Monday, November 3, 2014

Panama Update

Panama Update -  June 1 2014 thru Nov 1 2014


YIKES !!   Way behind again on blog update and a lot to cover so I will try to not make this a book.  I do put updates on Facebook, but since this blog is my "diary" I need to put down more detail here.   

First, last blog left off where Steve was getting over a nasty infection he could not get rid of.  I am happy to report that the last treatment, back in Nargana in San Blas, was a success and he has not had a recurrence (knock wood).

We spent the next few weeks exploring the waters and beaches of beautiful San Blas Islands. Our first stop was back to Green Island where even though it was cloudy and slightly raining we still went snorkeling. Felt so good to get back in the water and be swimming again. We spent time there exploring the nearby islands and snorkeling. Then went to explore more of the Holandes Cays and Coco Bandero Cays. Enjoying more snorkeling and beach combing, beach BBQ's and even a dinghy raft up to watch a movie shown off the back Ultra, Bill & JoAnne's boat. 

Then it was time to get ready for Sean & Carrie to visit. After a night in Panama City they would get a 4 wheel taxi ride to Carti where we would pick them up. Mainland Carti is really just a parking lot with several docks. The road to Carti is fairly new and even more recently paved, so not such a hazardous drive anymore. We went over a day early so Steve could get one of the taxi's to go to the outskirts of Panama City to get some groceries for their visit. They arrived to the San Blas Saturday June 28th at 9 AM. Shortly after getting them settled on the boat we pulled up anchor and headed over to the “swimming pool” anchorage in the Holandes Cays. It started as a cloudy drizzling day as we sailed over but as we arrived and anchored the sun was shining. Sean & Carrie did not waste any time and jumped in to go swimming as we made lunch. We had great weather over the next several days to snorkel, swim and walk the beaches.   We had wanted to do a river tour of the Rio Sidra with Kuna guide Lisa whom we had heard great things about. With Carrie being fluent in Spanish and Lisa the guide speaking almost no English, it was the perfect time to go. We, along with S/V Ultra went to anchor off the island of Salardup. Thursday morning July 3 Lisa came in her lancha to pick us up and take us to the mainland to go up the river and hike to the waterfall. It was a beautiful day and a fabulous hike and the waterfall was so refreshing. This was / is a highlight to anyone’s visit to the San Blas. The hike takes you past 3 Kuna burial grounds, which resemble little villages as they put up thatched roofs to protect the graves and leave personal belongings of the deceased around the graves. Our guide Lisa had to leave us at the end of the hike to attend her aunt's funeral, so we were able to see some of the preparations for the ceremony that was to take place later that day.  Enjoyed a few more sunny days before going back to Porvenir on Saturday 5th of July. We went by customs to check out, and locate the airport check-in gate so Sean & Carrie would be ready for their early flight the following day to Panama City then back to the states and we would make our way to Colon. 

We were underway by 7:30 Sunday July 6, getting out the pass from Porvenir was a little rough, between reefs, heading east straight into the wind and 6 foot waves. Luckily it was only for about 15 minutes, then we were in deep water and able to turn north and had a nice sail up the coast. We had planned a stop at the Isla Grande/Isla Linton anchorage, but it was a nice day and a good sail so we continued all the way to Portobelo and were anchored by 3 that afternoon.  The next day we went to check out the town and 2 of the 3 forts in the area. Portobelo, once an important town with its beautiful protected harbor has a history with the Spanish and the Pirates. Besides the forts, the small quiet little town is now known for 2 festivals a year, festival del Cristo Negro & festival de los Diablos. Next day spent on the boat doing internet as Steve was sorting out details on selling the house. Several miles west of town is a new Canopy tour, so we got a taxi from town to go do another zip line. Steve & I were the only ones there that morning so had a good time, afterward we had a relaxing time tubing down the river running along the property. After our picnic lunch that we had brought with us, we got one of the guides to drive us back to the main road to catch a bus back to town, another fun day.

The next day we had another nice sail the short distance to Colon, the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal. A lot of big ships were anchored out, a few coming & going, it seemed strange seeing so many big ships again in such close proximity. We would be going to Shelter Bay Marina for a few days to talk about getting some boat work done and to make a short trip over to Panama City to sign papers to sell the house back in Kemah Texas. Stopping at the fuel dock first we were in our slip by 2, Thursday July 10. A lovely, but isolated, marina located on the grounds of the former US military base Ft. Sherman. Friends from San Blas Randy & Dawn on Nirvana Now were there getting there boat ready to be hauled out while they went home to Canada and to our surprise friends Olivier & Vivian from S/V Maryann were there also due to boat problems.  The marina provides a free shuttle to the town of Colon which by van is 30 minutes away, so that made re-provisioning easy. It is pretty cool as the road goes over the canal right in front of the Gatun Locks!! The shuttle also took us to the bus station to get the bus to Panama City on Monday July 14. Nice A/C double-decker bus, that for $3.35 each gets you from Panama's Atlantic side to the Pacific in just over 1 ½ hours. Arriving at the huge bus terminal, next to a big mall, we get a taxi to take us to our hotel in town. Just a little after 4, after sitting most of the day we walk down to the waterfront to walk along the beautiful cement boardwalk / promenade that goes for miles. Since it was getting late we got a taxi back to the hotel to change for dinner at one of the nearby restaurants.    Tuesday we are up early to get a taxi to the American Embassy for our 8 AM appointment. Steve needed papers notarized for the selling of the house. It took a lot longer then we thought as someone did not come to work that day and the one person working the front window had to type up the notary information on all the pages to be signed in between helping customers at the window. Not the most efficient system!, but we finally got all the papers signed and left to go to the nearby mall. We were hungry and Steve wanted to review all the paperwork one more time before sending it back to Texas. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking the mall seeing if we could find anything needed for the boat. Not having been to a mall for a long time most of the time was spent just looking, managed to get a few things before getting a taxi back to the hotel. Found another good restaurant nearby for dinner. Wednesday afternoon we get the bus back to Colon and get a taxi back to the marina.

Next couple of days spent doing a few things on the boat and meeting with a rigger. This is the second time we have had the rigging inspected and it still looks good. BUT the boat is 16 going on 17 years old so before we head into the Pacific we want to get it replaced. Will do the work on our way back down in a few months.

Monday Ultra makes it to the area and comes into the marina for fuel and to also see the boat yard about future work on their boat. Just in time to join us for the trip up the coast on Tuesday.

We leave the marina Tuesday July 22 around 11:30 for a short trip up to the Chargres river, and are anchored along with Ultra & Kevin on Vagabundo by 2. Ultra puts their dinghy in the water and picks us all up to head over to see the fort Castillo San Lorenzo. It is now cloudy but it is keeping the heat down as we walk the grounds of the fort. The next day we move the big boats up the river a little to do some more exploring. Taking the dinghies up some small rivers feeding into the Chargres. Thursday we tried to snorkel but the river was too muddy from all the runoff from the rains. That night we had a nice Birthday dinner celebration for Steve on Ultra

Friday we were underway early making an overnight passage to the island of Escudo de Veraguas. We were going to make a stop in between off the mainland but decided to go all the way to Escudo. Having a great sail at first, with dolphins swimming off our bow. That night the winds died down and the seas were confused and we had a 2 knot current against us, making for a long night of motoring. We arrived at Escudo Saturday morning and anchored off the west side by 8 AM. Ultra was just an hour behind us, but Vagabundo who did not motor, was not going to make it in until late that night. I swam into shore then Bill & JoAnne picked up Steve and came in by dinghy for us to explore the island. It has a small fishing village but no one was living on the island during our visit. We had a nice afternoon exploring, but the anchorage was very rolly. After me sleeping during our passage the night before then again with the rolly anchorage, Steve & I decided to move on Sunday late morning once the rain stopped. Ultra would stay another day with Vagabundo so Kevin could rest up as he did not get into the anchorage until 10 that night so was very tired. 

