Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hi From the Pacific

Greetings from the Pacific side of Panama!  We made it through the Canal - what an experience!
Our tracker shows us moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific!


It started on Monday, when our agent (who had arranged the transit on our behalf), came to deliver the lines and fenders, said "I've got good news, and I've got bad news..."  Uh, Oh...didn't really want any bad news...  He said, "The good news is, your transit has been moved up;  the bad news is, you have to leave in 20 minutes".  Whoa!  We were ready, but it was still a mad scramble to get going and a very quick exit from Shelter Bay Marina!

The two youngest crew members surveying the ships on the horizon and contemplating the task ahead

Our Fenders

Our lines

We headed out to the Flats Anchorage to pick up our advisor.  He turned out to be a fantastic guy. He is a tug boat captain and very knowledgeable, not only of the working of the locks and canal, but also a mariner, which was a huge help.  Sometimes the advisors are administrative people (as we experienced on day 2), and don't always understand how boats work.  But Christoph was awesome, and I think a huge part of making the first transit through the Gatun Locks relatively stress free.

The Pilot boat approaches and drops off our advisor

We've learned that most things here are of the "hurry up and wait" mentality, and that was precisely what happened.  Christoph pointed to a ship in the distance and told us that was the ship we were going to transit with.  Then he received a radio call, and a cell phone call.  Apparently the ship was carrying some sort of chemicals, and we were not allowed to go through the locks with it.  So we had a 2 hour wait.  We decided to use the time to cook an early dinner and we just hung around...waiting.


Then finally it was time.  "Our" new ship, "Seaboard America" came sailing past, and we fell into step behind it.  Once it was in the lock, we took up position behind it.  On the way up, the sailing vessel goes behind the ship, on the way down, the sailing vessel goes in front.  Then the line handlers on the lock walls threw a heaving line and we tied our big lines to them.  Then they walk the boat forward and pull our big lines up and tie them onto huge cleats on the side of the lock wall.  Then, when the water starts filling the lock, the line handlers on the boat (Garrick, Adrian, Gudrun and our Panamanian helper Alan), have to keep the lines tight (in this case pulling them in), to keep the boat steady and in the middle of the lock.  It took 6 minutes for the lock to fill up.  It was amazing.  The water churned like a boiling kettle and in no time, we were at the top of the first lock!

Approaching the locks behind Seaboard America.
You can see a ship coming out of locks on the right, we went in on the left


In the lock with our advisor

The process was repeated 2 more times.  Each time when we reached the top, the Canal line handlers would send our big lines back, and walk along the wall with their heaving lines attached and walk us over to the next lock, and tie us up to the next set of cleats.  We entered the first lock around 7:30pm and exited into Gatun lake at around 9:30pm.  By 10:00pm we were at anchor!

One of the locks before it was filled with water.  You can see the line handlers at the top of the lock wall and the lines going to the boat

Here is a link to a quick video of us in one of the locks.  You can see how the water churns as the chamber fills up:

Cool Runnings in Gatum Locks chamber-Panama Canal

It was pitch black when we anchored, so it was a treat to wake up in the morning and view our surroundings.  Mist rose out of the jungle as we sat on deck with our morning cup of coffee.

Captain Dave enjoying his morning cuppa. Construction of the new locks can be seen in the background.

Adrian and Garrick on deck in the morning discussing the previous night's transit

Gatun Lake in the morning


It was another "hurry up and wait" situation.  Alan, our Panamanian line handler had said that the advisor would come around 7:00am, so we were up at 6:30am.  By 8:00am, no-one had come.  Garrick rustled up a wonderful breakfast of scrambled eggs, potatoes and corned beef...just what we needed to get us through the day!  We then finally got word that the advisor would be on board at 10:00am.  To his credit, he did come a little earlier than that, and then we were able to begin our journey across the lake, and toward the Pedro Miguel lock and the Miraflores locks thereafter.

Approaching Culebra Cut


It was a beautiful but hot journey across the lake, and we saw a crocodile, birds, and ships. It took a couple of hours and soon we were at the Pedro Miguel lock, the first one to take us a step down!  This time round we had to go against the wall, which was not what we had wanted, because you run the risk of damaging your boat against the rough lock wall.  But you can't argue with the Canal officials, and we made use of the big fenders we had hired, and hoped for the best.  It all turned out OK, but it was somewhat stressful!

