Saturday, 31 October 2015

Panama, Las Perlas, Esmerelda village - 23/08/15

We're in the small fishing village of Esmerelda, on Isla Del Ray in the Las Perlas. We're supposed to be spending our time out here fixing things and preparing for our canal transit, but to be honest we've mostly been relaxing and playing. We spent a few days around the corner at an anchorage near the entrance to the Rio Cacique river, which was really nice. We were planning on exploring the river but we had to go in at low tide, which was stupidly early in the morning. Then the swell picked up in our quiet little bay and we had to escape from the rocky waves in the hopes of getting a good nights sleep.

We didn't actually do much while we were there. I did go to shore with Tori and Garth in the kayak, to explore the stunning rocks surrounding the little bay. They were gorgeous, standing tall in amongst hidden beaches and patches of jungle. It didn't really feel like we were in a jungle until we climbed up the rocks and Garth very nearly stepped on a snake curled up in the nonexistent sun. He was hanging onto the edge of an outcropping ledge and didn't seem overly interested in us. Phew! I know nothing about snakes in foreign lands, but I do know that in Australia if their head is bigger than their body then their venom usually won't kill you straight away. Hopefully that's true here too, because he had a nice big head. I didn't want to get too close for a picture though!

Find the snake...

We later found out that it was a Boa Constrictor!

I walked along the coastline with Tori while Garth paddled over to another beach. We found a waterfall, but with so little rain lately it was reduced to a sad little trickle from the stream above. Garth led us to an almost-cave he'd already explored with Dave, which was filled with tiny little bats hanging off the ceiling. They looked like baby mice! Cute little squeaking noises filled the silence when we stuck our heads in, so I'm guessing comparing them to mice isn't that much of a stretch.

Looking for bats

We had a hermit crab race on the beach (Tori's entrant shot out like it was on fire and ours refused to wake up), walked through the bush to find some mangroves on the other side, and discovered a mango tree just begging to be stripped of all it's fruit. Unfortunately the branches were too high up and all we could do was throw things at the mangoes to get them to drop down. While we were in the kayak some gorgeous spotted rays swam underneath us, and then Dave came to our rescue in the dinghy so Garth didn't have to paddle all three of us back with only one paddle. So that exploration mission was definitely a success.

Because we were just round the corner from the village, we had people come out nearly every day trying to sell us things. Sometimes they were in fishing boats with big outboards and sometimes they paddled out in their leaky little canoes. I gave one of them a bailer, because he was trying to scoop a neverending flow of water out of his canoe with an old ripped up container that wouldn't hold water. It was painful to watch. They all asked for chocolate and cookies, which they obviously don't sell in town. We managed to acquire coconuts, bananas, papaya, yuca (a type of cassava, which is a funny looking root vegetable), limes and fish without having to leave the boat or even put on proper clothes. They were all very cheap as well - one very friendly guy just started loading things onto our boat and only wanted $5 for the lot. They usually cut the coconuts open for us, but whenever we need to open a coconut I can never understand how we have failed to buy a machete. I saw them for $3 in Tahiti, yet we never remember to buy one.

We even bought some lobsters, and I'm very glad we have Tori around to translate for us. She's so good at getting them to lower the price and the look of disgust she puts on whenever somebody tells her the cost of something is priceless. She even manages to wrinkle up her nose while still looking adorable. By the time I have figured out what the people are trying to say to me in Spanish, there isn't really room in the conversation for bartering. I feel like I have to pay them just to say thank you for putting up with my incompetence with the language. So the lobsters ended up being a lot cheaper than they would have been if I'd bought them myself, and Tori and Dave prepared them wonderfully. I'm very excited about all the cheap seafood! We bought 2 big Mackrel from a guy in a canoe for $2 each, and ended up getting eight good sized meals out of them. It's a big change from not being able to eat any of the fish in between here and Australia because of cigaturia. With so many people coming by and yelling 'Langosta!' at me, I've even managed to remember the spanish word for lobster.

We spent the rest of our time in that anchorage just relaxing. Garth has gotten into the routine of scrambling up the mast with my trapeze and the rigging pole every time we get somewhere new. So my trapeze is always up, which is awesome. I've been up on it at least once a day, and I'm slowly building my muscles and callasus back up. The other day a fishing boat came past filled to the brim with locals, and they killed the engine by our boat to watch me. I was just playing around and I'm still not very strong after so long at sea, but I managed to pull off a few beginner tricks for them.

