Bocas del Toro, NEW CREW and Leaving Panama!

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.

Days later…..

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?”

Jon: “no”

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.

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The changing of seasons and plans

March, 13, 2017

It’s that time of year, winter as come and gone. Crazy how fast time flies when you are having fun. With the chancing of seasons comes the hardest part of cruising, saying good-bye to the friends you have made and spent so much time with for the last few months. The snow birds are go back home to work and full-time cruisers use the weather windows to make their jumps across the oceans. There are a full year around cruisers here in the San Blas who will keep us company during the squall, rain, lightening and buggy summer season, But we sure are going to miss the friends we have made who are going in different directions. As your friends sail off and wave goodbye, you wave back and hope that someday in the future you will pull into an anchorage and see them again.

Saying good bye to SV Cheers

Saying good bye to SC Nashuma

We have spent almost 4 months in the San Blas which is leading us to doing the yo-yo plan game. Which goes like this:

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Cruising the San Blas Islands

Our time in the San Blas so far as been pure bliss. I can’t say we have been doing much, life out here consist of: waking up, drinking coffee, having breakfast then going swimming or reading books. Afternoons are spent snorkeling, spear fishing( for lion fish only of corse) or playing beach games with friends. As for the evenings we have dinner alone or with friends, we may have a Bonfire, or trash burning party, we may play games or have a quiet movie night. Seriously, then we go to sleep. Rinse and repeat. 🙂  ha.

 

We have been moving around the typical cruising grounds for the area. I would have to say that the Cocos Banderos Cays are the best so far. Although they are only good when the weather is calm.  Well maybe, the Lemons are pretty good too, and the Holandes cays…. oh what am I saying they are all awesome!

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Heading into Paradise

Once we left the shelter of the break wall in Colon, we were welcomed into the Caribbean Sea with no wind. But we were stoked to use the new Beta in these conditions. There was a fun square chop the whole way to Portobelo! That’s 20nm of bashing!  With the old Yanmar we would have only been able to make maybe 2-3 knots, coming almost to a complete stop after the larger swells. BUT, BUT! With the new beta, we were able to keep our forward momentum and speed! I mean we were doing 5-6 knots into 6 foot square chop! We LOVE THE NEW BETA BEAUTY!

So we motored over to Portobelo, and we were saddened to see all the vessels washed up onto shore, in the shallows and just the tops of masts from those which sank from hurricane Otto. It was reported that over 70 knots of wind blew in Portobelo, causing a lot of damage. We were in Shelter Bay when the storm came through, we were ready for the 70knots of wind, but it never got above the high 30s.

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Anyways we mad our way in, keeping an eye out for sunken ships, we dropped the hook in the middle of the pack. The old forts and ruins are beautiful. We were upset that our first anchorage in the Caribbean was in brown mucky water, but then again it is the rainy season, and it was raining, a lot. Apparently during the dry season the bay does have pretty blue water.

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Our new friends Jez and Susie from Joy of Shamrock came into the bay after us. They timed their anchoring perfectly with a white out squall! They anchored in some very heavy rain, while Jon and I watched them from our dry companion way. We knew they were coming into port to get some food as they were out. So we invited them over for some fresh home-made pizzas.

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We headed into town to check it out.  We were all in need of some fresh veggies and luckily for us we had the phone number for the local Veggie truck guy, Julio! We scheduled a time and place to meet so we could stock up on the fresh greens!

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Catching a ride with SV Joy of Shamrock into town

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Always looking for bugs!

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Look at all the fresh stuff!!

Jon and I also needed to renew our Mariners visas. Apparently this task was going to be an interesting one, as no one really knows the rules, the laws, which office does what and so forth. It was around December 10th and our visas were up on the 26th. The immigration office in Portobelo would not renew our visas early, we had to come back on the 23. As that was the last Friday before Christmas, and they would not be open on Monday the 26th, and you can not be late. We then asked if there was an immigration office in the San Blas and if they could renew our visas. They said yes, hands down no problem. Okay, to the San Blas we go!

