Friday, December 24, 2010

Big backlog of posts

Merry Christmas!
Here's a huge number of updates, in reverse chronological order from April to October.
Back in the States
August 12- October 13
It's wonderful being back in the states and having the chance to see family and friends. The months flew by with visits in New Jersey, Mass., Maine,
Vermont and Illinois. We spend lots of time with our grand daughters, Ramona and Lucy. They are both so beautiful and growing fast.

August-8/11 – Heading back to the US. Some confusion at the airport since we have to use 2 passports each – and the new one doesn't have any stamps in it. Works out fine, but just adds to the preflight jitters. We have a direct flight from Panama City to Newark where Dick's brother, Paul, will pick us up.
8/10 We are leaving Equinox and Shelter Bay to head back to the US. Take the shuttle into the bus terminal and get on the express bus to Panama City. Our suitcase carries mostly clothing items we haven't used on the boat and will leave back home making room for the supplies we plan to bring back with us. Roger meets us at the main bus terminal in Panama City and we go back to the embassy to get our passports. Somehow our passport pictures were cropped and Moira looks like just a huge head with no body – definitely not a picture that will be shared with anyone. We head back to the hotel, taking a short walk, and then have an early dinner – too tired to do much else. We are scheduled to take the 5 am shuttle to the airport in the morning and want to make sure we don't oversleep.
8/9- Boat has been hauled, tarps put in place and all looks fine – we hope. The marina has run
out of dehumidifiers for now, so we've put out several bottles of Clorox and hope that will help. Mike and Barbara on Evening Star have invited us to stay with them tonight before heading to Panama City tomorrow. Have a wonderful meal and talks with them. Wondering if we have forgotten to do something keeps us both up for a while that night.
8/1-8/8 – Work continues ongetting the boat ready to be hauled. It's amazing how dirty the boat can get and how long it takes to clean even though it is small. The sails need some repair work done and we were extremely disappointed to find that something is wrong with the new Sailrite machine. The machine keeps shredding the thread underneath the plate and even with Skype calls to Sailrite we can't get it to sew properly. That job will have to wait until we get back in the fall. It is so hot that we try to get jobs done in the morning and then rest at 2 with a swim around 4 to cool off. Have heard some horror stories about the amount of mold and mildew that some boats have had upon return, so we have decided to have a dehumidifier on board while we are gone. We worry about a fire because of electricity since 2 boats have just burned – one here and one in Panamarina. We also got the good news that our passports have been returned. Ended up being only a 1 week turn around period – when we were in Maine we waited about 6 weeks to receive them.