After the swell picked up we ducked round the corner to the anchorage outside the village of Esmerelda for a day. There aren't many people living here and it says in the cruising guide that it's just a small fishing village, but I absolutely love it. Before we even had the anchor down we were surrounded by kids in little canoes trying to scavange rope and chocolate. We eventually got rid of them, but they were soon replaced by our friendly vegetable guy from the other day. He was in a fishing boat with an outboard this time and was ready with a big smile when we arrived. He took our jerry cans to refill our water, and came back later on with a big bag of Yuca for us.

Tori and I went to shore in Eva Marie's dinghy, leaving Garth and Dave alone on our respective boats. Before we could get out of the dinghy when we got into shallow water, we were surrounded by children. They came running from every direction, racing their friends out of the water and abandoning whatever games they had been playing. Hands came from everywhere to help us carry the dinghy up the beach and we were completely overwhelmed by how many children had appeared out of nowhere. One of the older boys who had come out to us in a canoe looking for chocolate took charge and led us to the shops. There were actually several of them, but they were just tiny little holes in the wall connected to people's houses.

The kids wanted to pose for pictures! The ones on the right tried to step aside, not realising what a wide lens the gopro has. The main shop for the town is in the background - it's just somebody's house.

Thanks to Tori's translating I managed to get almost everything I needed. Unfortunatly the only thing on her list was fresh vegetables and all she could get out of them were a couple of sad looking cucumbers. We were led to another store that didn't have anything fresh either, but I was impressed that they had refridgeration. We'd been told that most villages didn't have anything cold, but this town actually had margarine and a few other cold things for sale.

Tori chats to the children in Spanish

The town was absolutely gorgeous. The walls of all the houses were brightly coloured, which were complemented by a rainbow of colours strung up across the streets as the locals waited for their washing to dry. Our following of children grew bigger and bigger as we walked around until we must have acquired every single young child in the village. The older ones were sitting around chatting amongst themselves, some of them with huge rollers in their hair. They musn't have much to do, because all the girls had their hair done up. The younger ones just had braids with clunky plastic flowers on the ends, but every single girl was adorned with something. As we were walking one of the younger girls reached up and took my hand, which was adorable. Everybody seemed so close, it must just be natural for them to hold hands all the time. The smallest girl in the village was just darling, with huge eyes and a pretty dress. She kept running off and coming back to give us chips out of her sister's packet, which the sister didn't look overly impressed with. She wanted to hold my hand as well and it was all I could to not to take her back to the boat with me. It was lovely seeing all the kids banding together and playing amongst themselves. When we had to step over a big crack in the path, hands shot out from everywhere to grab the little one and help her over. They're obviously just one big family.

The little one had such big eyes!

Outside another "shop". You can see the playground in the background - no swings, no rings on the monkey bars. It's been stripped of all rope and chain

A lot of the men recognised us. I guess they all fish, so most of them had been near us in the last few days, either fishing or selling us things. One of them had a laugh when he saw me and very excitedly managed to ask if I had been the one on the trapeze. He flexed all his muscles and grinned, so I guess they think I'm strong!

Tori walking back to the dinghy with some of our followers

As we went back down to the beach our following grew again, as everybody who had gotten bored and run off to play returned to see us off. I couldn't help take the dinghy down to the water, because I couldn't physically squeeze in between the children to lay a hand on it. Some of the smaller kids tripped over and were left in the dust as everybody ran down to the water with the dinghy - I couldn't believe how fast that thing flew by! It took us a while to get it started once we were in the water, with kids climbing all over it and some of the older boys taking over from us poor, weak girls to get the thing going. I think they must have flooded it in their excitement. They were neck deep in the water hanging onto the stern for ages while we gave the outboard few minutes to recover from their overzealous help. They all started begging for money and sweets, and Tori handed out cash to our little leader and the big guy helping us start the engine. She eventually got the outboard going and kids went flying off over the sides as we took off, giggling as they jumped into the water.

