Monday, May 30, 2011

Rio Chagres to Portobello

Up bright and early, just a tad nervous about leaving the river.  I was at the helm, with Dennis calling out depth soundings ... that worked out much better.  The least amount of water I found was 15', so this is a GPS track that I will keep!

Dennis and his tuna!
Of course, right on the nose with  rollers a short distance apart.  Makes for a miserable ride.  Dennis headed off a bit to see if we could actually sail out and then tack back in to Portobello.  It worked for awhile, and we were almost totally sailing.  Of course, that huge ship behind us was on his own track and didn't care if we had right-of-way or not.  I saw him coming up behind us -- right behind us -- and asked Dennis to take it off autopilot and go to port.  Yes, I know we have right-of-way, but he's really, really big!!!!  We steered to port and he finally steered a bit to starboard, and then we cut behind his stern on our course to Portobello.  It turned out to be not a bad day, especially when we caught that blackfin tuna!  And, yes, it actually made it on board this time.

Again, pulled into Portobello in the rain.  It always rains in Portobello.  Got absolutely drenched one day going in in the dinghy.  The umbrellas helped very little.  Love walking around town soggy!

Took the bus into Colon to stop off at Novey (think Ace Hardware Store), and the Rey Supermarket at the Quatro Altos Mall.  The meat selection at that Rey Supermarket is SO much better than at Sabanitas.  A taxi ride to the bus station, good seats on the bus, with an overhead rack to stow our stuff.  Unfortunately, the fruit and veg selection isn't great in Portobello, so while Dennis filled up with gas and diesel on Saturday, I took the bus into Sabanitas.  They have produce in the store and then a fresh market on the outside, so I bought as much as I could carry by myself.

Sunday morning, took the dinghy in to get rid of the last of the garbage, visit the bakery for bread, and off we go to Isla Grande, hopefully only a 3 hour motorsail.  Then, finally, back to the San Blas!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rio Chagres

I think it's actually better to do a straight run between Bocas del Toro and the San Blas -- I hate these long days.  A nine hour day to Euero and a 12 hour day to the Rio Chagres.  The plan was to check out the swell going into the river, and if it didn't look good, we'd head in through the breakwater going into the Canal and drop the hook for the night.  Dennis was at the helm and thought we were good.  Well, it was okay as far as swell, but he kept getting too far to starboard and found 9.5'.  I was calling out the depth and begging him to go to port.  I was the one that took us in and out the last time, so I knew where we were supposed to be, and the least amount of water I found was 15'.  The good news is, we made it in safe and sound and dropped the hook just after 6 p.m.  I won't be saving that track on the GPS!  The way I feel right now ... I'm never leaving the river!!!

Had a relaxing day, doing some dinghy exploring, and then moving farther down the river.  We're amazed at the difference from the last time we were here.  We anchored here at the end of September, 2010, and then they had the tremendous amount of rain in December, where they closed the Canal for the first time since WWII, and opened the floodgates.  Cialo had pulled in, and with the force of the water coming down the river, their chain and anchor parted and they ended up on the beach.  Sadly, it's been written off, stripped, and just the hull remains on the shore.  Where before all the vegetation came right to the shore, there's now 8' banks on each side of the river, depending where the water flow was the strongest.

Calabash waiting to carve

Thought we had hit the motherlode of calabash!  When we were here in September, they were little baby calabash, and now they looked to be all grown up and big.  With a lot of perseverance we ended up with 5 of them that we cut in half to clean and make into bowls and lamps.  Hmmm ... why are there hard sea pods when before we just scooped stuff out?  Found out why after we spent all afternoon cleaning them and leaving them to dry.  I guess they were just a little too ripe, and instead of  hardening up they just shriveled up. :(   Dennis tossed them into the water and we sadly watched them head downstream.

When we anchored before, we were in fresh water halfway down the river.  The time of year definitely makes a difference.  We took the dinghy down to the dam to get fresh water for the jerry cans and do some laundry.  Then headed back up towards the entrance again for a couple of days to do more dinghy exploring and much needed work on he wood.  Hopefully, we'll find a calm anchorage in the San Blas to add the Cetol and gloss to the cockpit. 

No internet or phone service, and, as always, Globalstar is painstakingly frustrating, so it's time to head to Portobello, and then get back to the San Blas before Frank and Gretchen on Infinity head back home.

