Where have we been…. What’s HAPPENED?

I can hardly believe that its been over a year ( and a half) since our last post…  seriously… Where have we been? What about the NautiKel?

Well… no excuses…  ( maybe one or two)  We have been in San Blas…  enjoying the complete lack of good internet connection…   back and forth to Shelter Bay marina, teaching students, having great guests as company, lots of family visits and general life on board….

We will try and get some fill-in posts in the next few days, now that we have good cell service…. Because, guess what..????


We are actually in San Andres, Colombia!  Believe it?  True!    More on this passage later,

And more posts soon,

But for now we have been….

Learning to kiteboard ( yes at THIS AGE)

Enjoying restaurants,


Boat repairs,


Did I say Shopping yet?

Please excuse our lack of communication, and look for our in-between posts that will fill in ALL the details of the last year and a half.

The Illness came quickly

For a couple of weeks, I, Kelly,  had been not feeling well, on and off.  One day ok, the next, not so good.  As a few weeks went on, the symptoms got worse and worse, and finally, our reluctance turned to insistence, and persistence from our friends, we hired a Launcha to take Darren and I to Carti where the nearest hospital was. 

Between the fevers, and chills, sweats and delusion… it was 32 degrees that day, in the shade. I was freezing.

At this point the fever and chills had been a daily occurrence, the excruciating body pain, headaches and eye pain was unbearable, and the vomiting had started.   Have I ever mentioned that I’m a bit stubborn..??? 

The diagnosis was Malaria. Malaria is a disease spread by mosquitos, usually daytime biting mosquitoes.   The treatment for Malaria is a 7 day course of some pretty strong medication, and must be administered AT the hospital daily.  The hospital gave me the first treatment, and told us to retun everyday for the successive ones.

This is the dock at the Hospital at Carti.

Taking the lancha back to our anchorage where NautiKel and our friends were anchored was excruiciating.  The next day we powered back to Carti to receive the remaining treatments.   Our friends joined us for the 3 hour cruise back to Carti, as they had not been there before.   I was in Absolutely NO condition to do anymore than throw up and look like a rag doll so the company was nice for Darren who was quite concerned about me.   After the fourth day of treatment I started to feel somewhat human again.  Although most of the seven days were spent sleeping and waking enough for water and turning over.  Darren was an excellent caretaker those days, which I hardly remember.

I spent about three weeks looking like this.. or worse.

It took about a month to get back to any sort of normal routine.  I never want to get this illness again.  It was absolutely dreadful.  The only good part about having Malaria, was the bill (cost) of it.  All in all, it cost us $12.  

  Yes you read right  Twelve US dollars.  Diagnosis, complete bloodwork, treatment, recheck two weeks later,  all for $12.  I still don’t want to do that again though…… 

Because of my severe case of Malaria ( Steph said she had not seen anyone look that ill that was not admitted into a hospital for care), they asked us to return every months for a blood check for the next 6 months. August was spent in one of our favorite anchorages, the East Lemmons, where we were surrounded by friends. It was a blur mostly for Kelly, and Darren was  really a best mate by taking on all the boat chores, cooking and cleaning while I rehabbed.

I spent about 3 weeks looking like this.

A few changes in a short time.

With heavy hearts and tears, we decided that life onboard Mischief ( or whichever boat we chose) was not in the best interests of  our girl, Mizzen. 

In April, Kelly ventured back to Canada with Mizzen in tow to take her back to Kris.  Knowing that she loved him so much, and he had time to care for her, and knowing how hot and clearly uncomfortable she was on the boat, we decided that a yard and snow and a place to run, were better for her.  Talk about emotional! 

She loves her new yard and home with Kris and Shayla and she runs freely in the big yard at the lake

We think we found ourselves a boat….  We put an offer in on a Leopard 43 and Darren and I travelled by plane to Miami to take a look at it.  Well, to keep you from being bored… nope, this wasn’t the boat, but we had a fabulous trip to Miami and Ft Lauderdale!  We had both not been there before, so it was a great long weekend looking at different boats and being in the city again!  We would definitely like to come back here at some point!

After internet searches, asking friends, people we know, brokers, and sailors, we finally found ourselves a boat.  Interesting this is, it was right there in Shelter Bay marina!

Our next boat, and our New-New home is a Nautitech 47.

This boat had been on the hard in Shelter Bay for almost a year, and so required a bit of maintenance before we splashed her into the Caribbean sea. 

Paint the bottom, a few engine checks and updates, and she was good to go! time for a renaming ceremony with friends.

