Friday, November 20, 2015

Bocas del Toro

When we left Panama we had a good downwind sail to Bocas. It took us 26 hours in 20 kt winds and 10’ seas. A bit rolly but all in all a good trip. We arrived at the beautiful Isla Bastimientos and stayed at the Red Frog Marina. The marina was not very expensive and was just beautiful. We had a least 4 people greet us upon arrival and everyone made us feel so welcome.  This is the spot we picked to hide for the Hurricane season. We arrived July first and left at the end of October. 
Red Frog Marina
Isla Bastimientos
During our time at Bocas it rained, rained and rained some more. People told us it was the rainy season but we never experienced anything quite like the constant downpours with thunder and lightening that we experienced here. But we still managed to have lots of fun with many, many panga trips to Bocas town, lots of hiking on the island and seeing so much wildlife. On our normal daily walks we would see slouth’s, two toed and three toed, white faced monkey’s, some having way to much fun! Red frogs, raccoons, snakes and so many beautiful parrots. 
Monkeys having fun

Bocas Town is a busy but small town on Isla Colon. Lots of water taxi’s, many small grocery stores and one gourmet store where you could get most anything that you might be missing from home. The people are very friendly and speak a combination of Jamaican, Spanish and English all in one sentence. We spent lots of time in Bocas Town and tried out many of their local restaurants. Some on other island’s surrounding the area. Had a wonderful Sunday brunch with fellow cruisers at Cosmic Crab which is built right on the water. Did a dinghy ride around the Cayo Nancy or Isla Solarte visited another beautiful spot for snorkeling and dining at the Blue Crab. There are also quaint motels built right on the water. We didn’t stay at any of them but the sure looked like they would be a lot of fun.
Blue Coconut

Cosmic Crab
Cosmicc Crab

Discovered that if you have a medical emergency at Red Frog it will take at least two hours to get to a hospital. Not the spot to get sick but all in all everything worked out fine. Just remember to take your sheets, blankets, bottled water and anything else you might need with you.
Steve, me and libby at Red Frog

Of course Libby loved having a dock to play on and pretty much owned the marina. She even attended Happy Hour at Cast-aways and sat at the bar for cocktails. We loved Bocas del Toro and would definitely visit again. Just next time not during rainy season.
Libby having cocktails at Cast-away!

Until next time….

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Panama Canal

We arrived in the staging area for the Panama Canal about a month early. We wanted to be there in plenty of time to meet our daughter Missy, who was arriving on June 24th. We had lots to do before she arrived to make sure that we had a set transit date. We wanted to go through the canal on Nat’s birthday, June 26th. We all felt like he was with us and part of the trip.

Before Missy arrived we had to have the boat admeasured, so we got an agent who set everything up for us. He was such a great help. Lots of people do it themselves but for $360.00 it was well worth the money to have him do the work for us. To get the boat measured Peter Steven’s sets up the time and you take your boat out between buoys 6 and 8 and wait and wait and wait. After about 3 hours the pilot boat with the official that measures the boat shows up. They pull alongside your boat and the official leaps, literally onto your boat. I ask him if they ever miss and he said yes but we try not to. 

For us being measured was stressful. Our boat is 45.8’ long without the dinghy davits. At 50’ the rate to go through the canal jumps up by $500.00. So needless to say we were praying for less. So I helped the official measure our boat. I wore my cutest bikini. I know I’m getting old but I have a few good features. So he would ask me to hold the line to measure and I did my best to distract him. All in all it turned out perfect because we came in at 49.99’….wow was that close. We were sweating bullets.

Missy arrived on time and we spent the next two days provisioning (shopping), going to pizza parties and just enjoying our time together. She was sad that the local sloth had moved away before she had a chance to see him.

To go through the canal you need an Advisor, a Captain and 4 Line Handlers. We were very lucky to have Garth and Monique from s/v Heartbeat offer to be line handlers for us. What a great crew they made. We couldn’t have done it without the. So we still needed two more line handlers. That left Missy and me and we figured most sailboats go through rafted up next to someone so we were fine with me and Missy on board as line handler too. 

