Monday, December 13, 2010

Thai, Espresso, and Truffles

Wednesday, Dec. 8th we made a return trip to the Thai restaurant on a neighboring island. This time it was not raining 12 inches and we had our camera handy. The pictures document the vertical climb and the unpaved sticky mud paths that we traversed to get to the awesome food and scenery. On this trip we hiked beyond the restaurant into the jungle for truffles, espresso, and to search for the red dart frog that is poisonous--living right under your foot literally. No nips or bites so we live to tell the adventure and eat our truffles back on the dock with some boxed red wine…Life is good, and we are still having fun out here in the middle of little villages and surrounded by good friends.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weather is a State of Mind

Today we put on our rain gear and waddled through torrential downpours to trek up a pretty steep climb for Thai food. It started with 6 of us and ended up with a party of 9 very committed diners. To get there we hired a water taxi and he drove us 15 minutes over the not so smooth waterways between a number of nearby islands. We were wet to start with and the ride did not dry us out. The climb was through the back paths of a town and up the hill behind it to the top treeline on that island. Photo quality views along the way of backyards, narrow footpaths, foliage, jungle, and washed out ravines were right out of an adventure movie. The mud and muck was worth it though.
Thai spice aromas were carried away from the house specialties and reached our noses before our eyes found the place. The restaurant has one cook, one waiter, and one bus boy. Your meals are cooked to order, and brought out one by one. We ate, drank, swapped stories, voiced opinions, and compared sea moments from unforgettable times.
Seats were shifted so all could be involved and time just stopped for about 3 hours. Then the rain abated,we noticed the sun was setting, and it was time to leave the hillside retreat behind...but not forgotten as we all had ordered another meal to take away for later. Food is a big part of cruising, but not nearly as important as good company and a chance to glimpse into another person's view of the world.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Trip to Changuinola

October 29th, 2010
It's a rainy, drip drop day here in Panama. We traveled yesterday to Changuinola. First we hitched a dinghy ride with another boater to Bocas Del Toro, the town nearest our marina. There we bought ferry tickets for the 30 minute boat ride to Almirante. At Almirante you either take a $1.00 truck/taxi ride to the bus depot and then buy a bus ticket, or hire a truck/taxi to take you where you need to go. Our $1.00 driver negotiated a $15.00 fee for taking four of us to our final destination.
When we arrived the commerce in town is situated on one long street until you hit the central market district and then it is two streets of shops and services. Our driver pointed out the shops we needed for boat supplies, paint for automotive use, a hardware store, 4 grocery stores, and a very good Chinese restaurant.
First we explored the main "mall" area. Here a mall is like Saturday market spaces where the owners display their wares on table tops and a piece of fabric/tarp hangs between them and the next vendor. The vendor has a strange collection of items--no rhyme or reason for what you may find. There may be locks with silverware, clothes and pans, shoes and guitars, but most shops also had a set of drums for sale. The famous music man (salesman) did a great job of convincing this town of the need for a drummer in the family. We found a dollar store where everything was priced from 35 cents to $35.00--must be an old sign.
Exploring further down the street we found the town square. All cities have a park like setting where festivals and gathering occur in this centrally located block. Benches and walkways criss cross through and surround the square. Old men sit on shady benches and young mothers watch their children from these seats. Being hot and thirsty we made our way to the AIR CONDITIONED restaurant. Here we ordered beers for lunch and toasted Mike's (from Respite) first social security check. The nice thing about Latin America is there is no hurry ever. We sat, talked, drank and ate for two hours. Around 2:00 we again braved the heat and began serious shopping. At 3:30 it was time to rehydrate in another air conditioned bar/restaurant. Around 4 we headed to the bus depot (the second busiest spot in town) and found an air conditioned bus ride back for $1.20 per person--we were the only non-locals and we were treated well.
The road took us through a jungle like preserve that lays in this area, and up and down the hilly terrain. We passed the local dump, guarded by a female mannequin dressed in a police uniform holding a dead plastic bird. (Their version of a scarecrow) Many of the vultures kept their distance and rummaged through the bags in the back of the dump. Once back in Almirante we arrived to the ferry and found 3 bus loads of backpackers (ages 18-45) waiting for the same ferry ride. The ferry stops at 5:30 and is first come first serve...we feared we were going to have to find a bed for the night. But a local hustler got us to the front of the line and on the last ferry of the day. We arrived back to our boat around 6 and poured a chilled drink to rehydrate and relax with before watching Matrix, part 1. Just another day in paradise.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Pictures For the Blog

Click our link on this page called Photos of our Adventure or go to:, to see some of our newest pictures.

