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Goodbye Jim and Margaret

November 22, 2014

First thing this morning, we headed up to the restaurant for breakfast.  We had arranged for Luis the taxi driver to come pick Jim and Margaret up at 9am this morning and take them to the airport.  He showed up at 8:30 at the restaurant so we wouldn't stress about whether he was going to show up.  He's been like that - reliable and super helpful.  He insisted that the store give us our money back for the failed Chinese generator, helped us find cedar wood needed to secure the new gas cans to the deck, and even escorted us through the grocery store - ever so carefully placing things in the grocery cart so that nothing was squashed.  He is quite the character.  For any of our friends still on the Panama City side, his number is 6596-3707.

And all too soon, it was time to say good bye to Jim and Margaret.

Melissa had figured on doing laundry today, alas the marina is completely without water due to a broken city water pipe. Nor can we wash the boat decks, dang it.  Apsaras is very badly in need of a bath.  This is getting to be a problem because a of this morning we were down to less than 10 gallons of fresh water in our tanks.  Fortunately it did pour rain today so we were able to collect 50 gallons in our tanks.  We are hoping for rain tomorrow as there is no way the broken pipe will be fixed on a Sunday.

MacGyver (yet again) fixed the ice maker.  The plastic standoffs that hold the motor for the ice cube tray had broken due to the over-torque software bug Dave diagnosed months ago.  So he put in a few more screws to hold the motor in place.

MacGyver began diagnosing the rear air conditioner unit, and found exactly what he had suspected he would find - that the blower motor had frozen up. Bummer as the forward air conditioner that we replaced had a blower motor that we could have used to fix the aft unit.  The motor froze up back when we had the exhaust pipe leak and water got under the bed which in turn rusted the motor.  He took the motor apart and sprayed it with some PB Blaster, and voila the motor works again!  He will reassemble the unit tomorrow.  Now its time for happy hour!

Recoup Day

November 21, 2014

We had completely underestimated how exhausted everyone would be from the Canal Crossing yesterday.  So we decided to just hang out at the marina today.  Melissa reviewed and culled through the over 800 pictures the gang took yesterday and prepped 50 of them for the blog post.  It took her 7 hours to prep the photos, video, and write the blog post.  Sheesh!  Meanwhile Dave headed to the pool to relax.

Everyone we know who is down here showed up for happy hour at the restaurant.  It was like an El Salvador Rally reunion.


Photo courtesy of Neko

The Panama Canal

November 20, 2014

Today was the big day.  There were a few tense moments, but we made it intact and without so much as a scratch through the Panama Canal.  But this gig is not for the inexperienced.  The Ballard Lock in Seattle is 80 feet wide x 825 feet long x 22 feet deep.  The largest Panama Canal lock is 110 feet wide x 1050 feet long x 31 feet deep.  And while this was our first Panama Canal transit, Dave has done the Ballard locks hundreds of times.  We were so very grateful for Captain Dave’s experience today when things started to go sideways (literally). 

It was a very long day – 18 hours – so we were tired but very happy to be in the Atlantic at the end of the day.  Here is a google map of our track through the canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic.  Interesting to see that we actually ended up north west of where we started.  We Americans think of the canal as running from the west on the Pacific side east towards the Atlantic side.  But it's not that way.

To give folks an idea for how long things take, we’ve included the hour by hour timing as the day progressed.

6am – The alarm clocks go off, and we all immediately regret having stayed up too late last night.  Melissa starts up the coffee pot and we scramble to do a few last minute tasks such as hanging all the tires around the boat to ensure we don’t get damaged should we go bouncing around the lock.  Melissa starts cooking breakfast and prepping the food for the day.  We let go of the mooring and headed for the dock.  Our plan had been to fill our water tanks before heading off, but unfortunately our timing was bad, so we had only enough time for Mike and Holly to hop aboard before the ferry started honking at us to get out of the way.

