Monday, March 31, 2008

Overnight from Escudo Veragas to Chagras River

We left Escudo at 8pm last night and have been motorsailing all night in very light NE winds.

ETA at the mouth of the Chagras River is about 9:30 this morning.

All is well aboard.

Escudo Veragas, Panama

We left from Bluefields this morning and motorsailed in light southerly winds to Escudo Veragas, a small island offshore.

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.

West Anchorage: 09-05.64N 81-34.42W
SW Anchorage: 09-05.26N 81-33.98W

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.

Buying a New AB Dinghy in Panama

Friday March 28

We have been waiting to get to Panama or Cartagena to buy a new AB dinghy.

Dave's old Alliance RIB is still holding air (most of the time) and looking pretty good, but it's 10 years old. We figure it would never make it around the world. Dinghy prices for Caribe's and AB's are $500-$1000 cheaper here than we were quoted at 'Boat Show Prices' last November in St. Pete. Though there is a Caribe dealer in Bocas, we really wanted an AB. The AB has a more upturned bow, and so tends to be a little drier than the Caribe. We did go look at the Caribe and get a price, but weren't
really serious about buying.

We heard via the cruiser grapevine that Marine Warehouse, based out of Ft. Lauderdale, had AB's, and could ship them to anywhere in Panama. (

At the Bocas Marina, a Marine Warehouse 'dealer' keeps an office (sometimes). Apparently the dealer, 'Daniel' (pronounced Danielle, he's French I think), also has a charter business, so he's sometimes there and sometimes not. Sometimes he has a girl in the office but she doesn't know anything other than when Daniel might be coming back.

Dave finally found the office open and inquired about getting a dinghy. Of course this is Dave, and when asked 'what model', we needed to go study whether we wanted the 10.6' standard (with bow locker), the 'Very Light' model, or the 'Alumina' model. (More hours on the internet locating the AB site, finding specs, comparisons in weight and features, etc).

Finally, we placed an order with delivery in a week, for an AB 10VL RIB, for $2650 USD plus $140 for delivery to Bocas.

However Daniel then went off on another charter and 'the girl' came running down the dock the next day telling us that there was some problem with the delivery on Thursday as Dave had arranged. After several phone calls and emails, to Arturo, the head guy for Marine Warehouse in Panama, we think we've gotten it straightened out.

The delivery issue was basically because the trucker who was bringing the dinghy from Panama City to Bocas, was taking off for the Easter weekend, and slightly changed his schedule. We think it will arrive today (Friday) on the truck. (but everyone who's been here awhile sort of rolls their eyes and tells us we'd be lucky if it's delivered on time).

Sunday March 30

Well, 'everyone' was right. The trucker stopped off to see his girlfriend or something, and didn't arrive until Saturday. Fortunately Daniel was still around. Dave optimistically went with Daniel to meet the ferry, to get our dinghy right away, so we could leave. We've already delayed our departure from Bocas for 2 days waiting on it to arrive. I was sure it would be mid-afternoon before Dave completed taking delivery (including making sure we had a Bill of Sale and Certificate of Origin, so
we can get it titled in Florida). But by 11am he was back at the Bocas Marina, pumping it up. Though it rode on top of the truck from Panama City, it seems in good shape.

We still haven't sold our old dinghy, so now we have 2!! The new one is on the foredeck and the old one on the davits.

We are advertising on the local nets, and with a paper ad when we find a convenient bulletin board, and I'm sure someone will be interested eventually.

Business would be brisker if there was more of a dinghy theft problem around here! (In Bocas, no one seemed to lock their dinghies, saying they hadn't ever heard of an incident).

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Plana Raya, Bluefields, Panama

Late Saturday, March 29 - 09-08.74N 81-56.30W

We entered using the Zydler cruising guide and our raster chart, and found exactly what was described for an anchorage in 25-30 feet in the lagoon at Playa Raya, about 25 miles east of Bocas del Toro, in Laguna de Bluefield.