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So we left Portobelo and made our way 7miles up to a little slice of heaven called Playa Blanca. We scooted in beyond the inner reef, to a spot just big enough for maybe 2 boats. And we found bliss. We stayed in this bay for a few days, then decided to keep moving up. We did stop long enough to have a small photo shoot. For those of you that have been following us for a while, you may have noticed I have lost some weight. I am very proud of what I have accomplished, so Jon and I set off to have a bikini shoot. I mean after all 40lbs is a lot of weight to lose! So this is me showing off, because I can 🙂

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Jon getting the shot

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Bliss, Jon and I with Prism anchored behind us at Playa Blanca

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Prism anchored in Playa Blanca

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Our first Caribbean snorkeling session!

Next was Linton Bay. It was here that we were informed that the immigration office in the San Blas islands is a hit or miss adventure. We heard that the office was not renewing visas and making people check out of the country instead. Then we heard, yes they are issuing but you have to pay the $105 fee again. There was also just the straight no, that the office is closed. None of those options sounded good to us, so we decided we would hang in Linton till the 23rd, catch the bus for $1 back to Portobelo and get our visas renewed there, where we knew it could be done 100% and without hassle or scams.

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The Buses are always different, colorful and pumping out LOUD music!

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Our sail to Linton was a great one, we motored out of the reefs at playa Blanca, raised all the sails, killed the fuel lines, then tacked out. Once we were clear of the outer reefs we tacked back in lining up perfectly with the entrance into Linton Bay with the wind behind us. Holy cow, there were so many boats in the anchorage. We kept to the back of the pack, which made for long distance rowing, but nothing we could not handle.

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Shannon holding on while getting the yankee set up

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Jon getting the reef lines set up

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Sailing into Linton

Jon got right to work on changing out the cutlass bearing. I don’t know if all HC33s are the same way, but we have access holes in our deadwood that allow us to push the cutlass bearing out without coming out of the water, or removing the shaft. We did have to remove the newly installed prop, but in a short afternoon Jon had everything replaced, and boy is Prism’s propulsion system smooth! Sexy.

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Jon setting up the Prop puller so we can remove the cutlass bearing

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Joy of Shamrock came into Linton a few days later. We spent the evenings drinking, eating and playing dominoes and trying to convince them to come to the San Blas with us, but they were set on heading up towards the Virgin Islands, they were just waiting for the right weather window. We were sad to watch them go, but hope to see them again in an anchorage somewhere along the way.

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Joy of Shamrock sailing into Linton Bay

We also ran back into Sv Sirena. Chris and Shawna had spent the last few weeks out in the San Blas and are in love with it. They just needed some more food and fuel before heading back out again. I agreed that more food aboard Prism  would be smart too, so we all took the bus into Sabanitias ( I think that is what the town was called) to stock up one last time. We made a stop in Portobelo again just to see if they would renew our visas a little early. They said no. So we stopped at a little restaurant and attempted to upload a video. Once the video said it was going to take more than 4 hours we decided to leave, as we still needed to get back to Linton Bay.

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Jon out sailing Falkor in Linton Bay

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Full Moon in Linton Bay

Chris and Shawna invited us over for Christmas dinner, if we could make it out there in time. We said our “see ya soons” and they headed back to the islands. The next day Jon and I took the bus back over to Portobelo to get our visas renewed. There was no hassle and no trouble getting our Mariners visas for another 3 months. $10 later we were walking through the little town and looking for once again a place to finish uploading our videos. We decided to try out Captain Jacks, which is a hostel, bar and restaurant. While we were sitting there enjoying our beers we remembered that our friends on SV Gaia (been sailing with them since Mexico), were anchored in Portobelo, so I sent them a text, told them where we were and that they should join us. 15 minutes later we were all enjoying cold drinks and catching up. Once again our video would not finish its upload in time to catch the last bus back to Linton. As it turned out, we already had missed the bus, but lucky for us so had 2 other cruisers. So we split the cab fare back to Linton which was only a $1 more a person than the bus. While in the cab the other cruisers told us that the Padi Dive Resort called Panama Reef Divers has good internet. Okay, I was sold, as a Padi professional diver I was stoked to talk with the staff. We even dropped off 4 of our 6 scuba tanks to be Hydro tested for only $40 apiece! That’s way cheap, plus they take care of all the transport and will hold on to our tanks for us till we come back through Linton in a few months! I’m sure your thinking, “um Shannon you’re in clear water with no scuba tanks?!” Well there is no scuba allowed in the San Blas Islands. It’s lame, but we are obeying the rules, and practicing our free diving skills. It took 2 more 3 hour days to get the video uploaded, the dive shop had internet and although it was not fast, it was still the fastest we had found. So while Jon did the video, I updated the last blog.