July -7/21-7/31- We've reached Shelter Bay Marina, so this is the end of cruising for us until the
fall. Although Panama is too far south for hurricanes, it is now the rainy season and it is even
more hot, humid, and damp then ever. Our plans are to have the boat hauled out for several months while we head back to the states. The marina is beautiful, but it is hard to work with the
management. There has been a total change in the top personnel and we are watching to see if things improve. Lots of work needed to put the boat up. We also need to head to Panama City to have our passports renewed. We leave with Allayne and Dennis from Shelter Bay in Roger's taxi. After dropping them off at their hotel we head to the embassy. It is a huge complex and we arrive about ½ hour before they are going to close. Since the passport go out in a diplomatic pouch we should get them in about 2 weeks. We hope so since we won't be able to get back into the country. Had a wonderful time with Dennis and Allayne at dinner – had to postpone it for about 1 hour because of monsoon rains and flooded streets. Meet them at a restaurant that they had been at before and had a great meal. They head back to the states in the morning and we hope that we will see them in the fall before we start to head north.
7/18-7/21- Dick's dental work is mostly completed and we decided to head to the Chagras River to wait until his crown is in. Although only 8 miles away from Colon, you enter a magical place surrounded by the rainforest.
The river was dammed in 1910 to create Gatun Lake and supplies the water for the locks in the Panama Canal. At the entrance to
the river is the old Fort St. Lorenzo sitting high on a cliff. Your route in follows
a serpentine pathway avoiding a reef, sandbar and a low dangerous area that breaks all over. Once in the river it is a wide path with depths up to 40 feet. You can travel about 6 miles all the way up to the dam. We're surprised to see friends, Brian and Sue, from Darramy anchored there and we spend 2 days exploring the area. A night time dinghy ride was taken to search for crocodiles, but the only thing that happened was Brian frightening Moira with his loud slaps with the paddles and his jungle noises. We left on the 21st to head back to Colon and by that afternoon Dick had been fitted with his permanent tooth crown. We called Shelter Bay Marina to see if we could bring the boat in early and they told us to come in the next day.
7/13-7/18 – Colon has only one small anchorage where you can have shore access from your boat. It is in the highly commercialized area for container ships and, so, there is noise and lights 24/7. Not the best anchorage, but it is convenient for Dick to go to the dentist. His tooth has
abscessed and he needs a root canal, so he is making daily trips to see the her. We have found that both medical and dental services are on par with US services without the high cost. While
waiting for all the dental work to be completed, we get to know the cruiser on the other boat in the anchorage. His nae is Clifford Vaughs on the boat, Amistad. His colorful life included being very involved in the Civil Rights Movement to being involved with the making of the movie, Easy Rider. He showed us pictures of his time in a motorcycle group and his acting role in the movie. He left the US in 1975 and has only been back for a visit 3 times.
7/7-7/12- Provisioning the boat is completed, water tanks were full and diesel and gasoline is onboard. We leave the marina for cruising in the Bocas for 2 – 3 weeks before returning to Colon. We've decided to spend some time exploring the Laguna Chiriqui, an area that is not shown in great detail in the cruising guide. To reach it we have to go through a very narrow channel near Isla Split Hill. The chart plotter doesn't have very much detail for this area and we depend on waypoints supplied to us from another cruiser. We go through some very shallow, reefy water, but eventually make it through into deeper water. We head northwest to Cauchero and anchor in a beautiful, quiet bay. We meet Brad & Karen on Karen's Weigh. They are in the process of building a house that has no road access to it. The views to the water and the jungle were spectacular. Some of the timbers for the house and dock were brought through the jungle on a macheted cleared path. Brad is 72 and we admire his positive outlook on life.
But sadly, even in paradise tragedy can take
place. Right near their property was a small island with beautiful buildings on it. It belonged to a women who was missing at the time we were there, but was later determined to have been murdered by a US couple who were serial
killers. We spent two more days exploring the area by hiking and taking dinghy rides up some of the rivers.
By Friday, Dick was experiencing some swelling in his face and a throbbing jaw. This wasn't in the area of the tooth that he had just seen the dentist for, and it was really strange because he doesn't have dental problems. We decided that he should get started on antibiotics and changed our plans to head back to Bocas to have it checked. The dentist was not available, nor were they sure when he would make it to the island because there was a banana worker strike and they had cut off all traffic from the mainland. The decision was made to cut our cruise short and head to Colon.
We arrived in the Bluefield on Sunday afternoon. The wind had picked up to about 20 knots and we had to re-anchor because we had swung into shallow water. Just as we were putting down the anchor for the second time, we were surrounded by the local Indians in their cayugas. Pleasant exchanges of greeting quickly changed to demands for many different items. We passed out several staple items, rice, soap, pencils and magazines for the children, but then they wanted
clothes, bras, cosmetics, jewelry and even money. This was the only time in all our cruising that we felt overwhelmed and totally stressed by the natives. Eventually we just yelled out that we had no more and then escaped down below.
We left Bluefields around 2 in the afternoon after a squall had gone through and the skies lightened. Ended up being a total motoring trip since the winds were so light. Made good time because of favorable current. We reached Colon by 10am the next morning.
7/3 – One of our strangest adventures yet. We were back in Bocas Marina and decided to go for a walk. After climbing a small hill we saw signs for the Butterfly Farm. We decided to follow them and see what it was all about. Just before we reached it we interrupted a man taking a shower in a small woven stall over some very murky stream
water. He talked to us behind the enclosure and then later joined us wearing only his towel.
He led us through the farm – we only saw 1 butterfly- and then showed us some small red dart frogs and a deer. He asked if we wanted to see monkeys. Since the deer was in an enclosure we assumed we would see monkeys that way. Instead, we wandered around the jungle for about 45 minutes following our yellow toweled guide with lots of shared puzzled looks and giggles. The only thing we encountered was one of his young children.. At the end he
then told us that we owed him $12 for the tour. We tried to use our Spanglish to argue the point, but he was insistent on the amount. Dick had $9 in small bills and a $20. Since he was only wearing a towel we knew he wasn't in a position to make change, so we handed him the $9 and then his 4 year old son followed us back to the marina to get the rest of the money. We learned, again, to make sure we understand exactly what we are getting ourselves into.June-
6/24-6/30- Back in the marina and started preparing the boat to go back out cruising. Had to deal with a banking problem – always an interesting issue when so far away and dealing with two different languages. Dick broke a tooth and ended up getting it fixed by Dr. Wong on the island. We decided to go out to some of the nearby anchorages for a few days. We went through several narrow cuts through the mangroves with sometimes very shallow water – made for some very tense moments! We were the only boat in each of the anchorages we chose- amazing since we were only less than an hour from Bocas Town.
6/15-6/23 We're off on a land trip to Costa Rica. Our 90 day tourist visa is about to expire and we need to leave Panama for at least 72 hours before it will be renewed again.. Since the Bocas are only about 40 miles from Costa Rica we thought we would go to a nearby beach and stay there until we needed to come back. But then we started to read more about the country and decided that we wanted to see the more inland area of volcanoes and cloud forests. We will be backpacking and staying in hostels while using public transportation. It will be a challenge for our very, very limited Spanish. Dick and I have finally found something in common – we are both terrible at learning a new language!
We leave the Bocas at 7am from the marina in a fast ponga. It's a long narrow boat with bench seats and 2 huge outboard motors. It quickly picks up speed, kicking out a huge rooster tail of spray, and we are soon moving at over 30 knots and cover the 15 miles to the mainland at Almirante in about 20-25 minutes. We meet Pam and Richard there and then we are soon on a bus to Changuinola, headquarters of the Chiriqui Land Company which is connected to Chiquita Bananas. In Changuinola we take a bus that will get to San Jose in 6 hours. It costs us $12 each. After riding for about 40 minutes on a paved road we take a turn unto a narrow gravelly road. We are told that we have to exit the bus because we are at the border between Panama and Costa Rica. First, we are stamped out of Panama and then have to walk over a very narrow railroad bridge over a river. In many places there are wooden planks laid over the holes in the bridge. Once we are on the other side we have to wait to clear into Costa Rica. The bus also has to cross over the bridge and we are just as glad to have walked over than riding on the bus. Once all the formalities are finished we board the bus and continue the trip. We ride along the Costa Rican coast line until we reach Puerto Limon and then head inland. Along the way we have miles of banana plantations , some with overhead railways to move stalks of bananas along. About 3 hours into the trip we start heading into the mountains. Waterfalls often cascade down the cliffs next to the roads. It's scary to see how straight up the sides go and wonder what would happen in heavy rain. We reached San Jose about 4 in the afternoon, but don't spend much time exploring the city.It's not a particularly pretty city and we want to make sure we find the hostel that we are staying at before dark.
The next day we headed north in a van to La Fortuna, home to the active Arenal Volcano and many hot springs. Very beautiful area crowded with backpackers and tourists. We spend 3 days there - enough time to have a few new adventures. We did a jungle canopy top zip line ride with 12 different platforms.
Some of the runs were as long as 1800 feet and
you needed to go very fast so that you didn't end up being stuck in the middle. Needless to say we had 2 different experiences. Moira was just glad
to get down safely while Dick tried out
different styles going down, including being upside down and what's called the “superman” position – arms and legs stretched out in a flying position while being only attached by his tether.
The following day we hiked up a mountain to get a closer look at the volcano. Unfortunately, we did it in torrential rains and walked up through running streams.
When we finally got to the viewing site clouds
covered the top of the volcano and we never saw the red molten lava. We did see super heated boulders tumbling down the mountain side sending up huge steam clouds as they crashed their way through the jungle canopy. Climbing back down the now slippery, muddy trail in the dark illuminated only by our headlamps kept the adventure going until the very last minute. At least once or twice during this hike we both laughed about the fact that we had actually paid to be so wet, muddy and tired!
After 3 days we parted company with Pam and Richard and set off by ourselves to the cloud forest area of Monteverde. We got there by taking a jeep/boat/jeep ride with beautiful scenery the entire time. Since we were now high up in the mountains we were cool for for the first time since we left the US last November. In fact, we wore fleeces one evening! We took an early morning tour through the cloud forest with a naturalist. You end up walking over many suspension bridges high above the canopy. During that tour we saw lots of different wildlife including the two toed sloth, toucans, green viper snake, owls, and beautiful humming birds. The naturalist pointed out different insects we would never have seen by ourselves, including a very realistic looking walking stick and a large millipede that expelled cyanide gas. One of the best parts of the trip was the bus ride down from Monteverde back to San Jose.
The views were spectacular as we traveled down a very narrow dirt road. Coffee plantations covered the mountain slopes and off in the distance we could seethe Pacific Ocean. It was well
worth the $4 each for the 4 hour ride. Back in San Jose we went to another hostel, not realizing it was considered a “party” hostel. We ended up paying extra for a room away from the booming music. The next day we left to head back to Panama. Our bus trip was delayed by 2 hours because they were cleaning up the road due to a landslide. That put us way behind schedule and in danger of having to stay in Changuinola overnight. Since the Lonely Planet describes the only hotel as “having rooms that would inspire a horror movie” we weren't too excited about staying there. A local women on the bus took pity on us and commandeered a private van at the border crossing to get us to the ferry boat in time for the last crossing. We had also befriended a young Jamaican man on the bus who was headed to the Bocas and grabbed him to travel with with us. Arrived at the ferry just as it was getting ready to depart and made it back to the marina in the dark. What would life be without all these adventures?
6/8-6/14 – We love the Bocas! What a difference from the San Blas. Many, many mangrove islands, 8 major islands and 2 big bays, Bahia Almirante and Laguna de Chirigui to cruise and explore. Bocas Town is a funky, laid back backpacking/surfer town with lots of little restaurants and stores. We spend time cruising to some of the anchorages and getting familiar with the area before we head into the Bocas Marina. Spent some time outside Red Frog Marina and had dinner with Pam and Richard on Tisha Baby. They are also planning on heading to Costa Rica at the same time we are and we make travel plans together.
Although Bocas Town and Bocas Marina are on the same island, Isla Colon, the fastest way to get from one to the other is by a 5 minute dinghy ride. You have to be careful because there is so much water taxi traffic as they scoot back and forth to all the nearby islands. We take the dinghy in to clear in with the port captain and then later to renew our cruising permit. Sunday and Monday are spent cleaning up the boat
and packing for our trip to Costa Rica.

