Getting to St Lucia – Marigot Bay Marina and buying the catamaran.
21 April 2007 Travelling to St Lucia, Caribbean
Well we arrived in one piece in a fairly good condition considering one half day followed by three night and one more half day flights half way around the world.
The first night was not too bad we had a nice meal before taking off, we dozed a few times. When we arrived in Tokyo we had a little confusion in the directions and ended up going through security for our next flight so we could not leave the airport. However, we were quite pleased as at the airport they have day rooms with showers and you can book them per the hour so we took one for a couple of hours and had a nice shower followed by a sleep.
One problem I had because of not being able to take a razor on hand luggage I could not shave, this was resolved when I purchased a small AA battery driven razor, so each morning I could have a tidy up.
The flight to LA was long, again we had short cat-naps, when we arrived we had to pick up our baggage and take it out through customs and security, that was not fun but no major problems just long waiting lines and crowds.
We put in our main baggage and set off in a taxi for Santa Monica, went straight to the waterfront we had a look around then went to the Santa Monica Pier and had lunch at a Mexican Restaurant looking over the Pacific Ocean. I pointed out to Nancy that’s the way home a lot of sea.
We found that the places had an odour and we put it down to the Mexican food this was everywhere even in the air terminal and the plane that we flew out on. I found it a little unpleasant. When we went back to the airport we paid for the Delta Air company club room, called the Crown Room, similar to the Qantas Club.
We were able to get showers and sit around in comfort and have coffee, tea, wine, beer or whatever, we had to hang around until the midnight flight to Atlanta. It was this flight that knocked the body around, we left at midnight for a four and a half hour flight and arrived at daylight at 7 am in the morning. We were told that we had to pick our luggage up again, which ended up not being true, but caused some worry because our baggage did not get sighted by us. However, the people at baggage were very helpful and said they would keep an eye out for it and make sure the baggage would be on the plane for us. Fortunately it got off with us at St Lucia. On arrival naturally we had to go through customs, was this fun? No! Three planes arriving at the same time. Have you ever noticed that most customs people have forgotten how to smile? We went through the customs with ease, I find if you do not try to make small talk you get through a lot faster. Whilst waiting in line I noticed many others trying to strike up a friendly conversation, their papers were checked and checked again or they were sent off to complete part of the form. When we went up we just said hello, the young lady asked if we new the boats name we would be staying on and we told her the name and she filled that out on the form for us gave us our papers and we were complete in less that a few minutes.
St Lucia is very beautiful but is very expensive in places away from the main centres, we tourists are targets for an easy dollar. Being on a boat makes us a little more of a target.
The taxi ride was about 45 minutes from the airport, the roads are not the best, and many of the people are poor. The cost of the taxi was US$65. You learn to ask the charge before getting in a taxi, but when arriving at an airport there is no time to haggle.
We arrived at the marina and were then passed on to another local who looked after our bags whilst we located the marina manager. We located him and the boat and loaded our stuff aboard.
The boat is great, it has a few spot of wear and tear which is to be expected, but we are very happy with our purchase. I had our surveyor recheck all the work and he found that he was not happy with a few small items and he got the Mooring to fix those. We have actually ended up with more items fixed that we did not expect. We now have to sort out the final payment and the paperwork.
Time in St Lucia, Caribbean
25 April 2007 Life in St Lucia
We missed the cricket – but we had fun
The day after we arrived we were bushed, we slept all afternoon. Last night we introduced ourselves to the local bar and restaurant, Chateau Mygo, owned by the beautiful Doreen. Happy Hour is all day and all night, you order one beer you pay for one beer, and you receive two beers. So you have to be sure what you ask for. (1=2, 2=4, 4=8, and so on). We met a bunch of Aussies at the bar, over for the cricket. Quite a lot have come over for the cricket in groups and have either self skippered a charter boat or chartered a skippered boat, travelling from one island to another where the cricket is being held. There are also a lot of Aussies that work in other islands or America that we have met.
Anyway back to cricket day semi final that we slept through. When I awoke I tried to find a local radio station that had the cricket on. I am not sure that I was listening to the right match. I did not hear what the SA score was but Aussies were something like 7 for 93, this did not sound good being late afternoon. Next thing I went up to the marina for a shower came back and there was no cricket on the radio. I thought we had lost. The Moorings manager came by and notified us that the two large South African Cruisers a few boats away from us would be having a big party tonight and he hoped it would not disturb us too much.
Next thing the South Africans returned by ferry boat and they were not saying much, they did not appear to be too happy. I was not game to ask them the score. The next thing these Aussies walking past laughing and I asked them the score. One fellow named James looked at me and said you are kidding aren’t you. I said no, and explained the situation. With that he and Sally came on board and introduced themselves, Sally was interested in having a look at our new boat, her and her husband have a boat and intend to do a similar trip in a couple of years time. Next thing I looked at this James in a not so dark area, when I first saw him he looked a little familiar. I asked what his last name was and he answered Matheson. It was James from Australian Idol. After a bit more chit chat Sally said that she and the others was crew of Java, a large motor cruiser and they were going to party and would we like to join them. James had flown in for the cricket met up with this bunch and they had invited him to stay aboard as he was flying out very early the next morning. (I don’t think he made his first plane).
Sally had organised early that morning an Anzac Day dawn service on board the Java, a thing that we missed, other Aussies that were at the party worked for a TV Channel in America had filmed the ceremony and played it back for us. It was quite touching. This was the first Anzac Day that I have missed so it filled a special spot, they have promised to send me a copy of the ceremony. We had a very good night and suffered in the morning with Piton Flu as we did the previous morning.
(Nancy and I in our cockpit)
(One of the Aussie groups following the cricket final on TV after we won the final)
Piton Flu is a common disease here and it is specifically caught from Chateau Mygo, order one Piton Beer and get two, order two Piton Beers you get four. You can see how the Piton Flu spreads. (Hangovers).
The Java was here waiting for guests to arrive before sailing south to other islands. The crew of Java is Captain Phil the skipper, three married couples and a single man Toby, all but the Skipper being Aussies. They sail on the 29 April.
We also met an English couple at the party Jeff and Jan; they have a yacht here at the marina and are building a house here. They have been very helpful with information Jeff was a pilot in the British Air Force for many years. Jeff would like to get the house finished then do another long sailing trip. Jeff and Jan took us into Rodney Bay by way of their car to do shopping in a cheaper environment and introduce me to the Chandler for when I go and purchase items.
We were originally going with Jeff to Rodney Bay to buy a dinghy and an outboard motor, however, there is one local identity by the name of Kieran, a big young man with an eye and brain for business. Jeff mentioned to him that we were looking to buy a dinghy and Kieran came calling. He sold us his second hand hard bottom inflatable dinghy and 15 HP Yamaha outboard (4 months old), for a third of the price it would have cost us at the chandlers. So now we have our dinghy and motor. Kieran said we were doing him a favour by taking the dinghy, he had two and because of this all his mates used his second one and that was costing him money. He comes by a few times a day to say hello and find out if we need anything else.