Once we have better internet I'll post before and after photos of the river.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Escudo de Veraguas

The beach at Escudo
Another motorsail.  Left Cayo de Agua around 8:30 a.m. and dropped anchor at Escudo about 2:30.  Went for a swim in this once again beautiful crystal blue water.  After a peaceful night, we put the motor on the dinghy and went exploring.  First order of business was burning garbage after a week out.  Walked the beach and explored a couple of reefs that we'll snorkel tomorrow.

What are those sounds?  It's 6 a.m. and I hear a helicopter?  Three circled the island and then landed on the beach in front of us.  Not quite sure what's going on.  They stayed a couple of hours, with only the pilots walking around, then left.  We went out snorkelling and exploring the west side of the island.  Beautiful!
One of the helicopters

After a swim and shower, enjoying quiet deck time, when all three helicopters are back, this time with lots of people.  Looked to be some type of model photo shoot.  Young people bounding all over the place with cameras, lights ... yeah, whatever.  We're off tomorrow, slowly making our way to the San Blas.

Good thing we were up early, because those helicopters are back.  We've got sails up, anchor up and we're gone!  Off to Euero, 50 miles down the coast.

                                                       ~~~ _/)~~~

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cayo de Agua and beyond!

It didn't look like we'd be able to leave Johnson's Cay when we first got up -- lots of cloud cover, which isn't good for going through all the reefs.  Did some boat chores and decided to spend a day relaxing ... and then the sun came out around 11 a.m.  Off we go to Cayo de Agua.  Worked our way through the reefs, heading almost to Zapatilla Cays to avoid a 4' spot, and then headed east.  Motorsailing along, I happened to look to starboard and wondered why there was light blue water.  The chartplotter and Bauhaus' guide showed a 25' spot ... except I saw 25, 20, 15, 10 ..... OMG 9.5???  I screamed and handed the helm over to Dennis while I checked over the side.  That was the least amount of water we saw, and it only took an hour or two for my heart rate to get back to normal!!  Anchored at Cayo de Agua early afternoon.

Cayo de Agua

Spent a couple of days at Cayo de Agua, trying to figure out why our third solar panel wasn't working.  Lots of time doing all kinds of tests ... it needs to be rewired.  Unfortunately, that means totally unpacking the quarter berth, AGAIN, to get the wire we need.  And, oh, look, there's that extra bbq regulator we couldn't find.  Then, Dennis was working on the solar panel, deciding to cut the wood frame down to a more manageable size, using the hole saw.  Told him to do it in the cockpit, which needs cleaning, but he decided to do it over the side.  Oops, the hole saw grabbed the wood, pulled out of the drill chuck and went over the side in 25 feet of water.  He spent an hour dragging the magnet around the bottom with no luck.  While all of this was happening, we were visited by two young boys in a canoe wondering what we were doing.  They got to watch Dennis put on all his scuba gear to dive down and retrieve the hole saw.  They had a very entertaining morning.  He let them test the scuba regulator, watch him drill some more, re-wire the solar panel, until they were finally as bored as I was!

Did some dinghy touring and snorkelling, and on our way to Escudo de Veraguas to anchor in these calm winds.


Friday, May 20, 2011


Woo hoo, the order is arriving in Bocas on Saturday's ferry.  Dana from Bocas Marina will pick it up, make sure everything is there, and we're able to pick it up Monday.  Time to start getting serious!!  We've been making many trips to town instead of doing one huge provisioning.  Makes life much easier, stowing away bits at a time instead of lots at a time!  We'll make a stop in Portobello in order to go into to Colon and the Rey grocery store.  The meat selection as far as beef and pork is better there, and there are a few things I can't get in Bocas.  Put in our last load of laundry.  From now until we head back home, it will be doing laundry by hand!

Two of my Calypso Cantina guys!
We checked out Wednesday, since it's Easter weekend and everyone is closing early for the long weekend. One last meal  at Calypso Cantina  Wednesday night with Lynn and Randy from High States, and then lunch on Thursday with Mark (Sea Cycle), along with Lynn and Randy, at the Rip Tide Restaurant.  Well, I guess it's called Tides Out right now, since the boat has disappeared in a divorce dispute!  Hugs and kisses to all, goodbye, back to the boat, and motored down to Johnson's Cay.  Weather looks great, and we'll be able to head over to Cayo de Agua and Escudo de Veragas.  I will miss all these meals out!

On our way, slowly, back to the San Blas :)


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Slowly Getting Ready!

