When we left Cayman Brac, we knew it was going to be a calm and slow sail. The winds were mostly from behind and very light. We were able to keep sailing for the first 36 hours, but would have to turn the engine on during the night to keep our speed up and to keep the comfort level….livable. Or so we thought……..
The customs mooring ball sat in about 50-60 feet and the water was so clear it looked fake!!! It killed us that we had to wait till 8:30 to check in, as you are not allowed to get off the boat at all, including swimming!!! It was only just 7am!!! An hour and half of pure torture! So we killed the time with more coffee and breakfast. Then we moved on to putting Prism back together. As of our arrival, Prism looked like she had been through a hurricane! We had been warned that check in process in the Caymans can take up to 3 hours. The whole process includes a mosquito fumigation, a drug dog aboard and then all the paperwork and stuff.
When we told people about the route we were planning on taking… people looked at us like we were crazy! However those people were also people who had never done the passage themselves. We had met almost 10 boats while in Panama who had done this Passage with all kinds of jumping off points, but all heading for the Caymans. We met cruisers who left from Bocas del Toro ( most stopped at San Andres or Providence to break up the bashing), some left from Shelter Bay/ Colon or the San Blas (like us) and most jumped off from Carthagena. Depending on the weather, current, the type of boat and the jumping off point will all be factors when making landfall either at Cayman Brac to the east or Grand Cayman to the west. Clearly you can break off a little earlier and ease the sheets if you head right for Grand, but we were determined to keep our easterly heading and aim for Cayman Brac……This is how our passage went……..
With Prism protected by Isla Escudo de Veraguas and our anchor dug in deep into pure white sand, Jon and I hit the pillows and slept. That passage from Linton was a rough one, all our own fault though. Lesson learned.. never drink the night before a big passage.
This island is beautiful, once Jon and I caught up on our sleep we still did much of nothing. Without a working outboard….oh yea let me fill you in on that….
As you all remember we were gifted an old yamaha 2hp engine that worked great, then it fell into the Nargana cesspool water, you all know how that went. Well…… after that the little engine that could…..it ran great..… until it didn’t. Yep you read correctly… it runs no more. We are the killers of outboards, Jon spent hours trying to get the darn thing to run again with no luck. We are once again outboard-less.
Okay back to Isla Escudo de Veraguas… yes it is just as hard to pronounce as it looks
So without an outboard Jon and I could not get out to the reefs for some diving. So we simply hung out, while I had to be very creative about what to eat as Prism’s stores were depleted. There was another boat anchored close to the beach, that seamed to have at east 11 people on board and they pretty kept to them selves. At one point we thought someone was being E-Vac out, as one of their dinghy rushed to shore just as a red helicopter landed on the beach. When nothing happened and they killed the engine on the helicopter we must have thought wrong, and we were just simply not invited to the party. I guess we could have crashed it, but who knows.. maybe it was a drug delivery or pick up or something. okay …we have been watching NARCOS a little to much. Most likely it was someone coming to enjoy the beach for the day.
Well the next morning we left, we thought about doing short jumps up towards Bocas town, but the weather was so calm, so we went for it. With our new Beta engine a 50nm jump is easily accomplished even when having a late start.
The motor was uneventful, no sea life, no bags filled with money drifting by, nothing. There were 2 cargo ships anchored out in the middle of no were which we thought was a bit odd, but we just motored right on past them.
Once we rounded Isla Bastimentos into the channel that leads to Bocas town we were ready to explore! Of corse by the time we got to the part where we have to navigate through reefs and shoals the sun goes away and was replaced by thick clouds, completely masking the color variations. Well this is fun.
We do a couple of laps in the 2 anchorages looking for the right spot. We opted for the southern anchorage as it had more swing room and fewer boats. The down fall to this anchorage… we had been told at night this is where the sewage is pumped out. yummy.
As soon as the hook was set I looked at Jon and asked “ Take me out to dinner?” when he said okay we were in the dingy and heading right for Buena Vista. We were told by Jess and Josh that this place was worth the money and the food was to die for. The sigh at the door said “Craft Micro Brew” which was the cherry on top. We sat down ordered beers, and nachos to get us started. Our eyes were way bigger than our stomachs. Oh and I should mention that we had not eaten anything all day, as we have no food aboard. Even before our nachos arrived Jon ordered the 1/2lbs burger and I ordered the chicken enchiladas.