Kieran works the large cruisers, if they want anything Kieran gets it for them at the best possible price and the best quality, before this marina was built Kieran was Mr. Marina.
Sea trials complete
04 May 2007
Most things have gone quite well other than a couple of items, one the local manager of The Moorings is a little cranky because it cost his budget a bit of money repairing things the surveyor picked up and he has withheld some items like the BBQ and life raft but the major problem that we are having at the moment is the signing off on the necessary paperwork. We have to have our signatures witnessed for an after davit, this has to be a banker or solicitor or similar position. We went to the bank and inquired, the answer was, “do you have an account with us”? No. “Then no we cannot sign it”.
We have tried Customs the Police no they cannot sign it, we have now got onto a person that will send us by taxi to another person in Castries to get the signature tomorrow, which no doubt will have to be paid for. But if you work it all out this is how they ensure that a few people get paid rather than just the one.
Finally talking to Doreen about our problem, she smiled and said no problem, her cousin is a Barrister and she called him we are to have breakfast with him in the morning and he is bringing it. When he arrived next morning, he signed and stamped all documents and when I asked him how much we owed him he replied it was very expensive. He said we have to tell everyone that Marigot Bay was a very nice place and the people are very nice and helpful.
Sea Trials Completed
After a long wait we finally took delivery of our new sails and main sail stacker bag on Thursday, the boys at The Moorings fitted them for us so then we decided it was about time to leave the marina and go out and anchor but first we took her out to sea under engines to find out how the boat rides in a swell and also get our confidence up with a new boat that we had not sailed before.
When we returned to anchor we had to have a couple of goes at it to make sure that we were in the right spot. It can be difficult here because you go from 11 m of water to a sudden depth of 30 to 50 m. Nancy was a little nervous with the first anchoring point so I asked her if she wanted to relocate, so we moved and picked up one of Doreen’s moorings for the evening and Nancy felt a bit safer for that night. The problem is the anchor chain at this stage is not marked; we will get this done in Rodney Bay.
Friday we put the boat and ourselves through sea trials, working out where everything is, we motored out about 0830 hrs and once out we hoisted the main with a little difficulty to the second reef position. Here you can be near land and the winds are calm because we are on the lee side of the island. When you get away from land you have 20 plus knot winds. We were only covering about 3-4 knots under a 19 knot wind, so we set the main at the first reef position and rolled out the Genoa that lifted us to 7.5 to 8.5 knots through the water. We went out to sea a distance to get the better wind but the mountainous lands still interfered greatly with wind speed and direction so that kept us working at the helm a bit, once we had constant winds it was set the auto helm, sit back with a coffee and enjoy.
We sailed up off Rodney Bay then came about and sailed south down to Soufriere where the Piton Mountains are located. The wind died to nothing so we then dropped the sails started the engines came about again and headed back to Marigot Bay set the auto helm again and had a late lunch. When we got back to Marigot Bay we picked up the same mooring for the night tidied up the boat and decided to have a shower and then go and do a little shopping. Just as I was getting the dinghy ready whilst Nancy had her shower I noticed something around the starboard prop. It turned out to be a small section of fishing net, so before having a shower I had to go for a swim with knife an cut it away. Not sure where we picked it up, whilst we were under sail we did notice some bottles tied together like fishing net and we turned away from them we did not appear to drag them when we passed by so I don’t think it was from there.
Today is Saturday as I start this update ready for the blog, we have decided to stay here and sail for Rodney Bay on Monday when the chandlers will be open and then we have to spend some money on safety gear etc.
On to Rodney Bay
06 May 2007
Today is Sunday 6 May 2007, we have completed all we need to out of Marigot Bay and we set sail for Rodney Bay. We took a couple of photos on the way which will be posted in the album. The Oriana was in at Castries as we passed, this place can have up to three to four passenger liners in at any one time. The day before we were talking to a couple that had just arrived on the QE2. They only stay for a day or just a few hours, people get off and go on tours get back on and go to the next island.
When we got to Rodney Bay we went inside to the marina but anchored off in the lagoon, anchoring is free, so we are not going alongside until we need to. I hope to organise some safety gear to be fitted such as the HF Radio, life raft, new flare kit and may look at some solar panels at the moment we have to run the engines daily to maintain our 12 volt supply.
The other item I hope I can get settled is our Australian registration, Peter from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in Canberra has been very good with us and has helped us considerably.
So after we anchored we went and checked out the local scene and what is available to us, then we went for a quiet drink at Scuttlebucks, the first local we met wanted to give us a quote to completely clean and polish the boat but that was the only one that came to us. At Marigot Bay you have the boat boys, they try to sell you anything from fruit to trinkets, and they even have one fellow that will collect your garbage. Every time you move the boat out to sea and come back in you are swamped with them. I suppose they need to make a living.
(This lady sells courtesy flags for all different islands through the Caribbean and Pacific)
(Want your laundry done call Sparkle on Ch 16)
We will call back in to Marigot Bay on the way out to say farewell to the friends that we made there, meet for the usual sundowners and take off early the next morning. We will clear customs and emigration from there also.
Wednesday 9 May 2007
Still island time everything works quite slowly. I have had to organise the correct markings on the boat for Australian Registration, fortunately a young lady from a design company “Scribbles” that had been mentioned in one of our pilot guides helped organise it for us through a company in Castries. After the boat was marked I had to sign the declaration to confirm it was marked to the standard and FEDEX the paperwork to Australia and now I have to wait for the Australian registration to be sent back before we can Leave St Lucia. I am hoping that it arrives faster than what they say or we will have to extend our visa. We also have the hurricane season breathing down our necks so as soon as we have everything we are on the move.
The plan will be to leave Rodney Bay return to Marigot Bay for one night and clear customs there, then leave early next morning for Grenada; this will take about 18 to 24 hours depending on the winds. This will also be our first over night voyage which in the near future will become the norm for some months with breaks in between as we stop over at the different islands.
Yesterday we had Lewis and Magdalene cleaning the boat from bilges to decks, they are coming back today to clean the outside of the hull, we are also having the main halyard replaced today, the old one may be alright but we have decided to have it replaced. Philip another worker around the marina is going up the mast to do that.
I have not been able to get the HF radio as yet, there is one in Grenada so we may be able to get that one on the way through failing that we will definitely pick one up in the Panama. We are trying to get some solar panels fitted to give us a better sea power supply so we do not have to run the engines so often.
Whilst here at Rodney Bay it has been party time with the weekend being the Jazz festival, boats are coming in from other islands mostly Martinique, very colourful and pretty sights.