We put her in the water, and went to Panama city with our good friends Sid and Manuela and shopped to outfit her properly, cause, well, you know… obviously we didn’t bring enough STUFF from Canada!!!!  UGH!   We have planned to do some sailing Instruction and some charters from this boat, so we wanted her set up properly, and as beautiful as she already is, it could use a bit of a woman’s touch.

Linens, towels, doormats, dishes, cutlery, service dishes etc… we found most of it in a loaded down 4 seater car that Manuela carefully drove around Panama City!  Thanks Doll! 

We left Sheltler Bay in June, and were finally headed back to our beloved San Blas islands.  – almost.

Remember I said that we were showing the new owners of Mischief the ‘ropes” ?  Well the came with us, them gently behind, from Shelter Bay to Portobelo, then to Linton as we taught them as much as we could.  Leaving Linton, we felt that there was something wrong with our transmission.  We just didn’t know what yet…  so after a 6am departure, we made our way back to Linton to find out what the problem was. 

After a few days we found the issue with the Saildrive and we decided that we needed to haul out to fix it.  Back into the slings we go!

We spent four long days on the ground at Linton marina, before our successful relaunch of NautiKel.   All was well and we continued our journey,… right after the World Cup soccer match of course.!!!   We would be glad to get out of the marina area, the dirt, mosquitos and rain.

Lucky for us, we had friends hauling their boat out in the marina at the same time, and English couple whome we got on with very well, and we could all support the English team when we were surrounded by Panamanians and Colombians for the final matches.

July we made it back to San Blas in time for some beautiful weather and glorious sunsets.

And then something serious happened……

Mischief Life

It was an emotional few days leaving Alberta after we drove out from BC, to say goodbye to family.  But we finally made it to Panama.  Lucky for us, Kris decided at the VERY LAST MINUTE to come with us, and it was really a blessing.  We had so much to sort out, bring with us, and figure out, that the extra strong arms and emotional support was really nice to have.  Thanks Kris!

We adventured by plane back to Panama, and with each we carried the maximum allowed amount of luggage.  I’m sure we looked like quite an ordeal with our son, Kris joining us for the Christmas break and Mizzen in tow with more luggage than we could carry.  

Mizzen was a real champ on the plane.  She came in the coach with us, as she was designated as an “emotional support dog” and she sat under the seat most of the time, not making a peep.  On one flight, the steward had forgotten she was even there when we exited the plane.

We took about a week to settle into the new digs, and then took a look at the weather picture.  Uggghhhh.

Because Kris was only with us for a few more weeks, we really wanted to get him over to the San Blas, so, we sailed out of Shelter Bay into the 25 knots and 3 meter seas toward Portobelo, where we stayed for a few days. Portobello is a funky little town and the closest point to San Blas that you can get any services like shops and hardware stores.  

Kris had been there when he cruised as a child, so it was nice for him to return and see the place again.  The World Heritage site of Fort Lorenzo was still as he remembered it.  

After Francis Drake died of dysentery in 1596 at sea, he was said to be buried in a lead coffin near Portobelo Bay. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, Portobelo was an important silver-exporting port in and one of the ports on the route of the Spanish treasure fleets. The Spanish built defensive fortifications throughout the town and bay.

Onto San Blas at the next possible break in the weather.  December is known for the “Christmas winds” in this area at this time of year; Strong Easterly winds that will keep most sailors at anchor.  Most.  We went to San Blas.  And the wind blew….  And blew…. And it rained,  And blew…  and the day Kris left San Blas, three weeks later, the wind quit and the sun shone.  Sorry Kiddo.   But we enjoyed the time together very much, getting used to Mischief with an extra pair of hands.  Very much appreciated.

Kris and Mizzen were virtually inseparable they time he was with us.  Except when we went swimming… Miz was not a fan of the water.

Finally in Feburary, we got word that our crate was to arrive in Panama so we headed back to Shelter Bay.

It was a 4x4x41/2 foot crate, strategically packed to use every available space to its best advantage.  Tools, galley equipment, clothing, parts,  whatever we “thought” we “needed”.    Did I mention that Mischief was a 42 foot boat?  I guess we thought it was bigger- but that comes later….

We received our crate, about 6 weeks later.  About 4 weeks later than expected, after it had its own journey across Canada, and back, into the US ( or not) and finally to Panama.  It’s a story in itself.  Unfortunately, we were quite disappointed upon its damaged arrival.  Remember I said “strategically packed”  Well that’s NOT how it arrived. 

