Day 13 – Passage to the Marquesas

Time: 23:00 UTC. Position :9.05 south, 120.46 west, heading 244
degrees at 6 knots.

We have not had another stormy day,but continue to have a lot of
swells which make the boat rock from side to side. The swells
are rolling in from the south, and we are heading west
south-west ( mostly west), so they hit us at an angle that makes
it, well, rolly. It is not terrible, just not the smooth,
effortless sail we were expecting. Apparently the sailing
conditions can differ by just very small distances depending
where on this huge ocean you are en route to the Marquesas- I
mean we have friends on boats just a hundred miles away who are
having strong winds, but smooth, flat seas. Other people, 100
miles away in another direction seem to having worse swells than
us. Since the conditions are constantly changing it is hard to
know what to do, except just to keepdownloading weather reports
and hoping that each day ( or hour) brings about the changes
that we are looking for. Today it seems to be pretty good. It
is amazing how used to it we have gotten – I mean we can read
and we can write e-mails- something I am sure we could not do
under these condtions a few months ago. We have a fun
relationship going on with another boat – Intiaq- with Karin and
Jean-Francois on board. They are a French/Swiss couple –
handsome, articulate, friendly a little older than us. They
have a big catamaran, a 47 foot Catana. A 47 foot Catana is way
bigger than a 52 foot Amel, by the way, because they are about
25 feet wide, whereas we are only 15 feet. Makes them a very
comfortable and roomy boat. Catamarans handle swells much better
than monohulls like us because of the broad footprint they have
on the water – makes them very smooth. Anyways, we met Intiaq
in the Galapagos and left from the same harbour in Isla Isabela
at about the same time on April 11th. We were in radio contact
with them for the first few days, but then they pulled too far
ahead of us to get reception. The other way to communicate with
other boats at sea is by SSB ( single side band radio). Intiaq
had set up an arrangement with a few other boats ( all French
speaking) to check in with each other twice a day – just to
report positions and to make sure no-one is in trouble. There is
something wrong with our SSB radio so we can hear them everyday,
but can not transmit to talk to them. Since we are in e-mail
contact with them as well, I wrote Karin and told her our
dilemna. So now, every day, after their standard SSB check-in
with the other boats – which I listen in to – Karin gets on the
radio and just has a one way conversation with me – telling me
the days news – how many fish they have caught ( many), what
they have seen ( a bird), how the weather is, what great food
she she prepared on board, etc. It is really nice. Then I will
e-mail her back some news from Sabbatical III. It is very
comforting to have another boat to talk to like this. There are
at least 25 other boats en route to the Marquesas who also share
contact information on the radio via SSB. We are able to keep
track of lots of other boats – some of them we recognize from
seeing them from other harbours even if we have not yet met the
folks on board. We know of three boats who are sailing
single-handed – one Turk, one Canadian and one Austrian who are
crossing as we do. Can’t imagine how they do it – it is a very
very long journey – and even with two people it is hard to rest
enough. I guess they must just close their eyes, cross their
fingers and go to sleep on and off during the day. We have not
actually seen another boat for 12 days now – but expect that as
we all converge on the same island in the Marquesas we will
start seeing other boats. That will be fun.

Pacific Crossing – Day 11

Saturday, April 21, 2007 Time: 23:00 UTC
Position: 08.29 South 115.26 West
Bearing 264 degrees at 7 knots

The big squalls that we had continued from Thursday evening
through Friday evening . Luckily most of them went away just at
sunset on Friday evening , with mostly clear skies, but
continuing strong winds and seas. It is infinitely better to
sail at night when it is starry rather than pouring rain. We
even have some moonlight last night to guide our way . Today,
Saturday, was mostly clear, with strong following seas and good
winds – 15 to 20 knots. We are not doing much cooking- not that
we are out of food, but simply because we have not had much
appetite. Today I plan to cook chicken as I think we are
getting too thin ( well, maybe I am just dreaming). We have not
even put a fishing pole in the water for three days because the
seas are too rough to start handling 30 pound fish – which we
are determined to catch at some point.

April 20th – passage to Marquesas.

Time: 22:00 UTC Position 08.23 south, 112.39 west. Heading 266
degrees at 7.2 knots – double reefed jib and mizzen ( no
mainsail set now)

We have experienced stormy weather for the past 20 hours. We
have had a series of squalls, one after the other, bringing high
winds, rough seas and heavy rains. We are fine, but tired. We
just had an hour respite from the squalls, but they seem to have
returned. We are hoping they will dissipate before dark.

In 5 hours we should be reaching the half-way mark to Fatu-Hiva,
our much anticipated first port of call in the Marquesas.

Day 7 Crossing to the Marquesas.

Time: 21:00 GMT, Tuesday April 17th. Position S 06.25 and west
Heading 240 degrees with winds 15-20 knots, 70 degrees off our
port side.
All is fine……. There is nothing out here but water, sun,
wind, some flying fish, and an occasional bird (who must be very
tired). About 2,000 miles to go.

Pacific Crossing – Day 6

Day 6 – April 16th, 2007 Time: 21:00 UTC ( 15:00 local time –
whatever local might mean given our circumstances)

Position South 05.55.77 West 102.18.17 Heading 255 degrees at 8

Sorry about the blog the past few days. I just realized I sent
it the wrong way and it will be filled with all sorts of 2=Hs
and other junk.
All is well on board Sabbatical III. We each did a 6 hour shift
last night which really helped us in terms of getting caught up
on sleep. Amazing what one can do for six hours in the dark to
entertain oneself: an hour of staring at the stars, an hour of
dancing with the head-set on to get some exercise ( while
gripping onto the captain’s seat to keep steady), a couple of
hours of serious music listening on the IPOD, and a couple of
hours of absolute zoning out will do it. We have not seen
another boat for the last 3 days, but you still have to keep
checking. Finally got some good wind today, which required
taking down the big head sail ( the ballooner), but now we are
whizzing along at 8 to 9 knots and making some progress. Only a
couple of THOUSAND miles to go.

Day 5 at sea – Ou est Intiaq?

23.30 GMT, Sunday, April 15th.
We ended up turning much farther south last night than we had wanted to due
to wind direction. Then this morning we set up our two headsails which
allows us to sail well downwind, but we had to head the wrong direction in
getting everything set up and by the time we were back on track we had gone
a little farther south than we wanted to – but still on a good track for
the Marquesas. Our position is South 06.05 and West 100.13. Very
light winds and we are having an uncomfortable day – lots of sloshing back
and forth in the swell as there is not enough wind to keep both of the
headsails full. We are sad that we are now out of VHF range of our friends
Intiaq – so I am sending them this mail as well, hoping they will send
me back an e-mail letting us know their position. They are probably
enjoying a gourmet dinner right now, while we are eating canned soup, old
stir-fried rice and chocolate covered bananas ( all of which were actually
quite delicious). Tomorrow I plan to cook a chicken curry- or if we
are lucky, some fresh caught fish.

Day 4 – Passage to Marquesas

Position: South 05.06.23 West 97.42.08 Heading 244 degrees at 6 nm.

We are doing well – have been sailing without the motor for most of the past 2 days.
Yesterday was gorgeaus – smooth seas and a nice wind has us
racing along between 7 and 8 knots for most of the day. We are not getting
long enough stretches of sleep to feel rested, but are continuing to figure
this out. We are part of two “sailing nets” – which are groups of
sailors who talk on the SSB radio at set times during the day to report their
positions, and current wind and wave conditions where they are. Both
of the nets are for sailors in the Pacific. 99 percent of them are on our
exact course, and we are all within a couple of hundred miles of each other.
It is helpful. We know most of the boats from having seen them,
and meeting many of them, these last few weeks in the Galapagos. We are
just about 20 miles from one of our favorite boats – Intiaq – a catamaran
owned by a French/Swiss couple. We are close enough to them to see their
navigation lights at night which is kind of nice. Not much else out.
here to see except lots and lots and LOTS of water.Saw some dolphins
yesterday, but they didn’t seem interested in us and just swam on by.

More later

Us at sea – April 12th, 2007

Day 2 at sea. It is 4:30 pm local time and we are currently at :
S03.17 and W 93.06, and have had about 14 knots of wind 80 degrees to
port since about 2:00 this afternoon. We are heading 235 degrees. Yesterday
was calm and beautiful, and this morning was awful with no wind and terribly
sloppy seas and big swells. Since 2:00 however we have been
able to sail, and the seas, although still going the wrong way, are quite
a bit more comfortable.
We hope to get some sleep as both of us are wiped.

On our way

On Our Way.

We pulled up our anchor this morning and set off for the
island of Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas Islands of French
Polynesia. We left at 10:40 am local time (same as Mountain
Daylight Time) and have been motoring through gentle swells for
the past seven hours. We had a bit of wind for a while and got
some extra speed from our sails, but there has been no wind for
at least the past 3 hours. As we left the anchorage of Puerto
Villamil, we were greeted by a large sea turtle who seemed to
crane his neck to have a look at us and wave goodbye with his
flippers as he dove. As we sailed past the southwestern beaches
of Isla Isabela we saw that the ocean was full of sea turtles.
Every 100 yards there was a turtle or a small group of turtles.
Perhaps they are going to that beach to lay theirs eggs. What
a nice send-off from the Galapagos.

Yesterday we did our final provisioning. First we went to a
small supermarket and bought 5 dozen fresh and unrefrigerated
eggs, a few canned goods, and some bottled water. We left these
purchases at the market walked over to the Mercado a block away
to buy fruits and vegetables. We bought a large stalk of green
bananas weighing 20 pounds ($2.50), 10 avocadoes, 8 pounds of
tomatoes, three pineapples, and a watermelon. We wanted to buy
oranges and grapefruits but they were all soft and many were
moldy. We then hailed a pick-up truck taxi and loaded our fruits
into the back. In her best Spanish, Laura asked the driver if
there were another place to buy oranges. He took us to a store
that we had not seen before. There we bought 45 hard green
oranges, a half-dozen grapefruit, and another watermelon. We
shlepped it to back to the boat and had it washed and stowed
aboard before 10:30 am. We had to hang the banana stalk in the
ocean for a half-hour in order to drown the numerous insects
living there — some seemed immune to a 10 minute dunk. We
spent the afternoon going through our checklist of departure

At 5 pm we took the water taxi into the Embarcadero to have
one last walk on solid gound, have a quick meal at Henry’s Club
Nautico, and pick up our order of prepared food. Earlier
yesterday morning, we asked Henry’s wife to cook up grilled
chicken and rice with vegetables and chicken for 9 people, and
left tupperware to contain it. When we got to Club Nautico, it
had all just been cooked and was sitting in the sealed
tupperware. We had a quick dinner of fish (they were now out of
chicken) and took a water taxi over to “Intiaq” . Karen and
Jean-Francois had invited us to talk about winds, waves, and
routing to the Marquesas over drinks on their beautiful
catamaran. They had two Italian couples from a nearby boat
over, and the men were bent over a computer screen with weather
forecasts. The discussion was all in French but I could follow
much of it, and Laura helped out with translations as well. One
of the Italian men had been a weather forecaster before
retiring. The question is whether to go directly south in the
hopes of picking up the tradewinds, or take a more northerly
course as routing guru Jimmy Cornell suggests. Jean-Francois
had made contact on his SSB radio with two boats that left the
Galapagos for the Marquesas three days ago. One went far south
and was experiencing very rough seas and no wind. The other
went less south and was experiencing calmer seas and 17 knots of
winds. This is extremely useful information and I have adjusted
our route in light of it. Over drinks and appetizers, Laura
engaged everyone in her brilliant French while I just sat there
smiling. We could not stay long as we had an invitation for
“sundowners” at “Vera”, the boat of our friends Michael and
Britta of Germany. It was certainly our big social night.

Laura is now listening in on Jean-Francois and his friends
at sea discuss condition (in French) on the SSB. Intiaq left
just 4 hours ago. A few other boats left today as well
primarily because the nasty swell from the south that we have
had for the past few days has ended. We are currently heading
208 degrees magnetic at 7.2 knots at location 1 degrees 39
minutes South, 91 degrees 29 minutes West. We had some dolphins
jumping near the boat just a few minutes ago. Soon it will be
rice and chicken for supper, and a night full of stars.


Last tours of Isabela Island, Galapagos

Monday, April 9.

We are still in Puerto Villamil seeing some sights and
preparing for the longest sail of our life. On Saturday, we
checked out the municipal pier and met out new neighbors in the
anchorage — Karyn (French) and Jean-Pierre (Swiss). They have
been circumnavigating for ten years but have only gotten as far
as the Galapagos. They have a beautiful Catana 471 (“Intiac”,
named after their grandchildren) and will be leaving for the
Pacific crossing about the same time as we will. Without
Laura’s French language skills we could not struck up this nice
friendship. In the afternoon, we took a taxi into the national
park and did some short hikes. The taxi (a pickup truck) took
us to each trail head and waited as we hiked. The landscape is
bleak vocanic rock that heats up incredibly in the equatorial
sun. We never seem to get an early start so it is pretty hot on
land once we get going. We hiked to the “wall of tears” which
is all that remains of a prison that had an atrocious reputation
in its years of operation. We also hiked up to a “mirador”
(viewpoint) on top of a volcanic hill, and to a lava tunnel
leading into the ocean.