(It started to rain and boats were coming in for the festival, a catamaran tried to squeeze in by an American boat, I ran to fend it off before it hit, there was quite a few words flying)
(Boats came from everywhere and tried to find a space on the docks)
(This is the Caribbean fun people everywhere)
We also met a couple of Aussies one couple was getting ready to sail and the other, Leigh on Mi Querida a ketch that he built himself over a 12 year period and has been sailing the world for the past 9 years, he anchored outside the harbour. We also made other friends one nice Canadian couple that was very helpful, talking to them about not being able to get the HF radio and a few other things my mindset was it would be cheaper to buy in the Panama. They informed me it is better to buy one where I can Panama does not have everything.
Whilst here we also stored the boat ready to leave St Lucia and enjoyed the festivities.
Finally we have our boat Australian registration and have all safety gear on board including a new life raft and BBQ so we will head to Marigot Bay to say our goodbyes and clear out.
23 May 2007
We are back at Marigot Bay to say our goodbyes and have our final sundowners with the friends that we have met here. It is hard to say goodbye to these people they have become family since we have been here. Doreen the owner of the Bar and Restaurant “Chateau Mygo” took us on a tour around the island and had us in her home for dinner and she has helped us in many ways. So it was time to say farewell then go to the officials to clear out and sail at first light in the morning.
(Doreen in the blue sleeveless dress avoided us she did not want to say goodbye, we had become great friends)
St Lucia and onto Grenada
24 May 2007
It is first light 0600 hours and we slip the mooring and head away from Marigot Bay and head south towards Grenada. The morning is calm and sailing is steady as we approach the area of The Pitons we sight our first large ship encounter, a large passenger liner is heading towards us off the starboard bow we pass each other within a couple of hundred metres. As we continue south and leave the protection of St Lucia the wind strengthens and the seas pick up, before dark we reef the sails, this will be what we do every day as a safe measure. By doing this if we do get hit by storms or strong winds during the dark of the night we will be better off.
(Out from Marigot Bay)
(First encounter with sea traffic)
(In the lee of St Vincents Island)
(Seas are not bad)
(The first sunset at sea and many to come on this voyage)
(Nancy enjoying sunset)
Tonight will be a first full night sail not that we have any concern. We sailed well during the night and we find ourselves approaching the coast of Grenada at 0400 hours in the morning so we decided to drop the mainsail and just sail with little headsail and wait for daylight before we enter.
25 May 2007
We entered St Georges, Grenada at first light and found the harbour and dropped anchor. This is our first country where we have to clear in as a sailing vessel, so following the guide book I as skipper is to go ashore with all our paperwork, passports and ships papers. Crew have to stay on board until the skipper has cleared in.
I went ashore and found the official’s office which is located next the Yacht Club, there is a queue so I hop on the end. The bloke in front of me gets a little sick of waiting and goes to the club’s nearby bar and buys a drink. Next thing he is jumped on by an official that had been standing close by, obviously observing us without our knowledge, the bloke was told to get back on the end of the line.When it comes to my turn it becomes hard one I am partly deaf and two we have a language barrier, I do not speak Spanish and although they speak English it is hard for me to understand. Never the less we get through albeit the officials being a little grumpy with me.I get back to Alana Rose and Nancy has had a bad time, whilst I am ashore we dragged anchor although we did a 5:1 ratio depth/length of chain, apparently the harbour is very silted and you need to put a lot more chain out. Nancy was alerted to the dragging by a fellow sailor and he helped Nancy whilst I was ashore.Now we are secured we went ashore to look around and have breakfast. St Georges was hit by a hurricane two years prior and there are still a number of damaged buildings around, The buildings identify with a lot of history on the hill is a castle and is now used by the police.We went to a waterfront cafe and had some local food which was quite nice. When I went inside to pay for it I notice on the wall was a mural of the whole world identifying where we were, then I looked at how far it is to Australia and thought shit what have I done. I won’t tell Nancy this for some time yet.
(Streets of St Georges)
(These guys are water taxis)
(The castle on the hill, the cream coloured building is the police station)
(The tunnel that goes through the hill that the castle is on the water front is the other side of this tunnel and the stairs go to the castle.
We went to the chandlers and purchased the HF Radio, antenna and associated items, they also had a Honda 2 Kva generator on special for US$ 1,200 So I also bought that rather than run engines when we need to top up batteries. In addition we purchased a new battery charger that will accept multi voltage. We have had a good visit but it was time to go.
Grenada to Bonaire
29 May 2007
On the way again
We left Grenada at 1600 hours 29 May 2007, the idea was to leave late in the day to start with the night sift periods after a days rest. We have a 72 hour trip ahead of us and it was going to be a test in settling down to watch keeping, we did 4 hours each about ( 4 on 4 off).
It was not long before we found out that we were in for uncomfortable weather, with all the throwing about dinner was served out of a can heated on the stove. One good thing with Nancy being a chef she makes canned food taste good with a few additives, so dinner was served in a bowl.
We had a bit of company with sea traffic; there was another yacht on our port bow some four miles away travelling in the same direction as us.
The swell appears to come up with the moon, it was nearly a full moon and the night was very bright, so to make things more comfortable we threw plan A overboard and started a new plan, instead of passing Los Testigos and Margarita on their southern side we would pass them on the northern side and then head for Bonaire. We were still being tossed about this made it too uncomfortable to sleep below in the cabins, Nancy opted for the saloon lounge as I took the eight to midnight shift. We did not get much sleep a nap here and there, we can understand why yachts only travel east to west in the Caribbean Sea, the wind and the swell travels that direction, you would really be beating against it if you tried to go the other way. We were starting to curse the Caribbean Sea.
As morning broke and the moon disappeared and the sun raised the wind and the swell went away, we had now changed course for Bonaire on a heading of 270 magnetic we waved hello and goodbye to Los Testigos as we passed it. The next excitement was dodging fishermen in their boats and some flags that either meant they had traps, nets, or lines there. This added to the distance travelled. I started to play with the sails trying to get the best out of the wind and speed out of the boat. With the calmer conditions we were able to grab some sleep, I made up a skippers day bed in the cockpit for when I was off shift, this made it easier for when Nancy needed advice or help rather than tracking up and down to the cabin. It took nearly all day and part of the night to get passed Margarita it is quite a large island. We did plan to call in there as we were told it is very beautiful, however, after reading the requirements for clearing in and out of customs and immigration and the fact that we needed to keep moving we decided against it, plus the fact we were now on the northern side not the southern side.
Up came the moon and down went the sun and yes up came the swell and the wind, and was foolish enough to believe that the first reef in the main would be the way to go considering the lack of wind and seas in the day. (Wrong again John). We had the main at first reef and the wind was right behind us and pushing us into some scary speeds, the wind was howling and we were being thrown about a fair bit. I called Nancy up from the cabin that was just getting her head down for a few hours sleep. With safety harness clipped on out I went to reduce the main to the second reefing point, this was not an easy task, Nancy headed the boat into the wind to allow me to pull the sail down, this was not that easy either, the sail was hanging out the bag down the aft end so I climbed on the bimini, (the canvas cover over the cockpit), this has three bars across that supports the bimini cover, balancing across the two bars tucking the sail in the bag the boat lurched my foot slipped off one of the bars and my foot went through the stitching of the bimini right above Nancy’s head. I said a few harsh words like fire truck.
