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.
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:
” I need to go sailing! Let’s go somewhere!” -Jon
“Okay, we are going to bocas!” -Shannon
—2 days later
“Okay, we are not going to bocas”-Shannon and Jon
—-a few hours later,
” maybe we should sail to San Andres and then to bocas”-Jon
—-a few seconds later
” um, no” -Shannon
” so where are we going? ” -Shannon
“No idea”- Jon
So forth and so on. Kinda comical if you think about it. They do say that cruising with no plans is the best kind of cruising, so that is what we are aiming for. We have about 3 more months before Jon’s mom gets here, and Jon has the serious sailing itch, so I think we will be making the 200nm trip down to Bocas del Toro to hang with the young back packer crowd and get some much-needed hiking in. Or, maybe we will stay here and I will work a few more charters with SV One World. Once again… the Yo-yo.
Since the last blog update, we have been doing much of the same, snorkeling, beach parties, late night dominoes and happy hour parties. Jon and I even got to play with a kite surfing training kite. Jon was a natural at it and I now see us owning a set here in the future, thank you SV Nashuma for getting Jon into another expensive hobby 😉 We might have to stick around here till you come back next season so you can teach us more.
For the last few days I have been having eye problems and have been very sensitive to light and I can’t put my contacts in. So today I am hiding inside wearing my dark prescription sunglasses and a hat to shield my eyes from the sun which is trying to infiltrate through the port lights. I look ridiculous, Jon gets a good laugh every time he looks at me. Not only because of the sunglasses and hat inside, but the fact that my prescription sunglasses are semi retarded. Only because my face is small, and when we had them made the eye doctor didn’t realize that the frames sit much lower on my face and nose than a normal person with a normal sized head. So the center of my heavy prescription lenses does not line up with my eyes, making me shove a paper towel under the bridge of the glasses on my nose to lift the sunglasses to the right level. Oh yea… welcome to my life of being blind. It doesn’t help that today is gorgeous outside, the water is super clear and is full of sharks, and I can’t see jack crap. Why couldn’t my eyes act up last week with the weather was crap and we were stuck inside?!?
Yesterday we went out to a great spot for fishing and sea life. So while the men were hunting and filling the water with dead fish smells and sounds, I was having the time of my life getting as close as I could to the Sharks that were honing in on the kill. Sadly not one of them wanted anything to do with me and would rapidly swim off in the opposite direction once I made eye contact and made my way towards them.
Yesterday, Jon was filleting the catch of the day which brought in a beautiful shark, a Lemmon I think. I had already fresh water showered so I was not allowed to get back in the water, unless I wanted to be salty all night. So I grabbed my mask, a camera and stuck my head in from the dinghy. What a sight that must have been for the other boats around! Anyways, this shark was beautiful! I wanted to get in and spend hours watching it swim around under our boat, yes I know I have a problem. But I LOVE sharks! Did you know that the oceans are salty because of the misunderstood sharks crying all the time. Hehe
March 15, 2017
Eeeeeerrrrrrrkkkkkkkk PANAMA JUST CHANGED THEIR TURIST VISA LAWS.
This new news put a huge kink into our plans. Well it definitely got our hearts pumping. So the plan was to stay here till June-ish and either sail to Columbia to put prism on the hard or keep her on the hard here in panama after Jon’s moms visit…. but then we heard the news.
Tourist now had to leave the country for a minimum of 30 days after their 6 month visa. Well Jon and I have mariners visas…so we should be good…. right? Well remember when I took that short trip home for my sister’s wedding, well when I came back I was issued a standard 6 month visa, which apparently should have voided my mariners visa. So I was really in a pickle, but I had 1 month left before the law said I had to leave. Jon had one more week on his mariners visa before he needed it to be renewed. When we bought the mariners visa back in Panama City for $105 each we were told they were good for up to a year, but we had to get them re-stamped every 3 months, kind of a pain in the ass but whatever, we were ready to do that. When it came time to get our mariners renewed/re-stamped the first time we had zero problems in Portobelo. I apparently now had a double visa, but the girls in the office did not seem to worried about it. They told us that the mariners visa is only void if I left the country by boat. Because I left and came back by plane, my mariners visa was still good. They gave us the thumbs up and said we needed to be back in 3 months for the next one. We paid our $10 and away we went.
Apparently it is a hit or miss with the immigration office on Isla Proviner out here in the San Blas. We had talked to a few other cruisers who had no problem getting their visas renewed/re-stamped there, but none who had been since the laws changed. Jon and I were the first. So with a week left on our mariners visas we sailed over to Proviner to make sure there were going to be no problems. But boy oh boy were there were problems.
