Wednesday, March 3, 2010

San Blas and Panama - Continued

We left the San Blas islands just before Christmas and spent 2 days sailing along the Panamanian coast to Colon; the Caribbean entrance to the canal.  We tied up the boat at Shelter Bay Marina - really the only option now that there is no safe place to tie up a dinghy in town. While there getting provisioned and cleaned up for Tristan's Christmas visit, we re-met Ted and Veronique of Verite, a Catana 50 catamaran.  They are a fun and energetic couple who we first met in the Rosarios Islands near Cartagana.  They asked if we would be interested in joining them as line handlers on their transit through the canal.  We jumped at the chance not only because it would be great experience for when we eventually take Idyll Island through, but because we knew it would be great fun with them. And the timing was perfect for getting to Panama City to meet Tristan. 

 Cathy and Derek aboard Verite about to enter the Gatun locks at dusk on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal.  As line handlers, we had to catch the messenger lines attached to weighted balls (monkey fists) thrown down (40') to (or at) us by the lock workers, make fast our heavy mooring lines and then constantly adjust the tension on the lines as locks filled or emptied to keep Verite centered in the lock against the pressure of the in-rushing (or out-flowing) water.

 We had to stay overnight in Gatun Lake.  When it came time (0615) to raise the anchor the next morning to proceed across the Lake to the Miraflores locks, it turned out that Verite's anchor chain was wrapped around a submerged 10 m long tree.  Skipper Ted had to jump into the water with a saw to clear the obstruction before we could get underway.  There are fines for delaying the transit and there are crocodiles in the lake!

 You can't see them, but there are lots of big ships in the 20 km channel through the Gatun Lake and Guillard Cut.  Requires a fair bit of concentration to avoid being run over.

 Our Canal adviser from the first day, Alvir.  This is the second day when we had another adviser on board.  Alvir took the day off to rejoin us on his own time - wonder why...?

 The Bridge of the Americas, connecting North and South America, behind us, we are in the Pacific - if only briefly this time. We had a great couple of days with Ted, Veronique and Ted's mother and sister.  And Alvir!

 Tristan arrived safe and sound, if somewhat tired after his 2 day journey to join us and a tough semester at college.  This is Christmas Eve at the Miraflores Lock visitors centre where we stopped on our way back across the isthmus by taxi to the marina and Idyll Island. The visitors centre with its extensive museum is an interesting stop. Making it even more interesting for us, if not bizarre, was running into Derek' cousin from Vancouver and his family, who Derek had not seen for over 15 years!  

Christmas morning on Idyll Island at Shelter Bay Marina. We're together, cards and presents from friends and family and champagne for breakfast. 

 Somehow on Christmas Day there was a point when we only had one tin of beer in the pool....

  Waterpolo skills were employed by one of us....

Someone swallowed more pool water than beer...

And in the end youth triumphed - this time....

Christmas day afternoon in the marina pool.  Luckily we were able to find some more beer! 

On Boxing Day we sailed back to the San Blas Islands.

Finding the right spot to drop the anchor is always challenging and requires good coordination between the foredeck and the helmsman. 

Tristan jumped in with Derek's Christmas speargun to see if he could find dinner.  Unfortunately the San Blas have been heavily overfished and there are very few fish of a size worthy of spearing.  We did not take any.

Cooling off while floating on our pool noodles with a couple of cold ones.  A trick taught to us by friends Chris and Kelly on Verna Breeze.

Cathy learning how to fly a kiteboard kite with our friend John from Tyee III.  John, his wife Lucy and their boys; Theo and Simi, are from Revelstoke BC.   They are now headed for the South Pacific.

Cathy looking at more molas.  She managed to resist - this time.

In the San Blas there are a few stores but we were unable to find any fresh produce in them.  Luckily, the veggie boat comes out to some of the anchorages and pulls up alongside

The island of Linton between Colon and the San Blas is uninhabited except for a troop of monkeys who are clearly in charge.

What the heck is this?  An apple?  The other guys gave me.....

... a whole bag of Cheezies!

Scary but tasty.  Barracuda are one of our favourite fish to eat.

Yoga under the palm trees on Potluck Island.  Led by Suzanne from Nautibear, this must be the most perfect place on the planet for yoga.  It was Tristan's first experience and he's doing his "tree" position perfectly - the size 14 feet probably help.

After an exhausting day of yoga and snorkeling we need to get our strength back with a huge plate of ribs.  Yum!

Potluck on Potluck Island.  A regular weekly event and chance to meet cruisers from all over the world. The island is maintained in park-like perfection by Reg of Runner, who with his wife Debbie have been cruising the San Blas for 14 years.

Mixed seafood grill for New Years Eve dinner with our Italian friends. 

After dinner sing along - in Italian, and French and English.  A very cosmopolitan and fun New Years Eve. Thanks to Marco, Enrica and little Pablo!

On the way back to Colon we stopped at Linton again and this time visited the sloths. Actually we visited with Binnie and Roger who welcomed us warmly though we were unannounced.  They live with 3 rescued sloths - gentle and fascinating animals related to possums and anteaters rather than monkeys.