I got back into the cockpit and Nancy went back to bed, we were still scooting along at about 9 knots plus at times. I was a little concerned with the wind that changed regularly a few degrees and the boat was doing the same surfing down the waves or swell. I put a preventer on the boom so that it would not go into an unplanned gybe, which is frightening when that happens and is also very hard on the equipment. I was soon pleased that it did not. Long after the wind did a sudden shift by about 15 degrees sending the wind on the other side of the main and kicking the boat off course, this totally confused George, the auto pilot, alarms went off and George was trying to set a different course to where we wanted to go. At this very moment I was passing a freighter some miles off the starboard beam, if he had been seeing my green starboard nav-light and then he would have seen the red and green together as we started to head in his direction. I hit the engine at the same time sacked George and brought us back on course, then the wind turned to his original direction and we were back on track and I re-employed George the auto-pilot. Nancy said later she heard the commotion but she thought if I needed her I would have yelled out. By 2300 hours I was getting tired to the fact that I had to do something to keep myself awake, I did not want to get Nancy up early as I had already taken an hour off her sleep time when adjusting the sails. I stroked my chin thinking and it came to me straight away, I had not had a shave in three days, so I poured some hot water out of the kettle into a bucket grabbed my gear and sat in the cockpit having a shave under torch light whilst keeping an eye on everything else. I woke Nancy at midnight to take the shift and she returned the favour at 0400 hours. We had decided on four hour shifts and it appears to work well as you have the chance to have a good sleep. We have settled down to a routine and we are getting used to the conditions of the seas. Last night Nancy cooked a nice dinner before the sun went down and the swell came up. It is a big learning curve in everything that we are doing.
01 June 2007
It is now 0600 hours just finished the hourly reading looking around I noticed a ship approaching on starboard side aft, as it got closer I noticed it was an oil tanker, it passed by fairly close within half a nautical mile, I bid them good morning on the radio, there was silence for a moment then a voice with a strong accent replied, “Good morning to you sir, where are you heading? I replied Australia and he replied good luck” and after followed by a “Goodbye”. The wishes of good luck I think meant that he knew it is a tough battle in a small boat, he probably watched me for some time with my stern light disappearing below the wave heights out of his view now and again. I also got the impression from the tone of voice that he thought we were mad. He’s probably right.
Nancy got up at 0730 hours and made breakfast, I asked her how she was going and if she had any regrets with the experiences we had through the night and what was looking at no better for today. She said that she had no regrets, she had been frightened a few times, to tell the truth so had I but I think that’s the reality out here, being frightened is healthy, and you cannot feel too comfortable with the sea. We still have the tough part to go yet, we have another six day sail to the Panama. They say that is where it can get rough.
After breakfast and a shower we did some calculations, I felt that as planned we needed to be in Bonaire today before dark, I have not got detailed charts of the island; we have the larger scale and the pilot guides that have small sections of the island in detail. I want to get the bimini fixed or replaced so we may have to spend a few days there. We still had the big seas a little change from previous, I noted in the log, “moon down sun up the swell has stayed up”, Although the swell is up the wind has died down, we are adjusting the course continually as the wind and the current is steering us away from where we want to go. Nancy said it would be nice to get to Bonaire today, so I started both engines sat them on 2000 rpm that combined with the main we were travelling between 7 and 10 knots depending whether we were travelling on the waves back or on the front.
After the experience at Grenada I made up this document below for when we clear into a country, I would take two copies one for the official which I placed on top of the ships papers and passports and one for me in case I had to fill out documents, this saves having to search through everything for the information. The officials also appreciated this. It also had a picture of the boat. (It is a little squashed here as I did do it in A4 landscape which was too wide for here.)
(Arriving at Bonaire)
Arrived at Bonaire
01 June 2007
We entered the marina and was directed to the fuel dock as we needed fuel and all boats go there to check in before allocated a berth, once fueled and berthed we caught a taxi into town to clear in at the Police Station. First time using my form and it worked well, the officer was very friendly and helpful. The marina was not far from town so we walked back.
We are trying to get onto a wireless network (Wifi) but we need to contact someone to do it and sign up to ensure a good signal. Today I got into the freebies and it looks like they shut them down during the evenings.
I had to go and take my first mate to dinner to a nice restaurant. Today we went into town to look around, I think we were at the smart shopping between 12 and 2 pm when shops are closed, people here have siesta during these times and then the shops are open late after. It has not saved me the plan is to go shopping Monday.
A bit about Bonaire, it is a pretty place the people here are very friendly and helpful, most of the island is flat with the exception of the northern end that has a national park that is 164 metres above sea level, but majority of the island is about 5 metres above sea level. They have very strict environmental laws; no boat is allowed to anchor unless it is an emergency. They have set up special mooring buoys along the waterfront that you can secure your boat to if you do not go to one of the three marinas.
The buildings are very colourful and the town is very clean.
The main street, between noon and 2 pm you could fire a shotgun up the street and you would not hit anyone, siesta time, it is siesta time.
They claim it as the diver’s paradise, but one local said to me today that Australia is the number one dive paradise and Bonaire is number two. The bloke that said this owns a hairdressing salon where Nancy went for a haircut, he had to translate to his staff what Nancy wanted and she wanted her hair short, the girl would cut and Nancy said not enough this happened a couple of times then Nancy said HOMBRE! So the hair was cut very short. She has very thick hair and with the heat and having to wash it on board it is more comfortable short. His comment regarding the dive sites could be mainly due to the different size of the two countries. They have very beautiful coral along the shores as you can see by the very light blue water, but you do not need to go far off the shore before you hit very deep water and that is why they are so protective of their environment. They claim also to have the purest water here, they mine salt from the sea and they do this through desalination plants, one of the features as you approach the island is the salt mounds. Around the southern tip of the island they also have the buildings that used to be used as slave huts from the bad old days. We want to travel down there and see them.
(Karel’s Pirate Steakhouse and Pirate Bar)
(Nancy with her short haircut and her sangria at the Pirates Bar)
(Nancy likes these sangria)
At this moment I am pleased we are not at sea, the wind is howling from the east, I would say it is pretty rough out there. We will sit tight until this blow is over. We have the big full moon again tonight and that is giving the heavy seas out there, it is the double edge sword when the moon rises as the sun sets and visa versa the following morning, the moon has the forces of the sea. The sun is directly one side of the earth and the moon the other. This combined with the currents of the Caribbean Sea and the constant east winds, makes life very interesting.
