“Why do bad things always happen in the middle of the ocean in the pitch black night?”

Our Slog (Ships Log) with a Satelite View

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Ensenada Naranjo

Feeling lucky that we didn't get pummeled at Punta Mala and with a forecast of light winds we decided to leave Benao after 2 nights and a day of surfing while our luck was still holding. While we have a long history of getting surprise weather and naturally the 20-25 knots of east wind was a surprise. The fortunate thing is we were going west. So instead of doing 1 knot against it we were doing 6-7 with it. All those headlands really build up the seas with the current swirling around them and it was just like sailing along South America again. The bouncy soup of whitecaps wore us out.

We arrived in Ensenada Naranjo almost 2 hours faster than planned. It was calm and out of the easterly winds. What a relief, until 10pm. Then a funky little swell starting rolling in bouncing our little boat like a basketball. It's hard to sleep inside a basketball. We put another line on the anchor chain, put out the flopper stopper and moved to sleep on the couches. About 6 hours later when the tide changed the little chop died down...interesting. A larger boat (which most people have) probably wouldn't have felt much.

Hearing the howler monkeys again this morning made up for it. Now we'll see if we can find a better spot in the bay and try to get some more rest. We heard there are a lot of hiking trails here too, so we'll have to do some exploring.

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Ensenada Benau

It was a rolly ride, but we managed to pass Punta Mala, a notoriously miserable part of Panama with very little excitement. Some rain a little wind and in the final rounding of the point we ended up motoring because there was no wind. We waited for exactly the right forecast and to our luck the forecast was right. This time of year it isn't uncommon to have 30-40 knots of wind at Punta Mala. For the rest of Pamana it is mostly downhill from here.

This spot is a famous surf beach and has about a 2 mile stretch of beach which is calling to us. We're both way to tired to attempt a shore landing or any surfing. The water is still a bit on the cold side, but the sun is blazing so it will feel good.

I was hoping to get WIFI here but we had to anchor a bit further out than most people because there is a trimaran anchored in the prime area. I'm not sure the signal is strong enough to reach the boat anyway....

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Beating the odds

I think the betting pool had us at 2:1 we wouldn't actually make it out of Panama City, but we did. We are on our way to see Western Panama, an area we have yet to visit.

We got a lot of work done on the boat and found lots of parts and materials we haven't seen since leaving the US about 5 years ago. We spent a lot of time shopping and very little time meeting all the people anchoring around us, which was too bad. There were a lot of new boats coming over from the Caribbean and many old friends gathering here to -- surprise -- shop.

Of course we haven't gone far. We are only about 20 miles away at Isla Otoque where we can clean the bottom of the boat, and get ourselves back into the mindset of sailing after adjusting to the frantic pace of the city. It's nice and calm here and we are starting to unwind.

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All that work

Posted on Tuesday Mar 17, 2009

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We've been busy. Before going through the canal. Before my mom's visit. We busted our butts. New batteries, a new solar panal, patched our sails, worked on our engine and the grand project of them all: REFRIGERATION!
Yes after 6 years of warm drinks we now have a fridge. After some research and talking to other cruisers we opted for the Engel fridge/freezer. It is a nice compact unit that can either be a refridgerator or a freezer. We ripped out the old ice box which was fiberglass and crappy foam insulation:
Then I painted the inside with white enamle paint, which turned out to be disco gold, not white.


We added some radiated heat insulation to the walls.

Then I got busy building walls and a floor and adding thick foam insulation. We also added a formica finish.

Then finally some paint, wiring and we popped the Engel into place. Getting it to fit properly was a HUGE headache, but in the end it turned out great. There is a HOT side and a COLD side. The hot side is vented and the cold side is insulated. This allows us to put other items like bread or things that just need to be kept cool all around the outside space of the Engel. That gives us more room for drinks and other things in the fridge.



Hard to beat cold beer in 90 degree weather. And so far the solar panels are keeping up with the power demands as the Engel only needs about 15 amp-hours a day, with us turning it off at night. It's been great!

Went through the Panama Canal

Posted on Tuesday Mar 17, 2009

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Ok, so we didn't go on Sarana (because we don't want to go that direction), but we did go through the canal. Small boats like us sailboats need extra crew to handle lines going through the Panama Canal. Other sailors usually volunteer to help those boats in return for some food and getting some money for a cab ride back. We went through with MOONDANCER X and it was a pretty cool experience. It is amazing they built this canal 100 years ago and it is working like clock work. Here were are going up 25 feet in the first set of chambers at the Mira Flores Locks. The total rise with 3 sets of locks is almost 60 feet above sea level. Notice the bubbling current that can cause a lot of turbulence and problems for us small boats. Here in this chamber we are side-tied to a tug. Check out the tourists checking us out:


There is a lot of traffic in the canal in fact the WORLD just passed us by:




It was a great trip and Nancy and Tony on MOONDANCER were great. They feed us and kept us going with snacks. We were fortunate to have an advisor who was very good. He managed to squeeze us into the locks ahead of a couple of ships and thanks to his efforts we were able to complete the transit in one day...one very long day.

Panama

Posted on Monday Feb 9, 2009

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We have been working like dogs on the boat and shopping like good old Americans in our free time. We've been working on a HUGE upgrade to Sarana as a present to Sherrell but it is also a good surprise for my mom who is visiting in 7 days.

Panama continues to amaze me with everything there it has to offer!

