Panama (3)

Through the Panama Canal and beyond

Finally the time had come to take on the Panama Canal. Three line-handlers came onboard bringing 4 lines each 40 m long and a couple of big fenders. The fourth line-handler was Karin, first mate on Peach. We left Shelter Bay Marina at lunchtime and First Matepicked up two canal pilots on our way to the first lock which was part of the Gatun locks. In total we were 7 persons onboard to handle the canal transfer. Just before the first lock, one of three, was a giant crocodile resting on the shore. The biggest one so far. Anyway, we had been told that the plan was to get attached to a tugboat during the three locks which seemed to be simple enough. Unfortunately the currents in the locks were strong why it took some effort to get close to the tug and tie the lines without damaging Peach. This procedure were repeated twice before we had cleared all three locks and was able to enter the Gatun Lake which is huge. The lake is the fresh water reservoir for Panama City. Actually the drinking water (tap water) in Panama was surprisingly fresh.

We left the last of the Gatun locks at 5 pm why we needed to stay in the Gatun Lake during the night. We tied us to a big buoy which had been anchored in a nice place where also the pilots left us. It was now time for dinner and a lot of food was prepared to feed the young line-handlers. We had been told that the chance to see crocodiles swimming around Peach early in the morning was great. Unfortunately no croc showed up. At around 8 am the new pilot arrived and soon after that we were on our way again. It took close to 6 hours to reach the Miraflores locks on the south side at a speed of 6 knots. On the lake we saw one of National Geographic’s research vessels anchored just outside a well known bird watching station linked to the Smithsonian institute in Panama. That reminded us of where we actually had brought Peach.

Click on the picture for the movie

The transfer through the remaining three locks were smooth. Instead of being tied up to a tug we were placed in the center of the lock(s) via four lines. This was easy despite strong currents.

Finally the line- handlers had to do some work! It was a nice feeling to leave the locks and continue to the Balboa yacht club where we took a buoy and said goodbye to the pilot and the line-handlers who also brought with them the 4 lines and the extra fenders we had hired.

We stayed one night at the buoy at a price of 40 US which was a too high price according to our opinion. Sure, it was special to be very close to the big ships passing us to and from the canal but it was also very bumpy… The day after we moved further out to the bay La Playita at Isla Flamenco. This is also the place where we check out from Panama later. The anchorage was nice and not to many boats. We stayed a couple of days just to get the feeling of suddenly being in the Pacific Ocean. Our plan was to visit Las Perlas for a week or so and then set course for Vista Mar Marina, 40 nm south of Panama City.

Las Perlas

Las Perlas is a group of islands 35 nm out from Panama and well known for the extensive pearl diving 4-500 years ago until the Spanish came… Well, still people can get pearls and we were offered to buy from locals but chose not to. We sailed around the islands, anchored in remote areas where Peach was the only sailing yacht to see, especially in the southern part. Up north there were more boats. The most northern island, Isla Pacheca, had a large number of Frigate birds lovely to watch when gliding above us. All islands had many beautiful beaches. Unfortunately the cold, north- going Humboldt Current had brought in cold water of around 20 C and very poor visibility as well. Locals said that blue water will come later in April. Anyway and at last we spotted Humpback whales east of Isla Del Rey, twice actually. Fantastic! The area is well known for their feeding ground as well as for a place where they are bringing up their young ones. While anchored south of Del Rey we also scraped the hull of Peach wearing a 7 mm wet suit for protection against the cold water. We have heard stories that barnacles grow very fast and get big in the Pacific water. The hull was pretty ok due to that all of the antifouling had not yet disappeared.

After the Pearl Islands we set course for Isla Otoque and Isla Bona halfway to Vista Mar. We anchored off both islands and our favorite was Isla Bona, a small bay with calm water. When we left we had very strong wind accelerated by the larger island, Isla Otoque. Vista Mar Marina was 25 nm from where we were and it took half a day to get there.

Currently we are in the marina fixing a lot of things before we take on the Pacific. The marina is newly built and the price is fair although it is really windy this time of the year and the strong wind in conjunction with a tide of 4-5 meters makes the mooring very, very bumpy. The water is for free in the marina but we pays extra for electricity. With the help from the marina we have managed to get propane. All shopping has to be done in Panama City or in the closest village from here; Contadora, so it is important to plan ahead and to be effective. We have already made several trips to both places for ordinary supplies as well as for special items. So far we have repaired our toilet, our boom canvas for the mail sail and the bimini. We have bought all dry food we believe we need (Two hours at Rey,  Super 99 and eight hours of storage!) Extra water and other beverages are also in place. The refrigerator and the small freezer are now defrosted. We have also preserved a lot of food.

