Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Setting off to Jamaica!

We are currently anchored in the San Blas islands after checking out of Panama this morning. Looks like we have our weather window although it will be a bit bumpy for the first day. We spent the day getting the boat ready and food prepared for the journey. Probably the most prepared we have been, for a trip.

All going well we should be in Providencia by Friday after covering 280 NM. For those of you who know of Captain Morgan then this was where he was based when he used to attack the Spanish.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Canal Transit is Scheduled for Saturday 6th October!

We were inspected this morning and measured for the canal transit. We had to get up early (for us) and take the boat down to La Playita to get the boat boarded and measured as they would not come to the Yacht club. So we were up at 8am and then had to get clearance to transit close to the channel down to La Playita. The canal authority have been great to deal with though.

We now are booked in for a transit on Saturday 6th October! You can even see us during the transit on the Panama Canal webcams! We'll be going through the Miraflores locks some time in the morning (probably early).

The website for the cams can be found at http://www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-java.html

We'll have the spot tracker on so you will be able to see where we are in the canal transit and which camera to look at by seeing our current position from the 'Where are we now' page from our blog.

Thanks to Octavia for sending the link to the Cam's. Please take a screenshot of the cam if you see us and email!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dismasting at Balboa Yacht Club

I've heard boats getting dismasted while out at sea, but i never thought my first time seeing one would be while i was safely moored in a yacht club! This afternoon i was sitting in the cockpit having a beer and watching the cargo ships go by, when the periodic wake of a tug disturbs my quiet afternoon and i grab my beer to make sure it doesn't go flying. I see the other boats doing the wake dance bucking with the waves when i hear a loud ping noise, followed by another and then i see the mast on the boat in front of us collapsing with each additional passing wave!

As we're right by the channel for the Panama Canal, we are not allowed to drop our dinghy. I couldn't head over there, but i quickly got on the radio to inform the yacht club. Within a few minutes the club boats were over there.  Luckily it looks like the owners were not on board.

I feel really sorry for these people. I can't imagine coming home to your boat to find this waiting for you. I guess in some ways it's better that it happened here rather than out and sea though!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Last Flight of Space Shuttle Endeavor

Serena and I are back in San Francisco for a couple of weeks and as luck would have it the last flight of space shuttle Endeavor is taking place while we are here. Admittedly, it's flying on the back of a 747, but still great to see. The shuttle is set to pass low over the NASA Ames research airfield which did a lot of the work on the shuttle and they have opened it to the public for the event.

Hanger One - Built in 1930's as an airship hanger
NASA Control Tower

Main runway

I was there with our friends Petter and Octavia to watch the event unfold.

Octavia and Petter 

The flight was a bit delayed due to fog in San Francisco, but at around 10:45am we saw one of the jet support planes coming in and then the shuttle itself riding on the back of the 747 transport!

I only had our little point and shoot camera so you cant see how close it actually was, but it was probably only 500 feet or so above us!

I remembered my mum and dad waking my brother and i to see the first take off and landing of the shuttle as a little kid, so it was good to be able to see the end of that era.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tsunami warning for Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua cancelled!

If you have been watching the news you may have seen that a Tsunami warning was issued for Panama following the 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Costa Rica. Thankfully the Tsunami warning has been cancelled so it's back to normal here.

Special thanks to Elan for calling to warn us! Nearly choked on my beer at the news!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Costa Rica to Panama City

If you have been following our track via the 'Where are we now' section of our blog you'll have noticed that we have been making some swift progress down the coast.

We had a one day trip from Drakes Bay to Golfito where we were headed to check out of Costa Rica and get our international travel papers. It was a bit out of the way, but it had the added bonus of being very well protected and we were looking forward to some good nights sleep after many rolly nights at the anchorages we had been at. We arrived in the afternoon and pulled into the protected harbor and navigated our way down to Land and Sea Marina. Tim hailed us on channel 16 as we went past as it was difficult to see where the marina was and guided us in to our mooring. This is a great place to stay as well as being friendly and cheap. As I was tying us up, I heard Serena call out and looked over to see our friends Aaron and Nicole waving from their boat Bella Star on the next mooring over! We hadn't seen them since El Salvador and thought they were still behind us. It was good to catch up over dinner and get caught up on their travels.

As we only had two days left of our 3 month temporary import permit for Solent, we got started straight away on the international checkout process. The first day we paid the fees at the bank and got the necessary copies of our paperwork so we were ready for the process the next day. The check out went smoothly despite the fact that when we originally checked in they got confused with my New Zealand passport and put that I was from New Caledonia! What I didn't realize was that they had also put the boat as a New Caledonian flagged vessel, where it is a US flagged one! Despite all the inconsistencies we had done immigration, customs and the Port Captain in under 2 hours which i was happy with as each office was in different parts of town. We now had 24 hours to depart which was fine as we were leaving at first light the next day.

The next day had a few thunderstorms on the horizon, but we headed out and managed to avoid these and was hoisting our Panamanian courtesy flag before lunch time as we crossed the border. We also caught our first yellowfin tuna not far into Panamanian waters. This thing was huge and at least 20lbs or more! We have been trying to avoid night transits where possible as the nights are normally full of thunderstorms during the rainy season. Our first stop was to be Isla Parida as we could get there by 4pm which is our target time as the thunderstorms often start after that. We went to the closest anchorage on the SW corner of the island. The anchorage was small and some fishing vessels already had the best position so we didn't have a whole lot of protection. Luckily the wind and swell were coming from the same direction and we had a good nights sleep.

