Friday, 1 November 2019 ... Bocas Town, Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Hanging Out At Bocas Town ...

We came back to Bocas Town, because we heard there is going to be a parade that is going to be marching down the main street of town.

Also, we were in town planning replenish our supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as some of the other provisions we have used up. We went in three grocery stores. In each store, someone who worked there would come tell us to remember no alcohol was being sold between midnight Friday (today) and midnight Saturday (tomorrow). This was done as part of honoring Dia de Los Muertos.

If I sound a little unsure what I am talking about, it is because we are still trying to get specific information about what is happening. We have been told there are several parades coming up, but we have not been able to get many details.

At 1600/4:00 p.m. today, our crew met two couples from two other boats on shore. We got into three taxis and drove for 45 minutes out on a sand/dirt road that ran beside the ocean to a restaurant located about 7 kilometers from Bocas Town.

We arrived early so we would have time to take a walk on the beautiful sandy beach and enjoy hanging out in the restaurant’s landscaped yard. At the edge of the rainforest beside the house/restaurant, we saw a sloth that was very close to the ground. As we sat down for supper at our reserved time, we were amazed to see how many people were showing up to eat supper “way out here”. Evidently, fish and chips night is popular! It was fun for us to get a look at more of the island.

The people who live out of town on the island have cleared space in the rainforest to build houses that are off the grid. They have solar power, propane cooking, and catch rainwater and treat it for household use. The majority of the houses are built of wood.

After enjoying our meal and a pleasant evening, our three taxis returned to carry all of us back to town.

Saturday, 2 November 2019 ... Bocas Town, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... No Parade Today ...

OK, we are accumulating a little more information about the holidays and the parades. When we were in town today, we spoke with two women who both told us their children are marching in the parade with their schools tomorrow. It looks like there is going to be a parade tomorrow!

Otherwise, main street in town was full of the usual tourists, tour owners trying to sell tours to the other islands, and locals going about their business. There were no public activities for Dia de Los Muertos. Someone said it was a religious holiday and a family day. It is a day for families to remember and honor their loved ones who have passed. Families gather together and prepare favorite foods and tell stories that remind them of those loved ones.

We did get information about more Panamanian holidays this month. Friday, 15, and Saturday, 16 November are Bocas Del Toro Comarca (Region) Days. We hear there are big parades in Bocas Town to celebrate. One lady told us all the younger school students in the whole region will come to participate in a parade in Bocas Town on the 15th. The older school students will be in a parade the morning of the 16th, then adults will participate in an evening parade at night on the 16th. That is three separate parades in two days! This lady said the evening parade was the best one of the year, because the musicians wear lights, dance, and put lights on their instruments. We think we will want to see that! Thursday, 28 November is Separation from Spain Day. We probably will not be here in Bocas del Toro then, so we have not even asked if there is a parade that day, too.

Today, we walked down Main Street to stretch our legs and do a few small errands. There are an inordinate number of hardware stores in this town. So many people who live out island get supplies from Bocas Town. Many expats have come here, purchased land, and gone on to build their own wooden houses. I guess the things you find in a hardware store would be as high on their shopping lists as the food.

We were looking for filters for our water maker. We have extras, but do not want to run out. We have been making water in places where the water seems to be clear of particulates (stuff floating in/on the water), but there is still a lot of silt in the ocean. Those filters are working very hard. It is raining fairly often (the area is all rainforest) and the rivers are running and carrying silt into the ocean. Locals tell us that December through March there is less rain and the ocean water clears as the silt in it settles.

We always go to Toto, a combination grocery store, hardware store, and everything else store. There are three separate sections under one roof. We bought some fresh bread from the German bakery that is sold there, a few other groceries, then bought ice cream!

Back on the boat, I sent an email requesting reservations to tour a chocolate farm on Tuesday, 05 November. I am hoping they will respond quickly, because on Monday we will have to move the boat to another place if we are going to tour the chocolate farm.

Sunday, 3 November 2019 ... Bocas Town, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... It Is Parade Day! ...

It is finally the day we are going to see a parade! Before we leave the boat though, it is Pancake Sunday on EXIT ONLY.

We have “a thing” on EXIT ONLY that Sunday is Pancake Day. Z and J really like pancakes, so I make pancakes for them (and anyone else who wants some) on Sunday mornings. We have taken their pancakes to another level...I started out with Z and J shaped pancakes. We have had pancake squares, triangles, and swirls...sailboats, bears, and today, we had hearts. I “draw” with a squirt bottle that contains the batter.

The mothers told us their children had to be at their school at 0830/8:30 a.m. this morning to line up for the parade. We added a factor of “Panamanian Time” to that and decided we would go into town after 0930/9:30 a.m. We knew when the parade was starting when we heard the drums. We were right on time to see the actual beginning of the parade!

What fun! The schools were there, usually the elementary grades marched in a group, the middle grades in a second group, and the higher grades in a third group. The middle school grades of each school had a band that was mostly drums. Very noisy, but those kids were having fun! The higher grades of each school had bands, girls twirling batons, and girls twirling flags. There was a small adult group dressed in traditional clothing doing folk dances. There were local adult groups walking. I could not believe how many of the women wore high heels! They looked nice, but that must have been a long walk in heels.

We were on the side of the street with the locals and tourists. Each marching group had helpers marching to the side with them carrying water in bottles or small bags. When there was a break in the walking, these folks would pass through the group passing out water.

We were on the side of the street with the locals and tourists right across from a tienda (small grocery store). When there was a break in the walking, the spectators could cross the street and buy cold drinks. It was a very informal parade.

The end of the parade passed us around noon. We decided to stay in town and eat lunch at Buena Vista. The people at the restaurant told us there are going to be bigger parades on the 15th and 16th of November to celebrate Bocas del Toro Comarca (region or province) Day. We think we want to be sure and be in Bocas Town to see that! We got back to the boat around 1400/2:00 p.m.

We looked online and saw that out reservations for the Tuesday tour of the chocolate farm were confirmed. This means we will be leaving Bocas Town tomorrow morning and heading for an anchorage in Dolphin Bay by the dock at Green Acres Chocolate Farm.

Monday, 4 November 2019 ... Dolphin Bay, Cristobal Island, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Getting The Boat To Green Acres Chocolate Farm ...

After breakfast, we left Bocas Town and headed four miles out to sea. We need to make water today, and Dave was hoping that he could find water with fewer particulates in it by moving away from the islands a tad. Unfortunately, that meant going away from the chocolate farm, our destination for today.

We did school while the water maker ran for a couple of hours. The water did seem a little clearer where we were out there floating around. Once the water tank was full, we set our course for Dolphin Bay.

The charts we were using were making Dolphin Bay look like it has a tricky entrance. Once we arrived there, we had no problem getting into the large bay or finding a place to anchor. It is a beautiful area. There are several houses scattered around the bay. Their connection with the outside world is large fiberglass runabouts with big engines on the back called “pangas”. We are anchored off the dock of the chocolate farm.