All the kids running with the dinghy down to the water

There's nothing else to do here so we only stayed the night, but visiting this town was definitely one of the highlights of our Panama experience so far. We were visited by more kids in the afternoon, all demanding chocolate and rope. They eventually gave up and came back later with fish and coconuts, which we didn't want. But Dave and Tori traded some lollipops for a few fish and they said they were delicious. I guess the kids don't have anything else to do, so fishing off their ulu canoes is just entertainment. We should have bought more candy in Panama! I never would have thought that we could have fresh fish every day in exchange for lollipops.

Xxx Monique

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Monday, 19 October 2015

Panama, Las perlas, Isla Cañas (Waterfall) - 17/08/15

This is one of the most peaceful anchorages we've ever been in. The water is perfectly still, the silence broken only by the sounds of fish jumping out of the water and the gentle lull of a small waterfall on the shore. Baby puffer fish nibble the gunk from the bottom of our boat. An occasional bird squawks as it circles the canopy of the jungle. And a huge salt water crocodile circles our boat, just waiting for us to provide it with a morning snack by dangling our feet into the water.

That's right, we're surrounded by crocodiles. But being in amongst this tranquil jungle environment is pretty amazing. We can't really go swimming unless it's really hot and we watch the water really carefully, but I love popping my head out of the hatch in the morning to see a crocodile swimming past the boat. They're huge! It's almost like being trapped inside a medieval fairy tale, with ferocious man eating beasts circling the castle. They haven't seemed that interested in us but we definitely haven't wanted to test them. We've visited the waterfall every day without incident though, which is probably why we haven't been scared away from this spot. It's amazing having a waterall right by your house.

Our resident crocodile cruising past the waterfall

Garth and I even did our washing on the rocks underneath the falls. We had a neverending supply of water! This concept was a bit strange to us, but it meant we could wash our clothes properly and not just get everything on the boat as clean as possible using two jerry cans of water. We even got to wash blankets and ropes that had been desperately needing a clean for a long time, but have stayed dirty due to our lack of water. We just left the blankets underneath the falls for a while, which had the same effect as throwing them in a washing machine. If everybody got to wash their clothes under a waterfall, I think people would enjoy washing day more!

Doing the washing

Yesterday we went over with Tori and Dave and just sat underneath the water for a while, washing our hair and basking in the running water. I don't have a 'bucket list' per se but I think if I was to sit down and think about all the things I'd like to do in my life time, showering underneath a waterfall would definitely make that list. I love that we're able to just live next to a waterfall if we feel like it.

Rowing up to the waterfall

Finally I get to wash my hair!

Even though the neverending supply of water has been the highlight of this anchorage, when we arrived we had no idea it was there. Our batteries have been playing up (again) and seeing as they're brand new and we've looked after them well the only reason they could be misbehaving is if they just need to be recharged properly at a higher voltage. Which we can't do. But Eva Marie has much more power than us, so when we pulled into this lovely little bay we rafted up next to Tori and Dave for some problem solving. We didn't fix the batteries, but we managed to narrow down the list of what could be wrong. It was really fun being rafted up. When we were tying up alongside Eva Marie, Mr Pipps leapt onto our deck as soon as we he could make the jump and then proceeded to explore this new extension of his boat. He's such a cute cat. Tori and I were looking forward to just stepping across the lifelines for trapeze on our boat and yoga on hers. And as dinner was being prepared, it was nice not having to travel over in the dinghy to enjoy our evening together. Rafting up was fun.

But just as Garth pulled in the cables joining our batteries to their boat, a storm blew through. The rain got hard enough to shower under, so Tori and I raced on deck to enjoy an actual shower with fresh water. Then the rain got harder, the wind picked up and the lightning started. Thunder shook the skies as the storm got closer and closer, and we went from having a nice shower to cowering in the cockpit as the lightning strikes got close enough to do some damage. After securing things a bit better Garth got all protective and sent me downstairs in a very firm voice, just like the last time there was lightning striking all around us. So I cowered inside while he bravely sat upstairs in our cockpit alongside Dave in his cockpit. We waited for it to pass.