We headed for Laguna de Bluefield AKA Bahia Azul AKA Bluefield and were anchored in the nice calm bay by 3 Sunday afternoon. Monday morning we were able to hear some of the Bocas cruisers net, then when we were talking to Ultra who had gone to another anchorage our VHF radio died. Steve spent the morning working on that then we took the dinghy around to explore the bay. Several small communities scattered around this huge bay, no roads coming into the area, people living here are one of the eight indigenous people of Panama. Making their living off the land and fishing. Many go work the plantations in other parts of the country to earn enough money to support their families for the year. Tuesday morning heavy rains, Steve on the internet and satellite phone trying to make sure everything will be OK for the closing on the house as it was not easy getting the tenant to move out.  Afternoon cleared up so went around in the dinghy again. Wednesday hazy gray day so worked on boat projects.  Ulta & Vagabundo got there in the afternoon. Thursday we picked Bill & JoAnne & Kevin up and went to go up a little river. Got the dinghy up a ways then got out and hiked finding the waterfall on the way back with the help of one of the locals.  

August 1, Friday afternoon after the rain we make the short trip over to the Zapatilla Cays. Part of the national park, and anchor off Zapatilla One. Saturday we go explore Zapatilla One in the rain, even with the rain we can see what a beautiful uninhabited island it is. Sunday starts with more rain & clouds but we still take the dinghies over to explore Zapatilla Two. This island has a few park rangers living on it and has a boardwalk thru the mangroves. The sun comes out by mid day. The waters are still stirred up from all the rain & wind but both islands are beautiful and we can see why a lot of people do day trips out here from Bocas.

Monday we have a beautiful day to make another short trip over to Crawl Cay, and are anchored by 10:30. Steve & I snorkel around the boat to check the anchor, and to see how much swing room we have before it gets too shallow. We are good for the night in calm weather. Ultra & Vagabundo arrive and we all have lunch before heading over to the “coral garden” reef to snorkel. We did not know what to expect but were very pleasantly surprised as it was a beautiful shallow reef, SO COLORFUL with about a million brittle starfish. With all the rain it was a little blurry with the fresh water not mixing well with the salt water. Once you dove down a foot or two it was clear. After snorkeling we took the dinghies to explore another nearby island and the restaurants around the area that service all the day trippers coming out from Bocas. 

Tuesday Steve & I move on to anchor by Johnson Cay and explore that area.

Wednesday 8/6 after the rain stops we make the short trip into Bocas Town and the marina stopping at the fuel dock. We are greeted by friends Gina & Bruce from Dream Catcher last seen back in San Andres. We get into our slip right next to Dream Catcher just like last year in the Rio Dulce. Go have lunch with them at the marina restaurant to get caught up. Start getting the boat ready for my sister Carols visit in 2 days. Steve tries to get our internet hooked up and discovers that a connection has melted, so we just have one computer.

Thursday Ultra comes into the marina, we help get them docked then lunch at the marina restaurant again before going into town to check in with the port captain. Panama is one of those places where you need to check in at each major port. Check out the town and the stores to see what is available. Back to the boats where the electrician from the marina found the part Steve needed to fix our internet connection so he spent the rest of the day fixing that.  

Friday we still had the day to shop for groceries as Carol was in Panama but would not get to Bocas until Saturday. Friday night the marina restaurant has BBQ night so we all enjoyed a dinner out. A busy 2 months, the next 3 I have condensed down so you are almost done reading.    

Saturday I meet Carol as she exits the airport, we walk the few blocks where Steve is waiting with the dinghy to bring her back to the boat and get settled in. Sunday we take a water taxi over to Red Frog Beach. Even though the water was a little rough this day we still enjoyed a beautiful day at the beach. Spent time seeing the little town of Bocas, Carol was a little surprised at how few souvenir shops they have here, but she did manage to find a lovely wrap skirt. Took the dinghy over to “Hospital Point” to go snorkeling, winds & waves still up so visibility was not the best, still great to be in the water. Wednesday we leave the marina around 10 to motor-sail back down to the Zapatilla Cays. A nice trip down under cloudy overcast skies, we are anchored by 12:30 off Zapatilla 1. Sun does not burn thru the clouds but Carol goes for a swim anyway between showers and we enjoy a lovely evening at anchor watching the sunset. Thursday the weather is better so we dinghy over to Zapatilla 2 to walk around the island and swim. Back to the boat to go over to Crawl Cay to snorkel the coral garden before heading back to the marina. A farewell dinner out in town before Carol gets ready for her early departure flight on Friday. We had arranged for the marina lancha to take us over at 6:15 AM, in expectation of rain. The lancha has a cover so thought that would be better than our open dinghy. Wearing ponchos the ride to town was in pouring rain with lightning strikes giving us light to guide the way. Usually there are taxis around even at that hour but the rain kept most of them away, so it took a few minutes to find one to get us to the airport. NO problem, Carol was still the first one there, at first we thought the airport was not even open. I guess most of the other passengers knew with the weather the plane would be delayed. And delayed it was for over 2 hours, but Carol still made her connecting flight in Panama City back to the states.

Next couple of weeks spent just hanging out in Bocas, socializing with other cruisers. One rare perfect weather day we rented bikes to go out to Playa Bluff, and had a great day at the beach.

I had made last minute plans for a quick trip back to Texas as my mom's health had taken a turn for the worse. Happy to say by the time I got there she was doing better. We still had some issues with our chart plotters so I took them back to send to Raymarine to be fixed but no way could they do it in time for my return. As always it was great to see family & friends and get supplies hard to come by outside of the US. While I was gone Steve tore the boat apart a little to sand & varnish the salon table and better insulate the freezer and had the boat all cleaned up and put back together by the time I returned September 15th.

Monday 9/22 we made a trip inland to the town of Boquete up in the western highlands of Panama. Nice to be surrounded by mountains in cool air for a change. Known for its coffee plantations it has now become very popular with Ex-Pats retiring in the area and has great hiking trails that bring in the tourists. To get there, we had to get a water taxi to town to get another water taxi to get to the mainland to get a van to drive up the winding narrow road into the mountains. We arrived with the afternoon shower, glad it was short and light as we walked to our hostel and checked in by 3:30. Once unpacked and with the rain stopped we went back to town and signed up for a river rafting trip the following day.  We had a beautiful sunny day for the rafting, and with all the rain it was 3 & 4 class rapids, a great first time experience for me. One section of the river you have Panama on one side and Costa Rica on the other. Our exit drive had us going down a two lane street with homes & stores on one side belonging to Costa Rica and across the street Panama. We went thru 2 border control points but since the rafting company is a familiar van we were waved thru. Arrived back in town for the afternoon shower. It is rainy season in Panama and not too many days go by without rain !!  We enjoyed a few hikes surrounding the town. Thursday afternoon we get a phone call from Bill & JoAnne who are in town ! They were working on boat projects so did not think they could get away, BUT Bill had planned to surprise JoAnne for her birthday and came up to Boquete. We had a nice dinner out to celebrate her birthday, then on Friday went to do a zip line. We were up in the clouds, no rain but still very foggy. Strange going down the zip line when you cant see the end of the line. We headed back to Bocas while B & J stayed a few more days. As much as we loved the cool weather and the mountains it felt good coming back to the boat and the sea.

The end of September and October were spent enjoying snorkeling, when weather cooperated, and exploring the different areas of Bocas and the surrounding islands.