Still waiting for that Marine Warehouse order, provisioning, and forcing ourselves to have fun!!!!

Steve and Lili (LiWard) and Liz and Craig (Salida)
Steve and Lili on LiWard are huge Jimmy Buffett fans and have Sirius radio, so invited lots of us over to their boat to listen to the concert and have a great evening.  Steve makes a mean Margarita!  Food, as always, was fantastic, as we all brought different dishes.  Our old cruising guru, Colin from Mandalay, was one of the guitarists in the warm-up band.  Unfortunately, they didn't make it on to the Sirius radio program.  We did have another wonderful evening.

Pixie from Silver Sea invited a few of us to join them for a massage on Wednesday over on one of the islands.  John, an ex-pat, has built a beautiful home, but missed his massages ... that was resolved easily enough ... he's trained a local woman to come to his house every Wednesday to give massages.  Not a professional massage, but it sure felt good!  $15 for an hour ... we all just melted afterwards!  Another fun, fun day!

Rumor has it that our Marine Warehouse order is in Panama City ... now we just need it to be in Bocas!


Sunday, May 15, 2011


First off, oops, typed blogs ahead of time and this should have been before the Back In Bocas :)

Well, the weather report was right ... it did rain.  Luckily, we picked up anchor at Johnson Cay with good weather, motoring up one side of Isla Solarte (Cayo Nancy, Isla Solarte -- different charts, different names), and down the other, into the Red Frog anchorage.  Needed to charge those batteries.  Three solar panels and a wind generator, but if there's no wind and sun, it's not good!!!  Got in early afternoon, but decided to stay on the boat.  And again the next day, since it rained all day long!  A reprieve from the weather-- in to check in, pay our weekly fee for internet, showers and garbage and off to walk. 

Hiked all around the new homes going up, trying to find a road to get to the far beach.  That didn't happen, but we had a great hike.  Went down to the beach but, unfortunately, the waves aren't good for body surfing (more like body slamming), and we haven't been able to use our new boogie boards. 

The next day was questionable weather, but we managed to head across the bay to pick our handheld radio up from Panache, or BEN 93.  We had lent them our 2nd backup for the races.  Stopped by and said hi to Jan and George on Claire de Lune, then a quick stop at Chewbacca, who were in the marina.  Picked up some goodies from them, since they're heading home for 6 months :)  By the time we were ready to head up to Kayukos the sky opened up.  Hid underneath the roof of the workshop for a bit, and then decided to get even wetter.  A busy, busy afternoon -- tours were there having lunch and hiding out from the rain as well.  Finally, they left, and then Rick and Carol on Chewbacca joined us for lunch and drinks.  Glad we got that walk in because it poured all day the next day.  By 5 o'clock everyone was going stir crazy and the radio came alive.  Even the radio police didn't come in to complain when people started singing Eeensy Weensy Spider! 
Our pet gecko Pip!

The good thing was, we collected about 30 gallons of water, and that's always great!  It was so bad, our pet gecko was found below, when he's always outside.  Poor thing was probably drowning out there!

We were going to leave Sunday to head back to Bocas Town, but the rain never stopped, so up bright and early Monday morning.  We need to get back to celebrate Deb's birthday (Sea Cycle)!


Back in the Bocas Town Anchorage

Wow, decent weather for the trip back to Bocas.  Unfortunately, when we went to anchor where we usually do it was really crowded, and I refused to anchor in 7 feet of water.  Call me crazy -- draw 6 feet!  So, headed back around the reef and anchored close to the channel entrance to Bocas Marina.  There's only one rock underneath our anchor chain, and we only hear it depending on the direction we're facing.

Dennis, Brian and Vossie - Randy and
Mark are hiding
Gaynor, Sue, Allayne, Deb and Lynn
Talked to Mark and Deb and we're heading in for Indian food at the OM Cafe to celebrate Deb's birthday.   There's ourselves, Lynn and Randy fom High States, Brian and Sue from Darramy and Vossie and Gaynor from Talacam.  Well, of course, and Sea Cycle with the birthday girl. 

Fantastic food and a wonderful evening.  Mark was too generous - a bottle of wine for each couple was his gift to all of us!  Hmmm ... the next morning was a little tough :)

Deb's heading back to Canada for a month so we met them for lunch at the Buena Vista and walked with them towards the airport.  Not all the way, because that was an extra 2 blocks and we had shopping to do!

Provisioning while we wait for our Marine Warehouse order to arrive :)