As the wind got stronger and stronger the boys heard a grinding noise from the bow. It sounded like we were dragging. The engines were turned on and it quickly became evident that we had to break away. Rafting up wasn't quite so fun now. Our lines were quickly thrown back to us and we were all on our own. We had no charts and didn't even have the depth sounder turned on as we plowed through the rain into the unknown. To make matters worse, our anchor wasn't set up very well because of our ziplining adventures at the previous anchorage. We'd attached the second anchor to some fendors and left it down in case we wanted to partake in future zipline related endeavours the next day. Then it got left there. So when we pulled up our anchor the spare one got hauled up after our main anchor and was left sitting at the top of the locker instead of buried underneath.

A storm rolling in (2 days later)

I was at the wheel while Garth went to the bow to drop the hook and I couldn't see a thing. Everything around us was whited out from the rain but I could just make out a vague outline of rocks on either side of us. I couldn't look ahead because the wind and rain were so strong it was beating straight into my eyes. Nevertheless, we eventually dropped the anchor and made ourselves safe. We found out later that Eva Marie wasn't actually dragging in the first place. The hook keeping their anchor line in place wasn't attached, so the boat had just been letting out more scope as the wind picked up. We would have probably been fine to stay where we were, but it was definitely safer to seperate in such nasty weather.

Other than that eventful first day, life has been good here. We went in to the beach opposite our anchorage, where we spent a nice afternoon away from the boat. The boys explored the coastline, navigating over rocks and mangroves. Tori and I opted to just relax on the rocky beach, looking for shells and enjoying the peace and quiet. I managed to collect some palm leaves to make baskets with. That started off being a lot of fun and ended up as a chore. But now the messy upper shelves on our boat are organised by four woven palm baskets. It's always a relief to make the boat a little less chaotic.

Dave is pretty!

We've been hanging out with Dave and Tori nearly every day, which has been really awesome. But yesterday evening was just magical. We headed over to Eva Marie for dinner and the boys were cooking inside while Tori and I headed onto the deck for some yoga. We weren't even warmed up yet when I noticed a big spurt of water off in the distance. We stared at it for a while and then up it went again. There were whales coming towards us! We're anchored in a snug little bay between the main island of Isla Del Ray and another smaller island. There's a long, thin pass between the islands and there isn't really any way out except to turn around and exit the same way we came in - further along the depth gets down to 1m at low tide. It feels like we're in a little river. So it was a bit bizarre that whales would make their way into the channel, but it's whale season and the Mummas are always looking for nice sheltered places to keep their babies. We're definitely sheltered. So out came the binoculars, and then Tori and I decided to jump in the dinghy to follow them.

We grabbed a paddle and raced over towards them in Eva Marie's dinghy, which is much faster than ours. As we got closer we killed the engine and just hung out for a while, waiting to see what they would do. The whale disappeared for a while and we thought we had scared it with the outboard. But then it resurfaced right by us and it was much, much bigger than I had thought. The first one we'd seen had been a baby! The two of them just hung out for a while and we followed them around in the dinghy. We were both still in yoga clothes, me standing up near the stern holding the camera and Tori right out on the bow with her feet in the water, paddling furiously with one paddle. We must have looked ridiculous. But the whales didn't seem to care. We quietly paddled around near them, watching them play together. They were spurting water all over the place and the baby kept rolling around on his back. As cheesy as this sounds, it was truly magnificent. They're so huge and so graceful, and being so close to them was just amazing. They didn't seem bothered by us at all. They eventually got too far away to play with so we turned the engine back on and headed for home, when they popped up really close to us again. They didn't even care about the outboard. So that was definitely an amazing experience, and I couldn't help think that there musn't be many places in the world where you can see whales and crocodiles right by your boat from the same anchorage. So this really is an amazing spot.

Xxx Monique

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Panama, Las Perlas - Isla Casaya (Ziplining) - 12/08/15

I have no idea how long we've been here. A few days? A few weeks? Time is just flying by. We're in one of the most peaceful anchorages I've ever been in and I'm loving it. There's no sound except the gentle swishing of the water off in the distance. You can't even really hear water lapping against the boat because it's so still in this bay. Relaxing here has been amazing.