Sunday we hired Gonzolo, a national park guide, to take us
up to volcano Sierra Negra. This involved taking his pick-up
truck up a very dusty dirt road for an hour and then hiking a
short distance to the second largest volcanic crater in the
world. It was impressive to see and hotter than hell. We had
lunch with Ozkan Gulkanak of “Kayitsiz”. Ozkan is a young
Turkish guy who is single-handing a wooden 28 foot boat of his
own design. He is a very gregarious character who, it seems, is
known by everyone on sail boats in the Galapagos. We asked him
how he keeps a safe watch when sailing alone and he said that he
is not worried about collision. When we returned to the boat
late in the afternoon, we saw our friends Michael and Britta on
“Vera” enter the bay and anchor next to us. Vera is the boat
that we met sailing from Bonaire to the San Blas Islands, and we
spent some time with them in Panama. To our surprise (and
theirs), an Ecuadorian navy officer came to their boat soon
after they anchored (on Easter Sunday), and said that they must
report to the Capitan del Puerto by 7 am. The reason is that
they were flying the German flag and the German boats that left
here on Friday and Saturday apparently did so without following
the check-in procedures and paying their fees.

Today, we found an internet cafe and tried to catch up on
email but the connection speeds were abysmal. We met Michael
and Britta and had a long lunch catching up on events since we
last saw them at Isla Grande, Panama. We asked them if they had
met Ozkan, the single-handing Turk anchored in front of us, and
it turns out they did. When approaching the Galapagos in the
fog two weeks ago, Ozkan’s boat almost ran into “Vera” while
Ozkan was asleep. Britta had to use her fog horn to awaken him.
This was the only boat that “Vera” saw on her crossing from
Panama. Small ocean.

After lunch, Laura and I took a wonderful excursion by boat
to “La Tintoreras”, the black lava shoals and islands and form
one boundary of the anchorage. We had an excellent guide
(guides are required) and were able to see Galapagos penguins,
boobies, marine iguanas, sharks, rays, sea lions and more. Part
of the excursion is a walk on paths cut into the jagged black
vocanic rock of “La Tintoreras.” There are long, deep fissures
in the rock filled with sea water and at least 50 white-tipped
sharks (known as “tintoreras” in Spanish). After the walk, we
snorkeled off the excursion boat and got to swim with sea lions.
Our guide had a fish chart with him in the water and would
point to fish and then to its picture and name in the chart as
we snorkeled.

This was our last tour in the Galapagos. Tomorrow will be
devoted to final preparations for our big sail to Nuka Hiva in
the Marquesas. The weather forecast is not very good — there
is no wind nearby and none coming anytime soon. We downloaded
a wind forecast as a GRIB file that has the tradewinds starting
south of 5 degrees south latitude. Other cruisers on the way to
the Marquesas have called in on the SSB radio to confirm that
they needed to motor past 5 degrees, one said as far as 8
degrees south, to get good tradewinds. It is a day and one-half
of motoring for us to get down to 5 degrees south. We have
plenty of fuel but we much prefer to sail. We expect to leave
on our 3000 nautical mile (3500 regular mile) passage to the
Marquesas on Wednesday, but might hang on here for another day
depending on circumstances. It will be the longest sail of our
lives and there will be just the two of us on Sabbatical III.

Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabella

Friday, April 6.

We are anchored in Puerto Villamil on the island of
Isabella. It is a very pretty anchorage although still a bit
rolly (although not nearly as much as Academy Bay was in the
last three days we were there). Sea lions swim by the boat
looking for fish, boobies dive bomb into the water looking for
the same, and this morning Laura was startled to find two
Galapagos penguins checking her our out while she dangled her
feet off the transom. Let me first update events since the last
blog entry.

On Monday we spent a few hours provisioning. It took us
less time than we thought because there was not that much to buy
in the stores, and we have quite alot of foodstuffs that be
bought in Panama, Bonaire, and the French Caribbean. At the
Mercado Municipale, we bought a huge stalk of bananas (we could
not resist the price — $3). They were all very green on Monday
but about half are ripe today and the rest will be ripe tomorrow
so we have some serious banana eating to do. We bought lots of
oranges, tomotos, peppers, and pineapple. The problem is that
we do not expect to start our Pacific crossing until Tuesday or
Wednesday next week, so that most of these will have to be eaten
before then. I spent some hours looking for a filter element
for a ZF Hurth gearbox with no luck. We had arranged to meet
our agent, Johnny Romero, on the boat at 3 pm to get our
clearing out papers and settle up our debts but he could not
make it. It was not until after 7pm that he sent Javier and
Manolo to the boat with our passports and documents, and not
until 8:30 pm that we got our laundry. Somewhat to my surprise,
at 5:45 pm “Macaroni” showed up at the boat to clean the bottom.
Macaroni runs a dive shop in Puerto Ayora, and Craig of
“Patriot” had spent some days trying to get him to clean the
bottom of Patriot and of Sabbatical III. He would show up and
say he would be right back with a tank of air and then not
return. You could never find him at the dive shop as we was
always taking tourists out for dives. But there he was just
before sundown ready to go. I had him change the zinc anodes
first and then as the sky darkened he went to work on the
bottom. I cannot imagine how he could see anything down there
but he said that he cleaned it well by touch. He had an
assistant with a snorkel clean the water line. They both worked
feverishly for 45 minutes and asked for $40 for their efforts —
an exceptionally good deal. (Just now, Laura checked out the
bottom and said is was very clean). That afternoon we had a
chat with the German couple (Uva and Beatrice) in the boat next
to ours and they said they were planning to go to Isabella as
well the next morning. They hauled in their stern anchor that
evening so that they could get an early start. As soon as they
did, their boat turned broadside to the swells and started to
roll in a most uncomfortable fashion. They later told us that
they could not sleep in the roll. We left our stern anchor in
for the night.

Tuesday morning was exceptionally cold and foggy. We wore
long sleeved shirts at breakfast and delayed preparations for
leaving because of the poor visibility. We talked with Uva and
he said that they did not want to leave in the fog and would
stay another day. The issue was not so much with leaving
Academy Bay in limited visibility, which is not very hard to do,
but entering Puerto Villamil. There are shoals of black
volcanic rock all around the anchorage and the charts are very
poor. The fog started to lift at 9 am so we quickly hauled in
both anchors and headed out. There was no wind the whole way so
we motored, The fog burned off after an hour and it was a very
pretty ride to Isla Isabella. We had a pod of dolphins with us
for a short while, plus big sting rays leaping into the air. It
was perfectly clear when we entered the anchorage at Puerto
Villamil and most of the other sail boats at anchor were boats
we recognized from Academy Bay, including a trio of Austrian
boats, and a couple of American guys from California in their
early twenties who many of us refer to as the “dudes” since that
word is such an important part of their vocabulary. We got a
ride in to the Embarcadero from Henry, who runs Club Nautico,
and then a pickup truck taxi into town to do our check-in with
the Ecuadorian Navy. We have done everything by the book in the
Galapagos. We applied for a cruisng permit months before we
arrived (they are issued in Quito), and paid every fee required.
This cost us many hundreds of dollar. It seems that some of the
other boats did not do this — they either just drop an anchor
and do not check-in, or pay something to the local port captain
even though a cruising permit is required to come to this
island. They live is fear that they will be told to leave
immediately, but that does not seem to have happened.

We have not done to much on Isabella. I have developed a
case of bronchitis — the first illness since leaving the USA.
I suspect that I got the bronchitis from “Capitan Cucharacha”,
the captain of the boat that took us to Isla Floreana one week
ago. He liked talking with me but was hacking and coughing the
whole time. Fortunately, my wonderful physician Dr. Warren
Licht had given me a big bottle of antibiotics on which he hand
wrote “bronchitis”. The other limitation is that it very hard
to land a dinghy here and the water taxis stop running at 6 pm.
At low tide a dinghy has to cut an extremely circuitous course
to avoid going aground on jagged black volcanic rocks, and then
there is no place to leave the dinghy ashore. As we anchored
in fairly shallow water at high tide, I was concerned that
Sabbatical III might get too close to the bottom when the tide
went out. In the morning I was pleased to see 2.0 meters of
water under the hull but then dismayed when, as the boat swung
ever so gently at anchor, the depth dropped to 0.0 meters,
meaning that we were touching bottom. I suspected that there
was a volcanic rock that we did not spot when we first anchored.
Laura and I rushed on deck to look over the side for a rock
and saw something black right under the keel. Then we saw a sea
lion dive into that blackness and emerge with a silvery fish in
his mouth, and then do it again. In watching more closely, we
realized that that dark spot was not a rock but a large school
of fish trying to hide under out boat. The seal lion was not as
easily fooled as we were. Another boat at the anchorage reported
the same thing.

Yesterday morning we visited the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center
which is not far from town. There are hundreds of juvenile
tortoises awaiting return to the wild and a couple of dozen
fully grown tortoises for breeding, with many more females than
males. The males grow larger, and fully grown male giant
tortoises are — well — giant. As Laura and I sat in the shade
next to a group of females, a huge male slowly plodded his way
over and mounted the first female he came to. All I can say is
that it was a pretty amazing show of slow motion sound and
action. Another male must have suddenly remembered what his
duties are at the breeding center, and sprung into action,
although he seemed a bit rusty. He mounted a female backwards,
which seemed to annoy her greatly, and as she tried to turn
around, she got it in the shoulder, before finally all the parts
fit. He was so energetic that he pushed the two of them
completely across the dusty pen six inches at a time.

There is a beautiful trail from town to the Tortoise Breeding
Center that passes three lagoons with brackish water and the
sulfur smell arising from volcanic activity. In one lagoon we
saw three pink flamingos slowly walking and using their beaks to
look for food in the mud. Where the trail hits the beach, there
is an enormous colony of marine iguanas. They are mostly black
and they rest motionless on the black volcanic rock, so one can
miss seeing them. But if you look more carefully, there are
dozens strewn about including some very large individuals the
size of small dogs.

Last night Henry arranged a BBQ at his Club Nautico for the
sail boats in the anchorage. We attended along with the three
Austrian boats and our German neighbors from Academy Bay who
arrived yesterday. The water taxi that took us back in the dark
at low tide kept banging into shoals but finally got us back to
Sabbatical III. I am feeling better today but am still a bit
rundown from my bout with bronchitis. This is Easter weekend so
I am not sure if the restaurants or stores are even open. It
does not matter much as we have plenty of food on board. The
wind forecast has improved a few of the 10 boats in the
anchorage will be leaving tomorrow or Sunday for the long
passage across the Pacific. The German couple, Uva and
Beatrice, just came over in their dinghy to say goodbye. We
will probably meet up with all of these boats in the Marquesas
in a few weeks.


Galapagos: Academy Bay

April 1, 2007 (Saturday) We are still anchored in Academy Bay, opposite the town of Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz, Galapagos. Thursday was boat maintenance day. We changed fuel and oil filters, of which we have quite alot (five fuel filters). We also took a taxi to “Mecanica Gallardo” to pick up a couple of cases of diesel motor oil and some degreaser. The degreaser was used by Manolo and his assistant on Friday to clean the hull. Our hull was covered in an array of black marks and smears of various origin. The oldest marks were from the old tires that were draped around the boat for it’s transit through the Panama Canal. Then came the tire marks inflicted by the ‘panga’ water taxis that have them attached to their bows. When they come to pick us up or drop us off from the boat, they come bow first to the side of our boat and inevitably they make contact with the boat in the swell even though we have five fenders out. The third source of black on the hull is oil that was spilled in the harbor by one of the larger boats during the night. There is no fuel dock in the bay and boats refuel from 20 gallon jerry cans brought out from shore on small boats, a process that is prone to cause a spill. The hull looks better now but is collecting a new set of tire marks from pangas. We also filled up with diesel yesterday delivered to us on a small boat but used a 220 volt pump and hose to move the diesel from the jerry cans into the tank. Nothing spilled into the water but I did manage to get some in the cockpit which I wiped up with paper towels. The occasional fuel slick in the bay means that we cannot run the watermaker here and hence have to ration water.

Thursday afternoon we hiked over to Las Greitas, a beautiful canyon filled with a mixture of fresh and salt water. The hike takes you by the Finch Bay Eco-Hotel (we could not readily discern what was “eco” about it), and some old salt pans. Friday we took a taxi up to the highlands to search for giant tortoises. At the first place we searched for them (Rancho Mariposa) we spent one hour in the broiling sun before we were told that they had all moved west. Our taxi then took us a few kilometers west and we took to the trails again. We found tortoises just strolling down the trails in the brush munching on leaves. The largest of them are quite impressive. We also had a look at the “Gemeloes”, which are huge collapsed magma chambers. A very impressive site.

Yesterday we did a one day tour to Plaza Sur Island and to Carrion Point. Plaza Sur is a small island less than one mile long and just a couple of hundred yards across and is home to 1000 sea lions and hundreds of land and marine iguanas. We were the only paying customers on the tour so the tour guide brought along her two small children. The tour involved a bus ride across Santa Cruz Island to the ‘Canal de Itabaca’ where we boarded a boat for the one and one-quarter hour ride to Plaza Sur Island. The small stone landing for the boat’s panga was strewn with the resting bodies of sea lions so the panga driver had to clap his hands and make noises to get them off so we could land. Many of the sea lions were juveniles who stay very close to shore to avoid getting taken by the sharks that cruise by looking for fresh meat. There were a few large males who bark and make a fuss to defend their territory.There seemed to be at least one marine or land iguana under every catcus tree. From Plaza Sur the boat took us to Carrion Point were Laura and I jumped in to snorkel. The water was murky at places but there were plenty of interesting fish to see, including four white-tipped sharks. One was about 9 feet long and gave us quite a start. Once back in town, we finally found the great bananas that Laura has been searching for.