6/7 – Christopher's birthday – Happy #35. Early morning finds us with very light winds and fairly small seas. We have decided to push and not explore the island. We have about 40 miles to cover to the entrance to the Bocas. This turns out to be a much longer day then we had expected. Still has 100% cloud cover and hope we don't encounter any major squalls. We soon hit the counter current again and our speed over ground is down to 4.4 knots. We then start to have building wind until we see about 24 knots and of course, it's right on the nose so our speed is now down to about 3 knots off the Peninsula Valiente. We detour off to the Bluefield Lagoon, but as soon as start our turn the wind drops down to 7 knots and in a direction that we can sail. Off we go again and finally reach the Bocas and Bastimentos Island around 7 pm. We call Chris to wish him Happy Birthday, make a pizza, and get to bed early.
6/4 ,5, & 6- We're off to the Bocas. Left quickly around noon after Chris P says its a short
weather window and doesn't see anything else opening up for a while. Our first stop will be the island Escudo de Veraguas about 120 miles away. Motorsailed until 2:30pm and then turned motor off and sail. Log notes from that day and evening indicated lots of lightening all around often highlighting huge thunderhead clouds, but we don't get any rain until around 6 am the next morning. We start encountering an adverse current up to 2 knots and the wind clocks around
so its right on the nose. The engine is turned on and we continue on reaching the island around 11:30am. This is a beautiful island with a reef all along its northern shore. We anchor on the southwest corner, so aren't protected from the wind coming out of the west. Hoping that the weather will improve because we want to explore the cliff caves and the tiny easternmost cay called Booby Cay. Many baby boobies await in the scraggly trees for their mothers to return with fish. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen because the weather continues to deteriorate
during the afternoon and evening. We experience squalls and the anchorage becomes lumpy and the boat hobby horses. In one squall we get torrential rains and since no one is around we ta
ke showers out on the deck. Very rolly night – not much sleeping and numerous anchor checks. The next morning is no better and we decide that even though it is uncomfortable here we don't want to be out in all the squalls, so we stay another day but never get off the boat.

