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!
NO BEER !!!

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.

Panama_Canal_Map

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….

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.