HOME???

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 ….

Porvenir

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!!!
Barracuda
Barracuda
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.

Sailing from Jamaica- Departure From Our Favourite Island Paradise.

Did we mention that we LOVE Jamaica? Well we do. Of the many places we have been, Jamaica is one of our favorites. It’s the food, the people, the climate, the beaches, the diving, the water, and the ambience that make Jamaica a ONE LOVE country.

We will be sad to depart, but after a few restful days in a resort, air conditioning, food, rest, a ton of diving and meeting new friends, we must bid adieu to our favorite of the Caribbean Islands.
West End,  Jamaica

Montego Bay is where Pam left to go back to Australia. We will miss her cheery smile on board, but as sailors, you must do what works for you. Not everyone is a passagemaker and we have some rough passages ahead.
Pam's Departure

Some new crew flew down from Missouri to join us for the 500+ nm passage to Colombia. Jim and Blieu are in the research mode of cruising and trying to decide what kind of boat is going to work for them. So crewing on many different boats is giving them the opportunity to check out their options. Given their sense of humour and attitude towards life, we feel they will be a great addition for the next few weeks.
Jim and Blieu Foster

Negril gave us the chance to get back on board, enjoy the clear water and walk the 7 mile beach. We grabbed a bit of fresh fruit and veggies with the Jamaican dollars we had left, and headed out to sea for our 500+ nm passage. We were expecting 3-4 meter seas with 15-20 knots of wind from the East.
Ricks Cafe

Note to self: Don’t head to sea after spending a week on land. It was a bumpy first few days, due to a tropical wave that had stirred the seas up a bit and a lot of thunderstorm activity.
Passage Weather

We all were a bit queasy for the first few days, but on day 4 the seas flattened and winds dropped as we expected.
Sunset in the Caribbean Sea

We motored into Cartagena, Columbia just after sunset with 68 hours at sea and just over 500 miles behind us, and we immediately impressed with the skyline of skyscrapers lit up in the night sky. I don’t know what we were expecting, but after 4 months in the Caribbean, the CITY was a welcome sight!

Cartagena, our night arrival

We will settle here in Columbia for the next month or so, and do what cruisers do best- enjoy the country, get some work done, and meet new people.

Boca Grande in Cartagena

For more check out your NautiKel YouTube Channel

Jamaica- Our favourite Island of All

Jamaica

After an overnight power boat ride into the waves and wind, we finally put the sails up at 0600 and began sailing with a feeling of relief. Of course, as a sailboat you don’t always go directly to where you want to go… but we got there eventually when the wind shifted. We pulled into Port Antonio, JA at 1700 hrs, after a 110 mile passage with the towering 7000 foot Blue Mountains as a backdrop.
Arriving here feels like home.

We were immediately greeted by friendly Quarantine, Immigration and Customs officers who informed us that it was only 1600 hours as there is daylight savings time here. Bonus hour! After a lengthy yet pleasant paperwork session, we were given the key to the marina with its wonderful showers, pool and bar for a fee on the mooring ball of on $32/day.

Port Antonio was exactly how it was described to us; a bit rough around the edges, but a pleasant village full of friendly people. Our first questions to the locals were; where is the best Jamaican patties place and who makes the best jerk Chicken. Friday and Saturday are market days in Port Antonio, and the market was in full hustle when we went in for some provisioning. You can buy anything from shoes to ganga at the market. While they do take “no thank you” for an answer, they will try and sell you whatever they think you might need.

jamaica

Port Antonio in the Parish of Portland, JA is the richest of all the parishes. Its high mountains drop heavy rain on the area daily, making it lush and tropical. The farms supply produce to the entire island. Market day in Port Antonio is visited by people from towns near and far for their terrific produce. Among other veggies, we picked up a bottle of Jamaican Jerk sauce from Norma.

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Just off the marina is Navy Island. Once owned by Actor Eroll Flynn, there is an old hotel there that was closed in 2002. It has started being taken back by the forest as you can see, but was apparently quite the private resort in its day.

Navy Island Hotel
Navy Island Hotel

The old Eroll Flynn Hotel

After a weekend stop in Port, we headed west 30 miles to Oracabessa. Now this is a lovely little stop. We anchored in the basin made for a marina type development, behind a lovely breakwater owned by Golden Eye private resort that used to be owned by Ian Fleming. Its on the edge of town with a lovely park and well kept grounds. A walk thru the exquisite resort, with permission granted by security, we enjoyed the feel of the tranquility of this place. For a gentle fee of $800-$1000 per night, you too can stay in one of their private villas, or the grand 5 bedroom Ian Fleming house at only $9000/night. We stayed on the boat, but had a coffee at the bar.

golden Eye Private Beach

Golden Eye Resort Cabins

Ocho Rios was our next stop. Known as Ochi by the locals, it is a huge tourist town. In the two days we spent there, only two cruise ships were in, and I guess we were lucky. We anchored off the beach in 12 feet of water with a terrific view of the dolphin pen. We had our own show daily! We did the tourist thing and visited margaritaville, as well as the famous Dunns River Falls.

Everyone goes to Margaritaville at some point.. right???