Shopping always takes a long time, when we need or want a certain item we can't just go to the store and pick it up. Here you have to first find the store, as not all have signs indicating what they are. Then you have to search the shelves, as many times things are found in the strangest places.   All part of the hunt !  Many here in Bocas speak English but still many shop workers do not, so that is always a challenge to explain what you are looking for, helps to bring in the item IF possible. Even made another trip to the mainland to go to the “big” town of Changuinola, with about 50,000 people living there they have “bigger” & “better” stores so things not found in Bocas might be found there. They even have a “big” A/C grocery store !!

Always a few boat projects and maintenance things to be done. Meeting different folks from different boats talking about coming from and going to. Time passes quickly. Will do better on blog updates so they are not so long in the future.

Tried to post some pictures ON blog, but couldn't do it , and had trouble deleting and editing pictures in Picasa !!??  Not sure if it is due to our slow internet , will try to do better with next blog , for now just want to get this posted :). 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Health Clinic, Nargana, San Blas, Panama

Health Clinic in Nargana, San Blas, Panama

Thursday 22 May - Sunday 1 June

Thursday we wake to a sunny day, with no wind it seems even more hot & humid. After Steve's afternoon treatment we walk around the village to stretch our legs. Friday morning Steve goes in at 7 AM, it is a busy day at the clinic but Steve sees the doctor to tell him he is not seeing / feeling any improvement. The Lab guy is back, so they send him over to get blood work and a urine sample and tell him to come back at 1 to see the doctor when they get the results. We both go back in at 1, and first see the nurse who has been giving him his IV injections, he calls Steve over to remove the IV then we go into see the doctors and the nurse. His urinary infection is really bad, normal is 0 to 3 and his level is 35. After reviewing his old lab work with more attention they change his antibiotics. Another pill and another IV twice a day, this one for the next 10 days. “Shakes” as Steve likes to call him, puts in another IV connection to start him on the new medication. The doctor tells us Steve will do another urine test the following Wednesday to see if there is any improvement, if there is Steve will continue with the treatment, if not we will go to Panama City so he can see a specialist.

Saturday morning we both go in, Steve gets his treatment and we bring gifts for the 3 staff who have been helping us to show our appreciation. Another busy day at the clinic, they have a prison here on this island and today they bring 9 young male prisoners over to see the doctors. After Steve's treatment we go get some fruit & veggies and bread from the local stores. Back to the boat, since we will be here longer then we originally thought, we decide to move the boat from the east side between the islands and the mainland to the north west side. Looking for a better breeze and less bugs. We get re-anchored and the water is clearer, have a better breeze and less bugs, but without the “big” island(s) blocking the waves, it is a little rolly. A good trade off in my opinion. After Steve's 4 PM treatment we talk to Bill & JoAnne again updating them on the situation. They have been in contact with 2 other boats they knew and who have been in the area for a while so were getting advise on how to get to Panama City, where to stay, and doctor recommendations if needed.

Sunday morning while Steve goes into the clinic, I do some laundry. First time to hand wash sheets and pillow cases and they turned out very clean. We have plenty of extra sets, but then I would just have a big pile of dirty laundry in the way so I figured this way was the best. So hand washing sheets it was. Sunday afternoon Steve is the only one at the clinic getting his dose of medication, they are really giving him good treatment. The village is quiet, except for the ball courts and fields where the kids are out playing.

The next week goes by SLOWLY. Daily 7 AM & 4 PM, later moved to 5 PM, visits to the clinic and not much to do in between or afterward. Steve had the IV stint in his left hand to begin with, with the second location one afternoon the fluid started going into his arm instead of the vein. They took the IV stint out of his very swollen hand and arm, so swollen he could not even make a fist. Massaging it and keeping it elevated over night to try to absorb the fluid. The following morning they have to put in a new IV, his left hand / arm is still too swollen so they have to use his right hand. Steve is not happy about that since it would limit his mobility even more, so they place it up above the wrist. This winds up being a good location as it frees both his hands. He still can not get it wet, and has to be careful not to hit it against anything. There are a few tienda's / “stores” that we visit every few days to see if they have gotten in any good fruits or veggies. It is very hit or miss, mostly miss on what is available. The water surrounding these islands is not swim-able, the NW side is clearer and has less trash floating around BUT according to the 2013 census in the doctors office Nargana has 850 people (age 1 month to 70+) living on it & Corazon 500. There are only outhouses, all located right over the water so swimming is out of the question for us.

The highlight of the week came on Monday when Bill & JoAnne take the 4 mile dinghy ride over from Green Island where they are now anchored. They had met back up with another boat Joanna, who they knew well from Grenada. We also knew them but not as well, they have been here in the San Blas for 2 years. They were all coming over to Nargana to get some fruits & veggies and wine. It was so wonderful to visit with them all. The ladies from Joanna, Kathy & Maria know the area well and were confirming the info passed on thru Bill & JoAnne on getting to Panama City if needed. This is a get in get out island for most, so after their shopping and a stop for a beer we said goodbye as they went back to Green Island. The other boats that have come & gone in the anchorage seem to either be picking up / dropping off visitors or waiting for owners to return, as we have not seen any other cruisers on the island when we were there.

On Wednesday Steve got another urine & blood test & both results are showing very good progress. The urine bacteria count that was at 35 is now down to 10, still have to get below 3. We make the decision to stay here for 4 more days and continue with the treatments he is receiving, and not go to Panama City at this time. Between JoAnne & Bill gathering information and us checking web sites we have all the info we need to go to Panama City if and when we should need it.

By Saturday 5/31 all the other boats are gone, we are the only boat left anchored out.

Sunday, hard to believe it is the first of June. We managed to do a few minor boat chores during our time here but we are SO ready to get away from this island. Steve gets his last two IV injections, still has a few more days of pills, and will need to come back on Wednesday (via dinghy) for another urine & blood test.

ALL of Steve's care and medicine has been at NO COST !!! We had heard when you fly into Panama, you get a form so your 1st month has free medical care. We did not fly in and did not have the form, but they treated us for free just the same.

Monday we will leave and go to Green Island to spend the day swimming in the water.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

San Blas, Panama

San Blas, Panama
Wednesday 7 May - Wednesday 21 May

Wednesday morning we went into San Andres one last time to try to see if we could find an unlocked dongle, a USB connection for WiFi via phone line that is used down here in Central America. Mine was “unlocked” in Providencia, but not sure if it will work with Digicel the main carrier in Panama, but no luck finding one. Back to the boat, take outboard motor off the dinghy and secure dinghy & motor for passage. Do internet one more time since we will be several days without. We would be traveling with Bill & JoAnne on Ultra, but they were still talking to people back in the states about repairs for their auto pilot, so we had time for lunch before leaving. On our way out the channel their engine overheated, so we pulled over and anchored. Steve said it sounded like the same problem we had coming back from Cayos Cochinos with the raw water impeller going, and sure enough it was. Ultra had to wait for the engine to cool down before the repair could be made, so we just rested in the cockpit waiting for them.

By 4 PM we were underway for our 240 mile trip, with 15 – 18 knot winds in 3-5 foot swells on the beam we put out full sails and took off going 7-8 + knots. Ultra was behind us and we were checking in via the VHF radio, their auto pilot was partially working, but they had some hand steering in-between Bill resetting and getting it to work again. After our 4 AM check in we were getting too far away for VHF range, and they could not turn on the SSB radio for fear it would cause the auto pilot to stop again. For Thursday, the winds were predicted to die down and be more behind us, slowing us down, so we thought we would be in range again. Wind speed & direction stayed the same plus we had a 1 to 2 knot current pushing us south, so it was really hard for us to slow down. At first we put in one reef in the genoa, no difference, then another reef plus one in the main, slowing us down a little. As the evening approached with no change in the wind and seas we realized we were still going to fast and would arrive in darkness, NOT what we wanted to do in any area never mind one surrounded by reefs. Just a very tiny amount of genoa sail out and 3 reefs in the main finally got us to slow down, only now that we were going slow at 4-5 knots and not cutting thru the waves the boat was rolling from side to side a lot more, not the most comfortable motion to be in. Late Thursday evening we made VHF contact with Ultra again they were now only about an hour or 2 behind us.