One thing I have noticed in our travels is that the local people of all the islands we have visited are very proud of their country and they display that fact cars with flags etc.
(Kids fishing off the dock, that’s our dinghy under there)
(Coffee and milk bar on the end of Karel’s dinghy dock)
That brings everything up to date so far I think. Tomorrow is another day and we will bring you up to date. Once we secure a wireless net we will download some more photos in the albums.
Again I thank those that are sending comments it brings us closer to home, I hope you are enjoying ours. I have been told that we have a different spin on things with Nancy’s blog and mine, Nancy has the advantage of writing things down in the log, I go on memory and the way I see it. I think that’s healthy that we do have a different spin. The other fact is that things do happen so fast and when you sit down to type or write you try and piece everything together. We are not making things up it is just what we remember.Eileen you are a sweetie with your comments and helpful info on the emails, love ya. Rick you get well soon I know Lu would be looking after you, Colleen good to here your comments, pleased to hear the trucks gone, retirement now, get out and enjoy, we are. Clare thanks for the updates, give Heidi and Noel our love and the new born. Our family the girls have added a few comments Angela is out there sailing on weekends learning the ropes so to speak, good on ya. Great photos of the new grandchild from Carla and Angela. My sister Jeanne prints out the blog to give to my dear mother so she can see how silly her son really is. Love ya Mum.
Telephones…We have found that the mobile phone in some of these islands are not working out that well, so we have disbanded that idea. The satellite phone is good but expensive, we also have to charge batteries for all our gadgets, phones, cameras, and laptops, and this is done through an inverter from our boats battery supply.
At the moment we have the satellite phone switched on (Australian eastern time) 9 am for 2 hours and 8 pm for 2 hours, outside of these times leave a message. The main phone system we are using is through the laptop, it is called Skype, this is a free program you can download off the net, once you sign up (free) you then can buy Aust. $16 worth of credit, and the calls cost .027 cents per minute. The only other outlay is the cost of the headset with mic; I bought ours at Dick Smiths before we left $50. The benefit is that a call to other Skype member is free. When you are talking it shows you how much you are spending. Calls to mobiles are a little more expensive. The only drawback is that if we are going through a free wireless net we drop in and out a bit.
Bonaire to San Blas
Well we left Bonaire after getting the bimini repaired a day later than we should have. At 1100 hours we said see-ya later to the crew of Noonmark, they are also travelling to Panama. Before we left Nancy would not let me collect a couple of souvenirs, I am sure one, or two of the young Latin girls would have liked to travel with us.
Once out of the island waters we put up the Genoa as it was going to be a tail wind (East wind) as usual. This gave us 6 knots plus which we were happy with as the cat does not perform the best on tail winds. The further we got out the bigger the swells.
We were sailing for Curacao Island which was only 35 Nms away, the intention was to go around to the west coast and sail northwards before crossing towards the main land of Venezuela. We arrived at around 1700 hours and there was quite a lot of sea traffic. We followed the coast about 2 Nms out this gave a good sail had the wind but the swell was reduce with the cover of the island at about 2230 hours I changed course for Venezuela, not far out came back the Caribbean swell that’s generated from the Atlantic Sea. I made comment in the log about seeing the Southern Cross again, there is something comforting about seeing it, and I think it brings us close to home as we often used to look at it on a regular basis.
(Oil fields and processing)
We did different shifts for this night as we were in sheltered waters Nancy did the shift through to 2100 hours then I did through to 0100 hours. We figured once we left the island we would be entering shipping lanes Nancy preferred me to deal with them. When my shift came to an end I went to the cabin to wake Nancy I called twice no stir so I thought I would leave her another hour. Thirty minutes later she woke up and came to the cockpit to see what was going on. I said with the sleepless nights we have had at sea so far if someone is out cold let them go and sleep whilst they can. I was quite pleased to go to bed. I woke up at 0430 hours and I went up and relieved Nancy, we were approaching the southern end of Aruba going through the passage between there and Venezuela. Aruba was well lit up. Aruba and Curacao have a large amount of oil refineries the stacks with the burning flames; Nancy commented that during her shift going passed Curacao that the smoke from the stacks was really strong. As morning broke with harness clipped on I went out to the mast and hoisted the Venezuelan courtesy flag in case coast guard came out to see what we were up to. We were sailing with a good tail wind of about 15 knots pushing us through the water averaging 6.5 knots under the Genoa. We do not have a pole to pole the Genoa out, if we had we could use the main sail in combination. We find with the changing conditions it is better to use the Genoa rather than the main as you can adjust the Genoa from the cockpit and more easily than the main.
Around lunch time we came across the Archipelago De Los Monjes these are made up of a number of islands, one of these being Monjes del Este which when first seen looks the same shape as Ayes Rock, as you get closer it changes shape into massive rock formation. As we passed through the archipelago it was like passing through Hells Gate, (Place on the west coast of Tasmania), the seas turned nasty 4 metre swell and breaking waves up to 28.5 knot winds, it was a pretty rough ride, and I think this is the worst we have come across so far. The swell was breaking on the tops giving white foam breaking over the back steps of the transom on Nancy’s shift it actually broke into the cockpit, it was hitting us on the starboard aft the beam, as each wave approached you could not see over the top to see where the next wave was. Not really knowing how this boat was going to perform in these conditions I had to remain very alert at the helm, harnesses and inflatable life jackets became part of the dress of the day. Our usual dress of the day is togs, jockettes or bikini bottoms for Nancy they don’t suit me, (too much information, OK), well it is hot and it saves laundry and who is going to see us out here.
(Archipelago De Los Monjes)
With the weather we were in I could see Nancy was a little nervous, truth is so was I but I could not show that, otherwise Nancy would have probably freaked out. She has been a very good sailor, great at navigation on the charts. I told her the next day that I was just as nervous as she was as we did not know how the boat would perform in those conditions. I must say I was pleased the way the boat did handle. With the heavy waves breaking against the hulls it is at times noisy and that is because it is a fibreglass construction, plus you have the waves occasionally hitting under the bridge-deck.
As the night drew it got a little nippy, enough for me to grab the tracksuit, night shift we also wear harness and inflatable life jackets, we clip the tethers of the harness on to the life lines that I have put around the cockpit, the lifeline extends to the mast but we organise the sails for night so that we do not have to leave the cockpit.
08 June 2007
It is now the 08/06/07, I am just about to finish the morning shift (0400-0800), the sky came up red this morning, not a real good sign, and looks like another interesting day.
Our usual routine got stuffed about yesterday, I was working my but off changing sail combinations to get the best results under the changing conditions we both got little sleep. It was very rough during the night Nancy could not sleep because she was frightened, I was just crapping myself. It was pitch black with the seas coming at you that you could not see. The wave patterns you have six or seven at one height then you get three or four monsters. We are heading for the Venezuelan shoreline after crossing the Venezuelan Gulf then after turning around the headland we will be near the Columbian waters. Yes our plans were changed we will be sailing approximately 10 Nms off the Columbian coastline. This was not our original plan, but the weather prediction tells us it is the safer way to go. At this stage we will be following the coast around to the Panama.