First off before we could even see the immigration officer we had to see the congresso and because we were not up to date on our San Blas permit fee we had to pay $60. We told them we have no problem paying only if in fact our visas were still good. Other wise why in the hell would we pay $60 for a month permit when we would not be staying in the San Blas. Their answer was, we don’t care if you spend 30 minutes, one day or a full month, you entered Kuna Yala Land, you pay the $60.
Okay so we forked it up with high hopes we would get our months worth and get to stick with our original plan. The immigration officer was very nice, but then was 100% confused with the double visa stamps I had in my passport. He believes that the law we originally heard ( the mariners visa is void if you leave the country no matter what the mode of transportation is) infected voided my mariners visa, but I still had the standard 6 months, which had about 1 month left, then yes I would have to be out of the country for at leave 30 days before returning.The officer spent a while on the phone with someone, maybe his boss or something but he could not figure out why the ladies in Portobelo renewed my mariners visa. Anyways… It looked like I was hands down going to have to leave….He then looked at Jon’s passport and we were hit with something completely new. He said Jon’s mariners visa was still valid, but the new law made it so the mariners visa is only good for 6 months. BUT…. you do not have to leave the country once it expires, you can pay an additional $105 and stay for another 6 months.
Okay, let me get this right….
September 2016- we paid $105 each for a mariners visa, which we could renew up to 3 times, for a total time spent of 1 year in Panama. Makes sense since you have to pay for a one year cruising permit for your boat. Now in March 2017- you can pay $105 for a mariners visa which can be renewed once for a total time spent in Panama of 6 months. At the end of 6 months you can pay the fee again for an additional 6 months. Making it a total cost of $210 for 12 months in Panama.
Crazy. Well Jon was not going to pay the $105 for him self because that still left me up shit creek. So after spending the $60 for the San Blas permit we kissed that money goodbye and started to make a plan.We had 1 week left on Jon’s visa and the only place to check out of Panama was back in Linton Bay, 60nm back the other way. Great just great. We had to get our butts in high gear if we didn’t want to get stuck with any late fees. Lucky for us the weather was trending down, so we had the perfect weather window to head back in about 2 days. Which gave us 3 days to check out and get all our paperwork in line before the mariners visa expired.
We met back up with SV One World, and had a fun St. Patrick’s day dinner, said good bye, then headed back over to the lemons to say good-bye to Tate and Danni on Sv Sundowner. We sure are going to miss those guys, they came to the conclusion to Sell Sundowner and head home to work for a while. But fear not, I’m sure they will buy a boat again allowing the Prism and Sundowner shenanigans to continue.
The next morning Jon and I set off, sailing our way back down to Linton Bay, it is such an easier sail than bashing out to the San Blas! The wind was light,the swell was down and we had a current pushing us along comfortably. We left around sunrise and made it to Linton before 2 pm. We set the hook and then set our minds to coming up with a plan… where the heck are we going to go? With hurricane season approaching fast our options were pretty slim.
Option 1: Sail to Cartagena, wait for a weather window then sail up to the caymans, then ride the Gulf Stream up o Florida/ the east coast and put Prism on the hard.
Option 2: check out of Panama, and just stay in the San Blas for a few months, then head to Cartagena and put prism on the hard come July.
Option 3: Sail around till we think of something.
So the next day we hitch a ride into Portobelo to check out with immigration, but they were at lunch. They asked us if we had checked out with the port captain yet. When said no this random man told us we had to do that first. So we decided to just explore Portobelo for a little. We visited the ruins of the old fort and ran into a fellow who knew people from our little mountain community in shaver lake. Such a small world.
We waited for the bus to head back, but it never came… so instead we just started walking our way back towards Linton. While we were walking I was thinking… this is how a horror movie starts, 2 young cruisers head out on the road waiting for a bus to pick them up that never comes and so a crazy man picks them up and bla bla bla.
Well it was hot and we were just walking along, and we made it pretty far, we never saw the bus but a young couple from Honduras on vacation stopped and offered to give us a ride. Once again… the start of a horror movie, but they were nice, only spoke Spanish and got a kick at my attempt to hold a conversation with them for the ride back to the marina. I was impressed with my Spanish and the driver Manuel, told me he was very grateful and humbled by the fact I tried so hard.
We made it back to the boat safely. I know some think that hitch hiking is a great way to be killed or robbed and so on, but I have to say we really enjoyed the 2 rides we got with complete strangers. To hear their story and they to hear ours it’s pretty cool.
Anyways, we went to the Port Captain, paid our $12.00 and got our zarpe to head for Columbia. I was kinda shocked how easy the check out process was, but then again it has always been pretty easy in every country we have been to. The next morning we caught the bus back to Portobelo ready to officially be checked out of Panama. Well that didn’t happen.
