We managed to sail for just 2 hours. The wind was mostly in our favor us, but too light for the wave conditions. It has been blowing pretty hard NE of here, and the swells are pretty big. So the sails flop too much as the boat rolls, with big seas and light winds.
We plan to be in Linton by Saturday or Sunday, and in Colon by Monday. Daughter Nicki flies in to Panama City on Weds.
CBARUa 10-07.90 N 75-43.61 W South Approach 'a'
CBARUb 10-08.39 N 75-43.36 W South Approach 'b'
CBARUc 10-10.29 N 75-41.71 W South Approach 'c'
CBARU1 10-10.78 N 75-40.48 W Beginning of Markers
CBARU2 10-10.54 N 75-40.39 W
CBARU3 10-10.32 N 75-40.36 W
CBARU4 10-10.09 N 75-40.30 W
CBARU5 10-10.01 N 75-40.25 W
CBARU6 10-09.74 N 75-40.15 W
CBARU7 10-09.82 N 75-39.46 W Anchorage
We were able to sail for about 5 hours yesterday. But the wind died off in the late evening, and we ended up motoring most of the way.
We'll stay here tomorrow, to do a bottom scrub and put the watermaker to bed, and then head for Cartagena on Friday.
Here are the waypoints we used:
CROSAR - Approach from SW
10-09.206 N 75-45.924 W
CROS01 - Beginning of shallow area
10-10.002 N 75-46.204 W
CROS02 - End of shallow area
10-10.620 N 75-46.550 W
CROS03 - Anchoring area
10-10.660 N 75-46.550 W
We did get about 2 hrs of internet in Sapzurro, but a big thunderstorm the night we got there took out the town's electricity and internet connection. They got the electricity going pretty quickly, but the internet never came back before we left. :(
So now, no more excuses, and starting to get low on water. Dave's first priority was to get the long-awaited water maker running.
We picked a good anchorage with few distractions, and anchored away from the crowd. But within cell phone coverage, in case he needed to call someone for parts or information. (In the 'back of the Swimming Pool' in East Holandes).
Dave told me he had 'only another 2 hours' to get the water maker running. 2 days later, we finally cranked it up. Dave spent nearly half a day, just re-reading his notes and making a checklist for commissioning the thing... to make sure we didn't make a mistake that would break something (like we did in Providencia).
When we finally fired it up, we were very glad to find that it was working just as expected. It started producing fresh water within about 5 minutes, and amazingly had no significant leaks (you wouldn't believe the number of hoses, valves, and connections that all have the potential to leak).
We had to let it run for an hour to get the preservative out of the membranes. In the last half of the hour, I started catching it in a bucket to do laundry with. But, at a flow rate of 35 gallons per hour, I ran out of buckets pretty fast.
The next day, we ran it for another hour to really make water. It is really good water and we are really pleased. Way better than the rusty crap we got from Guanaja, the cistern water we got from Bocas, and the river water we got from Portobelo.
Now we are just fine-tuning things. Dave is not quite sure what flow rate we can push it to without overtaxing the membranes (we have a few questions out via email to our water maker gurus). I am making a 'user's guide' on the computer, with startup and shutdown checklists, and pictures showing where the valves are. Once you understand the system, it's not that difficult. And Dave has all the valves labeled pretty clearly. But my memory isn't that great, and if Dave became incapacitated, I'd
need something to remind me what to do.
Our cell phones no longer get a signal out here (Movistar service), so the Iridium satellite phone was invaluable in calling Panama City and Miami for parts & information.
The problem Dave and John were working on was associated with alternators and the drive shaft. Apparently John had added a big alternator some time back, but not properly mounted it, and moved some as the engine was running. The movement caused wear on the splines of the pulley that drove the alternator but also drove the water pump that cooled the engine. He dismounted the alternator (he has a generator he can use for battery charging), but needed to examine the situation closely before he continued.
Losing his engine cooling halfway to Honduras wouldn't be a good thing at all. Dave was also worried that he might damage the crankshaft, which would be a major deal to repair.
The big obstacle was that the nut holding the whole assembly together was huge, and nobody in this end of the San Blas had a socket of the right size (1 11/16). And the nut was recessed, so several clever suggestions by Dave and others to get the nut off were useless.
John finally called Arturo, the guy who runs Marine Warehouse in Panama City, and asked him to go find a socket and send it to us out here via one of the puddle-jumper airlines that fly into Porvenir. Amazingly, the socket arrived 2 days later. John still doesn't know exactly what Arturo charged him for the service, but it was invaluable.