We had a little trouble getting the anchor to hook up, between the deep water and the (probably) mud bottom. But it finally dug in after a little dragging.

Hardly any wind here now, the overcast is breaking up, and it seems like a nice wilderness anchorage (however, we do see signs of habitation... a wood fire at a thatched house at the head of the lagoon, and a wood frame house under construction on the north side of the lagoon). Wish we had more time to explore, it looks interesting. But... the rest of the world awaits!

Headed toward Chagras River, Panama

We finally got the ignition coil for the outboard and the new AB dinghy we ordered. (And I do promise to finish off those log entries and send them soon).

Though we have not received either mail package we have been waiting on, we have decided we need to get going. (Our friends on Camryka will forward them on when they finally get here).

We are leaving Bocas del Toro this afternoon for the Chagras River, right next to the Panama Canal. We plan this afternoon to anchor at Bluefields at the east end of the Bocas area (about 25 miles from here), and then tomorrow go to Escudo de Varagas (09-05.29N, 81-34.09W) at least for the day. It is then a short overnight (90 miles) to the entrance of the Chagras River (09-19.32N, 80-00.39W).

Our friends on Caliente will split off from us and go into Colon, Panama, to pick up their guest, then we'll meet up a few days later in Portobelo, about 25 miles to the NE of Colon (09-33.26N, 79-41.03W).

We might have phone access in the Chagras, and probably when we get to Portobelo, but I don't think we'll have any internet until we get to Portobelo in about 5 days. (our new Panama cell number is posted on the Dave & Sherry page on the website).

For our sailing friends, we are on the 6209 SW Caribbean Net at 08:15 local time, and still trying to listen on the 8107 Panama Connection Net at 08:30 local time. The 6209 NW Caribbean Net at 9:00 local time is starting to get a little faint, so no guarantees you can catch us there.

For our ham friends, we are trying to remember to come up on Ben's net on 14.261 at 2100UTC, but we haven't made it there yet. Maybe once we get to the Chagras, we'll have a couple of days to catch our breaths!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Whew, it has been a busy 10 days since we got here. We are fine. Sorry to those who've been waiting with baited breath for the next installment of the Soggy Paws Travelogue.

The first couple of days in Bocas, we took advantage of the Bocas Marina to tie up, get some easy power and water, enjoy a few days of A/C in the heat, and get some chores done. We had the laundry done (wash, dry, fold) for $3 a load (this is a good deal, we were paying $7 in Guatemala).

We spent most of the first 2 days finalizing our entry into the country. Though all the officials visited the boat at the marina within a couple hours of our arrival, we had to go back to the Port Captain to get our Cruising Permit completed. And to the bank and out to the airport to get our 90-day tourist visa completed.

This is a new town, and so we spent one full day just walking the streets and checking out grocery stores, veggie stands, hardware stores, dive shops, and restaurants. Fortunately there is a good cruising community here with a nice VHF net (VHF 68). So when we needed specific information, there is someone who offered some good advice.

Dave took advantage of some time at the dock (where we didn't need the dinghy) to try again to track down the 15HP Tohatsu problem (see separate blog post on that one!). We also found a source for the broken high pressure guage we needed to complete the watermaker project (Hydromundo Panama). And we ordered a brand new AB RIB from Marine Warehouse, who has a satellite office in Panama, and a 'sometimes' office in the Bocas Marina. (More on the dinghy caper in another post).

We had been away from civilization long enough that we had quite a long grocery list, so we have made several trips to the local stores. There are about 3 fairly good sized stores here (all run by Chinese or Koreans), and then there's the 'Super Gourmet', which has a nice deli, a nice frozen foods area, and quite a few American and European specialty items that are hard to find otherwise. (for us, Wheat Germ, Sunflower Seeds, Taco Seasoning, Granola, etc). The Super Gourmet is a little pricey but there are times when you just gotta pay the price. We have looked through and bought stuff in every one of the grocery stores in the last week.

