I had bought a braided loaf of egg bread (pan de huevo) at the grocery store the other day, so this seemed like a good morning to make French toast. The rest of the crew loves pancakes, but Dave’s favorite is French toast. I will say everyone did eat their share today!
After we cleaned up the galley, it was time to head over to the Cruiser’s Lounge for Christian Fellowship meeting at 0900/9:00 a.m. The same people from last week were there, so we immediately started talking like old friends. Our paths had crossed during the week at the marina, too. One of the ladies from Mexico speak only a little English, so it has been fun to practice our little bit of Spanish and she practices her English. It is a very interesting and diverse group of people.
We had lunch on the boat, then it was time to prepare what I was going to make for the BBQ at 1700/5:00 p.m. I had decided to make a Mississippi Mud Cake. We had all the ingredients on board...even the mini marshmallows. Sarah found a package of melted together marshmallows that were going to be melted on top of the cake anyway. It did not matter that they were not perfectly shaped anymore. After the cake was baked, Z and J helped scatter mini marshmallows over the top of the cake. Then, I carefully poured the chocolate icing over the marshmallows. Nothing else to do, but set the cake aside to cool. The other kids at the BBQ loved the cake. One 12-year-old boy gave me a hug and said, “Thank you for bringing that cake!”
Our friends from Mexico brought what they called a “big banana” about 12 inches long. The put it on the grill and left it there until the heat literally split the peel open. They cut the cooked banana into 1” pieces, poured La Lechera (tinned sweetened condensed milk) over the pieces and sprinkled cinnamon over the milk. It was amazing! Really simple, yet really delicious!
I will admit it...we really did get spoiled using the MiAliv hotspot in the Bahamas. We did not know about this system until we actually arrived in the Bahamas and a friend told us we had to have one of these hot spots. We were so happy we took his advice. That little device opened up a whole world for us as it worked throughout the whole country.
Now that we are in Panama, we are “connected” to WiFi, but not quite as well as we were in the Bahamas. In this country, different companies are available for WiFi and hot spot connections, but there is no one company that works in all parts of the country. Some of our crew are working off WiFi we purchase weekly from the marina. Others are working off a system that works in a larger area. Our Google Fi phones are working through Google, too, when we set them up that way.
Dave and I went on the coaster bus into Colón this morning to see what we could find out about MoviStar, one of the phone systems that works well in the Colón area. We did find a kiosk where they sold MoviStar and one of the vendors spoke English. Dave was able to ask all the questions he had. He ended up getting the program for his phone.
Next, we went into the El Rey grocery and headed for the deli located in the corner at the back of the store. They have all kinds of things available for drinks, snacks, or small meals right there. You pay for whatever you choose, then stand at a high table and enjoy what you bought.
We went through the aisles of the store and picked up a few items to take back to the boat. After checking out, we headed for Dairy Queen, just across the way, so we could have a treat before it was time to board the bus and head back.
Inside the boat we were doing school this morning. After we finished, we sorted through some of the papers that have accumulated and some of the supplementary materials we had stored away to use for reviewing skills this summer. Sarah keeps our lesson plan books as a record of what we did in school. She also collects samples of the paperwork the kids do in reading, writing, arithmetic, phonics, etc., for their records.
Out in the cockpit, Dave and Dito took down the wind generator (again!) that was still not doing its job. They took it apart again and looked at each individual part. They went online and studied drawings and descriptions of what parts make up the machine and how the parts interact.
The South African cruisers sharing a dock with us saw our 2 AeroGen6 wind generators. Of course they noticed one generator was spinning much better and faster than the other one. They gave us an old AeroGen6 wind generator that was broken. They thought we could possibly use some of the parts. The good news was that some of the parts were good and could be salvaged. Dave and Dito spent a good part of the day taking the broken one apart and and our dysfunctional one apart. Then they started installing some of the salvaged parts into our dysfunctional wind generator. Now, the rehabilitated wind generator is remounted and ready to go. The wind is very light right now, so we cannot really give it a good test. They were able to test the voltage output and found it definitely is putting out amps.
They got to work most of the morning and into the afternoon before the daily rain rolled in and sprinkled on us for awhile. Everyday we seem to have some sunshine, then some rain, then more sunshine. Outside work needs to be done in the drier parts of the day.
Friday is always Movie Night plus popcorn. The kids look forward to it all week! Dave and I opted out of the movie and went to the marina restaurant for a meal. Nice to sit in the air conditioning and enjoy the food.
We decided yesterday that I would go to Colón on the marina bus this morning to get a few groceries, but primarily I would talk to the folks at the Air Box kiosk and find out about using their service. We have heard good things about this company, but have not used this kind of delivery service before.
We had a delay getting started this morning, because the bus was a little late coming to the marina. The storms yesterday blew down trees from the jungle onto the narrow road coming out to the marina from the public road and it was hard to get through. Once we left the marina, we got as far as the access to crossing the canal locks and the gate was closed. A huge ship was transiting the Canal and was in the locks. All traffic had to wait until the ship was totally inside the lock and the huge gates were closed. We sat at the head of a long line of traffic facing another long line of traffic coming out from Colón. Finally, the light turned green and we could drive across the locks. We got to the grocery store about 0910/9:10 a.m.
I went to the Air Box kiosk inside the El Rey grocery store and found out the kiosk did not open until 1030/10:30 a.m. I immediately reckoned I needed to do some grocery shopping, check out, then go to speak to the Air Box representative at 1030, so I could be sure and be at the bus pick up point by 1050/10:50 a.m. The pick up time is 1100/11:00 a.m. That means 1100! Everyone boards the bus and it leaves.
I followed my plan, so by 1030 I had checked out and my four reusable bags were packed and loaded into a trolley. I explained in basic Spanish that I needed to go to the kiosk before I could have the young guy help me take the bags to the bus stop and bring the trolley back to the store. It is about a 3-4 minute walk to the bus pick-up point.
The kiosk lady was ready for customer #1 of the day...me. I speak Spanish as well as she spoke English, so we had quite a conversation. I had thought through my questions ahead of time, so I had the words in my head and managed to make her understand what I wanted to know. I had all the information and papers I needed to show along with the form she gave me to fill out. We were able to do our business and finish in time for me to get to the bus stop in a timely manner.
We left right at 1100/11:00 a.m. and all went well for the next 10-15 minutes. Then, we came to a very long line of cars stopped on the highway. I will jump ahead and just tell you we sat in the line there in that coaster bus for the next 2-1/2 hours. We heard yesterday that the same thing had happened on the first trip of the day which arrives at the marina by 0730 bringing employees to work. Yesterday the delay on the road made them late for work.
There were about 9-10 people inside the marina coaster bus. Three of the people were marina employees who work in the restaurant at lunch time. They missed lunchtime today! The rest of us were cruisers off boats in the marina. We had all been grocery shopping in Colón, so after sitting there for an hour or so, we were all digging in our bags from the store and eating our groceries. I did well, because I not only had bread, cheese, chips, and Coca Cola Sabor Ligero (Diet Coke) in my grocery bags, I had bought a small Neapolitan ice cream to enjoy on the ride back.
Somewhere in the middle of our long wait in the car line, I noticed there was a school-bus type vehicle in front of us. A food van suddenly appeared heading the wrong way on the right side of the highway as it approached the bus. The food van driver opened the large side door of his vehicle and raised a large umbrella to keep himself and his food preparation area dry while he prepared food and cold drinks to sell to the people waiting for the road to open. We could see him reaching up to the bus windows to receive money, then again to hand up the food and drinks they ordered. I thought that was one enterprising man!