The immigration officers in Portobelo state that none of the other offices know what they are talking about. Apparently our mariners visas were still good… we could renew them no problem. Umm what!?! Well that law about mine being voided when I left the country, apparently also BS. the mariners visa in her words can only be voided if I leave the county on the boat that the mariners visa is tied to. At this point mine and Jon’s heads are spinning. AAHHHHH!
Okay so in a madder of 3 minutes our plans came to a complete stop, and Jon and I were left scratching our heads trying to think of what we wanted to do. This worked out well for me, as I really was not ready to leave Panama yet. So we renewed our visas, we are good for another 3 months. Ha this is just comical. Ok well our visas are still good, now we just had to go back to the port captain and ask/ beg for him to void or forget about the checkout and zarpe he had issued us the day before. I went back to the boat. And wrote a letter in Spanish stating I was so sorry for the inconvenience and bla bla bla, and if there was a way to make the zarpe go away. The port captains answer: ” Okay, no problem”
Seriously!!!! Nothing is ever that easy! But we did not look a gift horse in the mouth, we said thank you and received a zarpe for Bocas Del Toro instead.
Yep you read correctly, our plans have changed once again. With our new found time with the visa extension we decided to explore more of Panama, and Bocas was part of that plan.
March 25, 2017
Holy crap we drank wayyyyyy too much last night. I mean how did it even happen? It was around 10 pm, Prism was packed and ready for the 160nm sail down to Bocas, and Jon and I were just getting ready to go to bed. Then we hear a knock knock followed by 2 young British sailors asking if it was too late to have a drink. “Umm no it’s never to late!” We said with excitement as we invited Matt and Amy from SV Florence aboard. Ha famous last words right. We ended up shooting the shit with those guys till the wee hours of the morning, which was a foolish thing to do as not only were we heading out a few hours later but so were they. Jon and I heading to Bocas and they towards shelter bay and the canal. It was worth it, to spend some time to get to know them, I’ll admit we tried to convince them to come to Bocas. It didn’t work, they have 2 years to sail around the world. So we parted ways and made plans to visit them in a few years when Prism makes her way over to Europe.
The sail to Bocas in 2 words : SUCKED BALLS.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I was ing hung over, well yea I can.. San Diego when my brother Sean and I drank almost 2 bottle of tequila together… anyways.
The sail started off perfect. No swell, a 10 knot breeze on our stern quarter and the spinnaker up. Perfect sailing conditions for me to sleep during the day and leave Jon to do all the work. Well around 3 Jon tapped me in, as he really wanted to get some sleep himself. I made some soup which I just as quickly vomited up, I told Jon to go get some sleep and I would stay on watch for a while. Ha well wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Jon’s head hit the pillows a squall showed up. We needed to take down the spinnaker, a job that requires all hands on deck. So Jon comes up, we change the sails, the squall brings only a little rain and no wind. Easy. Jon heads back down.. head hits the pillow and I see a white wall coming out way. I yell down to Jon… un I think we need to reef. Poor guy comes back up we reef just in time to get hit by the squall, but once again brings rain and only a little wind. At this point Jon was wide awake and I was so sick to my stomach which had nothing in it, that the only time I would stop dry heaving was when I was laying down. So Jon told me once again to go sleep it off.
Come 9 pm it was my watch, Jon had had his hands busy for the last few hours, not only did the wind completely switch around to our nose, but we had finally met up with the counter current we would be fighting for the next 100+ miles. So now that we had wind on the nose and 1.5 counter current trying to push us back the other way, it only makes sense that we were also met with the accompanying 4-6 foot square chop that would slap Prism so hard it would make the person laying in the Pullman berth go airborne. At this point I’m pretty sure we were going backwards, there was not enough wind to keep our forward momentum up, so we turned on the new beta. Thinking that would help got our hopes up, only to have them quickly smoothed. Even with the engine running at 2000rpm we were still only making less than 2 knots. Jon was ready to just turn around, I mean can Bocas really be worth this?
In all honesty the sailing was not that bad, sure it was slow, choppy and loud but I think that if we were not half dead and hungover it would have been fine, just maybe we would have had the patience. By my second watch we were down to a reefed main, the staysail up and auto pilot had us pointing as high as we could with out completely flogging the sails and we were still being push down away from our destination. No matter which way we tacked it sucked. We pushed through kinda….and decide to stop 50miles before bocas. We were out for 28 hours making it only 138 miles before we tapped out and anchored in the lee of Escudo de Veraguas.
Next blog will be about Bocas and our plan pf where Prism is going next.