February 16, 2001 ~ February 28, 2001
February 26 - February 28, 2001
We continued on to Salinas, Ecuador as our destination after we received an email from Gallo Ortiz, the manager of Puerto Lucia Yacht Club and also talked with *Sangaris.* We used our spinnaker all day on Monday and made really good time with no motoring. Absolutely beautiful sailing!!! At night the stars are absolutely magnificient!!!
We "crossed The Line!" (The Equator) on February 28 at 15:04.43 at 00 Degrees 00.00 Minutes at 81 Degrees 13.72 Minutes West on the Good Ship *Peace and Aloha.*. King Neptune made his appearance and presided over our baptismal crossing ceremony. We are now proud "Shellbacks" with certificates to prove it!!! So that we never have to suffer the indignity of another crossing ceremony in this life!!! Right after our ceremony, we were greeted by a Shellback Turtle!!! We wonder at the significance!!!!
We saw turtles, whales, dolphins, manta rays, but had no luck with providing dinner!!! We lost a lure to a fish, another LARGE fish bent the hook and left, and we saw a shark looking at the lures very seriously (NO THANK YOU!!)!! You would think that we would be able to catch something, since we have sacrificed almost all our fishing equipment to the God of the Ocean!!! We think that part of the problem was our slow speed!!! That evening we lost alot of sleep while we were trying to negotiate through fishing boats with "long lines". They were flashing lots of lights at us and we couldn't understand what they were trying to tell us or where we should go....so we just kept going in along our course! They don't speak on the VHF and of course, they all speak Spanish anyway! No comprendo espanol! We were never sure whether we ran over a line or a net or what was going on!!!
February 25, 2001
We listened to both nets this morning and tried to clean up the boat alittle, but it is rather difficult with beds being used all the time. David and I have berths made up with lee cloths in the main cabin! We ran the generator to make more water, which had been getting low because we could not make it in many of our recent anchorages because of the clarity of the water and we haven't had rain to collect in a very long time! We put the spinnaker upabout 11 am but are only traveling about 2.6 with the help of a 1+ knot current! It could take us a few extra days to arrive in the Galapagos or Ecuador at this rate! I am NOT complaining because this definitely is preferable to 45 knot winds with 16 foot seas! And I am NOT getting seasick and I can accomplish a few things besides sleeping!
We sailed all day with the spinnaker up and made fairly good time because of a current. The most exciting event of the day was a baby frigate bird trying to land on the top of our mast! The problem with that is all our expensive delicate wind instruments are located there!!! We managed to scare him off and he went on his way! He could have rested on our bow pulpit like the baby booby bird, but frigates will not ever land close to the water (their feathers are not waterproofed, so they will drown, if they get wet!)! We had a nice shower, dinner and put out the genoa and sailed most of the night. We saw two ships....with no lights!!! Very scarey!
February 24, 2001
We decided to head south today and then make a decision in a few days after *Sangaris* arrives in Salinas as to whether we will sail there and try to travel to Machu Picchu or if we will hang a right and head west to the Galapagos (900 mile trip directly from Panama). We left about 9:30 am after we had made the boat ready with lunches made. We motored until about 4pm with flat seas and no wind! We did have a huge pod of dolphins swimming in our bow wave!!! Then we saw a large pod of pilot (we think?) whales swim right past our boat. We were trolling all the way (probably not going fast enough to catch a fish!). We did catch a jack, he is swimming with his buddies, and not on our dinner plates! (We won't eat jack, etc, because of cigautera poisoning). We also had a baby booby bird resting on our bow pulpit for about an hour, after we yelled and screamed to keep him from "catching" one of our fishing lures!
We started up our watch schedule (four hours on during the day and 2 hours on at night). I was on from 10-2pm, then again from 12 midnight to 2am and 4 to 6 am. Why does the wind always do strange antics when I am on watch??? We sailed all night and clocked 140+ miles in 24 hours (not much, considering that *Cherokee* logged in 175 miles their first day out....with wind!)