It came damaged, rummaged thru, unpacked, things broken and items missing.  We were very disappointed. But hey! That’s what Insurance is for, right?  WRONG!  Read the fine print if you ever insure things for transport.  Again, another story.  We did manage to get a small claim thru, but it wont replace what was damaged or  “lost” .  Move on.  … we did.  And we managed to get the rest of the items in the crate into Mischief…. Sort of.

To make a long story short,….  We loved Mischief, and she was a fantastic sailing boat.  However, we found that she just a tad small for us, and with the issues with Kelly’s back, climbing in and over the combing and around the boat was difficult. We decided to put her up for sale and look for something a bit larger- perhaps back to a Catamaran.  Being a desirable blue water cruising boat, Mischief sold quickly to a Brazilian couple with very little sailing experience.

They bought her sight unseen, but on a friends recommendation who had seen her.

We taught them what we could in a short amount of time and let the sail off into the sunset. And we would meet them in San Blas a few weeks later. 

A Year… Wow.. Where did the time go????

Its been over a year since we wrote a post… and for good reason…. Where do I begin?

We went home to Canada in January ( yes January), I know…we were crazy! But we had things to take care of , and we kept getting signs that it was time to go home, and sometimes you just have to follow the signs.
So we arrived in Vancouver to our friend Derrick and Mels on a cold Jan 4 night, with our flip flops still on, and quickly adorned a toque.

It took us literally MONTHS at home to finally warm up and not be shivering and cold ALL the time. Blankets on the couch, wool socks on, fireplace cranked up. We finally understood that blood actually does get thinner when you spend an amount of time in the tropics.

We literally went from bikinis and flip flops to THIS in 30 short hours.

Life went on in BC, and we finally asked ourselves what we were doing there. All we wanted to do was get back to a boat and float around, be sailors, and we longed for the freedom and ease (I say this word cautiously) that cruising life holds. It’s a different life, cruising. “Life on the wheel” as we call it- at home in “normal” society is hard.
Its expensive.
Its busy.
We found ourselves too busy to enjoy things, and hardly time to enjoy our family and friends. Why? We began to ask ourselves why we were there.

While we were home, we “acquired” our sons dog, whom we renamed “Mizzen” . Shes a beautiful Mini Australian Shepard.

Kris brought her to us in Pender Harbor while we had a weekend on a boat we were looking after. Mizzens first day on the boat was in a race with wind 20-25 knots. She did great! She began to love her adventures at the marina, and we continued taking her sailing for the remainder of the summer, on Wednesday night races and off day sails. She was very comfortable on the boat and loved the adventures.

October came around and we received an offer on the house. We accepted and off we went into our massive downsizing and reformatting of our life. What to keep, what to discard, what to send…. To…. Wherever it was we would go… still undecided. We knew it would be to a boat somewhere though.

Do you have an idea how much stuff people keep..??? I am not a packrat… I tend to discard things every few years… but MAN…. We had A LOT of stuff. STUFF. Why? When you live on a boat for a year.. you realize what little stuff you actually need. And its not a lot. We had more STUFF than I had imagined… and it too a few garage sales and many trips to the GoodWill to get rid of things that we just didn’t NEED anymore.

In November, we found Mischief, a Moody 42 in Panama, coincidently, at the same marina we left from in January earlier in the year.

Was this to be our new home?

We had our friends preview it for us before flying down and checking it ourselves. We decided that we would head back to Panama and re-start our adventure from there. If anyone who knows me.. knows how full circle this is…. You would be laughing out loud right now.

At the end of November, we said goodbye to our beautiful home in Parksville BC, and walked out the door for the last time. It was a difficult time, and we were lucky to have the support of our best friends that day. We had put a lot of time, energy and money into that home, rebuilding it virtually from the ground up.

It was a lovely home in Parksville, but new adventures await.

But it was time to move to new adventures, so we looked back one more time,… and drove off.

Our new life would be on a 42 foot yacht in the warm waters of Panama.

Monohull? We Transit the Canal as Crew

Well, its been a long time since we maneuvered in a monohull, and we casually offered our expertise to a fellow cruiser during a grocery run one day to help him with a Panama Canal Transit from Colon to Panama City. Besides the fact that we would do anything to get out of the marina for a day, Transiting the Canal is like a rite of passage for most Sailors.

John is on a solo circumnavigation on a Hylas 54 named ¾ Time. Its named after a Jimmy Buffet song, if your not familiar.