6/2 & 3 – Have started our journey westward. Left Chichime early in the morning with very light winds. Ended up motoring or motor sailing most of the way to Linton. Trailed a fishing behind us the whole way and not even one little nibble. Have no idea what we are doing wrong – fish don't seem to like our lures. Arrived in Linton about 3 pm and spent a quiet afternoon on the boat. Dinner was crab cakes with left over crab from last night. Left the next morning for
Portobelo – it's only about 14 miles away. Not much wind again, so motored the whole way. Anchored near town and that night hadsome bug issues. Very clear skies – could see both the North Star and the Southern Cross.
6/1/2010 – Our last day in Kuna Yala, or at least we hope it is. Haven't been able to hear Chris Parker on the SSB for his weather forecast so we're hoping it will be ok to start heading west. We're also starting to run a little low on some provisions and hadn't planned to get anything more until we hit either Portobelo or the Bocas. We bring the boat first to
Porvenir to get our internal zarpe to head to Bocas. It takes more time to anchor then to get the form. Once we have that we then head to Chichime. This is a protected anchorage that is surrounded by several beautiful islands. It is easy to enter and is the northwest most island to leave from early in the morning. Today is also the official end of the Kuna ban on lobster, crab and octopus. We buy 3 huge reef crabs for $5 and have to use a hammer to break the shell. Takes a long time to pick them all clean, but boy are they delicious.

