Monday, May 29, 2017

Connecting with family and friends

We have been have no a wonderful time visiting with family and friends.  
Our first stop was with one of our buddy boats, Tagish, Brian and Dorothy have purchased a gorgeous new house in Comox, on Vancouver Island. We stayed overnight in their home and they treated  us to a five star stay⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️! We have never been fed so well, everything was delicious and the accommodations were wonderful, we slept like kings. During the day we went for a walk in a local park and took this picture at a spring enraged river.  It was super to be in the land of the big trees and here the water running over the rocks on the river bank. 
We went to Barry's sister place next. We got to stay in the brand new suite they built for their bed and bale. We unexpectedly welcomed home with a sign, balloons , flowers and champagne, it was most appreciated by us, thanks so much Sherran, Bruce and Kim. The apartment is marvellous with the latest colours incorporated in the design.  The attention to detail in the furnishing and the tiling in the bathroom are superb.  When I snuggled down in the bed , I felt like a queen, the linens were new and the bed was perfect, two royal experiences in as many days. Normal life is going to be hard to take. 
We celebrated Georgie's 90 th birthday at the Merridale Cider restaurant.  The food was delicious and it was so great that alll her children and their spouses were there to enjoy her company on her special day. She was in good form and even had second's of the cake after insisting she should not have any because there was too much sugar in it. 
Last night over a wonderful meal prepared by Bruce we celebrated our circumnavigation.  The champagne was drunk and I drew a route of our trip on a globe that Bruce had bought, how thoughtful. We felt so honoured that our accomplishment was recognized and appreciated by Barry's family, thank you so much. 


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Home again


Home again, home again, jiggidy jig!  We landed in Toronto and headed straight for Tim Horton's where Barry got an extra large double double and I got a small ice Capp and sipped on in glory. 
Our flights, all four of them went very well, not a hitch, except for a brief heart palpitation when I had not put my passport back in it's accustomed place. 
We spent last night in a Super 8 near Victoria Airport. 
There is enough room in the bathroom to swing a cat. It has more floor space than the entire boat almost. Best of all it had a tub and I had my second bath of this year.  We are off to visit friends today and then family for the rest of the week. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Hasta Luego, Golfito


We worked hard most of the week and Cat's-Paw IV is ready for her rest in the sun and rain of tropical Costa Rica. I polished her top sides and the cockpit to keep the UV rays at bay. We wiped down the inside with bleach to prevent mildew.  Barry changed the oil, topped up the diesel, put bleach in the water tanks took the outboard and the life raft down below and helped put tracer lines on the mast.  I removed all the reef lines, took the sheets off the sails and washed and dried them. We packed yesterday and then stayed in the hotel that is associated with the marina last night.  There was more room in suite than on the whole boat and there was a king sized bed, what luxury. 
We were ahead of schedule so we took a bus trip to a town on the Panama boarder.  I wanted to buy some sandals , some sport sandal s as the ones I bought just over a year ago in Florida have fallen apart.  It seems that folks down here do not wear sport sandals so my quest was in vain. This is a shot of the border crossing in Passos Canoas.  There was definitely more choice for groceries than in Golfito but I am not sure it would be worth the $24.00 bus ride.  
We leave today on the bus for San Jose where we catch a plane early on Wednesday morning.  Canada here we come!!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

WE DID IT!

