Friday, December 05, 2008

Away from it all in Klein Curacao & then "On The Hard"

Friday morning after Thanksgiving was a busy one. Scott had cleared out of Bonaire with Customs & Immigration yesterday but we still had to fill out our tanks with water, do some last minute shopping and pay our bill at the dive shop. It was 10 AM before we finished battening down the interior and dropped our mooring. Ellen & Cal were joining us for a few days at Klein Curacao,
a small flat island 17 miles away. At one time this had a mining operation but now it has a picturesque lighthouse, a breathtaking white sand beach (that's our dinghy to the right with "Patience" behind) and a small day bar/restaurant for boats from Curacao that come for a few hours. We've been here before three times, once alone, once with Sean & Sarah, and last with Brent & Wilma. It's great downtime (from our "stressed out days???") with nothing to do but swim, snorkel, walk and read. Ahead, particularily for Scott, is the dreaded repairs "on the hard" for nine days in December and then three weeks when he returns in February.
He's planning to rebed all our windows and hatches among other big projects. Without me there he can leave his tools around, the floor boards up and work without interuption (cleaning up). We're hardly ever apart for even one night, so that'll be the hard part!

Willemstad is the capital of Curacao and a very charming colorful Dutch city. A cafe lined canal connects the ocean to the big industrial lagoon in the interior. Connecting both sides of the city is a 1900 walking only bridge that floats on pontoons and is motored open to allow traffic to pass. That's the bridge opening on the left above and the view right as we motor through.

Curacao Marine is the haulout facility and now a small marina with the addition of 15 slips. Our boat was pulled from the water by a John Deere tractor! Shades of Vermont! Tony and Hilary of "Miss Charlotte" were there to greet us. We've been hearing about them for years from Bob & Barbara so it was lovely to get to know them.


A Cruiser's Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day started off beautifully with a lovely sunset and no threatening clouds. It has been unusually rainy for this time of year in Bonaire and the last few days have seen some heavy precipatation. It has resulted in a much greener countryside though!

We were leaving for Klein Curacao the following morning so we had our last dive on "Little Wall" not far north from our mooring. We've managed several times to dive from our dinghy but it's no easy task getting in and out of it! I would be horrified if anyone but Scott saw me flopping into it. The water clarity if amazing here - you can see down 40 feet easily and this
was a lovely spot. In several places towering coral "islands" with a multitude of varied fish residents caused us to hover there obseving their civilization in action. Surprisingly we don't seem to cause the slightest concern to any of the fish. Well, French Angel Fish are very curious and keep you under survellience from the corner of their rather large eyes.

A parade of dinghies left the mooring area together to motor over to Barbara and Bob's condo at 4:30PM Four presently cruising couples were attending and two retired cruisers. Audrey's husband was in Texas working and so this holiday she was alone. Very sadly for all of us, Luray from "Pizzazz" was ill and so she and Randy couldn't come.

At the top left Ralph and Dave help themselves at the buffet. On the right Ellen & I pose and in the group picture just below, on the floor, left to right, are Audrey, Valerie, myself, Ellen and Barbara. Bob is in the chair. On the couch are Dave, Scott and Cal. Standing in the back are Ron & Bonnie, and Ralph & Karen. From top to bottom, a group shot out on the
porch, Ellen & Cal, Scott pontificating with Ellen and Audrey, the desserts, Barbara, and Valerie & Dave. Ellen & Cal have been friends for a year while we've been in Cartagena and arrived from there just after we did. They'll be sailing with us tommorrow and will also be hauling out at Curacao Marine. Valerie & Dave "Angel" were our buddy boat friends on our trip last year from Grenada to Bonaire. We've known Bob & Barbara "Enkidu" for several years and spent a summer in Trinidad with them at Cruz Inn Marina. They visited us last August in Vermont.

Although our thoughts strayed more than occasionally to our families back home, it was a wonderful cruiser family holiday!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Prep in Bonaire

Cruisers are part of a movable but close knit community. We all depend upon each other in foreign countries and environments and everyone comes through for each other. Holidays are a special time to join forces and celebrate.

This year we had sixteen present and ex-cruisers at a Thanksgiving celebration at the home of Bob and Barbara Gilmour on Bonaire. Two other ex-cruiser couples have settled here and were present, LuRay & Randy "Pizzazz" and Bonnie & Ron "Forever". The present cruisers were ourselves, Ellen & Cal "Patience", Valerie & Dave "Angel", Audrey "" and Ralph & Karen "KaRa Dream". Six of us women spent a lovely day preparing for the meal the day before. Barbara made a lovely lunch for us and we took breaks now and then for a glass of wine & a chat. Barbara did a lot of the work in advance, including the shopping. That had to be done over some time as any one item is not always available on the island. Substitutions became inevitable.
The menu:
Shrimp Cocktail, Crab Meat Dumplings, Turkey with Stuffing and Giblet Gravy, Potatoes Au Gratin, Mashed Sweet Potatoes stuffed in Orange Shells, Beets, Peas & Carrots, Green Beans with olives, Rolls & Butter, Pecan Pie, Apple Pie, Mince Meat Tarts and Cookies
Guess we won't starve!

Of course there was a lot of peeling and chopping to do. "Bring a potato peeler or knives with you", Barbara suggested. Bob and Bonnie's husband Ron went fishing and then sat having a drink on the porch to stay out of our way.

Top is Ellen, Barbara, myself, Valerie, Audrey and Bonnie. Then Ellen cleans up the counter, Audrey makes potato au gratin, Bonnie & Val do dishes, and Barbara slices and dices.
Those of us coming from our boats are forming a dinghy train at 4:30 to motor up to their condo for the occasion. We'll all be wearing our "best" (not like home best) clothes and hopefully it won't be raining!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What do you do all day?

We get asked this question a lot! Well I thought I might tell you what I did yesterday for example. I usually am up around 6:30AM or so and immediately put the kettle on for coffee. We have a french press type, stainless steel and insulated. It's the only one I've seen that holds 4 large mugs worth. Our coffee comes from Columbia now and it's good, but we really prefer a dark French roast type. That's generally not available here.
We have two cups of coffee each. I sit outside in the cockpit looking at the sun rise and the sky change colors. This morning the full moon is still very visable as the sun comes up. That's the view heading north above left and the one towards the shore and east below right. Scott settles into the internet in the salon and checks out the news. We get the NY Times on line. The newspapers here in the ABCs are mostly in Dutch or Papiemento, the two official languages.
Breakfast is usually eggs or cereal. This morning I made eggs scrambled with onions, peppers, tomatoes and ham with toasted banana bread. I eat a bit less than usual because it's my Body Balance Class this morning. This is a mixture of tai chi, yoga and pilates - a tough hour, followed by five minutes of total relaxation (see the picture below left).
It's 7:30 AM and my turn to pick up the other women in the dinhy - Val on "Angel" and Ellen on "Patience". My friend Barbara, formerly of "Enkidu" and several Dutch women I met last summer here in Bonaire at a similar class, attend too. When we return Scott has finished several small projects. Our clock stopped working so he bought a cheap one and has exchanged movements with our formerly good one - yeh it works! He's also mended the teak step on our swim ladder. A productive morning and it's only 9:20AM.
A much needed rest follows. Both of us curl up in favorite spots and read. Scott's almost through with Richard Russo's "Bridge of Sighs" and I've just started Tracy Chevelier's "Virgin Blue". Most of our books come from trading with other cruisers or book exchange shelves in marinas and bars.
It's getting hot now. Bathing suits and snorkeling equipment are needed for a cool down swim. We snorkel/swim most every day for a half hour to hour, usually right from the boat. Today we get in the dinhy and speed (new outboard!) over to Klein Bonaire for a snorkel along the windward side and then a walk back along the beach when the current coming back proves exhausting.
We're starving when we get back. Happily there are lots of leftovers from last night.
This afternoon I'm doing my laundry and shopping trip. Zoe gave us a great folding cart which is invaluable for this. I hump the big load of dirty laundry and several shopping bags (they don't provide bags at the markets free) into the dinghy and take off (that's me above with the cart). It's about a half mile walk to the laundromat where I drop it off. It will be ready in two days, nicely folded. Then off to two supermarkets to do my shopping. They are small and vary wildly on what is available. We had no eggs on the island for over a week recently. This is a small island and most everything comes in by boat from Venezuela, the U.S. and Holland.

Another swim to cool down is necessary when I return. Scott puts everything away. Tonight we've been invited to dinner at the home of Randy and LuRay, "Pizzaz" (picture below). They are a famous couple among cruisers, the authors of the only cruising guide to Columbia, which they give out free. It was invaluable to us during our trip along that coast twice this last year.

They designed and supervised construction on their beautiful spacious home, high on a hill overlooking the island. The huge deck stretchs across the whole front with a sapphire infinity pool in the middle. Wonderful use of local materials, soaring multi shaped wooden ceiling design, and windows bringing in the views everywhere create a feeling of floating in space above the sea. Furniture and personal items shipped in from home make it homey and inviting. Watching the sunset there was a spectacle indeed and it was a lovely night.
They drove us back to the marina and we motored back to the boat in the dark, stars lighting the sky only as the moon had yet to appear. It's 9:30 PM and time for bed in cruiser land. And that's a fairly typical one day in the life of Heather and Scott on "Scott Free".

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Diving and Partying in Bonaire!

First let us celebrate the election of our new President!!! Yeh!!! We sent our absentee ballots in from Cartagena - two of the many many votes for President Elect Barak Obama. How we love saying that. We watched the returns at Bob and Barbara Gilmore's home in Bonaire with friends Andrew & Kerri on "Mariposa" and Ellen & Cal on "Patience".

It was midnight Bonaire time when the California polls closed and they finally confirmed what we all already knew. We were all fiercely partisan - even Kerri (New Zealand) and Andrew (Britain and South Africa). Barbara brought out the noisemakers and we screamed and yelled out on their balconey over the waterfront!
We were particularily excited about the wins in Colorado and Virginia as that's where Sean worked so hard. It was wonderful to talk to him that night and congratulate him! Barbara and Bob were perfect hosts (that's them above right on our boat) - the food was fabulous and champagne to celebrate. Two of the culinery hits of the evening was the sushi Kerry made (shown here with Cal above right) and Barbara's sausage and egg breakfast casserole after Obama's inspiring acceptence speech.

"Mariposa" was our neighbor on the moorings and we did a lot of diving with them. Kerri is a PADI instructor and has a compressor on her boat. She sailed with three young inexperienced crew over from South Africa and her boyfriend Andrew joined her in the Caribbean for the remainder of the cruise. They are delightful and we were very sorry to see them sail off east for Grenada a few days ago. Happily we hope to see them again in Panama next year as they too are considering departing across the Pacific in early 2010. That's Kerri above and Andrew in their galley.

The rules have recently changed to allow boats up to 45' use the dive moorings so we and Mariposa, their friends "Blue Water Cat" and "Patience" (that's Ellen above and ourselves on Patience at the top of the page) all took turns bringing our boats out for dives and lunch. Most memorably we did a dive on the wreck "Helma Hooker" and a night dive. The former was a medium sized freighter at about 85 feet and my first wreck dive. The lurking huge silver tarpons inside and under the freighter were the same ones that followed us so closely at night. I'd catch a glimpse of movement near me and see them practically touching my side! They are looking for prey in our flashlight's beam. When we inadvertently spotlight one they gulp it down whole.
Kerri certified Andrew and myself for our PADI Advanced Night Dive. That involved reading the appropriate material and taking a test, then practicing some skills underwater - such as a simple navigation exercise (not quite as simple in the dark!). Scott already has his Advance Diver Certification. I'll need four more advance dives before I finish it.

Diving takes a lot of equipment. We've been collecting pieces for the last year and now have everything for the two of us. Well, except for a dive computer - a big loss as far as Scott is concerned. It is possible to work out the needed information with dive tables and a dive watch but not as accurate and, of course, not as much fun. We now have two of each; BCDs (Boyancy jacket), a main regulator and a secondary safety one with an "octopus" to connect them, full insulated dive suit, booties & hood, tank (one big and one smaller - we still come out with the same amount of air left as I use less) and weights (Scott's on a belt and mine integrated in the BCD). This all costs and arm and a leg but will last a long time.
Bonaire is one of the premier diving centers in the world. They created a Marine Park that surrounds the island and protects the reefs. Boats can not anchor but permenant moorings are installed all along the protected western shore. A small island called Klein Bonaire lies off that coast and is surrounded by dive moorings. Other dive only moorings line the north west and south west coasts. In between are 40 moorings for cruisers, $10 a night. They are only 100 feet from shore - the view here is the walkway and road across from our mooring. The second picture above left is looking from our boat north. That's "Mariposa" next to us. We often have rainbows after the usually short lived showers!,

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hurricane Omar came and went but we're still here

This has been an interesting week, as in "May you live in interesting times!" We motored over from Aruba on Saturday and spent the evening in Santa Cruz Bay, a small harbor in the northwest of Curacao. This is a lovely spot with a pretty white beach set up with perigolas and thatched roofed tables for day and overnight campers and a small dive shop/restaurant. Thirty foot cliffs line the sides of the bay and a small creek meanders up around the corner with a few small fishing boats. We had stopped here for a night on our way west last fall. It was a quiet lovely evening with a spectacular sunset. We thought about spending a second night but one of our weather reports mentioned a possible wind reversal coming (that means the normal east/northeast trade winds turning west) and the mouth of this harbor faced west. If you are between the wind and the shore that's called trouble.

So after a lovely snorkel and swim we motored down the pretty coast of Curacao to the narrow winding passage in to the big lagoon called Spaase Waters, the major anchoring spot here in Curacao. It was packed with over a hundred boats! This made it difficult to find a good anchoring spot. As everyone would be turning 180 degrees soon with the wind change we decided to plunk ourselves down in one of the channels and move in the morning. The next morning's weather forcast mentioned the wind reversal with a spike in expected amount - up to 15 to 20 possible. We decided we'd better stay put until this passed and happily old friends Brad and Gloria on "Kindred Spirit" volunteered to take us around to Customs and Immigration in their rented car. We ended up spending the day with them shopping and having a great lunch out.

When we returned it just seemed late to reanchor and other friends Jeff and Una on "Dragonfly" were coming over for drinks. It turned out to be a smart decision. That night the shit hit the fan! Around midnight I heard the wind start to howl. I got up to close everything down and suddenly the boat began to shake. Steady winds up into the high 40's and driving rain moved in. The anchorage came alive. Scott had just joined me when we saw a catamarin in front of us come loose and head towards our neighbor - a fabulous vintage 53' yacht.

We got our air horn out and blasted it. Just in time the captain of the cat managed to motor forward and avert collusion. He reanchored but not for long and they weren't the only ones coming free.
We were extremely lucky we were in the channel and further away from another boat. Ours sails around alot in heavy winds as we have a lot of freeboard. We were able to let out more chain and hang on. The rest of the night was scary and sleepless.
Everyone was tuned into weather the next morning. Now to be fair, Chris, our weather guru, had said there were possible squalls with gusts up to 50 knots, but he'd been saying that for a week and this wasn't just a squall.
Suddenly it was TD15 (Tropical Depression) and hanging around northwest of us, moving our way slowly. We had another day and night of this ahead - yeech! Scott reinforced our anchoring strength by lowering our second anchor on a line with a loop over our other anchor chain. This puts the two anchors in a parallel position and adds to our holding capacity without adding more scope (not possible to do with the number of boats around us). It was tough to do in the wind and rain but happily he's a big guy (these anchors weigh 75 lbs).
It was another 24 hours before we had some relief. We took turns getting as much sleep as we could. Many boats left to find more secluded anchoring spots elsewhere in the lagoon and happily that left us with the most solidly fixed ones around us. Everyone shared information and weather over the VHF radio as our TD15 turned into a Tropical Storm Omar and then Hurricane Omar. AND it was still moving slowly towards us! All predictions called for it to change direction and move NE but it stubbornly refused to follow directions. Finally in the early morning hours the word came out, "It turned!" Yeh! Relief was mixed for all with the knowledge it was now headed for the Virgin Islands area where other nervous boaters sat over their radios.
As we are in a landlocked lagoon we did not have to deal with high waves. Our friends in Bonaire however are exposed from the west. All the docks and several boats were destroyed there, and beaches washed away. Any water front structures were damaged or destroyed. Most of the cruising boats were able to pack into the one marina and were safe there thank goodness.

By Thursday morning the last of the trailing squalls had ceased and the sun peaked out a little through the general cloud cover. We hadn't been off the boat since Monday! I took the supermarket free shuttle to do some shopping in the morning and Scott took the public bus into town to look at outboard motors. We are finally replacing our on again off again old one. It's never been the same since it had a dunk in the ocean twice.
That night we celebrated Gloria's birthday with decorations and dinner on board "Scott Free". Years ago Francoise and Roger on "Starship Annie" did this for my 60th and it was fun to pass on this tradition (Gloria however is younger!).
Today, Friday the 17th, Scott bought the new Tohatsu 9.8 hp outboard. Brad took him over to pick it up and he and Dennis from "Jubilant" helped him hoist it onboard. Unfortunately the space on the dinghy transom is not big enough and Scott will have to reshape it to steer. We'll need a few days to test it out before heading for Bonaire.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cartagena to Aruba

Chris Parker, our weather forecaster, finally gave us a heads up. We asked our agent to get our departure papers and paid up our bill at Club Nautico. Early on October 1 we filled our water tanks, did a quick last minute grocery run and left the dock at 9:00 AM for the fuel dock. Seven hundred and fifty dollars later we pulled away and temporarily anchored off the marina. It is 22 hour trip to the Five Bays anchorage so we have decided to leave at 6 PM to cross the River Magdelana in the early morning when the winds are calmer and we can watch for debris - and still anchor in Guayraca, the middle bay of the five before dark.
It's always eerie to leave a harbor in the dark. The channel is pretty well lit and we've been this way before so it's safe. Still I held my breath a little as we negotiated the narrow entrance throught the breakwater. The rest of the night was really lovely - calm and full of stars. We had a positive current so we really had to turn the engine down so as not to get to the Magdelena before daybreak. It was calm as we approched but once the wind came up against the currents steep waves with short intervals crashed over our bow and tossed us a bit around. We knew this often happens here so we were prepared and it only lasted a few hours. Then it was a nice the rest of the way.

Approaching the Five Bays in Tayrona National Park is always wonderful. The highest coastal mountain range (peaks over 19.000 ft) in the world looms up behind the rocky cliff lined harbors. Our favorite is the middle bay with it's small fishing village and coffee colored beach. Our friend Reynando came out to visit with us and we spent five days snorkeling, kyacking and admiring the view. We were waiting for Chris to give us the go ahead for our next passage and he finally said, "GO"
This next part of our journey was full of possibilities and timing arrival in daylight at the potential anchorages was tough. We left early in the morning and at 3:00 AM passed the first possibility, Cabo de Vela (Cape of the Winds). It had been a good passage with some great positive currents and we were making good time.

Some squalls and a second oil platform not marked on our charts gave us some exciting moments but we were feeling pretty good. We decided to keep going and at least make it to Monjes del Sur, a rocky Venezuelan outpost we had visited last October (see posting for all these anchorages in October 2007). The weather still was great late in the afternoon but if we continued on to Aruba we would be there at 2:00 AM so we tied up onto the rope at Monjes at 5:00 PM and settled in for the night.
The next morning gave us an unexpected challenge. I was up early and noticed that we were lying in a strange position relative to the wind. We had somehow been pushed over the line and our keel was caught. Scott had to wake up quickly that morning for a swim to free it before the wind came up. We cast off not long after and set our course for Aruba and the Renaissance Marina - luxury ahead!
This is a first class establishment and a good value. We pay $50 a night to stay there and the rest of the hotel guests pay $300 and up. Three nights refreshed us completely. We also met a very nice couple from Scotland on "Atlantia", Margaret and Will that were heading west.