There aren't really any beaches around though, so we've been makin our own fun. Garth has finally stuck my trapeze up again, which has made me very happy. We used to use the spinnaker pole to rig it with and we think that's what might have damaged our pole. We don't want to wreck it again after waiting weeks for new parts to arrive in Panama. So instead, he took the pole we acquired as the mast for our sailing dinghy and lashed it high up on the mast just above the first set of spreaders. It's perfect. The trapeze now gets tied to that and the bar hangs low enough to reach from the boat and high enough so that our feet don't get wet any more. So I've been having a lot of fun playing over the water.

Lying around with Tori

Tori and Dave

We've been hanging out with Dave and Tori nearly every day, drinking our weight in cocktails and listening to awesome music. Even though we've been doing a lot of boat repairs, it really feels like we're on vacation. They're vegetarian, so we've been getting better at cooking vegetarian meals. Which is a good thing considering we often go for weeks without being able to get more supplies. They're both really amazing cooks and we'll have to steal a lot of their recipes before we go our seperate ways. It's interesting for me to eat so much amazing vegetarian cooking - I'd always thought of vegetarian food as just food without meat. But their meals are so packed with flavour that adding meat would actually make them worse. So we're thoroughly enjoying all the food. Our fridge is nearly empty now, which has forced us to get better at making great meals from virtually nothing. I'm really enjoying our constant supply of yoghurt. After the lovely Liesbet gifted me a little thermos to make yoghurt in when we were in French Polynesia, I've been making it at least once a week. It's a really valuable thing to have on board. You can make sauces, dips and cheese out of nothing but milk powder, water and a few tablespoons of leftover yoghurt. When we really ran out of food I made yoghurt cheese (labneh) and mixed it with dried spinach to make a delicious filling that tasted exactly like ricotta and spinach. Then we even scrounged up some pasta sheets out of flour and water to make a delicious cannelloni. I've also got a permenant supply of labneh balls in the fridge. I form the labneh into balls, roll them in whatever herbs and spices I feel like mixing up and then keep them in oil for when I need a quick dip. In a land where the only salad we can find is cabbage and sprouted lentils, yoghurt also makes an awesome coleslaw dressing. It's fabulous.

Dave up our mast

Tori being her fabulous self

Enough about food and back to our awesome lives. The other day we were all hanging out on Heartbeat when the boys got really excited and ran off together. Tori and I were skeptical but left them to whatever they were doing. Then they refused to tell us what their plan was and alarm bells started ringing. But at this point we couldn't really stop them, so I just kept chatting to Tori and ignored their nonsense. An hour later Garth was up the mast with a rope and some pulleys, and Dave was out in the water setting up our spare anchor on the port side of the boat. More alarm bells. They had attached a line from the top of the mast to the anchor and pulled it tight, which was when we got wind of what was happening and started protesting. In response to our objections, Dave yelled out 'This can't fail!' Garth took that as his cue to jump off the mast and he landed with a splash, narrowly missing our lifelines on the way down. They had made a zipline. And it was not safe.

Straight down...

After a lot of tweaking they managed to fix it so the line didn't go straight down to the water and was on an angle instead. A scary angle, but an angle nonetheless. They also tied a line from the stern of our boat to the bow anchor so the boat wouldn't twist around from the weight when the boys jumped. Now their zipline came straight off the port side and went down into the water. It was safer. But not safe. Tori and I hung out in the water, not at all convinced that this was a good idea. But after they went down one after the other for about half an hour I eventually gave in to Garth's coaxing and had a go. I hate heights. So climbing up the mast and balancing on the first spreader as Garth reached up to the top and brought me down a bit of rope to hold onto did not sound like a good idea. Then I had to untangle myself from the spreaders in order to fall cleanly from the boat. It was terrifying and I hated it. But after jumping off (and screaming at the top of my lungs the entire way down), I was sold. It couldn't fail. It was genius. So we spent the rest of the afternoon playing on the zipline and much fun was had by all.

Garth going down


Luckily they haven't tried any more crazy stunts since then. We've just been hanging out and fixing things, enjoying the tranquility and the ability to swim whenever we want. We've got great friends right next door, amazing food, a neverending supply of cocktails, phospherescense in the water and a trapeze over our heads. Life is good.