It is extremely quiet out here, surrounded by land and the rainforest...until the howler monkeys start howling, the bats start squeaking, the birds start calling and screeching, etc. That rainforest is alive!

As the sun was setting and the rainforest inhabitants were settling in for the night, we saw hundreds of vultures flying into this area and settling into the highest trees in the forest canopy for the night. Later, we learned that millions of vultures follow a migration path every year that goes directly through this area. We saw part of the migrating vultures. The migration path goes from Canada to South America.

The sunset was spectacular. The brilliant golds and pinks and reds were smeared across the sky very dramatically.

We are looking forward to touring the chocolate farm tomorrow. I had hoped to read up on cacao before we went there, but since I have no WiFi out here, I will not be doing that.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019 ... Dolphin Bay/Chocolate Farm, San Cristobal Island, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... It Is Field Trip Day! ...

We did school this morning, then got ready to go into the dock for the chocolate farm tour at 1000/10:00 a.m. The people who gave the tour have lived here for the past 6 years.

The tour was very informative at so many levels. We not only learned about the processing of cacao to make chocolate, but because cacao trees grow in the rainforest, we had a great introduction to the rainforest, too.

Seeing the cacao trees themselves is a surprise. They look like something found in a drawing in a Dr. Seuss book. The yellow, orange, and red pods of this medium-sized tree are growing out of the trunk of the tree instead of the branches! We had to ask why, of course. The pods are very heavy when they are ripe for picking and the branches of the tree would not be able to hold them, so they grow from the trunk.

All cacao trees grow in a rainforest with canopy trees to give them the shade they need to survive. We walked along a path that had been cut through the rainforest looking at orchids attached to the trees, calabash trees that grow gourds. We saw the cacao pods, then the process that turns the pods into an edible product. This chocolate is used as is (without sugar) and is also added to ingredients like sugar and rum.

We all really did enjoy the tour of the chocolate farm. Some of our crew likes chocolate to the point of being chocoholics, so they really liked the tour, especially the free taste samples at the end of the tour.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019 ... Pallas Bay near Rana Azul Restaurant, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... This Has To Be One Of The Craziest Days Ever ...

At breakfast this morning, we were all discussing where we were going to move to today. We want to go to the N and S Zapatilla Cays here in Bocas del Toro and check them out. The water is supposed to be very clear. We thought we might go to a halfway point and anchor there tonight, then go on to the Zapatillas tomorrow.

A few minutes later, the people from the other boat anchored out here with us, came over in their dinghy and said they were passing along an invitation from the people at the chocolate farm to a surprise birthday party for one of their neighbors who is turning 90. The party was being held at the only restaurant in this part of the islands with a proper pizza oven.

We all agreed we would like to go and yes, we would like to eat some pizza, too! The other boat was going, too, so we said we would follow them over to the anchorage near the restaurant when they were ready to go (the party was scheduled for 1500/3:00 p.m.).

All morning it was overcast and rainy with the wind strengthening, then letting up. This happened over and over again. We wondered if any of the locals would want to come out in their open cayucos and ride around in this weather. As our two boats were almost to the anchorage, we heard on the VHF radio that the party had been cancelled for today and rescheduled for Friday.

So, there we were, anchored near the restaurant, and no one is there...and no one is coming. Our dinghy was out of the water, so the people in the other boat went in to see if the restaurant was open anyway. They came back and told us the owners of the restaurant said since there was no party, they were not going to fire up the pizza oven, but it was chicken and rice day. We thanked them for telling us and told them if there was no pizza, we were going to leave and go back to the bay we were in this morning, because it had better protection from the wind.

The other people went to their boat and tried to call the restaurant on the VHF radio to tell them both of the boats anchored out were leaving. The restaurant was not answering on VHF, so one more time, the people went in to tell the restaurant owners we were leaving.

We had hauled up our anchor and we were heading out of the bay to the other bay when the other boat came on the radio and told us the restaurant owners told them they had fired up the pizza oven and they were making was rising. I was on the radio and said, “OK, we will stop and turn around” and we did. We went back, anchored again, put our dinghy in the water and went into the restaurant dock. The other cruisers were already in there.

In the next half hour (it was now around 1600/4:00 p.m.), about a dozen expats who live locally in that area showed up for chicken and rice. The eight people from the two boats ordered six pizzas. Yummy!

We ended up talking to several of the locals and it was a fun time. I would have to say this has been one crazy mixed up day that turned out much differently than I would have predicted at any point in the day!

Thursday, 7 November 2019 ... Far end of Dolphin Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Two Year’s Ago Today, Dave and Dito Left Kentucky ...

We can hardly believe that two years ago today, in 2017, Dave and Dito left Kentucky to drive to Ft. Pierce, Florida, to start the refit of EXIT ONLY. Sitting here in Bocas del Toro, Panama, that all seems so long ago and far away. On the other hand, that day was the beginning of what brought us here today.

It rained off and on all night last night, so we had no idea what to expect when we woke up to an overcast sky and light drizzle this morning. In a short amount of time, the sun had fought through the layers of clouds and a light steady wind was blowing.

We looked at the charts to see if there was anywhere out in this area we wanted to see before we move on. A friend, who used to run an eco resort here in the islands, had told us about some snorkeling sights he thought were quite good. One of them is in Dolphin Bay, at the far end from the Chocolate Farm we went to the other day.

At the Chocolate Farm, we heard that Dolphin Bay has that name because it is a nursery for the baby dolphins that are born here. Evidently, the dolphins that are born here will return when they are adults having babies. We were assured if we spent any time at all in Dolphin Bay, we would see dolphins, large and small. We decided to stay another day at the far end of Dolphin Bay to check out the snorkel sites and the dolphins.

Friday, 8 November 2019 ... Far End Of Dolphin Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Time To Think About The Visa For French Polynesia ...

It rained off and on all night last night. Seems a huge low pressure system is over the whole country of Panama and most of Costa Rica. The morning was overcast, but dry. It is so quiet out here on the water that we could hear dolphins all around us breathing as they came up to the surface of the water. Dolphins have their babies here, because the babies can hide safely in the roots of the mangrove trees found all around this huge bay.

Sarah has WiFi on her phone. Dave has WiFi on his minipad. Dito and I have no WiFi at all! Anyway, Sarah was looking into the logistics of applying for a long-stay visa in French Polynesia and realized there are only 3 days in November and December that we can get appointments at the French Embassy in Panama City.

Getting our appointments at the French Embassy became priority #1 immediately. The appointments have to be made online, so Sarah made it happen using her phone. They require we have copies of the response the Embassy sent to us by email. We pulled out the printer and set it up to make the copies of their email. We need to show the copies of the emails to the people at the Embassy when we arrive for our appointments.