On Saturday, May 13 we crossed our incoming track when we sailed south in 2008.  We were last in Golfito on March 6, 2008 so it has taken us almost 10 years to circumnavigate. 
The circle just in front of the boat symbol is where we figured we crossed our path, that's it todo el mundo. 
I find it hard to put my emotions into words, we have spent a decade of our lives sailing around. I am full of joy that we have been able to fulfill our dream of circumnavigating. I am proud that we have persevered through gales and windless days to finish what we started. To be able to be self sufficient enough to cope with any problems and complications we have run into over the course of 12 years of boat ownership is a huge accomplishment. Barry has grown in so many ways in his knowledge and ability to do all the boat maintenance that is necessary. I keep the boat looking shiny and bright but he makes it go.
 We have sailed over 50,000 offshore miles without outside assistance for the most part. We are indebted to the amateur weather forecasters, in Canada, New Zealand and South Africa for their invaluable help in figuring out when it was safe to leave port and continue on with our journey. I would like to thank my brother for joining us on our longest and finest ocean passage , from the Galapagos to the Marquesas. He was a joy to have along and in honour of his tireless ability to do his share of the hand steering once our wnd vane broke we have christened our new wind vane, Bob!! To our children and our families thanks for not saying we were crazy . We appreciate the encouragement they have given us and all the things they have done to make our journey possible, the mail collection, paying our bills, updating and fixing the blog. To all our sailing buddies who have shared our journey, we could not have done it without your support , knowledge and friendship over the years.  Without a doubt the times we have spent together will stay in our memories for ever. 
At the moment we are preparing Cat's-Paw IV for an extended stay in the water at the Fish Hook Marina in Golfito, Costa Rica.  We are heading back to Canada to set up a permanent home, most likely an apartment in Red Deer, Alberta. It is kind of bittersweet to leave now but it is time to reconnect with our families, we have aging mothers and growing grandchildren. Personally I was not getting any joy out of sailing to new countries and I was finding it a chore to figure out where we should go and what we should see. When you start feeling like that it is time for a change, time to quit when it's not fun anymore. We are going to try living six months in Canad and six months on the boat for a few years and see how that suits us. 
I strung up all the courtesy flags from every country we visited and flew them from the top of the mast. This was our way of saying
WE DID IT, WE HAVE CIRCUMNAVIGATED THE WORLD IN OUR SAILBOAT!

Monday, May 08, 2017

The Pacific Ocean, we made it through the Panama Canal!!!

FWe made it through the Panama Canal on our own boat!   There were a few dicey moments but we only have one war wound and we could leave today if we wanted. 
We headed out to the designated spot to pick up our advisor with an extra crew of three aboard.  We had one professional line handler, Gabriel and two young volunteer French fellows, Ludwig and Barthe.
When we arrived in the flats there were two other boats waiting and we thought we would be going through with them as a group.  The pilot boat arrived with the advisors and our fellow Omar , got off and then the pilot boat left, no other advisers got off?? It turns out the other boats had their transits cancelled for that day and had to wait another full day.  Thank heavens we were the lucky one to get to proceed with our journey, I would have been most unhappy if that had been us. 
We were told that the Falmouth Bay would be our buddy going through the first three locks and that we would be on our own, not nested up with two other boats like we were the last time,  requiring all four lines to be manned. As we approached the locks we saw the pillars for a new bridge that is being built and the skies were very threatening. 
They opened up and we got wet as we motored into the first lock.  The boat rises in the first three locks so you have to pull the lines taut as the water rushes and gurgles in to the enclosed space. The lines are the only things that are stopping the boat from swirling around with the water and bashing into the sides. 
As we entered the last lock on the western side an eddy caught the boat and shoved it towards the side of the lock.  It looked like a collision was inevitable , but Barry finally got control of the steering back and edged away from the wall.  If he had turned to sharplythe rear end would have smacked the wall and we may have damaged the wind vane. We dodged a bullet there and although the dinghy motor which is mounted on that side scraped the wall , all that happened Isi we got a bunch of mud on the cover. 
Our last view of the Caribbean Sea, we are in the second lock elevated above sea level by quite a bit. 
Our stay at the bouy in the lake and the transit of the lake the next day sent off with it incident.  I explained what the sailing terms were in English were to Ludwig and he very studiously wrote them down in a journal he was keeping. 
In the second set of locks we went into the lock in front of a container ship.  In the first lock we were tied to a tug boat.  That was great , we did not have to be responsible for the lines, we just tied up to the tun and he dealt with the lines while we were going down.  
In the second and third locks we were one again alone.  The line handling was easier this time because you just had to ease the lines out as we went down. 
At the top and the bottom of the lock, it is quite a considerable distance that you have to travel down. This is also our first view of the Pacific. We had made it hurrah. 
We popped the cork on the champagne and toasted the line handlers, the advisor, the Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean, while making sure that Neptune got his salute with a taste as well. I thought we were free and clear and that we have made it through with just a near miss.  It is never good to count your chickens before they hatch.  We still had to have our advisor picked up.  When the pilot boat came there was a mis calculation on the part of the pilot boat captain and there was a collision between the two boats. He banged the stanchion that is aft of the starboard gate and bent it a bit.  The gate still closes but there is a bend in the stanchion and it looks quite crooked.  It is not structural though and does not need immediate repair.  
We are going to go into Panama City today to visit a museum about the Canal before we head to Golfito in Costa Rica. We will probably catch the afternoon tide to get a good boast on our way out. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