Our friends John and Sandy on Caliente have been waiting in Bocas for us to arrive for a few weeks. John was a Naval Academy classmate of Dave's, and has just completed a lap around the Eastern Caribbean in his Cal 346. So we spent some time in Bocas Marina's cruiser bar having drinks and eating good food and meeting the Bocas cruising crowd. Sherry even spent an afternoon playing Mexican Train Dominoes.

We (both Caliente and us) are anxious to get moving east to the San Blas. Caliente has a friend flying in on April 2 to Panama City, and then they will move a little bit east with us to position themselves for a trip north to Honduras and Guatemala. And WE need to get going because we have an ambitious schedule to see the San Blas, visit Cartagena, Colombia (and maybe do a 6 day hike to the Lost City), make a short trip home, go thru the Canal, cruise a little of Pacific Panama, and be in southern Costa Rica by late July. (whew, this cruising life is stressin' me out!)

But we are both sitting here in Bocas 'awaiting parts' and working on maintenance items. We both got to a lull in our work at the same time, and decided to do a mini cruise of the Bocas area. So we've been out to Starfish Beach, Pondsock Reef, Dolphin Bay, etc. We explored an old cemetery on Shepherd Island and a wreck on Pondsock Reef. And we took John and Sandy back to get 'The Chocolate Factory Tour' (at Green Acres). We re-visited our friends on Camryka, shared 'trying to get stuff in Panama' stories.

John on Caliente has been struggling with alternator problems, and he and Dave finally deduced that it was the diode tray and the internal regulator. The parts for this are not available in Bocas, and the part numbers on the alternator were obscured, so it would be hard to remotely order them. The advice from the local cruisers was to take the parts on the ferry to the mainland city of Changianola to find what we needed. So yesterday we went with John on the $6 boat ride. The trip to Changianola is via some canals and old river bits that the banana plantations used. The high speed outboard (with 20 people and light cargo aboard) snaked its way down the canal, and it felt like an old river in Florida (water hyacinths, palm trees, overhanging trees, etc).

Bill, you were right...It's not the rainy season here now, but we've watched it rain for 5 days out of the last 10 (and 100% overcast on another 3 days). It's hard getting stuff done when it's drizzling all the time. But at least our water tanks are full! I can't imagine what it's like here in the 'rainy season'!

We are hoping that the last of our parts come in today, and plan to leave for 'parts east' this afternoon. Our plan is to anchor somewhere on the east end of the Bocas area this afternoon, stop at Escudo Veragas tomorrow, and overnight into the Colon area.

Soggy Paws is going up the Chagras River for a few days, while Caliente goes into Colon to collect their guest. Then we'll head further east together in a few days.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Arrival in Bocas del Toro, Panama

We arrived at the mouth at 11:30am local time in flat calm conditions. We motored the last few hours with glassy seas and a slight swell, and were greeted at the coast of Panama by a large school of dolphin.

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.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

South, south, and more south!

Our 0600 position was 09-49.7N and 81-57.1W

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.

Friday, March 14, 2008

On Passage to Bocas del Toro

We looked at the weather situation (and our ambitious schedule for the next 6 months) and decided that we should get going on to Panama. The wind is light so we are motorsailing (again). The wind is only about 5 knots, so the conditions are nice.

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.

Cayos del Este Sudeste (near San Andreas)

Some details about our anchorages and two night stay in Cayos del Este Sudeste.

This island group, located about 15 miles ESE of San Andreas, belongs to Colombia. It has a barrier reef, 3 islands, and a sandbar with a statue on it. The barrier reef runs for about 5 miles north-south along the eastern side. Though mostly awash, the reef has several wide gaps in it that do not break.

The permanently inhabited island is Cayo Bolivar. There is a small Colombian Navy detachment there, and a light structure that sticks up high over the trees (makes it easy to identify). Nearby to the west is a clearly visible large sandbar with a white statue on it. The light was working, but on a slow blink (15 second interval according to the chart).