Important matters pending are e.g. fill up the fuel tank, put the dinghy on deck, hook up the rudder to the Hydrovane, buy fresh food, do the laundry, fill water in jerricans as well as top up the water tank, pay all bills and make final preparations in regards to  weather/wind and navigation.

Anyway, Vista Mar Marina is the place we start from in February and we plan to sail straight to the Marquesas Islands although one can never tell if we make a short stop at Galapagos which would be necessary if we need more fuel. The trip between here and Galapagos might be without any significant wind if we are unlucky. We estimate the journey to the Marquesas to take approx. 40 days if we manage an average speed of five knots. We look forward to the crossing and the destination.

Posted in On route | Comments Off on Panama (3)

Panama (2)

Awaiting Canal Transfer

The site has not been updated since September why it is clearly time to get on with it. We have been back in Sweden for work and business.

Pelican newly awakeOur first picture is of a Pelican (again) when the bird actually sat on our pull pit sleeping with the beak under the wing and woke up when the camera got close, amazing is it not?

We stayed in Puerto Linton for two weeks before we turned south to Shelter Bay Marina inside the Breakwater. However, before we took off we ordered a new intermediate stay from the Chandlery at Linton Marina to replace the one which broke earlier on our way to the ABC Islands. Surprisingly they ordered the stay from Miami, USA, when the marina did not have a pressing tool. Anyway, we got the stay although we picked it up much later in December.

On the way south (25 nm) we anchored during the night just south of the island Naranjo Abajo in 4-5 m depth. We recommend the place when other, anchoring, yachts are rare. It is silent and very peaceful.

The day after we had 8 miles left to Shelter Bay, on our approach and outside the breakwater we called Cristobal Signal Station on channel 12 to get clearance to pass to entrance. Its important to watch out for big ships coming from the canal as well as being on their way in to the canal. As we all know, big ships always come first!

We arrived to the marina in October and our plan was to stay until it was time to go through the canal which will happen on January 10. Safely berthed we went back home for work and other important matters that needed to be taken care of in Sweden.

The marina is a good place to be. We were warmly welcomed and
got a nice berth with theShelter Bay marina bow towards the prevailing wind and with European electrical standard of 230 V. Nice and helpful staff, good order in the office and many facilities such as a nice restaurant, pool, gym, a small chandlery, laundry possibilities and a small mini market. The quality of the fresh water is surprisingly high and perfectly drinkable. Moreover, the water is free as long one did not use more than 35 gallons a day which is a lot. Overall the marina price is somewhat higher than we are used to but on the other hand the facilities were good. There is also a free shuttle bus to Colon Monday-Saturday for real shopping.

San Blas

Chichimine Cays

Back in Panama from Sweden we waited for our daughter to join us for a trip to the San Blas Islands which took place over Christmas. San Blas with the coconut islands is lovely although the trade wind constantly blowing made it important to find shelter from the swell behind an island when at anchor.Back to Shelter Bay. Note that the marina is located right on the edge of a protected jungle (National park) area full of wild life and guarded by soldiers.

CaymanEven the marina is visited by crocodiles (Cayman crocks). One was far too big to be allowed why that crock was moved to the other side of Panama. The smaller ones, well the one that swam past Peach occasionally, was between 1.5-2 m.

Toucan birdWe did some nature walks and spotted monkeys and birds. We also knew about a sloth and in which tree he/she normally stayed but unfortunately we never saw the animal. The jungle close by had 3 types of monkeys, howler monkey, capuchin monkey and spider monkey. We were lucky to see Capuchin monkeys and the very beautiful Toucan bird.

Capuchin monkeys

Our preparations for the canal transfer was to call and agent, Erick Galvez, who will take care of all paperwork and provide us with 3 line-handlers, 40 m lines and fenders. The total cost for the transfer of Peach is approx. 1700 $. You can take care of all of this yourself but we considered it worthwhile with an agent which was recommended to us. Included in all this is also an advisor who come on board before the transfer and join us during the passage.

New Year 2019The New Year celebration took place on Peach in shorts, and in skirt for Karin, with good food and in good company of each other.

Best whishes for a lovely year 2019 from the crew on Peach!

Posted in On route | Comments Off on Panama (2)

Panama (1)

Arrived!

It took two days from Cartagena to San Blas, Panama. We had wind for 24 hours then the iron horse had to do its work. More or less for the first time on our journey we were without wind for more than six hours. Suddenly at 5 kn with the help of our engine, the intermediate shroud attachment on the mast on starboard side went off. We secured the mast with an extra backstay on the starboard middle cleat just to be safe. Going by engine did not pose any significant risk but, well, just to be safe. We arrived in San Blas at first light and were welcomed by three turtles. Well anchored we replaced the shroud with a spare. According to a rigging expert we have talked to, and after he had looked at the faulty shroud attachment, he said it was clearly a material error. We’ll see.