In Pedro Miguel Lock inspecting the wall we had to go up against.  On the right is our advisor for the day
Once through the Pedro Miguel lock, we motored on toward the last 2 locks, the Miraflores locks.  The pictures below show us approching the locks.  Our deepest thanks to our friend Charles Fair, who took these stills from the webcam and sent them to us.

Approaching Miraflores Lock.  We look so tiny amongst the huge cargo ships!

Cool Runnings approaching Miraflores Lock, with our chamber partner, the Overseas Pearlmar behind us
We transited the last 2 locks in the same way we transited the Gatun Locks, in what they call "Center Chamber", with line handlers walking us from one lock to another and the line handlers on the boat controlling the lines, this time letting them out as we went down.

For me the scariest part of this last transit was the HUGE ship, the "Overseas Pearlmar" that came in the lock behind us!  It seemed like it was never going to stop, and just kept coming closer and closer and closer.  It was so close to our stern, we felt we could have touched it!  It was maybe a boat length from us (40ft)!!  I NEVER want to be that close to a ship again...EVER!!!

Overseas Pearlmar just barely fit into the lock

It just got closer and closer...

The Overseas Pearlmar towering above Cool Runnings and her crew

Ben and Gaby in the last lock before the water drained out.
The Pacific beckons behind them
 And then we were done!  Around 5:30pm local time the last of the lock gates opened, and finally we were in the Pacific Ocean!

The lock gates open...and we were in the Pacific!


Our view from our anchorage:  Panama from the Pacific side

Here is another short video of the end of our journey through the locks:

Cool Runnings entering the Pacific Ocean

two additional videos:
Ben flying the drone for 1st time in Shelter Bay Marina:
Ben flying drone

and
Last night in Panama City....in old City looking towards new City
Last night out in Panama City Old town

Monday, May 23, 2016

Transit Day


Well, the day has finally come. It’s Transit Day. We’ve been preparing and anticipating this day for a very long time. Along with the pure logistics of transiting the Panama Canal in a sailing vessel, comes the fact that, for us, there’s no turning back now. Once we’re through this canal, we’re in the Pacific, and turning around, while always an option, becomes that much more difficult. While still on the Caribbean side, there’s this sense of security, a connection to home…you’re not THAT far away. But once we’re “on the other side”, well….it’s a long way home via the rest of the world!

But back to today. At 1:00pm our agent, Roy Bravo will come and deliver the lines, the fenders and our line handler. We will leave the marina at 2:00pm and head over to the Flats Anchorage, a staging ground for the first lock. There we will receive our advisor. Every vessel has an advisor from the Panama Canal on board to guide us through the locks. The line handler is an extra set of hands to help us with the huge ropes that will be thrown to us from canal handlers on the side of the locks, and that will constantly have to be adjusted to keep us steady and away from the side of the locks as the water rises. Dave will be at the helm, Garrick, Adrian, myself and the line handler will each be on a corner of the boat controlling the lines.

Once we get through the 3 sets of locks we will be in Gatun Lake, where we will anchor for the night. The advisor will be picked up, but our line handler will spend the night. On Tuesday morning, a new advisor will come to the boat, and will guide us across the lake, and then through the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side. We should be in the Pacific on Tuesday evening!



Unfortunately we are not able to fill up with diesel here at the Marina, and although we have enough fuel to motor through the lake (you have to motor, you are not allowed to sail), we can’t afford to waste fuel on running the generator, which we had hoped to do, so we could run our A/C for our night on the Lake. Oh well…I guess we have to get used to it anyway. We’ve been spoilt with being able to run the A/C while in the marina.

We’ve had a good time here at Shelter Bay Marina, as Dave mentioned in a previous post. Poor Garrick and Adrian were put to work right away, and Adrian was barely able to get over his jetlag, being thrown right in to the mix and helping with boat tasks and preparation! I’m happy to report that Puff is fixed, but there is a snag with the main halyard AGAIN (this has certainly become our Achilles heel!!). As Dave mentioned, West Marine sent a 10mm rope, when we ordered and paid for a 12mm rope. It’s a never ending saga that Dave and I are so tired of, we just can’t even think about it anymore! We will see if we can find the needed 12mm rope in Panama City once we get over there. Luckily our trusty mule Garrick, did bring our old halyard with him as well as the new rope, so we do at least have that as a last resort backup!