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Panama Reef Divers is a 5 star Padi Dive Resort. It is the orange building on the right

We left for the San Blas Islands on the morning of Christmas Eve. We weighed anchor at 6 am and started our bash. It was a bash but we made amazing time. We cheated though, we motored sailed still making tacks though, the motor was just to help punch through the high seas. It was a wet ride, but comfortable. We sailed 70nm and still made it out to the Holandes Cays with the sun in the perfect spot to guide us into the reef protected anchorage called the Swimming Pool.

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6 am departure from Linton Bay

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Early morning bashing, Prism needed a good salt bath

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It was not that rough, but I lost my Sea Legs and slept most of the passage out to the San Blas

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keeping a close eye on the reefs

This ship is wrecked on the reef just out side of Cayos Chichime

This ship is wrecked on the reef just out side of Cayos Chichime

Holy Cow, we now have really landed in paradise! I have a feeling I am going to be saying that a lot now. Anchored in about 9 feet in the clearest water we have ever seen. Jon and I were in the water so fast I’m sure it looked like ghosts sailed Prism into the anchorage.

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WE MADE IT

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We had X-mas dinner aboard Sirena, I cooked a turkey ( first ever aboard Prism) that came out great, thank you Chris and Shawna for buying and prepping the turkey. I think there was about 10 people for dinner, and we were all very fat and happy by the end.

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MY very own X-Mas tree! Prism was just a little more festive this year!

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Look at all that amazing food!!

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We have made new friends with a young couple from New Orleans. Tate and Danni on SV Sundowner. They also make videos for YouTube that are up to date!! Check them out here SV Sundowner YouTube, or here Sundowner Sails Again We have decided to  buddy boat with them and have already been in one of their videos. I can tell already we are going to have so much fun with these guys!

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The Swimming pool anchorage in the East Holandes cays

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SV Sundowner Looking sexy. We have started the double enders club out here!

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Tate from SV Sundowner, classic sailor photo

Jon has started editing season 2 of SV Prism episodes, we are really excited about the footage and hope people will enjoy the new season. I’m going to try to stay up to date on the blog as much as I can, but it’s hard to stay in, write and edit when it is just so freaking beautiful out side. Luckily today it’s blowing 25+ knots out there and we are hiding inside for the new few days while this blow does its thing.

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Cuna fishermen sailing between the islands and reefs

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The water here is clear and amazing, and I get to see sharks, like every time I go snorkeling!! Clearly I was having shark withdrawals, cause I see a shark now and I just want to spend all day with it. Anyways, Tate from Sundowner is an amazing free diver and hunter, so we have been eating a lot of fresh fish!!

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cute resting Nurse Shark

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First Lion Fish spotting!

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Danni from SV Sundowner and dinner

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Shannon and Danni

Danni rallied the cruisers together that were anchored out in the Holandes to have a New Years Party on the beach.  We all got in our Dinghys ( well Jon and I hitched a ride with Danni and Tate as Falkor no longer has a working motor, and rowing was not an option) and made our way out to the little island between the anchorages. It was so fun to meet new people from all around the world! I can’t even believe we made it to midnight either! It was one heck of a party, and the dingy ride back was one for the books. 4 drunk cruisers in a 10ft portaboat navigating through the reefs with only one flashlight= priceless.

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HAPPY NEW YEARS 2017!!!!!!

Jon and I are in love with the San Blas Islands, we have only started exploring, there is so much to see and over 600 islands! It’s a good thing we have over 8 months  to be here!