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Photos from Colombia

Posted on Sunday Dec 21, 2008

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Here we are anchored in Tumaco, Colombia in a protected estuary.




We sailed north to Isla Gorgona a national park. This lizard was a rare find. It is endemic to Isla Gorgona and exists no where else in the world.



This is our guide who took us on a nature hike around the island. We saw a snake, lots of birds and even monkeys.


Further north in another park called Ensenada Utria we found paradise. One of the coolest places we've been to. This waterfall flows right into the anchorage.

Further north still, our final port Bahia Solano where we checked out of the country. We found a hike up to a raging waterfall, but it required scrambling up a rocky river in the middle of the jungle.

Is that boat sinking?!

Posted on Friday Dec 19, 2008

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On our way to do some internet and find a cold beer with Nakia, John points out a boat and says, "Is that boat taking on water?" It was sure low in the water and moving a little funny. Thinking only about cold beer John kept going. I said, "Shouldn't we go over and take a look? Maybe we can get inside one of the hatches."

I jumped aboard and started trying hatches. I got one open and looked inside to see my own reflection sloshing around. The boat was probably 1/3 full of water and filling fast. John took off with everyone else to get more help. I found a switch for "bilge pump" which did nothing. Some others arrived and I asked them to bring some tools and buckets. Someone else arrived with manual bilge pump handle and a big grin. I told them there isn't a manual pump that I can find.

The boat was taking on water fast so I decided to try to climb inside and try to locate the hole. It wasn't easy getting in because there was a door in the way of the hatch, but I squirmed inside and opened the other hatches. The water inside was up to my waist, full of diesel, oil, plastic, paper and god knows what else. The water was so murky I realized there's no way I'm going to find the leak from inside. I can't even find the through-hull fittings without a scuba mask and a waterproof light.

I slowly waded around the murky water on the boat checking the usual spots, hoping to see a rush of current or something. Then I heard a gurgle sound. I followed it to the galley. It was louder and there seemed to be a little current in that area. I felt under the sink and found a detached pipe that was gushing water. Please let this be it, I thought. I could feel the water rising it was rushing in so fast. My guess was 30 to 40 minutes before the boat went down.

I knelt down in the mucky water and tried to find the seacock, but it was under about 3 feet of water in a dark recess. So I set to work trying to plug it. With some effort I reattached the fitting that went to the sink and the flow appeared to stop. If the water level had risen another foot, it would have continued to siphon into the boat, but for now the sink was high enough that it stopped the water flow.

In the meantime a group outside had started working on getting the main companionway hatch open. I would feel safer if I had an easy exit from this boat. Everything was sloshing around. I made a mental note of the water level in case I hadn't found the main leak. As soon as the hatch was open we started a bucket brigade passing up gallons of nasty water. Someone dropped in to the main salon hatch and they started their own brigade. Soon we had people with generators and electric pumps to help remove water. It appeared the level was going down slowly.

Nearby, a ferry was anchored with a Panamanian crew who saw what was going on. They came over and offered use of their diesel powered pump. After some work (they are tough beasts to prime) we got that baby going and sucked the boat dry in about an hour.

The owner showed up in a complete daze. There were probably 15 people, 2 generators, 2 electric pumps, 1 big diesel pump and buckets of water flying all over his boat. I found out later he was a young Argentinian who was planning to use the boat to do charters. Everyone felt bad for him because his boat was a big mess. At least we saved it from going down as it was sinking fast.

The Panamanians it turned out were crew for the big ferry in the anchorage and one of them told us he surrvied a sinking ship once in 20 foot waves. He spent 4 hours in the water and when he saw the sailboat sinking he had to help. It was amazing how fast everyone pulled together and saved that boat.

This is the second boat I've helped bail out now. This boat ended up in a lot better shape than IVY ROSE from San Juan del Sur Nicaragua (if you remember that story). The fast work of everyone involved kept the boat from getting too damaged, but it's going to be a big mess to clean up and restore.

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Panama City!

We spent a couple of days at Contradora walking the island, swimming, catching up on our 300+ email messages and spending an hour on the phone with Paypal trying to get them to fix something. It was a little like work but a slow re-introduction to civilization.

Despite this, I don't think we were quite ready for Panama City. We could see the skyscrapers from 20 miles off and we knew right away this was going to be a different kind of place. It's busy with ships everywhere, people everywhere and FOOD everywhere. We had a fantastic Italian dinner with fresh mushrooms! Oh it was so good.

Our new batteries are waiting for us - shipped in from Florida. And we've already set our sights on Indian food! The anchorage is a bit disappointing. It's crowded and the constant stream of ships going by creates surprise waves just when you think it's calm. I suppose we'll get used to it as there are really no other options. Anchoring alone costs $5/day for landing your dinghy on shore. God forbid you land on the beach were they will have a fit and try to fine you $500.

All in all I think New Years in Panama City shows some promise and this is certainly a place where you can buy anything, if you have money that is.

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Two hours from cold beer and food

Posted on Thursday Dec 11, 2008

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We spent last night at a slightly cleaner anchorage. The shore line still looked like a garbage dump but the water was free enough from trash that I could dive on the bottom to clean it and change a zinc. Our friends on Blew Moon said the other parts of the Perlas weren't trashed like the Eastern side of Isla del Rey. I hope so!

We are on our way to Isla Contradora where there is a store! Finally food and cold beer! We are tried of eating dried goods and are desperate for something fresh!

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