Tomorrow we will provision for our Pacific crossing and do the formal check-out from Ecuador. Tuesday we head for Puerto Villamil on the island of Isabella, the westernmost of the inhabited Galapagos. It is about 50 miles to the west. It is a sleepy place without the facilities or tourists found here on Santa Cruz Island. We have a cruising permit from the Ecuadorian Navy that allows to stay in Puerto Villamil prior to setting off for the Marquesas in French Polynesia. We expect to spend about one week at Puerto Villamil.


First five days in the Galapagos

We have been in the Galapagos for nearly a week now and are loving it. The only way to really get to see the whole range of wildlife here is to join one of the organized tours. There are dozens of them everyday, and it seems that for cruisers like us, the best option is to join one of the many day tours that run out of Puerto Ayora where we are anchored. We did tours the last two days – and had a great time.

Our first tour was to the Island of Floreana which is about 40 nm away from us. We got on board a small motor boat along with 12 other people, our guide, and the captain for a two hour high speed motor to the island. Most of us napped along the way and the seas were flat and calm so it was a pleasant ride. Once there we had a very hot hike over a lava path to a beautiful bay where we could snorkel. The path was very easy except for the last 50 yards where you had to grip onto a hot black lava rock cliff face and inch yourself over the edge of the cliff onto the beach. If you fell you would just go into the water, but still, it was a bit hair raising. On the beach was a huge male sea lion who came roaring over to anyone who came too near. In the water were dozens of small sea lion pups, all frolicking in the water, and diving around us as we came in for a swim. Mark saw an incredibly huge manta ray in the water – and caught a glimpse of a big sea turtle as well.

Then we went back to the boat and motored over to the next spot – an area called the Devils Crown ,”Corona del Diablo” – a fallen volcanic crater which has some incredible snorkeling. Just before we got in they gave us lunch – a huge pot of rice and chicken. I guess they don’t know the rule about waiting after you eat before you swim. When we got there the tour guide suddenly stripped down to his shorts and told everyone to hurry, hurry, hurry. We had to all get in the water at the same time because the current was so strong it would just pull us along the Crown and he wanted us to be together. We all leapt into the water from the boat. The guide failed to mention that it was like being in a tidal wave. It just picked you up and swept you along for at least 500 feet. Along the way were more beautiful fish than we have seen anywhere else – along with a few sharks! It was scary, but very fun. When we rounded the side of the crown we were out of the current and could enjoy the incredible fish there. Some sea lions were sliding off the cliffs into the water around us as well. Then once again the tour guide was suddenly shouting directions:”Ok, now everyone swim across this lagoon very very fast – the current is very strong here!” Not everyone heard him since some people were a little far away, so it was really up to each person to figure out what to do. Mark and I swam harder than we ever have in our lives. It was exhausting. After that swim we were once again in a calm spot and we were treated to seeing 4 or 5 white tipped sharks swimming in circles under us (they are supposed to be vegetarians). When we got back to the boat we were absolutely exhausted. Everyone was laughing because it was just not the type of tour that they would do in the U.S. without signing legal consent forms. I guess they haven’t lost too many people yet! That night we were in bed by 8:00 p.m. and slept for 10 hours.

The next day we did another tour, this one a lot more sedate. We started out with a bus ride across the island of Santa Cruz which took about an hour. Then we got into a nice motor boat for a nice calm 1 hour trip to the island of North Seymour. This is an incredible island just filled with frigate birds, blue footed boobies, and marine iguanas. As someone on our trip said, it felt like you were watching a national geographic movie, but you were in it. The male frigate birds have these huge red heart-shaped sacks under their necks and when they want to attract the females they puff them out so they look like a huge red balloon heart just under their beaks. It is so beautiful. The blue footed boobies are incredible and we saw some of them doing their mating dance, an elaborate ritual which includes them picking up and putting down little pieces of straw in front of each other, and the males singing out and ruffling all their feathers out in a big show. The males and females have different sounds and the whole island is filled with the sounds of all the birds putting on their shows. Since it is mating season now for both of these birds we were able to see dozens of them strutting their stuff, incubating eggs, and we even saw a few baby frigates. The marine iguanas are a different story – silent and still – they sit on the rocks and in the bushes looking like prehistoric animals. After a couple of hours watching this incredible display we went back to the boat to motor over to our next stop on the tour. This time we had a very delicious fish lunch, prepared for us on the boat. Once again, as soon as lunch was over it was time to snorkel. The snorkeling was off of a beautiful white sand beach, Las Bachas, and was much less wild than the day before. The snorkeling was good, but the best show was over our heads. There were thousands of boobies and other birds on the rocks beside the beach, and they all decided to fly off the rocks together and dive for fish. Since the fish they were diving for were basically just a few yards away from us, it was quite a sight to see them all rise from the rocks and come flying over us in a huge mass- really beautiful – but also very funny as you know what birds tend to do when they fly overhead! Luckily we could just dive under the water to wash off.

Today we are just hanging out on the boat – attending to boat business. We will spend the afternoon at the internet cafe in town posting our pictures to the blog ( if the internet is working that is – it has not been for the past couple of days) and then have dinner with Craig (from “Patriot”), whom we met in Panama.


Safe Arrival in the Galapagos

It is now Saturday, March 24 (Hannah’s B-Day!), and we are spending some time on the boat today to organize ourselves, sort through 2000 photos for possible inclusion in our web page slide show, and finish administrative arrangements. Our agent, Johnny Romero, is due on the boat any minute with our passports and some tour information. We are anchored in Academy Bay, off of the town of Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz right in the middle of the Galapagos. Our location is South 00 degrees, 44.90 minutes, West 90 degrees, 18.40 minutes.

Our passsge to the Galapagos was faster and easier than we anticipated. It took less than 6 days from Balboa, Panama to San Cristobal Island, the eastern most of the Galapagos, and then a few more hours to Isla Santa Cruz. We arrived in Academy Bay at about 0920 local time on Thursday to crystal clear water and pelicans and other birds dive-bombing fish all around us. There was only notable event in our last hours of the passage. After being visited by the pod of whales, crossing the equator and going for a swim, and watching a stunning sunset, we had a strange encounter with two Spanish speaking men in an open boat about 40 miles northeast of San Cristobal. As soon as we turned on our navigation lights, a 25 foot boat with a large outboard suddenly appeared out of the dark and headed for our starboard side. I was down below when Annabelle called to me and I immediately came on deck and took the helm and powered up the engine to about 8 knots. The other boat ran parallel to us and told us a confused story about how their two compatriots had fallen overboard and they needed our help to find them. For some time, the seas were almost flat and there was no wind so it is hard to imagine how anyone could fall overboard, much less become “lost” to a highly manueverable small boat. Nonetheless, we wanted to provide assistance if someone was in danger. The men said they were fishing but I noticed that the boat had no fishing gear nor were the two men dressed like fishermen. I kept us at 8 knots as we conducted a shouted conversation in Spanish, with Matt translating. The other boat did not seem sufficiently distressed over their missing compatriots, was not interested in having us call the Ecuadorian Navy on our VHF, nor did they seem concerned that during our conversation we had moved at least one mile further away (in pitch darkness) from their lost friends. We asked if they had a GPS fix on the location where the men went overboard. They hesitated and then said they did, and then provided a location that was some distance away. They had a bright light on an arch, and if they knew the location of the men overboard, what help could we possibly render? They asked us irrelevant questions, such as what port we were heading towards for. They asked us to put our foredeck light, which makes us even more visible in the dark, and to follow them. We turned on the light and I said that I would follow, but with no intent of doing so. The whole thing seemed fishy to me and I had read that there had been “incidents” on this very route in which banditos had faked an emergency in order to board sailing yachts. The faked emergencies that I had read about were smoky fires set in barrels on small boats followed by a request to “rescue” the boat’s occupants from an uncontrolled fire aboard. This seemed like a new variation on that theme. After I agreed to follow, they turned in the wrong direction require to get to the location of the “lost” men in the water. After starting a turn to follow, we turned off every light on the boat, even covering the radar screen and turning off instrument lights, and I turned the other way at full power. We could see their light in the distance and it was hard to tell if they were trying to follow us. They did not have radar and in the dark it was very unlikely that they would be able to see us. If they did see us, they could motor at three times our speed and could be on us in a minute. Fortunately, it was a very dark night. We motored a zig-zag course at high speed and without any lights for about seven hours. When we arrived in Academy Bay we asked if there had been any reports of men lost overboard and there seemed to be no such reports. We were also told that outboard powered open boats would not be in that location at night. Moreover, we had monitored marine VHF channel 16 all night listening for emergency calls and there were none. We can only conclude that these the two men in this boat were up to no good and that we made the right decision to darken the boat and power away.

We had to spent most of Thursday on the boat waiting for clearance from the authorities. Thursday night we relearned to walk and have become pretty good at it again. We had a nice Ecuadorian supper and founds some phones to call home with. Yesterday, Laura and I checked out stores and chandleries, visited the fish market (which a center of activity with the pelicans, sea lions, and iguanas looking for fish gut handouts), and spent the afternoon broiling at the Charles Darwin Research Station where we saw huge tortoises, land iguanas, and Darwin’s finches in between trips to the kiosk for bottles of water. Fortunately, it is always cool on the boat. At night we need a light blanket when sleeping. Last night, Annabelle and Matt treated us to supper at the nicest restaurant in the archipelago. They leave the boat tomorrow for a three day tour that ends at the airport for their flights home. There is much more to say but that will have to wait for a day or two. We hope to post some slide shows as well very soon. We will be in the Galapagos for about three weeks before Laura and I begin the nonstop 3000 nautical mile passage to the Marquesas island chain of French Polynesia.


Passage to the Galapagos – Day 6

5:25 P.M. EST Position: North 00.00.00 (that’s no typo- we are
at the equator!) W 88 degrees 32.6 minutes

Yep, we are at the equator. Actually we just crossed it and are
now in the Southern Hemisphere. We crossed the equator while
listening to Neil Young’s great sailing song ” Southern Cross”,
then we turned the boat around and crossed it again. There is
only the smallest distance where the latitude actually reads
00.00.00. We decided to stop the boat and go for a swim just to
mark the occasion. There was some wind all day, but when we got
to the equator it was down to pretty much nothing, so the boat
just bobbled in the swell while Matt and Annabelle jumped in.
I decided to join them for a QUICK swim at 8,500 feet of depth
while Mark stayed on board to make sure the boat didn’t float
away from us all. ( Don’t worry we would never leave the boat if
it was just the two of us). The water was cool and it was
exciting to think about where we were. A couple of tiny
jellyfish found us in the water and quickened our exit. They
must have been excited and surprised to see humans out there in
the middle of their ocean.
Earlier today we had some more excitement when a large pod of
pilot whales ( we think) caught up to our boat and swam and dove
next to us for at least a half an hour. They were so beautiful –
very sleek and smooth in the water – each about 15 feet long.
There were at least 16 of them. Some of them swam under the boat
and then emerged right next to us, while others just swam next
to us in groups of three or four, blowing out of their
blow-holes before arching and dipping back underwater. It was
amazing. We hope we will see more tomorrow as we reach the
Just a note: Last night on the boat we were all freezing. I had
to wear a winter hat during my watch. The water temperature has
dropped from the mid-80’s in Panama to only about 70 degrees,
and you can really feel the difference. Tonight we dig out the
blankets. Not exactly what one would expect at the equator!

Passage to Galapagos – Day 5

Time: 6:00 P.M. EST, Position: North 1degree 15.3 minutes West
86 degrees 43.6 minutes. Heading 231 degrees

Here we are in day 5 of our passage already. The wind has
increased to a nice 10 or 12 knots, but since about 10:00 a.m.
today it has been pretty much in our face so we had to pull down
our sails and motor. We hope the wind will switch to a better
direction soon so we can put up the sails again. It is so much
nicer sailing than motoring. It is interesting to note the
weather changes – although we are getting closer and closer to
the equator it is actually feeling much cooler. That is because
the ocean temperature has been dropping steadily as the Humboldt
current brings in cool water as we approach the Galapagos and
the resulting wind blowing off the water is significantly cooler
than before. It felt comfortably cool all day long, and we will
have to put on long pants and sweatshirts for our night watches.
We have had some seagulls following us for the past few days
and we were enjoying their company until we realized they have
been using our deck for target practice. We also found another
squid on the deck this morning. I guess this is all just a
little bit of a teaser for the wildlife we are about to see once
we reach the Galapagos.
Last night we saw a few ships – early in the evening we went by
three fishing boats ( how and why they were fishing hundreds of
miles from shore is unknown) and later a big cargo ship passed
in front of us.
Our crew, Annabelle and Matt are great helps – keeping watches,
helping with sail changes, cleaning dishes and being good sports
about everything. Matt has a fantastic set of music on his IPOD
which will help augment the 17 gigabytes of great music I have
on my IPOD. We plan on listening to every note during the coming
months. Tomorrow we cross the equator! We haven’t decided yet
how to celebrate, but my guess is it will involve food.