We must have been used to ordering the small portions that Costa Rica serves because when the nachos came out from Buena Vista, holy cow they could have fed a small army. Jon and I could not help ourselves as we jumped in fingers first and stuffed our faces with cheese meat and chips. I seriously think that this restaurant is the only one in history that makes nachos were there is left over cheese with no chips! You all know what I’m talking about, the end of a nacho plate always has plain chips with nothing left to go on top….well not this place. Not that it even mattered as we could not even finish the nachos! The hamburger and enchiladas came out and we laughed, there was NO WAY we could even take one bite. Well I did because it looked so good, but we were so full. I mean straight up fail! The waitress laughed as we asked for boxes for it all. Needless to say, the hamburger and enchiladas fed us for the whole next day.
The next days were filled with walking around the town exploring all the shops. It was an overload to be surrounded by so many people compared to the San Blas Islands. There are people everywhere and from all around the world. I immediately could see why people love this place and spend so much time here. A sister ship of ours SV Bruadair spent 9 years here!
We had been looking forward to getting to Bocas so we could reconnect with some other cruisers we had met back in Shelter Bay. SV Lazy Bones was in the anchorage and so was SV Narvana, two couples we were really looking forward to hanging out with. Bob on Nirvana is a great musician and the whole time we were in Shelter Bay kept asking us to have a jam session. Well if you remember we were a bit busy in that marina…. dropping engines and all, so we never got the chance. He was not going to let us get away this time without playing some music. So we went over to have drinks and play, and well that turned into staying till the wee hours, talking drinking, playing music and Sherry, Bobs wife whipping out some nachos for us all to munch on. Just as we thought, this couple was so fun to be around.
A few nights later they invited us over once again, this time to play a card game called Big 2. Jon and I were surprised to learn that it is in fact the same game that we have played 100 times over, only we learned it from Scott ( the young cute single hander we met and spent time with back in Baja and Sea of Cortez) and we call it Dosquies. There were a few rule differences, but Bob and Sherry liked our rules more, so once again we stayed chatting and playing till the wee hours of the night. This time we also made plans to participate in the Sunday afternoon Mexican Train game that happens at Marina Bocas. The 4 of us would all be the fresh meat, and we were looking forward to playing against full tables.
Sunday afternoon came, while Jon and I were the youngest people there by 20+ years we still had a lot of fun. We brought some beer, our set of dominos, mosquito coils, coconut oil and deet, ready to take on the computation and the biting little fu*king bugs that love me so much. We played 2 games on 2 tables, then half way through the people who are in first and last place of each table swapped tables to finish the last half. I am proud to state not only did I win, but I smoked everyone! I had 175 points, last place had 599 points and second place came in at 280 something points. Smoked them! not gunna lie, it felt good. hehe
We took the advise from the other cruisers who said renting bikes was a must and set off to explore. There are places all around to rent bikes and should cost no more than $5 for a whole day if you know how and were to ask. But classic Shannon did not get out of bed till mid morning, so we were left with slim pickings and spent $8 a bike. Still not to bad for the amount of fun we had. It was just after noon when we set off down the road and had the bikes till 7pm.
The road is paved, until it’s not…… leaving you to navigate through sand and mud. Sure if we had mountain bikes with gears it would have been easy, but on the beach cruisers it was almost comical. For the first half Jon’s seat was way to low, he could not even extend his legs fully while peddling, while I had no problems and loved the extra padded seat I was riding on.
We rode down to bluff beach and had a picnic lunch, while watching the waves hit the red sand beach. It was beautiful and I could have spent days on end there. We thought we were going to have the beach to ourselves till taxi after taxi unloaded tourist from all over onto the beach. Well so much for a romantic afternoon. Once we were done eating we walked the beach for a little then headed back. We were looking forward to stopping at Skullys Bar for some beers.
Skully’s bar seems like a happening place when the sun does down, they have the set up for all kinds of drinking games, a pool, hammocks, lawn chairs that are more like beds, horse shoes and chairs hanging out over the water. If only we has tons of money, I think we would have spent some of it there having a little too much to drink. Living up the last of our 20’s!
We tried to stretch out our bike ride, taking side roads that led to huge hills…so we would turn around till finally we had no where else to ride, it was about 5:45 and we were spent. So we turned in our bikes, went to the store to buy some food for dinner and were very excited when we got a text from Josh stating he was back! We fell back into it like old times, we invited Josh over for dinner, and although it felt odd for him to be aboard with out Jess or Uly, it sure was great to see him again.
We can hear live music almost overnight, but stupidly we never went searching for it to enjoy first hand. There was a jazz band playing every Tuesday night we could hear so clearly from the foredeck, that Jon and I would just sit and enjoy, while Jon explained how tight, smooth or good the band was.