The French Embassy requires each visa applicant has an appointment, so we thought we needed six appointments. It turns out only adults need appointments, so we were able to get four appointments on the same day, 3 December. Before we go to the Embassy, we have to carefully fill in all of the paperwork they require from each applicant. The blank forms are found online along with a list of other requirements: valid passports, photos, boat papers, proof of financial solvency, proof of accommodation, etc.

The other boat anchored near us left to go to another place. We noticed the dolphins were following them and playing in their wake. When it came time for us to move from the far end of the bay to anchor near the Green Acres Chocolate Farm again, Dave took the boat in big circles in the water. Sure enough, the dolphins started swimming in circles with us. They were swimming along both sides of the boat, across in front of the bows, and generally pacing themselves to stay with us. We did this several times and Dito was able to get some good video footage of the dolphins.

On Wednesday, Dito realized he had accidentally deleted the videos he had taken when we toured the Chocolate Farm. He found out their next tour was going to be tomorrow, Saturday. Since we are right here in the area, we are going to anchor off Green Acres Chocolate Farm tonight. Tomorrow morning, Dito, Sarah, Z, and J are going to go on the tour again and take more videos. That is why we are anchoring again at the Chocolate Farm tonight.

Saturday, 9 November 2019 ... Bocas Town, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Back To Bocas Town ...

After another rainy night, it cleared enough to give us a “dry” break. The tour of the Chocolate Farm began at 1000/10:00 a.m., so Dito, Sarah, Z, and J went into the dock. Dave and I stayed on the boat.

The two hour tour turned into 3+ hours once again, just because there is so much to see, do, and talk about between the rainforest and the chocolate! I had lunch ready when they did return. Shortly after lunch we hauled up the anchor and headed out of the bay.

Today was also “water making day”. All of the rain has made so much silt runoff into the bay, so we decided we would wait until we got outside the bay into open water to run the water maker. Because it had been raining off and on, we cleaned off the cockpit table and set up the water maker on the table, under the bimini, out of the rain.

Once the water tank was full, we coiled all the tubes and hoses and headed toward Bocas Town. We arrived back at the same anchorage where we stayed before and put the anchor down just as it was getting dark.

We are hoping to get some fresh fruit and vegetables, use some WiFi, and top up our groceries in general, then leave to explore more of the area. The biggest question right now is “what is the weather going to do?”.

Sunday, 10 November 2019 ... Bocas Town, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Acting Like We Are Going To Leave Soon, But The Weather Is Not Cooperating ...

It is still raining off and on. It is Pancake Sunday, so we started the day off with “fish” pancakes. The girls are thinking of all kinds of shapes I could make. Some are possible...and some are not.

We have decided to go ahead and work on our “To Do” list, then see what is happening with the weather. We still have some places we want to go see in the Archipelago, but moving about in reef strewn waters is impossible with rainy, overcast skies. You have to be able to see and read the water clearly.

We needed to replenish several grocery items that are heavy, so Dito and Dave came with us to help carry those items back to the dinghy from the store. Fortunately, it is actually not far from the biggest grocery store to the dinghy dock we use. The heavy items today included pop, long life milk in liter-size boxes, tinned vegetables, and tinned fruits. The guys took the heavy stuff back to the boat, while Sarah, Z, J, and I stayed and shopped for the smaller, lighter groceries. Dito brought the dinghy back in to the dock, then went to a restaurant to use their WiFi.

It was raining steadily outside when a man working at the grocery store asked us if we wanted a ride to somewhere in town after our groceries were paid for and packed up. I laughed and said, “No thanks. We are going to get wet anyway, because we have to ride in a dinghy out to a boat in the anchorage”.

All four of us had on a raincoat and we were not heavily loaded, so we walked to the dinghy dock quickly. We loaded the bags into the dinghy, got in ourselves, and headed out to the boat.

Everything was unloaded and put on the table in the cockpit. We had to unpack each item and dry off about half of the purchases. Of course, our raincoats were wet and our clothes were soaked. We changed into dry clothes and hung the wet stuff up in the cockpit under the bimini. Eventually, it did stop raining. By the time Sarah went in to the dock to pick up Dito, the weather had temporarily improved.

Monday, 11 November 2019 ... Bocas Town, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Finishing Up That “To Do” List ...

The day started with the usual breakfast, school, and lunch. Once those things are done, the rest of the things we have wanted to do, get done.

The list of things to do is shorter, but Dito and Sarah were still working on computer stuff. Both of them are busy posting things that we have all written over the past several weeks to several different sites. Since we have been without WiFi at so many places for the past couple of months, there is a lot of material that did not get posted because we did not have good WiFi connections. Now, we are catching up.

Dave had already gone into town this morning while we were doing school to do his business at the Movie Star (local cell provider) store. We have several phones, iPads, computers, etc., so different devices react differently to different providers. Dave was having a problem with one of his devices, and the people at the store were able to help him sort it out.

The rest of the crew went into town in the afternoon. David and Sarah headed for the restaurant with good WiFi. The girls and I headed down the Main Street to do some small errands. We had a few end-of-the-list items to get at one of the grocery stores. We checked out the supply of gummie candies at another store...the store with the biggest variety of gummies in stock. We went to the fruit and vegetable market. All of this got done and we still had time to get some ice cream and eat it!

The weather is not cooperating with our plans to leave town, so we are trying to max out the time we do have here. The other thing affecting our plans to leave town is the fact that there are going to be parades in Bocas Town on this coming Friday and Saturday. We thought it would be fun to see those parades. The rain is telling us to stay. Now we are wondering if there will be a parade on Friday and Saturday if it rains...

Tuesday, 12 November 2019 ... Bocas Town, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Yes, It Is Still Raining ...

It rained off and on all night and all morning, then we got a break from the rain in the afternoon.

After breakfast and school, Dave and I planned to go into town to do some errands, so we decided to eat lunch in town, too. Ever since we ate at Om, the Indian food restaurant, a few weeks ago, we have talked about going back. Today seemed like a good day to do that. Dave went for their brunch big breakfast, but I stayed with ordering Indian food just like the last time we were here. It was delicious once again. I put in a photo of the open kitchen at OM.

After eating, we headed down the Main Street to the marine store. Dave had seen some jerry jugs with pressure releases on them in the window of the shop and wanted a closer look. A long time ago, our jerry jugs had pressure releases on them. We have not been able to find that kind of jerry jug, so all of our others do not have the pressure release. We have to check them constantly. The sun beating down on the jerry jugs in the day heats the up and makes them expand. The relative coolness of the night makes them contract. The top has to be opened to release the pressure. Turns out there were only three jerry jugs in the shop with pressure releases built in. We bought all three. Dave plans to use them for gasoline for the dinghy engine and water maker.

Next, we went to the Movie Star (cellular network like ATT or T-Mobile) store. Dave put Movie Star on an old IPad of his and gave it to me to use in Panama. It worked for awhile, then suddenly it did not work. The lady in the store did some kind of technology magic and it is working again. We can use that one IPad as a hotspot for some of the other devices sometimes...and sometimes it is only a hotspot with “no WiFi available”.