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Buying Molas from Venancio

Buying Molas from Venancio

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A month of work and no play

After our canal transit we were relieved to be done, but we had zero time to relax. It was time to get to work. In the one month we could afford in the marina we had quite a lot of projects to complete.

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The last picture of our Yanmar 3QM30

First up: Taking out the old Yanmar. 3QM30. This started out smooth, Jon started taking off most of the easily removable parts, such as pumps, the starter, the alternators and the exchanger to make the 800+ pound engine just a little lighter when the time came to lift it. As Jon removed the parts I cleaned them up, gave them a good spraying of WD40 then rapped them up in plastic for storage. We plan on selling these new and like new parts to others who have the 3QM30.

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Ready to lift the beast out

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Clean parts for sale

Anyways, with the engine stripped down to almost nothing, we were ready to lift the beast out. Let me remind you, most people haul their boat and use a crane to do this project, those such things were not an option for us as they would have pushed us even farther over the edge in the budget debt we have going. So we came up with a system using the boom, mast, halyards spectra spliced bridles and a very large rubber bow roller. The idea was to use the main sheet attached to the boom to winch up the engine, then once it was high enough to clear the companion way we would use the rubber bow roller to simply roll it forward into the cockpit. And it worked…. Well almost. We had about 2 more inches to go and we would have been in the cockpit. Jon was straddling the boom, pushing the rubber roller down the boom, which by the way did not “roll” at all, so he had to use blunt force to push and nudge it. I was down below keeping the engine from swinging side to side into our interior teak. I had the thought that maybe we should now tie a line from the front of the engine to the back of the boat, so that just in case something were to fail, this line would stop the engine from plummeting backwards into the boat. Just as I finished the thought and was about to share my idea with Jon, I heard the snap.

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Bringing the Engine up and out

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ALMOST THERE

Just in the nick of time, I was able to get myself out from under the engine ( not that I was under it, I was standing next to it) but my cat-like reflexes made me step back just in time to keep all my toes, but my left hand was late. Right away Jon yells down to me ” ARE YOU OKAY?!” I responded, ” Yea, but I think my wrist is broken” At the time we had so much adrenalin pumping nothing hurt, but my wrist was bleeding, and starting to swell as well as turn black and blue.

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The engine is free floating, if you look at the line in the center of the photo, it is attached to nothing.

Above me, Jon also heard the snap but all he could do was hold on. The boom came flying up towards his face and even more painful, his manhood. So when he called down to me, it was in a higher pitch.. If you know what I mean. So there we were, Me bleeding with a useless wrist, and Jon with a hitch in his step and an octive higher voice. We took a look at the damage done to Prism, relived that the engine did not go all the way through the boat, and that we were not taking on any water, we set off for some ice and medical attention for my wrist.

Let me also explain, while this is going on, Panama is in a week-long holiday, so no one is working, nothing is open. Not till the following Monday, it was only Wednesday. The cruising community was more than helpful, and I had a bag full of ice on my wrist with in 7 (ish) minutes of the engine falling. A couple on our dock are both retired RN’s, they took a look, and said I needed to get an x Ray as soon as I could get into town, and that I needed to keep it iced and try not to move it. So we did just that.

We went back to Prism to really have a look at the damage, now that we know everyone was okay ish. It was heart breaking to look at. When we started the lift the Yanmar, we had spun her around for a better clearance through the companion way. So on its way down it smashed and splintered a teak fiddle from our galley and the gear box landed just past the bulge access point, leaving Prisms’ cabin sole with a hole in the floor and a busted support stringer. But miraculously the engine kinda landed back on the engine beds, just you know, facing the wrong way.

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Well shit

What happened you ask? Jon thought right away it was a knot that had come undone, quickly checking to see if the bowline I had tided came undone.. Yea no. No Bowline of mine has ever and will never come undone… I mean I don’t want to toot my own horn or anything, but I know my knots. Anyway… Come to find out…. It was the spectra bridle that had failed. A splice Jon has used over 100 times, failed. Lesson learned… We should have whipped the splice.

