Friday, December 31, 2010

Hike from Hell!!

Can you see the mud? 
 Okay, I have to remember, time and time again, hikes with Dennis can be really, really bad!!  He decided we needed to be off the boat, let's hike from Red Frog Beach to Wizard Beach.  Tried it last week, with flip flops on, and that wasn't really a good thing.  Mud everywhere.  Okay, now we're ready -- Dennis with his Tevas and me with my Keans.  Started off nice and sunny ... then the rain started again.  Got to the beach and the tide was amazingly high.  Hmmm, this should be interesting.  Off we go, striding away on new paths.  Well, the one path we had been down before, enjoying, taking pictures of sloths, seeing a monkey and, wow, a calabash tree... little bit different.  Ants all over the path, and as fast as we walked, they were on our sandals and biting.  Running down the path to the water to get rid of them!  The walk over to Wizard Beach was pretty bad.  We didn't have walking sticks and it was really, really muddy.  Lost my shoes a couple of times in the mud, and Dennis even had to go back to retrieve one. 

Yeah, and Dennis thinks this looks like fun!

Wizard Beach is beautiful, but really no different, as far as I was concerned, than Red Frog.  I was determined that I was not going back the way I came ... we were going to go over the hill to Bastimentos Town, which had to be easier.  NOT!!!  While the horrible mud hike over to Wizard was about a half hour, the walk to Bastimentos Town was almost 2 hours, at times pretty well crawling through the mud on hands and knees.  Yep, got to give it to my husband, he knows how to show a girl a good time!!!

DW cleaning off his sandals again

Finally got down to Bastimentos Town, hoping to catch a launch to Red Frog.  The one taxi boat there said he'd gladly take us to Red Frog ... then once we got underway said he had to go over to Bocas Town first to drop off the other 2 passengers, then to pick up some gas, then to Red Frog.  So ... 45 minutes later, freezing cold and wet, we were finally at the dinghy.  Yes, it rained all day ... so the good thing was that our water tanks were full and we got to take a hot shower! 

Red wine and comfy clothes are sounding real good!!!

Bocas del Toro

 Woke up Sunday morning, December 12th, and decided that this was the best the weather was going to be, so we put up the sails for the 25 miles over to Bocas Town.  The wind died again, so we motorsailed most of the 5 hour trip.  There were some pretty big swells coming into the channel and the sun was doing its disappearing act again, so we pulled around the reef and anchored off of Bastimentos Town.  Lots of taxi boats going back and forth, but quiet at night.  Once again, the winds and rain arrived and we were stuck on the boat for another 2 days.  Tuesday morning we picked up anchor and headed the 4 miles over to Bocas Town, anchoring just outside of Bocas Marina in lots of coral.    

Finally put the dinghy in the water and headed into town to check in with the Port Captain. Walked around Bocas Town -- what a wonderful, funky little town with hostels, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries everywhere.  Had lunch out and picked up some fresh produce before heading back to the boat.  The anchor chain was pretty noisy, rubbing on the coral on the bottom, so Dennis decided we should try another spot.  The biggest problem was that, once again, there was no sun, which made it difficult to see the reefs and shallow spots.  Well, 3 times later (remember, we have a manual windlass) we ended up in the same spot with a very tired Dennis.

Time to change anchorages again since we finally have a bit of sun.  Motored the 5 miles to anchor outside of Red Frog Marina.  Finally, good holding and quiet.  Lots of mangroves, but the bugs haven't been too bad.  We did find a new product to use which works better than any of the OFF that we've used. It's called Bay Rum, and in Panama you can buy it in either liquid or gel.  We have both, but I prefer the gel.  Put the liquid in a spray bottle and that works great too.  You smell like cloves, but it's certainly better than eau de OFF.  It's the best stuff I've ever used, since I'm the one who gets bitten all the time. 