Back at the boat, Sarah and the girls had made cinnamon rolls in the afternoon. When Dave and I returned to the boat, it was almost time to put the rolls in the oven to bake. Wow! The boat sure did smell good! We got to eat them fresh out of the oven with some cream cheese frosting on top. They were delicious!

Wednesday, 13 November 2019 ... Bocas Town, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... A Day At Sea On A Different “Boat” ...

It all started out as an idea to do something like the locals do and see what it was like to ride the local ferry. The ferry comes to Bocas Town almost daily and the free tourist newsletter advertises $2 tickets for a scenic ride among the islands of the archipelago.

I thought this sounded like fun, so I suggested we all go. I thought the kids would like it, too. We decided to go today. The advertisement in the newspaper showed a schedule that went from Bocas Town to Almirante (on the mainland, about 12 miles away), then came back to Bocas Town.

We got on board and another cruising family met up with us on the ferry. The four kids are all 5-8 years of age. At the end of the first one-way ride, the kids told us they loved the ferry. Of course they spent the 1-1/2 hours of the one-way trip to Almirante watching cartoons (in Spanish) on a big flat screen TV! The adults were on the other side of the wall sitting in an open air setting where drinks and snacks were sold.

As we came into the port of Almirante on the Panama mainland, we passed administrative buildings and row after row of shipping containers stacked high by the shore. All of the buildings and containers were painted with the Chiquita Banana Brand logo. Almirante is the head office of Chiquita Bananas.

I mistakenly thought we would be able to get off the ferry, take a look at the small town of Almirante, and get back on the returning ferry. What really happened was the ferry left late, so it arrived late. It was already scheduled to leave Almirante just as we arrived. Sarah, Z, and J got off the ferry with the other family and walked toward the small town. Dave and I stayed on the ferry for the return trip. They planned to eat, walk around town, and return to Bocas Town in a water taxi. We thought we would be back before they way!

The ferry comes into docks stern first. They had put out two anchors off the bow and when they tried to use the port windlass to lift the port anchor, the electric windlass stopped working. It took them almost an hour to get both anchors up and on board the ferry. Then, we headed 1-1/2 hours back to Bocas Town and just before we got there, the ferry turned right and kept going past the town! Turns out, the two full-sized fuel trucks full of diesel on the ferry were being delivered to Red Frog Marina and Resort on Isla Bastimentos before we go back to Bocas Town on Isla Colon. We asked how long the trucks would stay at Red Frog and were told the drivers deliver the fuel, then spend the night in their trucks. The ferry will come back to pick them up tomorrow. This is how diesel and gasoline are supplied too the islands that have it.

Dave and I disembarked from the ferry in Bocas Town at 1625/4:25 p.m. In the meantime, the Google Fi telephone network was down, so we were not able to use our phones to contact Dito and Sarah. We knew Sarah and the girls had been back at Bocas Town for a long time, and we knew Dito would see the ferry coming in from the anchorage and bring the dinghy into town to pick us up. It is a small town, so we started walking and looking for them. Within five minutes we spotted all four of them down the way!

We all decided to stay in town and find some pizza. Most of the restaurants were opening at 1630/4:30 p.m, so we were just in time! Found a pizza place, had some good pizza, and everyone got to tell their story of how their day went. We all agreed we did enjoy going on the ferry, but I admitted I should have done more research into the details of the ferry schedule!

Thursday, 14 November 2019 ... Bocas Town, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Working Today So We Can Play Tomorrow ...

We woke up to a sunny morning. We have a lot of things we want to get done today, because there are going to be three parades in the next two days and we want to see at least part of all of them. That is why we came back to Bocas Town.

Friday, the 15th, every young school student in the Bocas del Toro Comarca (region or province) willl be coming to Bocas Town on the ferry to march in the children’s parade. The morning of Saturday, the 16th, high school students from all over Panama will be marching in a parade. Later that day, in the evening, the adult groups from all over Panama will be marching in a night parade.

So, today is work day. Dave and I got our laundry washed and hung out first thing this morning, so it could dry in the sun. We did school while Dave and Dito hauled up the anchor and moved the boat out to open sea, away from the town, to make water. After the water was made, we returned to the town anchorage and had lunch.

After lunch, Dave and I went to town. Dave went to the barberia (barber). The shop was in a very tiny space. I peeked in, but got the “males only” vibe. I stepped back outside, while Dave sat down to wait his turn inside. There was a rickety bench outside by the door, so I sat there and waited for Dave. I was reading a book on my phone. Several young men came over at different times and sat on the bench, too. Kerplunk! I was afraid the bench was going to fall apart, but it did not. Dave asked the peluquero (barber) for a short haircut and he got exactly what he asked for.

When Dave was done at the barberia, we stopped by Toto (grocery store and more) to get a few things. A big white Bimbo Bread truck was parked by the store. Both of us grabbed our phones and took pictures of the truck. We were laughing. We first came across Bimbo Bread in the Canary Islands when we were doing our circumnavigation. Cruisers were loading up with Bimbo Bread because they said it would not mold and it lasts as long as you need it to last. Skeptically, we bought a loaf to see how it tasted. We could not imagine a loaf of bread lasting for 2+ weeks or more...or us still wanting to eat it after all that time. We also wondered why that was possible. Was that a good thing? Sure enough, the bread lasted all the way across the Atlantic (our crossing was 16 days from the Islas des Canarias to Barbados). We have been talking about Bimbo bread again, because it is available all over Panama!

Back on EXIT ONLY, we put the few groceries away and took the dry clothes off the lifelines. We are really looking forward to the next two days. I hope the rain holds off and the parades can enjoy sunny days.

Friday, 15 November 2019 ... Bocas Town, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... It Is Children’s Parade Day! ...

We were watching for the ferry before it arrived today, because we had heard all of the young school children from the mainland in the Bocas del Toro Region were going to be riding the ferry, so they could participate in the parade. Talk about a field trip! We could hear the drummers on the ferry playing loudly as they approached the ferry dock. There were hundreds of kids and adults on that boat!

We did not have to wonder when the parade would start because we could easily hear the bands playing, especially the drummers, as they lined up to enter the parade route down Main Street. We got in the dinghy and went into the dinghy dock after the drums got really loud.

The groups had quite a bit of distance between them and they stop several times along the way to play music and entertain the spectators. Finally, they put on their biggest performance in front of the grandstand down by the park. There is so much time between groups that spectators were crossing the street to go into shops and buy cold drinks, then cross the street again back to their viewing place. I grew up in very small towns, so I loved the small town feel of the brought back good memories to me.

There was an over abundance of drums...small, medium, and this parade. We were told that drums are one of the cheaper instruments to buy, so schools buy a lot of them!