I was useless as I could not use my wrist, let alone use the galley and Jon was just so unhappy about what just happened, we could not even stay on the boat. Our Friends on SV Sirena invited us over for dinner, and more ice and invited us to just stay the night on their boat to “get away” from our failed of the day. It helped, not that Jon or I got any sleep as I was in pain, and Jon was in pain just thinking about what he did to our poor boat.

We think that is was the Yanmar’s way of smiting us for replacing it. In its defense, the Yanmar still ran great! So why did we replace it? Cause we are crazy. Well and also the gear box was just starting to act up, then the British Pound did a nose dive. So we asked for a quote from BETA ( in the UK) and the price was too good to pass up. Plus we were in an area that was free to import and access to a marina that would let us do the work ourselves, in the water.

So after a 2 day break, I stayed out-of-the-way wrote the canal transit blog while Jon and a few other men in the marina made quick work (with a new strategy) of removing the old Yanmar out of the boat and onto the dock.

Step two (non planned): Fixing the damaged teak from engine falling.

We were able to hire a local man who had been working on a wood boat on our dock, his name is Tino and he was our life saver. We asked him to come over and take a look at the damage done and how much it would cost to fix it. The price was so good we asked him to also fill in the holes that we’re going to exposed with the new engine cluster. We like to call the pervious owners of Prism, drill happy. Instead of repurposing a hole, they would just drill a new one..  Needless to say Prism has a lot of holes in her teak all around the boat, it’s something we do not like to talk about. Any who…. Tino told us ” no problemo, yo tango teaka, y neciseto una semana. Which translates to: no problem, I have the teak and I will be done in one week.

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So the next morning Tino came over at 8am, which was to early for me cause I was not up and didn’t have my coffee or breakfast, but Jon was up, and well Tino was working in the galley and I did not want to get in his way, so I went without coffee… Scary I know. The wood work Tino was doing was great, ad we were happy with how it was going, that was till he said he was done. And yet the new hole was not addressed. Lost in translation was the fact we wanted that fixed as well, but he needed to get the teak and the price just went up $50. Out of our budget…. LUCKY for us a wonderful life saving couple who was in the middle of replanking their large Stevens wood powerboat had  A LOT of teak, and was generous enough not only to give us the teak we needed, but also cut it and ran it through a plainer! THANK YOU SO MUCH CRAIG AND SHERRY!!! So we brought back the teak and gave it to Tino, he smiled and said he would be back the next day to install it.

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Tina working away

We kinda liked the access this new hole gave us to the bilge, so we did not permanently instill this new teak, instead it is now another removable access point. Sweet! We are so happy with the work Tino did and it only cost us $200. I gave him an extra $20 as a thank you, I mean the man stopped all of his other work to help us out, worked from 8 am to about 4pm for 6 days, he was awesome. So now that we no longer had any holes in our teak that we didn’t want, it was time to move on.

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New Fiddle

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holes be gone

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the new teak/ our new bilge access

Step Three:  degrease, clean, remove old sound insulation, paint and install new sound board.

This actually took longer than we thought. 30 years of grease in an engine room and bilge is nasty. Shockingly it was not too terrible. I was able to wipe it up using a Eco-friendly degreaser and about 1000 paper towels. In fact I was using so many paper towels I think it counter acted the eco friendly degreaser, so I switched over to rags.

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34 years of grime and grease, yummy

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Before we knew it, the engine room was staring to look pretty, and it was time to remove the old sound board. Now the stuff we had looked like normal ol’ partial board, but someone mentioned it might also have asbestoses in it. Our boat was made in the early 80’s so the odds were more likely it just being partical board, but just incase we wore respirators and eye protection. Better safe than sorry right. So the scraping started, but it left a layer of nasty sticky glue that we had to use a heat gun to remove.

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Thankful for the respirator

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Hot, Dirty and sticky job removing the old sound board

Once the glue was removed we sanded the wood and Jon used a ginger to prep the fiberglass beds for new paint. That was a messy job, when he was done he looked up at me covered in the white itchy dust of death and looked like a sloth hanging from a tree. So he come out, took off the tiveck suite, I hosed him down then we went to the pool.