Red Frog Beach

Allayne at the Red Frog Bar
We took the dinghy into the marina, saw George and Pixie on Silver Sea, who gave us all the local info.  Walked over the hill to beautiful Red Frog Beach where there's some fantastic body surfing and a restaurant bar at the end of the beach. I like it here!  Plus, you can pay the marina $35 a month, pick up their wifi, drop off garbage, get water and use their showers.  Those showers are really nice to use after an afternoon of body surfing with sand everywhere! If you don't want to take the dinghy the 5 miles back to Bocas Town you can catch one of the boat taxis over for $4 each, one way, walk around, do some shopping, a nice lunch, and then back to the boat.  We'll hang around here until the weather clears and then head over to some of the remote anchorages for snorkelling. For right now, at least we have the beach! 

Lynn and Randy body sufing

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Colon to Bocas del Toro

We finally left the marina Friday, December 3rd, once again with the assistance of Randy from High States (Lynn was off shopping).  Mark and Deb on Sea Cycle came to help, but Dennis was ready to leave and we were just pulling out of the slip and got to wave to them.   Once again, Dennis did a great job of pulling out of the slip.  Like I said in one of the last blogs, we were in a slip right next to the wall in 7 1/2 feet of water, (we draw almost 6 feet) and I was a little concerned about the rocks behind us. My hero pulls through again!

We've decided that since there's some pretty big swells still 'out there', we'd head the 6 miles east to Naranjo Abajo, wait for the seas to calm down a bit, and then get underway to the Bocas on Sunday.  Yes, there were some pretty big swells outside the breakwater, but once we got down to Naranjo Abajo, we tucked in behind the island, anchored in 15 feet of water and put a stern anchor out.  Ah, peace and quiet and no roll!

Happy anniverysary - 23 years - and we're headed up to the Bocas area.  Guess there's no steak, lobster and champagne tonight!  Left about 9 in the morning and started out with a pretty good sail, making 6 knots.  Unfortunately, that didn't last a whole long time.  Once we passed the Chagres we ran into brown water and a debris field that lasted probably 25 to 30 miles.  With all the rain we've had, everything was floating out there.  Mostly, whole trees!  About 4 o'clock it was like a line in the sand, the debris was gone and we had blue water again.  Thankfully, we won't have to worry about that overnight, since we've ended up on a moonless night.  Didn't time that quite right.  Actually had a pretty good night of motorsailing, with each of us taking 2 hour watches.  The beanbag chair we brought back from Michigan (Kelly gave us Parker's old one, and he doesn't know we have it!) worked out great for the passage.  We can stick it in the corner and get real comfy, listen to the IPOD, and stand up every song or two to look around.  Absolutely nothing out there all night, which was kind of nice.  Our planned anchorage was Escudo de Veraguas.  The wind died and we had about 2 knots of current against us, so it was a slow passage.  Just as we were getting close to the anchorage the skies opened up and the island disappeared.  Slowed down, waited for the rain to stop and then pulled in.  It's a great anchorage in north, northwest or northeast winds.  The winds were supposed to be west/northwest, switching to north/northwest.  We would be protected from the seas!  Well, that certainly didn't happen.  Started off west/northwest and then actually switched to the west, then to the southwest.  Four foot seas at anchor were not fun, so our time was short there!!!  The first night was good, the second unbearable, so we picked up anchor and headed over to Bluefield Lagoon.  Anchored off of Playa Raya, since we'd been told that the anchorage at Punta Allegre would have many people visiting us.  This whole area is inhabitated by the Ngobe Indians, who are obviously very big into farming.  The anchorage was pretty rolly, so we put a bridle on, which Dennis adjusted many, many times.  On the way into the anchorage we caught a King Mackeral, which we don't eat.  Dennis tried to let it go and get his lure back, which didn't work, so we gaffed it, put it in the dinghy and gave it to the first canoe we saw. 

Spent another few days on the boat, then the rain and wind stopped so we took a dinghy ride into Punta Avispa.  Paid a dollar to get rid of garbage, take a walk around 'town', got a few photographs and some exercise.