Friday morning at 6 when I came up on deck, daylight was giving us our first glances of the approaching Islands. When I looked at the chart plotter and saw we were heading for the Holandes Channel I asked why we were coming in that way. For the first time in 4 years Steve miss read the guide book / charts. There are 2 entrance channels to Porvenir, one the San Blas Channel is the one to use while the other is for local knowledge and under good light and calm seas. Steve thought that applied to both channels so played it safe and had us coming in the Holandes Channel a few more miles east. It worked out very well as we would have had to try to slow down even more for a daylight entrance thru the San Blas Channel. This way we got the scenic tour sailing back up past the East Lemmon Cays, thru the Eden Channel and past the West Lemmon Cays arriving and anchored at Provenir by 9 AM. Ultra was already there so came by our boat at 10 to pick us up to go into customs to clear in.

As we were checking in we met 2 other couples on the 2 power boats out in the anchorage who had arrived the day before, coming thru the Canal from the Pacific. We also met Nestor, a local Kuna, who spoke very good English as well as Spanish and helped with some translation during check in. Check in was easy but costly, $100 per person for our 90 day visas and $193 for the boats year cruising permit, then $20 for the boat and $10 more for us for the Kuna's. All checked in, a 10 minute walking tour of the whole island and we all were ready for a cool drink. Not much on this island an airport, big nice restaurant, small hotel and some of Panama's Navy personnel. We met back up with the group from the power boats and had a good time visiting and exchanging information. Nestor also joined us and gave us all some local history. Nestor lives in the Kuna community on the island Nalunega right behind where we are anchored. From our boat it looks like one small island but it is actually 4 really small islands. He invited us all over to tour his community / island and serve us dinner that night but we decline for another night so we can rest up from our 2 day passage. After returning to the boats we swim to the reefs close by the anchorage to snorkel and cool off. A nice relaxing evening on the boat with a good night sleep.

Saturday afternoon we, along with Bill & JoAnne meet up with Nestor for a tour of his community on Nalunega. Needing Digicel data cards and minutes for internet we find one of the little stores that sells them and buy what we think we need. This island and the one next to it Wichubhuala are the bigger communities in this section of San Blas, having many families living on them where most of the others will just have 1 or 2 to 5 or 10 families per island. There are also many islands with no one living on them. Nestor’s community is 95 % wooden huts with dirt floors, but very clean. They have a few small stores and a restaurant next to the dock where supplies are brought in, a school where children go to the age of 14, then they would need to go to the main land for further education. We enjoy seeing this totally foreign way of life up close and personal, and agree to come back later for Nestor's family to make us dinner for $5 a meal. Back at 6 for dinner where Steve & JoAnne go back to the store to get more cards to add minutes to the sim cards we bought earlier. We have fun interacting with Nestor's family and enjoy a very nice meal before heading back to our boats. We had two great days of weather but Nestor said the rain would be coming. That night it poured for a few hours giving the boat a great wash down.

Sunday we have sunny skies for our big move 30 minutes away to the Lemmon Cays, and anchor between Tiadup, Miriadup and Naguarchirdup with 6 other little cays nearby. Yes they have some really strange names for the cays. In the Kuna language dup or tupu means Island. We take our dinghy and pick up Bill & JoAnne to snorkel the reef of the south side then go by to see the other islands stopping in at Naguarchirdup AKA Elefante. This island has a bar and restaurant that serves the cruising community as well as the many backpackers that come thru the area. Bill & JoAnne come over to our boat for dinner and we unsuccessfully try to get the Bauhaus charts onto their I-Pad NOT as easy as it was for us to put them on our Android.

Monday sailing an hour further east to the East Lemmon Cays, an even nicer group of about 10 islands, sand banks and reefs spread out. There are two SSB radio nets down here, the SW cruisers net at 8:15 AM on 6209 and the Panama connection at 8:30 AM on 8107. The 6209 channel deals with boats south of Roatan to Colombia so we had previously made contact with a boat we had met in the Bahamas back in 2011, Nirvana Now, and knew they were in the area. The net on 8107 deals mostly with boats anchored here in the San Blas, since the area is so spread out the VHF radio used in most other places does not work as well for the whole area. As we pulled into the East Lemmon anchorage we passed Nirvana Now and yell hello, after setting the anchor called them on the VHF radio to talk. We made plans to go to Banedup, to meet for Happy Hour at the local bar on the island. Bill & JoAnne also join us as Randy & Dawn have a lot of local knowledge to share with us. They have been here, on & off as they went back and forth to Canada, for the last 3 years. We have a great time catching up, leaving as the rain starts making plans to snorkel the near by reef on Tuesday afternoon.

The rain that started lightly Monday night kept up heavily all thru the night and into Tuesday morning. We had discovered a diesel / oil leak with the generator so had that mess to clean up and then try to find the leak. Bill & JoAnne had been working on their own problem with the heat exchanger on their engine so the 1st part of the day was spent on boat chores and since it was still partly cloudy glad to delay the snorkeling. By about 2:30 the sun was trying to peek out, so along with Randy & Dawn from Nirvana Now, Steve & I went to snorkel the reef by Nuindup. Back to the boat, we still had the generator leak but Steve was too tired to mess with it that night. Steve was fearing the worse problem and Randy said he could come by the following day to help diagnosis it. To take his mind off the generator problem, Steve made a delicious pork, sweet potatoes, apples & green beans over rice dish for dinner.

Wednesday Randy & Bill came over to help Steve find the leak, and luckily it was on a filter that we did not even need. Once the problem was found Randy & Bill went back to their boats to work on their own projects. Steve was able to remove it and had the right size hose connector to join the hoses, easier said than done, but as always after a few choice words and time he fixed the problem. During the afternoon we had our first encounter with a San Blas veggie boat, and were very impressed, they had a great selection & a wide variety. There are NO stores on 95% of the San Blas Islands, and the ones that do have them are VERY limited to what they and far between, so access to some fresh veggies is a real bonus. Glad for leftovers for dinner that night and think we have the generator problem fixed.

This is the rainy season here in Panama. Thursday it started to rain at 4 AM and stayed cloudy and rainy all day long, so no chance to go explore the other islands and reefs, just a lazy day on the boat. Friday late afternoon the rain stopped. We had dinner over on Ultra, discussing options to get internet service straightened out. JoAnne's sim card is not working and we need an extra one for me, having only bought one for Steve's tablet. We are very fortunate to have internet at all where we are so I know we should not complain, but the way they have it set up is not easy to deal with. After buying a sim card you have to by prepaid minute cards with a scratch off code # to enter to get credit. Problem is not all the cards work !!!

Saturday we have a beautiful sunny day to sail BACK to Porvenir. Steve goes over to pick up Bill & JoAnne at 9 AM, no sense taking both boats so they join us leaving Ultra at anchor. JoAnne baked some Banana nut bread and it was a lovely sail with just the genoa up doing 7 knots, arriving at 10:30. Steve, Bill & JoAnne go back over to the island of Nalunega to see about internet cards while I stay with the boat. Took them a little longer than expected but 2 hours later they get back to the boat and we pull up anchor to head back to the East Lemmon Cays. A little slower trip back but still able to sail with just the genoa. Arrived back by 2 and were able to re-anchor in our same spot. Steve brought Bill & JoAnne back to their boat and we all had a quick lunch before heading out to visit one of the islands and do some snorkeling. JoAnne brought her spear and we saw and she killed 8 Lion Fish. We are used to spotting Lion fish under ledges, but down here they are just out swimming in the open. A great day, until after dinner we found another diesel leak with the generator and had trouble getting the internet cards to work. Life in paradise comes with a lot of problems.