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Jon the Fiberglass covered Sloth

Side note: The pool at Shelter Bay Marina was a saving grace, on the hot days it was so nice to take a 15 minute break midday to cool down, and at night was amazing to just soak and relax after a long day. WORTH IT.

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Jon relaxing in the pool

Okay, back to step three; once we had the engine room painted and the wood prepped for the new sound board, we measured, then measured again, drew out the measurements, double checked once again then made the cuts. This sound board ( sound insulation) is just about 2 inches think, it has a layer of foam, then rubber, then foam again then a protective layer of heat resistant stuff. It is heavy, we used a heat resistant contact cement and glued the cut outs up.

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Ready for paint

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White paint is so pretty

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Measuring the new sound board

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Everything fitting nicely

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The contact cement going on

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Jon glueing in the sound board

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Jons jig he made to test out the engine bed alignment

Wow, the engine room looked so new, clean, shiny and sexy. All we needed now was the pretty red thing to go in. Leading us to

Step four:  Moving old Yanmar and receiving new BETA. ( ok so we received the new engine before we did the soundboard, cause, well the sound board was in the same box as the engine.. But I digress). I won’t go into the logistics for recovering the engine, I’ll save that for Jon to write in his blog about the repower. So we were al ready to receive our new engine, it was in route, should be at the marina by midday. Midday comes and goes, then 5 comes and goes, now our yard guys and the fork lift are no longer an option. Our engine was delayed because of delays with the ferry and canal. ( Shelter Bay is kinda in the middle of no where and is a pain in the ass to get to by land) So our engine arrives after dark, and we have to somehow get the giant ass box off the truck and onto a wrickity old trailer.

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BYE BYE yanmar

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Mark and Dick helping Jon move the old yanmar

We used this said trailer to move the old Yanmar, so before we could use it for the Beta, we had to get it off of it. Hidden in the back of the yard are 2 old A frames, we rigged up some chain, pullies, blocks and what not. Lifted that fat old sucker up put it elseware (sadly to most like rust and die), then we backed the truck under the A frame, lifted the new box up, truck pulled out, trailer moved in and we lowered it down. Yes it kinda did go that smooth. We had the help and wisdom of two fellow cruisers who abandoned their just plated dinners to help us. THANK YOU MARK AND DICK!

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With their help we pushed the giant box on the wrickity trailer to a lighted sheltered spot and chained her up.  The next morning we went up to open our X-mas present. We were not the only ones waiting to see the new red Beta, over the last few weeks new friends were just as excited as we were, so we had quite the audience.  Now that everyone excluding the staff and locals new what was in the huge box, we moved quickly to get the engine moved down to the dock and into the boat before someone walked away with our goods.

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It’s like christmas!

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ooooh ahhhhhhh

Step Five: Taking the engine out of the box and carefully lowering the new engine into Prism.

Once again we had help from new found friends to bring our new engine into her new home safely. This time there were no slip pings, dropping or failing. We had extra extra extra safety lines as well. Our friend Jez took the time away from his long list of boat projects to help us A-line the beta and mark out where to drill the new holes in the engine beds. He spent all day with us, and we are so thankful for his help ( and look forward to convincing them to hang around in the San Blas with us before they head north).

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Steady now

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Step Six: The INSTALL! Jon and I had the system down at this point, and to make sure we were 100% about where we were going to bolt this beauty down we ended up lifting (slightly) and moving the Beta in and out of the engine room to the galley ish walkway area about 6 more times till we were happy. Jon did I would say 98% of all the labor in this engine install, I pretty much just handed him tools and made food. Anyways we/ he hooked up all the hoses, and wired in all the stuff ( I don’t feel like getting all technical on y’all right now). Only one thing left to do….

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We didn’t drop this one!!

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Jon drilling the new holes for the engine mounts

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this is going to work!

Step Seven : TURN THE BAD BOY ON!

