Friday, 22 November 2013

Rainbows, Shooting Stars and Flying Fish

Three rainbows in a two and a half day passage has to be a good sign, doesn't it? And it was. The sea was very calm, the moon was full, and the wind was light. Too light, actually. We motor sailed, helming by hand, the whole way from Bocas del Toros to Providencia, with the exception of about 4 hours sailing, 20 minutes of which were handled by the wind-vane self steering. (An autopilot for when we're motoring is now on the top of our list for Santa Claus.)

Of course, the best sailing wind came up a few hours just before we heading into Santa Catalina Bay to anchor, and it was just slightly off the angle we needed to make, so taking the time to tack upwind would have meant we'd have to enter the harbour in the dark. Instead we kept the motor on and dropped anchor in a very shallow anchorage, watched the sunset while eating cheese, olives, sausage and drinking beer, and then went to bed.

On passage, we saw only one other boat and no dolphins, but the flying fish skimmed the tops of the waves frequently. There were birds who flew slow circles around us, looking for a place to land, and strangely enough, little black butterflies came flitting past the boat quite far offshore. We dodged small rainstorms that came from single clouds, provoking intense discussions between Captain and Crew over which way was best to go around the cloud, (these argements left zigzags in our track as charted on the navigation system). Trusty Diva took us 270 nautical miles without any problems, although the lid to the fridge broke in the last 5 hours of our journey. Our fridge now smells like contact adhesive, yum!

Providencia is quite a hilly island, formed by an ancient volcano. The people seem friendly enough, the navy boat that woke us up last night to tell us we were anchored in the shipping channel was very nice about it. Rather than get run over by a ferry, we pulled up anchor and moved over 50 meters, set the anchor and went back to sleep.

There will be further investigation of the people, the place, and of course, the food. Full report to be posted right here, just as soon as I catch up on enough sleep to go exploring...

Thursday, 14 November 2013

To Panama with love

Looking out from the balcony resto-bar at Los Secretos in Bocas del Toro.

This is our last week here in Panama. (Cross your fingers that the weather cooperates.)  All our friends are leaving, so it must be time for us to go too. We hope to set sail on Saturday for Providencia, Colombia.

Panama has been good to us.  We've learned a new language,or at least the important words, like zanahoria - carrot. We've learned to love Balboa Beer and Abuelo Rum, and we will most certainly miss the enourmous, ripe, sweet pineapples that we've found here. We've met a lot of really nice people on boats, some on motorcycles, and even a few on land. We've been on a plane, a train, a 4-wheel drive taxi and a pickup truck taxi, and even a couple of horses. We now know first hand the value of a good anchor winch.

With friends at Los Secretos, l-r: Susie, Stuart, the Captain, the Crew (in a new green dress!)
Panama, we've found your prettiest Caribbean-side islands, the anchorages with the best holding in sticky mud, and that your winds are fickle this time of year: sometimes too strong in the middle of the night, often none to keep the bugs away in the Bocas Marina, and almost always prevailing west-to-east, most likely dead on the bow when the boat is pointed in the direction we want to go.

From the Captain
Best memory: Eating fresh cheap lobsters night after night in the Kuna Yala.
Worst memory: Getting up at 3 am in 40 knots of wind to anchor watch. (We didn't drag though.)
Biggest surprise: Finally getting a chance to water ski off Starfish Beach.

From the Crew
Best memory: Waking up at dawn in the Rio Charges and hearing howler monkeys call and watching parrots fly by the boat.
Worst memory: Discovering in Portobello that one can have too much tropical paradise and not enough internet.
Biggest surprise: It is pretty wet in the wet season here, but the Panamanians have extra cool umbrellas. 

Our Panamanian umbrella!
Thanks Panama, we'll always have the memories.

More fun in Bocas, l-r: Stuart, Philip, Deborah, Susie and the Captain is sideways.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Starfish Beach

There were indeed plenty of starfish at Starfish Beach. Did you know that if you take a starfish out of the water it will die?  So we were told by plenty of signs along the beach, urging people to leave the starfish alone. (The signs were in Spanish, so we were proud of ourselves to be able to read them.)

Starfish Beach was a lovely spot to sit for several days.  There were no jellyfish in the water, so we swam lots, off the beach and off the boat.

Starfish Beach from our boat.  The beach wasn't very deep, but it went on around the corner on the left side of the picture and on around a few more corners, all the way around the island to open ocean - we didn't walk that far.

The first day we walked the beach, we saw over fifty starfish. On the weekend, when piles of tourists showed up, all the starfish went into deep water and hid. (Wouldn't you?) These ones were collected in the water by some enterprising tourist and everyone stopped to have a look.

We had coconut water in the coconut, beer, and Bob Marley every day from beach bars like this one. Oh, the Caribbean...

Life's not too bad, really. (The Captain and myself, in case it's been so long you've forgotten what we look like.)

One of the highlights of our stay on the beach was that the Captain was granted a wish.  Long, long time has he been wanting to go waterskiing, and our friend Stuart from IO of Cowes had the dingy to do it (and the 50 HP outboard.) Nigel, we thought of you.

Stuart and his super dingy.

"Ready" says the Captain.



And on one ski. (Did you know that if you click on the photo it will open a larger version for you?  That is a very small Captain dot in this pic.)

Good times were had by all. (And some even had sore arms.)

By the end of the weekend, we had run out of rum, meat, fruit, and a few other essential items, so it was time to head back to town to stock up. Fortunately, we had a little bit of breeze in the right direction and no reef to worry about, so we sailed!

We even made it all the way up to 3 knots once! (For those who don't get it, this isn't very fast.)

Our impromptu sailing buddies - IO of Cowes on the left and a catamaran that I didn't know with a pretty cruising chute up.)
Back in Bocas for the moment.  We will be heading out soon to explore another corner of the archipelago.  We are also watching the weather and planning our next move in a couple of weeks to Providencia, Colombia.

 Looking back over town from the north anchorage.
P.S. Providencia is nowhere near mainland Columbia.  It's actually much closer to the Nicaraguan coast.
P.P.S. Photo credits to Susie Broom from IO for all starfish pictures, all water skiing pictures and the one of the Captain and me.