We are back on the boat and life has been a bit of a whirlwind for the last month. We finished our San Blas tour with my parents in tow. The islands are lovely, but they are certainly getting crowded as you move west and signs of progress are everywhere. We can't begrudge progress, but its sad to see the traditional ways disappearing. From the San Blas we sailed into Portobello and saw no less than 20 boats with significant hurricane damage and many total losses, from the late November hurricane. Some banged up, some still aground on the sand bar, some completely destroyed, debris scattered along the coast and even one totally sunk in about 15 feet of water with its masts still sticking straight up in the air. It was an eerie sight and a good reminder to be diligent in all things related to cruising, including watching the weather and storm prep even when you are in a relatively easy cruising area. Otto was the first hurricane to hit Panama, ever, and while it was predicted a few days out, it did not form in the eastern Atlantic like most Caribbean hurricanes, it formed off of the Colombian coast and was out of season. Possibly the remnants of El Nino, global warming, or just a fluke?
Portobello was a somber stop, but we perked up when we visited the Chagres River, just north of the Canal Zone. We visited the Chagres on our first stop through and rated it as one of our number one stops. This time around the river did not disappoint. We spent two nights anchored in the fresh water river which was dammed to create Gatun Lake, providing the waterway for the Panama Canal. I mentioned in my post 2 years ago that the Panamanian's are pretty protective of the watershed surrounding the canal because they depend so heavily on the water to run the locks (gravity fed, non circulating). If you overlook the fact that the area was artificially flooded over a hundred years ago, the jungle is healthy and teeming with wildlife. We caught glimpses of Capuchin Monkeys, heard Howlers call at dusk and we were even lucky enough to see a sloth. In the water we saw crocodiles and a large variety of wading birds. Above us flew parrots and toucans and we counted a handful of Blue Morpho butterflies. This time we took the boat right up to the dam and anchored. After a short dinghy to shore we were able to hike up to the first set of locks on the Atlantic side. It is quite a sight to turn a corner and see what looks like a huge freighter moving across the landscape, dwarfing the jungle. Apparently getting so close to the dam makes the canal authorities a little nervous and we had a large escort of friendly officials to see us back to the boat! Needless to say we re-anchored a few miles downstream for the night removing our threatening presence from the canal zone.
Our trip through the San Blas and sail back up the Canal will certainly be a highlight, not just because it was through beautiful islands, but also because it was leisurely and we had a whole 6 weeks to travel about 125 miles. It was the kind of cruising we'd love to do all the time if we weren't so restless to see what else was out there.
Two days after we were tied up in the marina in Colon and after a frantic readying of the boat, we left the boat and traveled back to Florida to join Mike's family for Christmas. Upon returning to the boat some clean up was in order as we had to attack the mold that is almost inevitable when you close a boat up in the tropics for more than a few days. It is a thankless, tedious task, but one of the prices you pay to bring your home through paradise. The boat needed a thorough cleaning before the next leg of our trip anyway, so no harm done. Three days after we returned from our Christmas break we got the news that my 94 year young Grandfather had passed away. While it was not unexpected it was heart wrenching. Ana and I made a trip back to the states and joined most of my family as they said their final farewells to an extraordinary man. During the Eulogy both my aunt and cousin spoke about how much my Grandfather appreciated his life, and how lucky he thought he was. He simply didn't want to depart his fantastic life and he fought his leaving every step of the way. My Grandfather was my biggest fan (as he was for all of his grand kids; bragging about, our often over inflated, achievements) and he read, printed and collected all of my blog entries into a three ring binder (actually in 7 separate three ring binders because it is all printed in massively large font so he could read it). He was always so supportive of everything we did, but particularly supportive of our trip and for that, as well as a hundred other things, he will be missed by me. He never questioned our safety, our decision to remove our kids from school, he never made us feel guilty for leaving family. He trusted my/our judgment completely. He would simply say, every time I saw him "You are doing an amazing thing". He was living our trip with us every step of the way. He will forever be in my thoughts as we continue doing this amazing thing!
The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.
Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.
Our favorite sailing quote:
"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron