We started the build up to our Festive Season when we arrived in San Blas on Friday 11th December. We stayed in the East Holandes Cays for 11 days and had a great time swimming, snorkelling and exploring some of the largely deserted islands. The highlight of this period was my birthday on the 21st and it was one of the key milestones of our trip to have it in the San Blas Islands. The day included a nice snorkelling trip where we saw a Nurse Shark, a Spotted Ray and lots of other fish and coral. In the evening we were joined by our Irish/German friends, Sean & Sabine of Chevaldy who greatly entertained us with their wonderful music.
We sailed across San Blas to Porvenir on Tues 22nd and we cleared into San Blas & Panama and cleared out of San Blas. It was expensive, $420 for the Panama cruising permit and our visas, but we managed to avoid the normal charge for San Blas cruising ($60) as we cleared in & out at the same time – every little saving helps the budget.
On Wednesday we sailed to Isla Linton, where we spent Xmas. The anchorage was quite nice, but it was pretty rolly and after the amazingly clam anchorage in San Blas it was difficult to get used to. One of the key reasons we stayed in Isla Linton was that there is a very good sailmaker there (Roman) and he repaired both of our Genoas and he managed to do this in less than a week which included Xmas. We took advantage of our time there to go into the large supermarkets on the way to Colon and to do a large stock up of beer, wine and food. If you spend over $500 you get the food delivered. The bus trip from Linton into the outskirts of Colon is also an adventure, but you have to stay close to the supermarkets as Colon is not a safe area.
Having picked up our second sail early on Tuesday 29th we set sail to Bocas Del Torro, a 160 mile overnight trip. We had gone about 10 miles when we heard a bang and the engine and propeller started to vibrate enormously. We slowed down and found that at 1500 revs the vibration wasn’t too bad. We also tried to go in reverse to see if this cleared the problem, which we suspected was probably a rope round the propeller, however the boat wouldn’t go in reverse. As we were in the middle of one of the Panama Canal shipping lanes it didn’t seem a good idea to dive down to investigate the problem, so we diverted to Portobello, which was only about 6 miles away.
We managed to get into the anchorage and drop anchor and Susan the snorkelled down to investigate. As expected there was an enormous rope round our propeller, not very long but 3” in diameter. With the help of one of our ropes fed under the boat Susan managed to pull herself under the boat and remove the offending rope, which looked a bit like a fisherman’s mooring line.
As it was about 2.0pm by the time we had done a sea trial to check there was no damage done we decided to stay the night in Portobello. The anchorage was very calm and it was very pleasant.
We left about 7.0am on Wednesday to resume our trip to Bocas Del Torro, expecting very light winds and to have to motor-sail all the way. Once we were out of the harbour the wind picked up and for the next 10 hours we had a very good beam reach sail in sunshine, it was wonderful! About 5.0pm the wind dropped and we started to get about 1 knot of current against us, so we had to put on the engine and motor-sail to keep up a reasonable speed. We went through the night managing to keep up 5.5 – 6 knots until about 6.0am when the speed dropped to about 4 knots. The wind had moved round onto our nose and we now had closer to 2 knots of current against us. We stuck up the engine revs and managed to get 4.5 – 5 knots and arrived at the channel into Bocas shortly after 9.30am, well ahead of out expected arrival of lunch time.
We made our way through a very shallow channel and anchored just off Bocas town. We had been told that this is the place to be for Hogmanay celebrations as al the Chinese restaurants compete with each other to have the best and wildest firework displays. Around lunch time we had the exciting experience of American friends, Peter and Margie on Peregrina come and anchor beside us. Peter and Margie and Peregrina were on the Blue Water Rally with us from Panama to Australia. It is quite ironic to meet up here because they were extremely helpful to us in 2010 in Panama, after we had a monkey fist smash one of our windows. Pete helped us greatly by managed to find and communicate with a glassmaker to get the window fixed with proper toughened glass.
We are looking forward to seeing in the New Year with Margie and Peter and to 2016.
I will do a supplement to this blog with photos in a couple of days, when I have time to go through the hundreds of photos we have.
Happy New Year to all our family and friends!!
David & Susan