After trying to buy yet another used outboard that needed up not being all that it was made out to be.. we returned the European addition of the Yamaha called a Malta. We busted out the credit cards and bought a BAND NEW YAMAHA 2hp!!!
Jon and I did take the time to actually see a dentist for the first time in almost 5 years. Jon felt and could see one of his wisdom teeth coming in, so we thought while we are here, were the dentist is affordable why not have them taken out. So we made our appointment to have the X-ray done and get the Dentist opinion on what to do. Shockingly the x-ray showed that his wisdom tooth is coming in straight as an arrow, with “plenty” of room. So Dr. Wong told Jon not to worry about that, instead to worry about the dead front tooth that has started to get an infection. He instructed Jon that he would need a root canal, then have a vainer put over the dead tooth, but that he could not do the procedure for a few weeks.
Knowing that we did not have a few weeks to just hang out in Bocas we told him our situation. With a smile he said no problem and that we should look into having it taken care of once we get up to Mexico… yes we are heading north..ill explain later. He also said that he needed a cleaning, BAD and lucky for us there was an opening on Monday for us both. Okay so on Monday morning, Jon and I went through what we like to say was an aggressive but thorough cleaning, leading to the conclusion that I have 4 cavities that need to be addressed and Jon has 3. So we will having those looked at once we reach Mexico.
Alright so the explanation: We have once again changed our plans, or maybe we have finally just decide on an option. Which is……..
WE ARE HEADING TO NORTH CAROLINA! Yep we are heading back to Linton Bay to check out, then sailing for the Cayman Islands, then over to Isla Mujeres, Mexico then maybe Cancun for a dentist then rounding Cuba and riding the golf stream up to NC. We want to be in the marina by June. Which means we have some serious miles to sail. With that in mind we provisioned heavily in the amazing stores in Bocas town, said our goodbyes, and our hope to see you soons. Josh is also getting ready to sail Oleada up to Florida, but he is leaving from here. So we hope we will be on the same weather window watch and meet up with him in the Caymans.
April 14, 2017
The weather was calm and hot while were in anchored in Bocas town, today we up anchor and motored over to Isla Bastimentos. We anchored out in front of Red Frog Marina, in hopes to explore tomorrow. The goals for this island are to walk along the long white sand beach and to see the infamous Reg Frog! The tiny endemic red frog is found nowhere else on earth and is extremely poisonous. We have been warned that even to brush up against a leaf that had a reg frog on it can cause serious health issues and a months worth of antibiotic shots at the hospital.
Sadly we did not get to explore Bastimentos. As we were getting ready to head into the marina, we were stopped by a local who informed us of the following.
1: Because of 2 murders of young women in the last few months, the island is kinda of on a lock down for tourist. They do not want people walking around and using the trails. Very sad news and 2: Because it was easter weekend the police had stopped all tours and access to the trails that led out to wizards beach because of said murders.
So we just up anchored and started to make out way out of Bocas. Our next stop was at Johnson Cay. There was nothing there, and the water was pretty murkey. We only made this stop because we were loosing day light and the Crawl Cay passage is a navigational challenge even in the best light.
The next morning we made our way through the reefs and shoals that block the way to Crawl Cay. We were told by friends that the snorkeling was great here and anchoring was no problem. So we found a sand patch and dropped our hook. Once I jumped in to check out anchor I was back out of the water to tell Jon that we HAD to move.
Yes our hook was in Sand, but our chain was laying on top of live corals. Clearly noticeable how many boats anchor here thinking the are okay. The coral was damaged all around. Heartbreaking!! We looked around and even moved to the deeper spots hoping to find a spot we would be clear from corals. With no luck after about 20 minutes we bailed.
We sailed on out to the Zapatilla Cays. Setting our hook in all sand just before sunset we watched the squall filled sky as the day ended. We had planned on only staying there for one night, as it is a park and we knew we were going to get charged for being there. Jon and I went to bed after prepping the boat for the 50nm journey back out to Escudo de Veraguas. However the next morning we were welcomed by a very dark sunrise and huge squalls lined the entire horizon. I looked at Jon and said “ Who in their right mind chooses to go sailing in that!?” After Jon trying to convince me that at least there was “wind” to sail there, my side of the argument of not wanting or liking to sail in rain won. So we hunkered down. The squalls rolled over us till late afternoon. When the sun finally decided to show its face out with it came the park ranger looking to collect the fee. This is how that went:
Ranger: “ Hello, this is a park, you have to pay $20.00”
Jon: “ Okay, do you have a receipt or any kind of forms or paper stating that we need to pay $20?”