7:00 am we pulled up our anchor and went to the designated waiting area to pick up our advisor. He arrived on time and we made hast toward the locks. The Bridge of America is beautiful and you get a whole different look going under it than you do in a car above. We arrived at the first lock at 9:00 am as scheduled and were to raft up to a small cruise boat. Everyone on the boat is watching us tie up which adds to your stress level a bit. You don’t want to mess up with 100 people watching you. They had lots of questions for all of us. People are really curious as to how and why you are doing a Canal transit on a sailboat. Libby of course loves all the attention.

We went through the first two locks (up locking) (untie from the cruise boat) then we go into the Mira Flores Lake which is only one mile long to reach the third lock, tie back up to the cruise boat again(up locking) and when we come out we are in the Gaillard Cut which takes us to Lake Gatun.  At this time we were told we would not be going through the final three locks until morning so we tied up to a large buoy in Gatun Lake. It was a beautiful spot and we were all ready to settle in until our advisor said they just radioed him and we were to continue onto the locks and would finish our transit. We until from the buoy and went to the first lock, which is when we found out we would be center chambered. This means we would need all four line handlers. Missy who is not the boat person did an amazing job going through all three final locks, with the exception when the advisor told her that she needed to hold her line above her head to keep it from getting stuck up top. This is because Missy is 4’ 11” tall….just a little shorter than the rest of us. Well…..Missy looked at the advisor and said you understand that if I hold my arm above my head I am still shorter than you? I thought our advisor was going to fall down laughing. She did a wonderful job! Thank you Missy!! 

After the Canal we had to drop off the adviser in the dark in the Flats, where he leapt off the boat again onto another pilot boat. We then needed to find Shelter Bay Marina in the dark. Not very far but the buoys for the Marina are not where they are suppose to be. With the eagle eyes of all the crew we managed to get into the marina without any mishaps. We celebrated with lots of Champagne once we were tied up and secure.
Monique and Garth were lucky enough to go back through the Canal on a catamaran that needed crew going to the Pacific. Steve, Missy and I spent the next two days exploring Shelter Bay and lounging at the pool and having cocktails. We had lots of laughs while walking in the area, we heard our first Haller Monkeys. They are crazy and sound like something very prehistoric! Scared the life out of us when we first heard the noise they make.  Missy did an amazing video with great sound effects.  We were very sad when Missy had to leave to go home. She could have whipped us into shape if we stayed there.

Leaving Panama we had 25 knot winds and 10’ seas heading to Bocas del Toro, but it was downwind so not so bad. Welcome to the Caribbean!!!

Until next time....

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Pacific Panama

Leaving Costa Rica we had a quick trip around the corner to Punta Balsa. We spent one night in this pretty, much cooler but very hard to anchor spot. It was a good stop over to get a night’s sleep. We made several short overnight stops heading to the Canal. Next was Isla Parida for one night and then onto Islas Las Secas where we anchored off of Isla Pargo. A beautiful spot and a great place to hide from all the squalls that were passing by that day. Isla Pargo at night was the darkest spot that we have ever been to. The sky was clear with amazing stars but no light whatsoever from shore or neighboring islands.
Libby looking for land
The next morning was a beautiful day and we sailed/motored to Bahia Honda. We met up with friends of ours on Sea Horse V to go into this anchorage. A hugh bay with lush green mountains and islands surround you here. We were hoping for fresh fruit, vege’s and maybe beer here and were not disappointed. A local panga came to us to sell us fish, vege’s  and fruit. When we ask about beer, the panga driver took both Steve’s to a remote village to buy beer and then took them to the school for show and tell. They don’t get many Gringo’s here. This was one of our favorite spots along the Panama Coastline. 
Bahia Honda

