Wednesday, July 28, 2010

To Sapzurro and Back!

Finally left the Coco Banderos and marked our trail through the western reef, waving goodbye to Dick and Moira on Equinox, until we see them back in Shelter Bay. Oooh, scary, reefs all around, but amazingly deep water. Very light winds and no seas. Soujourn, a 37' Alberg, is a much lighter boat than ours, and was having a great sail. We were plodding along at a whopping 3 miles an hour under sail, and by 1:30 were thoroughly bored, so we pulled into Ariadup while Sojourn continued on. Beautiful anchorage, clear water and had a refreshing swim, planning on stopping here on the way back to do some snorkelling and exploring. When we went to pull anchor the next morning there was a huge barracuda swimming lazily under the boat. Glad we didn't see him the night before!

We headed out of Ariadup early and motorsailed down to a small island just west of Ustupu, meeting up with Sojourn again. Swam over to their boat, getting our exercise for the day. The plan was to head out the next morning, but morning brought rain, thunder and lightning. Sojourn decided to leave, while we decided not to. Really don't like sailing while there's lightning out there, and we weren't in a rush. Plus, there was a huge waterspout out there! Disconnected all the electronics and stowed what we could in the oven, hoping to protect the computers and chart plotter in case of a lightning strike. Had a relaxing day, doing a few chores and reading.

The rain let up and we had another motorsail down to an anchorage off of Caledonia, where Senor Castro paddled out as a representative from the island. He visited for awhile, asking us to take his photo, which we promised to print out and give him on our return. There was a $5 anchoring fee, but it was good for a month. He also had a list from the Congresso on what you were and weren't allowed to do in the area and on their island. It was informative and great, in that they asked you not to give cookies and sweets to the kids because it wasn't good for them.

Stayed overnight, with plans to stop on the way back. Another motorsail, anchoring in the bay in Sapzurro. The wind and rain came in shortly after we anchored -- way to test that anchor! Arranged for a launch over to Capurgano the next day to check in and check out of Columbia. Unfortunately, the power was out in Capurgano, and Immigration wasn't going to show up until 1 p.m. So .... there we were, bright and early at 9 a.m., trying to kill a few hours. It was challenging, since the town isn't that big. Thought about taking the waterfall hike, but none of us had dressed for it since we thought we weren't going to be there long. Maybe tomorrow? Found a restaurant to have lunch, finally got our paperwork done and took the launch back to Sapzurro. A misunderstanding on price ... with my poor Spanish, I understood $6 a person roundtrip. No, it was $6 a person, one way. So much for tomorrow's hike ... not at that price! Then they came to collect the $15 anchoring fee for Sapzurro. This gets a little old!! Decided that we weren't that interested in hiking the small waterfall (this is summer and the no-see-ums are horrible -- using lots of bug spray and mosquito coils), so left the next day and motorsailed back up to Caledonia.

The mode of transport in Capurgano and the town dock

Did some dinghy touring, snorkelling, and toured the island with Senor Castro. Probably one of the cleanest Kuna villages we've seen. All the families live together in a walled off compound, but in their own huts. They also have a small hostel over the water. Quite nice and very primitive. Didn't take photos because on top of the $3 a person to walk on the island, they also wanted to charge for photos. I realize they need a way to make money, but I passed on photos.

The way back was motorsailing, but mostly motoring, with the main up just for stability. Pulled in behind Isla Pinos, where the pirates of old left their ships while they plundered the mainland. Lots of sea grass, which we don't anchor in well, but found a clear patch about two feet wide and an eighth of a mile long. Dropped the anchor in the sand in 9 feet of water. Well, I guess if we drag into shallow water it's just sand and grass!! The Silas (chief of the island) came by to collect the $8 anchoring fee. I only had a $5 or a $20, so I gave him the $5 and he said he'd collect the balance when we went ashore the next day. Went exploring and met Senor Horatio. Sea Cycle and Equinox had told us how wonderful he was, giving them an island tour. Well, he was a wonderful man, but they've introduced generators and inverters to Pinos to run their radios and TV sets, and he was looking for someone to help with some problems they were having. Had a busy day repairing his cooler, taking photos and printing them out, and working on 3 or 4 electrical problems. It was interesting and enjoyable. The kids were adorable, all wanting their photos taken, and absolutely thrilled when we brought back the photo for them. Senor Horatio asked us to take a photo of his granddaughter and her children. Really, it is very primitive, and they would have no way to record the kids growing up! The only frustrating thing was that after all the work we did for the people of Isla Pinos, the Silas still wanted his extra $3. I guess he just didn't understand that we were helping his people!!!!