We loaded up both crews on Soggy Paws and took a day trip over to Porvenir (about 5 miles from the East Lemons) to pick up the socket from the airport. We needed to check in there anyway to pay our Kuna Yala cruising fee. And besides the parts, Caliente was out of rum, and we were also looking for a Cable and Wireless cell phone sim card. We found a nice Kuna-run restaurant on what used to be Smithsonian Island (2 islands west of the one with the airport) for lunch.
Within an hour after returning to his boat, John had the nut off and he and Dave took a good look at the situation. They decided that the situation wasn't too bad, and that removing the big alternator, adding a big washer as a shim, and properly torquing down the nut, would make things good enough for John to make it to Honduras/Guatemala without too much trouble. We motored for about 3 hours yesterday and John says the engine seems fine now.
Also while we were sitting there waiting for John to resolve his engine problems, Dave saw another boat in the anchorage with a Tohatsu 18HP (same basic model as our 15). He went over and talked to the guy and asked to take a look under the cover at the throttle linkage. He also got a Parts Manual on CD, to complement our service manual.
The guy also said he'd had a similar problem with his motor while it was still under warranty. After a lot of diagnosing, the cause turned out to be the wires running from the throttle to the rest of the ignition system. When the throttle was twisted, sometimes, two wires touched together, causing intermittent problems. He's going to check this out soon.
Dave still hasn't had a chance to try out the new pulsar coil for the outboard that John picked up for us in Panama City. But when he took resistance readings on the new coil, it reads the same as the old one. So he isn't hopeful that it will solve the problem.
We are still (theortically) only an hour away from firing up the watermaker for the first time. That's probably job one on OUR list, once Caliente leaves and we get a few days to sit and catch up on our own maintenance issues.
Once over the bar, the water deepened to about 30 feet from bank to bank. We just followed the river up about 5 miles and anchored on the 2nd left bend, as advised by our friends on s/v Gilana. Mike on Gilana hooked a Tarpon nearby, and Dave is hot to try hooking one too.
Gilana told us to 'watch for crocodiles'...apparently there are fresh water crocs milling about in the upper reaches of the river.
We had radio contact with Caliente on SSB this morning (who are in Colon, just over the hill from us), they arrived there yesterday and are doing some shopping and waiting for their guest to arrive.
We're not sure VHF will work between here and Colon (but haven't tried it yet). We have no internet but DO have tenuous cell phone service on our Panama Movistar GSM sim card.
We'll be here in the river until at least Friday.
Dave caught a very small tunny as we rounded the point leaving Laguna Bluefied, and let it go. As we approached Escudo, he hooked and landed a very nice 25-pound King Mackerel. It is 44 inches long. We are having fish sandwiches for lunch!
We scoped out the 2 anchorages recommended in the book, and though the current wind is a light NW, the best anchorage is on the west side of the island (open to the wind, but mostly protected from the large easterly swell). The SW anchorage suggested in the Zydler guide for westerly winds, seemed like it would be more protected, but there was a huge SE-ly swell breaking on the beach.
Our raster chart seems pretty accurate, though there are no depth details when you get close in. Though the west anchorage spot plots just on the edge of the reef, the reef is actually about 150' north of us.
There is a nice beach ashore, with palm trees, and some fishermen's huts up the beach aways. We would like to go exploring in the dinghy, but without having someone to stay and watch the boat, we will probably just opt to swim ashore and explore a little close by.
Shortly after anchoring we were visited by Mauricio, one of two gentlemen that are 'caretakers' of the island. He solicited from us a small donation to help with the upkeep of the island. (Phone service, trash cleanup, etc). We gave him the carcass of our fish, for soup, and $10.
He said that now there were about 200 people living on the island, maintaining a 'coco' plantation. (we are not sure if this is cacao (chocolate) or coconut). He nvited us ashore to visit. Dave said we'd bring some small gifts for the children we can see playing on the beach.
We took a walk on the beach and found a nice fresh water stream along the south shore. Dave really enjoyed soaking in the cool fresh water.
We will leave after dinner for a short overnight to the entrance of the Chagras River.
We entered between the Zapatillos and Isla Bastiamentos, and navigated the Crawl Cay channel without any trouble. (We used a set of waypoints given to us by Camryka).
We have anchored next to Dave's friends on Camryka in Boca Torritos. We'll stay here tomorrow and then move on to Bocas town on Monday.
We passed through 10 degrees north a little while ago and are now within 600 miles of the equator (and about 30 miles from our destination of Bocas del Toro, Panama).
