Friday, December 13, 2013

Contadora Island and Whale Sharks

We sailed somewhat upwind back to Contadora Island today.  Contadora is the closest to the mainland Panama.  We have limited Internet here and are working on getting caught up on things.

We caught another two nice size sierras on the way here.  We gave some more to Armagh since we had 4 days worth of fish, which is super nice, but hard to keep fresh and continue to delegate power for the fridge.  She gave us the key lime pie, which is easily worth the trade!!  And she gave us oatmeal raisin cookies this morning!!  Before we left, we then took the dinghy back to the town, got another 30 eggs and 4 onions.  They didn't have any fruits or vegetables in the town.  We went to both stores.  Not sure what day their supplies come in, but they sure are low it looks to us!!

On the way here also, Loyal noticed a shadow under the water.  We all ran out to see a whale shark!!!  I've heard it is whale shark season with the colder currents and have been so excited to see one!  They are the largest fish and eat plankton only.  We grabbed our snorkels and masks while Courage circled us back, Cassidy was the first to jump in.  I got a few pictures, Loyal jumped in, and then I went!  The three swimmers chased the shark, but couldn't catch up.  Somehow it seems that he swims faster than we do.  There were rumors that there were 2 sharks, not just the one, but I only saw one. Courage went out on a kayak and got a great view of it, making out details only 5 feet away from it.  Loyal grabbed a paddleboard from the boat.  Ultimately we lost track of it and all reconvened back at the boat to continue our journey.

- - -Just a quick update.  Really enjoyed the whale shark.

Pedro Gonzalez Island

We are at Pedro Gonzalez Island, which is one of the farthest out of the Perlas Islands.  It's very nice here.  We are in a bay with 2 other boats.  We took the dinghy to a small town where they were very helpful.  We got eggs, onions, bananas, butter, and a couple of other things.  When one store didn't have what we were looking for, he sent us to the other store in town.  We of course returned for what we could from the first guy.  The people tend to be very helpful, nice, but not overly so (like in Esmerelda Village).  A guy we asked for directions to the store turned and walked us a little ways rather than just pointing, to make sure we made it.

We caught 3 gigantic fish on the way here!!!  The largest sierra we've seen yet, plus another, which was one of the largest sierras, we've seen.  Then we got another bite, Loyal reeled it in after a bit of it pulling away from us.  It was a HUGE fish.  We think it was a jack, but aren't totally sure. -- Probably 20-30 lb. fish.  Did a little anatomy learning with the kids as we filleted it.  It was an awesome white meat also!!! -- Really great fish.  We shared some with our friends on Armagh when they arrived to the harbor and are running the fridge to keep it.  Also eating some nice fish sticks for lunch and garlic Parmesan fish for dinner.

We left for the islands on a little bit of a whim, so I didn't have a chance to go "provisioning" (shopping for normal people).  We are out of oats, which we have for breakfast 6 days a week!  Crisis!  Fortunately we had some cereals.  This morning grandmother made fish soup for some of us.  We also have pancake mix and can make pancakes and waffles.  We certainly won't starve, but we are missing some of our favorite and/or typical foods.  Getting the butter allowed me to make a crust for a couple of dessert recipes we have since I don't have any prepared cookies, etc.

A guy met us on the beach the first day and asked if we wanted fruit.  I said yes, so he came again yesterday and climbed a coconut tree and cut us down about 10 coconuts.  I have no idea what to do with 10 green coconuts, but we bought them from him for $0.50 each for the experience.  He then went and cut some limes for us, a large bag of them for $3.  I thought he was also getting some oranges, but they were "naranja limones" (orange limes) as a type of lime, not oranges and limes as I had understood.  So we loaded up in our kayak and just as we were leaving another guy came down with 10 oranges (which are green here) bundled in his arms hollering for us.  We went back and he wanted $3 for them.  I told him $2 and we made a deal.  We can get a huge bag of oranges for $3-$5 on mainland, so he knew he was working us, even at $2.  Not to mention, I think he just picked them from a tree on the way to us.  We found a papaya tree that was knocked down or cut down or something.  Didn't look like a clean cut.  After looking at the papayas on the ground for 3 days, we finally brought 4 of them back to the boat today.  They aren't ripe yet, but may be nice.