Panama has experienced unbelievable rain.  The Canal was actually closed for 17 hours due to flooding.  We almost went and anchored in the Chagres and waited for the next weather window.  Thankfully, we continued on.  A boat coming down from the Bocas on the way to the San Blas decided to stop just inside the entrance to the Chagres.  When they closed the Canal, they opened the floodgates, and Cielo was blown out of the anchorage and onto the beach, where they still are 2 weeks later.  There were mudslides in Portabello and deaths.  A Canadian man, with his Panamanian wife, her son, daughter-in-law and grandchild, were caught in one of the many mudslides and only the husband survived.  Very, very sad.

After 4 days in Laguna de Bluefield, it's time to head up to the main area of Bocas Town and check in.  Hopefully the weather will get better!!!    ~~~_/)~~~

Pigs under the store and the local church.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

Okay, I'll fill in our trip from Colon up to Bocas del Toro next, but we wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Xmas. Santa and Tinkerbell (Brian and Sue from Darramy) came up singing Christmas songs, and we had a great Christmas Eve aboard Audrey Paige with them, Lynn and Randy from High States and Ron and Paula from Dovekie.

Look at that, Santa likes the same wine that I do!!!

Christmas Eve aboard Audrey Paige

We have a great internet connection so I was able to talk briefly to my cousin Marion in Scotland, and then a great conversation with my other cousin, Adrian, in New Zealand. I love Skype!

The sun finally broke through on Christmas Day, so we took advantage and had a great beach walk. Dennis went in for some body surfing, but it was a little rough for me, so I stayed on shore and chatted to Sue from Darramy. We did see a couple of sloths, a monkey and a red frog while we were hiking, and picked up a couple of small calabash.
The sloth, great hiking and the red frog

Back for a late lunch and then over for Christmas dinner on High States. A great day and a wonderful evening!!!

Hope everyone had a happy holiday! We certainly did. ~~~_/)~~~

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Boat Chores and Provisioning

Can't believe that we've only been gone a couple of months and we're back here with chores and provisioning to do again. Hmmm ... might have been all that time we spent snorkelling in the San Blas doing very little on the boat. My friend Brigitte always told me that if you were going to spend the money on staying in a marina, then you really had to be productive to make it worthwhile. I hate that that's still in my head 8 years later!!!!

A successful docking (although I was a little worried since we were in the first slip that I've only seen catamarans in!) and the first people to greet us were Deb and Mark on Sea Cycle. So good to see them again. Then, Lynn and Randy on High States wandered over. Old home week! Bob and Sue on Sunrise were doing a dock walk and stopped by and invited us over for Thanksgiving dinner. We had met them this summer in the San Blas. For a change, the marina is full of returning Canadians and very few Americans. Shaun and his girls were having Thanksgiving dinner at Kelly's house, so we got to Skype them and see all those wonderful little faces. Wish the other two would download Skype so that we could see all the grandkids (yes, that means Tania and MA!)

Had an amazing dinner aboard Sunrise with Bob and Sue, Buddy and Lorraine (Black Dog), Lee (Serenity) and Steve (Better Days). Luckily those 35 Morgans are very spacious. Turkey, dressing, potatoes, cranberries, salad, appetizers and dessert (I made cherry cheesecake tarts). Everything was delicious and we had a great evening.

Bob carving the turkey
Dennis and Lee
Sue, Lorraine and Buddy

Spent a little longer in the marina than we wanted to because Roger wasn't available to run us around Panama City until the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Took the bus into Panama City with Deb from Sea Cycle and had a very successful day of shopping at Abernathys, Price Smart and Riba Smith. The first is a marine/fishing store, Price Smart is a Costco type store, and Riba Smith a wonderful grocery store that stocks all kinds of US stuff. Since Deb and Dennis are the ones who do the fishing and the sewing, they did a lot of serious shopping and consulting while I just meandered. Hit a few hardware stores, material stores and others along the way before Roger dropped us off at the marina around 7:30 that night. It would have been sooner except for the fact that we were stuck for almost an hour waiting for the locks to clear before we could proceed across the bridge. Frustrating. And poor Roger had to not only turn around and drive that hour drive back to Panama City, he then returned first thing in the morning!