May-5/18-5/31 - Leaving Carti to head north back to the Lemmon and Holandes Cays. Plan to stop at Dog Island on the way to snorkel. Great stop with beautiful little island and a wreck of a cargo ship just off the shore to explore. The wreck is teeming with all kinds of fish and we spend several hours exploring. Because the holding isn't good here we leave around 3:30 to reach the East Lemmon Cays. Dinner that night
is a potluck on board a catamaran, Deux Pieds. What an international group has collected for dinner – US, Argentina, Italy, Canada and France are all represented.
The next day our battery charger goes up in a flame and puff of smoke. Luckily, we have a
smaller charger for back-up but are now worried that our generator is not working properly. With the onset of rainy season we are having less sun wind and we will need to depend on the generator to charge up the batteries.
Dick is finally down to about 50 bananas and need to eat them soon as birds have discovered them. The even come under the dodger to peck at them. Moira has been trying to make bread in the pressure cooker and has worked out a recipe that is very tasty.
Have gone into the island in the West Lemmons where internet is available to start planning our trip to the northwest area of Panama, the Bocas del Torro, and then on to Costa Rica. At the island we run into Mike and Linda from Casa Del Mar. We haven't seen them since Trinidad in 2006.
By Saturday we are heading to the Holandes and anchor again in the Swimming Pool. Our bottom paint is failing and we are losing speed because of all the growth on it. We spend hours cleaning the bottom over two days. Trying to catch some water from our rain catcher but not very good- have only captured a gallon or so. During the sunny parts of the day we spend time snorkeling. Go back to the Grotto area and see some really big rays. Dick goes with Les and Sarah to the edge of the reef and sees some large trigger fish.
Since we are in the last week or so of our time in Kuna Yala we decide to go back and visit some of our favorite islands. We head to the beautiful Coco Banderas and anchor in about 20 feet far enough off the island to get a little breeze. Some nights its hard to sleep because it is so hot and no way to cool off. Had a potluck on one of the islands and meet the captain of a huge boat. He went to Colby College – small world. Laundry is done using fresh water that comes up through a hole left by a palm tree. Not the greatest looking water, but it is fresh. We say our goodbyes to Audrey Paige and Sojourn since they are heading east and we're going west. Stop in the Western Holandes to do some snorkeling in some of the clearest waters yet – amazing reefs, coral, and fish. We search for some seahorses that have been spotted, but we're not able to find them. Had a wonderful time on Liward with Steve and LiLi and they share lots of info about the Bocas with us. We're excited about heading to a new place, but just wish we could pick up some weather forecast before we leave.
5/13-5/17- We've decided to cruise to some of the islands in the Gulf of San Blas. Not as many cruisers go there and the communities on these islands are more traditional and follow their beliefs more strictly. There are also some rivers that we hope to be able to go up and explore. Our plans are to head southwest to a group of islands called Islas Robeson or Tadarguarnet in Kuna. The name Robeson comes from US Secretary of the Navy in the late nineteenth century while the Kuna name means “where the sun sets.” Our course takes us between many very hut crowded islands and reefs. Dick is on the bow reading the water while Moira is at the helm. We're able to sail almost all the way there. We anchor near Isla Gerti, a small island known for its quality dugouts. Once anchored we are approached by a Kuna named Bredio. He collects our $7 anchoring fee and also lets us know that the Sailas (chiefs) of all the neighboring islands have decided to close the rivers to any cruisers. We're not able to totally understand the reason why, but will follow the ruling although we are disappointed. Les and Sarah from Wilde Matilda join us in the anchorage. In the town we meet Alberto, one of the elders who speaks excellent English because he had worked in the Canal Zone for many years. He is also involved with the building of a community ulu. It is about 30 feet long and 3 feet wide and made from one tree. They need some steel and rope to finish it and Les states that he has it on his boat. We asks that in return we get permission from the congresso to go up one of the rivers. The next day Albert lets us know that we have received permission to go up one of the smaller rivers. We paddle up the river passing many Kunas headed to their tinkas(farms) and to do laundry and collect water. Unlike many of the other islands where the Panamanian government has piped in water from the mountains, the people of Gerti must make numerous trips up the river to collect the water. We watch many Kunas returning back from the river laden with jugs filled with
water causing their dugouts to be only inches above the seas.
Alberto comes out to visit both of our boats and we get to know more about village life and his family. On Sunday we took part in the official census for Panama and now have a sticker that we need to display if we move to another anchorage. Since Bredio is no longer able to run river trips he has started a restuarant. We decided to help him out and go have dinner there. We ordered chicken, but have no idea what we were served - it sure wasn't chicken! But at $3 a person we sure weren't
going to complain.
We also now have a stalk of over 100 bananas that Dick somehow ended up buying. He'll have to eat them up since Moira isn't a lover of bananas
.On Monday 5/17 we left Gerti for Carti, islands that are just off the mainland in the southern Gulf of San Blas. These are densely populated islands and have both a small airport and a dirt road leading out of Kuna Yula. Went to the island with several other cruisers to have a look around. The island was in last day of a festival celebrating Puberty Rites. It is for all girls on the island that had reached the age of 15. Have never seen so many intoxicated people. They had been smoking and drinking Chicha, a fermented cane juice drink. Little Kuna men were falling over and older Kuna women with arms linked together were weaving back and forth down the narrow pathways. Never laughed so hard! We were able to have a good dinner and pick up a few food staples at a store.
5/1-5/12 – We're in the West Lemmons for a while, but are worried about the anchorage. It's know to have a really poor holding and you are either in very shallow or very deep water. Equinox is anchored on the side of a hill where we started in 28 feet and the stern is now in only a little over 8. Hope it holds! Lots of boats here that we know. Really happy to see Lalize with Adrian and Leslie on board because they will be heading to Jamaica and the US soon and we're getting our visiting time in. The No Mas Band was scheduled to play on Saturday
5/2, but a thunderstorm blew in and
everyone scurried to their dinghies and headed back to the boats. Sunday was spent playing Mexican Train Dominoes and dinner and a movie on Lalize. Life is hard. We dove on the anchor and found that we have gotten wrapped around a coral head. Too hard to move
it right now so have let out some more scope.
On Tuesday we experienced our first, and hopefully only, chaja shana (not sure at all how to spell it). It is a wind that comes on suddenly from the south and is very intense. The air temperature dropped about 20 degrees and we quickly had 35 knots of wind with gusts over 40 and lots of wave chop. It clocked around from all different angles. 5 boats dragged and 2 boats ended up going aground. Dick went to help try to get one of the boats off a reef before it could get swamped with waves and Moira stayed on Equinox with the engine running.
It lasts much longer than a typical squall and things didn't start to calm down until almost 2 hours.
By the afternoon we were swimming at the beach of one of the islands. With the increase in rain storms we are trying to capture water with a canvas rain catcher. Haven't had much luck yet, only getting a couple of gallons at a time. Will continue to work on it.
On Friday, May 6 finally got word from Arturo that the windlass part is back. He will fly it into Porvenir and we will find a way to get it. Dick goes with folks from Twilight who have a fast dinghy to make the trip between the islands on Saturday. It is a bumpy, lumpy wet ride but very successful as the part was there and in one piece. We now have a working windlass again.
Over the next couple of days we work on a variety of boat projects that have been on our ever growing list. The list always seem to grow and never decrease, though there is some satisfaction crossing off a couple of items.

