Monday, February 28, 2011

Sloths, Toucans and an Incredible View

We left Portobello on Friday for the short trip to wait for a weather window in Linton (also known as Puerto Lindo). It was just a few hour trip but it wasn't a very pleasant one. The seas had high swells as well as lots of wind chop and the wind was right on the nose. So we crashed into it (and everything below crashed about as well) and finally arrived to a very crowded anchorage. The weather hasn't been good for anyone leaving for at least a week – so that makes for an anchorage that is pretty full. We found a spot, but unfortunately it is pretty far back towards the entrance into the harbor giving us a not so pleasant roll. But, we'll make do.

Got fueled up – an adventure as well. There is now an actual place in Linton to get gas or diesel – but they were out of diesel. So we ordered it to be delivered by Tito (who only speaks Spanish so its a good Spanish lesson practice). He was 90-minutes late on the designated day. But he came with good diesel that, even delivered, was cheaper than the gas station price.

Had a nice dinner out at Hans' and Endina's restaurant with some folks we met on a catamaran Kokopelli. That is always a tasty treat and reasonable. Can't beat ice cold 75 cent beers.

Then on Sunday, we got invited to join a group on shore at Binnie's house. This was an incredible place. The view was remarkable and the piece of property exquisite. It was like a jungle with a stream running through the large, verdant plot. The main house has an amazing large porch with a little stream running through it with a tiny bridge as well. Binnie, who owns it, is also building some guest rooms on a piece of the property.

We saw three toucans flying in the wild, very close by and landing in a nearby tree. Way cool. Their bright yellow beaks and dark bodies are quite a sight in flight. Then, we went on a tour of the house itself which had these beautiful dark wood walls and ceilings. There was beautiful carved art throughout and a wonderful collection of shells. But the best part on the tour were the three sloths in the house. (Not counting Michael). There were two three-toed sloths with beautiful designs on their backs and very long toes to hold onto the branches.. One of the two was climbing above us on the wooden rafters and putting on quite a show hanging upside down and right side up by one arm. There was also one two-toed sloth in the bedroom – a very different looking animal with a different face, different colored fur and she was much larger. The two-toed are a bit more aggressive than the mellower three-toed variety. This one was named (or miss-named) "Lightning" - not exactly a perfect name for a sloth. Molasses, one of the other sloths was more aptly named. It was very cool seeing them up close and touching them (you could hold them but after seeing their toes and teeth, Barbara opted to pet but not hold).

This is one of those outings that is always memorable. You meet some local folks and get to see a piece of property we've walked by but hadn't gotten past the big wooden gate at the front. It was a fun afternoon and it was nice to get off the rolly boat and away from the steady wind.

Michael did fix (hopefully) the dinghy by epoxying on the end-bits on the floor. Hopefully that will give us a few more months on our aging dinghy. (Want to contribute to the dinghy fund???)

We're ready for the trek north – just waiting for weather to cooperate.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011


We left Kuna Yala and sailed (yes, sailed!) to Portobello on Saturday (2/19). It was a really great sail with an Astarte personal best of 7.8 knots(over the ground against a good current). We put the main and head-sail up as soon as we left the Chichime anchorage and put them down when we arrived in Portobello harbor about 9 hours later. It was great to sail. We gave "Otis" our wind-vane a chance to perform, but as is his way – he didn't steer a straight course and every change in the wind speed meant a serious change in his course. We gave up on him after several hours. He was adding too many miles off course to get us to port in time.

We sailed in consort with our friends, two British boats – Chapter 2 (an IP for all our friends with IPs), and Chrisandaver Dream (better known as CD). We stayed pretty close together when we were reefed, but when we shook out our reefs, we flew forward. Chapter Two won the fishing tournament pulling in several mackerel, Little Tunny and even a Thresher Shark (which they released after getting it on deck to save their expensive lure). We managed to get a few very small mackerel-like ceros, but the lures were almost larger than the fish and we sent them back to the deep to grow up!

