16 February 2019 | San Blas
17 January 2019 | Bonaire
Passage to Galapagos - Day 3
22 March 2019
We are into day 3 of our crossing to the Galapagos The winds are fairly light although dying to nearly nothing in the night. We've been using our downwind Parasailor which looks spectacular when up but a bit of a beast to get down if the winds pick up too much. The great advantage of this sail is that we make good speed in lighter winds and yesterday we were making 9kts.
After leaving Panama we passed through the Las Perlas Islands which were really delightful but our time schedule only allowed us to spend a couple of nights at anchor there. We passed Islands, home and breeding ground for many sea birds and it was a delight watching hundreds of pelicans diving for fish.
At our last anchorage we rafted up to A Cappella as Julian had a Hooker system which is an air pump and breathing apparatus which allowed Julian and Bill to dive and give our hulls one final clean before heading to the Galapagos (we will be inspected on arrival to ensure we are not carrying any invasive species, if so we will be sent 40 miles back out to sea with a diver to get rid of anything clinging to the hull). It was quite an exhausting job but we are confident that we now have clean bottoms!
On our first day there was no wind and the sea was glassy flat calm and we spotted two whales
while still in Las Perlas and then further out to sea we were entertained by Rays swimming near the surface and leaping out to our great amusement.
We are back into the swing of 5 hour watches at night and having a little nap in the day. We are in daily touch with A Capella of Belfast who are about 15 miles ahead but are further south of us. We are definitely the tortoise but managing to keep to the rhumb line so hopefully won't be too far behind at the end.
When sending a blog update via our satellite system it does not appear to link to Facebook. We will read the instructions again and try to link it but we think the problem is to do with Facebook changing their API (beyond me!).
Goodbye Panama City
17 March 2019
Panama City is home to 2 million people and sits on the waters edge looking like a mini Manhattan yet just a short ride away, across the Americas Bridge, you will find yourself back in the rainforest. It’s certainly a contrast in extreme being modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan.
We’re anchored several miles outside of the city centre. The marina is situated on one of three islands that are linked by a giant causeway, the rock and boulders being from the Culebra Cut (where the Americas meet) during the construction of the canal. It was a pleasant walk along the Amador Causeway looking across to the city and onto the excellent Biomuseo where we learnt a lot about Panamanian history and the isthmus.
The old colonial city is definitely worth wandering around. Once run down it now has trendy restaurants and boutique hotels and a great place to take your picture with the skyscrapers in the background. We found the wacky Diablicos Panamanian restaurant and enjoyed the specialty Ceviche for lunch. We wanted to visit the Panama Canal Museum but it was Monday and unfortunately for us closed.
We took the opportunity to indulge in a bit of retail therapy so headed out to the Albrook Mall now the 14th largest in the world. It was so big and full of designer shops it kind of overwhelmed us and we sadly left with just a couple of tea towels! I must add that the designer look is definitely not a practical attire for the long distance sailor, nor is coiffured hair (what’s a hairdryer?) and stepping into a dingy in high heels is just ridiculous, so perhaps for now shopping malls are not for us.
We did find some shops more to our liking with the guide from our friends Patricia and Julian. Later to celebrate our purchases we headed to the nearby Hard Rock Hotel and took the lift to the 62nd floor to the Bar in the Sky and watched the sun go do down and the city light up.
We were in desperate need of haircuts. I’m quite fussy, can’t speak Spanish and worried how to explain exactly what I wanted. But what’s the problem when you have Google translate?
I happened upon a woman’s salon, typed on my phone that I just wanted a trim and between my thumb and forefinger showed the woman exactly how many millimetres I wanted off. Can you imagine my absolute horror when on first cut she lopped off 2 inches from the back! Well you can’t stick it back on so I had to let her continue but I feel like a shorn sheep!
Bill was very satisfied with his haircut, he found a cheap basement barbershop and only charged $5.
Alas it’s time to move on. We’ve checked out with the Port Officer and will sail today (17th March) towards the Las Perlas islands (this is where the city dwellers enjoy their weekend breaks)
On Tuesday 20th we will begin our 900 miles sail to the Galápagos Islands and plan to arrive on the 27th March.
I’ve posted pics in the gallery so do have a look.
Panama Canal transit
14 March 2019
Going through the Panama Canal was an amazing experience. We are now completely relaxed and enjoying Panama City. I have put the Canal Transit pictures in the picture gallery with a little commentary on each. Enjoy.