We’re Back on the Boat in Bocas

After spending an incredible 4 and a half months in the Pacific Northwest (with many highs and lows) we are back on the boat in hot muggy and buggy Panama. I posted some pictures of our summer. They are on our pictures part of the blog. We had a 6 hr flight from Florida, where we had visited Helen’s brother, back to Panama. Arriving at 7 PM, we spent the night in PC. The next day we caught the overnight bus back to Almirante, arrived there a 6 AM, took a truck taxi to where we caught a water taxi to take us back to Bocas. We waited around Bocas to have breakfast before taking another water taxi back to the boat. It was a very long two days of travel. We have been here two weeks and have had to order more parts from Marine Warehouse who have been incredible. Our batteries were toasted and our control cables were frozen. So here we sit, waiting till the next ship arrives, probably two plus weeks. Unlike Shelter Bay last year, we have not had the daily thunder storms and the buckets of rain. The temp during the day is 85 and the temp at night is in the mid 70’s--not bad but the boat doesn’t really cool off much. We had a great Halloween party at our local Cantina and have posted some more great pictures on our page. It is nice to be back home. I just wish we could get away from the dock for awhile.

Bringing our blog up to date.

As all of you know we have been lax about updating our blog. It is a real catch 22 when you get behind. All sorts of new stuff is happing but I need to mention things of the past first.

The Trip from Hell

Here is a summary of our trip back to Panama. It was one of the few times we had a schedule to meet. Only in an emergency will we do this again. Life is too short!

Day 1 Oil filter fails and the low pressure alarm goes off. I was able to replace the oil filter and stop the leak but only after two tries--ended up with about two quarts of oil in engine sump to clean up. Just did that yesterday. Messy job but learned bleach removes those stains. P.S. Helen was dodging without power the two reefs as I worked.

Day 2 Coming into Guanaja's reef our engine lost power and was starving for fuel--could not run over 1000 rpms, not good for beating into strong head winds and current. We anchored right after we were safe behind the reef, changed the filter and it seemed to help, also some water in fuel. (Same problem 4 days later). Looked at filter and it was clean with no water. I have no idea what is up. Oh yeah, I also noticed the line to reef the jib was hanging overboard so I dove and unwrapped it from the transducers. While under I noticed the drive line was 3/4 of an inch sucked in--later for that problem...and of course then the holding tank that needed to be drained didn't work--tried to fix it but hand dumped over the side what I could get at. Literally what a shitty day.

Days 3 to 3.5 No matter how I tried we can't motorsail faster than 2.5 knots due to the current, head winds, and 5 to 6 ft seas. I tried to sail off wind and still no luck. We were burning about 1.5 gals an hour doing this and we were going to run out of fuel if this continues. Broke the boomvang off at the mast. Basically the housing, pulleys, and attachment bracket just blew up in many pieces—13 years of sun exposure and fatigue. Was able to jerry rig a single line boomvang that lasted the rest of the trip.

Days 4 to 4.5 wind came out of the north, northeast at about 25 + knots seas were only 5 to 6 because we were in the lee of the Banks. Could only sail at about 6 knots because we only had the mainsail so we decided we needed to try to get the jib up. I was able to finish the sewing of the jib in the cockpit while under way (It had ripped out earlier that month). Left the lee of the banks and the seas built to 8 to 10. No way were we getting the jib attached and up so we decided to make a quick stop at Providencia to have some calmer waters. The autopilot was having trouble maintaining course because of going downwind and large seas so the off course alarm was going off every 3- -6- seconds during Helen's watch. After about 20 seconds it would adjust to course so the alarm would stop only to start again. Got to Providencia, put the jib up in 20knts of wind but no seas, and took a needed 6hr nap before we left.