7am – We are in place floating around outside the channel waiting for our advisor to arrive.  They radio to let us know he will be late.  We finish up covering up the solar panel on top of the arch as a badly thrown monkey fist (more on that later) that lands on a solar panel can break it.  Melissa serves up a breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and salsa, papaya, and mini croissants.

8am – Our advisor comes aboard.  His name is Raphael.  He is highly experienced and super friendly.  He immediately set everyone at ease and had Captain Dave cracking up.  Dave tells Raphael that he is captain, and that Mike is his co-captain.  Raphael gives us a short briefing to tell us how the day was going to go.  At least in theory because the only thing about a plan is that you know its going to change as events progress.

 
Photo courtesy Jim Maurer

9am – We started our run down the channel towards the first Miraflores lock.  This is our “lock buddy” the Orient Transit.  We transited the first three locks with them.

This is the dredger that goes up and down the canal all day long sucking silt off the bottom and then going out to sea to dump it.  It has been driving us crazy because it zips back and forth at top speed creating a monster wake in the marinas and anchorages near Panama City.  When it goes by you better hold on to your coffee cup.

Everyone took time during the day to just sit and enjoy watching the show.

And everyone was snapping pictures like crazy.  Melissa took 555, and between us we took 859 photos total.

 

10am – We enter the first lock.

 

We were supper happy that they planned to side tie us to a tugboat as this means we don’t have to take up the slack in our lines as the water level rises – the tug does all the work.  So all we had to do was pull up alongside and tie up.

Dave eased up along side perfectly and then Mike and Jim tossed the tug our lines and pulled them tight.

The advisor decided we should also have a spring line, and there was some last minute adjustment to the height of the tires to make sure that in the turbulence of the lock filling we wouldn’t damage the boat by rubbing against the tug.

 

 Then the big doors close.

And they start to flood the lock.  Its crazy turbulent.

The turbulence continues when Orient Transit starts up her engines and begins to move forward.

 

Then it was onto the second lock.  By then we knew exactly how to tie up to the tug.  We passed them some fruit and mini croissants for the 4 crew aboard.

11am – As we left the second lock, we became visible on the lock webcam. 

At one point the tug in front of us stopped suddenly and Dave had to maneuver to ensure we didn't run right into it.

No doubt there are tons of pictures taken of us from all the people on the observation deck as we passed through.

Our friend Rob on R&R Kedger made us this movie of clearing the lock.  We are super excited and hope to see them tonight.  With luck we will be able to travel to the San Blas Islands with them in a few days.

Then we crossed the Miraflores lake to the third Miraflores lock.

On our way into the third lock, we witnessed a huge argument between a couple of the workers.  One was maneuvering something from a crane down to ground level.  He was very upset.  We couldn’t follow the rapid fire Spanish, but best guess is that a supervisor was furious over something a subordinate did and was hollering at him.  It felt like maybe a "you might have gotten someone hurt" type of lecture.

By the third lock everyone was relaxed and chatting.

Noon – We cleared the third lock and were in Lake Gatun.  At this point a debate ensued about whether we would be able to make it across the lake in time to make our lock slot on the Atlantic side.  It is 27 nautical miles, and normally we travel at 6 knots – which wouldn’t have gotten us across in time for our 4pm slot.  So Dave decided to push the engine a bit harder than we normally would and go 6.8 knots.  It is clear that Raphael would have given us the option to stay on the lake overnight had we wanted to.  But it was our hope to make it in a day, so we decided to go for it.  We later decided this was probably a mistake as we made our way into the marina in the pitch black (more on that later).

At this point it was time to relax for a while.


Photo courtesy Jim Maurer

We watched our tug speed by and begin maneuvering Orient Transit onto their mooring in the lake.

Then it was time for Melissa to start cooking lunch.  A panini type sandwich with ham, provolone, and basil, a bacon-cheddar-broccoli salad, and a tomato-basil-feta cheese salad.  Yum.