Shelter Bay Marina, getting ready for the Panama Canal
08 March 2019
After leaving the San Blas islands we headed for Shelter Bay marina which is situated at the enterance of the Panama Canal. It is quite a unique place as everyone that arrives here has that passion for adventure and long distance sailing. It's been a busy time. Krabat needed cleaning and polishing and we were hauled out for a few hours to have her bottom cleaned in preparation for the Galapagos. We had to replace a sea cock that was leaking and two of our solar panels stopped working. Skipper Bill worked his magic with the much appreciated help of our friend Julian on A Capella and everything is working and ship shape once more. We're also here with Jajapami and Lady Jane, all four yachts having crossed the Atlantic together in Nov 17 and once again gathered to transit the Panama Canal to sail for New Zealand. We took advantage of the free bus from the marina three times to go to the nearest supermarket in Colón which was a bone shaking ride for an hour due to the terrible potholed roads. We have provisioned the boat with as much tinned and dry food as we can as the next big supermarket after Panama maybe Tahiti and that's about 4000 miles away. We of course can pick up the basics as we go along such as flour, milk, pasta and rice but meat might be scarce as well as fancy ingredients which we take for granted at home. Bill can't live without his peanuts which he grazes on most evenings. He may have to get used to popcorn or plantain crisps!
The marina is in a disused American army base and on the edge of the National Park and the wildlife has been spectacular. We even had our own resident crocodile in the marina that would pop his head up from time to time. We watched an armadillo wander through the marina and met a Coati while wandering along the old roads.
We also got the bikes out and rode 10k through the National Park to San Lorenzo Fort that for centuries guarded the Chagres river, the old trade route through Panama. We still have Panama City to enjoy on the other side but so far have been very impressed with this lovely country.
Well today is the 8th March and our transit day has arrived. We can't beleive that the day has come and we will soon be looking at the Pacific. The transit through the canal takes two days and as I write we are still waiting at anchor for our pilot to arrive. Our three professional line handlers are on board and should keep us safely away from the lock walls. I have posted quite a lot of new photos in the picture gallery so please have a look. Of course I will update with pictures of us going through the Canal as well. It's going to be a unique experience.
16 February 2019 | San Blas
We are anchored off the densely populated islands of Nargana and Corazon de Jesus joined together by a large bridge. These two communities have given up the traditional Guna way of life and the villages are a mixture of block concrete buildings and traditional huts. The roofs of these buildings are all sporting satellite dishes for the flat screen televisions. We’d heard there was to be a carnival but on arrival we learnt the carnival had been postponed as it clashed with a major basketball match! Village life is still quite basic but we found a small restaurant, bank and a few shops selling fruit and veg. We also managed to pick up a Digicel SIM card so at last we have some internet, although reception on some of the islands will be sparse. They also have a good medical centre and a police station but there are still Sailas or chiefs in the communities. The people are friendly and we felt comfortable walking about.
We are cruising the San Blas islands with our friends Patricia and Julian from A Capella of Belfast. Yesterday we decided to be the intrepid explorers and take the dingy down the Rio Diablo. We had watched the Guna Indians in their pangas and ulus head off down the river and were curious to know why. We were also suitably dressed to walk the water pipe trail that leads you deep into the rainforest until you reach the source, a small lake and waterfall.
We followed the river down for about half an hour taking it cautiously due to shallows, sometimes having to lift the outboard motor to paddle, and avoid submerged tree trunks but also enjoying the kingfishers, herons and numerous other bird life.
The forest was dense and diverse with patches of banana cultivation along the edges. We concluded that much of the Guna activity was collecting fresh water as we watched them fill their plastic barrels and containers from the river.
We reached the trail and tied up the dingy. We had been told the forest had poisonous snakes and frogs, black panthers and crocodiles. Julian was prepared with his machete and grisly bear pepper spray to hand but in reality it was a well used path and the chances of encountering danger we thought was small.
We walked in the heat and high humidity for over two hours following the white plastic water pipe, until we were having to zigzag across the river and guess where the path went next. We didn’t reach the water source deciding best to turn around and not to get lost. It was a great hike which we all enjoyed although now a little fatigued. Safely back in the dingy we headed back towards the mouth of the river and then got the fright of our lives when we saw a 10ft crocodile slip into the river just a few feet from our flimsy dingy! Get me out of here........
San Blas, Panama
14 February 2019
We are having a terrific time cruising the beautiful San Blas islands and meeting the Guna Indians. Internet is sparse but I’ve managed to post some pictures on the blog gallery. We will stay in this area for another week before heading for the Panama Canal.