San Blas Islands

We have heard of the San Blas Islands for years.  They are part of Panama but have retained their independence and are governed by the Kuna Indians. They are a group of islands that are little more than sand, palm trees and mangroves. Each small island belongs to a family and often they live on them.  The houses are traditional made of coconut fronds for the roof, there is no infrastructure on many of the islands but we have seen solar panel on the top of the grass huts. I thought the islands would be isolated and idyllic but it was not so at the first couple we visited. 
The islands have been discovered by tourists, I do not know why I thought they would not have been. At the first place we stopped, long skinny fibreglass boats powered by big motors with covers for shade from the sun on them commuted back and forth to the main village where there is an air strip.  They would offload people and luggage, usually big backpacks on to the island.  There were huts for rent on the island and also space for tents.  There were about 20 boats in a very small anchorage, many of which contained upwards of 10 people, all young with various shades of tan.

The next place we stopped to check out a good snorkelling spot was even busier, more boats, people strolling the beach or lying under the palm trees, bars set up under thatched palm roofs.  The coral was beautiful on an old wreck really close to the beach but the anchorage was tricky and there was a big current running past the boat, so we picked up anchor and headed further away from the village and the air strip.  

We found what we were looking for in the Holandes Cays. It is a calm quiet spot with a few boats anchored a ways away . There was great snorkelling with lots of fish just a short  swim from the boat.  A young family of Kuna lived ashore and we would see them out fishing and the kids playing in the sand. The weather has been very hot, so it is great to just be able to jump off and cool down when ever we want to. We have been away from a grocery store for week now and fresh supplies are greatly diminished. I am trying to eat up all our stores so we won't have much to get rid of when we leave for Canada. There is a net in the morning and apparently there is a vegetable guy that comes around in a boat, I willl keep my eyes peeled for him. So far no other boat has come and approached us which I find a little strange, usually out in the middle of nowhere people on boats usually at least acknowledge each other, I guess when I feel the need to talk to another human being besides Barry, I will have to make the effort. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Transiting the Panama Canal


Yesterday we acted as line handlers on a Beneteau 35 as they went through the Panama Canal. It was an awesome experience it gave us the feel of what it would be like to take our own boat through . Having a intimate look at the process will greatly reduce our stress once it is our turn .  
In the first set of locks we came in behind a tanker and in the second set we were in front of a tanker. 

The trip takes a day and a half, from the east end you proceed through three locks, then you tie up to a big bouy and stay overnight. The next morning you motor through Gatun Lake , we reached the Pacific locks about 1500 hours . There are three locks there and then you are in the Pacific Ocean. 

The locks are huge, a big car tanker came in behind us in the second set of locks.  In order to expedite the process they hooked up three sailboats together.  We all rafted up together, on each boat there are six people, four line handlers, the captain who pilots the boat and the advisor who tells the captain where to go and instructs the line handlers. With three boats tied up together there were 18 people in close proximity to each other. We were on the port side of the floatilla so our boat was responsible for the lines to the left hand part of the canal. That meant that only two line handlers were needed , the other side of the boat was tied up t another, so I did not have a job and just got to observe and soak in the experience. I even managed to keep my bossy nature in check and not issue directions or even instructions to anyone, except Barry a few times!!
We started out late in the afternoon, so it was dark when we went through the first set of locks. 
We tied up to this large bouy overnight after the first series of locks. 
The hand liners on the sides of the dock throw a thin line with a big knot on the end to the boat, two lines from each side of the lock.  The boat line handlers tie the boat lines on to the thin lines and when you get to the position you are required to be in the lock the hand liners on the dock haul in the boat lines.
 The hand liners on the dock walk along the locks with the lines being careful the lines do not catch on the sides of the locks.  The first three locks you go up so the hand liners have to run up the stairs on the sides so they do not get the lines fouled.  For the tankers they have mules , cars which run on tracks which actually haul the tankers along the locks.  It was quite heart stopping to see the huge tanker bearing down on our small floatilla, knowing that it was supposed to stop but not entirely sure that it would. 
It is not a video, I just took a picture of the video footage Barry took. 
It was impressive when we went through the last lock. 
 I had a hard time believing that we were actually back in the Pacific Ocean after 9 years.  Even though it was not on our own boat I felt a real sense of accomplishment at getting there by water. I can imagine the feelings will be multiplied when we go through on May 5/6 on Cat's-Paw IV. 
The Bridge of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean in the background. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Panama