Photo courtesy Jim Maurer

Lake Gatun is filled with islands.  These are now being studied by scientists because when the lake was formed 100 years ago when the canal was built, these islands stranded a ton of wildlife that has now been isolated all this time.  Its like a mini-Galapagos now in terms of isolated animal evolution.

In the middle of the lake there are a number of canal operations centers.  One has this huge crane called Titan.  It was purchased from Germany for $1.  Originally built by Hitler to lift submarines, Panama bought it and spent $10 Million moving it to Panama and then refurbishing it.  Getting it through the canal meant removing the rubber bumpers in the canal to make it fit.


Photo courtesy Mike Sanderson

As we crossed the lake we passed a lot of traffic headed the other direction.  Everyone on this cruise ship was waving at us and taking pictures as we went past.  If only we could find someone with one of those thousand pictures of us!  (Melissa did a google search for images posted in the past 24 hours as "Panama Canal sailboat" but found nothing.)

Probably the most interesting thing we saw was this lock door for the new locks being towed into place.

4pm – We dropped anchor right outside the Gatun lock to await our slot.  It had started to pour rain, so Melissa put on her swimsuit to put down the anchor. 

Melissa served up some snacks so that everyone would be well fueled for the next set of locks.  Fruit, chips, hummus, cheese, and fresh brownies.


Photo courtesy Jim Maurer

After a bit, the big ship that was anchored nearby hailed us on the radio.  They apparently didn’t like our anchoring position and thought that if they swung round on their anchor they might bump into us.  Dave doubted this was true as he had intentionally anchored right next to a marker buoy, so if they were going to run into us, they would have to take out the buoy too.  Oh well, by then it didn’t matter anyway because it was time for us to move into position for the lock.  So Melissa goes out on deck and pulls up the anchor.  She is a bit puzzled because when the 50 foot chain marker comes up and hence the anchor should be off the bottom, the anchor winch is still pulling pretty hard.  The explanation becomes clear when the anchor gets to the top.  We had snagged a huge log and hauled it up.  Fortunately it dropped off by itself and sunk back to the bottom.

We move into position and become visible in the Gatun lock webcam.  Their HD camera is not working, so we only got low resolution pictures.

5pm – We approach the first Gatun lock and tie up along the port side where there is a small dock area.

One of the dock workers ties their line to our port side lines.

The workers on the other side then tossed the “monkey fist” across the lock towards us.  The monkey fist is a ball about the size of a tennis ball.  It lets them throw the line across to us and land it on the deck.  Well, theoretically anyway.  Raphael had explained that workers train for three months to learn to toss the monkey fist accurately.  They practice by tossing it through a small opening in a big piece of wood till they can throw accurately.  Alas it took three tries before they were able to get the monkey fist aboard our boat.  The first throw fell short because the line got tangled.  The second throw bounced off our bimini top and fell in the water.  The third throw fell short.

The fourth throw they landed it on the deck, and Mike tied our line to theirs.

Then we watched our second “lock buddy” approaching.  A giant car carrier called "Altair Leader".

Then it was time to pull forward into the first lock.  The workers held their line and walked down with us. 

Once in position they pulled our big lines up onto the huge cleats.

Once we had all four lines in place, and we were centered perfectly in the lock, we watched the car carrier pull in behind us.  Super intimidating to have this big boy bearing down on you.  Melissa liked being behind the big ship in the first three locks much better.  But Dave swears it’s better for us to be in front because we won’t be in their prop wash when they pull forward.  Well, yeah, but let’s hope they don’t lose the breaks on the mules that are pulling it into position or we’re gonna be flat as a pancake.