Puff getting repaired in the sail loft
But to more fun stuff: our tour of the Panama Canal. Wow…what an experience! On Friday we took a taxi through the jungle roads that lead out of Shelter Bay Marina, and went to visit the Gatun Locks – partly in preparation for our own transit, and partly just to see it all first hand as a tourist.

The sheer magnitude of the operation is mind-blowing, and the history behind it even more so. The first attempt to build the canal was made by the French in 1880, but the cost, both financially and in loss of human life, caused them to abandon the project. After its independence in 1903, Panama made a deal with the US and the construction of the canal started in 1904. There is a LOT more history behind that sentence, but, in the essence of time, I’ll keep it short. The canal was finished in 1914, and was controlled by the U.S until 1999, when Panama took over the control of the Canal. Just being here and seeing the jungle and feeling the heat and humidity (and I’m a Durban/Tampa girl…I know heat and humidity!!), I can only imagine what those poor workers must have gone through building this canal. There was a tremendous loss of life during the construction of the canal, both from disease and from construction related accidents.

Construction of the Culebra Cut in 1907 (Wikipedia)

The Gatun Locks that we will go through first are still the original locks that were completed in 1914. Amazingly enough, the water is not pumped from one lock to another. When a chamber is drained, the water is emptied into the ocean, and when the locks need to be filled up, water is pumped from the lake. The new locks, that are set to open in June, and will be able to handle the super tankers, are designed to recycle the water and it will be pumped from one chamber to another, rather than in and out of the lake and ocean.
The Crew with locks.  You can see a ship transiting through the lock on the right
The cost for a ship to go through the canal is in the region of $300,000 to $400,000 PER TRANSIT. So if a ship goes through, drops off containers, turns around and comes back again – it pays again. The big ships that will be able to transit through the new locks will be upwards of $500,000 per transit! But it saves them 2 – 4 weeks, not to mention the cost involved in running a vessel for that extra time, by not having to go around Cape Horn. We asked how they decided which ship would be the first through the new locks, and we were told that it was a lottery and a Chinese ship is on its way right now to be the one to do the maiden voyage through the new locks.

The lock doors closing and the water level going down in the lock on the right

This ship just barely made it through!  

The same ship as it passed by.  It actually scraped the side of the wall on the far left as the tug driver on our side was not paying attention, and didn't have his lines tight enough!
Beside our time at the Panama Canal, we also provisioned, which ended up being a whole day affair. Buying the food was one thing….finding space to put it all…entirely another! But I managed, and while some of us may be sleeping with beer cans at our feet and tins of tuna snuggled up next to our t-shirts, we should not starve on our way across the Pacific!

Finding space for beer...

Just some of the supplies...
Where to put it all?
Our surroundings also lent themselves to some jungle exploring, and our two most intrepid explorers were Garrick and Gaby. The area around the Marina used to be a US military base, and the runway is still here, as are some of the barracks, and officer’s housing. The buildings are abandoned and decrepit, and the jungle is reclaiming them, but it is amazing to see. Our explorers found a church, gun batteries, a zoo (!), and rumour has it that they just let the animals go out into the jungle and that there might be a big cat wondering around…rumor has it… (monkeys were seen, but they are locals – not remnants from the zoo!)
Garrick and Gaby found a beautiful beach on one of their walks

Jungle walk
Gudrun and Gaby at one of the batteries

We also took the opportunity of wifi to finally set up our drone, and finally fly it! It was a long and frustrating day of downloads and updates and things initially not working, but finally it all came together, and we (ie. Dave and Benjamin) flew it around the marina for a test flight. We were very impressed with it and the videos it took, so we hope to have some amazing footage of deserted islands and atolls in the South Pacific!
Maiden flight...paparazzi captures the moment
Success!
Flyin' High!