Sunday another cloudy day with a few rain showers on & off through out the day. Ultra leaves the anchorage to head down to the Holandes Cays while we choose to wait another day hoping for better weather.

Monday we have a sunny day as we leave East Lemmon Cays to head over to the Holandes Cays. Wind too much on the nose so we motor with just the main sail for the 2 hour trip. The Holandes Cays are another group of about 20 islands behind a 7 mile reef, most uninhabited, they are also the furthest from the mainland so the waters are known for their clarity. We are anchored by 11:30 near Ultra & Nirvana Now who are out snorkeling. We snorkel the anchor and a near by reef before seeing rain heading towards us, back on the boat to close up all the windows. A nice passing down pour that is over in about 30 minutes. Ultra & Nirvana Now back on their boats for lunch call us to say they will be going back out to snorkel again after lunch and we join them. A great afternoon snorkeling seeing several nurse sharks up close and personal, and checking out the 2 closest islands.

Tuesday, another partly cloudy day, the plan was to go snorkel other reefs in the area.
Steve had a bad night with chills & fever again and it looked like his infection was coming back. We made the decision to go to the island of Nargana that has a big Kuna community with a clinic, trying one more local option before going to a major hospital in Panama City. Talk to Bill & JoAnne to set up check in time on the SSB radio to let them know how we are doing, and get underway by 11 AM. We have a nice sail over to Nargana and are anchored by 1:45, put the dinghy down and go over to find the clinic. Our guide book has a small map of the small community so we knew where the clinic was and that they close at 3. Steve checks in and shows his passport for ID, and it is just a short wait until we see the doctor. She speaks very little English, but Steve had translated his problem to Spanish and had his papers from the doctors in San Andres & Providencia which were both in Spanish. He managed to get across the problem and she brought us in to see another doctor, so she could consult with him. Steve had brought along his tablet which has Google Translate, so the doctor was typing in what he was recommending for treatment and we got to see the English version. Both doctors were very impressed with this and downloaded it to their phones. In addition to pill antibiotics Steve will get 5 days of IV antibiotic, twice a day, we start the first one that afternoon. It's a male nurse who administers the IV, and his hands are shaking so badly he misses the vein on the back of Steve's right hand and has to stab him a second time. He leaves the needle in his hand with a cap on it, and bandages it so it won't come out. Steve is grateful that he doesn't have to find a vein again, but having a needle poking out the back of his hand really limits what he can do for the next 5 days. The lab was already closed so no blood test or urine test could be done until the following morning. Back to the boat shortly before 5 PM, just in time to talk to Ultra on the SSB radio to let them know Steve has seen the doctor.

Wednesday, cloudy windless day, we are up early to go to the lab at 7 when it opens. Even though we get there a few minutes early, the lab guy is packing up to go visit other islands and tells Steve he will need to come back the following day. Steve gets another IV dose of antibiotic and we are back to the boat by 8, scheduled to go back at 4 for another IV dose. On our afternoon visit the doctor, via the Google translate on her phone tells us the lab tech will not be back until Monday, as he is visiting a lot of islands. Steve still has 3 more days of IV treatment so we will stay around here and hopefully our next 2 weeks in the San Blas will be much better than our first two weeks.

Link to pictures;

Link may need to copy & paste ??

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

San Andres Isla, Colombia

San Andres Isla, Colombia

Wednesday 16 April – Wednesday 7 May

We watch the almost full moon set and the sun rise as we get ready to leave for San Andres Wednesday. Anchor is up at 6:30 and we are heading out the channel by 6:45 raising the main sail, then turn south and put out the genoa sail and turn the motor off. It is slow going at first but by 7:30, as we clear the lee of the island the winds pick up and the sails fill in and we have a wonderful day of sailing. By 2:30 we can see San Andres but we still have an hour to go south to enter the channel and turn north towards the town and anchorage. The island is surrounded by a reef(s), with many wrecked vessels along it. We are anchored by 3:45, behind Dream Catcher who has been here a week and Ultra who had left earlier in the day and had arrived shortly before us. We call Rene with the Serrana Agency, who we have to check in with, and go with Bill & JoAnne in their dinghy to check in. Stopping first at Dream Catcher to find out where the “marina” is to meet Rene. We had been talking to Bruce & Gina on the VHF radio as we were approaching and they had invited us all to dinner so we did not have to cook after our long day at sea. Great to have such wonderful friends. Another boat we knew from Roatan, Kokopelli with Linda & JD were about an hour behind us and they also joined us for dinner.

We could tell as we were miles offshore and even more so as we approached the anchorage that this Island was a lot more “built up” from the ones we had been use to seeing. Buildings and hotels more than 6-8 stories high, don't laugh we have not seen buildings more than 3 stories since flying back into Guatemala City in October. When we went to check in, the marina is off the main road that is a 4 lane divided road with traffic lights!! Bruce & Gina confirmed this at dinner, especially after the quiet island of Providencia, this island is a busy one. All kinds of stores to shop in with a very active visitor population, duty free shops and hotels and restaurants.

After a good nights rest, we went into shore to see what was around. The section by the marina is filled with a lot of small local shops. A large supermarket, not like Eldon's in Roatan but great for us to re-stock the things we have used up since leaving Roatan. The “Centro” “Downtown” area, just a ½ mile up the road, on the north east section of the island is filled with hotels and the more expensive duty free shops. Our timing was not the best or maybe it was, as all the shops close from noon to 3:30 for lunch. Still got to see a few and enjoyed the walk along the sea wall and amongst the shops.

Good Friday was a beautiful partly cloudy day, always grateful for a little shade when we go Island exploring. Steve & I had seen a sign in town about a music festival at San Luis Playa, so along with Bill & JoAnne & Bruce & Gina we went to see if we could find it. We got on one of the local buses that run around the island, asking first if there was a festival. Unlike Providencia where almost everyone spoke a little English, here most do NOT. JoAnne & Gina our Spanish speakers got a yes answer to us going to a festival at San Luis. Once the bus started thinning out with passengers I think the driver started wondering when we were getting off. A couple who spoke good English got on and helped interpret between the driver. It was explained that a whole section of the island is referred to as San Luis, and whatever festival we were looking for could be any where along that couple mile long stretch. So we got off the bus and started walking down the road along the waterfront. We had a fun day seeing the places along the road and beach as we walked but never found the music festival. We did find another sign advertising it right in the area where we were, but NO time indicated so we figured they meant a night time festival, not during the day. At one point we were walking by a beach with a lot of debris on shore. JoAnne found a sea bean right away and that started the hunt, they were everywhere, an Easter egg hunt island style ! After collecting 50+ sea beans we convinced JoAnne to move on as she vowed to come back another day for more treasures. She did and wound up with 3x as many after Bill & she spent 2 hours combing the beach, she will be making a lot of jewelry with these.

Saturday afternoon into the central downtown area in search of some specialty items that might be found amongst the stores. JoAnne found a Bullet blender like hers that had just broken at the same price she had paid 4 years ago back in the states. We stopped by the beautiful Sunrise Hotel to have a drink at their bar and get their WiFi signal code. Steve had brought along his tablet so he could keep busy while we were shopping and now was downloading some things. We have the Tigo internet on the boat but it is not as fast as the hotels WiFi. A game he downloaded was taking a really long time, so Bill & JoAnne & I walked down the street a little seeing the quiet deserted day time places start to come alive during the night. Restaurants all setting up their sidewalk tables, and filling up with people starting their nights out. We grabbed an appetizer at one of the places then went back to collect Steve who's download was almost done.