As they let the water out, all four line handlers have a critical job – they have to let the rope out slowly.  If the rope is cleated off and goes tight, it can “hang” the boat.  We did that once in the French locks.  What happens is that the rope can get so tight that you can no longer get it off the cleat to let it out.  And at that point as the water continues to flow out of the lock, the line gets to the point where it is taking the full weight of the boat.  At this point you can pull a cleat clean off the boat, or a rope can break.  Either of which can cause serious injury if the rope or cleat hits someone.  This happened on a Russian boat last year in the Panama Canal and a boat worker was killed when a line snapped and hit him in the face.  So what we have been taught is that you should never actually cleat off the ropes, but just hold a wrap around the cleat and then hang on tight to the rope.  But Raphael had everyone cleat off the rope except when it actually needed to be let out.  This surprised us, but it’s possible he was more worried about someone accidentally loosening up the rope too much and sending us spinning in the strong currents.

Meanwhile, Dave used reverse thrust to keep us from moving forward towards the lock doors.  Note that he isn't behind the wheel looking forward, he's sitting sideways so that he can watch whether we are moving forward or backwards relative to the lock wall.

 

Going down is much less turbulent in the lock as the water just drains away.  After the doors open, the dock workers drop the lines off the cleats, and we reel them back on board, still tied to the dock worker small lines.  That way the dock workers can continue to walk us down to the next lock.  There are a number of obstacles on the walls though, so our line handlers have to hold the lines up high as we transition between locks.

There was a gorgeous light house as we entered the second lock and the sun was setting.

Then we repeated the process in the second lock.  As we exited the second lock, the advisor asked Dave to slow down to allow the dock workers walking along side us time to come down the hill between the docks.

 

The problem with this was that there was still a lot of current rushing out of the lock.  The current overtook us.  On a sailboat, the rudder only works if there is water flowing over it.  When you are moving forward, if you turn the wheel to port, the boat turns to port.  When you are moving backwards, if you turn the wheel to port, the boat turns to starboard.  If you aren’t moving through the water, turning the wheel does nothing.  So as the current overtook us, Dave first lost steering control, and then the rudder reversed as the water rushed past us.  The current was pushing the boat to starboard, and your first instinct is to turn to port to try and correct.  But after a few seconds Dave realized that he had no steerage and said to Raphael, “I’ve lost the rudder”.  Raphael didn’t understand and asked if the rudder had fallen off.  No, Dave explained, he had no steering.  Meanwhile we were continuing to turn sideways in the lock.  Normally if you were in a strong current and this happened navigating around somewhere like the San Juan Islands, you would hit the throttle and speed up to get rudder control back.  But a strong forward throttle would probably have put us straight into the lock wall.  Moreover, we were still waiting for the lock workers to catch up with the boat and going forward fast would have potentially yanked the lines from them – causing a second problem – lines in the water that could get caught in the prop.  Here is how close we were to the wall at this point:

Raphael was giving Dave instructions, but Dave just shut him out at that point and hit full reverse.  That way the current rushing past and the throttle in reverse were working together to give him water flow past the rudder so he would get steering back.  He quickly got the boat back under control and centered straight in the lock.  Once he explained to Raphael what happened, Raphael said, “Nice job captain.  Good decision making.”.

The advisor's job is to inform the captain about lock operations.  The captain's job is to safely pilot the boat.  As Raphael said, "We know the locks, you know your boat".  The problem with this situation was that the only way to have prevented us from getting sideways in the lock would have been to wait to exit the lock until the current had sufficiently dissipated.  And since we had never been through the lock before and weren't familiar with just how much current would be there for how long, Dave moved forward when the advisor told him to.  But the advisor (who may never have been at the helm of a sailboat in these conditions) didn't realize without bow or stern thrusters that physics would take over with as much current as we had.  

We got positioned in the final lock.  At this point one of the dock workers yelled over and asked if they could have some sodas.  We were happy to give them some pop, but weren’t sure how to get it over to them.  Simple, they tossed over another monkey fist and we put the pop in a bag and tied it to their line.  They pulled the bag full of pop back over to the side.  Raphael was super embarrassed about them asking for the sodas, but we were happy to give it to them!

And then… the doors open to the Atlantic…

Time to pop open a bottle of champagne!