Xxx Monique

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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Panama, Las Perlas Islands (and canal transit #4) - 08/08/15

*Note: For this canal transit we were too busy playing with ropes to take a lot of pictures, so most of these were shot by Vicky Longland*

Well, we're in the Las Perlas Islands in Panama. We were not supposed to end up here. I just returned from a short holiday in Hawaii to visit my dad and little sister, which was amazing. After I got back we were supposed to get the boat ready to go through the canal and then head through to the Atlantic side of Panama. Instead, the day after I arrived back we took the bus to Colon to meet a young couple who needed line handlers for the canal. We'd already done the canal three times and weren't keen to do it again. But Dave and Victoria (Tori) are both our age and they seemed really nice, so we agreed to do a swap. We'd help them go through and then they'd do the same for us. So back to Shelter Bay Marina we went to meet them, their cat Mr Pips and their boat Eva Marie.

As soon as we arrived, we started having a blast. We all got along really well and were all having so much fun just hanging out together. Plus they're both really great cooks, so once again our canal crossing was filled with fabulous food. Doing the canal is such a mission but every time it seems to be worth it just for the food.

The crew! Our advisor on the left, Vicky in the middle with the camera, me and Alessandro in the back and Dave getting excited in the companionway. Tori is behind the wheel, Garth is behind the camera, and Mike is hiding

The transit took two days, which is normal coming from the Atlantic side. Because of the times that they open the locks each way you can't come through from the other side until late afternoon. That means you have to spend the night tied up to the giant mooring buoy in Gatun lake, which isn't too bad when you've got a comfy bed and good company. There were seven of us onboard - Tori and Dave, Garth and I, a backpacker just along for the ride (his name was Alessandro) and the third and forth line handlers were another cruising couple, Vicky and Mike. We offered to sleep in the cockpit so Tori and Dave could get a decent sleep and it ended up being more comfortable than sleeping in our own bed. I'm now seriously thinking about getting new mattresses.

Garth standing on the mooring buoy in Gatun Lake (Taken by Vicky)

Coming into the lock at night (taken by Vicky)

We had a bit of trouble getting to Gatun Lake though. We went centre chamber for the up locks, which is the position we prefer the most (on our own in the middle of the lock). In the locks there are four lines attached to the walls, one from each corner of both the bow and stern. You want to pull the lines in (or let them out when you're going down) at the right speed to try and keep the boat straight and in the centre of the lock. Keeping it straight becomes really hard when youre rafted up to other boats and the other line handlers are two boats away doing weird things you have no control over. When you're centre chamber it's just you, all alone.

Gates closing! (Taken by Vicky)

Tori saying goodbye to the Atlantic (Taken by Vicky)

Eva Marie has a big windlass in the middle of the bow and in the first lock I was having trouble maneuvering the giant rope in the small space between that and the cleat. So the bow on my side ended up really far away from the wall. Then on the second lock Mike had trouble opposite me when the headsail sheet got caught in his line and the boat was swinging all over the place because he couldn't pull it in while it was a tangled mess. And on the last one the guys carrying our lines on shore were useless. They carry a very thin line attached to the thick one that will get attached to a cleat on the wall. That way they dont have to worry about throwing us lines again - in between locks we pull the thick ones back onboard and they're left carrying the thin ones that are still attached. The thick one is super heavy and they have a long way to walk, so they don't want to carry all that weight. Usually they signal to you when its time to pull up the big rope or they just start tugging on it and you let it run to them.

Garth holding his line as the guys on shore walk us to the next lock (Taken by Vicky)

Really close to the wall on the port side!

Pulling in my line (Taken by Vicky)

We had a huge cargo ship in front of us, which seemed scarier the closer we got to it. It looked angry and forboding as it loomed over our tiny little yacht. Down below at the bottom of the huge wall, we have no idea which cleat we're going to tie to. I kept trying to feed the line to my guy as we got closer, but he wouldn't have a bar of it. He wanted to carry the light one until the very last minute.