February 23, 2001
David had really wanted to start our passage to Manta, Ecuador today, but one is NEVER to begin a passage on a Friday!!! So, we fixed our leaking head, cleaned the entire boat with acids in the toilets, put all the rotis away (I made enough for 9 dinners!!) with some in the freezer and some in the refrigerator. We purchased four more red snappers from local fisherman, and would have purchased more but our regular boat guy didn't show!!! I worked on making sure that the spices, videos, pop cans, and microwave plate didn't make noise while we were underway (like they did on our trip from Curacao). Eric and David worked on getting weather faxes from San Francisco.
We listened to the SSB net at 6pm on 4036 and heard from *Cherokee* that we should NOT go to Manta. They ran aground twice with a 6.6 foot draft (ours is 7.5+), the moorings at the yacht club are really made for boats about 25-35 feet (theirs is 50 and ours is 60!!), and there are 300-500 fishing boats in the harbor because of Carnival in Ecuador and Panama now!!! So, we had a decision to make: do we go directly to Galapagos, do we go to Salinas, Ecuador where *Sangaris* will be in a few days, do we head out tomorrow or wait for more wind????????
February 22, 2001
HAPPY GEORGE WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY!!!
We went to the hair salon in the morning!!! David cut Jason's and my hair and Eric cut his!! They should go into the business! Actually they could do very well, since most cruisers just use clippers and have very short hair!!!! I made rotis for passage meals! I got out blankets, sheets, and warm clothes for our passage. Eric managed to stay in the 64 degree water with two wet suits on (he doesn't have a hood) for about 30-45 minutes and removed some of the growth from the bottom. Besides being cold, there is NO visibility! So, after we heard that it will warm up again, he decided to forget it! The guys spent the rest of the afternoon trying to remove the salt/caked on dirt from Colon from *Peace and Aloha's* stop sides using a bucket and a sponge. She has never been soooooo dirty and no way to really clean her. We need some rain for a long period of time, but NO storm with it! *Zephyrus* arrived about 4:30 and we are hoping to sail to Ecuador with them on Saturday. David really strained his back, so we quickly put ice on it and loaded up on the ibuprofen. We purchased some red snapper and yucca (maniac) from a local fisherman for $2 and had a delicious dinner! I guess there is more than one way to catch a fish!!!
February 21, 2001
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Peter and Darren!!!! We hope that you both had a HAPPY day!!!
We left Contadora this morning at 8:30am and it is even calmer today than it was yesterday (we now have the motor on since we were becalmed several times this morning!) so I have been busy working on this website all day. These islands are very very pretty! They are different than the San Blas Islands - higher, more trees, and greener! Still NO fish....we just heard from *Sangaris* who headed out this morning bound for Manta, Ecuador, that they had caught a tuna!!! We are hoping for tuna for dinner!!!
We anchored at Morro de Cacique, islands in the southern bay (Bahia Santelmo) of Isla del Rey, the most southern island of the Las Perlas Islands, at about 4:30pm with *Aldebaran* (Milwaukee) and *Capt d'Or*. We had very little wind and had motor sailed most of the day (averaging about 3 knots!) and just as we reached the bay, we had 31 knot winds!!!! No fish, so we had lemon chicken, plantains, cole slaw, rolls and muffins for dessert.
February 20, 2001
We were up at 6:30am and left Isla Flamenco anchorage about 9am, after stowing all and making lunches. We had an absolutely beautiful sail to Contadora in Las Perlas Islands off the coast of Panama, where we were anchored at about 3pm next to *Margaurite,* a beautiful $8 million + mega-yatch which we had last seen in Camden. "Small world!" We had just enough wind to make good time with no swell (That is a first in a long time!) I spent all day trying to get caught up on some of my emails. I didn't finish, but did manage to send out an update via email which should bring you all up to date with our transit, since we are having so much difficulty getting this website updated via Julie and Chris. We are still open to any and all ideas about how to post our updates!!! David is threatening to close the site down because of the cost in time and money and since it hasn't been updated since September 1.