We recruited our friends Steph and Stu, and off we went for our overnight adventure to the “other side”.

Steph and Stewart of Matador

It’s a two day episode, crossing the canal in a sailboat. They give you a distinct passage-time, which,… of course, is adhered to strictly… strictly in Caribbean time of course. We motored around “the Flats” area of the canal zone waiting for the Pilot. This is when we found out there was no Beer on board!

Darrens a happy guy, on a boat… and this is when Stewart realized there was no beer.

Our Pilot finally arrive at about 5:30 pm, when his proposed boarding time to our vessel was 3pm. All boats must have a designated “pilot” aboard who is arranged by the Panama Canal Harbor Authority. We actually had two,.. one for the evening passage, and one for the second day.

Our First Pilot giving Instruction to the Skipper

Night in the Canal.

We made it thru the first set of locks in the dark, all by ourselves, as opposed to being tied to another vessel. The Gatun Locks ( on the Caribbean side of the Canal) consist of three locks taking you from the Ocean into Lake Gatun.Once you have entered into the lock, the gates shut and water starts to fill (or empty depending on your direction) taking you the the height of the next lock. In multiple stages, you move your boat higher and higher ( or lower and lower) until the final lock where you will be at the level of the lake ( or sea).

GPS image of Gatun side of Panama Canal

Gatun Locks

Once there you spend the night on a mooring where the first pilot gets off and the next one joins you the next morning. We finally got time to eat dinner… Fried chicken tonight!
Beer..??? Not so lucky.

Most people believe that when going from the Caribbean to the Pacific Oceans, you travel from East to West, but in actuality, it’s a North to South voyage with a slightly easterly direction as seen in the image below.


Morning came and our Pilot arrival time was 0730 and he was promptly on time again… Caribbean time, that is, at 1030. And off we motored thru the jungle lake toward the Pacific, all the while searching for Crocs.

Detaching from the mooring in the morning.

Searching for Crocs

Lunch on board was fried Chicken,.. or pizza, and soda… or water. Nothing gourmet of course, as it is a “guy” boat having just John the owner on board and his friend who was to help him get to their first stop, Hawaii.
Did I mention beer..??? probably not…

Skipper John and his friend

We carried on, motoring thru the canal, at about 6 – 7 knots, passing the prison which hosts Manuel Noriega News Article on Noriega being released from Jail

The Prison which houses Manuel Noriega

Snacks onboard was fried chicken. Or Pizza.
Without Beer.

You might be noticing a pattern.

Reaching Pedro Miguel Locks was like a turning point. For one, you can SEE the Pacific Ocean, and you realize you are almost there. As well, there seems to be a lot more boat traffic.

Much traffic on the Canal

more freighter traffic

Freighter traffic

Thru the Pedro Miguel Locks and the Miraflores locks, we were assigned to hook up to a charter cruise passanger boat. We were so relieved, for one, we don’t have to worry about lines up to the canal walls, and second,… THEY HAD BEER!

We were the entertainment for the boat that had the beer! The were sure curious about us.

Stewart was happy again, and he promptly purchased some from the concession. Life WOULD go on.

With Beer in hand. Smiles all around.

We were followed thru the Miraflores locks by a car carrier who made us seem almost miniscule in comparison to their enormity. Watching them bear down on you into the small space of the locks is quite a sight.

Pedro Miguel Locks

Looking South towards the Pacific.

When the doors open at Miraflores locks for the final time, a cheer was given all around as the Pacific water surrounded us. We celebrated with our purchased beer!

Canal Locks Doors are massive sized

We motored over to the Balboa Yacht Club, where ¾ Time would stay for a few days before heading towards Mexico and Hawaii on their circumnavigation.

John Being Happy to be in the Pacific

Our Pilot got off just before we moored down at the club and we headed up to the Club for a Beer!

Canal Pilot

Our Taxi Rogelio was there waiting for us shortly after our arrival, and we finished our beer and headed off with him again, back to our “homes” at Shelter Bay, but not without a stop at the Tienda….. for…

you guessed it…. beer….


Well Plan A and Plan B, turn into Plan X, Y and Z.
It been an emotional rollercoaster of a ride on FMD in Panama in the last few weeks. Read on and you will see why.

Its been nice having Colin back on board, and Colin and Darren are constantly doing things to get the boat ready. We left San Blas and headed back to mainland Panama to Linton Bay where we could find some parts, and provisions.

Hurricane Otto

Sitting in Linton Bay, we got word of a late season tropical storm brewing in the South-western Caribbean. It became a named storm two days later, and we made the decision to run over to Shelter Bay Marina a week earlier than planned, and tie up to the dock. Plan C.