Pasage to the Galapagos: Day 4

5:00 P.M. EST: N 2 degrees 48.0 seconds W 84 degrees
57.seconds1 Course direction 230 magnetic, speed 6.5 knots

We are now well into day 4 of our trip to the Galapagos. Had a
windless night and had to motor. It was as smooth as glass on
the ocean. Saw the Southern Cross constellation. This morning
the breeze picked up and we have been sailing all day. It is
very nice. We are not doing much – lots of napping as the heat
makes you very tired – plus the odd sleeping schedules. We all
like the watch schedule we are keeping with three 4 hour watches
between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and 4 three hour watches
the rest of the day. Everyone gets a chance to experience
keeping watch at different times of the day that way. Last
night I had the 3:00 a.m. to 6: a.m. shift. It was really hard
to stay awake. We have only seen one boat in the past 3 days-
it was a huge tanker that passed us about 5:00 P.M. last
evening. Kind of shocking to see it there after so many miles
of completely empty ocean. This morning there was a good size
squid on the deck. I didn’t know they could fly up to the deck
of a boat. Maybe it was dropped there by one of the 3 birds
that was circling our boat last night. In any event the little
bugger kind of made a purple gooey stain on the deck. Yuck.

Keep watching our blog to see when we reach the equator….. we
are only 2 degrees north of there right now!

Another day sailing en route to Galapagos

5:00 PM EST: N 2 degrees 48 seconds W 84 degrees 57 seconds Course direction 230 magnetic, speed 6.5 knots. We are now well into day 4 of our trip to the Galapagos. Had a windless night and had to motor. It was as smooth as glass on the ocean. Saw the Southern Cross constellation.

This morning the breeze picked up and we have been sailing all day. It is very nice. We are not doing much – lots of napping as the heat makes you very tired – plus the odd sleeping schedules. We all like the watch schedule we are keeping with three 4 hour watches between the hours of 6 am and 6 p and 4 three hour watches the rest of the day. Everyone gets a chance to experience keeping watch at different times of the day that way. Last night I had the 3:00 am to 6: am shift. It was really hard to stay awake. We have only seen one boat in the past 3 days- it was a huge tanker that passed us about 5:00 PM last evening. Kind of shocking to see it there after so many miles of completely empty ocean. This morning there was a good size squid on the deck. I didn’t know they could fly up to the deck of a boat. Maybe it was dropped there by one of the 3 birds that was circling our boat last night. In any event the little bugger kind of made a purple gooey stain on the deck. Yuck.

Keep watching our blog to see when we reach the equator. We
are only 2 degrees north of there right now!

Passage to the Galapagos: Day 3

Passage to Galapagos: Day 3

The wind came up last night and we were able to turn off
the engine and sail. The wind is a bit on the light side now
but we continue to sail with two poled out head sails, doing
about 5.8 knots. We are still on schedule for a Thursday
arrival in Academy Bay, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands. It
is now 6 pm EST (2300 Z) on March 18, and our position is North
4 degrees 3.03 minutes, West 82 degrees 56.60 minutes. Heading
236 degrees magnetic. Winds are from the northeast at about
10-12 knots and there is a 2-3 foot swell. All in all, pretty
comfortable but a little slow.

We are eating well. Annabelle made shrimp creole and rice
last night. The night before Laura made her famous chicken
curry. We had tomato, cucumber, and feta salad for lunch, and
watermelon for a snack. And, of course, plenty of chocolate
(but. unfortunately, not that good European chocolate). We are
trailing two fishing lines but have had not luck so far. Fresh
tuna would be nice.


Passage to the Galapagos, Days 1 and 2

Passage to the Galapagos, Days 1 and 2

Yesterday morning (Friday, March 16) we completed
preparations for our passage to the Galapagos, including a
lengthy visit to the fuel dock to fill a 100 gallon fuel bladder
strapped to the aft deck. At 11:20 we left Balboa and headed
out the channel into the Pacific. The forecast was for light
winds and that is just what we have found. We motored until
about 5:30 pm and then found enough wind to sail at a reasonable
pace with the genoa set out on a pole to windward. By 9:30 pm,
we were back to motoring and have only been under sail for 2 1/2
hours today (Saturday). Having that extra 100 gallons of diesel
in the bladder tank is reassuring, as is the 40 gallons in jerry
cans. We have enough fuel to motor all the rest of the way to
the Galapagos if we have to. We have benefited from a favorable
current that added as much as 2 – 3 knots to our speed for most
of the day.

There was quite a bit of large ship traffic coming to and
from the Canal until early this morning. Now we are south of
where the big ships go and have not seen another vessel for
hours. Seas are quite flat with only a gentle swell but it is
very hot inside the boat and difficult to sleep except at night.
We have lots of fruit that is rapidly ripening in the heat and
we need to get busy eating it. The boat is more laden with
provisions, fuel, and water than ever before. Laura and I made
a last trip to the supermarket (“Super 99”) in Balboa plus added
a few cases of drinks at the Balboa Yacht Club. Much of these
provisions have to last us all the way to French Polynesia,
almost 4000 miles of sailing away.

At 5:30pm EST (22:30 Z) we are at North 5 degrees 55.5
minutes, West 80 degrees 57.9 minuted, motoring at 7.9 knots and
heading 238 degrees magnetic.


Panama Canal Transit

Just an hour before we were scheduled to leave the marina at
Shelter Bay and begin our transit across the Panama Canal we
received a phone call from Naomi, Mark’s sister, telling us that
their beloved mother Kitty (Nana) had just died. We knew that
Kitty’s health had been rapidly deteriorating. Indeed she has
been fading for the past few years… but still, the news was a
terrible blow. Because this blog is not meant as a “personal
diary”, and is open to anyone to read, we are not going to use
this space to write about Kitty or what her loss means to us. We
will save that for personal communication with family. It just
doesn’t feel right to write about the crossing without
acknowledging Kitty’s loss. So here is the story of our

Within a half an hour after receiving the phone call, and in
fact right in the middle of Mark’s phone call to Ben in Israel
to tell him about Nana, a car pulled up into the marina driven
by our Panama Canal agent Enrique Plummer, and filled with 3
other men (line handlers), 4 huge coils of line for the transit,
and various duffle bags for the men’s overnight stay with us.
Since the Panama transit is tightly scheduled we could not
delay. The captain (Mark) was urgently being called by everyone
to get on board for final preparations and to start moving
towards the canal entrance. We put our overflowing emotions on
hold, and proceeded with the tasks in front of us.

The crossing was an amazing experience. We left the marina and
motored a few miles across the open channel to “the flats” – an
anchorage where all sailboats wait for their turn to do the
transit. About an hour after we arrived there a pilot boat
zoomed over an to us and dropped off our advisor, Marin. Boats
smaller than 65 feet are required to have an “advisor” from the
Panama Canal Authority on board. Larger boats have pilots.
Advisors supposedly only advise the captain what to do, and he
is free to follow that advice or not. If the boat comes to
grief, it is the captain’s (Mark in this case) responsibility.
On the big boats that have pilots, the pilot is in charge and

The two other boats that were apparently scheduled to go through
with us got their advisors dropped off and then we all proceeded
closer to the actual canal. By then it was pitch dark and the
task at hand was to get all three boats rafted up together –
ours being the largest of the three we got the prime middle
position. This is a great spot to be in because the other boats
actually work like two huge bumpers for you. If anything goes
wrong in the canal they will hit the wall, not you. The two
other boats keep their engines in neutral, and Sabbatical III
steers the whole way. Our 3 linehandlers, Roberto (talkative,
outgoing, liked to eat), Winston (quiet, handsome) and NG (
looked 30 years old, but had been working on the canal for 25
years), were extremely competent, and it did not take long for
us all to get tied up together properly. Besides our regular
boat bumpers, we had 18 plastic-sheet covered car tires tied
onto the stanchions to protect the sides of the boat. You always
know when a boat is either preparing to go through the canal, or
has just done so, as everyone uses the same “attractive”
protection. Our advisor was great – very calm and knowledgable
and helpful – particular in helping Mark who had the most
critical job of all – steering the boat and controlling its
movement as we motored into and out of each set of locks. Our
two crew, Annabelle and Matt were extremely helpful as well,
Matt taking on the job of 4th line handler (and photographer),
and Annabelle taking a terrific series of photos.

We were rafted up in the middle of two other boats – a French
catamaran ( G-d help us), and an American sailboat named
Euphoria. The French catamaran had about 10 people on board,
including 3 little kids strolling, jumping, crying, and playing
all over the catamaran during the entire crossing while the
parents chatted, smoked and mishandled lines. They had no
professional linehandlers and seemed to be totally unprepared
for the experience. One little girl was nearly hit by the end
of one of the the 120 foot lines that are thrown down from the
top sides of the canal by Panama Canal employees. Her mother
finally made her move under the protection of an awning. Our
fear was that one of the kids would go overboard right in the
middle of the canal. The other boat also did not have
professional linehandlers, relying on their grown sons, who did
a pretty good job for their first time through. The funny thing
was that our linehandlers, who were clearly competent and
experienced after 15 years of 3 or 4 transits a week, really
didn’t have much to do. After the boats get tied together, all
the lines get tossed down to the outside boats from the top of
the locks, so the two totally inexperienced boats were doing all
they could to keep it together, while our guys were just
watching, ready to jump across to their assistance if needed.
Despite their shakiness, everything turned out OK, and we glided
up the three sets of locks to Lake Gatun that first evening.

Going up the locks is an amazing experience. You start out in a
roughly 200 foot long channel with about 80 feet of concrete
wall on either side of you, and Panama Canal employees at the
top of the locks throw lines down to the awaiting boats, who tie
their own lines onto the ones thrown down and cleat them on to
their boat bow and stern. Then the ends are pulled back up to
the top, and with coordination between the people on top of the
locks, and the linehandlers on the boats, plus the steering of
the captain in the center boat, you manage to stay pretty much
in the middle of the locks. It takes about 20 minutes for the
locks to fill and then you are almost to the top of the whole
wall. Then the metal gates in front of you slowly open and you
go through to start the process all over again. It is pretty
overwhelming – especially the first time it happens.

After the third set of locks we were in Lake Gatun where we tied
up to an incredibly huge mooring ball by about 9:00 P.M. and the
advisor got picked up by another pilot boat. Everyone else stays
on the boat for the night during a transit, so now we had 7
people on board. The linehandlers are very used to sleeping
whever they can, and were all prepared to just crash on the deck
for the night with whatever cushions we had for them to lie on.
It started raining really hard so we ended up with everyone
sleeping below – Matt and Annabelle in the forward cabin,
Winston and NG in the saloon, Roberto in the sea-berth, and Mark
and I in back.

One more thing… we ate like kings. We had prepared a huge
dinner of Indonesian chicken, rice, peppers, fruit and cookies
for the crew- everyone loved the Indonesian chicken. Apparently
it is considered bad form to feed your crew poorly, so we spent
a lot of effort getting everything prepared in advance.

By 6:15 the next morning the advisor was back on the boat and we
were off. We spent the next 4 hours just motoring through Lake
Gatun to get to the next set of locks. The advisor asked to
steer the boat through the lake, so Mark got to relax a little
and enjoy the beautiful view. The lake is filled with small
islands and lots of birds. It was very calm as we went through.
We passed under the beautiful Centennial Bridge about 10:30
a.m. and then were told we needed to wait for the other two
boats as they were way behind us. Our motoring speed is about
7.5 knots and theirs was only about 5.5 so we had quite a wait.
Mark docked the boat at a convenient spot and we all sat and
had lunch. By 1:00 p.m. the boats arrived and we re-rafted.
Our advisor was apparently not happy either with the French
catamaran, so they were instructed to proceed through the locks
by themselves while we tied up with the same American boat
again, and a new French boat – “Ciao- Ciao”. Two of the women
on that boat were handling the lines, along with one of their
sons. One women was a bit frazzled and after mishandling a line
she rushed back to the cockpit, lit up a cigarette and then came
back on deck to finish the job. Different strokes for different
folks I guess. We Americans were enjoying popsicles and cold
Fresca as the day was incredibly hot . At one point during the
afternoon I checked the thermometer in the galley and it read
102 degrees – so it must have been even hotter up on deck where
the sun was relentless. Going down the locks was smoother than
going up – no turbulence in the water at all. We had lots of
family watching the Panama Canal webcam which is set up in a few
places along the way . At the last set of locks, the Miraflores,
our advisor actually called the Panama Canal Authority and asked
them to train the camera in on our boat. We were able to
contact both Ben and Hannah by sat phone as we sat in the lock
and we were waving enthusiastically to the camera.

We passed through the last lock, into the Pacific Ocean at about
1:30 p.m. and then untied ourselves from our adjoining boats –
while they all thanked Mark for being such a good captain.
Another pilot boat came by to pick up our advisor. He just
pulled up close to us and our advisor hopped off from our boat
to theirs. The Balboa Yacht Club ( BYC), where we had a mooring
reservation was just 1 nm away, so we turned in and were
assisted to a mooring ball ( tire actually) by one of the club’s
employees in a launch. A minute late the three line-handlers
had gathered up their stuff, taken the bags of donuts and
muffins we gave them, plus some well deserved tips, and hopped
onto the launch. Successful and wonderful experience for all.

Just one more note: Our agent Enrique Plummer was just fantastic
– he made everything totally easy – handling all of our
paperwork, arranging for the lines and the line-handlers, making
multiple trips out to the boat on both sides of the canal. We
would heartily recommend him to all of you planning on crossing
the canal!


We are in the Pacific Ocean!

Safe Arrival in the Pacific

We completed our transit of the Panama Canal this
afternoon. The photo has Mark and Laura, crew Matt Wall, our
three line handlers Winston, Roberto, and Ng, and Marin, the
advisor provided by the Panama Canal Authority. Missing is crew
Annabelle Bitter, who took this photo.