Our first day there however was spent on the internet and on Skype. We had decided not to continue on to Trinidad if we could change our plane tickets. These were frequent flier ones on American and Continental so this was a difficult process. It took a day but we managed. Unfortunately it meant I couldn't be home for Thanksgiving and my planned sister Paula's visit. This was very disappointing but frankly it was a huge relief not to be transiting the Venezuelan coast at this time. Security problems have been rampant. Just last week a French cruiser was killed there on his boat by robbers in front of his wife and 10 year old son. There have been many incidents within the last month. The Russian navy is off the coast till November in joint exercises with Venezuela. To top it off I've been suffering from bursitus and sitting for long periods of time has probably caused it to flare up again.
We emailed and then called all our family after we made the changes. Everyone has been understanding. Our next port of call is Curacao and we had a lovely day to motor sail the 50 miles over there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sitting and Waiting - for a window

A weather window to be precise. This next leg of our journey east to Trinidad is about 450 miles along the Columbian coast to Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire (off Venezuela). We would love to go direct from here to Bonaire, taking about 3 days (and nights). But it is unlikely the weather will hold long enough for us to do this. The prevailing currents and winds are against us and this is a notoriusly windy and stormy area. Squalls and thunderstorm are predicted pretty continuosly. So it's a little nerve wracking waiting.
Meanwhile we've had workers swarming over the boat. Scott and they have fixed the generator, the air conditioning, the ice maker, and the shore power relay. He's been searching out boat parts to accomplish that. We hired a young man to clean and polish the stainless steel and fiberglass. He's on his third day ($25 a day).
I've been cleaning the inside of the boat; washing down all the inside surfaces to get rid of mold and dirt. And then there is shopping at the supermarket and the public market, followed by repackaging, pre cooking, stowing and inventorying.
Every morning we walk for an hour or more around the old city. There had been a happy hour evening and pot luck here at the marina with the whole cruising community showing up. We've met a lot of new friends and seen many old ones.
So waiting around isn't boring - or scary, but we're still hoping to take off soon and get this section of our trip over and done with!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cruising is a study in Contrasts

Actually our life is split into two very different lifestyles; home in the US with our family, friends and now our new community of Shrewsbury, Vermont and our cruising life aboard "Scott Free" with a different group of friends and community. This later existence provides a much wider scale of certain experiences - in particular recently is frantic activity/pain/fear vs boredom/pleasure/comfort. Our first two weeks back to the boat, "on the hard" at Shelter Bay Marina,
Colon, Panama we had both ends of the scale. When the boat is up on stilts in the boatyard the plumbing doesn't work - think back to chamber pots! It's the rainy season and the boat is covered with canvas so there's little light below and WOW, is it hot! Plus of course the boat is filthy. Frantic activity and pain are the dominent feelings for several days. Once in the water however the cover comes off, the breezes blow and the toilet is usable - heaven, comparatively. The manager of the marina, Bruce and his wife April, live with their children and their pet sloth (see here) on their boat "Chewbacca". They really helped us out with boat projects and in two weeks we were ready to head east. We took off in with thunder storms on all sides to motor towards the San Blas islands: the next day and twenty miles from our destination the engine stopped. There was very little wind and we were not far from the coast so immediately the pit of my stomach tightened up. There had been storms with thunder and lightning off in the distance for two days and one was
approaching. Scott started working in the engine room and I watched the wind indicator start moving up. Soon we were in 20+ knots of wind and pouring rain. Happily Scott changed a fuel filter and got the engine working but it stopped twice more. Changing fuel tanks (we have 2) seemed to help but we didn't know why. The "bad" tank had more fuel than the good one and we didn't fill up in Panama as it was cheaper in CartageƱa. So now I'm also worried about running out of fuel before we reach there (Scott doesn't worry; he gets frustrated). We managed to get into Porvenir, an administrative location for the Kuna, and get our paper work done just before it closed for the day.