Boats in Portobelo after Otto

It was a good decision. We felt the effects of Hurricane Otto when the TS was renamed and the center was just 79 miles north of us. Secondary lines were tied and everyone in the marina secured all extra gear on deck. Portobello, where Darren and I have spent some time in the last 5 months was hit hard.

Not many boats survived the hurricane

Being open to the west, it had much swell, wind, and storm surge. 19 boats dragged onto the mud flats, 4 boats sunk and the remainder of them had to re-anchor many times, some of them in winds up to 60 knots. Linton Bay, where we had just left a week before, was apparently shuffleboard of boats dragging anchor. Many boat in Linton are unattended, so it would have been a nightmare to be there. Good seamanship and prudence conquers again.
The rain was abundant and flooded the Fort

Being At Shelter Bay was a good decision indeed and we got to meet up with friends Stuart and Stephanie from Yacht Matador, among others. If you remember a few months back, Matador was struck with lightning and they are still here at the marina fixing their wiring and replacing equipment. It is a huge job.

Steph and Stu Entertaining the cruisers

The Shelter Bay staff is polite, the services are good, the beer is cheap, and the grounds are clean. A bus goes into town everyday to take the cruisers shopping, there are BBQ’s, potlucks, and movies nightly and many friendly people. It was a nice place to weather the storm, and be under cover from the torrential rains.

Activities like Aquafit keep everyone busy

Shelter Bay Marina is a lovely place situated on the across the Canal from the town of Colon on the Caribbean side of Panama. Historically, its been built on the grounds of the previous Fort Sherman, which was occupied by the US military in all its capacities, Navy, Army and Air Force.

Remains of Fort Sherman base

After US troops pulled out of Panama in 1999, the jungle again took over its natural habitat and reclaimed its land. There are many old buildings, barracks, and battery’s. A walk thru the jungle presents monkeys, sloths, birds off many kinds.

Jungle takes over everything

We spotted a small flock of Toucans during our walk one morning after the rain.

A flock of toucans Darren had been waiting to see these.

And a family of monkeys just hanging around.

Monkeys in the trees was a regular sight

Colin had made contact with some potential buyers of FMD and they were coming down for a sea trial.
After not getting much response from the new potential owners about them wanting crew ( Darren and I) to stay on for a bit, we decided it was time to go home. The renter had moved out of the house and it just seemed time. We did not really want to head back to Parksville in December, the day after the SNOW, but as much as we looked for reasons to stay, we reluctantly booked tickets home for a Friday in early December. I guess our journey is coming to an end. Plans F, G and H ….


The new potential owners arrived on Nov 26 and were coming down from Canada. Coincidently, the new owners were from…. Get this…. NANAIMO!- which is about 30 km’s from where we live. They spent 3 days onboard, we took them for a test sail, enjoyed company, got to know them, and after we thought it was a done deal, they announced on Monday morning that they would not like to take the boat, it was too big for them, and they left.
Of course Colin was devastated.
We were shocked.
They did not give any sort of clue that may have been the case. ….
We had tickets home. …we had cried…. We had called our Adventure over…. Gosh. We were all in a bit of shock. So Plan K,L?

Since Colin has no option of staying due to his continued medical treatment, Darren and I decided to stay onboard for the time, and see what happens in the next few months. Plan X. Just only a few days later, it was again time to say “see ya later” to Colin, a second time. This time was teary, but not nearly as bad as the last time when we took him to the airport in Colombia when he was so ill.
Colin packed up a ton of his belongings off FMD and said goodbye to his girl, as he left Panama. This is the end of his journey on FMD. We cried.

So here we sit in Shelter Bay Marina, waiting on some information on new potential buyers coming down to take a look at FMD. We have exhausted the alphabet.

San Blas DOES Have Fish!!! Geologist on Board and the Capt’n Returns

We were joined by our nephew Bill for a month. Bill just finished his degree in geophysics and geology and was ready for a bit of Adventure.

Bill heading up the mast, yet Again.
Bill heading up the mast, yet Again.

Well we put Bill to work… He’s a young lad… so up the mast he went.. on day 2 of his “holiday” Not once, .. not twice,,… but 5 times we sent him up for one job or another.

We were trying to fix the masthead light that was damaged during the storm the few weeks earlier. We didn’t have a spare anchorlight on board, so with a few parts from a fellow cruiser, Darren made one.!!! AND it worked!!!