Contadora is one of the 220 islands (90 are named) of the Las Perlas Islands which was made famous (?) when the Shah of Iran fled Ayatollah Khomeini in January 1979 to seek refuge here. This island does have an airport (with daily flights to/from Panama City), a resort and a legal nude beach, plus white sand beaches, palm trees, and turquoise waters with beautiful reefs! We did not experience clear turquoise warm waters....Eric couldn't see two feet in front of his face when he was cleaning off the bottom of the boat in 64 degree water! We imagine it is the current that is the cause of the temperature and the poor visibility.
Most of the world's finest pearls are found in the oysters that abound in Las Perlas Islands. The "Peregrina Pearl" (31 carats) which was worn by a Spanish King, an English queen, a French emperor and is now owned by Elizabeth Taylor, was found here. When this pearl was found some 400 years ago, the slave who discovered it was given his freedom! In 1513 Balboa discovered, named and claimed Las Perlas for Spain, but he did not obtain any pearls for Spain. Morales killed most of the Perlas Indians and took all the pearls for the King several years later. During the following years, the Spaniards imported slaves from Africa to collect and harvest the oysters, because all the Indians had been slain. All the pearls were first shipped to Contadora ("counting house" in Spanish) before being sent to Spain via Panama City. The blacks who still inhabit this island are descendants of those slaves.
We hadn't seen a movie in quite a long time, so we watched "Son-in-Law" and enjoyed a bag of popcorn! It is a rather silly stupid movie, but had some uproariously funny scenes!!! We enjoyed it! We had to run the generator in order to make water for the first time since we left the San Blas.
February 19, 2001
We were up bright and early and ready to head into Panama City on the bus!!! (Actually, we were still dragging ....but we really needed to shop before we could leave to head south and west!!!). We dinghied into a cement boat ramp below the hotel where we could carry the dinghy and its 8hspr motor up to the top over the rocks at the bottom and then lock it to a tree. On this side of Panama there are 17-18 foot tides! We were lucky enough to meet John and David (both of whom have spent the last 15 years in the Pacific - John, a single hander on a 22 foot boat, had spent many years off Mala Wharf in Lahaina!!!) who helped us board two buses to go to Price Smart (one of the four Costco's in Panama City)!!!! We walked in and they had two perfect sized starting batteries for us at $65/each (compared with $130+ that *Lazy Jack* paid for his starting batteries at the Casa de las Batterias). We were able to purchase some vitamins, etc. that I hadn't been able to purchase in Colon. We are still missing several items, like Tevas, other vitamins, protein powder and psyllium husks, molasses, and avery business card stock. We had pizza and calzones (no chicken ceasar salads at these Costco's) there and had a very nice taxi driver return us to Isla Flamenco. He (and many others) are still bemoaning the fact that we Americans have left Panama and the Canal. We all hope that there is some truth in the rumor that is circulating that President Bush will try to bring the canal back under US jurisdiction and return the armed forces to Panama.
We stowed everything, installed the starting batteries, and took all of our garbage ashore. We heard the following day that they closed the dinghy ramp to cruisers and started charging 50 cents/gallon for water, because there were so many of us using it on Monday. Obviously they don't want us there, but we weren't bothering anyone and we were tipping the guard $2 to watch our dinghys! We were able to say "Aloha" to our French friends, Cheryl on *Charmaral* who is going to Tucson soon and to the family on *SabaII* from Martinique who will be heading to Florida and North.They were returning to Colon on the bus after helping *Altaire* transit yesterday. We were in bed early again after reading a few of your nice Christmas letters! Thank you. Hopefully, we will be able to answer you each personally via email!!!
February 18, 2001
We were up at 6:30am and felt like a ten ton weight had been lifted off our shoulders!!! The first item of business was to find the blankets!!!! We were shocked to notice that the water temperature had dropped from 82 degrees in Colon to 64 degrees in Flamenco! The lower temperature has definitely helped our refrigeration systems, however, the water in the shower and coming out of the tap feels frigid to us. We were told that the Humbolt Current has come in. We were not expecting this cold weather until we were passage making to the Galapagos. We also desparately need to clean off the bottom, guess the guys will have to use a couple of wet suits!