7:30pm – We dropped off our advisor aboard one of the pilot boats, and headed for the marina.  Dave asked Mike to study the approach to the marina so that both of them could make sure we were headed the right way.  It was pitch black and there are blinking red, green, and yellow marker buoys everywhere amongst the ships waiting to transit the canal the other direction.  Figuring out which ones we were supposed to be following in the narrow channel between the breakwater and the shoals so we don’t run aground was tricky to say the least.  The map below shows how narrow the channel is.  The red boat is showing is where we docked in the marina.  As we entered the channel, Mike spotted a green buoy with its light out.  He hollered to Dave, "Hard to port" and Dave swung us around without questioning the instruction and we narrowly missed running right into the dark buoy.  Then the depth started to drop off rapidly.  At one point the depth dropped to 4.3 feet below our keel.  It was incredibly nerve wracking!  (The next day the marina owner told us he thought a buoy must be out of place.) Then Mike spotted a second buoy with its light out and we steered around it.  Thank goodness for Mike’s great night vision.  And super good teamwork between the guys.

Finally we came through the marina entrance.  Rob on R&R Kedger had been IM’ing with Melissa.  Rob got us our slip assignment and said that everyone would meet us at the dock with flashlights as the marina wasn’t very well lit.  We had our spot light out and were lighting up the boats and piers so that Dave could slowly make his way in the dark.  Rob had told us that they would be on the end of “D” dock lighting up a boat called Pegasus (a boat we all know well) which is where we were supposed to turn.  And indeed as we made the final turn down D dock, we could see a crowd of people there to meet us all waiving flashlights so we could see where Pegasus was located.  Without our friends lighting our way, we might not have wanted to steer towards what looked like bushes and land off to our port side. We slowly made our way down to D dock and made the right turn towards our slip.

Dave had elected to back into the slip to make getting on and off the boat easier.  So easy as you please he backs it onto the dock, Melissa tosses the stern line down to the waiting crowd.  Mike hops off with the bow line.  And just like that, we are safe, snug and secure at the dock.  One of the other cruisers said laughingly, “show off!”  We haven't been in a marina since June 29th.  We've either been at anchor or on a mooring since then.  Nice to be someplace that we don't have to deploy the flopper stoppers!

Yep, Captain Dave has brought us safely to El Caribe.

Getting Ready for the Crossing

November 19, 2014

First thing this morning we called the Panama Canal scheduling office and were told our time slot was 7am.  So that means if we make it through in a single day, it will be sunset when we arrive in the marina on the other side.  Today was to be filled with minor errands to get ready.  But first Melissa took Jim and Margaret to visit the Milaflores lock and museum.  We got there just in time to see the last container ship headed east go through the locks.  Then we got a few supplies.  While Margaret and Melissa were at the deli, Jim attempted to find a spare start/stop lanyard for the dingy motor at the Yamaha store.  After much humiliating gesturing attempting to explain what he was after while the store employees looked on as if he were a recent escapee from the local insane asylum, he finally spotted the lanyard hanging among spare parts on the wall.

Meanwhile, Dave had replaced the water pump.  Again.  He replaced it two weeks ago but it failed again - likely because of some type of contamination in the tank, though no contamination was immediately obvious.  Good thing we had Jim bring another new one down to us!  Since replacing the pump two weeks ago, Dave also installed a filter on the tank side of the water pump, so (fingers crossed) this pump should be ok.  Oh, but during the troubleshooting process, Dave discovered there was also a leak under the kitchen sink which was contributing to making the pump run continuously.  Fortunately, Dave says that he thinks the two week old pump is easily serviceable.  Famous last words.

Dave had also managed to pump out the aft trunk so that the spinnaker could be stowed away dry, and hopefully stay that way this time.  He stowed the flopper stoppers away so that there is minimal stuff on the decks.  And had almost completed an oil change on the engine as the troop arrived back at the boat.  Yep, Dave was indeed productive while no one was around to get in his way!