Day 5-6 Seas were down to 6 to 8, the wind was still 25 + but we were hauling ass and it felt great. Autopilot was still having some trouble but not as bad as the day before. We were getting into potentially big squalls and ship traffic so we started radar only to have it die in about 2hrs. Ended up being corroded connections but it still died about every 3 hrs or so. Helen said the head was backing up so I went to dump the holding tank. Turned it on and nothing happened. The outlet was clogged. I figured we had knocked the calcium off the walls during our rough passage and that it had blocked the outlet. Put a quart of muric acid in the tank and let it sit. 6hrs later I opened the valve which was clogged and shit flew all over the forward bilge and under the bed area. Not a good thing. Connected the macerator and it still didn't pump. Took the whole thing apart and all the blades in the pump were broken off. It took me 1 hr to find my spare impeller but I did have one. There are 4 bolts that hold the pump to the motor, three had rotted off and broke when I took it apart and this was my last backup macerator. I put it back together with silicone and one bolt--it worked sort of. It was leaking and sucking air so it took 20 minutes to drain the tank, but at least we didn't have to bucket and chuck it. for 36 hrs more.

Day 6++ The seas were 8 to 10 + but had a 6 to 8 second period so they looked huge but it wasn't all that uncomfortable. There were a few waves that were much bigger than 10ft and reminded me of the Northwest. We were having squalls all day long and got overrun by 4 or 5 with 2 that had winds of over 35. It was good practice to shorten sails before we were over run. The foot of the jib, which I had not resewn because it looked ok, ripped out along the seam of the sun cloth. It wasn't going to damage the sail but if I let it continue it would make a lot more work for me so we rolled in the jib. The wind was actually out of the north and a little west so it worked out ok. We still had 25+ winds so we could maintain about 6 to 7 knots with just the main all the way out. The last 10 hrs the wind shifted to due south and was 20 knts on our nose again. We were again motoring at about 5.5 knot into wind with a 8 to 10ft following sea ugh!!! We were going to be making our approach after dark. Not my best choice but I had not calculated the miles to and from Providencia so here we come. We checked into the morning net and asked for some waypoints to get us in the dark. Another cruiser sent us some that afternoon. They were great. The lights in Drago were weird and wild, similar to the run way lights approaching O”Hara airport we guessed. There were red and green entertwined because there were 4 or more bends in the path and no clear entering point. We shot a gap, lined up. and they worked. We anchored at 10pm, and slept soundly for the first time in a week.

The next day I went to check the engine and found that somewhere on our trip the 3/8" plate bracket holding my watermaker pump had broken off in the middle and the pump was laying loose on top of the engine. So much for pickling the membrane. I am going to try to find a piece of PVC tubing I can put the membrane in and pour solution over it for storage. Might work, but I will bring back a membrane as well.

Looking back there was nothing I could have done to prevent any of the problems, it was just one of those trip you want to get behind you. I could have done a better job at figuring mileage. I had just not figured it was 35 mile out of our way to go to Providencia. At least that was the difference from going straight from the Hobbies south to Bocas or going to Providencia then to Bocas.

Now we are here and almost have forgotten our HELL trip, it is time to go see Kiele for the first time. Cool!!!

Life is great! Except for all the stuff that broke the boat did great in those conditions. I still feel good about our boat and its abilities.

Roatan Our Favorite Place So Far

Roatan is by far my favorite place that we have cruised to in the past 4 years. We felt safe and welcomed everywhere we went. The food was good, and by Central America standards it was very clean and properly prepared. The local people were friendly and always willing to answer questions and help out. A large percentage of them spoke English so practicing our Spanish was made easier. Fresh fruits and vegetables were available from trucks almost everyday. There were three modern grocery stores that stock anything you could want. Best if you got there the day they were stocking as the locals know some supplies are short. Transportation was easy and affordable. You could ride the collective bus or take a local cab. The airport was centrally located making it one of the best places to have visitors, and that’s what we did.

Our pregnant daughter was first and had a wonderful visit as did we. I have written a blog about those experiences. The highlight of her visit was relax time and the dolphin encounter.

My sister and brother in-law were second. This was the first time they had come anywhere to visit us on the boat. We had an incredible time exploring, eating, drinking, and most of all diving. We were able to dive every day. On one occasion we had a 6-8ft shark swim right between our group. It turned out to be a Hammerhead which even made it more exciting. On every dive there was something new and exciting. We were diving with Tim and Paula on Hooligan, and, John and Kathy on Mystic Moon. Thanks to them I was able to dive over 65 times during the 3 months I was in the Bay Islands. I felt this was quite a birthday present to myself on my 60th year. I am very proud of that accomplishment after about 10 plus years of only using scuba gear to clean the bottom of the boat. Except for being a short visit I know Cheryl and Rich had a wonderful adventure.