We are on a "schedule" unfortunately. We need to be in Trinidad by Nov. 18 and that is 1,000 miles away from Colon, Panama. We stupidly bought round trip plane tickets from there. As we go 6 miles/per hour at the best, that is a lot of traveling. And then, of course, we got a later start from the marina than hoped. Everyone thinks we are crazy as this is a notoriously difficult passage, against prevailing winds and currents (and of course along the coasts of Columbia and Venezuela).
The next day the engine stopped several more times. Now, except for the squalls, there is little to no wind right now. This makes it possible for us to make this trip - but you have to have an engine! Scott got it started each time but only for a while. We managed to get into the Coco Bandares islands (through a narrow reef entrance - I was holding my breath) and they are as close to paradise as you can get out - think Bali Hai. This is the pleasure/comfort end of the experience and it IS definitely heightened by the anxiety experienced earlier. If you enlarge the picture of me after a lovely swim you'll still see the worried look.

The next day we swam, snorkeled etc. and Scott spent time cleaning, tightening and changing oil filters. So we set to out sea the next morning early for Columbia - two full days and a night away. Twenty five miles out and three stops later we turned around and returned back to our anchorage. Fifty miles with no gain and a lot of anxiety (me) and annoyance (Scott).
The next day he spent hours going over the entire fuel/air system, found a broken hose clamp and declared the problem solved. Happily for us, not long after that a Kuna man in a dugout brought over some crabs for sale. They are huge and we bought just one as we had a lot of fresh fish on board. Scott caught two more earlier out to sea. We cooked it and picked off quite a bit of meat which I combined with some heavy cream and green onions to put over the fish. Wow! That made us forget the engine for awhile.

We were off again the next morning. This time, after more problems, I suggested we head towards the nearest mechanic. Much to Scott's frustration this was going back towards Colon. But the engine continued to quit and he aknowledged it was the best decision. We managed again to anchor near the "Swimming Pool" in the Eastern Holandes islands and he made a VHF call out for help. Several people called to talk and make suggestions. One of them really sounded promising, cleaning out the fuel hoses with compressed air from our air tank. After accomplishing this difficult task, he declared victory again. We would be running some tests tomorrow. The anxiety in the pit of my stomach continued however, although the pot luck on BBQ island that night temporarily shut it down!)

But this time it worked! It took 100 miles before I really relaxed - it didn't last long! Our first day the weather was perfect - flat seas, a gentle breeze and sunny skies. There were a lot of tall clouds way off in the distance. Well at 10PM that night we entered them - all night long we traveled through a series of squalls and the seas built and built. Think of being in a washing machine, in the dark, in the pouring rain with wind in the 20's, gusting to the 30's. One of us is glued to the radar trying to see little dots that indicate other boats out there as there's no visability outside and the other is in the cockpit hanging on for dear life.
Meanwhile we found out just how poorly we had stowed things away! Bottles, dishes etc. crashed into each other in the shelves and a lot of things hit the floor. Scott saw the computer sliding off the table and managed to slide underneath it - saved! We were however extremely lucky that none of the exciting lightning bolts came near us. Other people have not been so lucky out here - several have been hit and have every piece of hardware fried on the boat. This is not only expensive and time consuming but makes it hard to find shore!

It was a long and sleepless night for both of us and as dawn approached, the storm abated and eventually the seas started to calm down. By noon the sun came out and we could start to put the boat back together. We had several "hitchhikers" during the night - two tiny birds, one shown here, huddled below decks at times and found respite from the storm. The last despite finding a moth to eat and some fresh water to drink succombed to exhaustion and we found him lifeless on the bunkroom floor.

Our engine was fabulous thank goodness and we made very good time on the crossing. By early afternoon we realized that we could make it all the way to Cartagena. The grand entrance to the harbor, guarded by twin Colonial forts with the Columbian flag waving proudly over them, looked wonderful to us. And then to make our joy complete, our old friend John, manager of the Club Nautico marina, was able to find a berth for us (that evidently had been promised to others we heard later).

Now this is the other side of the contrast - the opposite of activity/fear/pain and it is bliss. At 5:30PM we were tied up tight to the dock, in the cockpit drinking gin & tonics, followed quickly by great leftovers and then into the flat, soft, dry (I managed to drum up the energy to change the sheets) bed in the quiet boat. We slept for 11 hours straight!