Darren made a LED masthead light with an LED strip we got from friends on Desperado
Darren made a LED masthead light with an LED strip we got from friends on Desperado

Bill was really enjoying catching the fish we were bringing in since JOHN left the boat. A Wahoo and a Barracuda… then some Mackerel,… the Fishing Lures we had sent to Bill to bring down were awesome!

Wahoo on Board!!!
Wahoo on Board!!!


A Barracuda has extremely large teeth
A Barracuda has extremely large teeth

San Blas was turning out to be a fabulous place to just hang out, chill and catch fish, lobster and spend afternoons snorkeling.

Bills Lobster catch of the day
Bills Lobster catch of the day

Sunset over Nuinudup
Sunset over Nuinudup

We were beginning to tire of fish for breakfast lunch and dinner and conveniently The veggie man, Geraldo came by one day and we were lucky enough to trade him a Mackerel for all the veggies we wanted.

Veggies come to you in San Blas. A Floating market of sorts.
Veggies come to you in San Blas. A Floating market of sorts.

The veggie boat comes to us in San Blas. Usually twice a week, either Geraldo and Dos Hermanos ( two Brothers), comes by with lettuce, onions, Pineapples, eggplant,… you name it.. Even chicken. When they say WHOLE CHICKEN in Kuna Yala, they mean WHOLE. Entero. Head AND feet!

Pollo Entero- in San Blas, whole chicken means Whole chicken!!!
Pollo Entero- in San Blas, whole chicken means Whole chicken!!!

After being in San Blas for over 3 months, we decided to go to the Island of Carti, and see the famous village, one of the largest in Kuna Yala. Carti is a group of 4 islands, and is where many of the tour boats and charters pick up their guests. It was Independence day when we were there and we were entertained by a large parade thru the island.
(video coming separately)

We had a visit to the Kuna museum on the island of Sugdup in Carti. Our host at the museum told us many things that we hadn’t learned about the Kuna Indians and their traditions.

Kuna Museum in Sugdup had many interesting facts
Kuna Museum in Sugdup had many interesting facts

These little carvings are called Nutchu’s. every Guna family has one, and although these are “tourist” Nutchu’s which are made of Balsa and painted, we found them incredibly beautiful. They are meant to be protectors of people from bad spirits and spiritual sickness. A “real” Nutchu is made traditionally of Black walnut wood that comes from deep within the jungle of Kuna Yala.

Nutchu, and although these are Tourist Nutchu's and non traditional, they are very colorful and we had to get one to bring home.
Nutchu, and although these are Tourist Nutchu’s and non traditional, they are very colorful and we had to get one to bring home.

We found out that when the Kuna die, the man gets buried in his hammock and in his ULU, which is a dugout canoe which each man makes for himself.

a man building his new ULU- a dugout canoe, with hand tools
a man building his new ULU- a dugout canoe, with hand tools

In October, we got word from Colin that he was going to come back to FMD, for a few weeks to visit Panama, and help unload the boat.
Colin came back to the boat for his final time in Early November as he helped to prepare her for sale. It was a happy happy morning full of tears and laughter when he arrived back on the boat. To see him back at the helm again was a pleasant sight indeed.

Colin back at the helm
Colin back at the helm

We hoped Colin would enjoy Panama and San Blas as much as we have, and we took him on some highlights of the jungle, dingying up the river in Nargana, visiting the favorite islands, and enjoying the snorkeling and sunsets in this peaceful land.

a Kuna home on the island of Nalunege
a Kuna home on the island of Nalunege

Bamboo up the jungle river at Nargana
Bamboo up the jungle river at Nargana

Kuna children entertain themselves in a variety of ways
Kuna children entertain themselves in a variety of ways

Colin had made the difficult decision to sell FMD here in Panama a few months ago, and there was a lot of work to do to get her ready for some potential new owners.
So we started clearing and cleaning, polishing, and fixing small jobs, to the best of our ability between the torrential rain.

A nice anchorage at Dog Island
A nice anchorage at Dog Island

the start of a squall coming thru San Blas
the start of a squall coming thru San Blas

When it rains in Panama, it Rains! But we always, Or mostly always end up with a glorious sunset.

A delightful sunset in San Blas. We are always amazed at the beauty of the evening sky here.
A delightful sunset in San Blas. We are always amazed at the beauty of the evening sky here.

San Blas Part 2, Kuna Yala, Bad Cell Coverage and Fish!