Our last visitor of the season was our son Mike. He wrote a great blog about his trip as well. Again the time was short but we had a fun time diving everyday and just having good times on island time. We spent the last full day doing ziplines with Helen and exploring the local jungles. We also had never done ziplines. Oh what fun.

Part of the problem of keeping the blog up to date during our stay in the Bay Islands was exactly what made it so great. Everyday we basically did the same activities: get up, eat breakfast, listen to the nets, determine when and where we were going to dive, have lunch on our way to explore the island, do our shopping, and the big decision of the day was where the evening sundowner was going to be. Life was simple but oh so great!

The only problem from the outside world that affected us was the whole time we were there a drug war was happening on the furthest east end of the island. But unlike Mexico it was a local problem with one drug lord wanting his stolen coke back from those who stole it. There was actually a road block not allowing any outsiders into the area so the two sides could “duke it out”. Except for hearing the horrific stories, we know of no cruisers who were affected. We will definitely be back to Roatan some day but for now there is still a lot to discover out there for us. Maybe we will find another favorite place in the world.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mikes Vacation

A teasing of retirement as a day in the life of the Peoples.

So I got down here on Saturday after taking a lil puddle jumper from San Salvador. Traveled out to the West End of Roatan where my dad has been anchored for basically 2.5 months out of 3. The heat index is about 100 so welcome to an early Texas summer. However, it aint bad and great reasons to jump off the back end of the boat to snorkel over to a large reef just outside the moorage, which we did my first day. Right under the boat we have a medium but fat 3-4' barracuda who was friendly. Then today we have had 2-3 sea turtles popping up every now and then. At the reef, the fish were amazing, every saltwater fish I knew from looking for my aquarium and stuff. There must be way over 70 different species down there all traveling in schools or by themselves. Some of the prettiest were yellow tailed damsels that have these really cool bright blue spots on them.

So that's just off the back of the boat, then on top of that there are probably 30 dive buoys within a mile of the boat. Today's dive, we get in the water, its shallow at first (15') but enter into a canyon that's only wide enough for one diver, we go down it for like 5 min weaving through it sometimes so tight that its like a tunnel. Different corals line the edges, hidden under the ledges are a few pesky but very pretty lionfish (which are great eating by the way!!! Found out last night at a benefit bbq for the local kids) Then we exit the canyon onto a massive wall with the pretty blue Caribbean water going down to the bottom and fading into the deep ocean. Swimming along the edges are rays, schools of fish, huge tube sponges that got up to almost two feet across and 4 feet tall. Along the wall there are many more of these canyons for exploring, seeing a huge Caribbean king crab, anemones with tentacles the size of my fingers white with a purple tips, so many different corals some pinks, some orange, lots green, and cool iridescent blue sponges too, everywhere you look it is just paradise here. If you happen to slow down and just float over a patch of coral, so many little colorful fish are there and small creatures you notice too. Then the occasional turtle swimming up at the top of the wall, silhouetted of the sunny water above, large branch corals between him and us, and schools of fish swimming around him…

So then after a brief afternoon siesta, we pull up our dingy to a dock, pick up our dive tanks waiting there for us that were just filled and walk the unpaved sand street of the town (about a mile long if that), lined with small tropical bars, open air restaurants, and many dive shops. Stop in and buy some veggies out of the back of the truck and stock up on bread and eggs for the week. I can't wait to try the coconut bread for French toast. Then for dinner we decided to have a lil surf and turf of lobster and filet and finish the night with a lil glass of 23 yr old rum on the rocks and gaze at the quiet night sky lightly bobbing in the water…

How can you ask for a better life…. This has just basically been 3 days so far of my week vacation for me, but months of adventures and relaxation for newly Granddaddy Peep's and Grandma Mom.