It was an extremely memorable experience – very overwhelming
in many ways. We are now moored at the Balboa Yacht Club just
past the Bridge of the Americas. Details of our passage will
follow tomorrow when we have rested and had the chance to call
some of you. We were thrilled to talk to Ben and Hannah while
our boat was on the webcam in the locks, and to reach Shirley a
few times en route. We expect to leave for the Galapagos on
Friday. Our current position is N 8 degrees 56.3 minutes, W 79
degrees 33.9 minutes.


We are going through the Canal today and tomorrow

Today, Tuesday March 13th, we are going to leave the Atlantic ocean – ascending the first set of locks in the Panama Canal. We will be going through the Gatun locks sometime after 6:00 p.m. and then spending the night in Lake Gatun. First thing in the morning on the 14th we will then descend through the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Locks to reach the Pacific Ocean.There is a webcam that apparently captures all the ships going through both the Gatun and the Miraflores locks all times of the night and day.

Maybe you can see us:  Go to  ( NOT which I erroneously told some of you before).  When you get to that website it will probably tell you that you require Micromedia flash player. Click on that to install the free software.

Then scroll through the homepage til you find a little box at the bottom that says: Multimedia Webcams, and then select Miraflores and Gatun locks.
Once you click on one, it will take a few second for the screen image to show up.  You will then see whatever the current boat in the channel is. You can scroll down lower to see a little film strip and you can select “Last 20 images”.

We will let you all know how it goes. We are excited and nervous.


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Gatun Lock, Panama Canal

This was shot from the mini-bus taking us back from
the supermarket in Colon to the marina. The bus has to
wait for boats to clear the lock before proceeding
over it.

Mark holds our “Ships Identification Number” from the Canal Authority

Mark displays the Ship Identification Number of
Sabbatical III after having completed the
admeasurement and administrative process for
transiting the Panama Canal.

Laura’s brother Leon’s blog

Leon sent us this blog after his visit to us at the end of January with Ricky.  We can not read it without laughing and nearly crying. It is perfect. My apologies to those of you who don’t get the humor in this – I promise that if you spend a week with us and listen as attentively as Leon and Ricky did to everything the Captain said – you will agree that this about sums it all up. — L.

Leon’s Blog from Sabbatical III

Spending a week in paradise with the two of you and Ricky on Sabbatical III is not only good for the soul; it is also good for pretty much anything that ails you;    With that in mind, I thought I would share a little bit of what I learned in the past week cruising around the island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenandines:

Keep you head down at all times.

Make sure to install your Firdell Blipper below your radome.

“Sea Me’s” are made in England, not Canada, and make your 52.5 foot yacht look like an oil tanker so why bother with a Firdell Blipper in the first     place?

Keep your sea cocks  in an open position, especially in the forward head.

Gen-set and make water as often as you can.

The wind in the Caribbean is always from an easterly direction.

Whatever the Rasta’s have in terms of spirituality, they lack in hygeine.

Sailboat on the windward side has to yield if you are on the same tack – easier for her to manuever you know.

Sailboat on the leeward side has to yield if you are going on opposite tacks

Wrap your lines around the winch at least three times (never just twice) and you are better off with four wraps in January in the Caribbean.

Shower quickly or better yet, don’t shower at all.

Swim your anchor.

Beware of French boaters.

Let out your anchor chain so you have a 4:1 ratio of chain: depth of the water below your keel.

Your bow will head into the wind when you are anchored or moored.

Beware of moorings with empty Clorox bottles as floats.

Lock the hatches or you will certainly get wet.

Do not ever go below for more than 30 seconds when the hatches are closed.

Lock up at night.

Green is on; red is off (Ricky and I are still trying to get that one straight).

Peeing in 6 foot swells is harder than it sounds.

Check the water tank as often as you can so you can watch the stick pop up.

Water made on the boat is cleaner than the water in your tap at home but be sure to use the special drinking spigot since it has only 80 ppms.

Do not let go of the dinghy line until you have secured it to the boat.

Folding a jib sail on the boat is a cause for real celebration.

If your anchor is wet when it comes out of the anchor locker, you have an issue.

Water should not go up a drain pipe but it can…

Two seacocks are not always better than one.

Keep your head down at all times.

Do not leave the mast light on all day.

Do not throw metal locks on the bottom of aluminum dingys.

Sting Rays can fly.

Scorpion fish look like dragons.

You can read by moonlight.

Boats make more noises at night than you can even imagine.

If your boat is moving around a bit too much when you are anchored, let that mizzen sail out just a tad.

Do not close the hatches at night.

“Da sea is good for you maaaan…”

You may want to consider a “gentleman’s jibe” if you have your large jib sail out.

You can never have enough chocolate on a boat.

The “green flash” is for real.

Getting your dingy in the water and keeping it there is no easy task.

Scrubbing the water line can be fun.

If you have water in the boat, get rid of it.

Mr. Amel was a fanatic about water in the boat but he missed a few things along the way.

In case I forgot to mention it, keep your head down.

The boom is harder than any part of your body.

The Weather Channel is nothing compared to what you need on a boat.

Do not use just one clothespin when you hang your laundry to dry.

Chances are pretty good that it going to be 83 and sunny today… and tomorrow… and the next day…

It is not as hard as you think to tell the difference between a wind that blows at 12 v. 18 knots.

Days on a boat just disappear…

You can be very happy without stepping on dry land for very long periods of time.

GPS is the greatest sailing invention since the sexton.

Above all, I learned that if you ever go sailing be sure that your fellow crew is a perfect match for you like my brother is for me and that you have a captain and first mate who are as masterful, knowledgeable and gracious as Mark and Laura (although I seriously doubt you could find any…)


Leon, your eternally grateful and former crew member of Sabbatical III

P.S.  Also, I believe the 4:1 anchor chain ratio is calculated from the anchor hole on the deck to the bottom, not from the keel to the bottom – what was I thinking???

Preparing for the Canal transit

We are lucky to be in the Shelter Bay Marina. This place is so new that they put in the cleats to our slip just before we came in. We are the first boat to ever be in this slip. Power and water are not yet availabile. Yesterday, a crane on a barge drove a piling across from us so that a new finger pier could be secured, then two guys installed cleats, and 15 minutes later a boat was tied up in that spot (while the barge moved 30 feet away). Today the barge was dredging the channel right next to us, so it is pretty noisy but in compensation I will have not have to worry about running aground coming out of here. The marina is at the old Fort Sherman US military reservation that has sat abandoned for many years. The roads are still in place but the grounds are totally overrun with trees and jungle growth, and only the foundations of most structure are to be seen. The trees are filled with beautiful birds, howler monkeys, and lots of other animal life that have lived undisturbed for decades. Panama has made it a national park but the only visitors are the few yachtsmen in the new marina.

We have been so busy since we arrived here two days ago that we have not left the marina, even to buy fresh food. We were “admeasured” by the Panal Canal Authority this morning and assigned a number for our transit, tentatively planned for next Tuesday the 13th. The plan is to leave late in the afternoon and do the “up” lock to Gatun Lake, anchor in the lake overnight, and then do the down locks Wednesday morning to the Pacific. In addition to getting admeasured, I have been working on solving our outstanding repair issues. I have had Cristobal Marine Repair out twice to help diagnose problems. Turns out that fresh water accumulator tank is kaput and there is none to be had in Panama. I got on the phone with West Marine in the US and have one on the way. I talked to Cat Pumps in Minneapolis and found a Panamanian distributor who will sell me the special lubricating oil the pump needs. I also am having a new foredeck light fixture and stainless steel guard being fabricated here in Panama. Hopefully, all of this will be in place before we leave on Tuesday.

We have no place to stay on the Pacific side. I hope to get a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club but that seems unlikely. We will probably have to anchor out. There is lots more to say but we need to go out for a jungle walk before it gets dark.


Arrival at the entrance to the Panama Canal

Hooray for us. We are at the entrance to the Panama Canal! We arrived here today, Monday, at about 12:30 p.m., having sailed from the nearby island of Isla Grande this morning. We were in Isla Grande just overnight – having sailed there from the San Blas Islands on Sunday. It was a beautiful, very windy sail both days along the coast of Panama. Coming into the harbour at Isla Grande was a bit hair raising as we entered a fairly narrow channel between the small island of Isla Grande and the mainland of Panama. There were big green crashing waves on the shore and huge swells that rocked the boat a lot – then suddenly it was calm and clear and we were in a nice protected anchorage. Apparently Isla Grande is a huge week-end place for Panamanians and the small beach there was packed with locals – swimming and picnicking on the beach. Little water taxis ferried people back and forth constantly and we enjoyed seeing so many people after the solitude of San Blas. We had a nice quiet evening on our boat – dying to go to a restaurant – but not having the energy to set up our dinghy and engine and go to shore. We were very excited to arrive at the Panama Canal today – passing dozens of huge container ships outside the harbour entrance. We are at a very pleasant and clean marina here – called Shelter Bay Marina. It was quite a thrill to have the chance to go for a little walk, and have both lunch and dinner at the marina restaurant. As much as we enjoyed San Blas we were starting to miss some of the amenities of modern civilization. We found a Panama Canal agent right away – someone who is quite well known among “yachties” – and he has already got us set up in the official Panama Canal registration system. Tomorrow he is sending over the official “admeasurer” to get the exact dimensions of the boat – a requirement for the Panama Canal transit. He is also getting us a transit date ( probably about March 13th), with all the required equipment and crew that we need. We will fill you in more about all that as the time progresses. In the meantime just wanted to let you all know that we are safely here, and very thrilled about being here on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal in our own boat. P.S. We just heard from someone that there were crocodiles in the water near some of the San Blas Islands. Oh, my – sometimes it is better not to know such things.


Safe arrival outside the Panama Canal!

Hooray for us. We are at the entrance to the Panama Canal! We
arrived here today, Monday, at about 12:30 p.m., having sailed
from the nearby island of Isla Grande this morning. We were in
Isla Grande just overnight – having sailed there from the San
Blas Islands on Sunday. It was a beautiful, very windy sail
both days along the coast of Panama. Coming into the harbour
at Isla Grande was a bit hair raising as we entered a fairly
narrow channel between the small island of Isla Grande and the
mainland of Panama. There were big green crashing waves on the
shore and huge swells that rocked the boat a lot – then suddenly
it was calm and clear and we were in a nice protected anchorage.
Apparently Isla Grande is a huge week-end place for
Panamanians and the small beach there was packed with locals –
swimming and picnicking on the beach. Little water taxis
ferried people back and forth constantly and we enjoyed seeing
so many people after the solitude of San Blas. We had a nice
quiet evening on our boat – dying to go to a restaurant – but
not having the energy to set up our dinghy and engine and go to
shore. We were very excited to arrive at the Panama Canal today
– passing dozens of huge container ships outside the harbour
entrance. We are at a very pleasant and clean marina here –
called Shelter Bay Marina. It was quite a thrill to have the
chance to go for a little walk, and have both lunch and dinner
at the marina restaurant. As much as we enjoyed San Blas we
were starting to miss some of the amenities of modern
civilization. We found a Panama Canal agent right away –
someone who is quite well known among “yachties” – and he has
already got us set up in the official Panama Canal registration
system. Tomorrow he is sending over the official “admeasurer”
to get the exact dimensions of the boat – a requirement for the
Panama Canal transit. He is also getting us a transit date (
probably about March 13th), with all the required equipment and
crew that we need. We will fill you in more about all that as
the time progresses. In the meantime just wanted to let you all
know that we are safely here, and very thrilled about being here
on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal in our own boat.
P.S. We just heard from someone that there were crocodiles in
the water near some of the San Blas Islands. Oh, my – sometimes
it is better not to know such things.

Passage to Isla Grande

We returned to Waisladup (in the Holandes Cays of the San Blas
Islands) on Friday. We could not find good swimming or
snorkeling in Kanildup, where we were previously, but we get our
fruits and veggies there. Waisladup is just on the edge of the
Holandes Channel, our preferred passage back into the Caribbean,
and the snorkeling was great when we were their just days ago,
so back we went for our last two days. Unfortunately, we did
not get much snorkeling in. Friday there was a big swell
breaking onto the reef and it was not safe to snorkel or land a
dinghy on the beach. The swell was down a bit on Saturday so we
had one last swim in the Caribbean. Our next swim will be south
of the equator in the Pacific off of one of the Galapagos Islands.

We spent most of the last two days trying to deal with some
recent maintenance issues. We had a water leak from the
watermaker, which once tracked down, was surprisingly easy to
repair. The anchor chain counter stopped working, but a
cleaning of the optics seems to have brought it back to life.
The most trying issue is the sudden failure of the fresh water
pump pressure monitor. Instead of pressuring an accumulator
tank, the fresh water pump cycles continuously when a faucet or
shower is on. I took the pressure sensor apart three times (once
I left a part out) and still cannot get it to work. I was
drenched in sweat each time as I had to kneel between the engine
and generator on the floor of the engine room to take out all of
these little screws. It must have been over 120 degrees in
there. I am hoping that I can get some help fixing it in Canal
area. There seems to be some corrosion in the fresh water system
that is gumming things up.