The best part of San Blas is the beaches, the Kuna’s ( the local natives), the crystal clear water, the people we meet, snorkeling, lobsters, fishing, sailing, etc. Ok, so that’s most of it…. The NOT so good part is the lack of cell service and connection good enough to post on the blog!
Apologies to everyone who has been following us for our adventure, but the service is soooooo slow, that we couldn’t get a post complete.

One of our favourite islands in San Blas
One of our favourite islands in San Blas

So just to catch up:

Jim and Blieu were with us for almost 6 weeks. We enjoyed their company very much, but they had to get back to Missouri in August to continue their work. They own a company called Tan Through Swimsuit
I wear their suits everyday, I love how they dry quickly and allow the fabric to not leave tan lines. They make both mens and ladies stuff and I highly recommend taking a look. So it was an early morning departure from Portobello for Jim and Blieu. We look forward to sailing with them again as we enjoyed many lobster dinners, jungle walks, and donuts ( Blieu’s favorite part of the day) with the two of them and their wonderful sense of humor.

Dinner aboard FMD
Dinner aboard FMD

Darren and I stayed in Portobello for a few weeks while doing some repairs and maintenence, and trying to catch up on some chores and “real” work.
Portobello is a history rich town. Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502, during his fourth voyage. It was chosen as the Caribbean transshipment center because of its magnificent harbor and convenient location.

It became one of the most important sites for transferring South and Central American riches. From this port, tons of gold and silver flowed to the commercial capital of the Spanish empire, Seville. Ruins of the solid fortification can still be seen today.

Ruins of the Fortifcation at Portobelo

Looking over Portobelo Harbor from the fort

The wealth of Portobello was a strong temptation for pirates like Henry Morgan, and is known to be the resting place of Sir Francis Drake.

The ruins are strewn with old cannons
The ruins are strewn with old cannons

Some old fortifications
Some old fortifications

Many cruisers use Portobello as a place to anchor and reprovision. It’s simple to go to the closest town of Sabinitas on the bus, a $1.25- 1.5 hour journey. Portobellos wide open anchorage and close vicinity to Colon and its amenities make it a safe place to stay. Colon is one of the most dangerous cities in the Americas, and staying as far away form there as possible is desirable by many cruisers. The colorful busses with their chrome hubs and often pimped out stacks and other accessories, and their LOUD LOUD music make each bus unique.

Getting on the Chicken Bus
Getting on the Chicken Bus

There are often gatherings and functions on shore at a small cruiser friendly “hangout” called Casa Vela, run by Ray and Brigitta, former cruisers. One day we were treated to a fish smoking lesson by our friends Stuart and Stephanie, of Matador. Stuart makes fantastic smoked fish!

Matador Smoking Fish for the Cruisers
Matador Smoking Fish for the Cruisers

The Church of San Felipe is in Portobello as well. The Church is home to the Black Christ of Portobello, a wooden statue of of Jesus of Nazareth. The statue has become Holy and worshipped because of the miracles they attribute to it. Every October 21, the festival of the Black Christ of Portobello is celebrated with people walking from as far as Costa Rica to be part of the celebrations.

People walk on their knees from Costa Rica to worship in this church every October 21
People walk on their knees from Costa Rica to worship in this church every October 21

Black Christ of Portobello
Black Christ of Portobello

We had visitors in September from Canada and England. Kelly’s sister Rhonda joined us from Canada for 3 weeks, and Deb and John, who are Darren’s sister and husband from England joined us for two weeks.

John and Deb on board with Rhonda and our friends Stu and Steph of Matador
John and Deb on board with Rhonda and our friends Stu and Steph of Matador

None of them had spent much time aboard a boat before, let alone a sailing boat. So before they left their respective countries and as guests usually are, they were loaded up with lists of things to bring us. Spare parts, parts that had broken, goodies, and licorice!!!

They arrived to Portobello after being picked up by an arranged taxi driver and arrived in the late evening.

A view from the Fort
A view from the Fort

We spent a couple of nights in Portobelo and introduced Rhonda, John and Deb to the Panama jungle before making our departure towards San Blas.