We finally started moving on the road. When we came to the area where a group of people demonstrating in the road had closed it down. We could see a lot of policemen making sure that demonstration was over and done with. The locals on the bus said the people were demonstrating because they had moved into empty housing awhile ago and were told they did not have to pay rent. Recently they were told they did have to pay rent. The response of the people in the housing was to close the main road... several different times. I know...there must be more to that story, but that is what they told us, then they said, “That is the way they get someone to pay attention to their complaint”.
The bus pulled into the marina about 2-1/2 hours later than usual. We had had a bit of adventure and a picnic lunch in the bus. We were glad to be back at the marina. The employees that ride the late afternoon bus home to Colón were glad to see their ride appear, because it was time for them to leave!
Yes, we are late in the season, and yes, we do have to repair the escape hatch and the roller furler system on the forestay before we can think about moving on from here, but why...did...it...have...to...be...rain?
The rainy season has arrived and with it comes thunderstorms, gusting winds, lightning, and heavy pounding rain. It was raining yesterday when we went to Panama City, but we were so busy I hardly noticed the rain (except I did wear my rain jacket). Today, at the marina, we are always aware if it is raining or just getting ready to rain. Hatches open...hatches shut...repeat...Thankfully, it is not raining all of the time.
We did have school this morning. After lunch Sarah took the kids to the swimming pool. That is always a fun thing to do. Both of the girls have really become good swimmers both under and above the waterline.
This was a day where we worked on business stuff that needs attention once in awhile, caught up on our writing and typing for the various blogs, websites, and media updates, and planned how we were going to get a package sent to Panama. Nothing especially interesting was happening, but all of it needed to get done.
The best thing that happened all day was at 1800/6:00 p.m. Wednesday’s Pizza Discount Night began! All pizzas at the restaurant were 25% off. We can order 4 pizzas and feed all 6 of us. Wednesday has become one of our favorite days!
We had an opportunity to go to the “big city” today, so we took it! One of the cruisers rented a car that could hold 6-7 people and planned to drive to Panama City and back today. We all chipped in to help with the costs. Sarah and I were two of the six people who went to the big city!
We left shortly after 0800/8:00 a.m. There is one main road with four lanes that crosses the isthmus. It is a very busy road. It took about 1-1/2 hours to get from the marina to the outskirts of Panama City. We actually first went to the area that used to be called the “Canal Zone” before the Canal was turned over to Panama in 1999. Dave and I lived in the Canal Zone and worked for the Panama Canal Company in 1974-75. Dave was doing his internship year at Gorgas Hospital and I was teaching first grade at Diablo Heights Elementary School. We came through here in 1995, of course, on our circumnavigation boat trip. Back then we recognized buildings and places we knew when we lived here. Today, I saw some of those same buildings and places...the administration building...the high school...the Balboa Yacht Club, the Balboa Union Church we used to go to...the bank we used...etc.
We drove out on the Amador Causeway and drove past the Balboa Yacht Club. The first sailboat Dave and I owned was a Tyler 22. It was moored at the Balboa Yacht Club, which is located beside the Panama Canal. We were actually sailing out there when those big ships were going through the canal on their way to and from the locks. Sometimes they would blow their horn very loudly if the Canal pilot thought you were getting too close to the ship. That is where Dave and I learned to sail. The memories were flying at me! I look forward to spending time over there so we can show our family where we used to live, used to work, used to sail, used to shop, etc. Today was just a quick reminder of how long ago it was, but also how many good memories the area holds for me.
Our next stop was Price Smart. We had been hearing about this place and it lived up to the build-up. After a few months of shopping here, there, and yon...going into a store that looks just like Costco was almost overwhelming. They even had Kirkland products! We did not know what to look at first, so settled for going up and down all of the food aisles. We did buy some items, but mostly Sarah and I were interested in seeing what was available and how the prices were. We will do some serious shopping here after we transit the Canal and before we head for the Galapagos. We were trying to be aware of the limited space for groceries in the car, so we bought just a few things. I did go for “Gaga of the Year” award and bought a box of 12 fresh donuts liberally covered with icing. Those were well received back at the boat! Z immediately put her division skills to work and figured out we could each have two! (We did, but not all in one day!)
After that amazing stop, we all looked forward to taking a break and having lunch. The driver stopped at a place called La Naranja (The Orange). This casual place did fresh squeezed fruit drinks and all kinds of sandwiches. Sarah and I both ordered arepas, a corn cake split and stuffed. Hers had chicken inside. Mine had cheese, queso fresco. Then, the arepa is fried and heated through. Crispy outside. Softer inside. Very good.
Having rested and eaten, we were ready to go to our next stop...Discovery Store. I hardly know how to describe this store. It had almost everything and anything you can think of. There was so much to look at. I forgot a couple of things I could have looked for while we were there. Guess we will just have to go back! Amazing kitchen section. There was one wall just covered with every kind of brush you have ever seen or thought of. The shapes and sizes of plastic containers was ridiculous...so many. My eyes loved the way everything was organized and displayed together in groups according to use. Yes...I think I need to go back here again, too. I think Dave will love this store! All the glues and caulking compounds are all in one place!
By the time we finished in the Discovery Store, we were tired and the car was FULL. We had purchases at our feet, under the seat, in our laps, behind the last seat...everywhere we could stuff something in. Yes, Sarah and I took turns holding the donuts all the way back to the marina.
It is a whole different boat world over there, but we can also see there are a lot of things to see and do...the Smithsonian Research Center, the Bioscience Museum, Albrook Mall, Panama´Viejo, etc. We will definitely look forward to spending some time over there. For now, we are going to enjoy the east side of the canal before we head to the west end.
Dave and Dito got up this morning and got ready to go to Colón on the 0745/7:45 a.m. Shelter Bay Coaster Bus. The Duty Free is located a few blocks away from the first stop the bus makes at El Rey grocery store in Quatro Altos. They asked the driver to drop them at the Duty Free. They whole area is huge, so most people catch a taxi and have the driver drive them around. Dave and Dito just started looking and walking and said they walked everywhere. Their main goal today was to shop in the Colón Free Zone...La Zone Libre.
They tell us this is the second largest Duty Free Zone (Hong Kong is first) in the world. Dave was looking for a small waterproof tablet or miniPad that he could use at the boat’s helm. We have electronic charts and information running inside the salon at the navigation station when we are under way, but the person at the helm cannot see the displays. We have a mount for the helm that we used to use with a GPS. Since we do not need the stand for a GPS these days, Dave is planning to adapt the mount so it will hold the small tablet. (We do have paper charts for all the areas we are sailing, but we also watch the electronic charts.
They kept walking while Google maps told them which way to go. They went in at least 20 stores or more until they finally found what they were looking for. Dave bought a waterproof Samsung tablet. He planned to load the navigation charts on to the tablet when they got back to the boat.
Once they made their purchase, they hailed a taxi and went back to Quatro Altos where the marina bus drop-off and pick-up area is located. Guess what! There just happens to be a shawarma stand in the immediate area called “Ali Baba’s”. Dave and Dito say the shawarmas are not quite like the Middle Eastern ones they are so familiar with, but since we are in Panama´, they reckon they taste pretty good. There is a Dairy Queen in the area, too! No wonder they were not hungry when they returned to the boat!
Meanwhile back at Shelter Bay Marina, the ladies were having school with the fans blowing on us in the salon. The morning wind was very light and the sun was already making everything hot. After school, we decided we would go the marina restaurant for lunch with a little air conditioning on the side. The restaurant has a small, but interesting menu and it is easy to find something that sounds good to order. The prices are very reasonable, so lots of cruisers find their way into the restaurant for a meal in an air conditioned place!