Still motorsailing, though we did get to do some pure sailing most of the day yesterday. The breeze died to about 8 knots in the afternoon and we opted to turn on the engine rather than slopping around out here for days.
We still have all the sails up, and they are giving a significant speed boost, even though the wind is only about 5 knots now.
It was a lovely quiet night, light winds, calm seas, and clear skies. We had half a moon for half the night (on my watch).
It was so quiet that I brought my computer out in the cockpit and worked on a program to export my waypoints and routes from Nobeltec's Visual Navigation Suite (our chart program) to an Excel format. This makes it much easier to share waypoints with other people who do not use Nobeltec as their navigation program.
Our ETA at the outer waypoint is now about 11am, so we should be in and anchored somewhere in Bocas del Toroa a few hours after that. We have decided to go see 'Camryka Land', in an inner bay in the Bocas del Toro area. Dave's friends on s/v Camryka have built a house there, so we'll hang out there with them tomorrow and go do the official check-in with the Panamanian officials on Monday.
If we waited a couple more days for more wind, we would get squally weather with the wind, and end up motorsailing the last half of the trip anyway (the wind is always light and variable as you approach the Panama coast).
Our ETA Panama is sometime tomorrow (Saturday). We may opt to anchor up over the weekend in a bay called Bluefield and check in to Customs on Monday in Bocas del Toro.
We don't know anyone who's been here before and couldn't find any info about them in any SSCA bulletin, website, or guidebook. But the chart looked pretty detailed, so we thought we'd give it a try. Our bailout plan was to head for San Andreas if it looked like a dangerous place.
Our course was a comfortable 185 degrees, and we had a nice 15 kt breeze from the ENE, so as soon as we cleared the SW tip of Providencia, WE TURNED OFF THE ENGINE. We sailed for 9 hours averaging 6.1 knots, without the motor on! Free miles!! We have been waiting for this sail for about 11 months (or 5 years, depending how you look at it).
Needless to say, it was a very nice day.
We trolled a line but did not catch any fish. Looks like it will be chicken for dinner tonight.
Dave did an excellent job of piloting us into a quiet anchorage in 10 feet of water, snuggled up behind Cayo de Este. It is a small island encircled with beach, and populated only with palm trees. (I'll take a picture for you). We had to weave around a bunch of reefs and coral heads, with the sun setting behind us.
The weather for the next few days is expected to be 10kts or less. So we hope to be able to spend a couple of days poking around this place, and the Albuquerques, a similar reefy area about 20 miles WSW of here. We currently plan to leave for an overnight to Bocas del Toro, Panama on Saturday.
Dave and I have been talking about going to Media Luna reef and Quita Sueno reef since we left Florida. Sitting there in the Hobbies, we plotted out an elaborate week-long trek, doing day-hops mostly and stopping first at Media Luna, then at Alagardo (where some fishermen had said they'd seen bronze cannon), and then to Quita Sueno, before moving on to Providencia.
However, once we got going early in the morning two days ago, the wind was more north of east than forecast, and a little lighter, so it seemed like a good time to make some serious east. (ie Get while the getting is good... make hay while the sun shines, etc).
We still didn't abandon thoughts of going to Quita Sueno first... because of the need to get around Media Luna reef, the course to Providencia and to Quita Sueno were the same for about half the way. We made a waypoint at the turn point and said we'd have to make a decision then. By the time we got to the turn point, we didn't want to keep going the direction we were going (hard on the wind) for another 12 hours. So we opted to fall off for Providencia.
What we used as a turn point was 15-16.09N 82-17.58W and we went direct from there to Low Cay at the north end of Providencia's reef system. We went right over the bank that shallows up to 45' deep, that is SE of Alagardo Reef. It was the middle of the night, so we couldn't see, but it didn't seem to be any rougher there than anywhere else. But we did see the current pick up while over the bank.
We almost got run over by a cruise ship in broad daylight, soon after leaving the Hobbies. Dave and I were puttering around doing navigational stuff and really weren't keeping a good watch out. We felt so remote out there in the Hobbies... And didn't really expect anything to be sneaking up behind us. The other boat that left with us, Elysian, called us on the VHF and said "We tried to get a picture of you and the Cruise Ship..." and Dave and I looked at each other... "Cruise Ship, what Cruise
Ship???" He was big and he was close. No danger of getting run over, but we felt really foolish not to have seen him coming.
Other than the cruise ship, the only other boat we saw in 36 hours was a fishing boat several miles away, and the glow of a well-lit vessel over the horizon (10-20 miles away).