The other two islands are located where Cayo del Este is on the chart. They are close together with a cut between, may have originally been one island. These two islands seem to have fishermen coming and going in lanchas, and probably a fish camp there. Though remote, they are close enough to San Andreas that they may also be visited by tourist boats or weekenders.

The water here was very clear (visibility approaching 100') everywhere we went. The chart (M26081S3 - Cayos Del Este Sudeste) seems fairly accurate in features and depths, except displaced about 200 yards to the NW. Our track through a pass in the reef showed up on the chart as 200 yds SE of the pass.

We rounded the NW end of the island about 4pm at waypoint SENW and proceeded south on visual behind the reef, in the deeper water between the reef and the scattered heads to the west. The water was clear, and even at that late hour, it was pretty easy navigating around the reef areas. We looked for a good anchorage in the the extensive sand near the NE corner, but the sand was either 5 feet deep or 35 feet deep, so we kept working our way south.

There was another sailboat anchored west of Cayo Bolivar, so we decided to go down there and check it out. As we got closer to Bolivar, we got a VHF call 'Yate yate, Bolivar'. We eventually figured out they were calling US, and it was the Colombian Navy on the island. The caller spoke only Spanish and wanted to know the name of the boat, our nationality, the Zarpe number, where we were from, how many people on board, and how long we planned to stay. We were not required to physically go to the island. We told them we were going to try finding a 'mas tranquilo' anchorage to the east, and they said 'OK'.

We could see that the sailboat anchored there (a Dutch vessel named s/v Garimar) was rolling a little, so we decided to try to work up closer to the reef and behind Cayo Este.

We eventually worked our way up into about 8 feet of deep sand behind Cayo Este, with a minimum depth of about 6-7 feet getting in. See way points SE11-SE13 below, and the anchorage at SEESTE. This is definitely a 'requires good light' entry, and we did have to weave around a few coral heads. This was a relatively calm anchorage in ENE 10-15. However, it would be EXPOSED in SE winds, as the reef to the SE was pretty broken in that area. The water here was crystal clear, and the sandy bottom flat for several hundred yards in all directions. The two cute little cays ahead and off the port beam had sandy beaches and palm trees. Unfortunately, we had the dink on deck, and needed to get going, so we didn't explore the islands. There was no coral within swimming distance from the boat so we didn't snorkel either.

The next morning, we moved to an anchorage to do some snorkeling and allow an easy departure in the wee hours of the morning. We went out from our first anchorage a different way than we came in. This route was deeper than coming in the previous day, and would be a better approach to SEESTE than the first one. See waypoints SE13-SE17 below. We passed a nice anchorage in 9-10 feet sand on the way out, more protected than where we ended up. See SE15Anch.

When we reached deep water, we looped back to the east and anchored between a reef area to the north and east and a grassy area to the south in 15 feet of nice deep sand. This would be a good daytime anchorage for snorkeling, with several nice reef areas nearby and a few conch in the grassy area. It would also be a possible night approach anchorage, or early morning departure anchorage. But it was pretty rolly, with swell from the south wrapping around the south end of the barrier reef, even in light ENE wind. See SE18 and SE18Anch. It might be possible to get away from some of the roll by moving several hundred yards further east in this same anchorage.


SENW 12 27.750 N 81 29.713 W Approach waypoint in 50', from the north
SE11 12 24.221 N 81 28.638 W 1st wpt to Cayo Este Anchorage
SE12 12 24.377 N 81 28.131 W 2nd wpt to Cayo Este (skinny water, heads, between 11 & 12)
SE14 12 24.049 N 81 27.786 W 3rd wpt to Cayo Este Anchorage
SE13 12 24.038 N 81 27.561 W 4th wpt to Cayo Este Anchorage
SEESTE 12 23.971 N 81 27.386 W Anchorage at Cayo Este

Note: An easier entry to SEESTE is below

Navigate around Cayo Bolivar to the west and start WSW of SE17

SE17 12 23.727 N 81 28.197 W 1st waypoint in 35 feet, approach from WSW
SE16 12 23.794 N 81 28.136 W 2nd waypoint in 20 feet
Between 16 & 17, coral heads, but none shallower than about 15 feet
SE15 12 23.945 N 81 27.942 W 3rd waypoint
SE15Anch 12 23.945 N 81 27.942 W Nice sandy anchorage in 10 feet
Can also proceed from SE15 to 14 & 13 to SEESTE, carry 7' in.