The first photo was taken this morning as the sun was rising over perfectly still marina. The water was perfectly reflecting the boats. That is EXIT ONLY in the middle of the photo. The local cruiser’s VHF radio net at 0730/7:30 a.m. today said a Christian Fellowship group would be meeting at 0900/9:00 a.m. this morning in the Cruiser’s Lounge in the Marina building. A small group of people gathered there. Eleven people were there and six of them were the crew from EXIT ONLY! The other five people were from the Netherlands, Germany, and Mexico. We had not met any of these folks before, but had a lot in common already. All of us are living on boats and none of us are from Panama´ We all came here from somewhere else and had good stories to tell about it. One of the people led a short Bible study, then we sang a few songs using YouTube music and lyrics, written in English, then sometimes in Spanish. The second photo is the marina building. I took the photo from our cockpit, so we are very close to this building. There is a restaurant downstairs. Upstairs in this building is the cruiser’s lounge with a TV, tables and chairs for individuals or small groups, and a large bookcase with books written in many languages for all ages and areas of interest.
After lunch, Sarah took the kids to the pool. The rest of us had our own things to do. I made chocolate chip bar cookies to take to the BBQ later today. At 1700/5:00 p.m. on Sunday evenings there is a carry-in dinner and everyone in the marina is invited to join in. There is a large charcoal fire and people are encouraged to bring their meat to grill on the fire plus a side dish to share. Every crew brings their own plates, utensils, drinks, condiments, etc. The third photo shows the palapa before everyone gathered later in the day.
Let’s just say we went “basic”...hot dogs. I do not eat them, but everyone else in the crew does and the kids love them. We bought hot dogs and buns in Colón on our last grocery trip, We learned the hard way that once you open the package of 10 hot dogs, there are plastic sleeves on each individual hot dog that have to be removed, too. We also learned that all the hot dogs...big and small...cost the same amount of money. The people sitting across from us had an amazing cut of beef with a portable meat thermometer inserted into their meat as it cooked on the BBQ. High tech! The side dishes were varied and delicious. I do not think there was two spoonfuls of anything left at the end of the evening!
It was fun talking to cruisers who have been in and out of Panama for a long time. The Panama Canal is literally “a crossroads of the world”. There are boats here from all over the world. Some of them always stay on this side of the Canal and some of them are here because they are planning to transit the Canal and go on across the Pacific. This is a perfect place to get all our questions answered. Local information is always the best! Having said all of that, guess where the first cruisers we met were from ...Cincinnati, Ohio...right across the Ohio River from Kentucky!
We seem to wake up everyday with a list of things that need to be done on the boat. We all are working to do the routine jobs as well as the repairs and cleaning that needs to be done after a passage. The jobs get done, but somehow as soon as we mark off one job as done, there are two more waiting to be added to the list.
We went through all of our fresh fruit and vegetables yesterday and separated out the ones that we need to use first. We wash the fruits and vegetables and let them dry when we bring them to the boat. We have been wrapping each item individually in newspaper. This actually seems to be extending the storage time on our vegeatabes. There were a few zucchini that were still good, but would not last much longer. I decided to make zucchini bread with those. While that was in the oven baking, we went ahead and did a session of school, because we missed a day this week when we went into town on the bus.
Speaking of fruit, one of our neighbors on the dock took his boat hook and pulled down a green coconut off one of the palm trees for for Z and J. Then, one of the Panamanian marina workers saw them with the green coconut and offering to use his machete and cut the top off so they could get to the coconut water. I did not know about the coconut until they showed up in the cockpit asking me for straws to put through the hole in the top of the coconut so they could drink the coconut water. The photo shows how much they enjoyed that drink!
The next photo was taken later in the day when we visited the small marina minimart during a hot afternoon. The have a wide variety of items, but the girls really do enjoy the refreshing cold paletas de hielo (popsicles) that are made by putting the different flavored mixtures in a small cup, partially freezing them, then adding a stick and freezing them solid. It is a Panamanian favorite!
After lunch I spent most of the afternoon editing and rewriting some of the blog entries I had written while we were at sea. I was literally swaying with the boat from side to side at the navigation station while I tried to type something for the blog each day. I always write my entries, then wait at least a day to go over them again. I often find typos and I often do rewriting or add more content when I go over the original entries. The blog entries I did on passage most definitely needed some improvement!
Once the editing was done, it was time to organize the photos that go with each entry. I base my blog entries on notes I make about each day as well as the photos I take each day. Sometimes I get a photo from Dave or Dito and use that. I put all of the photos, three per entry, into my camera roll. I have to move the photos from my Google Fi phone to my mini IPad. When I select the photos, I organize them in an album labeled by the month and year, in order by the day I used the photo. That makes is easier for me to select and send the photos to Sarah for posting on the website. I am grateful that Dave takes time to go over some of the technical things I talk about with me. I want to be sure I am giving the correct information. Next I send Sarah the text for several days, The photos are sent separately. She reformats the text then matches the photos to the appropriate entry. Once that happens, she is ready to post everything. It is quite a process and I have a lot of help from start to finish! As Dito says, “It takes a village for me to get my blog posted!
Sarah, Z, J, and I were up and ready to head to the marina office by 0735/7:35 a.m. today. We decided to have another look around the El Rey grocery store in Colón this morning.
The other day we went on the afternoon bus and ended up with a total of 40 minutes to walk to the store, shop, check out, and return to the bus rendezvous point by 1445/2:45. Since I am not into marathon shopping and have not been in training to run through a store while pushing a shopping trolley, I did a very cursory look around, bought only a few things, and thought about doing the shopping differently the next time. Today was “the next time” and I decided I wanted to taker my time, walk through the store, and look at everything.
The free shuttle makes the trip into town twice daily, Monday through Friday, and once on Saturday. The morning trip allows about 2 hours of shopping time. Off we went. We had a ride across the Gatun Locks and the Aqua Clara Locks. Saw a huge ship getting set to enter the locks. That is quite a scene on your way to the grocery store! Once we arrived at the drop off place in town, Sarah and the kids went off to look at the rest of the shops in and around the strip mall where the grocery store is located. They found a panaderiá (bakery) and tried some local pastries. They said the donuts were good.
Meanwhile, I was looking at everything on the shelves of the supermarket. They have a nice variety of products and the prices are much cheaper than the Bahamas. It is interesting to me what kind of items take up a lot of shelf space. My very unscientific study of the shelves can give me insight into what foods are popular and good sellers as well as which items are given little shelf space and must not be in demand. For instance, pickles must not be a big seller. They only get a small space on two shelves. Pickle relish seems more popular than the dill pickles I was looking for. In the Bahamas, the great majority of the pickles were sweet pickles. Here, there is a lot of dill relish and sweet relish for sale. In another aisle, there was about 15 feet of shelf space at 6 levels full of tinned tuna fish. They have all types. I was looking specifically for white albacore and there was only one brand available. The most popular tuna is light tuna and there must have been 12 brands of that available.
Back at the boat, Dave had called the company in Florida that had worked on our mast and rigging. He told them what happened. The owner of the company asked what he could do to make it right! We were very happy to hear that! We are going to need to order a whole new system and have it shipped from the States to Panama´, so we really could use his help to organize getting the new parts sent to us.
In the evening, David, Sarah, Z, and J were invited to a Movie Night with a South African family here on the dock. They are going to be leaving tomorrow to go through the Canal to the other side, Balboa. The kids have really enjoyed playing together while they were here!
Dave and I decided to have supper at the dockside restaurant at the marina. It is nice, but casual and the menu has something for every level of “hungry”. We have been going, going, going since we arrived here, so this was the first time we just stopped and sat...doing nothing but waiting for our food. It was nice! The food turned out to be delicious...coconut shrimp with two dips and a Panamanian version of a club sandwich (there was a fried egg in there somewhere). I think we will eat there again...maybe next week!