Erick, the fellow between us , is our Columbian son. He stayed with us for a school year in 1994 in Yellowknife. He arrived in Canada with very little English and have no never seen snow before.  He told us he was so happy tand see his first snow fall, but was more than happy the see the end of it 9 months later!! Twenty years later and he is a dentist in his forties with a family, how times change.  He was good enough to take time out of his busy schedule and fly from Bogata to Cartagena to visit with us for the weekend. 
We went down to the local beach and rented a cabana for the day, it was too hot to sit on the beach without any shade. Barry and I felt like real tourists sitting in the shade drinking beer. 
We had a decent sail to Panama, just 48 hours, we had to motor the first 6 hours out of Columbia to get away from the wind shadow and then we had a very nice beam reach until we turned the corner into the entrance to the Panama Canal.  We are in Shelter Bay Marina which is just inside the breakwater which protects the Canal entrance.  We hired an agent to smooth our way through the Canal.  He came through with flying colours, within 24 hours our boat was measured, we paid our fees later that day and we were assigned our canal crossing date.   We were originally told it would be on April 28 but it has since been changed to May 5. We were much happier with the earlier date but we will have no problem making our flight on May 24 with the May 5 date. 
We had to go into Colon to clear Immigration, the marina operates a free bus into Colon twice a day, otherwise it is a $25 taxi ride.  The picture above is a typical street in Colon, now we know why we ere told it is not safe to walk around in the city. 
Our old friends from forty years ago Terry and Gerry Skopyk have a boat they keep here in Shelter Bay. They are here at the moment and they had been out touring the country so they had a car and we went to see San Lorenzo, the site of an old Fort.  It was so good to see them again and we had a great time renewing acquaintances over dinner aboard their boat last night.  Today we are gong to line handle on another boat today so we will go through the Canal with it.  We have to go aboard shortly and will sleep aboard and be back here tomorrow evening. 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Cartagena

Walking around the old town in Cartagena is a joy. It is an explosion of colour and of old world charm. It is a World Unesco Cultural Heritage site so it is protected from change. Everywhere we noticed old buildings being restored.  It reminded us of Cuba, but the area is better preserved and cleaner than we noticed in Cuba. 
This is the main entrance into the old city, Cartagena was an area where African slaves were brought to Columbia so the descendants of the city have a lot of African blood in them and it is noticeable in their culture, the colours, the paintings and the dancing. 
We have been enjoying the sculptures and the wall art that we have come across in our wandering. 

The first day we took a tour to some of the historic sites in the area.  They were mostly the walled forts that were built in the 16th century to protect Cartagena from the sea and from the land.  The walls on the fortifications we enormous.
This is the Fort that protected the land and we were able to climb to the top and see the views and hear graphic tales about where all the attackers were killed.  The guides' English was sufficient but his vocabulary was not the best so the fact that they were all kill ed featured in his description several times. 
This was a bottleneck through the wallls and was designed so the soldiers at the top could see down whereas the attackers below could not see up so of course all the attackers were "kill ed".
Our second day wandering around in old town we came upon some Universities. This is the inner courtyard of the University of Cartagena, we think they were having an open house because we were able to wander around the campus and there were displays about the courses offered. 
This building was once a church but now houses a theatre. It was one of the many examples of outstanding architecture in the regions. 
We rested up in a KGB bar that had all sorts of memorabilia from Russia on display.  We spent some time watching the latest May Day parade in Red Square with Putin supervising. Barry was fascinated with the fancy planes that were flown over , I marvelled at the precision of the marching of the soldiers. 
The traffic is horrendous in the old town, the narrow winding streets result in gridlock at any given time.  The common practise of courteous driving has not come to Columbia and they squeeze into what ever lane they wish and bully their way through the traffic.  
When we saw this truck stall on a busy bridge Barry joked that this is what was needed to make your way through the gridlock!! Both the men in the vechicle turned away as I was taking a picture, we were surprised not to be yelled at!! 
The Columbians have four submarines and this one was in full view as it went by Barry as I was off trying to change some money we had left over from CuraƧao. We had mistakenly thought that we could use the CuraƧao money in Aruba but that was not so, it will be interesting to see where in the world we might be able to change it, they would not do it here.