vessel Make/Model: 45' Passport/Peterson Custom Ketch
Hailing Port: Portland, Oregon, USA
Crew: George and Sue Stonecliffe
About: Float Plan: July 1, 2017 Leave Portland, OR; head south along US West Coast; leave San Diego 10/29/17 with Baja Ha-ha Rally; go through Panama Canal 3/2018; Florida 6/2018; NYC and Rhode Island 7/2018; Chesapeake Bay 9/2018; Caribbean 11/2018; Panama Canal 3/2019; Hawaii 7/2019; home 10/2019
Julia Max's Photos - Main
2 Photos
Created 4 July 2017
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Created 5 May 2011