And so, once again, we have to say farewell to a place we’ve called home for the last 5 days. We’ve met some wonderful fellow cruisers: some moving on like we are, some heading back home, but everyone has been so friendly and helpful: providing assistance with the SSB radio (thank you, Edd!), knowledge of areas sailed, and even giving us provisions of food that they don’t need and can’t keep on their boat while they head back to the US for a few months (thank you, Betsy!). We are somewhat nervous, somewhat excited (at least I am), to once again be moving on. This is a big step for us, but we are ready to make it! I hope to have wifi on the flip side, and be able to provide and update along with pictures of our transit into the gateway that is the vast Pacific Ocean!

As a reminder, here is the link to the Gatun Locks webcam.  We should be going through at around 7:00pm EST:
http://www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-java.html/

Sunday, May 22, 2016

New Kid's Cabin Update!

Please see the "Kid's Cabin" tab for 2 new updates from Ben!  Scroll down just a bit to see his posts!

Time in Panama


Hi everyone.....just putting this up now....its raw and Guds will edit and add pictures later, so come back for the "enhanced" version maybe late today or tomorrow morning!

Well we have all been busy working on the boat and enjoying Shelter Bay Marina area and visiting the Panama Canal visitor center to see where we are going to transit through hopefully on Monday night.

Soon after Garrick and Adrian arrived we got to work on all the boat chores and repairs. The new main halyard has been installed, but unfortunately West Marine sent Garrick 10mm rope instead of the 12mm rope we ordered and paid for, so we have to work through trying to get West Marine to either refund us the money and we send them back the 10mm rope (a real pain) and then attempt to buy 12mm rope in Panama City some place. That may be challenging given we only have one day in Panama City. We do have the old main halyard aboard now, so if needed have that as a last resort.

Guds and Garrick went into town yesterday to shop and top off the provisions we already have aboard, so that we hopefully don’t have to do any major shopping again for a while. Adrian and I worked on the boat trying to make more space while they were gone, and generally started preparing the boat for the canal transit.

Apparently you should be able to see us transit the canal on the live web cam feed below….you will need to choose the "Gatun Locks" live feed as those are the locks on the Caribbean side we will transit through on Monday early evening. Here is the feed links I think (try all 3) otherwise just google “Gatun Locks live webcam feed…you will/should see a ship and some where behind it you may see our tiny boat ;) :

Here is our exact transit time (remember these are local Panama time which is 1 hour behind Florida EST):

Pilot boarding time                         3.15pm on 23rd
Arriving Gatun locks                   4.45pm on 23rd (5.45pm Florida live web feed)
Clearing Gatun locks                    6.05pm on 23rd (7.05pm Florida time)
Anchoring Gatun lake                     6.30pm on 23rd

The plan as it stands is we leave the marina tomorrow, get fuel at 2pm, head to near the canal entrance, anchor and wait for both a line handler and canal adviser. When they board at 3.15pm, the adviser is the person that tells us exactly where to go and helps navigate us up through the locks and into the lake. Once through we anchor in the lake on Monday night, and then head across the lake with a new adviser on Tuesday day and head for the down locks called the Miraflores Locks, and into the Pacific Ocean!!!! I still can’t believe it’s happening!!!! We also got the invoice for our canal transit today….$2,160 eekkkkk…but I guess compared to the average ship one way transit bill of $400,000 we are a drop in the bucket!!!! That plus the $2,100 we already had to pay for the Galapagos entry permits and suddenly we start being VERY careful with our limited money saved up…..oh well…..you only live once ;)


After that we likely will spend one night near Panama City, before heading off out to the Los Perla’s Islands, just south of Panama City. We will use that time at anchor to clean the bottom of the hull, and get mentally prepared for the 8 day voyage to Galapagos Islands. Our plan is to spend a week there….hopefully may get some internet access there to do a blog update and catch up on emails. From there it’s a 3 week, 3000 mile crossing to Marquees Islands…..;) 

To catch you up on some videos here are a few for enjoyment….

Enjoy:
1st one is from us diving the “Windjammer” ship wreck off the Dry Tortugas”

2nd is our tour two days ago of the Panama Canal visitors center at the Gatun Locks…look how close the ship is to the side of the concrete lock wall!!!!

3rd is another of Ben & Gaby in “school field trip” at the canal locks.