Sea Horse V at Bahia Honda

Fish Camp at Bahia Honda

We were sad to leave Bahia Honda but needed to keep moving south so that we would arrive in Panama City in time to pick Missy up at the airport to go through the Canal. Our next stop was Isla Cebaco and we really enjoyed this anchorage although we only spent the night. There is a small ship anchored here that provides diesel for all the local fishermen and since we were worried about having enough diesel to make it to Panama we refueled here via jerry jugs. Lots of Haller Monkeys making lots of noise in the evening and early morning. Palm trees line the beachfront but no villages here just a few fishing shacks.
Beautiful Beach at Isla Cebaco

Fuel Ship at Isla Cebaco

At this point we thought we needed to pick up our pace a bit and moved on to Benao Cove. While having a lovely sail to the Cove we ran into about two hours of horrible weather. A nasty squall came through that lasted for almost the whole two hours with 40 knot winds and rough choppy seas. We dropped sails and we motoring with a 2 knot current on the nose. Trying to get to the anchorage seemed like it took hours.We were actually going backwards at one point and using up our precious diesel. We even heeled at 20 degrees without the sails up. Finally the storm was passing and we were able to join Sea Horse V in Benao to wait for our weather window to round Punta Mala (bad point). Benao has lots of surf and made going to the beach a challenge. Nice little Restaurant’s on the beach and a few little Tienda’s for supplies. As we waited we enjoyed swimming and cocktails with friends.

Finally on the 3rd day we decided it was time to go.Punta Mala is a major headland about 100 miles SSW of Balboa , Panama. Everyone going down the coast must pass here to get to the Canal and we have heard horror stories about rounding this point. I’ve heard people taking two days to get around and just horrible, horrible weather. We fortunately had a lovely sail. Had about 20 knots of wind in the right direction and sailed most of the way to Isla Otoque. A lot of squalls passing by but we seemed to be in the middle and missing them. Pulled into Isla Otoque at about 8 pm. We don’t like to go into an anchorage at night but this one seemed pretty straight forward but very dark. I’m on the bow with the spotlight and yell for Steve to turn around as I could see waves that were about 10’ in front the boat. We turned and found a spot to anchor and in the morning left bright and early because we were anchored right at the surf line. Not a good spot.
Out next stop was Taboga Island where we caught a mooring ball. The owner “Chewy” came out in his panga to help us catch the ball. We spent two days here and had a wonderful time wandering the small island. Out friends on Sea Horse V and Thistle joined us here. 

After enjoying Taboga Island the next stop was the infamous Balboa Yacht Club just in front of the Bridge of America at the entrance to the Panama Canal. We Spent a week on a mooring ball here or should I say mooring balls here. Our 3rd  night the mooring broke loose in the middle of the night and we drifted 2 ½ miles to be awakened at 1:30 in the morning by boats with big lights and horns blaring at us. I ran into the cockpit and thought we were in the channel and that a freighter was going to hit us. Poor Steve runs up to see what’s going on and to get us he heck out of there (naked of course).  He starts the engine but we are so disoriented it was hard to figure out which way to go. Finally decided strait was the best course, behind us was a rock wall at about 20’. 

We made it back to the Yacht Club with the help of the Panama Coast Guard. They found another mooring for the night for us. The manager of the Club moved us the next morning to a more secure ball (haha). First storm that came though this ball was dragging. We decided it was time to go anchor at La Playita because our anchor is much better that any of the balls at Balboa. So, we stayed anchored at La Playita for 3 weeks and survived a squall or two there without incident. It was a great spot to anchor and very convenient to the buses. Missy joined us here on June 24th to go through the Canal on Nat’s birthday June 26th.
So this is the update for now. Next will be the transit of the Panama Canal.

Balboa Yacht Club

Bridge of America and Cruise Ship

Bridge of America

Missy and Libby

Roger our wonderful Taxi Drive

Until then…..