I spent all day cleaning, washing the floors, etc, while the guys cleaned up the outside (as best they could with no rain or water), dealt with the tires and the fenders. The starting batteries also needed to be removed to ascertain their size and shape, etc. Meanwhile, Eric was feeling sick with diarhhea and a sore throat. We finally decided that it was probably just all the stress etc related to our transit; although other cruisers have also been feeling ill. I also spent some time writing a few emails....as usual, I am behind. I got very behind during the last week or so before our transit. Please be patient. We had also received our mail while in Colon and had taken care of the administrative/must-do items while we were there, so I had a few minutes to open a few of the Christmas cards which also arrived. I will try to answer them personally, if there is an email address, but please be patient! Also, THANK YOU so very much for the lovely pictures enclosed! We really do appreciate hearing from all of you and keeping up on your busy lives on land!
February 17, 2001
Transit of Panama Canal - Arrival in the Pacific Ocean!!!
We were up at 4am and were busy getting everything ready! Cleaning, putting breakfast (muffins, juices, fruits of all kinds, coffee) on the table, etc! Our line handlers were dropped off about 5:15am. Ken and Judith from *Sunbow* and Stacey and Giin from *Lady Bug* were our line handlers, plus Eric and Jason, and me as fill-in. However, Judith and Giin were really observers....so we were a little short handed. Jimmy, our advisor/pilot (we had requested him after Eric and David were with him on *Cherokee.*) was dropped off by the pilot boat at about 6:15am...pretty close to scheduled time! We had originally thought that we were to be rafted with *Zephyrus* and *Faladol* with us as center boat. That all changed and we went tied to TWO tugs, which made for a tight squeeze, while they went rafted with another boat, that had turned back about a week earlier when the girl was severely cut on her face by an anchor caused by the intense winds. The first three locks, The Gatun Locks, are up-locks, which are the most difficult because of the intense turbulence caused by the water rushing in to fill the lock and also because small boats lock in behind the HUGE ships, which can throw up a huge wave when they turn on their propellors to power out of the lock. We gave the tug guys cokes and cookies (even though it was 8am!) and they were very helpful!!! We had no problems in the first three locks, except that we had to tie and untie to the tug for each lock with four lines (bow, stern, and two spring lines).
We were out into the beautiful Gatun Lake about 9:30. We motor sailed through the Banana Cut (faster so that we can keep up with our big ship!) passed Monkey Island (but no monkeys!) and by the Smithsonian Institute Research Station, which we understand you could visit and tour for only $150/day/person! We passed by "The Love Boat", a large Princess Cruise Ship while I was below putting out lunch: sandwiches of turkey, ham, bologna and/or cheese with lettuce, tomatoes, mayonaise and mustard, muffins, granola bars, cookies, cokes, juices, pistachios, dolphin crackers, and fruits. David told me to come up to see her. When I handed him our digital camera, it fell to the cockpit floor!!! We were not happy when Eric put it back together and the lens would not zoom out. Thankfully, I had been using my good Nikon also, so we do have pictures. We cannot scan real pictures onto the website, because David convinced me that we no longer needed the scanner and we took it back to Florida in November! Luckily, Eric was able to fix the camera on Sunday, so we didn't need to purchase a new one!!! That put a BIG damper on the whole transit!
When we passed by the anchorage at Gamboa near the end of the lake, we were called by *Aldebaran* of Ireland and *Muna* of England who had begun their transit the morning before. They were very upset because they had been promised a pilot at 9:30am and it was about 12 noon and many of their line handlers needed to return to Colon for their own transit or to line handle on other boats tomorrow. . We understood that the Princess Ship had paid $100,000 for their immediate transit and bumped everyone else. * Muna* and *Peace and Aloha* tied up (#4 tie-up) to a dock and then *Aldebaran* rafted (#5) with us at about 1:45 pm, while *Zephyrus* rafted (two boats are tied very tightly together with four lines and fenders/tires between, to protect both, so that they act as a unit/one boat) with* Muna.*
We went into the first down lock, Pedro Miguel lock, about 2:45pm rafted to *Aldebaran* and tied (#6) to a tug, with the very LARGE container ship CGM Monet (same ship as the up locks) behind us. One says a big prayer that the ship will indeed stop as they enter behind you! The other problem is the current they set up in the lock as they enter. *Zephyrus and *Muna* went into the other side of the lock. Apparently during the day, they use the two lane locks in the same direction, ie. the Gatun locks go south in the am and north in the pm, while the down locks are opposite: north in the am and south in the pm and all the vessels cross on the lake. We assume that night is run like a two lane road.