Then it was time to hoist Dave up the mast as there were several things that needed attention.  Firstly, and most important for the crossing was the fact that our courtesy flag line had blown apart while we were gone.  So Melissa picked up a brand new Panama flag, and Dave fixed the flag line that hangs from the shroud.  He also installed a new deck lamp which had burned out, and fixed the radar - which appeared to be a loose connection issue.

Then it was time for Melissa and Jim to try and return the broken the generator to the store with Luis.  This meant putting the 100 lb generator into the Balboa Yacht Club skiff.  Dave and Jim hoisted it up using the spinnaker halyard and lowered it into the skiff.  Then Jim and Melissa were able to get it onto the dock and subsequently into the taxi.  Luis helped interpret when we arrived at the store.  Melissa explained that the voltage generated was zero.  And amazingly, they decided to refund 100% of our money.  A small miracle here in Central America where the words "buyer beware" could not be more true.

When Jim and Melissa arrived back at the marina, Dave had completed the remainder of his "get ready for the canal" tasks and it was time for Margaritas at the Yacht Club with Mike and Holly.  They are staying at the hotel near the marina tonight, and will come aboard first thing in the morning to make the crossing with us.

Panama Crossing Time Slot

November 19, 2014

We have been given a slot for the Panama Canal crossing tomorrow.  We are scheduled to pick up our adviser at 7 am Eastern Time.  There are web cameras in the locks that you can watch our crossing on both the Pacific and Atlantic.  We will update the information on our homepage at www.svapsaras.com with updated times throughout the day with our best estimates for when we will be in front of the cameras.

Return to Panama City

November 18, 2014

Today we made the 8 hour return run from the Las Perlas Islands back to Panama City.  It was a bit sad, as Wanuskewin peeled off and headed to Taboga Island where they planned to leave the boat while they accompany us through the canal.  But this means it likely this is the last we will see of "blue boat".

Jim is fascinated by the life boats aboard the big ships awaiting canal transit.  We all agree that strapping into the full harness and being dropped several stories into the water just doesn't seem like a good time.

When we arrived back at Balboa Yacht Club, we headed to shore for a late lunch, and then to the mall to pick up a Digicell SIM card.  We have a Claro SIM, but we've got reliable reports that on the Atlantic side in the San Blas Islands the Claro doesn't work, but Digicell does.  $30 worth of email fix insurance.  Then it was time to pick up groceries as we will need to cook for all the crew coming aboard to man the lines for the crossing.

Jim and Melissa try to fly the spinnaker

November 17, 2014

Today we decided we would head for a protected anchorage at Isla Casaya.  As it was only a hour and half away, and we had all day, Wanuskewin decided to put up their spinnaker.  Not to be outdone, we figured we would put ours up too.  It should tell you something that Wanuskewin had never seen it.  Suffice it to say that getting it deployed wasn't trivial.  We did pretty much everything wrong.  And everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.  Starting with the fact that the sail had been stored in the trunk with something - probably a stray piece of cardboard that had completely rotted.  So as Dave pulled out the sail, he had to scrape the slime off the sail.  Then Melissa dragged the sail up forward, completely sliming the port side decks.  This is the deck we use to collect water when it rains.  Doh!  So after we finally got the sail deployed, Melissa spent a half hour scrubbing the deck to get it clean enough to again collect water if we were lucky enough to get some rain.

The biggest issue was that we managed to deploy the sail wrapped around the furled jib.  Jim and Melissa tried to get it unwrapped while Dave looked on.  Probably laughing.  But quietly so we couldn't hear him.

But no luck.  Eventually we had to pull the sock back down and beg for captain Dave's help.

And then finally Melissa was able to pull the sock free. 

And then Voila!  We were sailing under the spinnaker.

Once we did get both spinnakers up, Melissa figured she would go take some artistic photos of both boats.

Alas to get this shot, she had to make Dave move out of the way.  And Jim, who was shooting behind her, actually wanted Dave in the shot.  Oh well.