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Unexpected Surprise

Helen had been home just three days from helping Kelsey move to Oregon when we woke up to an E-mail from Kelsey writing that she was on her way to the hospital and her water had broke. You might think we would be totally excited to have our first grandchild come into this world. We were but there was a problem. Kelsey was seven weeks away from her due date. We had made plans to be there and here comes Kiele (Kiwi) seven weeks early. Kiele was also breach so Kelsey told us she was not leaving the hospital till the baby was born and she was having a C section. More things to worry about. By 9:00am we had Helen booked on the 1:00pm flight to Houston and continue on to Portland. Arriving at 8:30 Portland time. Fast work!!! The doctors tried to slow down Kelsey's labor to give Kiwi some meds that would help develop her lungs. They were hoping to postpone labor by at least a day. Kieli wanted out of there and they could not slow down labor. Kieli was born by C-section at about 2:45pm on April 17th before either her Husband or Helen could get there. She was 4.5 lbs beautiful little girl who surprise everyone and was able to breath on her own and scored a nine out of ten on the baby tests, which is even great for a full term baby. She will have to be in NICU for a couple of weeks but she is surprising everyone how well she is doing. Kelsey is also doing well recovering at home but spending most of her waking time at the hospital. Kelsey has already shown how great a mother she will be, and can't wait till Kiwi gets to come home as well. We are very proud of both of them. Life is good

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Highlight of our year in Roatan

Our daughter Kelsey was able to visit us here in Roatan. We had a fantastic time sharing our island life with her. Kelsey was 6+months pregnant with our first grandchild making it a very special visit. One special time was our visit to Anthony Key Resort to swim with the dolphin. Both Helen and I just watched from shore but Kelsey had a very moving experience. During her time in the water their pregnant dolphin came up to Kelsey's belly and nuzzled her nose against Kelsey Even the trainer was surprised and acknowledged the dolphin's understanding of Kelsey being pregnant. It was quit a thrill for everyone in her group. We look forward to being with Kelsey for the birth of our grandbaby

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

New Pictures Updated

Check out the new pictures I have added to "Photos of our Adventure"

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Anchored In Roatan A Vacation From Cruising

We have been in Roatan for over 2 months now. Most of the time on a mooring in West End. West End is dive central. There are 30 dive sites just a short dingy ride away. I have been lucky enough to dive all the sites around us. Lucky meaning I have a dive partner group consisting of John and Kathy on Mystic Moon and Tim and Paula on Hooligan. Life doesn't get much better. The people here are extremely friendly and helpful. We have made friends with West End Diver who have been great. West End has a variety of restaurants and bars that make life fun. Helen has been in the states for a month helping our daughter get settled in Oregon and I have just been diving. It has been hard to update our Blog when your life consists of waking up, having breakfast, deciding where to dive, eating lunch, exploring the West End, and doing a few boat chores when it doesn't get in the way of Happy Hour. The hardest decision we make in a day is what to thaw for dinner and where to dive. The weather has been consistently in the mid eighties and seventies at night. Up until two weeks ago we had a cold front come down from the states about once a week. This meant stronger winds out of the North to West. Sometime we would move for a day or two and sometimes we would just sit tight. We have had one noteworthy storm of 50+ knots where we broke the blades on our wind generator, and lost the sunshade on our Jib. Other than that it has just been strong trade winds of 15 to 20 most of the time.

Diving has been great. We usually dive the reef wall protecting this end of the island. Our dives always involve depths of 70 to 80 ft and the marine life is incredible. We were very lucky to see a Hammerhead shark, very rare for this part of the world. Morays, giant crabs, Hugh grouper, are just a few of the common sittings. Today we dove a wreck on the north end and saw 3 green morays, 2 turtles, many large grouper, a 5ft or longer flat purple flat worm, lobster, and the biggest crab we have seen so far. Doesn't get much better that this.

Life is good I am waiting for Helen's return to explore more of the island. We will be heading back to Bocas Del Toro in May to store the boat for the summer so we can be with Kelsey when she has her baby. Our first grand child!!!!