The winds were very light this morning. The sky was actually orange this morning because the rainy season has arrived...the monsoon. Dave was saying, “Orange sky in morning, sailor take warning!” I do not think that is quite correct, but I will say an orange sky is kind of eerie! There was almost no wind and I took photos of EXIT ONLY perfectly reflected in the still water. The absence of wind was the perfect time to go up the mast and forestay. The rigger came over and did just that.
Now that the rigger had been able to see what was or was not going on up there, they could have an informed discussion about what to do next. Everyone seems to agree that the job that was done for us during our refit is not holding up to the long range blue water cruising we are doing. Dito went up the mast to take some measurements they needed so they could figure out what parts needed to be ordered.
It has rained off and on almost all afternoon, so we are glad they were able to do what needed to be done this morning. There is a lot of looking at different options from different sources on line. I do not really understand anything except the big picture. The details are lost on me. I do know we thought we had paid for a good system and depended on it. It let us down. Now, we need to fix it and make it right. We take good care of the boat and count on it to take good care of us.
I have spent most of the rainy afternoon sitting in the cockpit editing and finishing my blog entries so I can pass them on to Sarah. She formats the text and the photos I send to her for the website, then posts everything. She spends a lot of time working on the website and we are all thankful she is willing to do it.
Now that we have done the big cleaning jobs on the boat, gotten some sleep, bought a few groceries, and done our Panama´ paperwork, it was time for Dave and Dito to take a serious look at the foresail and forestay situation.
There is a rigger right here on the same dock with us who works for the marina. Dave and Dito have been talking to him about what happened at sea with our furler system. The rigger made a quick trip up the forestay to have a first look, but quickly came down because the wind was coming up. He agreed with Dave and Dito that there is definitely a problem, but there will have to be more investigation done before a final decision is made about what to do. It is looking like we will have to order new parts, so we will probably be staying here at the marina a little longer than we originally planned to stay.
We received a text from the company back home that is managing our house for us while we are cruising. There was water leaking in one part of the house. We called and found out our friend plus other friends were there helping suss out where the water was coming from. Long story short...a plumber was called...he came out and found the problem, then did the repair...the plumbing office called us...we were able to pay with a credit card. Isn’t technology amazing?!? We are so grateful to our friends who helped us so much in this situation. Catching the problem early on saved us from having bad water damage. Saying a heartfelt “Thank you” is about all we can do from this distance, but I hope they know how much their helpfulness and kindness meant to us.
Dito, Sarah, Z, and J went for a jungle trail hike near the marina with a South African family of 4 this afternoon. The kids are all of a similar age, so they have had fun playing together. The jungle literally comes up to the edge of the grass around the buildings on the marina property. They saw monkeys and green parrots. They heard the howler monkeys “howling”. They did not see sloths even though everyone assured them they are there hanging upside down in the trees. Coatimundis are also seen running around. The parrots are very noisy when they fly in a large group from place to place. Sounds like we are docked at a zoo!
At 0845/8:45 a.m. this morning, the whole crew of EXIT ONLY went back to the Immigration Office. The official was there this morning and wanted to see our official papers from Customs plus our passports. We each had to put our fingertips on a special machine that recorded our fingerprints (all 8 fingers and 2 thumbs) on the Panamanian electronic database. We all passed the “fingerprint test” and soon had the official visa stamp of Panama in our passports.
After lunch, we went over to the area outside the marina office to board the courtesy shuttle that would take us to Colon to a mall area with a good-size grocery store. The marina is 35 miles from the city of Colon. We knew that fact and did not think much about it until the trip began. First of all, I mentioned the marina was located on property that used to be controlled by the US Army until 1999 when the Canal was turned over to Panama. The marina buildings are well-maintained and very nice. The rest of the buildings that are still recognizable are being overrun by the rainforest jungle. The old road is poorly maintained, so at times we seemed to be on a jungle expedition.
Once we passed the main gate from the property on to a Panamanian public road, the condition of the road markedly improved...but we were still driving in a jungle. Suddenly we could see a huge new suspension bridge over the Panama Canal that was built on the Colon end of the canal recently. Right now they are building the ramps that will access the bridge, so the bridge will not open until August 2019. We drove through a lot of road construction...curving around, back and forth, then came to the very edge of the Panama Canal where a vehicle ferry was loading cars, trucks, and buses to carry them across the canal. Next thing we knew, we were in a Coaster bus on a ferry crossing the Panama Canal!
After the ferry dropped us off on the far side of the Panama Canal, we continued to drive through the countryside until we finally started seeing signs of a community ahead. This trip started at 1245/12:45 p.m. and we arrived at the shopping area at 1405/2:05 p.m. We had 40 minutes to shop and get back to the bus, because it leaves on the return trip at 1445/2:45 p.m. sharp! Good thing we did not need groceries! This was a chance to see the store and see what was on the shelves and how the prices are, etc. We did buy a few things and we did get back to the bus on time for the return trip!
I have no idea why, but we returned by a different road! We did not go on the ferry again...but, we did go on a road that crossed the Panama´ Canal at Gatun Locks and Aqua Clara Locks. We actually drove on a road that crosses both locks and went within feet of the actual doors of the locks that open and close! We also went by part of the new area of Aqua Clara Locks today. It was like a magical bus ride! Lots of tourists pay a lot of money to drive out in these areas of the Panama Canal and here we are seeing everything...up close and personal...on our way to the grocery store!
We called the marina on VHF at 0900/9;00 a.m. this morning and asked for a slip. Within minutes we were given a slip (space at a dock) assignment and we headed toward the marina entryway, just off the bay we were anchored in last night. The bay is located where the large ships enter the actual Panama Canal.
The guys returned to the boat. We took down our yellow “Q” flag (we fly this flag when we enter a new country). The “Q” flag alerts Customs and Immigration that a new boat has arrived. It was time to put up the Panamanian flag.
While the official business is taken care of, the rest of the crew stays on the boat until everyone is given permission to be in the country. We were keeping busy gathering the laundry so we could take it to the marina laundry sooner rather than later. We made the bedding...mattress pads, sheets, light blankets, and pillow cases “high priority” items! During the passage, two of the bunks had accidentally gotten wet...one with fresh water (rain) and one with salt water (crashing waves over the deck). Once something is doused with saltwater, the salt content of the water will not allow that item to completely dry until it is washed with fresh water. I did not want to sleep one more minute, let alone one more night, on those damp bunk sheets.
We got a dock cart and loaded all the bedding into it. We brought a smaller amount of clothing to wash, too, plus towels. It was quite a large pile! When we arrived at the laundry area, we met Laura, the queen of the laundry. She was amazing! The washing and drying machines were all there, but this coin laundry was a different experience. Laura decides what goes in which machine and how much of it goes in. I just nodded and gave her enough money to cover the cost of the machines plus detergent pods. I will just say Sarah, Dave, and I were there off and on literally most of the morning and into the afternoon. Dave and I ate lunch there! I bought a baguette at the mini-mart, made a sandwich at the boat, then took it to the laundry to sit and eat it! All day we watched Laura magically move laundry (ours and other laundry, too) from machine to machine to the folding table, where we were eagerly awaiting the freshly washed and dried laundry. We folded everything and made it disappear into canvas bags we brought with us.
While we were hanging out at the laundry, we met all 4 of the official marina cats. Laura feeds them and keeps a bowl of water available, so all of the cats showed up to greet Laura! One of the cats did not want the tepid water in the bowl. She went over to where the cold run off water from the air conditioner runs out of a window and on to the ground. She obviously prefers cold water!