No pirates, no drug-runners, and no run-ins with fishing boats (all had been reported by various cruisers on this same passage over the last 10 years).
LOW CAY APPROACH 13-30.848N 81-21.209W
EASY ANCHORAGE 13-30.149N 81-20.159W 30' Sand
BETTER ANCH APP 13-31.221N 81-20.389W
BETTER ANCHORAGE 13-31.374N 81-20.360W 10' Sand
The Low Cay light was working last night and we are anchored just south of it. The Raster chart we have seems to be fairly accurate.
The forecast is for 10-15 kts ENE, gradually moving around toward the E and strengthening to 15 kts by tomorrow morning. Our current plan is to either go to Quita Sueno Bank at 14-22.5W and 81-14.5W or the (offshore) Colombian island of Providencia at 13-21N and 81-23W. The course is the same to both places until we get to a turning point tonight about 10pm.
We would really like to go to Quita Sueno, but not sure we're up to bashing toward it all night long. If we turned for Providencia at 10pm, we could fall off, turn the engine off, and have a pretty good sail, arriving at Providencia mid-afternoon tomorrow.
The wind is already up a bit, and we're already discussing options to turn off sooner. But the area is strewn with reefs and banks, so we can't just go straight anywhere.
Hard to tell right now what we'll do.
Fortunately, our coastal strategy has worked out and we had light winds, sometimes sailable, all night long. The seas are a little lumpy, but otherwise not bad.
We never did get the counter-current we hoped for, so our ETA is currently just after dark. I think we'll be OK making a cautious approach from the west. We have waypoints for the primary anchorage on the NW side of the big island.
If we pick up a little sailable wind today, we may make good enough time to make it before sunset.
The only glitch was a squall we encountered about 4:30pm, with gusts to about 35kt. Fortunately we were ready for it. It was hairy and uncomfortable, but it has passed.
Our friends out at Vivarillos tonight said they had 7 knots of wind, so maybe the GRIB files really were right.
All is well aboard.
Once clear of Guanaja, we will cut into the coast of Honduras (tracking to a waypoint somewhat arbitrarily picked along the coast), heading initially about 150 degrees, for the first 30-35 miles. Once we get close to the coast, we plan to stay within 5 miles of the Honduran coast until about 0630 on Monday morning, when we should be approximately at Punta Patuka, then we'll head due east to the Vivarillos. We expect to be in the Vivarillos by about 4pm on Monday (Central Standard Time).
There are 4-5 other boats talking about leaving Guanaja today, headed for the Vivorillos. They each motor upwind at different speeds, so we don't expect to be side-by-side with anyone, but we should be within VHF range of other boats, at least for awhile.
We will be checking in on the Northwest Caribbean Net (0800 and 1745 CST on 6209 USB). And we plan to send position updates via Winlink every 6 hours or so. These should show up on our various position websites.
We do have an EPIRB aboard and an Iridium phone, plus we have a Honduran cell phone which may operate sporadically along the coast.
Our waypoints and expected ETA:
Santa Rosa 16-01N 85-37W 1500 02/24
Cabo Camarones 16-01N 85-01W 2115 02/24
Punta Patuka 15-53N 84-21W 0630 02/25
Vivorillos Appr 15-49N 83-18W 1600 02/25
We will not have any internet for the next couple of weeks.
They were ALL out last night, every one of them. When you live around lights, you forget what the heavens really look like. If everyone went on top of a mountain somewhere and looked at the stars every now and then, NASA wouldn't have any funding problems for space exploration...
We had a good 24 hours, though we did have to motor for quite awhile to keep a reasonable speed up. It seemed to go on forever though (more than 24 hours between waypoints!) We passed close by the southeast end of Chinchorro Bank about 4am. I remember having a "Pizza Cookoff" there with 3-4 cruising boats 10 years ago, on our way back to the States from our Caribbean trip. My favorite was Conch Pizza. There were lots of conch at Chinchorro. (Dave promises fresh seafood soon, but we haven't
had any luck with the fishing pole yet).
Anyway, we are about 25 mile east of the north end of Belize. We are aiming at a pass in the reef about 35 miles ahead of us (north end of Long Key), and we expect to arrive there about 3:30pm. We'll stop somewhere between there and Belize City for the night, and get into Belize City fairly early tomorrow morning. We have a lot to do once we get there (Customs/Immigration, fuel, water, laundry, groceries, INTERNET) and we want to get out of there by Sunday and get out to the outer reefs.