We had set course for San Blas, Isla Porvenir when we had been told that clearance and cruising permit could be done there. Wrong, we got a stamp in our passport which is most important when there are often passport-checks by the Police. The immigration officer on the island recommended that we get a cruising permit at Puerto Linton, 37 nm away. We had 5 days to do this he said although the legislation seems to talk about 72 hours. Anyway, we started our engine (no wind) and set course for Puerto Linton. Stopped for the night and anchored in a very nice place, Turtle Bay, where we were visited by a family of small whales called “false orcha”. Very nice indeed but no turtles.

Day two we anchored in the bay outside Puerto Linton and planned to get the cruising permit the day after. Well, not possible we were told by someone, we have to take the bus to Portobelo why we started to plan for that. Before we went, we met a Swedish sailor with his yacht TAO with which we spent (and spend) time with who said that it is no problem to get the permit at Linton marina located in the same bay. Correct, we went there and finally got our permit for one year, $185 US and it took 10 minutes. Perfect, all is set, we have all the necessary papers and are free to cruise in Panama waters for one year if we wish.

Currently we are at anchor in Puerto Linton which is well protected from all absent winds…except from westerly winds, well away from the hurricane tracks but not from all monkeys in the nearby jungle who are very noisy from time to time. Seems to us that they scream the most when they try to agree on who sleeps where. Suppose it is a matter of getting the best tree branch. From time to time there are thunder storms, lightning and heavy rain, it is indeed the rain season here. So far we have not had heavy winds, the pilot talks about as much as 45 to 60 knots from SE only for approx. half an hour or so. Regardless, we can do without such winds. There are many other boats anchored here but only crews on half of them, people seems to have left their yachts at anchor while they probably have gone back home for a while.

Posted in On route | Comments Off on Panama (1)

Planning for San Blas

Planning for the San Blas Archipelago

We have been staying in Colombia for three weeks by now.

Our last week we have been docked at Club Pesca just north of Club Nautico. We really wish to recommend this private marina which has excellent security and friendly staff. Actually, the guards were packing that is, carrying guns. Whether this is beacause high criminality or just the way it is in this country, we never figured out.

Anyway, we have finally got all our papers from our agent for leaving the country. Totally, it was not as expensive as we have feared. The total sum we paid for in and out clearance went up to approx. 150 US dollar. Our agent, David Arroyo Romero took care of us nicely. In our Zarpe (the clearance document) it is stated that we go to Isla Porvenir in Panama for the next port of clearance.

Currently we are doing the necessary shopping and fixing a few things before we leave. Among other things we are mounting a board for cleaning fish we hope to catch. We got the idea for such a board from the movie “Adrift”. A very clever solution we immediately took on. We have ordered NOA holders for the board from Hjertmans in Sweden as well as a reducing valve for our propane tank. No problems with the NOA holders but we got the wrong valve due to that Hjertmans unfortunately had mixed up the article numbers on their web page. The cost for the shipment from Sweden was 120 US dollar.

Isla Grande of Isla Rosarios, a favorite anchor spot

Moreover, the autopilot has been calibrated for the Southern hemisphere and our extra 25 kg log anchor, well super anchor, we have carried all the way from Sweden has been looked over and is ready for use. It was a gift from a sailing friend who is not among us anymore.

It is still the rainy season, until November, in Panama and why we simply wish to move on, we just have to cope with all the rain they say we will encounter. Possibly the real annoyance will be the thunderstorms with strong winds that will hit us from SouthEast. Up to 45 – 60 knots some people say, thankfully during short periods of time. We’ll see. Provided we get a good holding for our anchor, we do not expect any major problems. We can always seek shelter in Shelter Bay Marina if the weather turns out to be disappointing.

Posted in On route | Comments Off on Planning for San Blas

Towards Colombia

Header: Sea view, Cartagena

Bonaire to Curacao

Finally time to leave Bonaire for Curacao. We left early in the morning and had a nice sailing for about six to seven hours in 15-20 kn with tailwind of course. The choices we had when arriving were to go directly to Spanish Bay or to the main city, Willemstad. We went to Spanish Bay when we had info saying that we could do our clearance there. Well, we did not succeed to get any reply on the VHF except from Willemstad Port Control who said it is meant to carry out clearance in the city. Funny how info can be wrong and to be honest, we have experienced before that info given to us has been wrong. The lesson is “Always trust your own judgement”.

Anyway, Willemstad is a lovely city and reminded us of Amsterdam. It was easy to do the clearance at customs as well as at immigration. We just docked with Peach nearby and it was done in lesser time than 1 hour by really nice officials who welcomed us to Curacao. It had become rather late in the afternoon why Port Control helped us to get in contact with Curacao Marine where we stayed for almost a week. We did not consider Spanish Waters when we did not like the quality of the water we saw on our quick stay the first day we arrived. Instead, we spent several days in the beautiful city Willemstad and loved every minute. While being there we went to, among a lot of other places, Budget Marine and purchased more 12V fans. We now have on-board seven fans strategically placed. You might think it’s too much but believe me, they are needed.