Ranger: “ Uh, no but its $20”
Jon: “ I’ll pay you if you can show what we are paying for”
Ranger: “ um okay, $10.00”
Jon: “ no”
Ranger: “ um $5?”
Ranger: “ okay….do you have a beer?”
Shannon: “Give the man a beer and send him on his way!”
^ classic latin america.
The next morning the sky was clear, the sun was out and there was just a slight breeze. You can imagine the look I got from Jon when we decided there was not enough wind to sail and that we would have to motor. Ha oh well. Our motor on down to Isla Escudo de Veraguas was beautiful, and we got to the anchorage by mid day. Excited to explore the waters around this island, we launched Falkor and away we went.
On our way out to the ouster reef we were escorted by dolphins at our bow, swimming along as our new outboard push Falkor along around 4 knts. SO COOL!
This island is amazing, we turned back around as we really wanted to see what the south-east end was like. What we saw is like nothing we had ever seen before!
The water was clear, the life was bountiful and the topography was out of this world! Words can not explain how blown away we were! The rock formations, the trees hanging off the sides of cliffs, everything took our breath way.
The next morning we headed out. We needed to get back to Linton and Portobello to check out. Of corse it was only now that we realized that we did not get our zarpe from Bocas. opps. We suck at remembering to get the domestic zarpes! We know that the port captain in Linton is easy-going and forgiving, we prayed that he would not give us a hard time.
Our passage back towards Linton was 100% more enjoyable than our trip out. This time we had the current helping us! There was only a light breeze but we made good time with the 1knt current. The night was clear and the stars were out. As we passed a few boats heading to Bocas in the middle of the night I hailed them on 16 to chat a bit to help pass the time. Around 4 am we made it to the shipping lanes. There were boats lined up for miles waiting to get into Colon and through the Canal. Lucky for us our boat speed was perfect, I was able to weave though the waiting and moving ships with ease, that was till we were almost out of the zone. I had been watching these lights on the horizon for a while, at first it looked like the light from Isla Grande but as we got closer I could see it was a very large tanker just waiting for its chance to enter the harbor. It was not moving, but had its running lights on, the green light telling me I was looking at its STBD side. I adjusted my corse a little so we would pass well behind it. Proud of myself for navigating through the heavy traffic area by myself, I started to relax. Just as we were about pass the large ship, it gave a blast of its horn, did a full 90 degree turn to STBD and started to move right towards me! WHAT THE HELL!!! Next thing I knew this large tanker is getting much closer to me, and we passed STBD to STBD him at full speed. Well that woke me up!
As soon as we cleared the shipping lanes, my shift was over and the sun was coming up, we only had about 2 hours till we made it to our anchorage. I woke to Jon calling me on deck to help navigate the narrow pass between Isla Linton and the marina. We set the hook, made breakfast and readied our dinghy.
Our first stop was the port captain, we got our Zarpe with no questions asked about a zarpe from Bocas…few! We then went back to the boat as we needed to wait till after noon to catch the bus into Portobello. Checking out with Immigration was easy as always, the women in Portobello are so nice and just hands down easy to work with. Completely worth traveling the extra miles to check in or out at this Office of Immigration.
Once we were all checked out and ready to go, we went to the store and bought some meat and last-minute things for our trip to the Caymans!
When Jon and I got back to Prism, we received a message from Josh stating that because of insurance claims and push backs he was running out of time to sail Oleada back to the states. He had arranged for our friend Jet and another friend to help crew Oleada back up to the states. He had to bail on the whole thing, leaving Oleada to be repaired in the Bocas Marina after being hit at full speed by a launcha. He informed us that Jet was still looking for a ride up to the states as she wanted to get her Captains License. So after looking at the weather, wind angles and routes we decided that sailing back out to the San Blas would be beneficial as it places us 60 miles further east. NOW all we had to do was go back to the Port Captain and ask for a new Zarpe with a total of 3 crew members.
We radioed in as it was a Saturday to see what time they would be open to. The marina responded for us letting us know the Captain would be back after lunch at 1pm. So at 1 Jon and I made the dinghy ride back into the marina to seek out the Port Captain.