One thing comes to mind is an article that was printed in the Cruising Helmsman magazine that I subscribe to. A lady wrote in that was cruising the NE coast of Oz and beyond, she said that her and her partner had practised for four years in Morton Bay before taking on a cruising voyage. She stated that they had learnt more about sailing in the first few months of their voyage than they had learnt in the four years in Morton Bay. I now understand why. What brought that to mind is the last very intensive 24 hours, so much for the weather predictions and you just have to deal with what is thrown at you, no running for sheltered waters, there ain’t any.
Most of the trip so far we have had constant east wind right on the 90 degrees, although a little too strong for comfort at times it has pushed us along quite well, today we have very little wind, we need to conserve fuel in case the Columbian Counter Current works against us. I said to Nancy this is where we have to do some real sailing and do some tacking to get the benefit out of what little wind is there. Nancy grabbed the helm and turned the boat into the wind, with harness on I went out and hoisted the mainsail, with the sudden changing conditions and shorthanded sailing I only raised it to reef position, once up Nancy brought the boat around onto a starboard tack and I eased the Genoa out and we started to head north for an hour, we then brought her about on a port tack and if calculations are right this tack should takes us a fair way down the coast and it did. But before we could tack again we were hit with a tail wind of 21 – 26 knots.
As we are not trying to race and we prefer to work to safety, it was easier to furl the Genoa than go out to the mast and drop the main, so we scooted along on the reefed main. As it became dark the seas became heavier and electrical storms developed over the coast line. There were many ships encountered during the night some coming up from behind some coming towards us. The seas started increasing in intensity as the night went on, winds were still over the 20 knot mark, and that was pushing us along quite well, any faster would have been a lot more uncomfortable. I came across a couple of fishing boats and it took me a short while to figure out what they were doing or where they were heading.
Nancy came on shift at midnight and took over, she had not had that much sleep, I went to bed and died until 0230 hours Nancy woke me she was frightened the electrical storm had hit our area it had started to pour rain, and there were other ships in the area. I reefed the Genoa right down and started the engines for a bit better control. I suggested to Nancy that she should try and get some rest as I am going to need some in the morning and she would have to relieve me. It was a crappy night, it was pouring of rain, visibility was difficult, other ships in the area and not long after Nancy had turned in I lost all electrical power, all lights went out George (the auto pilot) threw the towel in and I have two other ships close by one passing one coming towards me. I went into the chart table and reset the DC switch only for it to trip off on lower battery alarm. I yelled out for Nancy to take the helm which she did without any panic, I thought the house batteries had died but then I thought both engines are running they should be running everything that we require. I switch the DC back on and it stayed on, thank God. It could have been caused by a lightening strike close by. The other two ships must have wondered what we were up to, I put a general call out on the radio indicating what had happened and apologized. Nancy went back to bed but I don’t think she got much sleep if any. At 0700 hours Nancy surfaced, she wrote up the log for me her entry comment was, “morning has broken and so is JJ”. I went to bed for some sleep and although it was still very rough I did sleep. We had breakfast around 1115 hours, today is Saturday. I had had two very long days with little sleep, due to the conditions and Nancy’s inexperience when I did get to sleep after midnight the last couple of nights it had been broken with Nancy calling for help. That’s the joys of being the skipper.
Later that day I had to wake Nancy from her sleep we were entering the area where the Rio Magdalena River runs through the sea, you could see the distinct line of the different coloured water. We were 20 Nms off the coast and it stretched further out to sea beyond the horizon. The change in colour was from a deep blue of the sea to a murky green we sailed for hours before we reached the other side. We had another dolphin experience, the dolphins raced to the boat, and then they swim in between the two hulls at the stem of the boat, occasionally taking off to the back and racing back to the front. Then as we neared the other side of the river flow the debris started, logs, branches and rubbish flow from the river to the sea. Nancy at the helm and me standing at the mast directing which way Nancy had to steer to miss the floating debris.
(Dolphin moments are always special, they say they are sex maniacs what we see as them playing is sex acts and sometimes not that friendly)
After the river we had to turn to port around the coast line, storms again were developing over the land, this seemed to be the night time routine, the wind was right on the nose so we had to use the engines and furled the sails. I had a fisherman traveling alongside off the port beam, then he raced ahead of me making me change course, he probably had nets down and did not want me to go through them. I think he was trying to call me earlier on the radio but unfortunately I cannot speak or understand Spanish. Then to add to more excitement the electrical storm came into the sea area behind us about 5 Nms away, bolts of lightening were coming down into the sea, scary stuff. I started the other engine and up revs, we had to change course again in a short time I figured if I could get there before the storm got me we would be safe as the storm should then pass behind us. Fortunately it did.
Although we were away from the electrical storm the rain poured down I lost sight of another ship ahead that I thought was coming towards us the rain just killed the visibility, when we finally neared it, it was a container ship anchored waiting to go into Cartagena a Columbian Port.
(Ships that we see on a clear night)
Nancy woke at 0700 hours and came up on deck; we both looked at a massive cloud front approaching from behind. I said to Nancy there is no out running this one it is travelling faster than we can go. As the front hit us we experienced 25 – 30 knot winds this pushed us along at 8.5 – 10 knots under the Genoa, then the rain came again, it bucketed down we had to close the doors to the saloon, I got Nancy to get some wet weather gear the Bimini was not enough to keep me dry. We made some good ground whilst the storm lasted, the electrical part of the storm was over land which pleased us. But as the norm when the storm passed the wind went with it. We started the motor to keep moving and then I had to calculate fuel status we need to ensure that we will have enough fuel. The concern I have is that later today we will hit the counter current which means that we will have a 2 – 5 knot current against us. You don’t expect to have the doldrums in the Caribbean or Colombian Basin. By mid afternoon I started wondering if we could take the short cut across the basin rather than travel the coast and have the experience of the counter current. Before leaving Bonaire the weather predictions were that the seas in the basin should be no different to what we were experiencing. We called Rick (Fraser Island Rent-A-Yacht) in Oz and asked if he could get a weather report for us. Rick did (good on ya mate), and the weather was as predicted. Prior to getting the results from Rick we had changed course to cut across the basin. As we left the Colombian Coast I entered a couple of notes in the log, “Not a pirate to be seen”, “Not even Johnny Depp”. After a short time night was approaching and the wind picked up a little 8-10 knots, I started to get some sails up and running but I could not make much headway on sails alone. I was starting to think that I was doing something wrong. My mentor Rick asked me what seas we had, we had a large swell 2-3 metres on the starboard after beam. He informed me that with the boat rocking with the swell it was taking all the power out of the sails.