Easy in/out Anchorage (rolly)
SE18 12 23.679 N 81 28.023 W 1st waypoint in 35 feet
SE18Anch 12 23.713 N 81 27.938 W Anchorage (don't drift left of course in

You might do better anchoring behind Cayo Bolivar
for an easy in/out anchorage.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Passage from Providencia to Cayos Este Sudeste

We raised anchor this morning at 0550 local time (in the dark) for a 55 mile passage from Providencia to the small reef area SE of San Andreas called Cayos Este Sudeste (East Southeast Keys).

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.

Isla Providencia, Colombia

We stayed a week in Providencia, and enjoyed this quiet little island.

Check in was easy using Mr. Bush's services as an agent (call Bush Agency on Ch 16). An agent is required in Colombia, and Mr. Bush arranges to bring the officials out in a launch to your boat. We paid $20 USD per person for a tourist visa for Colombia. This only needs to be paid once (a year?). The agent's fee for combined check in and check out was $50 USD, paid on departure, making the total for stopping at Providencia $90. We understand that clearance in to San Andreas, the bigger island
50 miles south of Providencia, also requires an agent and a similar fee (even though we have cleared in to Providencia).

Mr. Bush is a source of all the information and services available in Providencia... if you need it, and it's available in Providencia, he can tell you where and how to get it. About the only thing we needed was water, and Bush arranged for us to jerry-jug water from the cistern at the base of the town dock. We paid only a $5 tip to Francisco, the guy that Mr. Bush arranged to help us dispense the water.

One day, Dave and I and Stephen and Josie from s/v Elysian rented motorbikes and 'did' the island. The main road on the island is only 11 miles in circumference, so even allowing for several photo stops, a lunch stop, stops at some dive shops to ask about diving, and a hike out to the big white cross overlooking the harbor, we had arrived back in the town by about 3pm. So we decided to ride back the other way around without stopping.

That was a fun trip. My first time solo on a motorcycle. I was assigned a brand new scooter with automatic shift, and thoroughly enjoyed it. There was virtually no traffic on the road, so it was pretty trouble free. We paid about $17 per scooter for the day. No deposit, no paperwork, we just took them and paid him when we got back.

We had lunch at a place in a beach restaurant called El Divino Nino (the Divine Child), in Southwest Bay, all the way at the end of the beach. Under the palm trees, on a sandy beach, gentle breeze blowing, all we could eat seafood, and a couple of beers, for $10 pp (a single plate of whatever is considerably less). The other place that looked interesting was Rolands, on Manchineel Bay. This was a little less of a shack, and seemed interesting, but we were told by friends that Divine Child was
a 'don't miss' (and we agree).

There's a cute little airport on the island. We didn't inquire about a schedule, but I would assume there's service at least a few times a week to San Andreas, where connections can be made to other places.

In addition to the Divine Child, we ate several times at the patio restaurant that is to the right of the dinghy dock on the main waterfront road. Prices are reasonable (about $1 for a beer and $5 for a chicken meal, $6 for seafood meal).

There is a weak open wifi ('default') available in the area of the dinghy dock. Most of the cruisers sat in the shade (on the ground) on the north side of the bank building. If you have a pretty good wifi receiver on your laptop, you can also pick it up at the nearby restaurant. One of the cruisers there now is trying to get them to get a better antenna and stronger wifi, so it could be picked up in the anchorage, but for now, the only strong signal available in the anchorage is locked.