By the end of the day, I was exhausted, but I can honestly say those fresh, clean sheets on the bunks made it all worth while!
As the sun was setting this evening we saw people on the dock pointing out at the water between the rows of boats. There was a 6’ crocodile cruising the calm water with a barely noticeable swish of its tail and only two eyes showing above the water. This was certainly new to us, but those folks who live here said they see it often. OOOKKK.
P.S. Today is our wedding anniversary! Dave and I have been married 47 years! Dave did his internship year in The Panama Canal Zone in 1974-75! We lived in Balboa on the west end of the canal. We reckon receiving our visa for Panama today was a good way to celebrate our anniversary and celebrate being back in the place where we bought our first sailboat, a Tyler 22”, and learned to sail!
The moon was shining so brightly last night, it was like somebody “left the light on”. The lighter winds continued to push us straight to Colon this morning. After 5 days of rocking and rolling like we were in a washing machine, the last 2-1/2 days seemed almost gentle. When we did this same trip in April 1995, it took about the same amount of time, but it was much smoother!
On our first trip, there was an art contest in La Palma, Canary Islands, in 2006. The theme was “the sea”. Dito did a drawing of God’s hand coming out of the clouds behind EXIT ONLY, reaching out with the pointer finger of an upturned hand as if to “push” the boat along. These last couple of days reminded me of that picture and the feeling I got when I looked at it. We do not have the picture, because the rules of the contest said the sponsoring group got to keep all of the art pieces that were submitted. I will tell you Dito won a cash prize in the contest. He bought his first IPod! We all enjoyed using it when we were on watch! Of course we each had our own favorite playlist!
We anchored behind the breakwater and near the entrance to Shelter Bay Marina at 1325/1;25 p.m. CST...788 nm from Great Inagua Island, Bahamas. Our phones told us we are now in the Central Time Zone, (EST — 1 hour). It is Sunday, so Customs and Immigration are not available. Everyone is so tired from taking watches through the night. You end up sleeping 2 separate times every 24 hours. Arriving here has broken that routine. We decided to anchor out, have lunch, then get a fresh water rinse off, hair washed, etc. We plan to go into the marina tomorrow if they have an open spot for us. Then we will check in to Panama.
We do not want to rush through this area. We still want to cruise to Cartagena, Colombia, Guna Yala (San Blas Islands), and Bocas del Toro on the eastern side of Panama´ before we go through the Canal to Balboa and Panama´ City on the western side of the Canal. Once we meet some cruisers at the marina, we will start accumulating local “cruiser knowledge” and find out what to see and do around here. Then we will know what our options are and will make informed choices.
I am happy to report last night passed without extra drama. I can also report that the repair on the escape hatch is still holding well. We are moving along steadily at 5-5.5 knots. The waves are not quite as large as they have been and are not breaking like a prime wave for surfing that is chasing us. Every so many minutes, a rogue wave seems to aim right at us and try to splash our front deck and the cockpit.
We have to keep all of the hatches (openings in the deck) and ports (openings on the sides of the hulls) closed. Fortunately we have 12-volt fans strategically placed in every area to keep the interior a tad cooler and keep it from becoming too stuffy. Sitting in the cockpit is the coolest place to be most of the time...especially when those rogue waves come! Nothing like a cool ocean splash!
We are actually getting close enough to Colon, Panama´, to start talking about what we need to do there and what we want to do there. At 1400/2;00 p.m. today we were officially 100 miles from the entrance to the harbor at Shelter Bay Marina, Colon. We had a little celebration with M&M’s on top of snack puddings! We expect to arrive there midday tomorrow. First things first means we have to check into the country with Customs and Immigration. We will find out exactly what we have to do when we get there.
That was quite a night last night! I woke up around 2330/11:30 p.m. and felt the movement of the boat had changed drastically. The boat was wallowing in the waves and not pushing through them. I came out into the salon to find Dave and Dito kneeling on the floor over the escape hatch.
About 20 minutes earlier Dave noticed the rag rug runner laying on the floor and over the teakwood grate that covers the escape hatch was wet. (** I will talk about the escape hatch in a minute.) Dave pulled the rug back and was shocked to see the hatch was hanging open under the boat and the ocean water was splashing up into the boat (wetting the rug!). Dave and Dito pulled the hatch cover up and used the two handles to close and lock the hatch. They took two smaller rag rugs and laid them inside the hatch to absorb water that did not drain out. They replaced the teakwood grate in its slot in the salon floor. Next, they cut small sticks from pieces of miscellaneous wood we always carry for such an occasion. I will note that one “short stick” looks like the handle to one of the small paintbrushes the kids use to play with. Anyway, they put a short stick on top of the grate above the two handles below the grate on the hatch and tied the two parts together so the handles cannot move to “open” position.
I stayed awake on watch. They were both tired, so Dave went to a bunk and Dito stayed in the salon to sleep, so I could talk to him immediately if there was a problem. About 2425/12:45 a.m.a high piercing alarm went off and 1 minute later another alarm went off. What?!? Dito and Dave woke up without me saying a word! The alarms were doing what they were supposed to do, but thankfully, nothing bad had happened. The first alarm was set off by water sloshing in the starboard engine room. We have been in really big waves for days and occasionally one breaks into the cockpit from the side. Some of that sea water had eventually made its way into the engine room. The alarm did it’s job when it got splashed, and the small amount of water was easily soaked up and removed. The second alarm was the auto pilot complaining we were going too slow. Since they were unsure how good their hatch repair was, Dave slowed the boat down, turned off the engine, and reduced the genoa to a “handkerchief”. The big waves were making the boat wallow in the troughs (spaces between the waves), therefore making the boat go off the set course for the auto helm. This was easily remedied by letting out a tad more foresail. The boat picked up enough forward motion to hold the course.
We were very grateful that nothing really bad happened, but I will admit the adrenaline was really running high! Two alarms going off like that is very unusual and scary! After all this drama, everything went back to normal and I did the watch until I was so tired I knew it was time to get Sarah up to take watch while I went to the bunk and went to sleep. Dave and Dito slept on through the changing of the watch.
When they got up this morning and could see their repair in the light of day, it was still holding. It looks like the wind and waves are going to allow us to go in to Colo´n Panama´, the town at the west end of the Panama´ Canal. This will be a good place to clean up ourselves and the boat, regroup, and make some repairs. We plan to do some cruising on the west side of the Canal before we go through to the other side to Balboa/Panama´ City.
**NOTE RE: Escape Hatch...Our boat is a Privilege 39, built in France. In Europe there are strict requirements for offshore/bluewater cruising boats. Offshore boats are required to have an escape hatch located in the floor of the boat. The idea is that IF the catamaran flipped over somehow, there is an escape hatch that would now be in the ceiling (when the boat is upside-down) and the crew would be able to crawl out onto the upturned part of the floating hull. Believe me, we have loaded so much into EXIT ONLY, we are not worried about her rolling over...ever!
Happy Birthday to Dito! He is 40 years old today. When I asked what treat he would like for his birthday, he immediately said, “Cinnamon Balls”. This is one of our favorite treats on the boat and we have shared them with others in many anchorages around the world. They are sweet bread dough balls rolled in cinnamon-sugar, then baked in a bundt pan like “Monkey Balls”. We serve them hot with a side of vanilla icing or cream cheese icing. I have given Dito a rain check on that promise. I will gladly whip up a batch when I do not have to use one hand to hang on to the boat at the same time! Every day is bringing the end of this passage closer and we all will be ready to stop. By tomorrow, we may have a good idea of which destination we can get to without having to go into the wind.