That’s about it for now….off to try and get our drone working…..its been in the box since we purchased it, maybe fit some new boat speakers we have aboard, and fit a new compass ;)

Thanks for everyone’s good wishes, for following us, and for all the comments/news!!!!

All the best from the new and improved team Cool Runnings….now playing with a bigger expanded and better team!!!!

Ps….our beer consumption seems to have DRASTICALLY increased with Adrian and Garrick aboard ….not sure we can carry all the beer we “need” to make it the next few weeks, so may begin rationing once underway ;)


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Panama

We made it!  And we have reinforcements!

As we neared the breakwater to the Panama Canal, our AIS, which is the system that identifies ships around you, just lit up.  It was both funny and scary!  On our passages down, it was actually something fun to do, especially on night watch.  I would check the chart plotter, hoping a little triangle would appear.  When it did, I could click on it, and see the name of the vessel, what it was called, where it was going, how long it was, how wide it was, and what course it was traveling.  This allowed us to see if we would have any close encounters with ships...and avoid them.

This is what our chart plotter looked like 27 miles out:  You can't even see the entrance to the Canal with all the ships!

Dave assured us it was no problem, that he used to sail his Optimist in Durban harbour amongst the ships...I believe him, this I've heard before!  But just seeing the ships, either at anchor outside the breakwater, waiting to get in, or inside the breakwater, waiting to transit, was just amazing.  And as we actually got closer and started dodging them all, you realize what a huge operation the Panama Canal is!  All these vessels, coming and going, crossing one country to get from one ocean to another!

6 miles out - easier to see the actual ships now
It was particularly amusing to find ships that had passed us on the way, now waiting to get into the Canal.  Benjamin would spot them:  "Look, there's the Loland" (we laughed at that name :  LOL Land - we have little to keep us amused), and "Look!  The Atlantic Star!"  We identified the tankers, the cargo ships, the Loland was full of truck cabs, all lined up on her deck.  It was fun.  

Approaching the canal.  It was a rainy, misty day, but you can get an idea of the ships on the horizon

We made our way through the breakwater and soon were in Shelter Bay Marina, where most boats go, to complete all the paperwork necessary for a Canal transit.  After those 4 and a half days and 4 nights, we were SO happy to be stable again!  

Dave had just enough time to rinse off the boat, and I was still getting the washing together and wiping everything down and starting to tidy up, when we saw a man with a wheelbarrow approaching the boat...yes, a wheelbarrow....Garrick had arrived!!  The kids raced out to meet him and it was SO good to see him!  Garrick had 2 huge bags (in the wheelbarrow) and one small backpack.  The two huge bags were full of all the items we had asked him to bring for us...primarily 2 sets of rope!  The poor guy lugged all the rope from Virginia to Panama for us!  The backpack was all the space he had left for his own stuff.  Again, thank you, Garrick for EVERYTHING you did for us during our "dark hours"!

Garrick (and new rope!) arrive!!


Today (Wednesday) was a busy day.  In the morning, the Admeasurer from the Panama Canal came to measure our boat.  Jose was an extremely interesting guy and gave us a crash course in modern Panamanian history.  So interesting to talk to!  That will have to be a post in itself to relay everything we learned!  He physically measured our boat with a tape measure and completed all the necessary paperwork.  We have 3 options for transiting the canal:  either we will be center chamber, which means we would be by ourselves in the middle of the chamber; we could be tied up next to a tug boat; or we could be rafted up with one or 2 other boats.  We won't know until we get there.  What the measurer does is take all the information, and they see what other boats they have needing to go through, and they work out the best option given the size and number of boats. 

Jose has a very important tape measure
Due to the fact that we have some repairs and provisioning to do, we have asked to transit on Monday.  Once we know for sure, I'll write a post on the procedure for transiting.