Senor Horatio, Dennis and Tom hard at work and the kids enjoying my Dollar Store glow-in-the-dark bracelets

A couple of more stops and Sojourn headed back off to the Coco Banderos, while we stopped off in Nargana for some fruit and veg, and then off to Cambombia and the Mangles River to do laundry. ~~~_/)~~~

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shelter Bay to the San Blas

It was finally time to leave the marina after hugs from Lynn and Randy on High States and promises to meet up again in the San Blas. Our first stop was Naranjo Abajo, one of two islands about 6 miles from Colon. A good first stop. Pulled in and there was a catamaran already there. Peter from Kokomo came over to say hi, he thought that was us. Peter and Petra had left their boat in Portobello while they were line handlers on a few boats going through the Canal, so we saw them quite a bit when we were in Shelter Bay. Relaxed for a couple of days and then headed to Portobello. I guess we were lucky with weather, since we found it a great anchorage over on the north side by the fort. Lots of walking, exploring and 4 small grocery stores. Also caught up with Brian and Sue on Darramy and spent some time with them again!

View from the fort at Portabello above, and the Black Christ, the famous Portabello tourist attraction

Our next stop was Isla Grande, where there's a rumour about fantastic ice cream! Found a great spot to anchor, off a beautiful beach, just behind Not So Interim. Marie Elena was good enough to point out where to tie the dinghy up to walk the shore and where to find the wonderful ice cream! Okay, $14 for 'ice cream' is expensive, but this was more than just ice cream. It was a chocolate ice milk, which came with some cookies (okay, so they were animal crackers ... I'm okay with that!) Plus, when you haven't seen anything resembling ice cream in forever ... well, we thought it was worth it!

A beautiful sunset off Isla Grande

Had a great sail down from Isla Grande, passing to the north of the West Lemmon Cays, through the Eden Channel and anchoring in the East Lemmons. Stayed for four days and mostly swam off the boat and chilled! Heaven after all that work in the marina. Finally put the dinghy in the water because Mike and Linda on Casa Del Mar were in Chichime, so we needed to see them before they headed up to Shelter Bay. Yes, they had picked up some stove alcohol for us, but we also wanted to spend some time with them. Hopefully we'll meet up with them again next season! So good to see the two of them again!

Next stop, Coco Banderos, where Rose and Tom on Sojourn are also planning to head to Sapzurro, and we can meet up with Moira and Dick on Equinox before we all go our separate ways.

A beach bbq at the Cocos, meeting new people and catching up with old friends. Garbage burning, a walk around the island, and time to leave to head east to the Panama/Columbia border and do that checkin/checkout thing to make all the Customs and Immigration people happy. ~~~_/)~~~

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shelter Bay Marina

Well, it was an interesting trip from the San Blas to Shelter Bay Marina. Motored really, really slow with what we knew was at least one broken motor mount. Of course, you know there was absolutely no wind! First stop was Linton for a couple of days, where we had a great cheeseburger in Paradise at Panamarina, and then headed straight to the marina up in Colon. Of course, just as we were getting to the entrance in towards the Canal, the skies opened up. Called Port Authority, were given permission to go through, and luckily there were no other ships close by. It was raining so hard we couldn't see the entrance to the marina, so pulled in, got close to the breakwall in 20 feet of water and dropped the hook until the rain let up. Wow, with no rain, that entrance to the marina was easy to see. Called for an hour and a half on the VHF with no response, finally calling them on the phone. You absolutely need a local phone out here. Amazingly enough, a week and a half later, as we did a test run on the motor mounts, the marina actually called us as we were coming through the cut to find out where we were going. Back to our slip, thanks, don't need your help!

So, into the slip and the work started. Don't think we have any photos for this blog because we were way too busy working to even think about photos! After removing the steps and the cabinet, Dennis could at least breathe after he worked his way down through the lazerette to get to the motor mounts and the muffler that we knew was leaking. Turned out there was a broken motor mount, a broken engine mount and the muffler was not in good shape. Found a welding shop down by the bus station in Colon that was amazing. Did some repairs on the muffler that we took back, tried out, didn't work, so he pretty well rebuilt the muffler for about $150 US ... while you wait! He also welded the broken motor mount. Frustrating, but finally got everything done.

A lot of people complain about Shelter Bay being expensive, but it's comparable to the US. There's a free shuttle to take you shopping every morning at 8, returning around 11:30, and then an afternoon bus around 1:00, returning around 4:00. Can't beat that, since a one way taxi ride is $20. And we took that shuttle many times to wander the hardware stores, department stores and do groceries.

So, while we were really busy with boat projects (Lord, does this stainless work ever end?), we still had a lot of fun. Of course, there was our amazing trip through the Canal on Antipodes, and then we caught up with Mark and Deb on Sea Cycle (after all, we hadn't seen them for about 10 days), Frank and Gretchen on Infinity pulled in to haul out; Peter and Eileen on Appleseeds; and Randy and Lynn on High States. Plus, there is a pretty nice pool to relax in after a hard day and share a drink. And the shower rooms are amazing. Not to mention, washers and dryers, with actual hot water for the washers! First I've seen that since the States! But, all good things must end, and it's time to cast off those lines and head out to anchor again!!! ~~~_/)~~~