Jungle Spider
Jungle Spider

A bit further up the coast is a delightful little place called Linton Bay and one of the best anchorages on the coast between San Blas and Colon. There is a small island, which used to be owned by a scientist who researched the behaviour of Spider Monkeys.
The one square mile island is now inhabited by only three Spider Monkeys who enjoy watching people visit when the creatures invade the abandoned house near the anchorage in the afternoon looking for attention.
Spider Monkeys at Isla Linton

There is a mangrove tunnel from Linton bay to another marina area called Panamarina. Dinghys can make it through the narrow covered channel, getting a glimpse at the monkeys and sloths on a good day. You have to look pretty carefully for the sloth, although they stay in the same tree for most of their life, only coming down once a month for bodily functions, they can be difficult to spot. We were lucky.
Sloth in the mangrove tunnel

We spent a few weeks over the last few months in both places while doing more repairs, and provisioning. These seem to be our major activities lately. Living on a cruising boat is not all fun and games, and many days were spend fixing, repairing, cleaning, and finding parts. The ocean environment is a harsh one and Mother Nature takes its toll on anything that is exposed to the salt air.

A worn out bearing from one of the electric winches.
A worn out bearing from one of the electric winches.

Up the mast again.

In Colon, we found an alternator repair shop
In Colon, we found an alternator repair shop

After Visiting these two places we made our adventure back to San Blas. We spent the weeks snorkeling, fishing, swimming, enjoying the beaches, visited with other cruisers we met and endured “Chocosanas”. San Blas has a wind phenomenon called something-de -pollo, which means the ass of the chicken. It is a quickly developing cold system that whips winds up quickly sometimes reaching 60 knots followed by torrential rain and lightening. They come quickly without warning from the southeast often juggling boats around like checkers.
Close quarters anchoring

It can make a peaceful anchorage into a shuffleboard in an instant, and we always hope we are on our boats when they happen. Luckily its usually in the middle of the night or early morning hours when they come through.

Rain squall coming with chocosana winds

At 6am peaceful morning, in Green Island Anchorage, one hit us and the 5 boats in our company, suddenly and fully. Our buddy boat, Matador was struck with a lightening bolt that damaged every bit of electrical equipment on their boat in the bat of an eye. The puff of black smoke that billowed from their masthead after the deafening CRACK of the bolt sent our senses scrambling. It’s a heart pumping, adrenaline rushing, and Steph and Stuart were shaking for days afterward.
Matador at anchor after the lightening

When lightening is that close, you really do feel it on your skin… the hairs stand up and tingle, and you can feel the energy in the air for minutes afterward. Every year dozens of boats in San Blas area have their entire electronic inventory wiped out by lightening strikes.
Its an amazing how the Kunas usually know when one of these blows is coming and we were awakened on the worst of them by the blowing of the a horn made from a conch shell, to warn of the impending storm coming. Rhonda decided that she wanted this horn, and went to buy it off the Kunas the next day. Unfortunately Canada Customs took it from her when she entered Canada.

Rhonda's conch she bought off the Kunas for $10, it also came with three fish and an Octopus!
Rhonda’s conch she bought off the Kunas for $10, it also came with three fish and an Octopus!

Any anchorage you go to, the local women will come to your boat and try and sell their wares, whether it be Molas, or bracelets. We have made friends with two of the most famous of them, Mola Lisa, and Venancio. We have had both of them on the boat for tea and visiting along with purchasing some of their famous Molas.

Visiting with Venancio onboard with Jim and Blieu
Visiting with Venancio onboard with Jim and Blieu

Sorting thru Lisas Molas with Stephanie
Sorting thru Lisas Molas with Stephanie

Well it finally came time for our visitors to leave, we sent Deb and John home to England, and Rhonda home to Canada. It was a sad parting as we never know when we will see Deb and John again, although I think they had a good enough time onboard that they will be back.

Deb and John's early morning departure from Green Island
Deb and John’s early morning departure from Green Island

Rhonda leaving from Chichime
Rhonda leaving from Chichime

For weeks with John aboard, we tried and tried to catch a fish. We trolled, and jigged, casted and speared,.. and came up dry most times. Pity we did not repeat our luck like the last time on our way back to Portobello ……Wham! Wham! Wham! Three in a row as we sailed thru a Tuna school! Holy!!

Hopefully this fishing keeps up for the next while as we spend more time in Panama and Kuna Yala.

Watch for our next post with Nephew Bill aboard, more fish, and Colin’s return!!!

San Blas, Portobelo, and Lobster

Well we have not had time to write a proper blog entry for you all, so we just thought I would attach a few pics for you in the interim, regarding San Blas, Lobster and our time in Portobelo

We have been very busy in the last few weeks…  we’ve had a few problems..  and had to deal with those…  more about that in a future post, but heres something for you to enjoy in the meantime.

Beauty of San Blas More beautiful beaches Darren Free Diving Beautiful Beaches Monkey In Nargana Sloth Darren up the mast