We are currently anchored between the isthmus of Panama and
the island of Isla Grande, only 20 miles from Puerto Cristobal,
the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal. Our location is N 9
degrees 17.6 minutes, W 79 degrees 34.0 minutes. We left the
Holandes Cays this morning in 18 – 20 knots of wind from the NNE
and 6 foot swells. The passage to Isla Grande was surprisingly
fast and comfortable even though the swells built as we got
closer to the mainland. Coincidentily, the German yacht “Vera”,
who left Bonaire at the same time as us and arrived in Porvenir
at the same time as us, also left for the Canal this morning.
We called them on the VHF early in the morning and they told us
that they were heading for Portobella. They changed their minds
and are now anchored just to the side of us here in Isla Grande.
Isla Grande is a weekend destination for Panamanian and since
today is Sunday, the beach was crowded. There were dozens of
small power boats ferrying people from the mainland, where
there is a road to Colon, and Isla Grande — a distance of 1/2
mile. There were a few jet skis as well. Once the sun set,
everyone was gone.

Tomorrow morning we will head into Puerto Cristobal and the
brand new marina just inside the breakwater below Fort San Lorenzo.
Our reservation at the marina (Shelter Bay Marina) does not
begin until March 7, but the marina has allowed us to come early
and tie up to their unfinished dock until then. This dock lacks
water and power, so it might be a hit hot down below, but at
least we have a place to attend to arranging for the transit
through the canal, provisioning for the Pacific crossing, and
getting our maintenance issues resolved.


Sailing in search of fruit

On Monday the 26th, the lack of a breeze at Waisaladup, coupled
with the uncomfortable roll, led us to move west and anchor next
to Miriadiadup just a few miles away. We stayed far from shore
and enjoyed the cooling breezes anchoring in the open provides.
Nonetheless, it is apparent that the weather pattern has
changed from breezy and comfortable to pretty calm, more humid,
and less comfortable.

Tueday morning we set out for Kanildup island which promised
good snorkelling, protection from swells, and hopefully a
breeze. One hour out we heard someone call in on VHF channel
72, the working channel for cruisers in Panama, that the fresh
fruit and vegetable boat out of Nargana would be coming to Coco
Bandero Cays the next morning. We were down to our last cucumber
and orange, so we changed course for Coco Bandero. We anchored
in front of Orduptarboat Cay, joining one other boat. Two
others came in later. We did not really like this place. The
wind was still calm and the water way murky. An enterprising
Kuna in an outboard powered canoe came by to offer us
langoustine, eggs, and chicken and his willingness to provide us
with fruit and vegetables the next day. His name is Serapio
Deleon. We turned down the langoustine, but bought a cut-up
chicken (“freshly killed” he said), and a dozen unrefrigerated
eggs. He also took away 7 bags of trash that had been
accumulating in the stern locker. We placed an order for a long
list of fruits and vegetables that he would deliver the next
day. We figured that the next day we would get our produce from
him or from the produce boat out of Nargana, or both. One or
both were certain to come through with some fresh food. (The
chicken turned out to be quite tasty).

This morning, Wednesday, we learned two other bits of news
from asking questions of other cruisers on channel 72. First,
Mr. Deleon did not have a reputation for reliability with
everyone, and, second, that the produce boat from Nargana would
also be stopping at Kanildup. So off to Kanildup we went. We
figured that Mr. Deleon would find us there since the channel
from his home town of Rio Azucar to Coco Bandeira took him right
past Kanildup. Kanildup is very pretty and there at 10 boats at
anchor — a real crowd. We were afraid to go snorkelling or
exploring in the dinghy for fear of missing one or both of our
produce guys. By 4:00 pm it seemed that we had been stood up,
and got ready to go snorkelling. Just then Deleon showed up and
said he would return in five minutes. Twenty minutes later the
Nargana produce boat came along side and, since Deleon was still
doing business with another boat at the other end of the
anchorage, we bought what we could from their picked-over stock.
We got a watermelon, an over-ripe canteloupe, three
pineapples, cucumbers, and limes. Deleon never did come back to
talk to us, and we suppose that the fruit that we ordered the
day before was sold to other boaters or never acquired in the
first place. We did not place a deposit on our order, so
nothing was lost except a half of a day of waiting around.

We will hang around here at least another day since we never
did get a chance to snorkel. Our position is N 9 degrees 28.7
minutes, W 78 degrees 38.2 minutes.


Western Holandes Cays

We spent a second night anchored in front of Yansaladup in the
Limon Cays before moving to our current location yesterday. We
are now in the Western Holandes Cays, anchored in front of
Waisaladup just east of Acuakargana. There is only one hut on
each island. The families care for the coconut trees on the
islands, fish, and make molas. They get 10 cents from Columbian
traders for each husked coconut. This is also a very beautiful
setting. There is a bit of a roll as there is no protection
from the west and south, and less breeze than we would like
because the high coconut palms shade us from the wind. Our
position is N 9 degrees 35.7 minutes, W 78 degrees 46.4 minutes.

Friday afternoon, while in anchored at Yansaladup, some
fisherman sailed up to us in their ulu. They said that they
needed cooking oil to cook up their catch and would be willing
to trade a cup of cooking oil for fish. They had a large pile
of different fish in the bottom of the ulu. We had seen them
haul in these fish from nets attached to poles in the water
where there is a shallow sand bar a few hundred yards away. The
deal was struck and they filleted two fish for us and seemed
pleased with the cup of sunflower oil. What a nice dinner that
made. As they departed, we marveled at how well these ulus,
carved from a single tree trunk, sailed in any direction.

The sail out of the Limon Cays on Saturday was trickly as we
had to wind our way through a myriad of reefs and sand bars. We
timed the sail for 10 am when the sun was high but still behind
us. Laura stood at the bow as lookout. Once through we had a
delightful sail to the Holandes Cays. The seas were flat as we
were behind the reef, but the wind was strong as these small low
islands do little to stop the wind once you are more than 100
yards away. We anchored in 45 feet of water but did not dare
move closer to the island given the steep drop off from the
beach and the protuding coral heads just in front of us. After
a quick lunch, we snorkeled the reef and found it to be one of
the best snorkeling spots that we have every encountered. The
water was very clear and the reef stretched the length of the
island except for a small gap that opened to a white sand beach.
There were many fish including some types that we had not seen
before. We also swam up to the beach and walked the 200 feet to
the other side of the island.

We snorkeled more of the reef today. This afternoon the
German boat “Vera”, who we encountered on our passage from
Bonaire, anchored nearby and we all went to shore to walk the
cicumference of the island. Then Laura and I spent some
cleaning the underside of the boat before taking the dinghy out
to “Vera” for “sundowners.” Britta and Michael and both
interesting people and it was fun to share a bottle of wine and
swap sailing stories.

We may stay here one more day before heading deeper into Kuna
Yala, although we have not yet picked our next island.


Porvenir to Yansaladup

We are now anchored just outside of the tiny island of
Yansaladup in the San Blas Archipelego. Where exactly is that,
you might ask? Well, to tell the truth I am there, and even I
am not really sure of where it is. We are really truly in the
middle of nowhere – but it is an amazingly beautiful and
tranquil nowhere. We are the only boat here – in front of us is
a small palm covered island with one family living in their hut.
The family tends coconuts and sells molas whenever they can to
passing tourists. There is another even tinier island just to
our right with just two huts – no palm trees at all ( see
photo). There is a large reef extending for miles – just in
front of us which blocks us completely from the rough seas
outside. It is pretty much a constant 87 degrees with a steady
breeze blowing. It is very calm and comfortable in the
anchorage, the boat barely moving at all in the gentle seas
behind the reef. We spent most of the day yesterday at the
Chichime Cays – mentioned in our previous blog with the little
islands of Uchutupu Pippi and Uchutupu Dumat. Claus and I had an
amazing morning swim off the boat and then later in the day the
three of us took the dinghy over to the reef and spent an hour
or so snorkeling in a beautiful coral garden. Lots of fish,
beautiful coral of all kinds, and very warm water. We really
enjoyed it. By 3:00 P.M. we had to head back to Porvenir so we
would be ready to take Claus to the airport in the morning.
When we got to Porvenir we decided to go see if the customs and
immigration office was open. We had been told a few days
earlier that it was closed until February 26th, but we didn’t
think that sounded right and we noticed that most of the boats
around us had their Panamanian flags up so we thought it was
best to check. You don’t want to ignore any rules when you come
to a new country. It turned out that the office was open, but
as it was nearly 5:00 P.M. by the time we got there, no one was
actually in the office. Someone sitting outside saw us and ran
to find the official for us. It was an incredibly shabby office
– even by Caribbean standards. The islands are so beautiful
here that it is easy to forget how poor it is. One room was
absolutely filled with heaps of papers – copies of previous
boater’s documentation – all mildewed and yellowed – just
sitting in big piles. It would be impossible to find anything in
those piles of paper, but they need to collect the information
anyway. The entrance way had two chairs, each completely
broken, with all of the insides sticking out. The somewhat
unfriendly looking official offered to help us – including
getting the necessary cruising permit – the Zarpe He asked our
boat size, did some calculations on his little calculator and
told us it would cost $80 – which sounded just fine to us as
that was what we expected. Then he said there was a $20 charge
for his overtime. Not wanting to be cheap, but also not wanting
to get ripped off, Mark asked if there would be an overtime
charge if we just came in and did the paperwork in the morning
during regular office hours. He got very quiet and then said
that it would actually take two weeks to get the Zarpe, so we
would need to come back again then. The deal was, if we paid him
$100, the Zarpe could miraculously be obtained right then and
there ( no receipts available). If we paid him only $80, the
Zarpe could not be obtained for another two weeks because it was
so complicated. Very interesting, don’t you think? Anyways, it
didn’t take us more than a minute to agree readily that $100 and
no receipt would be absolutely fine with us. We were soon
officially checked in, and even got a free Kuna calendar. After
checking in we celebrated our trip with Claus by eating again at
the little restaurant that sits next to the airstrip here. We
were the only guests, and this time the menu had chicken and
chips – no fish had been caught that day, so there was no fish
on the menu. It was great. It was relatively expensive
compared to our meal at Raouls shack the night before ($4 a
person), but still incredibly cheap at $7 a person including not
only the chicken and chips, but a beer and a soda each.
This mornng we had to bring Claus to the airport for a 6:40 a.m.
Since we were anchored just 100 feet from the dock; and the
rickety airport gate is another 50 to 100 feet away, we didn’t
have to get up too early to get him there on time. In fact we
got up at ten to six and were at the airport gate at 6:00. It
was another 15 minutes before the other passengers arrived –
many of them coming to the dock on the little dug-out canoes
that the locals use for just about everything, including their
taxi service. A few showed up at 6:30. At 6:35 the plane
arrived – landing just in front of us, turning sharply at the
end of the run-way, then taxiing back to the waiting
passengers.The plane stopped about 25 feet from where we were
standing. By 6:45 everyone arriving on the flight had
de-planed, all the luggage and packages were unloaded , the new
passengers were on ( each one called by name by the captain),
the luggage stowed, and the plane took off. Really the most
amazing airport we have seen. Claus waved goodbye to us from
his seat near the front of the plane and Mark and I went back to
the boat to sleep again before starting our day here. We are
tired, but thrilled to be here!

Kuna Yala: Porvenir and Uchutupu Pippi

We are currently anchored in Chichime Cays, between Uchutupu
Pippi and Uchutupu Dumat. The position is N 9 degrees 35
minutes, W 78 degrees 53 minutes. These are tiny little
islands, almost totally flat and covered in palm trees with only
two huts on each cay. We just returned from supper at the home
of Raoul on Uchutupu Pippi. Raoul and other members of his
family paddled out to us in their wooden dugout canoe this
afternoon and asked us to dinner — adding that it would cost $4
per person and that the Americans on the catamaran further east
would be joining. We had red snapper and coconut rice while
sitting next to his thatched hut on rough hewn logs. Luckily
the folks on the other boat (“Sol Mate”) brought plates and
forks because that was not supplied. We knew the fish was fresh
because two hours before we ate, Raoul came by in his canoe with
the fish he had caught. It was a great meal under the palms and
we toasted Raoul and his family for their hospitality. But this
is jumping ahead. Let me quickly review that past few days.

Our last two days on the passage from Bonaire were as great as
the first two days. It was windy on Saturday night, as
predicted, but that caused no problems for us as we had reefed
the sails down well before the wind piped up. Sunday morning
the wind eased and shifted north, making our two head sail
configuration inappropriate. So we took down the ballooner
(spinnaker) and big genoa and put away the poles. The boat
slowed considerably but we paid no attention since we were ahead
of schedule. We did not want to come through the opening in the
reefs (“Canal de San Blas”) before 10 am Monday since we need
the sun to be high enough in the sky to illuminate the reefs
hidden just below the surface. After a big lunch we sat in the
cockpit reading the New Yorkers and Newsweeks that my sister
Naomi sent us, not really paying attention to the fact that our
boat speed had dropped to less than 5 knots. Around 5 pm we
spotted a sailboat on the horizon off to starboard and we
conjectured that this could be the German boat “Vera” that we
passed one day out of Bonaire. Laura called on the VHF and sure
enough it was Vera and she was also planning a 10 am entry
though the reefs. I suddenly realized that as we were
pleasantly engaged in reading we had ignored our boat speed. A
quick calculation on the plotter revealed that at our current
speed we would not get to the reef passage until 3 pm!! Thank
goodness the appearance of “Vera” shook us out of our lethargy.
We quickly put the genoa on a pole to windward so that we were
sailing wing-on-wing. That gained us 2 knots immediately and
none too soon as the sun was setting and setting poles on the
foredeck in the dark is not something I relish. The wind picked
up strongly after dark and we sped along briskly, but the
direction was bad and we had to sail well to the south of our
desired course with the sail plan that we had.