There are 2 banks with ATMs in the town, we used a Master Card and had no trouble getting money. The currency is Colombian pesos at about 1,800 to the US dollar. Most places in town will take US dollars.

There are cell phones on the island, but we opted to wait til Cartagena to buy a Colombian cell phone chip.

The grocery stores (a total of 3 within a block of the dinghy dock) were OK--typical of a small island. We heard the supply boat comes on Friday, but didn't get ashore to look for groceries til Monday, and by Monday the only fresh stuff we was older and uglier looking than our 2-week-old stuff from Guanaja. So we didn't buy much except bread, a little beer, wine and rum, and some really nice Oatmeal. Decent white wine (hard to find in Central America for a reasonable price) was about $6.50 for
a low-end Argentinian Chardonay.

There is a very good hardware store along the waterfront road about 300 yards south of the city dock, with a large assortment of stainless steel fasteners and brass pipe fittings.

We ended up not diving anywhere. Though the water looked exceptionally clear, and we had fairly good weather for diving on the back side of the island, they were asking $65-$75 USD for a 2-tank dive, but nobody had much info on where the dives were (wherever you want to go, was the answer when we asked). (And we were getting low on water and I was trying to keep Dave focused on the watermaker project).

After a day in the inner harbor (anchored very close to where we were anchored on Island Time in Nov 96 for Tropical Storm Marco), we moved out to a nice anchorage off the little beach on Catalina Island, just outside the harbor. This anchorage is nice... in 20' deep, nice sand, and cleaner water. With nothing much more to do, this was a perfect place to finish the watermaker project. (see next post...)

We did a snorkel or two around the boat. There are several nice reefs within dinghy distance. In 1996 we dinghied around to the two small islands WNW of the harbor which we found "productive". But we did not get out there this trip.

By Monday, we came to a standstill on the watermaker project, and the weather indicated that the wind was going to go lighter in the next few days. So we cleared out yesterday for an early morning departure.

Some Providencia Harbor Waypoints:

13-23.95N 81-23.62W Outer Harbor 'Safe Water' buoy, lit with flashing white light
13-23.26N 81-23.13W In the 'fairway' between Red & Green buoys

13-22.82N 81-22.66W Corner of dogleg to inner harbor (diverges from main channel, but where yachts anchor)
13-22.82N 81-22.43W Inner Anchorage in 7 feet
13-22.96N 81-22.70W Beach anchorage

If coming in at night, you could drop anchor at 13-23.85N 81-22.62W in about 15' sand.

Right now, there are 2 red buoys and a green buoy before the dogleg into the inner harbor. All the lights are working, and we actually saw them doing maintenance on the buoys while we were there.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Looking Back

Miles Traveled in 2008: 623
Miles Traveled since leaving home May 2007: 1859

A year ago at this time, Dave and I were frantically trying to get ready to leave 'any day now'.

- The 'Sherry Beckett Regatta' was on March 11
- Sherry's last day at work at Globe Wireless was March 16
- Dave and Sherry got married on March 24
- Soggy Paws was hauled out at Cape Marina the first 2 weeks of March
- We were having yard sales to get rid of furniture and misc boat stuff

Our 'To Do' list was still a hundred miles long, and we were working on our list til close to midnight every night.

By the end of March, we were already being asked "Are you guys still here?"

We did manage to make the break in late May. Dave and I managed to keep smiling through all the turmoil of getting ready to go. We have now been traveling together for 10 months and about 2,000 miles, and still feel like we are on our honeymoon.

We still have a 'To Do' list, but are less stressed about knocking items off the list. We're getting a full night's sleep every night. Since this leg of our voyage has been retracing our steps from past voyages, the last year has been relatively worry-free. The pace of our lives is very agreeable these days.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Seahorses in the Anchorage

Yesterday when we were snorkeling, I turned over a broken off sea fan (looking for 'Flamingo Tongue' snails) and found a pair of Seahorses.