Easter Sunday, Gina on Dream Catcher had the idea to do a picnic lunch. We are anchored close to a little cay so we went over for a shared lunch then went out to swim & snorkel the reef. Another great day on another beautiful island with great friends.

Monday, we went to town to see a doctor. Steve had finished his antibiotics given to him in Providencia on Friday and had started to feel bad again. We wanted to try and not have him get as bad as he was with early intervention. The doctor said since he had just stopped taking the antibiotics she wanted to wait a few more days to get another sample so the lab could determine what kind of bacteria it was and what would be the best treatment, that or she could just give us another antibiotic not being sure it was the right one. Steve opted to wait a few more days for the test, in hindsight, and after talking to Bruce (a urologist before he retired) when we ran into them at lunch at Miss Celia's restaurant, maybe not the best decision. Maybe ?? if Steve had started on another stronger antibiotic right away he could have avoided several days of not feeling good.

The next few days were spent doing boat maintenance projects with short trips into town, and just relaxing on the boat. Got our portable depth finder out to plot the way into the fuel dock to be able to bring the big boat in to fuel up. Had to med-moor to part of the fuel dock where we had just enough depth. Bruce & Gina make plans & leave for Bocas del Toro, Panama on Wednesday. By Friday afternoon Bill & JoAnne & I are ready for some beach time. Steve, in the morning, had gone back in to give a urine sample but was still not feeling great. Instead of bouncing around in the dinghy out in the sun he stayed on the boat to prepare dinner for us later that evening. Taking the dinghy over to check out the ship on the reef and little islands, Haines Cay & Rose Cay behind us. The many different shades of blue water here are just beautiful, hope the pictures show some of it. We have a fun afternoon playing in the water and start to leave just in time, as the many party boats that we see around ALL start showing up at the same time !! One minute we had the waters almost all to ourselves the next 100's of people start getting in, glad we were ready to leave. Back to the boats for showers before a wonderful diner prepared by Steve.

Saturday, Steve feeling OK, we go in with Bill & JoAnne to a few stores and then lunch back at the great local restaurant Bruce & Gina had told us about Miss Celia's. Steve had gotten a call from the lab that he would have to come back in Monday to re-do the sample. The whole story of giving a urine sample is a blog in itself which I will try to get him to write up. For now he just has to do it again. Sunday dinner on Ultra, talking about options of where to go next. Monday morning Steve submits another urine sample, now we just have to wait until Wednesday for the results.

Tuesday night after dinner Steve started to feel much worse, he had a bad night, chills & sweats, aches and headache again, Wednesday morning he is feeling even worse. We go into the lab to get his results and call the doctor to see where to meet her. Turns out it is her day off but she will meet us at the clinic. The infection is back and she gives him a prescription for some stronger antibiotics, one a one time dose and the other to take over the next two weeks. She also gives him another shot of the steroid to help with the headache and help him feel better right away. UN-official diagnosis Bacterial Prostatitis. Back to the boat where Steve naps most of the afternoon. At 3:30 I go into town with Bill & JoAnne for a little shopping, while Steve reads & rests on the boat. By 6 when we return he is feeling a little better.

Wednesday May 1 AKA May Day a holiday here, like Labor Day back in the states, so when we went in to town at 3:30 just about everything was closed up so no grocery shopping for us. Good to walk around, Steve still weak having good days and not so good days, giving the medicine time to do its work will take a little while so the next few days are just a few boat chores and taking it easy.

By Monday Steve is feeling much better, so we go do the grocery run to stock up and get ready to leave. Tuesday we call Rene to tell him to get our departure papers ready, as we will leave on Wednesday for the 2 + day trip to the San Blas Islands of Panama for a short visit. We will just visit there until the heavy rains & lightening start then move to Bocas del Toro to wait out the worst of the rainy season then go back to the San Blas to spend more time exploring there. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Providencia Continued

Providencia Continued

Sunday 30 March – Tuesday 15 April

Sunday night Steve started to feel really bad, and went to bed early. Had a bad night of aches & pains, severe headache and fever & chills. Monday he woke still feeling bad, mostly a really bad headache. By noon we decided to go into town to see the doctor at the local hospital / clinic. Doctor was a very nice young lady, spoke very good English, looked like she was 16 years old, but very competent. They gave Steve two IV bags of fluid as he was dehydrated, took blood for testing and urine sample found he had a urinary tract infection so gave him antibiotics for that. Finally left at 5, walking back to the dock we saw Bill & JoAnne & Bruce & Gina and told them what the Doctor said and that Steve was feeling a little better. Tuesday he woke with another horrible headache, JoAnne brought us a wonderful lunch of veggie burgers, but Steve could not even eat. We went back to the hospital / clinic again, this time a different doctor not so good with her English but she had a friend visiting to help interpret. She gave us an RX for a steroid, to be injected to help with the headache. We stopped by Dream Catcher to talk to Bruce, a Physician, to check on the drug before taking it, then Bruce came over to give the injection.

Steve was able to eat a little that night and had a good nights rest and woke up Wednesday morning feeling great. Feeling great but not wanting to over work himself, he spent the day catching up on internet and cooking. I got to give him his second shot to boost the recovery, and hiked back up to drop off another load of laundry. We invited Bill & JoAnne & Bruce & Gina over for dinner to thank them for their help & support while he was sick.

Thursday into town to see what the stores had. They get a few different supply ships several times a week so you have to keep checking back to see what they have.

Friday another hike to pick up laundry. Then a small gathering at the beach close to the anchorage for sun-downers with several of the boats at anchor.

Early Saturday Gina's brother Kelley and nephew Blake arrived. Along with the many items they brought for Bruce & Gina, they also had our watermaker part along with a few other things we ordered as well as things for Ultra. So wonderful to have family & friends visit and be able to bring boat parts that can be hard to get. Saturday afternoon Steve put the watermaker back together and reinstalled it, a slight leak so he would have to work on it again the following day. But by 4 we were ready for a break, so along with Bill & JoAnne we went over to Santa Catalina Island to do the short hike out to Morgans Head. Stopping to talk to Bruce & Gina who had been out on motor scooters touring the island with her brother & nephew. Gina had been in contact with a dive shop, and we were going to join them on a dive on Monday.

Sunday working on the watermaker leaks, and cleaning out the fore-peak where it lives and had leaked salt water, then bolting it back into place. One project done, at least for now. Sunday night we, along with Bruce & Gina, Kelley & Blake went over to Ultra for Pizza night. JoAnne had made the pizza dough and we all brought toppings to load them up with. They were delicious !!

Monday the dive boat arrives first to Dream Catcher to pick 4 up, then to our boat to load us & our gear in then to pick up Ultra, 8 divers with driver Alex and dive guide Jim head out. They have a LOT of gray reef sharks here. Glad to be in a group and told they are not aggressive sharks. Unless you spear a lion fish and hold it out for them to come get & eat which Jim did. They swim pretty close to you but don't really seem bothered by us swimming in their water. After the first dive we go back to the shop to switch out tanks and do our surface time, before going back out for the 2nd dive.

Tuesday, Dream Catcher had an early departure to go San Andres to get their guests back for a Friday flight. We will either catch up to them in San Andres, another Colombian Island 60 miles from Providencia or in Bocas Del Toro Panama.

Next few days doing small boat projects, reading, going into town, just enjoying our beautiful surroundings.

Thursday night dinner on Ultra, talking about weather window to move on. Places like here make it hard to move on.

Friday night we go with Bill & JoAnne to a local's house. Jaime, a cameraman, that filmed their interview with Kattea, the hostess of a local show called Cool Land. A small get together that we enjoyed before stopping at a restaurant in town that was open before going back to our boats.