There is a lot of development going on this island.  There is a clubhouse with a map plan of the island.  It appears a development group bought the entire island.  Patty on Armagh says the same company owns the ferry company also.  They donated 1/3 of the island to a biologic reserve.  They are putting in a marina and a marina village, a service port, an airport, a club with condos and private residences, a pool and tennis courts.  It looks like a very pleasant plan if they pull it off.  The marina breakwater is being built as well as they are terracing the hill adjacent to us and working on it every day.  There is a nice outdoor structure straight in from us at the beach with a cute little bridge and two small 'houses'.  If it's any indication, the materials and construction look very nice!!  I think the security guy that sits there all day indicated that it cost 500 million dollars before building any of the houses.  I could be wrong though since he only speaks Spanish.

Yesterday we tried to rescue a pelican without much success.  He was on the beach and struggling.  He had a rope on his neck and foot.  We threw a towel on his head and beak, Courage held him while I cut the rope from his neck and leg.  He had a gimp right foot and probably a wing issue although it didn't seem broken when he'd flap them out.  He still couldn't get moving.  We tried to give him a fish we'd found on the beach, but he wouldn't eat it.  Maybe it was too big?  So we cut up chunks from our fish we'd caught and tossed them to him, but he didn't eat them.  I think today he was dead on the beach, but not totally sure.

We have been playing volleyball most days since heading to the islands with some other friend boats.  We made a volleyball net out of our old fish net that we used to make lifelines for the kids on the boat.  We tie it up with rope to a tree or bamboo post.  Yesterday we had some good teams!  The aero-naval vessel came in and anchored.  A bunch of 20-year-old guys came in and went to shore to jog and swim and exercise.  A couple came to our game and watched for a minute and we called them into the game.  Then a couple more came.  We had 5 on 5.  Easiest we've had it as far as coverage.  Made for a good game.  We had 4 from Lil' Explorers, 1 from Armagh, and 5 aero-naval guys all intermixed.  We have been playing with a rubber bouncy "Tigger" ball and it goes great.  Today it's windy, so we used Armagh's real volleyball.  We decided it was just too hard, so we went back to Tigger and quit after one game.

We then just walked the shore.  Tons of gorgeous white shells and some crystal type rocks.  We have taken way too many rocks onboard.  Need to come up with a plan for them.  Integrity would like to "sell them for money."  He was going to take the first dollar to buy candy at the Shopette in Panama City, and then let me have the rest for laundry coins.

We are still going back and forth on the Galapagos.  Currently we are more in the "let's go" plan.  I think we're more likely to regret not doing it than doing it.  It's a lot of money, but a one-week tour once you get to the islands is $1000 per person for the cheap tour.  Then there are tips, drinks, trinkets, or whatever.  That would be $10,000 for the likes of us.  Besides that, it's $400 per person to fly to the islands, etc.  It will cost us about $1500-$2000 for permits, visas, etc for 5 islands for one month.  It's right on our way to French Polynesia (which is going to cost us $1500 for the 6 month visas for the 10 of us in contrast), so could break up the trip nicely and give us a good land break.  We can also buy fresh fruits/veggies to restock once we're there, giving us a nice resupply just when we're about to run out.  It's also quite unique as a set of islands, which we've seen many of.  I also think that it would be really cool as the kids are learning about the Galapagos to have actually seen it and know what they are talking about in a very literal sense.