Coming into the anchorage was tricky because it was shallow and surrounded by reefs.  At one point Dave saw rocks in front of us and stopped to call Wanuskewin and report a reef not on our computerized charts.  Yeah, says Mike, the only place the real info exists is in the paper charts in the guide book.  The ones marked "not for navigation".  Dave pulls out the guide book, and sure enough, there is the most accurate chart.  Warning label not withstanding.  We made it into the anchorage safe and sound.

There is a tiny little town here and we launched the dingy to go explore.  It took about 10 minutes to walk all around the town.  There was a tiny little store that had sardines and hot sauce and not a lot else.  No cold beers.  So we headed back for the boat.

We had dinner aboard Wanuskewin.  Probably our last dinner aboard as they are headed west and we are headed east.  We tried not to think about that.

Hangin' in the islands

November 16, 2014

We awoke to sunshine.  Wanuskewin wanted to go snorkeling on a rock nearby.  So Jim and Dave piled in the dingy while Melissa and Margaret elected to hang out reading their books.  The boys reported later that the snorkeling today wasn't quite as good as yesterday, but they did get to see a "fish cleaning station".  This is where a bunch of little fish gather and clean the algae off the larger fish.  Sort of looks like a car wash with lots of fish running around cleaning up any tasty bits they find.  Dave tried to float into the fish cleaning station and let them work on him, but at the last minute he chickened out.

We went ashore for lunch and the hotel on the beach here served us.  Two days ago they told us that "a German company rented the place out for two months" and hence the restaurant was closed.  Today we were able to get service at the beach bar.  The owner happened by to apologize for the long wait for our food (we hadn't even noticed).  He was Italian and owned a number of hotels.  We asked him about the two month long rental.  Turned out that they are filming a Survivor season nearby and the Survivor film and support crew are staying here.  The German company thing must be a cover story.

While we were having our late lunch, the wind kicked up to 25 knots and the waves got sort of obnoxious.  So we decided it was time to move around to the other side of the island.  We got back to the boats shortly before sunset and managed to cruise around the island and pick up a mooring ball in front of the hotel we visited when we first arrived here almost four months ago.  The sunset was gorgeous.  Along the way Wanuskewin had two whales off their starboard side.  But no one aboard except for Dave caught sight of them.

Isla Contradora

November 15, 2014

In the morning we headed ashore to explore.  Here you can see Apsaras at anchor in the bay.  We found a number of small stores where we can restock supplies.

Later in the afternoon the boys went snorkeling.  Wanuskewin had lent us some snorkel gear for Jim.  They saw a ton of fish and a big ray.  When they got back to the boat, a huge double rainbow appeared.

Wanuskewin sailed over to join us today, and they arrived just before sunset.  So Melissa cooked a big dinner for everyone aboard the boat - a (more or less) beef stroganoff.  We sat up late watching the stars as the night was almost totally clear.  Jim decided to sleep up on deck in the hammock till it got too windy to stay up on deck.

 

Back to the islands

November 14, 2014

Today we sailed over to the Las Perlas Islands.  Amazingly there was enough wind that we actually shut off the engines and sailed much of the way.  In the afternoon the wind increased and Dave had to reef in a sail before the squeal-o-meter went off.

Along the way Melissa tried to clean the front windows.  Dave had cleaned then once already since we got back to the boat, but they didn't come clean.  Apparently it was a mistake to leave them up while we were gone because they appear to be permanently damaged from the dirt that accumulated on them and just sat there for two months.  This is a bummer as we just had the plastic replaced in El Salvador.  Melissa's polishing helped a bit, but they still arn't great.

Underway we put out the meat line and caught two jacks which we tossed back.

Dave replaced the carburetor on the small dingy engine, and now its running great!

Then it was off to dinner on Isla Contradora.  While we were at dinner it started to pour rain, so we just kept drinking wine till it let up a bit.  The restaurant waiter drove us back down to the beach in the hotel van so that we wouldn't get quite as wet on the way back.

 

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