I have just completed the 0500 hour log recordings; we are half way across the Colombian Basin. The reason we were concerned about crossing this part of the sea is that it has a history of having very high vicious seas and de-masting sail vessels. We have had to motor sail all the way to maintain speed, we don’t want to be out here when the weather changes. We have had a rocky night with the swell hitting us on the starboard beam. I asked Nancy if she wanted me to change course so that she could get better sleep. She answered “NO!!! I want to keep going so we can keep covering ground and get the other side of the basin” and I thought I was the skipper.
We sighted the Panama coast line at around 1500 hours, it was very misty, we stayed well off the coast due to the coral reefs closer to shore, and some of these waters are still relying on the old lead line readings for depths. As night drew storms again developed over the land. The land we are passing is still very native populated no lights whatsoever, there is no moon, it is as black as black can be out there, we are not in a popular shipping route so there are no lights from other ships. It was about half way through my night shift that I looked up doing the usual check on gauges when I noticed that the depth gauge was showing 12 metres and dropping fast. I hit George (auto helm) 20 degrees to starboard and the water started to deepen. I checked both GPS they read the same then I checked that position on the chart. We were still on course and should have been in 1100 metres of water under us. Was my depth gauge working properly or not? I have no choice but to believe it until it is proven wrong. After a short time I start back on the course bearing we had before but this time we are further out to sea from the coast, next thing I get another reading, 26 m, 18, 12, and dropping very fast. I hit George again and we headed north further out to sea, this time we should have had over 1500 metres of water below us. We went further off the coast and then headed on the original course once again. All was well, Nancy came up on shift at midnight, and I instructed her on what had happened and to keep an eye on things any doubts head north or call me. She did both, yes another broken sleep. We set a new course which created a detour in the form of an arc, (see chart). We had decided to go to San Blas earlier before going into Colon (Panama Canal), as I had a problem with the port engine; it was vibrating badly so I had not been using it. I was hoping that it was some fishing net caught around the prop which would be easily fixed by diving down and cutting it away. I could do this in the calm of San Blas. Nancy was also keen to see San Blas after others had told us about it. The other problem now was is if the depth gauge is not working I don’t think I want to tackle the shallow passages to enter San Blas. The only way is to try to enter into charted waters that we know are correct and check the depth gauge. We did this and the depth gauge was correct. Scary thought went through my mind; I am very pleased I believed the gauge until proven otherwise.
(This chart shows our track to San Blas, the curve on the track on the left is where we had those shallow water indications)
San Blas, Panama
San Blas a beautiful place. Turn back the clocks a few hundred years.
These archipelagos are populated by the Kuna Yala people native Indians of Central America. They speak very, very little English but like everywhere they know the value of money. They sell there needle works they called molas, fishermen sell fish, crabs, lobsters. To take their photo costs a dollar. As we arrived we were swamped with dugout canoes with the Kuna people selling their wares. I left Nancy to deal with them as I had to get showered, shaved, and tidied up to go and clear in. Another wonderful job the skipper has to do.
( Entering San Blas)
(They arrive almost as soon as the anchor touches the water)
(Here to sell molas)
(These are the molas all done by hand but look as though they have been done by machine they are so accurate)
(You pay a $1 for a photo)
(They did there sale now off home)
I lowered the dinghy and went ashore to clear in, I found the building I think it was built during the war and has not had any maintenance since. There have been some colourful paintings on the walls showing the Kuna heritage. I went into the first room where the passports were stamped and I paid $20 fee, I then had to go to the next room to obtain my cruising permit. I went in and sat down, the gentleman asked for my ships papers, he read through them a number of times, then he asked, “What size is your boat”, I said “12 metres” he then asked, “mono hull”? I answered, “Two hulls catamaran”. He then went into the thought process and then asked “how long do you stay in Panama”? I said I wished for a three month permit as we will be going from here to Colon and then through the canal. He went into thought process again looking out the window, and then he said, “Well Mr. Yenks I can give you a 3 month permit for all in the Panama, no longer than 3 month and that will cost you $81.70”. This is the same price everyone pays. The next thing is that he gets out five large forms all with a number of duplicates and commences to fill them out with the assistance of my ships papers, our passports, and our previous clearing out papers from Bonaire. I am sitting there thinking the tide is coming in the dinghy is on the beach it will probably have water under it by now and be floating away. I kept an eye out the window in case that happened I could run out and retrieve it. Apparently it did float and a local dragged it further up the beach for me. It is taking ages for the paperwork to be filled out, the only saving is that it is he that is filling it out and not me, in other places I have had to do it myself, but usually only one or two forms. He is about half way through and I sit patiently watching him fill out the paperwork which he must have sensed. He looked up and said, “Lot of paperwork heh”. I smiled and offered some sympathy. His attitude changed after that, I would say others probably show their impatience and that would annoy them. After finishing I got my wallet out to pay and realised that Nancy had taken the small notes for the Kuna women, I gave him $90 knowing he would not have change, they never do or at least say they do not, I said that will be fine, I thanked him and shook his hand. He then said, “Now you have to go to other office and pay donation to the Kuna people $8”. He took me to the office, again shook hands and left. I shook hands with the Kuna people representative he informed me that I had to pay $8 for the Kuna people I said that’s fine, all I had was $20 notes, knowing the routine I asked “the money is donation to Kuna people for me to travel their islands”, he indicated the affirmative, I said, “then I give $20 donation to the Kuna people”, he made out the receipt for the $8 dollars there’s no brownie points for guessing where the change went.
I went back to the boat, we weighed anchor and headed out to quieter islands in a sheltered area away from the swell where there are several other yachts, we anchored a little away from them so we don’t live on their doorstep, made sure the anchor took hold, it should do we have enough cable out, I put more than enough out to please Nancy after her experience of dragging anchor. After securing the boat and organised I jumped in the water to check the port propeller to see if I have caught a fisherman’s net. Bad news I have not, that means it is something else. Just as I was drying myself a dinghy came alongside, it was Ernie and Charlene (Americans) from another catamaran they and others had been on one of the islands playing volleyball. They dropped in to say hello and invite us to a Mexican night on the island tomorrow starting at 1600 hours, we gladly accepted. We had a chat and I told Ernie my problem, Ernie has been sailing around for the past ten years so he knows a fair bit about boats, radios etc. He said that it could be your engine mounting has collapsed, he was right.
(The Kuna Indian home, there are up to three generations living on an island like this)
(There are many islands that the Kuna Indian live)
(This is one of the good anchorage spot between two islands)
(We only saw some of the islands there are a huge amount)
(This is the smallest island that we saw, all these islands will be in trouble as the sea level rises in future years)
I did not bother checking the engine mount out that night I did the next day, I was looking forward to a cold beer and a relax., The next day Ernie came over with some information for us and he also looked at what I needed to do to complete the installation of the HF Radio, he also confirmed that the front RH engine mount hand collapsed.