April -
We left Shelter Bay on April 3 to head back to the San Blas. Our first trip out saw us only going about 6 miles to Isla Naranjio Abajo, a totally deserted island which is very secluded and doesn't give you the sense that Colon is only a few miles away. Reached the San Blas on the 5th and went through all the clearing in processes.
Although we are back in Paradise it's interesting how many jobs need to be done to keep the boat running, like changing oil and fuel filters, going up the mast to fix the radar reflectors, and cleaning the bilge. and boat bottom. On the other hand, we leave time to go snorkeling, walking and visiting with the many boats that are here.
Have noticed an increase in the amount of showers/squalls. We are getting to the end of the dry season and wonder what the rainy season will be like. Have had fish for dinner a few nights. Not that we caught anything, but the Kunas sell the fish so inexpensively. We bought 2 small tunas for $2. The Kunas have a ban on catching/selling lobsters, crabs, and octopus right now but it looks like many folks ignore it. We support the ban so that the species can survive, but have also passed up some mouth watering lobsters and spiny crab.
One of the wonderful parts of cruising is all the friends that you make and get to see in various ports. We have been spending time with both Mark and Debbie from Sea Cycle and Dennis and Allayne from Audrey Paige, but know that the time will be coming soon when we will need to say goodbye and aren't sure when we might see them again.
Even with a place as remote as the San Blas there are lots of places for cruisers to meet and socialize. Every Monday night there is a cocktail get together in the Eastern Holandes Cays on a islands dubbed BBQ island. The anchorage is called the Swimming Pool because it is shallow water (about 12 feet) over pure white sand. Snorkeling is great here with at least 10 different sites to try. Went to one area out by the northern most section of the reef with Brian from Darramy and went through caves and along many cliffs – very exciting. Another spot that has become a big area for socializing is the West Lemmon Cays' Elephant Island. A band made up of cruisers from various boats, the No Mas Band, has started playing on some Saturday nights after a potluck dinner. Pam, from Songbird, has an unbelievable bluesy/jazz voice and we could listen to her all night long.
Dick's birthday was on the 21st and we were anchored off a small island named Nabadup. Friends from 2 boats came over for drinks and cake. The best present was that the part for our windlass was due to arrive by plane tomorrow on a small island about 10 miles away. No more having to pull up the anchor and chain by hand, although Dick felt like he has been bulking up his arms! Motorsailed to Nargana the next day and picked up the part at the Air Panama office. Huge disappointment when we found that a mounting flange had broken off. Contacted Arturo from Marine Wharehouse and he said that it would have to be sent back to him and would let us know in 2 days what will happen. Went to O'Neil's to pick up some of his wonderful rolls. Very different from the other Kuna bread – we love them and have usually eaten several even before we even get back to the boat. Arturo has called and said it will take another 3 weeks before we will have the part. Another change to our cruising plans – it's a good thing that they are only made in jello. While we stayed in Nargana we took a dinghy ride up one of the rivers. You go past many pathways leading to tinkas (farms) and often to mango trees hanging over the river. Eventually the water becomes fresh and there are spots for washing clothes and then a little further up spots where the Kuna fill tanks with fresh, although slightly brownish, water. Over the next couple of days we get some other chores done and travel to two nearby island. By the 30th, after cleaning our bottom for several hours, we take off for a very slow, leisurely sail to the West Lemmon with our reacher sail up. Dolphins come and spend some time playing on both sides of the boat. We get a call from another boat saying how great Equinox looks with the colorful sail up. What a life!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Back tracking a bit Feb. 9, 2010 – We anchored in Nabadup along with Audrey Paige, Infinity, and Bruadaire and all needed to do laundry. Frank on Infinity had located a small river on the mainland and we all took our dinghy’s and laundry and headed for the stream. We took the dinghy’s up as far as we could go into the fresh water and did our laundry in pails and rinsed in the stream. No crocodiles but one snake I could not identify.