We had lunch in town. One of the local expats was sitting near us and we started talking. He cam to Bocas del Toro with a plan three years ago and is now involved in running his own tourist cabins on one of the islands. It was really interesting to hear him talk about what it took to get started with that project, then work to bring it to fruition. We got to ask him some of the questions we had about life in the islands here. It was fun!

Tomorrow is the real Bocas del Toro Day, the 16th, and there will be two parades tomorrow!

Saturday, 16 November 2019 ... Bocas Town, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... It Is Bocas del Toro Day 2019! ...

Once again, we waited to go into town until we heard the drums. The message was clear! This morning parade is starting!

Today, the high school students marched. Some of the bands were local, but most of them came from all over Panama. Their uniforms were sharper and their musical instruments included the drums plus glockenspiels, marimbas, and different types of brass. There were also baton twirlers and flag teams. It was loud...and fun. The kids looked like they were having fun.

There were adults supporting each school or band by marching right along on the side of the street with their kids. They were carrying water and Gatorade to pass out when the kids were thirsty. The women who marched with the school groups often were wearing high heels! They looked very nice, but I could not help but wonder how far they would walk before they wished they had worn flat shoes.

We watched all of the morning parade, then went back to the boat to have lunch and take a break. The adult parade was supposed to start at 1900/7:00 p.m. Again, we waited until we heard the drums calling everyone to come see the night parade.

We went into the dinghy dock, then down the dock to the gate that opens to the street. “Opens” is the operative word here. Everyone who is usually around the dinghy dock/restaurant area was at the parade, so the gate and the pole had a chain around them with a combination lock in place. We were all able to barely squeeze through the space between the gate and the pole. Of course, we were also wondering how the gate would be when we came back to our dinghy. We reckons we would think about that later.

It was getting dark when walked to the middle of the Main Street and sat on the steps going up into Isla Colon Supermarket. The area was well-lighted and there were lots of people there, too. The supermarket was open and the people in the crowd were buying food and drinks in the store and eating and drinking out on the steps.

Everyone in this country laughs and talks about “Panama Time”. We have been here long enough to understand the concept, so we (along with everyone else who was lining the street!) did not really think the parade would start at 1900/7:00 p.m. as advertised. It did not. It started a few minutes after 2000/8:00 p.m.

Once again, the groups were from all over Panama. There were city bands, college bands, etc. The music was driven by an inordinate number of drums, but bugles and brass, woodwinds, etc. were rocking it out as they moved down the street. Special effects were featured...aerosol cans sprayed while using a lighter made flames into the sky...the bass drummers threw their drums up in the air while they did fancy footwork on the ground...groups of musicians within a band did choreography...a group of butterfly dancers performed...beautifully costumed women reminded me of Cleopatra, but I am not sure exactly who they were. It was a big, noisy spectacle that was a lot of fun to see!

There was a lot of stop-and-go with this parade, too. As the bands slowly moved down the street, they stopped every block to perform. Because we were sitting in front of a grocery store, we could watch the people in the band perform, then while they were waiting to move on, some of them would leave their spot in the ban and go into the store to buy drinks and food. Then, the would return to their place in the band and eat and drink.

As much fun as we were having, after watching seven bands (there were 17 bands in all) and several groups perform, it was 2215/10:15 p.m. Also, it was starting to rain! We all had as much fun as we could take, so we headed back to our dinghy. Fortunately, there was someone there to let us in! The boat was minutes away from the dinghy, but we all were wet when we got on the boat. By 2245/10:45 p.m. the lights were out on EXIT ONLY. I laid there in the bunk listening to the bands still playing and the rain still falling. Dave said he woke up at 0130/!:30 a.m. when the fireworks, signaling the end of the parade, went off. I never heard a thing! Slept right through it all!

Sunday, 17 November 2019 ... Crawl/Coral Cay, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Farewell To Bocas Town ...

It seemed very quiet as we woke up this morning. There were no drums drumming! We had breakfast, then hauled up the anchor and left Bocas Town for what is probably the last time for us. We had come there and stayed to see the three parades. Now they were over, so we were ready to move on.

It was overcast, but not raining yet. We had heard the snorkeling was good by Crawl/Coral Cay. The word sounds different when different people here pronounce it. The charts and maps of the are using one name or the other, too. We do not know exactly how to pronounce it, but we do know where it is.

The Crawl/Coral Cay area turned out to be an out island area where expats have built houses on the water and several small traditional Ngobi (indigenous group of people) villages are located.

This area is known for having a few notable snorkeling sites. The water taxis are running back and forth to and from Bocas Town all day carrying tourists to these sites. One water taxi came fairly close to our boat pulling tourists on ropes so they could look in the water with their masks and snorkels on without having to swim.

It was drizzling rain for awhile this afternoon, so we are hoping that is over and it will be sunny tomorrow, so the crew can go snorkeling and see what there is to see.

Monday, 18 November 2019 ... Crawl/Coral Cay, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Time To Check Out Those Snorkel Sites ...

The skies are a little overcast, but it is not raining! So far, so good. We did school then ate lunch on the boat. The morning passed quickly.

We have been watching the water taxis come and go with their seats full of tourists. We have watched closely where the water taxis take the snorkelers. We have also seen water taxi take people to a large yellowish building that is described as a “store” on our charts. In the far distance, we can see the high mountains of northern Panama. The mist hanging over them made me think of the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee!

The crew got in the dinghy with their snorkel gear and headed for for one of the buoys we had seen the water taxis use for snorkel groups. There is a lot of live corals, both soft and hard. There was a lot to see “down there”, but the sun was not shining brightly, so visibility was affected.

Next, the crew went to a second buoy at a second site. The snorkeling is good here, so we were glad to have the chance to check it out. After watching the water taxis pull tourists through the water, Dave, Sarah, Z, and J tried it, too. Dito used the dinghy to pull them through the water! I think they were glad they did it, but no one was asking when they could do it again!

Tuesday, 19 November 2019 ... Crawl/Coral Cay, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... RAIN, RAIN, RAIN, RAIN, RAIN ...

Are you kidding? It started raining last night and literally rained all day today. It is not only inconvenient, it is making us all want to get off the boat SO badly!

I used a photo today of the resort with the thatched bohio in the rain. Compare today’s photo with the one of the same resort yesterday. A local man came by huddled in one end of his cayuco. He was soaked with rain and busy bailing out his boat. Obviously, he wished he was not out in the rain. Another medium-sized cayuco came by pulling a small cayuco. There were two people with two umbrellas in the larger of the two boats. We think the larger cayuco must have rescued the smaller one from being swamped by the waves.

Today is the day we wanted to fill the diesel tanks from the jerry jugs that are tied down on deck. We cannot fill diesel tanks if there is any possibility that water could get inside the tank. So, no filling tanks if it is raining.

Today is also water making day according to the schedule. We cannot make water, because we do not want to get the water making equipment wet. So, no making water while it is raining.