In the many trips Darren and I have had to Jamaica, we have not stopped at Dunns. We were pleasantly surprised at the major tourist attraction that draws thousands of people daily. Our arrival there at 9 am beat the cruise ship people who only docked at 10, so by the time that we finished our climb and were enjoying a Blue Mountain Coffee, they were only arriving. Perfect timing.

We stayed in Ochi for an extra day and enjoyed some R&R in the lovely calm bay after our strenuous climb.
Beer Chair In Ocho

Jamaicas north shore is lined with resorts all the way from Ochi to MoBay. Our trip along the coast at the 20 meter line allowed us to guess at some of the names of the huge facilities. Sandals, Secrets, Beaches, Breezes, Riu’s and Hiltons bring thousands of people here daily on the jumbo jets landing at Montego Bay.

We have anchored down in the anchorage at the MoBay Yacht club just on the West side of town, and for a fee of $10 / per day we have internet access, pool and shower facilities, and a dinghy dock in a peaceful anchorage.

MoBay yacht club from the water

We will all take a few days off the boat here and enjoy the facilities at some of the big resorts, bathe on the white sand beaches, enjoy the endless air conditioning, eat at the all inclusive buffets, and act like a tourist for a few days.

See you in Negril!

Cuba

Our first day in Santiago was a day of exploring. Find out the lay of the land and meeting people who could help us with any information. We met Dirk and Mariolaine on “Roxy” from Belgium, who Colin had met on his Atlantic crossing last year. They were very much fun, nice to visit with, and we made friends quickly.

Streets of Santiago
Streets of Santiago

We headed into Santiago with Dirk and Mari, in a lovely old Studabaker to find the wifi at Hotel Casa Grande, ($3 per hour) . After a stop at the bank to get some money, we took a wander for some lunch. Cuba uses two currencies. The CUC ( Convertible Unionized Currency) and the Cuban peso. One CUC is equal to about a US$ and if you divide one CUC by 24 you will get one peso. It’s a little confusing at first, but its easily figured out. We found delightful local place for lunch where we had a lobster, rice and salad for $6 CUC.

$6 Lobster lunch
$6 Lobster lunch

Santiago de Cuba is a delightful old Colonial style city. Not as touristy as Havana was the many years ago when Darren and I were there. The architecture is beautiful and the streets are typically Cuban.

Santiago Church
Santiago Church

Later in the day after returning to the marina, we met two local lads, Pashito and Leo. They were very helpful and were there to help you with anything you wanted to know. Of course, if they could make some money out of it, then it was a bonus for them. They arranged for us to head to a Cabaret San Pedro the next night, which would be the eve of Kelly’s birthday. It was a fantastic evening, and of course Pashito and Leo came with us, for the cost of their beer. Eric was our taxi driver that night in his large 1951 Chevy with a Mitsubishi engine.

51 Chevy

The music was fantastic, the dancing amazing, and the company was excellent. Cubans know how to dance!

Dancing with Leo and Pashto

The next day, being Kelly’s birthday, Pashito invited us, and other cruisers for dinner at the house next door. It was excellent food of a Pork roast, salad, rice. We brought the beer and wine and enjoyed a lovely time with 8 other cruisers and the local family.

Dinner at pasties friends home
Dinner at pasties friends home

Monday we again jumped in Erics 1951 Chevy and visited to delightfully famous Senuatario El Cobre. Its has been a seminary since 1605, and a lovely place to visit. The Church has been visited by the Pope and many famous religious figures. As is the custom, we bought some candles and lit them in prayer and thoughts of our departed loved ones.

Senautario El Cobre
Senautario El Cobre

We made a deal with Pashito and Leo for them to supply us with some Rum. I think we did fairly well after a bit of haggling over price and quality… and ended up with 15 Litres of something between 8 and 12 year rum LOL? for $80CUC

Cuban Rum
Cuban Rum

Our adventure the next day was to visit the “Castillo de Moro” on the point of the entrance to Santiago. We took the marinas boat over to Isla Granma for a lunch, where Leo joined us. His uncle plays in the little band that entertains at one of the three restaurants on the island of 1050 people. Lunch was shrimps today at an outrageous price of $12CUC, which to us, seemed expensive, since having $6 lobster in Town, but the band was good.

We then took a local 50 year old boat with a single cylinder inboard engine for 5CUC for 6 of us over to the dock closest to the Castle for a walk. This boat was in the boys family for 50 years, inherited from his grandfather. Fuel tank was a pop bottle, and stopping the one cylinder engine required lifting the wire off the spark plug, right beside the gas bottle. OMG!

Castle de Moro was built by Spain in 1616-1623 and was used up to the end of the Spanish civil War in the late 1890’s. its beautifully constructed on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

Castillo de Moro
Castillo de Moro

This has been Darrens favourite Fort as of yet in the Caribbean

Being our last day in Cuba, we headed back to Santiago, to get some veggies and last bit of internet. Our driver of the day, in a heavily modified Old ford with a Russian diesel Tractor engine in it, took up to Santiago an back for his delightful sum of $20CUC. He stopped at the vegetable market for us on the way in, and the beer store on the way back. We provisioned with a bag full of potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions for a hefty $3CUC. With the equivalent amount of produce of what could have cost $40 at home, we were delighted. Beer was $1 a can, and we spent the remainder of our Cuban CUC’s on 5 flats of Bucanero and Cristal beer, priorities are priorities.