Feb 11, 2010 – We left Nabadup and headed to Azucar to get water. When we arrived Blue Sky was on the dock and they were kind enough to allow us to tie up to them and run a hose across their deck to our water tank. The charge for water was $5 to use the dock and $10 for water. This was a monthly fee but we would last a month on the water. We took on about 50 gallons while Blue Sky took on 500 all for the same $15.

Feb. 15, 2010 Monday – Following the morning SSB net we were visited by Venancio, one of the master mola makers and he showed us many of the intricate molas that he had made. He was very nervous as we later found out that it appears that you are only allowed to sell your wares in your own island group and he was outside his. We bought the toucan mola that he is holding.

We then went on a dinghy ride out to a wreck nearby and then visited and snorkeled around a small island that we had all to ourselves. The snorkeling was great, with all kinds of corals and fish.

The San Blas Islands are great as they are all so close together. Sailing is wonderful here – great trade winds and seas are smaller because we are behind the reefs. We sailed to Miriadup in the middle Holandes Cays and the next day to the West Lemmons to meet up with friends before heading to Colon. The West Lemmons are known for poor anchoring and it took a while to get the anchor set. We met Audrey Paige and Sea Cycle there and had dinner on Sea Cycle.

Feb 18, 2010 we all went to Porvenir to clear into Panama after arriving in the San Blas on January 25. In addition to all the official paperwork for the country, we also had to fill out paperwork for Kuna Yala. The next day we got an internal Zarpe to go to Colon and later sailed up to the East Lemmns to spend the night. That night we ate aboard Audrey Paige and had Wahoo that Dennis had caught. It was excellent . The next day we went snorkeling with Audrey Paige and prepared the boat for the trip.

On the 21st we got up early and headed out for Linton at 6:40 AM. We were Able to sail about half the way before the wind died. In Linton we tried to find a spot to anchor and found most of the places were 40 feet deep. Right near town we found a 25 foot spot that was rolley but OK as the windlass was still not working. Had dinner at Hanz’s restaurant where the beers were $0.75.

The next day we were off to Portobello. This would be the largest town on the Panamaian mainland that we had seen so far. The bay was discovered by Christopher Columbus during his 4th trip to the New World in 1502 .Portabello became the most important port by the Spanish for shipping gold out of Central America. It was well fortified because of numerous attacks by British pirates Henry Morgan and Sir Francis Drake. The remains of several of the forts are still there and were fun to explore. The town is also noted for the wooden statue of the Black Christ, which resides in the cathedral in the town plaza.

One of the most interesting sights are the local “chicken buses.” These are old school buses that have been painted in incrediblly bright colors with amazing designs. Each bus is unique and is often named after a particular song, theme, or biblical saying. The music that is played is loud and constant. You pay $1 to ride the bus into Colon with people crammed in and and you can hear the gears being shifted even over the music. What an adventure!