Weatherwise, it's nice now. 10-15 kts out of the East. Typical 'tradewind' day. However, a Tropical Wave is forecast to come through here tomorrow, so we expect some showers in the next 2-3 days.
Current Position: 18-01N 087-32W
Labels: On Passage
We are motorsailing SSW and are currently located about 50 miles east of Cozumel Mexico. We are currently motorsailing due to light winds, and may have to continue motoring for the next 24 hours (or slop around out here forever).
Looking forward to Belize. We have booked 2 nights at the Cucumber Beach Marina in Belize City to get checked into Customs, get fuel and water, and do some grocery shopping. Then we'll head out for the offshore reefs about Sunday.
Labels: On Passage
Right now we are still feeling the effects of the Cuba land mass. We were able to sail nicely all day yesterday, but had to motor sail most of the night in very light winds. But as we clear the western tip we expect the wind to settle in at 15 kts out of the East. Right now we have huge swells from the Caribbean wrapping around the S coast of Cuba. Hopefully these will ease off as we clear the coast.
Other than that, can't complain. We're having a ball!
ETA Belize is still sometime Thursday.
Labels: On Passage
2 hours later, we were drifting along at 3 knots and Dave suggested we motorsail for awhile. The wind finally came back and about midnight we turned off the engine. It got boisterous enough that we reefed the main (more for comfort, and for Janet, our autopilot, than anything else).
It is now 5:45am and we're jogging along at about 5 kts making good 210 degrees. We are definitely in the Gulfstream... and trying to cross it quickly by heading south more than west. Our plan is to go as close to the Cuban coast as we dare (12 miles out) and try to pick up a counter current. Someone told us you can't find the counter current without going closer in, but I don't think Dave will go in closer.
The stars are finally out... we had a funny high overcast all yesterday afternoon... a very uniform gray... almost like fog. But it looks like it has cleared out and will probably be a pretty typical tropical tradewind day.
We saw 3-4 ships about 20 miles out of Dry Tortugas. It seems that most of the traffic is headed into the Gulf, and so they were all rounding the end of Florida and heading NW.
0500 Position: 23-34.6N 083-50.4W "All is well on board"
Labels: On Passage
Planned Route: Leaving Dry Tortugas headed S and SW toward coast of Cuba. Plan to stay 12 miles offshore and follow the coast of Cuba to Cabo San Antonio, then drop about 60 miles straight south, before angling off for a direct route to San Pedro Belize. Total distance: 531 nm, approximate time enroute: 4 days.
General expected waypoints & progress:
Leave Dry Tortugas 1200 17-June
12 miles off coast of Cuba 0900 18-June to 0500 19-June (Tuesday)
Due south from Cabo San Antonio Cuba 80 miles (to 20-30N 85-10W) arrive abt 2000 19-June
Sail straight SE from there direct to Ambergris Cay
Off SE Tip of Chinchorro Bank, Mexico 0400 21-June
Ambergris Cay, San Pedro Pass, 1200 21-June (Thursday)
(all times EDT, and assuming a 5.5Kt average speed. We can go 6-7kts if wind is favorable)
Our bailout plan for bad weather or problems will be as follows:
(a) Back to Dry Tortugas or Key West if in the first day
(b) Coastal Cuba for a temporary severe weather or mechanical situation, when along the coast of Cuba
(c) Isla Mujeres or Cozumel, once south of Cuba
(d) Chinchorro or maybe Xcalac once near Chinchorro Bank
Expected Weather: Current weather forecast is showing SE and East at 10-15 for the foreseable future.
Northwest Carribbean Net at 1000 EDT on 6209 or 6212 USB
We may listen daily at 2000Z to Herb's Southbound 2 weather net on SSB 12.359 MHZ USB.
We will listen to Chris Parker's Caribbean Weather Net. 0630 4045 USB
We will attempt to check in on the Waterway Net at 0815 EDT 7268 LSB
We have not been real regular on the Ham/SSB freqs yet, so if we're not there, don't worry!
We will be doing daily updates to our website (http://www.svsoggypaws.com/blog2008/) and we'll send a 'we've arrived' message out when we get there. (assuming email/computers still working).
Our position is updated and displayed at the following website each time we communicate ashore via the WINLINK system (at least daily when weather an propagation permits);
However, lack of an update should not be grounds for concern!! We may just be too tired or have equipment problems.
We have worked hard over the past few months, and Soggy Paws has never been in better shape for going to sea. Weather looks good. We hope for an easy trip!