The large waves and medium winds are continuing. We have come off the wind enough to stop “slamming” (the bridge deck between the two hulls gets water under it that slams hard and is very loud), but there is still constant motion. We can move about the boat, but have to hang on to something all of the time. There are built-in handholds everywhere...and we use them! The kids do remarkably well getting around.
We try to have one hot meal everyday on passage. We do this at lunchtime, because everyone is usually awake. Otherwise, with the watch schedule, someone is sleeping. For some unknown reason I am the only. one of the crew who has had no seasickness or queasiness. It is a true miracle I cannot explain. I have been sailing since 1974 and have gotten queasy every time I went sailing. On passage my ears would adjust by day #4 and I would be fine for the rest of the trip. We have logged almost 2,000 miles since leaving Florida this time and I have not been seasick! All of that to say I have been fixing a hot meal every day. The meals are not fancy, but they are filling, hot, and easily eaten from a deep bowl using a spoon. Our galley is down in the port hull, so I am able to brace myself and readily reach what I need in a small area. The boat movement down there is a tad less than up in the salon and in the bunks, so that helps!
And the waves roll on...and on...and on...we were moving along quite well in these waves that are about the same size they were yesterday. We were sailing under drastically reduced sail and it was enough. They call drastically reduced sail “a handkerchief”. The boat was rocking and rolling, day and night. It ws not exactly comfortable, but more an inconvenience than a danger. Every morning when I wake up, I immediately want to know where we will end up IF we stay on the course we are on. Right now, both Colo´n and Bocas del Toro are possibilities. The reason we are not in a hurry to be in one specific place is we are planning to spend some time cruising on the west side of the Canal to see Cartagena, San Blas Islands/Guna Yala, and Colo´n before we go through the Canal. We want to see the whole area. The purpose of this passage is to get the boat south of the hurricane zone and set ourselves up for our next round of cruising.
The boat was really rocking and rolling when I woke up this morning. Obviously we were way past any protective land mass and we were in open ocean with the reinforced trade winds blowing from the east. The waves were really big, 8’-10’ high. Because we are a catamaran, we float on top of the waves like a swimming platform. The movement is constant, but we slide up a big wave, then down...repeat...over and over and over! The wind direction means everything! We are sailing as close to the wind as we can (as close to the direction the wind is coming from, in this case east) as we head south. We have three destinations we could possibly go...depending on the wind. We could go to Cartagena, Colombia, or Colón, Panama´, or Bocas del Toro, Panama´. The east wind has been very strong and it is beginning to look like we would have to beat into the winds (drive the boat into the waves built up by the east wind) to be able to get to Cartagena. We do not want to make it harder on the boat or on ourselves, so we will not make that choice at this time unless the wind direction changes favorably for that destination.
We have been seeing many huge commercial ships, but this morning we had to smile when we looked out at a huge ship with giant letters on its side spelling C-O-S-C-O...The winds were still light and the seas were small until midday, so we actually stopped moving the boat at 0900 (no sails up, no engines running) and set up our water maker on the back bench of the cockpit to make water from 0900/9:00 a.m. to 1100/11:00 a.m. While the water maker was running, we did what I call “short school”. We have completed the required 180 days of school instruction, but we decided to keep doing a short version of school that reviews and reinforces the material the girls covered in the past year’s curriculum.
We made it through the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti and the evening found us passing the lower peninsula of Haiti that reaches westward. At 1815/6:15 p.m. suddenly all of our phones lit up and welcomed us to Haiti Navcom Roaming. We knew this would be short lived, so we were all typing a few texts to the world beyond our boat very quickly! As the sun was setting, a thunder and lightning storm was gathering in front of us. Dave actually turned the boat way off course to move away from those threatening clouds. Within a half hour the storm moved away from us and we returned to our southbound course. More clouds gathered behind us and the lightning was like a fireworks show. We could see sheet lightning and bolts of lightning coming down. It all felt like it was too close to me, but we could see on radar that it was actually 8-10 miles away. This “show” went on past midnight to the north and west of us, but it never moved closer to us again. I was on watch from roughly 2130/9:30 p.m. to 0130/1:30 a.m. Dito was sleeping in the salon if I needed help with anything. Whoever is on watch does a personal 360* look-around every ten minutes, but we are also using instruments to give us information about the ships around us and their movements. As I already mentioned, we use radar to show us the position and movement of rain squalls and storms.
We were seeing some floating debris as we headed south. Winds were light. Sea state was flat. Weather was fair and balmy. We motor-sailed for awhile and sailed with one headsail for awhile. We saw more large commercial ships as we neared the Windward Passage. The large ships have to go between Cuba and Haiti in specified “transit lanes”. We sailed outside those lanes. At 1900 (7:00 p..m.) a HUGE palm tree trunk, perhaps 40 feet long and 2 feet in diameter, floated by us just as the sun was going down! Then, to finish our daylight hours with a surprise...two whales were very close to our boat “blowing”. As they left, one breached, dove, and gave us a farewell flip of its tail. We think maybe they were pilot whales. We did 110 nautical miles in 24 hours. Not bad for such light winds!
The day began in slow motion with pancakes for breakfast and a discussion of staying around for 3-4 days until the wind shifted in our favor, etc. We planned our list for the grocery store and got ready to get in the dinghy and go.
Dave dropped us off at the government dock where, because it was high tide, we climbed up a ladder to get on top of the dock, then walked 10 minutes to the grocery store. Dave went back to the boat where it is anchored off the town. He will come pick us up when we text or call him.
The five of us were carefully walking to the side of the small road where the cars are driving on the “other side of the road” than we are used to. This makes us very vigilant. I dropped back for a few minutes to take photos of some beautiful flowers by the road. A car stopped in the road and the man asked if I was taking photos of the birds or the flowers. I said, “Flowers”. He started telling me about the hummingbirds that like those flowers! We had a short discussion about how beautiful all the flowers are! Then, he drove on.
When we got to the grocery store, there were several cars there and it was readily apparent that everyone in there knew everyone else. It was a very friendly atmosphere. Soon everyone was saying “Hello” to us, too, and we were saying “Hello” to all of them. We bought a few things, but, sadly, there was NO ice cream! They told us the supply boat did not bring any ice cream this week. The locals were not too happy about that either! One man suggested we check the Snack Shop “up and over the hill”. J and I stayed under a nearby shade with the groceries while Dito, Sarah, and Z went searching for the Snack Shop. They found it, but there was NO ice cream there either! While they were walking back to meet us, Dito said several drivers stopped in the road to talk to them. One of the people was the man who drove Dito around yesterday looking for Skinny. He stopped and asked where they were going and asked if they were finding what they needed. They told him they were fine and he said “OK, just checking”, and drove on.
Several other people stopped and said, “Are you looking for the “pah-rrits”?” What? Pirates? What pirates? At least that was what Dito thought they said. He wondered what pirates they were talking about. Turns out they were saying, “Are you looking for the PARROTS!” The Bahamian Parrot is endangered and it lives on this island along with the West Indian Pink Flamingo. They thought Dito and Sarah were looking for the parrots.
We stopped by in the dinghy to talk to the folks on another sailboat anchored off the town. They are headed south for Jamaica, so the conversation turned to talk about the weather forecast. They were planning to leave tonight. The more Dave and Dito talked to them, the more they started thinking about leaving tonight, too.
Back at the boat, they pulled down some GRIB files and decided leaving tonight looked like a good idea. I made lunch, then went into hyperdrive. I knew what I wanted to do before we left on passage, but I thought I had 3-4 days to do it. Now, we were going tonight! I made up a batch of Master Mix (substitute for Bisquick), made some coconut bar cookies for snacks, made up peanut butter crackers for snacks, went through the frig to make sure the fresh goods were in good shape, washed and put away all the dishes, etc. The more preparation that is done at anchor, the easier it is to prepare food and use the galley at sea.