Water making day is also laundry day. We do not have a washer and dryer. We do washing by hand and hang it on the lifelines to dry. We will not be doing laundry while it is raining.

We did have school while it was raining and we did have lunch while it was raining. Sarah even made pizza, one of the crew’s favorite meals.

By the afternoon, Dito and Dave had put our wet dinghy in the water and everyone but Dave climbed into the dinghy in a light rain. We had seen water taxis coming and going from the yellowish building, so we guessed it might be a store or a restaurant that might have WiFi. Dito and Sarah decided to check it out. Z, J, and I went, too, just to go somewhere.

We stood out of the rain on the covered porch of the yellowish building. We looked across a counter into one open room that had a few, basic food products for sale, mostly to people in the near-by Ngobi village. We bought six eggs and some hot sauce, because it seemed like they were having a slow day. No WiFi!

We came back to the boat thoroughly soaked. By the time I changed into dry clothes and found a place for my wet clothes, I changed my mind and felt grateful that I had a clean dry place to be out of the rain.

I will admit to hoping against hope that we see the sun tomorrow!

Wednesday, 20 November 2019 ... North Zapatilla Cay, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Good News, The Sun Is Shining! ...

The whole crew was happy...and see the sunshine and blue sky when we woke up this morning! We started school a tad earlier than usual, because we wanted to have more time to play later.

We have been hoping we would get to spend some time at both the North and South Zapatilla Cays. These two cays are official Panama National Parks, so the only people who live there are Park Rangers. Both of the islands are surrounded by reefs, well-known for snorkeling and diving. Both islands have beautiful sand beaches. Water taxis bring people out for day trips from Bocas Town constantly.

Boats have to pay special attention to anchoring in the park. The tricky thing about these two cays is the surrounding reefs. This means we will only go there on a day when the wind is light and the sky is clear. Today was one of those kinds of days. We decided to go for it!

We left Crawl/Coral Cay, and when we were halfway to North Zapatilla, we turned off the engines and drifted while we made water. Once that chore was done, we went the rest of the way to our destination and put down the anchor. Lunch was ready.

After lunch, we waited until all of the day trippers had gone back to Bocas Town. We were the only visitors left! It was time to go check out that beach. Dito and J were on the red kayak and Z was on the blue kayak. They paddled into shore while the rest of us went in the dinghy. The beach was made of powdery, almost-white sand. The water was crystal clear and as warm as bath water. For now, we had our own private getaway. This is my kind of place!

We all did some hiking around the edge of the island on the beach, looked for seashells (there were not many), body surfed, the kids dug big holes in the sand and build sand castles, etc., then, we decided it was time to head back to the boat.

We really enjoyed today. It was exactly the kind of day we would have wished for!

Thursday, 21 November 2019 ... North Zapatilla Cay, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Another Sunny Day In The Zapatilla Cays ...

We did school this morning, then as soon as we were done, the anchor was hauled up. We moved about 20 minutes to South Zapatilla Cay for the day.

While we were out on the boat, the rangers from the South Island came out in their panga. They introduced themselves and spoke to us in Spanish. We kept asking how much we needed to pay to be here and they kept saying we do not need to pay at a National Park. OK. They did ask if we had any cold pop, so we gave them a cold Coca Cola and a cold Fresca. They seemed happy with that.

We went into the beach the same way we did yesterday...with kayaks and the dinghy. The beach on this cay was as nice as the beach on the other cay. The north cay has mangroves growing all over it. The south cay has coconut palm trees growing all over it.

Once again, we enjoyed the same things we did yesterday on a different beach. When it came time to return to EXIT ONLY, we decided the anchorage at North Zapatilla Cay was more protected and we would return there for the night.

Dito sent his drone up and in the photo it sent back, you can see both the North and South Zapatilla Cays with EXIT ONLY anchored off the beach for the day.

Friday, 22 November 2019 ... North Zapatilla Cay, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Moving The Boat To The Zapatilla Cays ...

Dave went out on the deck just as the sun was rising this morning. He came back in to the cabin and told me I had better get my phone/camera and come outside, because today’s sunrise was really special. So, I got up and went outside, too!

Wow! Just Wow! We have seen so many spectacular sunrises and sunsets, I would not want to try to say which spectacular one was better than another spectacular one. This morning was amazing because actual rays of light were fanning out from the sun...just like on the Arizona state flag!! I took lots of photos, then went back to the bunk. The sunrise “followed” me. Suddenly the port hole (small window) in the cabin lit up like the sky!

We did school this morning, then the rest of the crew went snorkeling on the reef. I stayed on the boat to work on the blog and fix lunch. As soon as lunch was over, we hauled up the anchor and headed back to Crawl/Coral Cay, because they sell gasoline there. We have been using the dinghy engine a lot for exploring the reefs all around us. It took us 1-1/2 hours to make the trip there.

Dito and Zoe took two jerry jugs and went to the building with a huge “No Fumar” (No Smoking) sign on it. That was where they keep and sell gasoline. Dito took the jerry jugs inside. The man dipped into a big barrel of gasoline and filled a bucket. Then, he poured the gasoline from the bucket into a funnel in the top of our jerry jugs. Dito said gasoline was splashing everywhere. He said he sure hoped the “”No Fumar” sign was working!

Now that we had a supply of gasoline, we hauled up the anchor again, and went back to North Zapatilla Cay, where we came from. We arrived at the cay just as all the day trippers were leaving. Once again, we went into the beach and were the only people there.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 ... North Zapatilla Cay, Bocas del Toro, Panama ... Another Day With A Special Surprise For Us...Hello, Saturday! ...

We do not do school on Saturday if we have done five days in a row already this week. There was no school today. After breakfast everyone was doing their own thing. It was sunny and a light breeze was blowing.

I have some Saturday chores I make a point to do every week. We have a flat dish drainer setting in the right-hand sink in the galley with a plastic utensil holder setting on it. Every week I thoroughly wash the drainer, the utensil holder and the sink under it all with bleach water. Next, I pull everything out of the frig one shelf at a time (there are only three small shelves) and check the fresh food and the food in containers for problems. Finally, I wipe down the counters with bleach water. We keep things as clean as possible all week, but once a week a little extra TLC helps.

After lunch Dave, Dito, Z, and J went snorkeling. Sarah was working on preparing material for uploading on whenever we get to some WiFi. I was editing and organizing photos to accompany the blog entries I have written.

When everyone came back from snorkeling, we all got in the dinghy and went to “our” beach. Everyone else had left for the day. For a few minutes we were all doing different things at the beach, then the park ranger came over to talk to Dave and Dito. He asked if we would like to go see some hatching Hawksbill turtles.

He said he and the other ranger mark every new nest they find, then check them regularly. They know the turtles should hatch between 60 and 70 days. If the turtles have not left the nest by the 70th day, the rangers dig down and release the turtles that have hatched and are still below the ground.