Saturday we climb to the peak again. Just the 4 of us this time, so we found a ride there in the back of a truck. Did not stop for as many pictures this time. Bill & JoAnne had a flag that they wanted to put up on top. We had a picnic lunch on top then signed the flag and Bill hung it on the pole before making our way back down. The guy we got a ride from lived down the street so he said we could come find him or ask someone to call him, but when we got down another taxi car was driving by so she brought us back to town. A nice swim off the boat then a quiet night to rest my sore knees.

Sunday we took the dinghies to go snorkeling on the east side of the island. The winds are still pretty strong so the ride over was a little rough & wet. The outer reef kept most of the waves down but it was a speed snorkel as we drifted with the waves, current and dinghies. Bill & JoAnne had announced earlier in the day about another cruisers get together for sun-downers over on the beach again getting to know a few more of our temporary neighbors.

Monday woke to rain, around 11 semi clear skies so we went into town with Bill & JoAnne to see Mr. Bush to let him know we would be checking out on Wednesday. Stopped at the store to get some things for dinner, making it back to the boats before more rain came. Cloudy skies the rest of the day with light showers through out the day. Steve decided to cook since we were stuck on the boat and we had Bill & JoAnne over for dinner.

Tuesday we get our departure papers and get a few more provisions as we will be arriving in San Andres the day before everything closes for the Easter Holiday. Clean the prop & anchor chain and snubber line so we will be ready for an early departure on Wednesday.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Providencia, Colombia

Isla Providencia (AKA Old Providence) and Santa Catalina Island, Colombia

Sunday 16 March – Sunday 30 March

We arrived to Providencia around 3 PM Sunday afternoon, greeted by JoAnne & Bill who were out snorkeling as we were coming in the channel. Informing us the agent Mr. Bush, who you have to use to check in, was thought to be off island and that dinner would be on their boat that night. We tried to hail the Bush Agency on VFH 16 a little after 4 once we were anchored, and were glad we got no response. Cleaned up the salt water from the dodger and hand rails, sorry we had just missed the short rain storm that we could see cover the island as we approached, it would have given the boat a good rinse.

Over to Ultra for dinner along with friends Gina & Bruce on S/V Dream Catcher and Hinnerk & Kinga from S/V Paulinchen. It was a great way to be welcomed to the beautiful island of Providencia.

Monday morning we tried to check in, calling Mr. Bush several times on the VHF. The Port Authority answered us and said they would also try to reach him and call us back. Since we were “stuck” on the boat not being allowed on shore until we could check in, Steve decided he would make dinner for the group that night on Ocean Star. After lunch and still not hearing from either we tried again to reach the Bush Agency, still no answer. This left us not knowing if he was back on the island, and if we should try to go check in. Bill & JoAnne were going into town, so they said they would stop by his house/office and check for us. They called us back and confirmed that Mr. Bush was still off island BUT his housekeeper Adella could help us get our paper work started.

We wanted to get checked in since there was a planned hike on Tuesday with a group of cruisers that we wanted to go on. We met B&J at the dock just before 3, and they showed us to Mr. Bush's pointing out the different stores & bakeries along the way. We had a nice visit with Adella as she has lived on the island over 20 years and had lots of stories to share. Finally the port authority guy showed up and took some of our information. Customs & Immigration never made it so we left our passports with Adella to have them stamped the following day. Even though we had been told by other cruisers that we might have to leave our passports at the office, and that this was a common occurrence here, it was still a strange feeling leaving our passports behind. We were told we could come ashore as we wished and that the rest of the paperwork would be completed by Mr. Bush. Picked up some SIM cards for the local phone company so we can get internet, and back to the boat by 5 to finish getting dinner ready. Good thing it was a main course salad, with minimal cooking required. Another fun evening.

Tuesday one of the boats Baros with Linda & Hans, who have been to Providencia many times so know the island very well, were leading the way on a hike to the Peak. This was the 14th time for them to do the hike but a first for Shirley & Tom on S/V Rio Nimpkish, Hinnerk & Kinga on S/V Paulinchen, Bill & JoAnne on Ultra and us and we were glad to have their knowledge of the island and the trail.

We met at the town dock at 9 and caught a van taxi to the park entrance to start the hike by 9:30. Stopping along the way to read the park signs about the local flora & fauna and take pictures we reached the peak 90 minutes later, and were rewarded with spectacular views. Rested for about 30 minutes up on top enjoying the views before starting down. The heat of the day was bringing out all the lizards and we spent some time trying to get a good picture of one of the many Blue Lizards we saw. They are skittish little guys but their bright neon blue coloring makes them a sight to see amongst the green & brown of their landscape. Once we were all down our “guides” Linda & Hans had us go over to Southwest Beach for lunch at Restaurante Divino Nino and a refreshing swim in the ocean. A huge fish platter was had by all and not much went uneaten. Too full to go far we walked down the beach to Richards Beach Bar for another drink to enjoy while we continued the conversations. We were joined by Laura & Russel S/V Luturna II who also know a lot about the island as Laura is from here. Called the taxi van driver, Nelson, to bring us back returning to the boats by 6 after a great day.

Wednesday tried reaching the Bush Agency on the VHF to see when we needed to come in and finish clearance. No answer until later when another new arrival entered the harbor and called in. They were told to come in then and we were told to come in at 4, freeing the day. We have limited internet with only Steve's tablet, the Movistar SIM card would not work in my Tigo USB stick, so trying to get caught up on some emails. The watermaker was started, and a few minutes later we got the system fail alarm, so Steve shut it down. After lunch we went to the fore-peak where the watermaker lives to see what the problem was and discovered another small problem – a container of Stabil (a gasoline additive) which is greasy leaked so we needed to clean that up before looking at the watermaker. Mess cleaned up and Steve gets to the watermaker and it is NOT good. A hole was blown out of a crucial fitting. No clue as to how it could have happened, not going to be an easy fix if at all possible. By now it is time to get ready to go see Mr. Bush to finish our check in. Stopped by the internet place to check options to get my computer connected to the internet. Finished our paperwork with Mr. Bush so he can clear us and the boat into Colombia, and getting our Passports back. Back by the internet place to drop off my Tigo (Honduras Internet) USB stick so it can get unlocked to be used by Movistar the internet provider here.

Thursday morning I picked up Shirley so she could show me where Alitea, a woman on island that does laundry for the cruisers, lives. NOT an easy home to find, climbing stairs and hiking a path we finally get to her house, and she agrees to do some laundry for us. A quick stop at the internet store to pick up my now unlocked USB dongle and back to the boat to see if it works and to get laundry. I can't get dongle to work so go back in with my computer and Daisy at the internet store fixes it. Back to the boat and internet now working on my computer. Need Steve's help to bring our 2 loads of laundry in, and climb back up again to Alita's house. Steve continues working on the watermaker problem, finding how to take it apart and finding a replacement part. Luckily friend Gina on Dream Catcher has her brother coming to visit in 2 weeks so we will be able to get the part brought in. Join most of the other boats in the anchorage 8 out of 10 for happy hour drinks at the Bamboo Bar on Santa Catalina Island.

Friday Steve & I met up with JoAnne & Bill, and Gina & Bruce at 10 to rent motor bikes to tour the island. We rented from the grocery store, $25 for the day, no deposit, no form(s) to fill out, only Bruce showed an ID and we drove away. We had a great day circumnavigating the island on its main road and exploring many of the side streets of the tiny island seeing the beautiful beaches along the way. Lunch back at Southwest Bay, opting for smaller dishes this time, before continuing on around the island. After a full day we turned the bikes back in by 5:30, no one wanted to be riding around at night and no one thought they would come back in in the morning to go for a ride. Steve & I made another hike up to pick up our laundry before heading back to the boat for the night.