The second exciting thing that happened today was the we met another "Kid Boat"!  I met a lady at the Marina and we started chatting.  She is French.  She asked if we had kids.  I said, yes, we do...do you?!  Yes, she said...2 boys, ages 15 and 9!  YAY!  KIDS!  They are also circumnavigating, having left Europe in September!  I offered to have her come over with the kids in the afternoon and meet Benjamin and Gaby.  And so she did, and, voila! boat friends!  Ben and Gaby went to the Marina pool to swim with Paul and Antoine and I think the noise from the fun they were having, must have brought out all the other kids in the marina that we didn't know were here!  Soon there were 6 or 7 kids playing in the pool!  We didn't see our 2 until it was dark and raining and they had so much fun.  Plans have been made to get together tomorrow again.  Sadly, they transit on Friday, so they'll be gone after that, but I think we may see them again on the way!  We will certainly look out for them!

Third thing (not so exciting), was that poor Dave went up the mast again.  We hope that we have FINALLY fixed the problem with the chafing (Dave was up there for about 3 hours!!), and he rigged up the brand new rope Garrick brought, and fixed the part where the rope was getting pinched, so fingers crossed...the halyard problem should be fixed!

This is what you look like when you are doing repair work 70 feet up in the air
And lastly...reinforcement # 2 arrived!  A weary Adrian, having left South Africa on Tuesday morning, flew from Durban to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to Dubai, Dubai to Orlando, Orlando to Panama, and then had to endure a 2 hour car ride in a monster storm with pelting rain and lightning, calmly knocked on our hull to announce his arrival at about 8:30pm tonight!!  He too came with 2 big bags...one was full of pressies!  Thank you, Oma and Opa for the gifts for Ben and Gaby (Gaby shrieked with delight at her new raincoat! :)); thank you, Michelle for the beautiful scarf (and the Onion Marmalade!), and thank you to Adrian for all the other goodies you brought!  We are so glad you made it and so happy to have the Cool Runnings crew finally together.  It's been so many years of planning, it's hard to believe we are all sitting here in the jungle of Panama!

A note of thanks also to Kelly and Michelle for loaning us your men for 2 and half months!  We realize it's a sacrifice on everyone's part, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts - we are so happy to have them, have their help and their company!  I will look after them and return them to you both in once piece!!  The 3 musketeers are together again, and we are excited to begin the next part of this journey!

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Sunsets in Key West...nice; anchored off the tranquil, turquoise waters of the Dry Tortugas...beautiful; swimming with Stingrays and playing with starfish in Grand Cayman....amazing.  Those moments, so far, have been "the Good".   Dave wrote an account of our rather harrowing journey to the Caymans - that was "the Bad".  The trip from Cayman to Panama:  "the Ugly".

As we left Grand Cayman on Friday morning, everything was great.  The wind, that had been blowing pretty strongly for the last couple of days, had calmed down and it was a beautiful sail past the island, south toward Panama.  I thought to myself, oh, this I can handle for 4 days!  Then, the further we got away from land, the more confused the seas got.  And the ride got bumpier and bumpier.  And, 7 hours in, we checked the main halyard, that we had repaired in Grand Cayman, and noticed that it was chafed again.  We couldn't believe it.  We decided to put a reef in the main sail to ease the load a bit, and watched it for a little longer.  Then Dave had another look, and decided to take down the main.  I won't go into the technical details, but he had taken a picture with our zoom lens, and noticed the main halyard pinched at the top of the mast as it entered.  As bad as it was, we were happy to finally realize what had been causing the chafe.  Unfortunately, that meant that we couldn't use our main sail, and we still had about 600 miles to go!

We put up "Puff", our big geneker, and sailed only with that sail.  Friday night was OK, and then Saturday it got worse.  The swells were getting bigger and coming at us from the side.  By Sunday, the wind had picked up and was blowing about 25 knots.  We were experiencing swells of between 10 - 12 feet, some as tall as 20ft.  You would look out and see a wall of water coming toward you, and then the boat would lift up over it, and either slide down the other side, or sometimes, fall off the top of wave, and we'd hear almighty crashes as it hit the water!  While this certainly wasn't pleasant, it was made worse by the fact that we didn't have a main sail, and basically, we were overpowered with "Puff".  BUT, it was too rough and dangerous to take down, because we would have had to go to the front of the boat to take the sail down, and neither one of us would risk it.  So Sunday night was tough...we were getting closer to Panama and there were more ships.  We had an incident where a ship came within a mile of us, and we couldn't change course to avoid it, because of our situation with "Puff".  Dave radioed the ship and explained our situation, and he changed course slightly and passed by.  It was by far the roughest night we've had so far.

