As always, we like to take you to places
you've never heard of and we hope that the Albuquerque Cays is no
Anyway, first things first, what has
happened since the last blog? Well, since no one has complained that we've had
no blog in 5 weeks I assume I'm writing for record purposes only... but if
you've read this, do email and say Hi !
Michael spent a lovely peaceful time at
Starfish beach (pic above of Indian dugout paddling past) and back at Bocas and
also cleaned the boat to a spotlessness not seen since delivery. It makes you
realise how grubby things get when you don't have a proper spring-clean every
now and then. But it's all a question of priorities we suppose - hammock or mop
George returned on schedule in mid
September, complete with our new cabin boy - Matt, from West Sussex UK. Matt has
quickly acclimatised to life on Blue Sky and to the heat here in a Caribbean
Summer. Here he is posing for the camera in the Albuquerque Cays... (watch this space for the post-haircut photos...)
As well as Matt, George brought back a few
things for the boat including some new LED navigation lights. Which prompts me
to a moan on a matter of such importance that we'll probably be emailing the RYA
legal chaps and chapesses about it.
This Week's Moan - Useless Navigation
When we bought Blue Sky, she was fitted with
Hella nav lights on the bow, fitted to special brackets on the pulpit. These
come with a handy push button release cover so you can change the bulb easily.
They also mean that the covers fall off in a bit of rough weather, so after our
Biscay adventures in 2006, we arrived at La Coruna with only one of
We replaced what was left with lights of
Greek manufacture, but of similar design - the brand escapes me now. Predictably
they met a similar fate in the Caribbean, though the port light fell off on
these whereas the Hellas lost the starboard light cover.
Thinking we needed lights without quick
release covers (doh!) we invested in an expensive pair of Aqua Signal series 40
lights - at $80 a pop. Here the cover is fixed and the bulb and holder screw in
from underneath. The trouble is with these that the seawater gets in too and the
bulb holder looks like the sort of thing you'd find in an attic. After a year in
the Caribbean the connections had corroded away so as to be barely identifiable.
Added to which the plastic casing cracked (was repaired with araldite) and the
screw on part of the bulb holder disintegrated. What a load of garbage - useless
after one year.
So George has brought back some Aqua Signal
series 32 LED lights. They are small and the only fixing provided is a single
machine screw fitted on the aft end of the light to screw into a tiny plastic
nut.. This for a light fitted to the bow of a boat and subject to green water
hitting it when the bow goes under in rough weather. Surely the designers have
Never seen a boat, let alone been troubled with the requirements of Nav
Further, the (kinda) fresnel lens over the
LED and the clear plastic cover over that are just tacked in with a dab of glue
- which was loose on our lights even before fitting. AND the LED connections
were exposed to seawater despite the entirely false claim that they are sealed.
These, Dear Friends, are safety issues
- your lights fail and other boats can't see you or know what direction
you're moving in or who has right of way. We notice that the Aqua Signal
lights have CE marks which don't even meet the design specification for the
mark, let alone anything else. We believe that all these lights should have
warnings saying that they are suitable for use for up to a year, in coastal
conditions only, provided they are carefully cleaned with fresh water after each
trip out from the dock. We have more detailed observations that we'll put to the
RYA legal people.
So enough of that, postal conditions in the
UK mean that we lack more anchor rollers and flags, our ragged ensign will have
to do a bit longer.
We wandered around a bit in the Bocas area
and went off to Zapatilla Cays with Darien and Dyllan of the Calypso Cantina,
Bocas Marina (facebook - 'calypso cantina'). We went exploring for turtles on
the beach after dinner and were accosted by a young US female apparently
'looking after' the turtles who said "you're not allowed to wander round on your
own". Quick as a flash Michael replied "that's all right then, we're in a
group". Anyway... we saw one female hawksbill on the beach and a hatchling which
had got stuck on its way to the sea, which we duly sent on its way, but no giant
leatherback as we'd hoped.
We knew we had to check out of Panama by the
end of September as you only get a 3 month cruising permit and visa, then have
to go out for 72 hours and start again. So rather than continue to spend our
money in Bocas we've taken it to San Andres island, Colombia where we'll be in a
day or two.
We checked out of Bocas on the most
ridiculous procedure we've yet encountered in 3 1/2 years of cruising - and we
include Cuba in our comparison. First the port captain - 20 minutes and $10
to get our Zarpe - OK. Then Customs, who wrote out a handwritten certificate of
'inspection' (they didn't even ask where the boat was) 30 minutes and $20.
Immigration next - at the airport - "Oh
you'll need copies of both the data page and immigration inbound stamp from your
passports". Yup, no copier in the airport, back to town and return to airport
45 minutes later the guy is still completing
a single page form and Matt over my shoulder is incredulous at the slowness.
Then "I'll come and inspect the boat now" (surprise) "OK then, let's go". So we
ferry him back in our dinghy and he sits down in the cockpit fills in yet
another form (obviously duplicating previous data) and then asks for $25.
I've had enough (and I'm late for lunch ...)
"But you've not inspected
"I need to inspect the boat to see that
"OK, what exactly are you
"To make sure everything's OK and it's
"But, with respect (funny how that always
means the opposite) you're not a marine surveyor and the seaworthiness of this
yacht is not your concern, so what exactly are you checking?"
Anyway, this carries on for some time and it
is clear that all he wants to do is fill in a form and get $25.
He gives up first, I've worn the bugger
down. He even gets out his (ancient, dog eared) piece of paper that explains
'The Inspection', reads through it and goes quiet - it clearly says nothing
about actually visiting the boat but deals with passports and people (OK
readers, you figured this out already !). Eventually I realise I've won and
offer him his $25 anyway because I know he cannot now take it - predictably he
refuses and his humiliation partly compensates us for 3 wasted hours running
around with nonsense.
This was Friday and we sail up to Starfish
(above) to chill and swim. We spend the evening introducing Matt to Chinese
Chess, eating and swapping stories, to the accompaniment of the solo dolphin
circling us in the night and gently breathing.
We had a reasonable sail up here to the
Albuquerque Cays just south of San Andres island, itself to the south of
Providencia which we visited in June. They look like this (sky dark w. storm
The reef entry here is really quite perilous
but we made it in safely and took the tender ashore to the waiting contingent of
Colombian boy military who maintain a presence in 30 day shifts. They were all
extremely polite and eventually tried to explain that they'd been here for 25
days, there were 13 of them and did we have any 'comida fresco'? So we took the
boss (maybe 21) and a soldier (18 or 19) and brought them back to Blue Sky to
raid our lockers as they were so polite in asking and obviously in need. They
declined our offer of cerveza or ron - not allowed ! On return we were carefully
shown to their camp and given the prime seats under the shade while they
prepared coconuts for us to drink from and presented us with a sack of coconuts
to take back - their only possible item of barter.
So here we are, chilling again and I've
spent so long writing this that it's almost too late to go snorkelling on the
But here's always manana.
George, Michael and Matt