February 2016

Saturday 6th

Isla Naranjo Abajo

We have been working hard on EL this week.  Whilst she was fit to go to sea when we left Shelter Bay there was still plenty to do and we have gradually been working through it.  Sheryl has done an amazing job cleaning all the upper deck stainless steel (it really isn’t, stainless, that is) and waxing and polishing the gel coat.  I meanwhile tackled a few other things:

We have a meter that is supposed to measure the Amp Hours being taken to and from the batteries. Think of it as a fuel meter for the electrical system.  Well ever since we’ve owned the boat it has never worked.  I tried to work out the problem once before with no luck.  This time I was even more determined and I’m proud to report I’ve fixed it.  I won’t bore you with how!

Installation of new LED strip lights in the saloon book shelves, much lower power draw and a better ambience due to the yellow light.

I re-caulked the inboard seems on the toe rail (that’s the wood that runs around edge of the deck underneath the guardrail).  The outboard ones still need doing but I’ve run out of caulk.

The last major item on our list is to get a new sprayhood made.  The old one was pretty well shot even before EL spent ten months baking on the hard in Shelter Bay last year.  We have an appointment with an itinerant French sail maker in Portobello, just up the coast, on Monday.

Its also worth mentioning one of the most amazing migrations you will see anywhere on the planet.  At this time of year the Uraniidae day flying moth migrates from mainland South America to Costa Rica and other Central American countries.  There are probably millions of them and whilst at anchor here we saw a constant stream of them flying past the boat.  Apparently they do about 60 miles a day, much of it into wind, or so it seemed to us.  We had seen them in Shelter Bay when we were there last March. I spent a long time trying to get a decent photograph.  Unfortunately this is the best I could do.

Monday 8th

Portobello, Panama

I hate being on a schedule.  If we hadn’t been meeting the sail maker we would have stayed put.  The weather was horrible with squalls and rain.  It was only 14 Nm and we felt every one.

Portobello, Edinburgh is, I believe, named after this place which was once a major transit port for Spanish bullion.  The silver and gold was sent from the mines in what are now Peru and Bolivia via mule train to the west coast of South America.  From there it was taken by ship to Panama City where it was once again put onto mules to cross the isthmus to Portobello.  There is a large Spanish Colonial warehouse here but even that wasn’t big enough to hold all the treasure as it approached time to leave for Spain.  It was stacked in the streets under armed guard.  No wonder Drake and Hawkins were attracted to the place.  In fact Sir Francis Drake is reported to have died here of Yellow Fever and is reputedly buried at sea in a lead coffin.  Wouldn’t that be a find for a diver?

Regrettably we aren’t here to collect any treasure, quite the opposite.  We have commissioned Roland to make us a new spray hood for $900 US plus materials at cost.  It should take him about a week.  He and his girlfriend, Rebecca, live on a catamaran and have been in Panama quite a while.

Sunday 21st


Progress on the sprayhood hasn’t been helped by Rebecca having to go into hospital.  She is seven months pregnant and it seems the admission was precautionary but nevertheless Roland was completely distracted, understandably so.

On Thursday at least six boats arrived in the anchorage, quite a number more than the usual two or three a day.  It turned out they were part of an OCC Rally.  We’d heard about it in Shelter Bay and now have, inadvertently, found ourselves in the middle of it.  On Friday afternoon a small Oyster arrived and dropped anchor (small by Oyster standards, this one was 42′).  Later on I spotted the tender heading our way and was amazed to recognise Graham and Wendy from OYSTERMIST who we’d met on the ICW in Georgia in November 2013.  They were duly invited on board that evening for G&Ts and a good catch up chin wag.

The rally organisers had arranged a dinner on Saturday evening at a local restaurant.  We had Wendy and Graham invite us.  The dinner was at Captain Jacks a hostel/bar run by an ex-pat American. Graham and Wendy weren’t the only people we knew, Geoff and Diane, HORIZON, and Rhian, a woman I worked with at Lockheed Martin were all there.  Rhian and her husband were in Prickly Bay in October 2014 and we had met them briefly then.  She and I used to drink coffee together in the canteen at Lockheed in Havant and share our dreams of sailing away from it all.  Dreams can come true!

What about the sprayhood.  Well Roland delivered and fitted it on Friday afternoon.  I don’t think it was his best piece of work but, as I noted above, his mind was elsewhere.  Its completely functional just a little untidy here and there.  He had the good grace to knock $100 off the price.

The very large church here features a Black Christ and people come from miles to see it.  I’ve saved you the journey…

Sunday 21st

Portobello, Panama

Having achieved our objective here (new sprayhood) we are leaving for the Bocas del Torro area today. The passage is about 150 Nm so will mean a night at sea for the first time since January last year.

Monday 29th

Bocas Del Torro

The passage from Portobello was easy.  After a racing start and averaging seven knots for the first few hours the wind slowly faded so that by 0400 on Monday 22nd we were motoring.  We eventually anchored off the Zapatilla Cays.  Since then we have been to a couple of other anchorages in this beautifully sheltered cruising ground.  Unlike the San Blas the Cays here are covered in Mangrove trees so it is almost impossible to get ashore.  This gives you some idea what it looks like…

We are now in Bocas del Torro, a very popular back packing destination in the west of Panama.  One of its most endearing features is a micro-brewery…

So thats the end of a slightly longer than usual February.  Our travels continue in March.