The only good thing about the strong wind and the big sail was that we were making good speed, and were on track to arrive in Panama by Tuesday morning.  By midnight on Monday, the wind died a little and changed direction, and Dave, who normally will sail under almost any condition, fired up our engines before you could even blink!!  So we motor sailed the rest of the way, and eventually took Puff down, and came in under engine power only.  We arrived in Panama at 1:30pm on Tuesday, May 17th, exactly one month, to the hour, after leaving Madeira Beach!

A note on Puff:  I will go on record and say that I was not a fan of Puff.  Whenever Dave said that he was going to put Puff up, my heart sank. It's a huge sail and quite frankly, it scared me.  It is so powerful, and we've had moments when it's gotten a bit out of control (as Benjamin has put it, "Puff had a tantrum"!).  But now I take back anything bad I ever said about Puff.  To add insult to injury, Puff tore while we were taking the main sail down because of the chafing on the halyard.  But even torn and battered (we did attempt a repair, but it tore again), Puff just kept going, and got us all the way to Panama!  It has redeemed itself in my eyes!  Thank you, Puff!
Puff puffing us all the way to Panama.  It's such a big sail, it's hard to get it into one shot
So that was "the Ugly".  You may be wondering why we even do this, when our passages so far have been absolutely no fun at all.  We have asked ourselves the same thing at times, but then just the few "Goods" we've experienced so far already by far overshadow the Bad and the Ugly, and that's why we keep going!

Benjamin and Gaby:  You guys have been amazing:  homesick and seasick, you have not complained once.  We love you so much and are so, so proud of you!

Captain, my Captain:  I will follow you anywhere...even around the world.  Thank you for navigating us safely to land!

We did have SOME fun!  We had 2 flying fish land on the boat:  Fred and Flippie.  It was a lesson in fish anatomy!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Farewell Grand Cayman

"Refuel" and "Repair":  those were the two boxes we checked on our Immigration paperwork when we arrived in Grand Cayman last Thursday.  That was our intention, but we've ended up enjoying so much more!  Our plan was to do the repair on Thursday, look around on Friday and leave for Panama on Saturday.  But here we are, a week later, getting the boat ready to depart tomorrow!

We've had a wonderful time in Cayman, and met some great people.  Our deepest thanks go to Mike Farrington of Compass Marine, for his help in getting us back on track, and making the trip up the mast...twice!  If you ever find yourself in the Cayman Islands, and need assistance with anything boat related, Mike's your guy!  In addition to getting the main halyard fixed, and the Geneker halyard repaired and rigged so it too won't chafe, we also fitted a new radar, a job that had been slated for Panama, but is now out of the way.

The New Radar Dome
In case you missed it in a previous post, Mike is also from South Africa, and it turns out he and Dave sailed together many moons ago!  They know all the same sailing folks...what a small world!  Also a huge thank you to Mike, his girlfriend, Karen, and her kids Paddy and Lily for the BEST BRAAI EVER last night!  We so enjoyed your company, and the boerewors was amazing!  Benjamin and Gaby enjoyed the company of other children for the first time in a while, and absolutely reveled in it!  We hope to see you "out there" in the not too distant future!

So today we headed downtown to the Customs and Immigration office and cleared out, so we now have 24 hrs to depart.  We've spent the day getting the boat ready for the next passage.  We have over 600 miles to Panama, and anticipate being underway for about 4.5 days, so we should get there sometime next Tuesday.  We are eagerly looking forward to meeting up with our friends, Garrick and Adrian, (who is coming all the way from SA!), and who will help us sail from Panama to French Polynesia!

So as we say farewell to the friendly island of Grand Cayman, we leave with 4 GB of music from the Jamaicans on "Oh Reely", a Rum Cake and a new phrase..."Yeah Mon"...

Yum...Rumcake!
Our home for the last week:  the Barcadere Marina

Keep tracking us on the "Track us Here" tab, and so long, until Panama!

One quick final video link below of last few hours in Cayman this evening hanging out at the yacht club pool with our boat in background:

Having fun at yacht club pool on last day in Cayman