We took our dinghy around to the windward side of the island and met the ranger and four people from a motor boat on the beach near a nest. The ranger started carefully digging in the sand with his hand and baby turtles began to appear. There were 148 live turtle babies and 10 eggs that did not hatch in that nest. We watched all of them come out of the nest and make the 20 foot trek to reach the ocean. The waves came in and took the turtles back out. The turtles touched the water and immediately began to swim. It was amazing to watch. It was also hard to keep our hands to ourselves and not help them. As much as we wanted to help them on their way, we did not do it. They did not need our help.

The ranger said the nesting season was April to November each year, and July is the peak month for the highest number of eggs hatching. This year they found 467 nests on the North Zapatilla Cay and 5,634 nests on South Zapatilla Cay. Yes, those are the numbers he gave us.

What a day! I have seen turtles hatch two different places in Australia. Both times were unforgettable. Once again, I am grateful to be able to be out here exploring and experiencing so many different people, places, and things.

Sunday, 24 November 2019 ... Isla Escudo de Veraguas, Panama ... Farewell To Bocas del Toro Archipelago ...

We woke up to another beautiful sunny morning. It was Pancake Sunday! In honor of the 148 baby turtles who came out of their nest yesterday, we had turtle pancakes!

Once breakfast was over, we decided to make our move to Isla Escudo de Veraguas. We are moving on, because we need to be getting back to Colon in the next week, so we can complete the preparations for going through the Canal in December. It is about 34 miles from the Zapatillas Cays to Isla Escudo de Veraguas. This passage took us about six hours of motor sailing.

If we get five days of school done, Monday through Friday, we do not usually do school on Saturday and Sunday. Since we decided to be moving the boat today, we did school under way (while the boat was moving) and promised the kids they could have the day off tomorrow, at the island. We are hoping the weather will be good enough that we can do some exploring in the dinghy around the island tomorrow. Cruising friends have spoken of Escudo de Veraguas as a “must see” island. They talked about interesting large rocks, smalll hidden beaches among the rocks, outcroppings of rock off shore, etc. We put this place on our “to go to” list a long time ago and now we can do it.

As we approached the island today, we could see a small island with tan sand beaches at both ends. The center of the island is filled with a rainforest. Hmmm...hope that does not mean lots of rain right now...or lots of no-see-ums!

We anchored the boat on the leeward side of the island and waited for the anchor and chain to settle. When we were sure the boat was in a good place, we put the dinghy in the water and headed for the beach. We knew this would be a quick trip, because it was already 1600,4:00 p.m., the tide was coming in, and the sky was overcast, making us think it might rain soon. The lovely tan sand was littered with tree trunks and branches that had ridden the waves and landed high and dry here. The no-see-ums were coming out of the rainforest, because the sun was not shining brightly. We walked in the shallow incoming waves to keep them away from our ankles.

Dito put his drone up, everyone was walking along the shore stretching their legs, Z and J were using some of the thin sticks on the beach to make a sculpture in the sand...we cannot wait to explore this island. We definitely want to go back tomorrow when the sun is shining (we hope) and the bugs have to retreat to the dark forest.

We got back in the dinghy and slowly worked our way along the shore. on the leeward side of the island. From a distance, we could see huge rocks on the edge of the island with trees on top of them and bushes draping over the sides of them. As we got closer, we could see small, hidden beaches between the rocks, an arch over the water that begged to be explored at low tide, and small outcroppings of rock that appeared as part of the island from a distance. Actually, they were separate from the island and each has its own distinct shape and cap of plant life. In all our travels, we have never seen a shoreline like this. The outcroppings of rocks reminded us of the ones we saw in Thailand.

Back at the boat, we were all glad we had come to this island and we are looking forward to spending a few days here, so we can explore this island that reminds us of Jurassic Park! P.S. Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs, of course!

Monday, 25 November 2019 ... sla Escudo de Veraguas, Panama ... Wellllllllllll, Be Careful What You Wish For ...

We woke up to rain this morning and a fairly stiff wind was making waves that were pushing the boat around. Not exactly what we were hoping for.

After breakfast, the rain showers were still coming and going, so Sarah and I told Z and J we might as well go ahead and have school today while it was raining. They both quickly reminded us that we did school yesterday, because we wanted to have all day to explore the island today. We explained that the weather was not cooperating. The girls were still not happy about doing school instead of going exploring, We all would rather go exploring!

I took an index card and wrote “Pretty Day Pass” on it. I gave them the pass and told them it was like a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card in Monopoly. They play games and know what that meant. They accepted the card...good for one day...getting out of doing school on the next pretty day.

It was also “making water day” today, so once the rain was light, Dave and Dito set up the components of the water maker in the cockpit under the bimini and started the process of making water.

By lunch, the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to break through the clouds. When the sun started shining, we were happy to see it. Unfortunately, the wind was still stirring up the water and the waves were crashing on the beach. We do not want to take the dinghy in through the breaking waves. It is too dangerous to have six people trying to get out of the dinghy when two of them are young kids and one of them is me...the one who moves surely, but slowly. They do not want me to get knocked over by the waves or the bouncing dinghy. Me, neither!

This day is winding down. Light rain is falling again. The wind is blowing 10-15-20 knots. We were bouncing around this evening, but it had stopped raining. We are hoping for a good day for exploring tomorrow.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019 ... Isla Escudo de Veraguas, Panama ... Last Night EXIT ONLY Was Rockin’! ...

We had a little less rain last night, but we had a lot more wave action. Between the winds and the current, it felt like being under way...on passage instead of being at anchor. Somehow, we did get some sleep, but we kept waking up to check that our anchor had not dragged and that all was well.

Fortunately, we have an electronic navigational program called Navionics on board this trip. One of the features of this electronic program is you can download a chart that shows the exact position of your boat at anchor. As the winds blow, the current flows, and the tides go in and out, the boat moves around a lot at the end of 100’ - 150’ of chain attached to the anchor.

Dave has this chart set up on his mini pad, which he keeps in the bunk within easy reach when he goes to sleep. When he wakes up in the night and opens up the chart on the mini pad, he can see exactly where the boat is located and where it has been moving up to the minute. This also shows us if the anchor has dragged.

I asked Dave to make a screen shot of last night’s chart this morning, so I could include it in my blog. This screenshot shows the boat was swinging in an arc repetitively through the night, except for a couple of one-time forays off in a couple different directions when the wind changed for a short time. Knowing this information saves us a lot of worrying time as well as we do not have to get in and out of the bunk and go outside to figure out what is going on.

We ended up doing school this morning, because it was raining off and on. Also, the waves are still coming in and crashing on the beach instead of rolling gently onto the sand. It is still too dangerous to try to take the dinghy to the beach. We do not want to swamp the dinghy or have it overturn in the surf, then lose the engine to the salt water, let alone have any people injured. As much as we would like to get off the boat, It is just not worth it to us to take those kind of chances.

