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)
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.
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”.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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…
Snacks onboard was fried chicken. Or Pizza.
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.
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!
Stewart was happy again, and he promptly purchased some from the concession. Life WOULD go on.
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.
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!
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.
Our Pilot got off just before we moored down at the club and we headed up to the Club for a Beer!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We spotted a small flock of Toucans during our walk one morning after the rain.
And a family of monkeys just hanging around.
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.
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.
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!!!
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!
San Blas was turning out to be a fabulous place to just hang out, chill and catch fish, lobster and spend afternoons snorkeling.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When it rains in Panama, it Rains! But we always, Or mostly always end up with a glorious sunset.
After being in Cartegena for over 3 weeks, Darren and I decided to head south to an anchorage called Cholon Bay. It was a 18 mile journey in light winds and soft seas. We were still waiting on news of Colins prognosis, and we thought that being out of the city may be a bit less depressing for us.
Making our way thru the reefs, which are lightly marked, we were welcomed to the bay by the beach bar and the masses of boats there. It was a Wednesday just before dark, and many boats were just on their way out, but a few boats remained with their music playing loudly.
We found an anchorage with two other boats and immediately jumped off and had a swim in the cleaner water. It was a welcome treat after the cess-pool of Cartegena.
Along the mangrove lines shores of Cholon Bay are many beautiful homes and a few hotels. We found wifi in one Hotel Sport Baru http://www.sportbaru.com
Before we went into Cartegena, the bottom of the boat was relatively clean, but after only 3 short weeks, it was COVERED in a mass of slime and barnacles. After two days of cleaning, we could again recognize the bottom, and figured we deserved a beer at the beach bar.
We stayed in Cholon Bay for 9 peaceful, tranquil nights, with flat water most of the time. We did have to endure the jet skis and SeaDoo’s, who always seem to think that circling around sailboats is a fun thing to do. They should ask the Sailors what they think about that though.
It was a peaceful easy place to do some boat work, seemingly one issue after another, first the rerouting of the bilge pump, then the generator impeller, then the air compressor, Between trying to get the boat clean,.. we were constantly making a mess trying to fix something that needed attention; Definition of cruising?: Fixing things in remote anchorages.
We did get time to dingy around, visit with friends, and visit the beach and the beach bar. We did find a beautiful little boutique hotel on Playa Azul, that was just lovely! A small hotel for 20 people, a beautiful white sand beach, and NO ONE there! It was a lovely spot for a sit on the pool chaise and relax for a few minutes.
On the way back from the beach, we saw an inlet into the mangroves.. and decided to go for a dingy adventure up the half mile long passageway searching for wildlife, We did see birds and crabs, but no snakes or wild things.
In the meantime, while being at anchor, we got some good news about Colin. While he has been in the hospital for the last week or more, due to his increased pain with the radiation treatments, he has had many tests and procedures. He is under the careful attention and care of Dr Liz Kenny, in Brisbane Hospital, who has confirmed some secondary cancers in Colin’s hip and spine. Under good care and treatment, they expect Colin to be around for a few more years to come! Rum Punches all around!
After 9 days in the jungle, we had to head back to the city for provisioning, to get some parts and wait for our next set of crew to arrive.
If you would like to learn to sail or just be part of our Adventure, send us an email or use the contact us in this webpage.
At first glance, Cartagena is an architecturally beautiful city. The people seems friendly and the amenities are endless.
The city began with 200 people in 1533. During the remainder of the 16th century there was rapid growth. A major factor was the gold in the tombs of the Sinú Culture. After those tombs were completely plundered, the inhabitants began to scatter to the countryside and to establish themselves as farmers, and the population of the city decreased.
A little later,the city had fewer than 2000 inhabitants and one church; the dramatically increasing fame and wealth of the prosperous city turned it into an attractive plunder site for pirates and corsairs–French and English privateers licensed by their king.Thirty years after its founding, the city was pillaged by the French nobleman Jean-François Roberval. The city set about strengthening its defences and surrounding itself with walled compounds and castles.
Jim, Blieu, Darren and I ventured into El Centro, the old town and checked out the food, the buildings and the shopping.
it was a 7000 peso cab ride from the marina to El Centro, ( an equivalent of about $3 CDN) for the 4 of us to jump into a Toyota Prius- type cab and adventure Northward.
Apparently, shoes is a favorite of Colombians as well. There are a TON of shoe stores.. everywhere. I wish I could still wear any shoe I desired… I would have been in heaven 4 years ago!
Lunch was just as amazing. At a whole $4 CDN we had a full lunch with a delicious soup, salad, piece of meat ( or fish) rice, and lemonade. We were stuffed.
And after, we couldn’t help but to stop and get a local indulgency.
A few days in the city and we had to head out as our water supply was low, and we couldn’t make water in the dirty harbor. We headed southwest to the Rosario islands. A quaint group of islands covered in private homes, these islands were a quiet retreat from the bustling city harbor for a few nights.
We swam, made water, dinghied around, and checked it out. There are homes built on tiny atolls surrounding these islands, your own little piece of paradise. If you want a quiet holiday, this would definitely give you a piece of tranquility.
Back to the city we returned, to get ready to fix some things, provision to head to San Blas and check out the city life for a few more days.
Jim and Blieu were to depart from Cartagena, it was a pleasure having them on board, and we will welcome them back anytime!
Just a few more shots of this beautiful city before we leave you!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.