The wind stayed strong all night and the seas built, making
sleeping difficult. Early in the morning, we rolled up the
genoa in order to head north towards our destination, sailing
with main and mizzen alone. The wind was so strong, that was
sail enough. We came to the reef opening just after 10 am and
by 11:15 am we were anchored off Porvenir Island, joining “Vera”
in the anchorage. It is hard to believe that Porvenir has an
airport since the island is so tiny. There is a runway the full
length of the island. The runway is a bit wider than a
residential street and it seems to take up about one-third of
the area of the island. There is not only an airport on this
island, but the island is an airport! As we admired the scene a
tiny Cessna wove its way through the sail boat masts and landed.
It is not a good idea to anchor in front of the runway, and
another boat moved when they saw this.

After lunch and a quick snooze, we started to put the dinghy in
the water in order to go ashore and check-in. There is nothing
else to do in Porvenir — just check-in or catch a flight.
There is no village, nor room for one. Britta and Michael
Adlkofer of “Vera” came by to introduce themselves and tell us
not to bother to rush ashore to check-in. This is carnival week
in Panama and the boat check-in agent is off for the week. Come
back on the 26th they were told. We had Britta and Michael
aboard for drinks and snacks. Michael is a professor of
architecture at the University of Hanover, although they live in
Berlin. They are also on a circumnavigation on their 1976 Swan 47.

We finally went ashore just to stretch our legs. We strolled
down the runway, nervously looking back on occasion to check on
landing aircraft. We were surprised to find the “Hotel Porvenir”
and its associated restaurant. To say this was a modest
establishment would be an understatement. We ordered supper —
the only dish available was fish, rice, and beans — and it was
delicious, as was the local brew, Balboa. With drinks, dinner
was $6 per person.

Laura and I slept 10 hours last night. We went to bed as Claus
was starting the movie “Groundhog Day” on the laptop. Perhaps
it is his youth that permits him to get by with so much less
sleep. We motored upwind to Chichime Cay late in the morning.
This is a very pretty place and quiet — the surrounding cays
are too small to have a runway even if they were completely
paved over. We snorkeled the reef in the afternoon (Laura saw a
big spotted ray), and then I went up the mast in the bosuns
chair to fix the foredeck light that had come out of the mast
when we brought the ballooner down. It was nice to have both
Laura and Claus on deck when I went up since I could then have
one of them tend a safety line. It was a great view from up
there and I got the light fixture back in its place and secured
with a wire tie, but the bulb was dead from all the knocking
around and I had forgotten to bring one up with me.

We will return to Porvenir tomorrow afternoon. Thursday, Claus
has a 6:35 am departure from the Porvenir airport to Panama
City. We will he sorry to see him go. Then Laura and I will
explore the dozens of tiny islands of the San Blas archipelago
that lie to the east. This area is known as “Kuna Yala” to its
Kuna Indian inhabitants.


Safe arrival in Panama

We arrived in Panama about three hours ago. We are anchored
behind Porvenir Island in the San Blas Islands. The location is
North 9 degrees 33 minutes, West 78 degrees 57 minutes. The
passage went very well although we had some stronger winds and
bigger seas on Saturday night and last night. After dropping
anchor, we had a quick lunch and then spent a couple of hours in
our bunks resting. We are still tired but have to get the
dinghy in the water and go through the check-in procedure. Just
now two Kuna Indian women paddled up in a canoe to sell
something. I wish once of us knew Kuna or Spanish. We will
fill in some more details later today or tomorrow.


Passage to Panama: Day 2/3

Saturday February 17th, 4:30 P.M. EST
Position: N 12 08 43
W74 54 36

It is now day 3 of our passage from Bonaire to the San Blas
Islands. We continue to be very fortunate with both wind and
seas – it is quite literally “smooth sailing”. We have had
winds from the east north-east somewhere in the 14 to 20 nm per
hour range – making for a very comfortable sail. We had huge
bunches of flying fish hopping out of the water all morning and
sailing past us – big groups of 10 to 30 fish at a time – all
silvery and smooth. Some of them are out of the water for a
hundred feet or more, sometimes turning directions in
mid-flight. One of them took a left just in front of the forward
sail and crashed into it. He must have been as surprised as we
were. Just as we were getting bored of them, a fantastic school
of dolphins appeared at the side of the boat and they dove and
jumped all around us for about a half an hour. They must send
out calls to their friends when they find a boat to follow for
as we watched them playing in the waves around us, we could see
many of them cruising up to the boat from way behind – coming at
such a fast speed it was startling. Claus had been wanting to
see dolphins so we were all very glad that they visited us. We
hope we will see more of them before the trip is over. There is
lots of shade in the cockpit from about 11:00 a.m. onwards so we
are all comfortable. It is a good idea to stay out of the
direct sun here as it is incredibly intense starting from about
8:00 a.m. We have had two nights at sea so far, both of them
moonless, which I thought would make it quite dark. Guess I was
wrong, as the stars are so intensely bright that we have lots of
light at sea. The stars have really been amazing – the whole
milky way is visible – and we watch the big dipper rise out of
the horizon behind us as the night progresses. We saw a tiny
sliver of moon yesterday, just before the sun rose.
Lots of boiled eggs, chicken, Dutch cheese, fruit and chocolate
to eat on board – plus good old diet Coke and lots of water.
Claus is a welcome addition to our trip – he balances out the
Pitt sleeping equation, as he doesn’t seem to need any sleep,
and Mark and I can never seem to get enough sleep.

First day of passage to Panama

We left Bonaire yesterday morning at 09:20 am EST. To my
surprise, the trip northwest to get around Curacao and Aruba was
still sufficiently downwind that we did not have to take down
the balloner, which we had left furled on the head stay on
arrival to Bonaire, or remove the downwind poles. We sailed
north of our plotted course in anticipation of an evening wind
shift. Seas were quite rolly and confused at first, making for
an uncomfortable ride, but then became more regular. On leaving
Bonaire, we found ourselves about 10 miles behind another
sailboat seemingly headed in the same direction. A Netherlands
Antilles patrol plane made a couple of low passes to check us
out in the waters east of Curacao. (When we approached Bonaire
last week, a patrol helicopter dropped down off of our stern to
check us out as well). We saw much less tanker traffic than
anticipated as we crossed the shipping lanes into Venezuela’s
oil ports.

We made excellent speed last night and the ride was decidedly
more comfortable. This morning we passed that other sail boat
and quickly left him behind. He called me on the VHF at about 8
am to tell me that we looked good with our “spinnaker” out and
that he was envious of our speed. His vessel is “Vera” out of
Germany and is heading to the exact same place that we are —
Provenir, in the San Blas Islands of Panama. We agreed that we
would try and meet when we arrived. We have had the balloner
set to starboard and the big 155% genoa set to port on identical
poles that whole way and expect that this sail configuration may
take us all the way to the San Blas Channel.

It is great to have Claus Portner with us as crew. He is
easy-going and fun to be with, not to mention a very competent
sailor. His presence also enhances our rest. Instead of a “3
hours on, 3 hours off” watch schedule, we have a “3 hours on, 6
hours off” schedule. Having 6 hours to sleep or whatever is way
better than 3 hours.

It is now 11:10 am EST (16:10 Z) and we are making about 7.5
knots (down from the low 8’s) at a heading of 276 degrees
magnetic in about 5-6 foot following seas. Our position is
North 12 degrees 59 minutes, West 71 degrees 22 minutes. The
crew is well-fed and feeling fine and the boat is making easy
miles. Our professional weather router, Commanders Weather, has
warned us of 30-40 knot winds Saturday night into Sunday morning
when we are off the coast of Colombia, so we may see a few
raucous hours before we make landfall in Panama on Monday.

PS. Claus (pictured above) sends special birthday greetings to
this mother and little sister.


Preparing to depart Bonaire

We are still in Bonaire.  This is a delightful island and suited our needs perfectly.  The provisioning is very good, there is an excellent Budget Marine chandlery, and the people are very friendly. 


This evening (Tuesday, Feb 13), Claus Portner joins us for the passage to Panama.  I have known Claus since he was a graduate student at the University of Copenhagen and took the PhD short-course that I taught there about 9 years ago.  I served on the PhD thesis committee and he was a visitor at Brown for a semester last year.  He now teaches at the University of Washington, so it is a long way for him to come to Bonaire.  Claus is an experiences sailor and the trip from here to Panama is known to have higher winds and rough seas, althought he forecast now is quite good.


We leave for the San Blas Island of Panama on Thursday morning. It is a trip of about 700 nautical miles that takes us north of Curacao and Aruba and well off the Colombian coast.  Our initial destination is Porvernir in the western San Blas islands. 



Passage to Bonaire: Day 2

This is yesterdays blog entry that was not sent due to an
approaching squall. We have since arrived safely in Bonaire
after a fast and comfortable sail.

A picture of Laura typing the blog entry is also attached. More

Feb 7, 2007. 18:00 AST: position North 12 degrees, 22 minutes;
West 66 degrees. 24, minutes; course: 279 degrees magnetic;
current speed 7.8 knots.

It’s nearly sunset now – on our 2nd day of our 2.5 day trip from
Union Island to Bonaire. What’s it like to sail for 2.5 days
non-stop? Well, actually, it has been very nice so far. Not
scary – not particularly uncomfortable – although the boat is
rolling a fair amount from side to side in the swells. Before
doing night sails I am typically very scared and nervous, but
have found, at least on this voyage so far, that once I am out
in the cock-pit at night, with the beautiful stars and the
moon-lit seas, it is very nice. The days are short in the
Caribbean – it is pretty much dark for 12 hours a day, but out
on the boat it doesn’t really seem dark. First the stars light
up the sky, then the moon rises and everything becomes crystal
clear – you can see colors on the sails – and then you see some
phosphorescence on the water. The sun rises at 6:00 am, and
doesn’t get hot til about 9:00. We have taken turns taking lots
of naps – sometimes for an hour, sometimes for as long as 3.5
hours. All in all we end up getting 8 or 9 hours of sleep
during a 24 hour period – although it is pretty broken up sleep.
The sailing conditions were really great for most of the past
two days. For a few hours we were sailing between 9 and 11 knots
– that is a really great speed for us. We have two big
headsails set on poles ( see photo), one of which is our
ballooner which is red, white and blue. The other is the big
jib which Rick and Leon helped us set up when they were here.
They are very beautiful when set out together. They also make
for very easy downwind sailing – which is what we are doing now,
as we head almost due West. We are sailing about 30-50 miles
north of a whole string of Venezuelan Islands that we would love
to see, but don’t have time to stop at. Right now we are about
300 miles away from Union and have another 130 or so to get to
Bonaire. It will be good to arrive – but right now we are
enjoying the sea and the air. We have only seen two boats on
route – both large oil tankers – nicely lit up in our radar –
and also very visible to the naked eye. It is interesting to
pass another boat in the dark- almost easier to see them at
night than during the day. We have been listening to a lot of
music on our Ipod Nano’s and eating good meals – stuff we
prepared before leaving Union. Amazing how good everything
tastes when you are at sea.


Enroute to Bonarie

We left Chatham Bay, Union Island at 2:00 am AST for Bonaire.
We are now 100 miles west of Union Island sailing in moderate
winds and 8 foot swells. All in all, comfortable but a bit
rolly. We are sailing a bit slower than planned as the winds
have moderated all afternoon. We are still doing 6.5 knots.
Our location is N 12 degrees 23 minutes 86, W 64 degrees, 14
minutes 58. Heading 285 degrees magnetic. It is now 16:30 AST
or 20:30 UTC (Zulu). Here is a picture of the first mate
sheltering from the sun with the ballooner behind her.


Union Trouble

It is Monday February 5th, and we are back in Chatham Bay, Union
Island. We are happy to finally get out of Clifton Harbor
after a couple of trying days. We had hoped to get all of our
passage preparations done on Saturday and leave at 6 am Sunday.
Saturday was not long enough a day for us. We spent too much
time catching up on email at Erika’s Internet Cafe and then did
not finish our food shopping until 5 pm. When we headed back to
the boat in the dinghy, the wind was up in the mid-20 knot range
and it seemed like a bad time to haul the outboard engine and
dinghy onto the deck. We had a long list of things to do before
departure and there was no way we could get them done that
evening. So we decided to stay one more day and plan on a
Monday departure.

Saturday night brought one squall after another beginning about
10:30 pm and ending about 8:45 am. When the wind howls and the
boat pitches, I feel the need to get out of bed and sit at the
helm in case the anchor drags. I was particularly concerned
because we were anchored in back of a reef, and thus there was
no protection from the wind, and in front of another reef, and
thus if we dragged we would quickly be be hard aground and
grinding on the rocks. The last squall was the worst that I had
seen in the Caribbean with winds approaching 40 knots and
lasting 45 minutes. Our anchor held and we did not move an
inch, but I was exhausted. I went off to bed in the forward
berth hoping for a few hours of sleep but an hour later I heard
Laura’s rapid footsteps above me and her shouting. I figured
that she was telling a local vendor in a boat who was trying to
sell us stuff that we were not interested. A minute later she
came into the forward berth and told me I need to see what was
going on outside. There was a 51 foot Contest sailboat (“Lara”)
flying the French flag that was obviously out of control
directly in front of us. The helmsman was using his engine and
bowthrusters to try and keep from crashing into “Sabbatical III”
and the neighboring catamaran, also at anchor. He swung within
a few feet of each of our boats and his two crew run around
frantically trying to figure out what to do.