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Roatan The Land of Clear water and many adventures

Honduras, the land of water and adventure

We arrived in Roatan, Honduras on February 3. Our first stop was Guanaja which is a small rock island, population 6,000 and a strong Seven Day Adventist following. The houses are built up on stilts, the paths between are 4 feet wide, and the largest industry is the fish processing plant which became our best friend. Following the cultural norms all businesses close from 12 to 2 or 2:30 for lunch which gave us time to stop and sip the beers. We walked to the back door of the processing plant and bought lobster meat for $4.00 a pound and cleaned conch for $2.50 a pound. Life was good. We anchored off and met friends from Canada, Idyll Island, Cathy and Derek, Mystic Moon with Kathy and John, and Hooligan's crew of Paula, Tim and Nigel. Since they all dive and have equipment Dave broke loose from the depths of our storage his gear and started diving again. His first day he dove three awesome sites, walls and lava tubes surrounding him, fish and coral life within touch, and left the water with the most amazing grin on his face for hours. Our group went exploring and we dinghy drove to Graham's Key where a fishing resort owner welcomed us to walk his island, observe his fish pens which held turtles and a 300 pound grouper, see his bone fishing grounds, interact with his wildlife, and drink cold beer under the shade of his palapas restaurant. The snorkeling out on his reef was so cool-the coral variety, sea fans, and schools of small fish abound here.

After spending a week in Guanaja, we moved to Roatan and French Harbour. There we reconnected with reality by shopping in stores, buying a modem for internet connection, and walking on paved roads. We then dropped anchor in an area near Fantasy Island Resort where the gang refilled their dive tanks daily and did some more diving. Feeling the need to see what was around the corner we moved to West End and discovered diver's paradise. With over 20 sites within 10 minutes of our anchorage the serious diving began. On shore there are 4-5 places to get refills, island food restaurants, grocery stores for the basics-fruit juice, mixer, bread, and booze, vegetable trucks, a laundry, and 6 beers on ice for $8.00. Walking the unpaved road, and seeing the local shops brought to mind what Lahaina, Hawaii must of looked like before it became "found".

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Providencia to Tha Bay Islands

The passage to Roatan has been more comfortable than recent trips, and for that we are grateful. The previous seas were square, confused, and turbulent. Many waves plowed over the dodger and dumped running water through the cockpit, which translated into many bruises and falling objects (mainly Helen). This trip however we were able to make water, hang laundry, fish to no avail, and sun bathe on the foredeck. In the first 24 hours we cover 181 miles of sea without motor power-which is a new speed record for us. On day two the winds died down to the low teens and we meandered along at 5 to 6 knots through the day and night. We sailed using the spinnaker pole to push our jib out and gain a bit more speed.
Currently we have the moon light to guide us, stars popping out from behind clouds that are moving with a cold front, and calm swells that allow the boat to sway in a fairly smooth left to right pattern. The need for long pants and a jacket made us scramble through stored clothes. We may need more of them when this cold front finally arrives in full force this weekend-the thought of needing to put on shoes to keep warm makes us grab for the coffee liqueur bottle and check its level for future reference.
Our first stop in Honduras will be Guanaja, famous for "No See-Ums", an easy, cheap, and painless check in, and a cruiser hang out called Manatee Bar and Restaurant where cruisers from around the area come together to swap books, and feed each others need for new conversationalists and entertaining stories of passages and places.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Providencia, Columbia

OK we thought today was Saturday, and kept thinking tomorrow was Sunday, and we honestly have no idea or need for the numerical date. So we check the computer for affirmation. Nope, we created an extra day this week by now realizing tomorrow is the real Saturday. Hey though in our defense, we always knew this was still January and not yet February!
Today we walked out to the fort and cannons, around Morgan's Head on Santa Catalina, and up and down the edge of the small island. Saturday, we will be renting scooters, touring Providencia island, and going out for lunch at a roadside restaurant with a couple on a one year hiatus from Massachusetts (she is a meteorologist professor from Rutledge University who is an expert on arctic climate research and global warming impact studies) and their two barely teenager, fun, fun. Sunday we will snorkel, swim, dinghy around the bay and look for Captain Morgan's famous treasure cave. Out there is a great reef with hundreds of fish--this is a preserve site so the fish are abundant.
Next Thursday or Friday the weather will allow us to go to Honduras and meet our other friends. In Honduras the diving is suppose to be clear 100 feet deep, warm, and some of the best in the world. We think we will be there for all of February through April. Utila is one of the islands, has a night life, and is a preferred spot for young people looking to dive. Roatan has Fantasy Island and great snorkeling; French Harbor is a must see spot as well. In mid to late April, we will be taking the boat out of the water for a survey before heading back to Panama in early May. Early May we will go to Bocas Del Toro, the European hippy hangout, put the boat up, and then head for Texas and Arizona. However, we are cruisers who have trouble keeping track of the day as well as the week so we may actually do something totally different than our current plans that are obviously written in shifting sand. Life is good and we are still having fun in the sun.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Northbound to Roatan

