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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.

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.

IMG_4852

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!