Laura saw the hold thing unfold. The boat came into the tightly
packed anchorage at high speed with an anchor already hanging in
the water. Laura ran forward and yelled repeatedly at the
Captain not to anchor in front of us or he would likely get
entangled with our anchor and chain rode. He simply shrugged
her off and dropped his anchor while still moving forward, a
maneuver common among French vessels. As he pulled back from
his anchor he nearly missed us and the neighboring catamaran.
He then sheepishly realized that he was badly placed and begun
to haul up his anchor when his windlass ground to a halt. That
is when I came up on deck. He yelled out that his windlass was
jammed. The occupants of all of the boats in the area came out
to see the show as he swung wildly around trying not to hit us
our our neighbor. A Union Islander came out to help and dove
down 18 feet to the bottom on multiple occasions. I sat at the
helm with the engine running just in case he pulled up my anchor
and we started to drift. After 90 minutes the French boat
retreived her anchor. I asked the Union Islander what the
problem had been and he said that the French boat had caught my
anchor chain with her anchor. If we had not been on the boat,
and the French boat had pulled up our anchor, we would have come
to grief on the rocks.

That misadventure, plus continuing high winds and squalls kept
us in Clifton another day. We went to bed exhausted at 7:30pm
and got up early this morning to finally get the dinghy up and
the downwind poles set. We left Clifton before someone else
anchored on top of us and headed west to hoist our balloner and
then furl it along with the genoa on the headstay. We
immediately ran into a problem since we have a brand new
ballooner halyard that was too big to fit into the slot at the
head of the ballooner. So I sat on deck for 45 minutes as the
boat headed west, filing the slot until the halyard would just
fit. Once we got the two head sails up (and doing over 8 knots)
and then furled them,we were over 6 miles due west of Chatham
and so had to motor directly into the wind and chop to get back.
We are now peacefully anchored here in wide open Chatham Bay
and are mostly set for the 412 nautical mile passage to Bonaire.
We figure it will take us 54 to 62 hours. To be certain that
we arrive in Bonaire when there is still light, we plan on
leaving here at 2 am AST in the morning (just 7 hours from now,
or 0600 Zulu). Our course is pretty direct — taking us just
north of Las Roques (Venezuelan islands) and around the southern
end of Bonaire and up to the moorings just off of the Habour
Village Marina.



We started out our day on Thursday by taking a dinghy ride out
to the far northern point of Canouan’s Charlestown Bay to do
some snorkeling. It looked like a pretty spot, but there was
too much swell on one side to land the dinghy, and on a
neighboring beach the water was all churned up with sand. We
returned to the boat for a little swim before weighing anchor
and setting out for new sights. We tried to get into the pretty
palm tree lined harbor in Mayreau, but it was chock full of
boats and we couldn’t even consider staying there. We decided
that Chatham Bay in Union would be a good spot to go as it is
protected from the north where swells were expected. We had a
great sail there – and everyone was thrilled with the place. It
is a beautiful quiet harbour facing some very high green lush
looking hills and lined with a white sand beach. There is a guy
there whose boat “Shark Attack” is something of a legend among
boaters. He prepares terrific beach barbecues for a reasonable
price – with as many people there as he can sign on from the
visiting boats. We signed on for dinner, although his helper
warned us that there were no langostine available that night.
Just an hour or so before we left the boat to go to shore to
eat, a boat came by with two local fisherman selling langostine.
As they held up a huge one, Brock motioned him over and asked
if he could buy one, have the guy deliver it to Shark Attack,
and have Shark Attack include it in the barbecue. It seemed as
if the guy was not thrilled about working with Shark Attack, but
he was thrilled to have Brock’s money, so they arranged for two
large langostine to be purchased and delivered in time for the
dinner. We went to shore and wandered along the beautiful beach
for a while before dinner – watching the full moon rise. There
were about 20 other people eating when we did, although no-one
seemed particularly interested in getting to know us. One group
had brought a huge picnic cooler filled with wines and drinks
and who knows what else. We had our one little bottle of wine
with us. The “restaurant” was on the beach – three wooden picnic
tables overhung with simple tarps and a gas lantern on each
table. Shark Attack and his two assistants were working in the
dark at a couple of huge grills. We had our own table and
feasted on langostine, fresh tuna, barbecued chicken, roasted
potatoes and cole-slaw and rice. Afterwards a local guy with a
guitar and pretty much the worst voice I have ever heard
seranaded us. We made a polite exit as soon as we could get
away from him and took another quick walk down the beach to see
what was happening at the other two restaurants that were open.
We felt so sad for the other proprieters as both of their
places were completed devoid of visitors. They looked longingly
at us and invited us to visit their places, but we were full and
slightly drunk already, so we had to say no and dinghied back
to the boat under a bright moon and clear skies.

Today, Friday we spent the morning on the beach. It turned out
to be an incredible place to snorkel- millions of silvery fish
darting around the rocks that lined the shore. It looked like a
scene in a Disney movie – just a solid wall of fish glittering
in the water. Mom came in to snorkel at least
three times, really loving the water and the fish. After a
few hours, we had to leave the beach because we wanted to get
back to the other side of Union to make sure we found a good
anchorage for the night in Clifton Harbour. Lucky we left when
we did. We arrived in Clifton at about 3:30, and by 5:00 the
weather changed and we found ourselves bracing up against an
incredibly long stretch of storms. The anchorage was so full
when we arrived that we ended up anchoring much closer to
another boat than we would have liked. The owner of the other
boat was standing on his deck glaring at us ( for good reason),
until he finally called out to Mark that he would like him to
let out more chain. I went up on deck when it calmed a little
bit and we dropped some more chain. Although we ended up with a
pretty good distance between us I have a feeling it may be a
night where Mark or I gets up at least once to have a peek
around. It was too stormy to go to town for dinner, so we
managed to put together a nice pasta and chicken dinner.
Tomorrow morning Cathy, Brock and Shirl will all leave and Mark
and I will prepare for our big sail to Bonaire…..


2nd Bloomfield Crew

2nd Bloomfield Crew

On Monday, after Leon and Ricky left, Shirley, Brock and Cathy
helped us provision. Union is kind of a tough island to
provision at despite a plethora of fruit stalls and small and
medium size food stores. It involves going from store to store,
figuring what they have, and then figuring out the best plan to
gather all the stuff and get it back out to the dinghy and the
boat before the frozen foods defrost or the fruit gets mashed
around too much. Some of the stores even have their own dinghy
dock so you can pull up and put the heavy cans and bottles in,
but they are not that easy to tie up to. We ended up buying
fruit from three different fruit vendors in the market –
skipping Jenny- our favorite from last time because we were a
little miffed at her having charged Brock about 3 times the
going price for a pineapple that was the size of an orange.
Between the fancy French boat provisioner, the big “Lambi”
supermarket, and a couple of smaller stores we were able to get
a nice selection of cheese, chicken, fruits, vegies, and drinks.
We ended up walking up and down the streets, from store to
store for quite a while, and mom was getting heat stroke so she
went back to the hotel to wait while we finished up. It’s not
quite the same type of shopping as driving over to Lunds in St.
Paul for a 10 minute shop.

They got a water taxi driver – who Mom nicknamed Chicago for his
shirt – to drive them and their luggage over to the boat while
Mark and I brought the groceries back to the boat in our dinghy.
It was pretty hot – so we were all glad to weigh anchor about
3:30 and start sailing over to Tobago Cays. It is so much more
pleasant out on the open water. It is a short hop from Union to
Tobago so we only had the sails up for a half an hour and then
had to motor the final half hour through the openings in the
reefs to beautiful Tobago Cays. We picked an anchoring spot
very close to where we were just a few days earlier with Leon
and Ricky. Still gorgeaus. Lots and lots of boats in the
harbour. We had a quick swim around the boat, before starting
dinner..and then sat on deck to watch the moon and stars.

Next day, Tuesday was spent doing lots of water activities.
Started out dinghying over to one of the tiny islands behind the
Cays where we could go for a short walk. There is a path that
goes to the other side of the island – which is facing leeward-
and is very quiet and calm. Lots of other people were there –
mostly day-trippers on charter boats. It was a great place for
an introductory snorkel with Mom. She put on the snorkel mask
and hopped right in – very fun to find such a nice beach. Not
too many fish, but the water was great. After that we dropped
Mom back at the boat while the rest of us went out to the big
reef for another snorkel. The current was very strong and it
was pretty hard to swim towards the reef – but quite a thrill to
turn around and go the other way where the water was pushing us
quickly along. Getting back onto the dinghy from the water is
tricky and we had some good laughs as we all pulled ourselves up
via the dinghy strap – each of us doing a great impersonation of
a beached whale, or more like a hippo.

We had a rest on the boat for a while and then headed out to yet
another small island – in search of a good snorkel and possibly
some turtle sightings. The beach ended up to be “the place” to
be- as it had at least a dozen people on it, several of whom
were doing kite surfing. It was really beautiful to watch these
incredibly strong young people flying back and forth through the
water and then gently landing back at the beach..
Just as we were dinghying back to the boat, someone snorkeling
in the water called out to us that there were at least 10
turtles right near us in the water. We rushed back to shore to
dock the dinghy – knocking Mom off the dinghy, and creaming
Brock with the bow of the boat as we reached shore. We jumped
back in with our snorkel gear and headed out again over some
disgustingly gooshy looking green grass in search of turtles.
Apparently the turtles like that green grass and tend to hang
out there. Although we saw only one turtle and one huge
starfish it was a great swim.

Sun was setting as we dinghied back to the boat for dinner.
Next day, Wednesday, the crew was anxious to go see some other
islands, so we set sail for wherever the winds would take us.
Gorgeaus sail – past Mayreau and Canouan. The winds were quite
high and we decided that we would try out Canouan as an
anchorage. It doesn’t have much of a reputation as a “gorgeaus”
island, but it does have restaurants and a protected anchorage,
so it seemed worth trying. When we pulled into the harbour it
was suddenly amazingly calm. We decided to go to shore to have
lunch at the Tamarind Beach Hotel and were immediately charmed.
It is a lovely hotel with a gorgeaus white sand beach, palm
trees and comfy beach chairs. We had a delicious lunch and then
spent the rest of the afternoon just lazing around on the beach
– swimming, snorkeling and napping. Great Pina Coladas at
sunset topped off the day. We met a couple of great women on
the beach – Cheryl and Petra – and ended up inviting them to the
boat for a little visit. It was fun – we showed them the boat
and sat on deck for a while chatting under the full moon.

After dinghying them back to shore, we all decided to have
dinner on shore again – and returned to the Tamarind Beach Hotel
Restaurant for dinner. We had a very charming waiter, great
service, and a totally enjoyable meal. Very nice day in
Canouan. Back to the boat for a final “full moon watch” before


Ricky and Leon depart and new guests arrive

Ricky and Leon have left now, but we didn’t finish writing up
our blog, so let me catch up. Our last full day in Tobago Cays
was spent doing more snorkeling and dinghying around the
beautiful reefs. We had an amazing morning snorkel –
highlighted by seeing a huge sting-ray laying on the bottom
of the ocean, in only about 10 feet of water. We hovered over
him (her?) for a while, keeping what we hoped was a safe
distance, until he slowly lifted up from the sandy bottom and,
spookily fluttering its wings, floated away from us. Much of
the afternoon was spent doing more boat projects. Rick and Leon
helped Mark diagnose a water leakage problem – and we all spent
a few hours getting some stale water out of the anchor locker.
Somehow the whole day flew by and before we knew it, it was time
for another swim off the boat, a magnificent sunset, and a great
pasta dinner (thank you Leon for doing all the cooking and Ricky
for overseeing everything). We stayed up late to watch the
moon – amazed by the amount of light it was casting on the
sea. Within a few days it will be full and it was so bright
that you could literally read by it. “The boys”, as we like to
call them, became true converts to the boating life. Except for
a few minutes spent on shore on one of the tiny Tobago Cay
islands behind us, we spent about 72 hours without touching
land, and everyone loved it. Rick loved the idea of going from
the big boat, to the little boat (the dinghy), out to the reef
to snorkel, and then back to the boat again so that the whole
day was spent on the water. We had a perfect vacation together.

On Sunday, we picked up anchor and sailed over to Union Island.
We took a little detour close to Petite Martinique(Grenada)just
to extend the sail by a bit since it was an absolutely gorgeous
day to sail. By about 2:00 we were anchored behind the reef at
Union Island – another beautiful anchorage, but not quite
as magical as Tobago Cays. The anchorage is right near the
airport at Union, so we were scanning the skies looking for
Shirley, Cathy and Brock’s plane to arrive from Barbados. We
are pretty sure we saw it land – just after 2:00. We dinghied
over to shore to look for lunch and our new guests. It is a
small island, but it was still a fun surprise to walk into a
restaurant and find them all sitting at a table – the only
people in the whole restaurant. Later that evening we all went
out to the very nice Bougainvillea Restaurant to celebrate
Shirl’s 80th birthday. It was a beautiful place and the dinner
was lots of fun. Pina Colada’s for everyone – with doubles for
the hard-core drinkers (like Mom).

Today, Monday, we brought Leon and Ricky in from the boat and
met everyone else down by the dinghy dock. We all walked to the
airport (a 4 minute walk) to send Leon and Ricky home. It was
sad to say goodbye having spent such an amazingly fun week
together. After provisioning the boat as best we could, we
returned to the Tobago Cays with our new guests late this afternoon.