We had let all those who had helped in so many ways know that it was time. We had a crowd and the celibitory drinks ready… Jon did the Pre-Heat, everything sounded right, 5 seconds, then he goes to turn the key.

Nothing. Yep nothing. That was a good laugh. But Jon being the sharp tool in the shied, he knew what the problem was. With a quick tighten down of a bolt to the main battery we were ready to try again..  5,4,3,2,1… Beep, key turn…  VAROOM!

IT WORKS!!!!! WE HAVE GOOD WATER FLOW!  Test the gears, WE HAVE FORWARD! WE HAVE REVERSE!  IT WORKS! EVERYTHING WORKS!!!!!

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The moment the engine turned on, with all the support from friends!

No we are not done yet.

Step Eight: Install new Sigma Drive and new Auto-Prop. Easy Jon did all the work, I handed him tools.

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New Autoprop installed

Step Nine: Test Drive.  EVERYTHING WORKS! WE HAVE SO MUCH POWER!

Step Ten: PUT PRISM BACK TOGETHER!  For a month Prism was in complete and total shambles. I was ready to jump ship. I mean we had shit everywhere. We had all out stuff out on the foredeck, we had stuff out on the dock ( the marina loved that) we had stuff on the table, on the settee.

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A Front coming in, and all our shit out on the dock like always

We would have to clear a spot to eat at night, and also remade our Pullman bed, because everyday there would be something else we needed that lives at the bottom of the storage under our bed. Putting everything back took us about 4 days.

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cleaning the racor 500

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putting the starting battery back and hooking her up

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look at all that storage

DONE BABY!

We spent Thanksgiving with fellow cruisers. The restaurant served Turkey while the lot of us brought the sides potluck style. Yumm

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We were getting ready to leave, our month had passed and we were outta there, that was until we received an email the night before that our newest sponsor had sent us their wind generator an it would be there in the next 2 days. Okay… We will stay. This gave us time to really give Prism the bath she needed. I had forgotten that we had a white-ish boat. Even with all the rain, Prism was filthy, I took ALL day to clean everything just on the outside. But because we were staying, and Prism was freshly washed, we invited friends over who all wanted to check Prism out during our stay, but we never had the time, nor could anyone see or enter the boat.

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So PRETTY!

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Sexy right

So we showed Prism off, then we were getting ready to leave once again, I headed up to pay our bill and let the office know we needed fuel. The young man in the office looked at me with true sincerity to let me know the fuel dock was closed, It was Thursday and 11am. Come to find out, it was a holiday… Mothers Day in Panama. Okay we are a sail boat we don’t need fuel… We can pick it up at another port on our way to the San Blas. Also not a good option as all the ports leading to the San Blas have irregular fuel options, that could leave you guessing whether or not you are going to get fuel and also pay more for it. Okay we will just stay one more night and get fuel in the morning and then leave… Yea Jon shot that down because the next day was a Friday… and well everyone knows you CANT leave on a Friday. So Saturday it was.  On Friday we got our fuel ( hopefully the last time we will have to get fuel for a LONG TIME now that we are in the trades) and got ready to leave Saturday mid morning.

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BBQ night

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Nov 14, 2016. Super Moon

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This was a good thing it happened, because out of the whole month we were in Shelter Bay, we did not once take the time to walk around. Yes we had used the bus system to get to Colon to buy food, and we walked all around the marina and yard getting things we needed and what not, but we never took a walk to just take in our surroundings.

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on the ferry coming back from colon

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getting rid of all cardboard and extra trash after our big provision

So now that we were stuck there for 2 more days, we set out. And holy cow how cool is that place!  We wish we had more time to explore the surrounding areas, but we simply don’t have it in the budget to stay any longer. I’m just glad we got one good hike in.

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Birds and Monkeys!!!

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Painted Logo… not as good as my last… but it will do

Sat morning, we said our goodbyes and see ya soons as we casted our lines and putted out of the marina. Out beyond the protection of the Break wall we made our way to Portobelo. Our first Caribbean Anchorage!

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fill her up

 

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Is this thing on? HA I love our faces

 

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Smiles. On the Ferry