We left early the next morning for Isla Cebaco. 3am to be exact! I'd woken early and decided we may as well get the boat underway. The only problem with leaving that early is that the thunderstorms are still in full swing so I spent the next three hours dodging storms. Not long after sunrise the storms disappeared and we had a smooth journey. Just after lunch we came across a group of whales with little babies jumping out of the water. It was an amazing sight to see a creature of that size come completely out of the water. It was the closest we had been and I had to turn sharply to make sure we didn't hit one at one point. The swell was fairly significant and our destination anchorage, while in a bay was open to the swell, so i wasn't hopeful we would get a good nights sleep. When we got there the best spot had mooring buoys installed, but I managed to get us in close to shore tucked in behind the moorings. We were only in 10 feet of water, but it was low tide so we would be fine and we had another great nights sleep here.

Originally we were going to do an overnighter to Panama City from here, but after much reading decided to try what was considered a marginal anchorage at Ensenada Benoa about half way. The seas were a lot bigger today, but it's surprising what you start considering as fine and I didn't really give it a thought until Serena said she thought they were about 20 ft high. Benoa isn't supposed to be well protected and with the sea state I was thinking we should press on, but Serena convinced me to give it a go. We pulled in and managed to tuck in behind the little island in what is an otherwise open bay in 10 feet of water where we were protected. I could have easily swam to shore from where we were and people were surfing some big waves not far down the beach, but where we were, tucked in tight behind the island, the boat was very settled and we had a very relaxing evening.

The forecast for the morning was good with light winds which was perfect for rounding point Mala. Most boaters are anxious when rounding the point as the seas and wind are magnified by the point as well as it having lots of traffic as nearly all the ships must come around the point as they head into the canal. We were very lucky and had calm seas and no traffic until we were got around the point and were well clear of the shipping lane by then. Serena is on watch now as I write this and she just called me up as we had another Skipjack tuna on (we have caught 13 today!). We let him go as we still have tuna in the fridge and I'd even already had some for breakfast!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Manual Antonio

We left Los Suenos marina on Saturday afternoon and anchored out in the bay which was very rolly and we didn't get much sleep. I wondered if I may have lost my sea legs and was actually feeling a little bit nervous about the trip. At first light (5am on Sunday morning) we headed off to our first destination, Manuel Antonio park. Manuel Antonio is the smallest conservation park in Costa Rica, but is renowned for the most amazing wildlife. We arrived at around 2pm after a 40 mile journey and were absolutely exhausted so decided not to go to shore until the next day. 

Solent anchored at Manual Antonio

Unfortunately the anchorage was also very rolly so we had another sleepless night. If you visit the park, make sure you don't go on a Monday as it is closed. We didn't realize this and on Monday morning we packed a bag, launched the dinghy and headed over to the beach. We secured the dinghy and walked up into the jungle, but after about 10 minutes we were approached by a park ranger and told that the park was closed and were escorted back to our dinghy.  

We headed back across to the park again on Tuesday morning. Arriving by sea is a very unusual way to enter the park and to purchase a ticket for ourselves and to pay the $8 per day anchoring fee, we had to literally walk the whole way through the park to the main entrance. We were told that you could only enter the park through the hotel even though we had already entered via the beach. Anyway, we followed the rules and managed to get our tickets and enter the park the correct way. Once we were officially inside the park we were able to relax and start the wild animal hunt. This place is absolutely amazing, it's like being in a zoo, but where the animals run free. 

Deadly Viper
Howler Monkey
These frogs are famous for their red eyes, but this one was sleeping
Three Toed Sloth

Sloth having lunch
After some exploring we found what looked like an old disused trail heading up the hill so we decided that heading cross country was the best way to see the wildest animals.

Walking up the trail

The view from the top of the trail
On our way back we were stopped by another couple who told us that there were some aggressive monkeys ahead. As we headed down the path we saw that ahead a group of people were blocked off by a number of vicious monkeys. Lee gallantly went to the front of the group to try to disperse the assailants, but they formed up around him jumping from tree to tree and screaming at him.

These guys didn't want to let us pass
In response Lee let out a loud roar and drew his arms up like a Gorilla. The monkeys retreated back into the trees allowing us to pass behind him while he held them at bay, but seconds later they returned and one monkey (The one with the big teeth) had taken a liking to Lee and would not take his eyes off him. He followed us and at one point I thought it was going to jump on Lee's head. I was shaking from head to toe, but managed to get a few snaps of him. When we finally got away from the monkeys one of the girls told us that this was her best experience in Costa Rica and that Lee was a hero!

 On our way back to the dinghy, I spotted a tail with huge spines. We see iguanas all day but the spines on this one's tail would make it a really big iguana, too big. I pointed it out to Lee and we followed the body until we could see the head.

It was a flippin Croc, just hanging around the beach about 3 meters from us.

We were able to get as close as we liked to this guy who was just hanging out in a small tree on the beach.
If your in Costa Rica, don't miss this place.