It is midnight and we are trekking at 6-7 knots over 3-8 foot rolling seas. Earlier the seas were 7-14 feet and that gave us quite a crack the whip/toss and drop ride for about 10 hours. Since the moon has set, the stars are our only companion out here 150 miles off the shores of Costa Rica. With no interference from other lights, the stars are bright and clear. Orion's Belt is prominent in the sky as is many planets and satellites. It is still warm enough to be in shorts and barefooted and my watch has started. Our AIS, ship identification program, shows no traffic, our maps show depths of 3-4 thousands of feet, and we have seen only one other large ship out here since leaving San Blas this morning. There was a suspicious "other boat," not lit, and traveling in the shadow of the large boat earlier that we noticed. All is good.
P.S. Another companion turned up-phosphorous looking like fireflies, as densely packed and bright as the Milky Way. They dot the surface of the waves that break upon our hull. Like tiny dancing fairies, they shimmer and disappear from sight as we sail north through the moonless night.

San Blas Islands, last visit for this year…
We waved goodbye to the San Blas Islands on January 18th and must say they should be counted as one of the Wonders of the World. These island number in the hundreds, and the Indians that live out there are gentle, soft spoken, and mild mannered in most cases. They show entrepreneurial skills and a strong work ethic. We spent one week off an island and watched a house being raised in the tradition of barn building in the states. For two or three days the man of the hut worked hard chopping and cutting wood each afternoon. A launched arrived one morning with a work crew of men who hopped out and began to raise timbers for a roof, laced rope into a lattice on the roof braces, and then wove palm fronds into a roof. At the end of the day the building was half done. Every week, every anchorage had a launch make the trip to bring fresh vegetables, eggs, meat, fish, beer, and of course the hand made molas that these islands are famous for creating.
The anchorages are getting crowded now with people from the Arc Rally and from all over Europe who are getting ready to cross over into the Pacific and head further west. Most of the anchorages that had seen 3-5 boats are now 15-30 boat crowded. The flags are mostly Italian, French, and German, but other European countries are in there as well.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Leaving Linton for the second time

Leaving Isla Linton

After three weeks anchored behind Isla Linton we are ready to leave. I got my rebuilt autopilot back a few days ago and everything is working great again. We have had a great time here seemingly busy doing something everyday. Thanks to Owen and Betty on Hiatus, we were able to make several trips into Colon without have to take the two and one half hour bus ride. We did take the bus a couple of times and it makes a long day. These really are the only mode of transportation for most Panamanians and the buses will haul anything. The last bus we rode had a full size mattress in the back with everyone's groceries piled in the last three seats. We are glad to be back to depending on the boat instead of the local busses.
We had a great New Years on our boat with a couple of other boats, Nim Tai, Hiatus, And Renegade came over for pizza and New Year's. We actually found ourselves awake and still partying at midnight. That was a first for us in a long time. We also enjoyed a few great meals at the local cruisers restaurant and the French Restaurant in the next bay. At the local restaurant you bring your dingy right up to the break water, stern tie off on a buoy, and nose tie to a line. From there you can either grab a swing tire or rope then pull yourself out of your dingy about 5 ft from where you sit to eat. They serve Great Columbian food. Hans, the owner is from Holland, and his wife, the cook, is from Columbia, his 18yr old daughter is studying Law in Cartagena, and his math whiz 11 yr old son helps with the bills and serving meals. It is a real family enterprise.
Our plan was to leave for Providencia, Columbia on Sunday with a very short weather window. Sunday we woke up and decided instead to go to San Blas and make sure the autopilot work first. The weather window was only two 1/2 days long with a very cold, cold front moving in behind it. Temperatures in the LOW 70's, winds to 30 knots, and a lots of rain didn't really sound like fun. So here we are, back in the San Blas Islands where it is 82 to 90 every day with snorkeling and 40ft visibility just waiting to be enjoyed. Providencia can wait.
Our trip down from Linton was great. We had steady 15 knots of wind with a little lumpy 5 to 7 ft seas. It actually was the calmest we have seen so far. We had a great 9 hr sail only using the engine to leave and enter the anchorage. That is why we own sailboats! We used less than a gallon of gas!

Later we will describe our La La life in Kuna Yala…

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