Dito and Sarah took Z and J up on the foredeck, then sat on the bow, to watch the waves and “enjoy the ride” as the waves made the boat go up and down over and over again. The sun has broken through several times today, so we are hoping this means better weather is coming...soon!

Wednesday, 27 November 2019 ... On Passage Between Isla Escudo de Veraguas, Panama, to Shelter Bay Marina near Colon, Panama...What To Do? Stay Here Or Go ...

The sky was fairly clear this morning when we woke up, but the wind had not gone down...and maybe it was blowing a tad harder. There was still too much big surf breaking on the beach for us to take the dinghy in to shore.

Sarah, Z, J, and I did school. Dito paddled the kayak over to the other boat anchored near us off the island to ask them if they had received any up-to-date weather information. They said they were expecting a weather forecast and when it came in they would come over and share the information.

While we were doing school, the captain and a crew member of the other sailboat paddled their kayaks over to EXIT ONLY. The weather information they had received basically said we could expect more of the same tumultuous weather for 2-3 more days.

We started talking about staying versus going. We want to spend time on this island so badlly, but...Dito decided he was going to drain the accumulation of rainwater from the dinghy, which was already up on the davits. Next, Dave started clearing the cockpit area and storing things for leaving. Dito checked the oil in both engines. I was fixing a quick hot lunch, so we could eat and clean up the galley.

As much as we really wanted to stay and explore this unique island and the beaches around it, we were not willing to put the boat in danger. The safety of the boat always comes first! The anchorages are considered good anchorages for settled weather, but there is little protection from high winds from any direction. We were all disappointed, but the boat always has to come first. We take care of her and she takes care of us.

We left that anchorage at 1300/1:00 p.m. to head for Shelter Bay Marina. For the first 12 hours of the passage we actually had the high winds and the big waves behind us, so we were moving 6-7 knots downwind. Around 0100/1:00 a.m., everything changed...

Thursday, 28 November 2019 ... Arrived at Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, Panama...Yes, Around 0100 Everything Changed ...

After riding the waves for 12 hours on our way to Colon, it was a big disappointment when the wind changed direction around 0100/1:00 a.m. and started coming at us right on the nose. We ended up beating into the wind for the next 9 hours going 2-3 knots.

Dave and Dito were doing the watch, taking turns every few hours. They were sitting outside at the helm, because someone needed to be constantly watching the wind and waves. I woke up at 0100 and laying in the bunk made me feel worse instead of better, so I got up. I was awake but not really doing watch, because I was feeling sea sick and getting sicker by the hour. I have not been sea sick for one minute since we left Florida last April...until tonight.

We made it inside the breakwater near the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal around 0900/9:00 a.m. One minute it was like we were in a washing machine and the next minute it was like we were on a pond. One hour later, we were secured to a dock and the boat was hardly moving at all! My stomach immediately felt better!

It was Thanksgiving Day, and we have a lot to be thankful for...but, we were especially thankful to be out of the wind and waves and tied up in the marina. I was grateful we were not moving at all.

A Thanksgiving supper was planned for 1700/5:00 p.m. in the evening. One of the guys grilled a large ham and someone grilled a fish. Everyone brought sides to share. We were running low on some basic supplies on the boat, but Sarah made a pumpkin pie and I made brownies to share. About 30 people from several different countries showed up for the dinner.

Friday, 29 November 2019 ... Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, Panama ... What Do We Have To Do To Get Ready To Go Through The Panama Canal?! ...

Dave and Dito went to Colon on the morning bus. The first thing on the “Canal To Do” list is get measured. We have already done that. Next, the Panama Canal Company tells you how much it will cost. All boats under 50 feet pay a fee of around $1,000. We were instructed by the Panama Canal Company to take $1,000 in cash to a specific bank and the money was put in the Canal Company account with the EXIT ONLY’s name on it. Each boat must also deposit around $900 in cash into that account for insurance. If there are no problems with your transit, you will get the insurance money back. Dave and Dito went to the bank today with $1,900 to get the account for EXIT ONLY set up. I was glad Dito was with Dave. That is a lot of cash to be carrying around...anywhere in the world. Colon is no different I should also mention, that all Canal fees are scheduled to double as of 01 January 2020. That is why we (and many other cruising boats) want to transit in December 2019.

Once the money is in the bank, you call the Transit Office and ask for a transit date. We will be transiting the Canal, 11 December 2019. This was a very important thing to get done, so we are now a few steps closer to being closer to being ready to transit the Canal.

Back at the boat, Sarah and I had gathered all the laundry together to take to the laundry. It turned out to be quite a lot of laundry, because we stripped the mattress pads, sheets, light blankets, and pillowcases off all three bunks. After we added the towels and clothing, we had three large bags to carry to the laundry.

Sarah and the girls took up all the throw rugs in the boat and laid them out in the fresh air and sunshine. Next the sweeper came out and the floors were swept. In no time, the boat not only looked better, it was aired out and smelling fresh again.

After lunch, Sarah, Z, J, and I rode the afternoon bus to town. Our main goals were pizza, ice cream, and some basic groceries. As soon as we arrived in town, I went to Pizza Hut to order two pizzas to go. I told them I wanted to pick them up at 1445/2:45 p.m. Next, we went to Dairy Queen and had ice cream.

Finally, we made a quick run through the grocery store. We were not really provisioning for a big trip right now. We were topping up some of the basics we like to have on hand.

By the time we got back to EXIT ONLY, we were all ready to sit down and eat those pizzas. They were not still hot from the oven, but they sure tasted good anyway!

Saturday, 30 November 2019 ... Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, Panama ... Already The Last Day Of November!?! ...

Dave and I went into town this morning, because we had a list of items Dave was looking for so they can compete some small boat jobs while we are here in the marina.

We went to three hardware stores looking for various things Dave had in mind to use on specific boat jobs. We found almost everything we were looking for except filters that fit our water maker. We think we can get those in Panama City. Our answer to everything we cannot find these days is “they will have that in Panama City”...and they probably really will.

Our next goal was to go to the phone kiosk and purchase the recharging cards for the Digicel phone system and the Movie Star phone system. We use these systems to access WiFi and to set up a hot spot for some of our devices to piggyback off of.

We were back at the boat by lunch. After lunch everyone was sort of doing their own thing. My thing was to do some sorting and organizing of some of my stuff I did not put away while the boat was rocking and rolling those few days before we came to the marina. Here, in the marina, there is no excuse, because the boat is perfectly still and it is easy to access all of the areas where my stuff is stored. I worked on this until I had to stop and take a nap. I feel like I am in jet lag after that overnight passage.

Dave and I went to the restaurant for supper tonight and had a very nice meal. Now, I am typing the blog entries, so I can have November completed and I can pass all of November entries and photos to Sarah in a day or two. When we have WiFi, I want to make it count and get a lot done!