After the Pedro Miguel Lock, we had to re-raft (#7) with *Aldebaran* on our other side because the tug would be tied to the wall on the other side for the MiraFlores Locks. We then had to tie (#8) to a wall before the lock, where we were being pushed on-shore by 30+ knot winds and our fenders/tires were not staying low enough in the water to protect our boat because of the extremely high water level. We moved tires from one side of our boat to the other and had all our crew and many from *Aldebaran* pushing us off to insert the tires between the boat and the wall. Then the Canal Security Official came and told us that we were NOT allowed to be off our boat!!!
We were on the left side (from the camera) lock when we went through the Mira Flores Locks, where the camera for their website is located, at about 4-4:20. We understand that it is VERY hard to see us small little boats!!! But we were the only four yachts to go through that day! We tied up to the same tug in both locks (#9 & #10 tie ups/and unties). In the last lock at about 4:30, we were coming up along side the tug just perfectly with the large ship behind us, when the current caught our stern. Our bow line was already attached to the tug, so the crew on the tug threw a monkey fist at Eric, who got the line back, around the winch and pulled us it. The strain and tension on the line and the winch was ENORMOUS! We were so thankful that the line did not snap!
At 4:50pm *Peace and Aloha* and her crew were in the beautiful Pacific Ocean!!!!!
We split apart from *Aldebaran* with thoughts that we had been such a excellent team that perhaps we should sail to the Marquesas like this!!! We motored under the beautiful Bridge of the Americas and stopped at the Balboa Yacht Club, where Victor picked up his lines and also took our line handlers ashore so that they could catch a taxi and then a bus back to Colon. We motored to Isla Flamenco and anchored there for the night just before sunset at 6:15. Thank heavens! Dinner just needed to be served and we were all in bed, asleep, about 8pm!!! We were also thankful that we had completed our transit in one day and everyone got to go home to sleep in their own bed!!!!.
We were very tired but very happy and thankful to have arrived back in the Pacific Ocean (and closer to home!) and to have completed a monumental milestone as we proceed with our circumnavigation!!!
In some respects we were slightly disappointed by what many call a "Wonder of the World". Remember we went through the eleven locks of the Welland Canal, around Niagrara Falls from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and we also transited some 50+ locks of the Erie Barge Canal from Oswego on Lake Ontario to Albany in the Hudson River.In the Welland Canal pleasure craft never transit with large ships. Also, the cost was a mere $60 as compared to $750 plus another $700 deposit for the Panama Canal! The Welland obviously has a lot less traffic. But we felt that the heights were much larger and the feats of technology and engineering equally impressive. The major difference is the conquest over the Continental Divide with the Gaillard Cut and the huge number of men who lost their lives (landslides, malaria, etc) in the building of this Canal.
Ships are lifted 25.9 m by the first three Gatun Locks to the level of the fresh water Gatun Lake. This lake, covering almost the entire isthmus, submerged 29 villages, displacing 50,000 people and covering many acres of forests now petrified below. This was the largest artificial lake for 22 years until Lake Mead was created by the Hoover Dam in 1936. The Gaillard Cut is a colossal excavation through the Continental Divide which is currently being widened to accomodate more ships. It was originally excavated to 90 m width being cut through solid rock and shale for a distance of 14 km.At the northern end of the Cut, the two largest cranes in the world reside. These cranes were confiscated from Nazi Germany at the end of WWII. The Pedro Miguel Locks lower a ship 9.4 m with an additional drop of 16.8 m to the level of the Pacific through the Mira Flores Locks.