They are a nice couple; Ernie was a senior police officer in Florida before retirement, so we had a little in common both having worked for the emergency services. He was very helpful with a lot of information regarding Colon and going through the canal as he has done it. He also gave us names that can get the parts we require.
I then had to work on a couple of other repairs we had developed a fresh water leak in one of the hot water service heater pipe connections, so after cracking my head twice, I didn’t do a good enough job the first time, second time was a good one. I repaired the fault. With the hammering the boat has had it is a wonder that we have not had more problems.
Near 1600 hours I jumped overboard for a swim got out soaped myself up on the back of the boat and jumped in again then using the transom shower cleaned off with fresh water. At the moment we probably do not need to conserve water the way we have been, but we needed to practice it to see how we will go on the longer trips in the pacific. We had only used about one quarter of one tank since Bonaire, that’s about 120 litres.
Anyway after cleaning up it was time to go ashore for the Mexican night, everyone from each yacht joined in we all took a Mexican dish for dinner. One of the yachties who suggested the night said he would make cocktails; part of the day was chasing ingredients from the different yachts. We supplied the limes. The cocktail mixer was a blender driven by a whipper-snipper engine.
(The party ashore)
(They gave me a dry seed pod to use as an instrument, a Kuna Indian women with her child thought it was fun)
(The main musicians)
(I think they think we are all mad, probably right)
(Grandma does not seem happy about the photo)
People also brought books and put on one end of the table as a book exchange (one-for-one). Then the music started, one fellow had a Mandolin, another had a Guitar, in addition were a small hand drum and other instruments like a large seed pod that was like maracas and small egg shaped instruments that had a similar sound. We had all types of songs, some words made up along the way some dirty limericks. Just for the record the picture of me with the seed pod, which I must say I played exceptionally well, is not a phallic symbol and there is definitely no similarity in size. Nancy kindly took the photo at a very bad angle and probably on purpose.
The Kuna women and children on that small island came out and sat with us after standing a distance away we invited them to sit. Their laughter was either because they enjoyed the fun or they just thought we were all completely mad. Not being able to talk their language or them ours made it difficult to know.
It was a very good night and they have talked us in to staying longer, we have a volley ball match to play at 1500 hours today.
14 /06/ 2007
Whilst I type this a Kuna fisherman and partner came selling lobsters we bought one that is in the pot right now for $5, we could select which one we wanted, you would probably pay $30 or more back home. We also bought and cooked a crab last night, it was so big we had to twist the legs to fit it into a very large pot. So this evening we are having Crab and Lobster. It’s a bugger of a life but someone has to do it.
(We gave this couple a can of coke, it is good to be friends, many sailors that treat them bad suffer in the long run, ropes disappear during the night)
(We would not buy this as it was too small)
(He came back with the right size)
Well we are still here at San Blas and we had a storm experience this morning. A tropical wave went through resulting in 35 knot winds, all anchored boats sat at the helm with engines running in case we dragged anchor. Prior to this we were watching a storm passing through the north of us that had two water spouts, we were keeping a close watch on the direction it was travelling. The tropic wave was part of that storm cell, fortunately the water spouts faded out.
(Two water spouts approach, but I notice that the local fishermen in the canoe centre picture are not concerned and continue fishing after a while the water spouts changed direction and disappeared)
( 15 minutes after the spouts had gone the wind came in from the direction that it went to, I looked and I noticed the locals in the canoe had already come ashore, they knew)
We fared quite well through the storm, kept one eye on the GPS the other on the surrounding yachts. We did swing out on the anchor chain close to shallower water and had the starboard rudder tapping on a coral head; we took in some anchor chain to move away from it.
We were leaving today but Ernie just put a general call out for a fish dinner at 1700 hours tonight, so we decided to stay another day and leave tomorrow, we will leave around 1500 hours as it is a 14 hour sail to Colon, we will sail through the night arriving in daylight the next morning.
Last night was very nice we had fish and rice cooked for us by the local people on the one of the islands, each of these very small islands have one or two families living on them, the families can consist of great grandchildren to great grandparents. The meal cost US$3 a can of cold beer cost US$1. It was Nana’s 13th birthday a young local girl that helps organise these dinners for the yachties that visit, so every yacht search their yacht for a birthday present, Phillip one of the yachties he is Spanish taught us all how to sing happy birthday in Spanish and Charlene cooked a birthday cake.
When items are required for a function people get on the radio net, the one here is VHF Channel 72, like yesterday Charlene needed some icing sugar so the call goes out over the radio and anyone that can help answers.
(Icing the birthday cake)
(Nana getting ready to blow the candles out)
(Cake for everyone)
One person said to me last night that the only problem in sailing around the world is that you meet so many wonderful people then you have to leave them. It is probably true in one sense but I have noticed in our short time that on many occasions you do or will catch up with people that you have met at a later date. There are three couples that we have met here that will be sailing to Oz in the next two years that will probably look us up when they get there or keep in contact through radio. There is always an exchange of cards with email details and phone numbers for future contact.
(Wonderful sunset from the island)
One thing that was said to me before we left Dubbo is you will find it hard to make friends, people have moved to the coast, later to return because they could not make friends and missed there old friends. It is true you do miss the friends and workmates and naturally your family, but this life you meet new friends and renew acquaintances every time you enter port or anchor. The other part of this trip has been the experience of meeting local people in their way of life. The rough seas long hours sailing and some sleepless nights at sea are forgotten when you anchor or enter port and meet people and see they way some live.
San Blas would have to be the most primitive of people we have encountered so far, they lead very simple lives, their huts as you can see by the photos are made from palm leaves, dirt floors and most the time they are outside. They dress quite well and they like some jewellery. The women make jewellery and needlework (molas) and the men fish or grow fruit to sell to visitors as well as feed their families, these can be the visiting yachties or people that fly in during tourist season. There are a number of backpackers that also travel through. They have learned how they can make money, they will collect the aluminium cans from the boats, there is an endless supply of crabs, lobster, and fish, and you can by lobster for as little as US$3 each and the same with crabs.
It is comical to watch when a new yacht approaches the women on the islands start packing the dugout canoe with their wares along with the little children yes they have a purpose to. If you want to take a photo it is a $1 per head, most people want to take photos of the children, the other side is that you see the family that are trying to earn their living. They may live in a primitive way but they are not silly. The prices you pay once you get to know what you should be paying is dirt cheap. When you first arrive the prices go up they are smart enough to lift the prices before you get to know what the norm is from other yachts.
Well later today we set sail for Colon. Colon is not a nice place in fact you do not walk anywhere or you will be robbed, you catch a cab wherever you need to go. Colon is an evil necessity, you need to go there to go through the Canal. We have chosen to go to Shelter Bay Marina, it may be a little expensive as it is a new marina, however, the water is clean and you are away from Colon city, it is a distance away from everything but they run a courtesy bus twice daily into City.
Next section is the Panama.