While I was doing all of that, the rest of the crew was just as busy doing other things in other areas of the boat., We have gotten ready to sail enough times now that the preparation is going faster and smoother every time.
As we were making our preparations in the afternoon, we kept noticing small trees and logs that were riding the currents and waves and passing by the boat. After the big tsunami in 2006, we crossed the Indian Ocean. The ocean was full of floating logs and trees that were larger than our boat. It was scary when we could see them in the daytime, but at least we could steer around them. At night, we could not see in front of our boat, so when we did get hit by the trees and logs, that was another kind of scary. Dave actually lashed wooden oars from our dinghy onto the bows of our boat. The oars did their job and kept things from hitting the fronts of the fiberglass hulls, but both oars got broken by “things that go bump in the night”. With this memory in mind, we told the people on the other boat, we did not want to sail at night with the logs out there. They decided to wait until morning to leave, too.
As this crazy, “not going...going...not going” day came to an end, the good news was we are all ready to leave tomorrow morning!
PS ... Before we leave Great Inagua Island, I have to Morton Salt! Did y'all ever wonder where Morton Salt Company gets its salt? Yes ... Great Inagua Island, Bahamas. The Morton Salt Company is made up of 300,000 acres on the island and about 1 million pounds of salt are produced there each year. The salt production company was started in the 1930's by 3 brothers who sold their company to Morton in 1954. They use solar and wind energy to produce concentrated brine. Moving brine through reservoirs contributes to algae growth that prevents the sea water from drying up. Brine shrimp eat the algae, which keeps the water clean. Wast Indian Flamingos eat the shrimp and then cycle repeats itself. The white builiding in the photo is called the "Salt House". The salt was store there until it was shipped. The building was not used after 1936.
We did school this morning while Dave and Dito emptied some of our diesel jerry jugs into the fuel tanks. They were surprised that we had used less diesel than they thought we had.
Today we decided along with our buddy boat to move our boats to Matthew Town. I was under the (false) impression it was 6-7 miles away, sort of “around the corner” from where we were anchored. We all had things on our list we wanted to do...get jerry jugs filled with diesel, get gasoline for the dinghy, check out the grocery stores (especially for that ice cream we have been talking about for days now), find out where Customs is located so we know where to check out of the Bahamas when we are ready to leave, and look up a couple of historic places listed on the island’s website.
I will tell you now that not much on that list got done. We did move our 2 boats to Matthew Town and found out it took us 2-1/2 hours to make the trip because it is 9-10 miles from Man of War Bay! Of course we did slow down part of the time so Dito could fly the drone and get some action shots. After we put the anchor down, Dave and Dito loaded the empty jerry jugs into the dinghy, then Sarah got in with the GoPro camera to film their quest to find out how to buy diesel in this town. The folks from the other boat put their jerry jugs in their dinghy and went to shore, tool.
Awhile later both dinghies returned with full jerry cans and nothing else, but a good story...Dito said nobody was out and about in the small town, but they saw a man in the bank building. Turns out the bank was closed, but he was there doing renovations. This man told them today is Labor Day in the Bahamas and nothing is open. They asked when they could get diesel and the man said they needed to call Skinny and his diesel truck. The call was made and there was no answer. The man stopped working on his project and took Dito with him in his truck looking for Skinny. As they drove, the man gave Dito an informal tour of the area and told him about the island. They did not find Skinny, but they found his sons. The sons found Skinny and told him someone wanted diesel. Skinny drove his fuel truck down to the area close to where the dinghy was located on a small beach. The jerry cans got filled with diesel and carried to the dinghies.
So, NO ice cream for us! The word is that the grocery stores will be open tomorrow, Saturday. Everything will be closed Sunday, because it is always a special family day and church day in the Bahamas. Guess what!?!? Monday is a holiday, too!
Our buddy boat left tonight about 2200/10:00 p.m. We enjoyed meeting them, spending some time with them, and sailing overnight with them. Y’all have heard about “ships that pass in the night”? Well, that is an apt description of cruising boats. You are at the same place at the same time for awhile, then your destinations are not the same and you head out in different directions. Sometimes you cross paths again and sometimes you do not.
This morning we did school while the noise of the water- maker generator hummed in the background. We make water every 6th day so we do not have to pickle (preserve) the membranes of the water maker. Once the water tank is topped off, Dave has been filling 3-4 containers with fresh water for laundry. So “making water day” has also become “laundry day”. There was a light wind, so the clothes that we laundered were hung on the lifelines. Within a short time, the lighter pieces were already dry. A little later, almost everything was ready to be taken down and folded.
After lunch, Dito got out the harness for going up the mast. The winds were still light and he and Dave wanted to get to the bottom of what happened to the genoa halyard as well as get the halyard and the genoa track repaired so we can use the sail. Dito ended up making three trips up the mast and forestay. On the first trip he carried the new halyard up to the top of the mast and ran it down inside the mast. The second trip up there had him sliding down the headstay to get the genoa down. As he worked his way from the top to the bottom, he tightened the Allen screws on the aluminum extrusion (round metal piece) on the furler and made sure the furler was turning correctly. The third trip up, Dito did another thorough check to make sure the work was done correctly and everything was working. All was well, so back on deck, they were able to put the sail back up on the track and use the furler to wind up the sail. Once again, we all thought about how thankful we were our genoa problem happened in daylight instead of in the middle of the night!
The next time I woke up just before the sun officially rose at around 0645/6:00 a.m. I could hear feet moving quickly on the deck above my head and voices talking about “what should we do?” It seems the boat was sailing along under main and genoa (foresail) about 10 minutes earlier and suddenly the halyard (rope) at the top of the genoa broke! That meant the top of the genoa was loose and it would be difficult to furl it (a special mechanism for rolling the sail up onto itself so it is stored on the headstay and is always ready to let out or bring in). There is a round metal piece that slides down the track, so the first thought was to pull the sail down the track and onto the front deck by hand. Normally, that would work, but something else was evidently wrong, because the metal piece would not allow the sail to come down the track. Dave, Dito, and Sarah were able to wrap the sail around itself and use the lines (ropes) to hold it on the headstay until we got to our destination and anchored. The boat motion prohibited any repairs at sea.
We were able to use our main and engines to complete the passage and arrived within 5 miles of Great Inagua Island about 1700/5:00 p.m. For the first time ever in all of our sailing experience, we were coming into a destination that had an active thunder and lightening storm sitting on top of it. Watching from 5 miles away, we could hear the thunder and see the lightening and the rain. We did not want to take our 52’ mast into a lightening storm and risk a strike that could take out all of our electronics. Our buddy boat felt the same way about their mast! We decided to stay where we were and wait. We turned on our radar and could see the size of the storm and watch it sit in one place instead of moving...for over an hour. Around 1805 p.m. we decided the main storm had moved on enough that we were going to go into Man of War Bay. The anchor went down as the sun was setting at 1900/7:00 p.m.
We are always excited about starting a passage to somewhere new and different and we are always happy to come to the end of that passage safe and sound. We had some drama this trip, but we are very grateful that most of it happened in daylight hours. We are hoping for light winds tomorrow, so Dito can go up the mast and check out the situation at the top of the genoa and the mast. We had a lot of work done by professionals on our mast and the halyard/rope that broke was brand new with the refit. Right now Dave and Dito cannot figure out what really happened up there, but they are pretty sure it should not have happened.
We did leave Conception Island at 0700/7:00 a.m. with our buddy boat. The winds were out of the southeast and rather light as predicted. We did run one engine part of the time when our sails were up. We sailed all day with very little drama...the drama came later!