When we arrived to the building everything was locked and dark! The man who guards the gate told us that he went home and would be back on Monday. SHIT! Well now what?!? Jon and I walked over to the marina office and were very happy to see the Port Captain had left a new Zarpe with the woman who works there. They were willing to issue us a new Zarpe, but we were going to have to pay the over time fee. A normal Zarpe is $12.00 Which we paid the first time we thought we were leaving Panama a month ago. However yesterday…. he charged me $22.00. I did not ask any questions about the extra charge as I was happy he did not ask any questions about my missing zarpe from my last port. SO now when we were getting the newest Zarpe with the added crew member they wanted the $12 + $10 some kind if fee + another $10 for a total of $32. When I asked about why I had to pay $22 the previous day the lady was shocked and called the Port Captain on the phone and let him have it. Needless to say we only had to pay $12.00 as the Port Captain had gotten caught for over charging me the day before.
^^ once again, classic latin america.
Alright! Prism was loaded down past her lines with full water tanks, full fuel tanks and enough food to last for another 3 months. We headed over to Isla Grande to check out the light house before leaving bright and early the next morning for the San Blas to pick up our newest crew member, Jet!
Isla Grande is cute. The trail that leads up to the light house is very enjoyable but is super steep at times. There were a few moments I had to stop to catch my breath. We climbed to the top of the light house and met another couple up there. With almost 500lbs at the top the tower swayed in the wind. IT WAS TERRIFYING!!!!! But the views were worth it.
The sail back out to the San Blas was nothing like our first trip out. We had light winds, only had to motor at the start. We pulled into the lee of Chichime, set the hook and then went in search of the catamaran Jet had been working for. Jet wanted to spend her last night aboard the cat, so we arranged of her to be at our boat by 10 am the next morning as we needed to head to Isla Porvenir
The next morning Jon and I rearranged Prism. We cleaned out the back room aka the garage, cleared the hanging locker and the shelf. Jet has the aft stateroom all to herself! Only some of the big heavier tools were still at the bottom of the hanging locker. Once Jet was on aboard we headed out. The sail over to Porvenir was pleasant and we set the hook in the same place we did last time when Jon and I tried to get out Visa’s renewed here more than a month ago.
Jon stayed aboard doing more last-minute projects while Jet and I went in to see immigration. Sure enough we had to pay the Congresso once again as we entered Kuna Yala land. There goes another $60. We had all our copies and paperwork ready, and lucky for us Jet speaks Spanish very well. The man before us did not have all his ducks in a row we ended up waiting on him, causing us to go into the lunch hour. The immigration officer was willing to process us before his lunch as we thought we were going to be a shoe in. But we were missing one set of copies. He wanted not only Jets passport copy but mine and Jon’s as well, even though we were already checked out, we were only there to get Jet checked out.
The immigration officer at Isla Porvenir is known to lecture yachties about the dos and don’ts and that he cares for us, and that if the paperwork is not 100% and something were to happen to someone and the paperwork was all kattywampus then it would be a head ache for not just him but for everyone involved. So now because it was lunch, the ladies in the congresso office were not there and they have the copy machine (PRISM is out of black ink abroad for our own printer/copier) So now we all have to wait till AFTER lunch.That was not the end of the world so Jet and I walk around the corner to have a cold beer, but they were out of cold beer..cold cokes it is!
Once lunch was over we got out copies, presented everything to the officer, but he continued his lecture to Jet for about another 15-20 minutes. He was speaking very quickly so I could only pick up on about half of the convo, but poor Jet… he knew she understood everything, so he kept it going. Finally we were done! We had our official crew list with all three names and passports, we all had our exit stamps and away we went.
Sails up, enjoying the last sail in the San Blas…..where do you think we headed to? Yep back out to the Swimming Pool anchorage in the Holandes Cays. We love this spot so much! We had a few days till our weather window so we prepped Prism and showed Jet the layout of our home. She is a quick study and has been more than happy and willing to help with any and all projects. She wants to learn about anything and everything.
We said our goodbyes to friends we had made over the last 5 months in the San Blas, had music nights, pot-lucks and good laughs and of corse snorkeling and sharks!! We hope we will get to share an anchorage with anyone of those boats again someday.
Well with Prism all ready to go, we did a final weather check and decided to push our departure one day. With the extra day we did even more final touches on getting Prism ready for the 660nm bach to windward up to the Cayman Islands. The weather showed that we would most likely have to motor for the first 24 hours. Leaving on Thursday afternoon would put us about 140 ish miles out of the Panama hole and into some wind. Forecasted to pick up on Friday night through saturday up into 20-25 knts, then to drop back down to 10-15knts Saturday night. The gamble was if we were going to see the higher winds or not as we were going to be right on the line.
Thursday morning was spend baking and prepping food for the passage, once again saying good bye to friends, getting out a few last minute e-mails and one more weather check.
All was good, we are ready to go! We upped anchor, heard our friends blowing the conch horns and we motored away from the beautiful San Blas Islands.