Friday, May 22, 2015

Costa Rica

What a beautiful Country!
Sunset in Costa Rica

We entered Costa Rica at Coco de Playa, where we anchored out for 5 days. Originally we only planned on being there for three days but it was a holiday when we arrived so the Port Captain, Immigration and Customs was closed until Monday, so it made for a long holiday weekend with lots of things going on in town. Town was lovely, very lush compared to the other countries that   we visited. We spent time at a cute little restaurant called Coconutz and there were Haller Monkeys and Iguanas in the trees as we ate. Made for an exciting dinner with Libby wanting to chase them.
Me at Coconutz

Haller Monkeys in the trees

Checking into the country here was not as easy as other countries. The Port Captain is right in town and she was very sweet. Have heard that the Port Captain’s office was fussy with dogs but she loved Libby and we had no problem.

Next was off to immigration which is still in town. This stop was less than fun. The lady in immigration (Brenda) was horrible. First we sit down and we had Libby with us. After 10 minutes she decides that Libby is not allowed in the office, 15 minutes later she decided that she did not want Libby on the property. Steve had to go out to the road and stand with Libby but, him being the Captain I would have to go out to the road and take Libby every time there was something that needed to be signed because only the captain is allowed to sign the documentation. While I was filling out the paperwork, I put down the wrong year for Steve’s birth date. I crossed it out and Brenda reaches across the counter and pulls the paper from my hand and says no, no, no. Rips it up and makes me start over. Of course I messed it up again and she does it again but screams at me NO, NO, NO. I look at her and say yes I understand! After we finally finished our next stop was Customs. 

Off to the Aduana Aux (Custom’s)office past the airport. We explain to the bus driver where we want to go and he says si. So we wait and wait. Ask him again and he says si and we ride some more and end up at Centro. He says oh I forgot. Well now we need to get back to the office. No bus heading that way so we catch a cab for $10.00 back to the office. When get there the cab drives away and the girl in the office says oh they are at the airport today. She helps us catch a bus to the airport where Steve had to go check in the boat. Libby and I waited outside (she’s wasn’t allowed in). He returns and all is well.
The cab from the airport would have cost $40.00 so we decided to walk back to the main highway to catch a bus back to Coco. It was about 95 degrees and 95% humidity, hot, hot, hot! A Volkswagen mini van, the old surfer type pulls up beside up and the guy driving ask if we would like a ride. He just happen to be going to Coco. Had a great ride back to town and pulled anchored and left the next morning.

All in all Coco was lovely, just the check in was difficult.

Next was Bahia Samara. We spent one night there, it was a lovely spot but a bit rolly. We departed Samara at O’dark 30 and our next stop was Bahia Ballena. Which again we spent one night. Very beautiful here. The anchorage was nice but was very much a surf landing and difficult to get Libby ashore.  From Bahia Ballena our next stop was Quepos where we caught up with our friends on s/v Seahorse V. We were happy to have people to buddy boat with again. We all anchored off of Quepos for two nights. It was a beautiful anchorage and we did lots of swimming and happy hours with Seahorse V. We did try to venture to town but didn’t take our boat documentation and they would not let us come into the town without it. We decided we didn’t want to see town that much.

After Quepos we headed to Bahia Drake. Beautiful anchorage had lots of thunder and lightening at night but no rain. Spent one night here and headed to Golfito the next morning. Tina from Seahorse V and I decided we wanted to spend Mothers Day in Golfito so we could go out to dinner.
We arrived the same day in Golfito and caught a mooring ball at Land and Sea. It’s a small yacht club type place that was very cute. For $10.00 per night you get the mooring ball, use of the dinghy dock and great showers to use anytime. Tim had cold beer for about 1.50 and offered laundry service. What a great little spot but hot, hot, hot! 

We had dinner at the Banana Bay Marina and enjoyed it so much that we went back 3 more times. Golfito was a very nice stop, lush and beautiful. Our only complaint here was that no wind seems to come into this area and the heat was almost unbearable. So this was our last stop in Costa Rica and today we are off to Panama. 
Beautiful Costa Rica
Playa de Coco

So until then…..