Customs and immigration came to the boat and looked thru the cupboards in a routine check, I guess looking for stowaway passengers or…??? They didn’t look under the floorboards… Only just as a customary inspection. After their “good look around” they left us to depart Cuba for our overnight passage to Jamaica.

Passage weather
Passage weather

Next Post Jamaica!

BVI to Puerto Rico

Our time in The Virgin Islands finally came to an end and we must bid adieu to a lovely country and its colorful waters and sea life.

With two additional crew onboard for the 300+ nm passage to Turks and Caicos, we left sunny BVI with light winds and full sails. Next stop would be Culebra, Puerto Rico for an overnight in the little village. It was a short sail around the reef fringed entrance, but we managed to sail “wing on wing” right into the narrow marked channel of Culebra Island. The beautiful colors of the reefs told us of the dangers and we drifted nicely to an anchor position off the town docks.

Culebra is a cute little village that attracts many tourists from Puerto Rico to its charming beaches and quaint shops. There is a large research University which hold the majority of its industry besides tourists.
Our stay only left us there a night before heading West to Fajardo to do our provisioning and necessities.

Fajardo is a busier city with a thriving Puerto Rican community and many American Ex-pats. You know you have entered America when you drive down the streets here. McDonalds, WalMart and Sizzler abound. Yes We are in America.

We got brave, having been here before, and we decided to commonly rent a van and do some exploring up to El Yonque National Forest. Abound with vegetation, tropical birds, tree frogs and of course Tourists, its was a lovely way to spend a half a day and see what the county looked like before civilization took over.

On the way back to Fajardo we stopped with the locals at the Kiosko’s along the highway and had some lunch and beers. Some of the best Ceviche Darren and I have ever had was there that day!!!

While in Fajardo, and one of the reasons we went there at all was to meet with one of our ISPA Instructors/ Friends Michael and Margarita, on their boat Bebe at Isleta. caribbeansailingsolutions

Michael had taken Colin for some tests earlier in the day, Thank you Michael, and Margarita stayed back and obviously cooked us some typical Puerto Rican food to enjoy later that day. It was very much enjoyed by all of us!

The forecast was good for the next week so our plans remained to head out in the morning for our offshore passage to Turks and Caicos, 380 miles to the North West.

turks-and-caicos

Virgin Islands and a Crew Visit!

Well the wind blew in BVI, and it blew, and it blew. We sailed, and anchored and sailed. We enjoyed a Noisy night anchored in The Bight at Norman Island just behind the famous floating bar, WillyT’s. Its known for jumping off the back in various degrees of clothing, and as they say, it is optional, very strong drinks, and loud music. We got little sleep, and the wind blew thru the night.

Willy T's

The next morning we headed in a counter clockwise direction in the lower Virgin Islands, stopping at Cooper Island and visiting the dive site of Wreck Alley. Cooper Island is a great little Eco Resort with a wonderful beach and a great Happy Hour! And they have WiFi! So we did take advantage of all three! Sunsets are fabulous from Cooper Island Resort.

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We had a fabulous snorkel around the pinnacle, where again, Colin almost Killed Darren on an epic snorkel. We saw big Baracudas feeding on the coral heads, turtles, many fish and more towels hats and bathing suits sitting on the bottom than you could imagine. BowerBird Colin put on his dive gear and collected the treasures. Loot: 4 beach towels, but no gold.

We had a few more nights anchorage, before heading to West End, known as Sopers Hole, and its colourful village theme. Colin and Pam had to make a day trip to St Thomas to get clearance for FMD to enter and land into US waters.
Murphy’s Law must rule that its always 1 am or 2 am when squalls appear, and we encountered near Hurricane conditions gusting thru the gap at Soper’s Hole that night. We were on anchor watch for a good hour before winds eased and we felt comfortable to go back to sleep. Such is the life of a sailor. We know we have a good anchor and ground tackle though!

SopersHole

Its been great weather for the past week in Virgin Islands, hot, windy and dry with the odd squall going thru to clean the decks. We enjoyed the day of cloud and rain while we waited for Wayne and Lorraine to join the boat for a holiday visit.

Crew Arrival in the rain

With a new crew aboard, we enjoyed our favorite spots in Virgin Islands again; Norman Island, Cooper Island Resort, Bitter End, Cane Garden Bay and finally Jost Van Dyke. The new crew enjoyed a fabulous hike around The orchid Trail on Virgin Gorda’s East side, where they had fantastic viewpoints, wild Iguanas, and of course wild Orchids.

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We Had our last day in BVI at Jost Van Dyke, with of course a quick stop at Foxy’s. Although we had a great lunch at a different restaurant down the sandy road, Foxy had a song for us Vancouver Islanders anyways.

Foxy

We will be checking out of the country today on our passage West then North, next stop Puerto Rico.