Anyway, there's a brief update to where we are currently.  We are thinking of going back toward the end of the weekend to mainland.  I have some serious shopping to do.  We would like to get our tarp fitted to our new roof so that we have sidewalls to protect us from sun and rain in the cockpit.  We also need to get our applications in for our French long stay visas.  We need passport pictures, copies of things made, etc.  I also need to start getting supplies for our offshore trip.  10 months of staples, then get them vacuum packed or otherwise sealed safely from bugs and the elements. That's going to take some time and effort and money.  Lots of work ahead of me!  Enjoy a few more days at sea. . .   I will also be looking at making plans for Cassidy as well as for our last 2-3 months here.  We need to have a lot of coming and going from the boat, preparing supplies, and checking out of the country.  We are very excited - there is another boat going to the South Pacific with a 15 year old boy and a 13-year-old girl on it.  They are from the states and just came through the canal Tuesday.  We weren't there of course to greet them, but we talked on Facebook as we were leaving the harbor.  They leave for the states on the 16th, so we may miss them until they return on the 6th of Jan.  (Then Cassidy may be leaving).  
Excited to meet them whenever it works out!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Enjoying the Perlas Islands

At the nice beach with the submarine, another boat, Armagh, came out today.  We played some volleyball again today.  Getting good!!  Also we had a nice swim along the bay and snorkel along the submarine this morning.  Whales came right beside the boat checking us out at dinnertime.

Old Submarine and Volleyball in the Perlas Islands.

Hello All – December 7, 2013

Today we are visiting the 140-year-old submarine.  You can read about it on Wikipedia. Search for Sub Marine Explorer 1963. They have some interesting information.

This morning at high tide I dove on the sub. It is really interesting seeing the fish using it as a reef. I tried to get inside but there was too much surge.  When it is out of the water at low tide getting in through the tower is pretty easy. The inside is amazingly big. You can get around quite nicely.  We mentioned the sub on the net last night and another boat decided they would have to come see it. They are part of the group who has been making their way down the east coast this year. They are also pretty good volleyball players.

After showing Steve and Patty the sub we setup the volleyball net and started choosing teams. Courage ended up with Patty and Cassidy, and I was able to recruit Steve.  The court is pretty big and it is hard to cover with three players. With two it was nearly impossible.  Steve and I worked on our passes and setting each other up.  Once we had the ball we did pretty good. The problem was when Courage served he would either drop it over the net, or if we guarded the net, would put it in the back. Things were not going great for us.  The score was 15 to 2 when Steve and I finally hit our stride. Defending the court on Courage's serves, we employed Steve's high ground defense system. Since the beach is sloping we would favor the high side.  Much easier to run downhill to get the ball then up. We could leave the lower part of the field pretty open and still be able to get to the ball. Slowly we started to make our comeback.  In the end we actually were able to pull off a surprising upset by winning the game. With the final score being 21 - 19.

We are anchored between two islands and the current zips through here at close to 4 mph. the sound it makes on the hull is great. It sounds like we are sailing along with full sails. The water is moving so fast there are rapids. I can hear waves outside even though there is no wind.

With a great big hello to all,

Monday, December 9, 2013

Crossing the Panama Canal

Yeah!! Courage and I will be crossing the Panama Canal tomorrow with 
sailing vessel "Boreal" from France!! An event of a lifetime! (starting at 5 am)

You can see the first lock just behind the ferry they call a cruise ship.

Rafting up with our buddy boat! Here we go . . .
Our buddy in the locks. We were rafted to another French sailboat, 
then a 600 foot ship filled the rest of the 1000 foot lock with us. It was big!

In the Locks . . .

Approaching the 3rd Lock

Panama Canal to celebrate 100 Years next year

We spent the night in the lake between the Locks.  This crossing took 2 days.

French Sailors we were assisting

Huge container ship next to us. 964 of the 1000 feet of the lock. The canal is 110 feet wide. widest ship in the canal has been 105 feet. I only now realize why ships are the same size and flat in the back. They have the best carrying capacity, but still fit in the canal. It's the rate limiting factor. The new canal is going to have bigger locks, thus freight ships are going to be bigger. Interesting. The "advisors" you have to have on board had lots of good knowledge of the area. Nice tour guides.

Locks opening, time to go.

We took a bus back to Panama, great crossing!! Much thanks to the wonderful family on Boreal who are out loving/living life!! Enjoy the Caribbean.

Made it back to our boat.  Hugs for kids and Good night.

Heading out to the Perlas Islands. Isn't this boat a beauty? Bye Panama City, see you in a couple of weeks!!