Walking in between locks (Taken by Vicky)

Going up! Crazy swirly currents everywhere (Taken by Vicky)

He didn't start pulling it up until he was already standing at the cleat we were supposed to be tied to. There's weird currents in the canal, especially behind a cargo ship. So we started getting swung sideways, which meant that I had to just keep feeding this guy more rope as we got further and further away from the wall. He just kept pulling it up but he wasn't getting any closer to the big rope because we were getting pushed away so fast. Meanwhile on the other side, Mike's wall guy fumbled his line too and didn't get it on the cleat fast enough. We had both stern lines on, so at least that was something, but we ended up sideways in the lock before Mike's guy got his rope attached. They had to stop the gate from closing because we were pushed so far back it was about to close on top of us. Very scary for Tori at the wheel. We eventually got it sorted out, but it was definitely hairy. I was incredibly impressed with how well she handled the boat while all this was going on. I think I would have freaked out at least a little bit if I'd been at the wheel

Swirly currents (Taken by Vicky)

Tori isn't phased! (Taken by Vicky)

The second day was pretty uneventful, mostly because we were side tied to the wall. Everybody says not to agree to that under any circumstances, but it was ridiculously easy going down. Dave just chucked a glove on and stood against the wall pushing it away as we slowly went down. We only needed two line handlers because we were only attached on one side, and the whole day was very easy and very chilled out. What a relief!

The walls are made of rough stone

Garth got to climb up on the wall, which was pretty exciting. We tied up to the wall while we waited our turn to go through. When the lock was ready for us the canal authorities wanted to release our lines, make us drive forwards and then chuck us the lines again. I guess less work for them. They set up the lines on the wall so we could just pull them back to the boat when we wanted to leave. Except they both got stuck on the massive cleats. So Garth clambered up onto the wall to untangle them and then jumped back down onto the boat just before it got too far away from the wall. So that was exciting. Not many people actually get to walk along the wall of the Panama Canal.

Tori, as the doors open on the Pacific (Taken by Vicky)


When we got back to Panama City, we were supposed to start prepping the boat for our canal crossing. Tori and Dave were headed for the Las Perlas Islands, and then on to Ecuador. Somehow in between they were going to come back and go through the canal with us. We hung out together for a few days, in which time we decided that we weren't really in that much of a rush to get through. We were having so much fun together it was pretty obvious that we were going to end up going to the Perlas Islands with them. So after a week of provisioning and preparing, off we went.

It's only a day sail, but it's been a while since we've sailed. It immediately became obvious that we needed to give the boat a bit more love aside from the general repairs we've been doing. The winches all need servicing again, which made sailing difficult. We lost our 2nd last winch handle over the side. When we bought it I remember having a discussion about the more expensive floating handles versus the normal ones. "We're always sailing when things go overboard. When they're this small, even if they float we can never get them back before the current whisks them away." On this occasion, we could have saved a floating handle. The solid one went straight to the bottom. Our anchor winch still isn't working. And we still havnen't repaired all the rips in the sails. But we made it in one piece, zipping past some baby whales just before we got into our anchorage. I was actually disappointed about going through the canal just in time to miss out on whale season, so I'm really glad we decided to head out here! The babies were so cute, jumping around in the water. Unfortunately Garth wouldn't turn the boat around to get closer to them because he's a big meanie.

Tori and Dave on Eva Marie, anchored next to Isla Chapera

We've dropped the anchor in between Isla Chapera and Isla Mogo Mogo, which is where they filmed the TV series 'Survivor.' Just 30 nautical miles away from a massive city this isn't really what I imagined when I first saw the show. But it's definitely a fitting location, with jungle covered islands and pristine golden beaches dotted all along the coastlines. We explored the little island in front of our anchorage, which was just gorgoeus. We collected pretty shells from the waters edge and ventured inland to explore the jungle. After living in Panama city for almost three months it was amazing to get away again and surround ourselves with peace and quiet. No more rolly wakes from cargo ships going past. No more noisy diggers working on the road early in the morning. And the horizon is dotted with specks of phospherescense instead of the lights from dozens of cargo ships anchored out as they wait their turn to go through the canal. And the water is clean enough that we can actually go swimming! It feels like we're living on a boat again, instead of in an apartment surrounded by dirty water in a dirty city.

Survivor beach

We spent an afternoon on the main island they use for the beach in Survivor, which was lovely. The water was beautiful and it was great to go swimming again, but the beach was just like any other beach. I'm not sure what I was expecting and it's been a long time since I've seen Survivor, but it certainly wasn't like the beautiful white sand beaches in French Polynesia. It was just a beach. Maybe I've just been spoiled over the last few years with perfect beaches and crystal clear water. We had a blast though, which is what matters.

Survivor beach

Xxx Monique

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