Dave and I watched these guys motor around... they look like little electric horses... they seem to swim without moving anything (but they have very small fins on their back that move them).

We got the camera out and took a picture of them before we left the anchorage this morning.

Recap of our Trip from Vivarillos/Hobbies to Providencia

Of course, the first step of our trip was the 15 miles northeast from the Vivarillos to the Hobbies (Cayos Cajones). We stayed there about 3 days, playing on the reef and socializing with the 3 other boats there.

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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Monday, March 3, 2008

Still Enroute to Providencia

Still motorsailing SE at 5-6 knots. ETA about 3:30pm local time.

All is well aboard.

Underway for Quita Sueno or Providencia

We left the anchorage this morning at 7am for points south and east. We got the forecast yesterday morning and decided it was a good weather window for moving. We would like to have stayed a few weeks at Cayos Cajones, but we felt we needed to get moving.

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.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cayos Cajones (Hobbies) & the Big Fish Waypoint

Saturday, Mar 1, 2008 - 16°02.44'N 083°06.27'W

Just as predicted, in the middle of the night Weds, the wind switched to light NNE and slowly picked up all day Thursday.

On Thursday morning, we set out for the outer reef right after the Northwest Caribbean Net was over, to hopefully find the 'Big Fish' waypoint our friends had told us about. The GPS said it was 1.4 miles NNW of our current location. We took the handheld GPS to help us find the spot. As we skimmed along just inside the outer reef, I took waypoints periodically so we could upload them to our Nobeltec chart program, and plot the approximate edge of the reef on our not-detailed chart, to see how it
compares (it actually matched up pretty well).

We actually had 2 waypoints from different people, for the Big Fish place, located a few hundredths of a degree apart. Once we got there, we circled around in the dinghy until we thought we'd identified the spot. In this area, the outer reef starts breaking up, and there is a large cut where the bottom is about 35' deep, and the tops of the coral heads are just awash, and in light air, it is possible to take your dinghy outside.

There is a dramatic profile between the bottom and the tops of the heads. The 'heads' are not solitary coral heads, but reef structures 100 feet in diameter. At the base of each head, the reef has been undercut by wave action, and most of them have some kind of cave-like area. At least one had a very pretty arch that made a nice swim-through. We circled all the heads within about a 200 yard radius, and found lots of places where the big fish should be (ie cave structures etc). But didn't see
anything like the fish life that had been described (large grouper, snapper, nurse sharks, just teeming with big fish). Bummer!

The next day we called our friends on the HF net (they are in the San Blas now) and got a better description of what the right spot should look like. So yesterday we went back, this time with a different (better?) GPS, and the waypoint entered fresh and double-checked. It seems as we were in the right place the first time. But now the wind was blowing close to 20 knots and all the heads we had snorkled around the day before were breaking. The water was really stirred up and visibility was bad.
So we didn't even bother to go in.

We stopped instead at a few spots near our anchorage that we'd spotted the first day there. Dave managed to spear dinner within a few minutes (a nice fat snapper). One snapper hole has a 4 foot long (~50 lb) snapper with a spear mark on his shoulder. Dave wisely opted to shoot something a little smaller.

While Dave was looking for fish, I went scouting for conch and lobster. I covered a lot of shallow reef area, and it is pretty cleaned out. When the fishing boats anchor here for the night, they send out a couple of guys in a cayuca to find dinner, and they must be pretty thorough. I saw a few horse conch, which I opted to bypass, and a couple of undersized lobster, which I also left alone. The shallow reefs are a combination of live and dead coral. They have lots of pretty fish and invertebrates,
but anything edible has already been taken (how sad).

The wind is forecast to slowly switch to the SE and ease off. This will be better for exploring around here, and not so good for us to head SE.

I think we'll stay here a couple more days and play a little longer, do a couple of boat projects, and wait for the next weather window to head further south.