Saturday few jobs on the boat and in to town to pick up bread (they have two good bakeries here, not like the French islands but pretty good) and to hike back up to the laundry house to pay as she was not there the day before when we picked it up and her husband did not know the cost. You need to look at the pictures of the TRAIL to the house for laundry and think about that next time you do laundry at home. Bruce & Gina hosted a group dinner of Lasagna for 8 on Dream Catcher, we brought garlic bread, Ultra brought a salad, and Paulinchen brought Baileys liquor and pastries for desert to go with a desert Gina made.

Sunday, lazy day spent relaxing on the boat.

Monday was a holiday on the Island , but no one could tell us what holiday. Some stores said they would be closed and some were open, not much different from any other day that we could tell. At first we had heard that maybe they would have one of the island horse races that we had heard is a fun event to see. But Linda from S/V Baros found out there was a Black Crab Festival & Cat Boat Racing on another beach. Black crabs are small land crabs that migrate to the sea once a year to lay their eggs, then go back to the forests. She made the announcement on VHF 16 to see who wanted to go, 8 out of the 10 boats did. So Steve & I along with Linda & Hans from Baros Shirley & Tom on Rio Nimpkish, Hinnerk & Kinga on Paulinchen, Laura & Russel Luturna II, Bruce & Gina on Dream Catcher, John & Lucy on Mate, and Bill & JoAnne on Ultra, piled into Nelsons taxi van again to go over to Manchineel Bay for the day. We had stopped by here the other day when we rented motor bikes, but it was a different scene today. Full with people, and vendors set up selling food & drinks, watching the locals set the sail on the Cat Boats is always a sight to watch. Another great day hanging out on a beautiful beach. 

Tuesday 3/25 was Bills B-Day so there was a big party planned onboard Ultra for that night. Russel & Laura had left to sail over to San Andres so that just left 7 boats / 14 people for the party. Good thing they have a big Trimaran, so we had a wonderful night filled with great food, drinks and fun. We even all sent off messages in a bottle, supplied from B&J's left over wine bottles.

Wednesday everyone was moving a little slow so not much was done. Since our watermaker is broken and we are waiting on a part to fix it. Bill & JoAnne were making extra, so we went over and got another 25 gallons in 5 gallon jugs to put into our tanks. Paulinchen left late in the day to sail over to San Andres and then on to Panama.

Thursday easy day, Steve worked on cleaning off some of the rust spots on the boat. When we were in the boat yard where they are grinding and welding on other boats small little shavings wind up on our boat when mixed with salt water make little rust spots that need to get cleaned up before they get worse. Cleaning up requires rust remover, a toothbrush and a small pick to dislodge the metal specks. Tedious mind-numbing work.

Friday morning it rained for the first time since we arrived, it did not last long but it came down heavy and gave the boat a nice rinse. It cleared up in plenty of time for the days planned activity of hiking & snorkeling. Over on Santa Catalina Island (the little island next to & connected to Providencia by a foot bridge) is one of Pablo Escobar's homes, OR what remains of it, which is very little. The home is on top of a hill that the main path has long since been overgrown. Bill & Joanne had been over to the beach and saw that it looked like an easier path up from the beach. So along with Bruce & Gina and John & Lucy we all took the dinghies around to that side of the island. The path was in much better shape then what we expected. And even though there is not much left of the house you can tell how impressive it must have been back in the 1980's. Just the logistics of getting the material to these islands and then to the top of the hill with no road access would have been a major ordeal, but then he sure had the money to pay for it. It was very interesting to see, back down to the beach for a picnic lunch then snorkeling on the way back to the boats.

That night we planned to go into a pizza place in town. Shirley had gone by the day before to make sure they would be open and ready for 10 people. So after meeting at the town dock, stopping at the “corner” for a beer then going up there at 6:30 we were very surprised to see it closed ! Some how she forgot to mention that she might be having surgery that morning and might not be feeling well that night and might be closed. There are no other dinner places in “town” so Shirley knew of another place called Martins that is good with good prices. But we had to try to get a taxi for 10 people to get there. None of us knew Nelson's #, so we stopped by the internet store and Daisy helped us. First she called the restaurant to see if they were open then made the reservation then called to find us a taxi. The first taxi to show up Jerry in a nice van but only 7 seats, we tried to tell him we did not mind squeezing in (we are all VERY use to overloaded vans) but he said no he could not do it. By this time we are all very hungry, so he says he can call his cousin Larry who has a truck to come get us. We negotiate a round trip price over the phone and a few minutes later Larry shows up. A nice 4 door pick up with bench seats in the bed, we all climb in and he brings us to the restaurant where we all have wonderful meals. The restaurant calls him as we are checking out to come and bring us back. On the way back we mention the horse races again and he says that there will be one on Saturday. He stops to ask a friend on the way to confirm and we are told yes it will happen on Saturday afternoon around 1. We have his card if we need his truck for another big group, not sure who will be going at that time.

Sunday morning John & Lucy on Mate head out for Roatan. Bruce & Gina have boat projects to work on before guest arrive. Linda & Hans have friends that have just arrived so want to spend time with them and help them check in. Shirley & Tom said they were going to rent a motor bike for a ½ day and ride over seeing a few more things before they leave on Monday. Steve & I picked Bill & JoAnne up with our dinghy and walked down the street from the dock. Under the “tree” locals with motor bikes hang out and give each other and tourists taxi rides. We negotiate another fare and hop on 4 different bikes to be driven over to Southwest Bay arriving around 12:30. Shirley & Tom arrive a little while later, and the places along the beach are filling up. Confirming that yes there will be a horse race that day maybe around 2. We enjoy another great lunch at Restaurante Divino Nino. Finally see one guy walking a horse down the beach, and that horse is ready to run, just a beautiful animal. We had been told that only 2 horses race together at a time, it's a narrow beach. We were also under the impression that several different races could take place on the same day, just not on this day. The 2nd horse finally shows up and they go down to the starting line past Richards Bar. They have several people around warning unknowing people to be aware that a couple of horses will soon be tearing down the beach and if you are in the way you will get trampled. The 2 horses come running around the bend and down towards where we are watching from, fly past us and down to the other end of the beach. We are not sure which if either won ?? Apparently / maybe one of the horses turned to wide and pushed the other too far into the water? Both horses continued to the end and then a LOT of people from both sides who had been placing bets were following down the beach doing a lot of yelling. Unable to understand all that was being said and by which side we never did know the final outcome. We still enjoyed another fun island event. Went to catch a ride back to “town”, our motor bike guys said they would be around but we did not see them, so we flagged down a car passing by and asked if they could give us a ride, negotiated a price and the 4 of us fit in the back seat of a Buick La Saber. We had a very slow (but safe!) ride with very loud music back to town. Most of the time the driver's hands were clapping or eating iguana that a passing motorbike handed through the window. Dropped Bill & JoAnne off at their boat picking up 5 more containers of water.

Sunday another relaxing day on the boat, enjoying this beautiful anchorage that has a wonderful breeze blowing through it almost all day, every day. Not a bad place to be stuck waiting on parts, glad for the extra time to do more exploring of this unique island. 

It has been a great two weeks in the island of Providencia, where we passed our 4 year anniversary. Cruising in our floating home, Ocean Star, we have traveled via the sea to 24 countries plus the US Virgin Islands & Puerto Rico. Lost count of how many different islands and cays / keys we have been to. It has been a remarkable journey so far one that we hope to continue. A lot of hard work mixed with a lot of fun and exciting adventures and many really wonderful friendships formed along the way. So thankful to be living this lifestyle and for the love and support from family whom we miss dearly everyday.