We stayed in Portobello for 2 days before heading to Shelter Bay Marina in Colon .As we got closer to Colon the amount of huge freighter and tanker traffic increased. To reach the marina you need to go inside the breakwater of Colon that leads to the Panama Canal. Our AIS unit was going crazy with all the traffic and at one point was showing close to 50 ships, most of them anchored and awaiting passage through the canal.It was so exciting to realize that we had reached this area and the pathway to the Pacific Ocean. Once in Shelter Bay we worked on installing the solar panel, curtains and the shade cover for the boat.

On March 2we left for the states to see our new grandchild. Gretchen was past her due date and once in Atlanta we found that Gretchen was in labor. At the same time the airlines canceled our connecting flight, but we were able to get on a 9:30 PM flight to Boston. With a little more checking we made the 7:30 PM flight instead. Gretchen’s sister, Jen, was kind enough to pick us up at the bus depot and bring us to Chris and Gretchen’s street where we saw our granddaughter, Ramona, at Gretchen’s folk’s house and then went to Chris & Gretchen’s house to await news of the birth. Our beautiful new granddaughter, Lucinda, was born 4 hours later. The timing was perfect.

We arrived back in Shelter Bay where we finished the preparation and provisioning to head back to the San Blas. On April 3 we headed back The wind was on the nose and we headed to Isla Naranga where we anchored for the evening. It was a very pleasant anchorage. The next day we motored all the way to Isla Grande but then chose to anchor in Linton instead. On the fifth we motor sailed and then sailed to Porvenior. The next day we cleared into the Kuna Yala and headed for the East Lemon Cays. We then went to Salardup and then Nabadup where we met up with Dennis on Audrey Paige. We filled our propane cylinder using Bruidair’s adapter and Dennis’s TropaGas. It took a while but it worked.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Hi All

Believe it or not we are going to add some more to our blog, but not today. Stay tuned.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

We just wanted to wish you all a happy Valentine's Day. We miss you all and can't wait to see you next month. Today we moved to the Coco Bandero Cays. They are just a bunch of small islands surrounded by reefs. they are truly beautiful as they all have white sandy beaches and coconut palms and the water is a million shades of blue. They are uninhabited and the reefs block all the swells. It is exceedingly hot as the wind just stopped and we are hoping that it picks up soon so the No-See-Ums don't come to the boat. Moira is recovering from over 100 bites and does not want to go through that again.

Superbowl in Kuna Yala

We are not real football fans, especially with the Pat's out of the picture, but believe it or not we are going to attend a super bowl party on the island of Nargna. We had stopped here to get some bread and gasoline and heard of the super bowl party set up by the folks on Southern Bell a catamaran along with some others. Since we were already here we decided to attend. We are rooting for the Saints. This island is more modern but still lacks internet. They do have cell phone service and we tried to buy a cell phone but they were all out until next week when we will be elsewhere. It is funny to go by grass roofed huts and see inside that they are watching TV. Most of the small stores also have tv's running. We ordered bread yesterday and got 2 dozen rolls this morning for $3.60. They were really good.
Hope you are all doing well. It sounds as if the east coast will be getting lots of snow tomorrow. Stay warm.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mamaraga, Apaidup, and Ogumnaga

Our position today is 9 14.45N 078 15.2W - in a place called Snug Harbor. It is formed by the islands Yauala, Mamaraga, Apaidup and Ogumnaga. Try to say those 3 times fast!! The name for the harbor comes from the English schooners that used to stop for coconuts in the days of the sailing merchant ships. Getting here was tricky as we worked our way through many reefs and around shoals and small islands. It's so much fun when both the chart plotter and paper charts have the area marked as "unsurveyed." We have a Panama Cruisisng Guide which does have waypoints that have been accurate and helpful. We may stay here for a day or so because winds and seas are forecasted to pick up - when they mention 12 foot seas - they are usually off by 3-4 feet and it's hard for Equinox to make any headway when the seas reach those heights.

Yesterday we were still at Mamitupu and went for a long walk with Pablo Perez. He has started a very small hotel on the island is looking forward to having some eco-tourists staying there. The hotel has running water and occasionally electricity. He had lived in England for a while and married and English women. Kuna Yala is based on a matrilineal society and have also created laws that do not allow Kunas to marry non-Kunas. Unfortuanly, Pablo's wife was not accepted on the island so she lives in England and visits occasionally.

We took our dinghy across the bay and met with 3 other couples from boats anchored with us. Our first stop was at a fresh water lake that has crocodiles. Didn't see any - Moira not really disappointed because we were on foot near the edge of the lake and she has watched enough National Geographic shows to know that they can move faster than she can! We then walked through areas on the mainland that each Kuna family cultivates. Calabash, bananas, cocoa, breadfruit, pineapples and coconuts were just some of the produce that we saw. Everything belongs to the Kunas and you can't take anything without permission.