We decided not to visit Aruba when the fees for Peach was outrageous. No-way we were ready to pay those fees.

Next leg – Colombia

After this very nice stay in Curacao we were eager to move on to Colombia and our final destination Cartagena, so far. We expected at least a week of sailing including some stops on the way. From friends back home as well as from pilots we had to be prepare for strong winds and large waves especially when passing the Northern tip of Colombia, Punta Gallinas. We tried to wait for a good weather forecast for at least two days period. We did not have such luck. The weather was continuously changing why we took off anyway and hoped for the forecast promising decent weather during the night we planned to pass Punta Gallinas before we could anchor in Cabo de la Vela on the west side below Punta Gallinas.

We sailed about 8 nm from the coast line and when we finally turned south, the wind and the waves came. At 10 pm we turned port towards the sheltered area, Cabo de la Vela, we though, but no, we had 35 kn during anchoring which went on all night as well as the coming day. Sand bottom and good holding why this was not a problem but annoying of course. One problem though, when we tried to bring down our foresail attached to the whisker pole! The could not be furled when the genua sheet had got stucked on the pole somehow and we had 35 kn, maybe that was the reason (!). The only solution was to use a knife which solved the problem. During the next day a couple of fishermen came along and we trade two lobsters for a knife and a potato peeler. Good business for all of us. The lobsters were really fine. Cabo de la Vela at position 12o 12.399 N 072o 09.375 W is sheltered from swell but not from strong wind coming from the North East.

You may wonder why we had to cut two genua sheet. We always use two sheets when using the whisker pole. The reason is that it is very easy to set and remove the pole even in difficult weather when the tension from the sheet attached to the pole is removed by using the other sheet during the process. The idea to use two sheets when convenient was given to us by a sailing Norwegian friend, Jan, we met in Puerto Mogan. Jan was full of smart ideas!

After two night rest we took off for our next waypoint, Santa Marta where we planned to anchor just south of the city before our final leg to Cartagena via Puerto Velero. We started early in the morning and arrived late in the evening. On the way we had a lot of wind and large waves. The wind at the most, about 20 nm from Punta Chengue increased to 42 kn for a while and when we passed Punta Chengue the waves just outside (5 nm) increased to between 5-7 m. We have never experienced such waves anywhere before. The autopilot could not handle this why we steered manually. Thankfully it was just for an hour before we could steer south and enter sheltered water just north of Santa Marta. On our way to the place we planned to anchor, just south of the city, we were hailed by Santa Marta Port Control about our intentions. Well, to make it short, it was not allowed to anchor were we had planned and we had to get into the marina anchor place where we were allowed to stay for 24 hours before we had to leave or do the clearence in Santa Marta. We moved into the marina, which was a good one with air conditioning in the shower and toilet facilities and in all clean and well maintained marina, but expensive. They did the clearance for us without us being forced to get an agent for the job. Unfortunately, it took some time why we were stucked in the marina for a week before we could get on our way to Cartagena.

This required some planning when we wished to pass the large
river, River Magdalena, 38 nm from Santa Marta, during daytime. After heavy rain further up the river a lot of debris might end up in the Estuary including big logs which we had to look out for. We passed the river at approx. 7 nm to be on the safe side. No logs but the colour of the water was brown and the water had a strange smell. We turned south and headed for Puerto Velers for our night anchoring before Cartagena the next day. No swell but a wind of 26 kn during the night but good holding in mud. After arrival to Puerto Velero we were hailed by the coast guard who wished to come onboard for an inspection. They asked us to contact them after we had done our anchoring which we did and they came and did their paperwork as well as visual check inside Peach. Polite officials and we had a nice shat when one of them spoke excellent English.

We have had some heavy wind for a number of days and hoped to reach an area where we could have some nice leasure sailing. Our wish came through the next day when we set course for Cartagena. A journey of 50 nm. Good weather and perfect wind. The closer to Cartagena we came the weaker was the wind.

Finally in Cartagena

The sight of the Skyline when we got close was impressing. Not many cities that can compete with that view! Currently we are at anchor outside Club Nautico almost in the middle of the city and are exploring the city before it is time to set course for the San Blas archipelago in Panama. We left our anchor place once to get out and produce fresh water and at the same time stay the night in some nice bay or at Rosalio Islands. We stayed, this time at Playa Blanca in position 10o 14.529 N and 075o 36.671 W. Crystal clear water and good snorkelling. Let see where we go next time it’s time to fill our tank with fresh water.

Peach at anchor

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, it is good to say that all our electronic equipment is working the way it is supposed!

Posted in On route | Comments Off on Towards Colombia