Some Canal Facts: Ships transit the Canal from North to South or vice versa. Some of the lock doors weigh upwards of 800 tons apiece, yet only a 40 horsepower motor is needed to move them. Each lock chamber holds about 2,675,200 cubic meters of water (one day supply for approx. 100,000 people). During WWII, more than 5300 combat vessels and 8500 other craft serving the US military passed through the Canal. The lock gates are composed of watertight compartments, making them buoyant and relieving the stress on the bearings upon which they rest. The Canal is the only place in the world where military commanders must turn over navigational control to one of the 200 pilots who guide all ships through the canal. Ships pay according to their weight (yachts pay according to our length) with most ships paying approx. $30,000. The highest fee of $141,344.97 was paid May 2, 1993 by *Crown Princess,* the largest passenger ship to transit. The lowest fee was 36 cents paid by Richard Halliburton, who swam through in 1928. There are many more interesting facts about the history and politics surrounding the Canal. We suggest that you read "The Path Between the Seas" written by David McCullough.
February 16, 2001
Our day before our transit was very BUSY!!! Our biggest complaint is not having enough time or it just takes twice as long to accomplish a project than we expect! We dinghied over to the Panama Yacht Club early about 8am and thankfully, the winds had calmed down alot. Unfortunately, they did not calm down soon enough for our line handlers from *Soggy Paws,* *Homeward Bound,* and *Camyrka* to arrive in Colon from the San Blas in time for our transit tomorrow. We really wanted to see them again and have them for our line handlers. We understand that it was not meant to be...but we were all disappointed!
We finalized the credit and the dispute issue with our credit card regarding Mega Depot here. Thank heavens, but what alot of time, energy and money was spent on resolving a very simple problem. "Duke" Ellington, our taxi driver, picked us and Harold and Diana ("Zephyrus") up about 9am and we checked out of Panama. We had to make about three stops at different offices (all unmarked) to obtain our "zarpe" (exit paper allowing us to leave a country and enter the next one) and have our passport stamped (and give the official a "gift" in order to stamp them the day before we were leaving!). Duke took us to the ATM machine to top off the cash which we keep aboard for emergencies. Then we all went to the open air market and purchased a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables for under $25!!! We also purchased these rose colored flowers that they cook up with ginger to make a absolutely delicious drink. (Anybody know their name??? We returned to the Club, where we had left Eric and Jason so they could walk to the gas station to top off the gas tanks for our dinghy fuel. We also needed to obtain our lines for transiting from Victor. We had rented four -125 foot lines at $15/each from him. Victor gets them to the boat for you to be measured and then we returned them to him so others may use them to transit. Then he needs to get them back to us for our transit. He finally brought them to our boat about 3 in the afternoon. David and I gave the fresh produce to the boys and they brought it out to our boat, while Duke took us and Diana to the big Reyes supermarket to do our final provisioning and buying food for our transit. We had to provide food for two full days for all our crew, our pilot/advisor, and tug crews! That is alot of extra food, considering I was dealing with nine people!
We were all back aboard by noon, had lunch and stowed everything! The guys made another run into the Club to dump all the garbage and get more water (remember, we haven't made water since we left Chichime in the San Blas. We have been hauling it in two five gallon jerry jugs every time we went ashore. We chlorine a pitcher full and then put that through a "pur" filter!), while I cleaned the boat (*Peace and Aloha* has NEVER been so dirty and we have no water to clean her! Colon is a VERY dirty place and we have had no rain since the San Blas!) inside for our "Guests." I also made brownies plus a tuna salad and chicken salad to have for dinner, in the event that we had a two day passage and they all had to sleep aboard. Eric, Jason and David cleaned all the filters, checked all the systems, to make sure everything was "Ship-shape" for tomorrow morning at 6am, when our pilot/advisor, Jimmy, would board. When they started the engine NOTHING happened!!! All we could see were $$$$$ of the $700 deposit floating away, because if we cancelled now, we would lose all our deposit! Thank heavens! It was only the starting battery and they could re-rig it in some way to another battery and it started just fine! Thank Heavens! that was happening the day before and not the morning of our transit!!!
We sent out an email update about the canal transit with the camera at the Mira Flores Lock that evening, after we had received our start time from a phone call (Cable and Wireless is ridiculously expensive - 30 cents/minute local!!!) to the Canal. We were in bed asleep by 9pm...and we actually DID sleep .....with beautiful visions of being back in the Pacific tomorrow!