Spent Wednesday putting everything away and doing laundry, hoping to leave the marina Thursday morning. By the time we were ready to leave the wind had picked up and basically pinned us to the dock. We had planned on returning to the Rio Chagres, but Sunrise told us to be careful because, depending on the swell, the entrance could be dangerous. We hadn't thought of that since we were there in calm conditions last time. Decided to hike up to the fort, which marks the entrance to the Chagres, and check things out. After all, it was only 9 kilometres. Really, I think it was just 'a little' more than that. Luckily it was all paved road, and 2 hours later we were checking out the area. Saw a couple of tourist buses headed up and back, thinking, darn, missed a ride back down! Decided that while the anchorage looked good, there were some pretty big swells and, with reefs and sandbars all over the entrance, it wasn't going to happen. Saw a couple of buses at the Fort, but we had no money with us. Turned out it was a school outing, and the kids were having a great time playing Red Rover in the rain.

Waved to the bus drivers on our long hike back down, hoping to make it before dark. Oooooh, scary things come out in the dark here! About 20 minutes into our walk, now raining heavier, the first bus came back down, honking his horn, lights flashing (you've seen these buses on earlier blogs, they are so cool) and told us to get on, he'd take us to the bottom. Thank you, thank you to the bus named The Whip from the Sabanitas area. These kids are amazing - the bus is going full speed down this hill, around corners, while we hang on for dear life - and they're all in the back seeing who can dance the best. I'm sure that every muscle we have will ache tomorrow. Lynn and Randy were in the hot tub (well, semi-warm tub), so we went back to the boat, got drinks, and joined them in the rain.

It's been a busy time, but also a lot of fun in the marina. Peter and Eileen on Appleseeds are back as well as Brian and Sue on Darramy. Darramy shared their experiences in the Bocas, gave us some tips, and we'll meet them up there around Xmas time to hear more of their wonderful summertime experiences. Machu Pichu, Chile and a cruise to the Antarctic!

So, we're off to Naranjo Abajo tomorrow! ~~~_/)~~~

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On The Way To Shelter Bay ... Again!

Checked out in Porvenir with the Port Captain, and where the Congresso actually does now check your boat name to make sure you've paid the requisite fees. Luckily, we were still within our month time limit, so there were no extra fees there. Dennis headed over to Wichuhuala to pick up diesel for Infinity while I got us ready to head back to the East Lemmons. Chichime was way too crowded. A Kuna family paddled up -- please, no more molas! Instead, they had something new. A couple of calabash bowls that were painted like a traditional mola and one with a crab. Very interesting and, of course, I had to buy one. Actually sailed most of the way back to the East Lemmons. dropped off the diesel to Infinity, and got ready to leave early Thursday morning.

Up and underway just after 6:30 in the morning. All sails up, with the motor going to charge batteries and help fight that current. And then ..... all of a sudden ..... the hit of all hits!! The line is screaming, the reel is actually smoking, and Dennis is yelling at me to take in the other lines and head towards the fish, whatever it is, as it's already taken out 400 yards of line. I look behind, as he's going forward, and OMG!!!!!!!!! it's a huge blue marlin. A couple of years ago, off of Curacao, with John and Brigitte on board, we hooked a white marlin. That was a baby compared to this. I brought in the other lines, went below to get the camera and his fighting belt, then had to steer towards the fish. Wouldn't you know it, the battery was dying on the camera. Back down once again to get the other camera, only to see that it doesn't have much battery life either. Guess it didn't really matter in the end -- I have many talents, but steering the boat in seas, under full sail to follow the fish, and taking photos was quite a challenge. Got a photo of a really big splash and hope this video shows some of it. (Well, tried many times and for some reason I'm just not able to download the video). After 40 minutes, with Dennis drenched in sweat and blisters on his hands, we actually had the fish up to the side of the boat where we could cut the line below the leader, about 3 feet from the fish's mouth. If we had something to tag it with, it would be considered a tag, we were that close. It was longer than our 9' dinghy from eye to tail. Thrill of a lifetime for Dennis, but we did lose the lure -- darn!!