I was sleeping in a bunk in the bow (front) of the boat when I woke up shortly after midnight. I felt like I was in a washing machine being jerked first one way, then the other. I could tell from the boat motion that the wind, current, and waves were having a battle among themselves. Something was changing. I got up to see what was happening. Everything was happening...the wind was blowing harder, the wind direction was changing, and the seas were sloppy as they came from several directions at the same time. Dave and Dito were both up checking on the state of the weather and how EXIT ONLY was coping. So far, so good. They said I could go back to sleep...To Be Continued...
After school this morning, we got things organized for lunch. Our new friends from the other sailboat came over. There were four of them plus six of us enjoying Mexican Dinner around our cockpit table. They brought apple crisp for dessert. Perfect! We made our plan for sailing to Great Inagua Island from Conception Island. Great Inagua Island is the southernmost Bahama island, so both crews will be checking out of the Bahamas at the Immigration Office in Matthew Town. They are going on to the Dominican Republic and we will be going to Colombia or Panama´ as the weather permits.
We are looking forward to sailing with another boat on this leg of the trip. We have not sailed overnight since we crossed the Gulf Stream in April and the other crew has been sailing for several months, but have not done an overnight sail yet. When two boats sail together, that means they sail within 2-3 miles of each other and usually schedule hourly VHF radio checks with each other during the passage. The other boat is a monohull with one large motor. We are a catamaran with two smaller motors. Both of us move comfortably at between 5-7 knots, motoring or under sail. Traveling together should work well.
We did not have WIFI at Conception Island, so when Dave wanted weather forecast information, he did what we did on our first trip before we had WIFI...he and Dito went on SSB (single side band) to SailMail and requested a GRIB file and weather fax. The information we received will give us weather information for the next 2 days. The good news was the winds were light and usually favorable.
After lunch and the trip planning, we all gathered our snorkel gear, got in two dinghies, and headed out. We left our dinghies on the leeward (away from the wind) side of the island and followed the same sandy path we followed yesterday over to the Atlantic side of the island. Everyone went snorkeling and soon there were reports of seeing an octopus, some parrot fish, a grouper, and miscellaneous red, yellow, blue, white, etc. small fish.
When it was time for a break from swimming, everyone walked to the far end of the beach by the white rocks where we were yesterday. Z and J could not wait to show the older kids where the climbing rope in the rocks was located and explore the top of the rocks with them. I was hoping the round bowl formation would have some water in it, but we were there again at low tide, so no water,
Today, Dave thought he found a group of Trilobites attached to the exposed reef...but, when we went online to read about them, we discovered they are not trilobites. They are chitons...trilobite imposters!
We had a fun day, but it soon became apparent it was time to go back to our boats...the mimis/no-see-ums started biting all of us! Also, it was time to get last-minute things done so we can leave at 0700/7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Woke up to a sunny clear morning ... we could hear the small birds singing in the bush area of the island...the large white tropic birds with elegant long tails were riding the updrafts...and the sea gulls were screeching ...
Because we missed a day of school this week when we were sailing, we had school this morning to make up the time, then started getting lunch organized. After lunch we gathered our snorkel gear and rode across the anchorage in the dinghy to a place where the island is very narrow. We saw the sign that tells about Conception Island being under the protection of the Bahamas National Trust. Near the sign is a sandy path that leads up and over the top of the dune to a beautiful beach on the Atlantic side of the island. Several reefs were located close to the shore, so we immediately decided to snorkel around that area. Once again, we had our own gorgeous private beach for the afternoon.
After we were done snorkeling, we all walked along the curve of the beach to an area with old reef and rocks sticking up. The reef in the water came very close to the shore in that area and at high tide the water formed a “bowl” in the sand. We were there at low tide and the water had emptied from the “bowl” leaving tidal pools full of life behind. So interesting to see all the miniature animals in shells attached to the uncovered reef, the hermit crabs moving every which way, and minnows swimming in their very small life-sustaining pools...all waiting for the return of the water at high tide.
There was a small bird walking around in the “bowl” with two babies following her. The babies looked like fuzz balls with very long legs. It must be like eating at a buffet for these birds...just wait for low tide and choose what to eat from the small crustaceans that appear out of the receding water. The mother bird did not want us near her babies, so she put on quite a show. She was dragging her supposedly “injured” wing on the ground while she moved away from her babies, hoping we would follow her. After assuring her we would not hurt her or her babies, we moved on and left them to their dinner.
Meanwhile, Z and J found some minnows that had been left high and dry as the water receded, then soaked into the sand. A few of the minnows were moving, so they picked them up and put them in a large tidal pool. The fish started breathing and swimming again!
Back at our dinghy on the leeward side of the island, we headed toward EXIT ONLY. As we looked out to the horizon, we could see a sailboat sailing toward Conception Island, Sure enough, it was the family we are going to sail with to Great Inagua Island. They had a great sailing day today just like we did yesterday! We made plans to have lunch with them tomorrow on EXIT ONLY, then we will show them the places we discovered on the island today. It will be fun to have a buddy boat to sail with to Great Inagua!
We were ready to leave Stocking Island, Exumas, Bahamas, at 0700/7:00 a.m. as planned, except a squall came through with some wind and a little rain at that time (the squall was not included in the plan!). We waited 20 minutes, the squall was gone, and we headed for the Atlantic Ocean. The first photo is a drone photo Dito took of the area by the Chat N Chill Beach Bar and Grill where we anchored for 10 days while in the George Town area.
The winds were from the east-south-east and light this morning...as predicted. We were able to put our mainsail and our genoa (foresail) out and turn off the engines. EXIT ONLY moved right along. It was almost like the boat was happy to be out there sailing again. Dito sent the drone up so we have photos of EXIT ONLY sailing. Notice how blue the water is. That is because we are in the deeper ocean. That is why it is called “blue water” sailing, meaning “offshore”. The motion was constant, but not dramatic. We were comfortable moving through the small waves and I was able to use the stove to put together a hot lunch that we ate with a spoon out of deep bowls.
We sailed 43 nautical miles today and arrived at Conception Island at 1530/3:30 p.m . This uninhabited island is overseen by the same Bahamas National Trust that oversees the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (we were at several of their islands including the park headquarters at Warderick Wells Cay). The same rules apply...This is a “no take zone”. All of the flora and fauna are protected. We are especially happy to be here, because we came to this island on the return portion of our circumnavigation in 2006. We came across the Atlantic and through part of the Caribbean, then stopped at a few Bahama islands on our way to Florida. We have always remembered being awed by the beauty of the beaches and water around Conception Island. I am happy to report the beaches and water are still beautiful today! I certainly never expected to be here again, so getting to see it today makes it special, too!
Speaking of “special”, we saw our first green flash of this trip at sundown today! A green flash can occur when the setting sun and the ocean horizon are unobstructed by clouds. As the setting sun slips down below the horizon, there can be a literal “flash of green” as the top edge of the sun disappears. (The third photo is from the internet.) When we are on passage or anchored somewhere with a good view of the horizon, at the last moment before the sun disappears, we all stop what we are doing and watch...hoping we will see a green flash! It does not happen every time, so when it does, we really feel it is special.
The Bahamas are beautiful tropical islands. We have seen beautiful beaches in many places around the world. The Bahamian beaches are as beautiful as any beaches anywhere. As we head toward the southern end of the Bahamas, we are so glad we took our time and made many stops along the way. This has been the perfect way for us to get back into the cruising lifestyle.
The family that we talked to at Stocking Island about sailing together to Great Inagua Island said they will meet us at Conception Island tomorrow. We will look forward to seeing them there.