Next to the boat and the splash

Okay, all back together again, heading to Isla Grande. Five miles from Isla Grande we hooked a pretty good size Wahoo which, unfortunately, spat the hook out when it got up to the boat :(

Had a nice night in Isla Grande, up the next day to Portabello, and then on to Shelter Bay. Enjoyed our time in Portabello, catching up with Dick and Moira on Equinox and Tom and Rose on Sojourn. On to Shelter Bay where we were met at the dock by Mark and Deb on Sea Cycle, and then Randy and Lynn on High States stopped by. Boat projects and shopping are in our future! ~~~_/)~~~

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Back in the San Blas

Well, I've been a little slow getting out a new blog, but snorkelling every day keeps us busy! We left Isla Grande and arrived in Chichime late afternoon. Had a few hits on the line, but the only thing we managed to catch was the other fishing line, so that mess took Dennis awhile to untangle. Headed over to Porvenir to check in, but the Port Captain was away for a few days, so that will have to wait until we're ready. Motorsailed down to the East Lemmons to keep Gretchen on Infinity company until Frank got back from Hawaii. Dennis made his first fish kill with the new speargun -- about a 10 lb. dog snapper. Wonderful eating! Went over to Infinity to sail with Gretchen and Loki (the best boat dog) to pick Frank up in Carti. One of the pangas ended up dropping him off at the boat just off the West Lemmons, so we sailed outside the reef on the way back to the East Lemmons. Just outside the anchorage we brought in a huge blackfin tuna. They gave us a 1/4 of the fish, which was enough for 4 meals for us, and then had us over for dinner for more. Love tuna and Infinity!

The bad thing is, they've now outlawed the Kunas from selling alcohol in the San Blas, which is making for very creative ways to get your alcohol in. We were going to make a run up to Portabello and back to restock, but Lynn and Randy on High States were heading back to Shelter Bay to leave the boat and head to Costa Rica for their immigration time, so sold us all their excess! My excuse for not doing the same is that they have a bigger boat, therefore, more room. Works for me.

We stopped at the Central Hollandes and enjoyed the anchorage there, off snorkelling to the reef with Infinity. Beautiful! Very cave like and tons of fish ... and a couple of sharks. Then back to the BBQ Island area, over to the Cocos, and our favourite spot, Nabadup. Got lumpy with a west wind blowing in, so we motored over to the Mangles River and dropped the hook. Much, much better. Plus, it was a short dinghy ride up the river to do laundry. The rain actually stopped long enough to dry the laundry. Saw 3 pretty good sized crocs (and those aren't the shoes!) up the river. Made doing laundry challenging. Wash clothes, look out for crocs! Finally met up with Pam and Richard on Tisha Baby and spent a happy hour over on their boat. They have a guest coming in to Panama City, so I lent her my Price Smart card. When she came back she brought me a bottle of wine -- not expected but so, so appreciated!

Decided to head back to Green Island and met up with Frank and Gretchen again. Some great walks around Ogopsibudup and spear fishing to die for! So far this year we've done well between ourselves and Infinity. Well, okay, they're getting most of them! They're young, they can dive deeper and for longer periods of time. Dennis says that unless it's in less than 15 feet of water, he's not shooting!

We've decided to spend Christmas up in the Bocas del Toro area, so we're heading back to Shelter Bay to provision (much easier from the dock than the dinghy) and see Sea Cycle, who should be in the water by the time we get there. Hopefully High States will be ready to go when we are. If not, there's quite a few people we'll be meeting up there :)