Upon our arrival in Portobello, we settled into a very crowded anchorage and relaxed. It was a good trip. On Sunday we had a fun pizza night at Capt. Jack's with our British friends and many old acquaintances. A few beers were consumed. It is carnival time here, so there is much music and partying in town. One of the Portobello traditions for carnival is the "diablos." These are men who dress up as devils and threaten to pour mud on you, whip you or stop traffic unless paid a small extortion fee (some change). They usually don't hit on tourists though they do look threatening. But it is all in fun carnival tradition.

On Monday, we did some projects aboard. Tuesday was re-provisioning day. After two sets of guests and several months in Kuna Yala, it was time to resupply some of the basics as well as much needed meat, veggies and fruit. We took the bus into Colon and went to the big supermarket. Unfortunately their veggie and fruit selection wasn't very good – but we did stock up filling two big carts. The Visa card is still groaning. We had to take a taxi back with all our stuff.

The trip to Colon was interesting and sad. It was the first time we had done it since the terrible Panama weather in December. Portobello had several very bad mudslides. The one in the center of the town destroyed many homes and several people died. Another slide dumped earth on top of a very old fort that they are still trying to re-excavate. In many places on the road, slides had taken away some of the street and you could see large trees and buildings piled up at the bottom of hills or across the road. It was a sad sight and showed the force of too much rain in a hilly country. To the credit of the Panamanians, they have the road re-opened, albeit it with more potholes and narrower in parts.
Today, Thursday, we'll do our paperwork to clear out of Panama and hopefully find a few veggies in town. We'll pick up some of the good bread from the local bakery and then be ready to take off for the next weather window to head north. We need a relatively long window – at least three days to make it to Providencia, though we are hoping to not have to stop there and keep going towards Honduras. This weekend unfortunately looks like big seas (9-12 feet), so we'll keep looking at the weather and wait for our window. We still need to get some fuel so we'll head towards Linton tomorrow, fuel up and be ready to go.

It's the weather waiting game for now.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011


It is always fun and memorable to celebrate events aboard the boat and in exotic locations. We've had fun birthdays, holidays, anniversaries of all kinds and even a renewal of wedding vows aboard Astarte.

On Monday, Valentine's Day, we had a dinner event aboard Astarte. It was a Valentine's Day Thanksgiving feast. We had reunited with friends Walt and Honoree from Will O' the Wisp and Bob and Sandy from Sapphire in the East Lemmons of Kuna Yala. A turkey made it Thanksgiving like, along with yummy sides like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. We had a good time ending with homemade chocolate cake. It was great to reconnect with these friends who just got back to the San Blas.

Yesterday (2/16), Barbara brought in a new year. Thanks to the morning radio net, she got greetings from many boaters – with wonderful wishes. The e-mail download (again thanks to the SSB radio) brought in more greetings. She called her mom so she'd get the traditional birthday song from her mom (no family birthday is complete without that!)). When she came out of the cabin, she got a very festive and wacky song AND dance from the neighboring boat and good friends Walt and Honoree on "Will O' the Wisp". And, Michael spoiled her all day. A wonderful early afternoon snorkel at a magnificent reef was also part of the day's festivities (and Michael even scored a fish). The "Wisps" were going to leave that morning for another port, but instead decided to have us over for a fabulous dinner and decorated brownies and a beautiful carved Alaskan necklace. A round of dominoes followed where Barbara had the worst score. It was a great way to celebrate another year starting.

Holidays and birthdays in exotic locations, aboard Astarte, are always unique and special and hold a special place in the memory book.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Start of Year Three

Hot. Sunny. Light Wind. That means it's time to get in the water and snorkel on the other side of the reef. Winds and therefore waves, often limit us to the lee side of the reefs. But when the wind dies, its a great time to get on the outside (windward) side of the reefs and explore the drop-offs. And hopefully get some bigger fish.

Over the last few days we've done some fabulous snorkeling thanks to light breezes, little surge and swell. We've explored some new areas around Esnasdup where we are currently anchored. The fishing has not been so successful, but the reefs are beautiful. They are lush with healthy and varied coral as well as lots of soft sponges, fans, anemones, and bryozoans. This makes it a very colorful dive. There were all types of canyons and levels of depth to explore.

We reunited with friends we hadn't seen since Honduras – two British boats CD (Chrisandaver Dream) and Chapter Two. This meant we had to have a bar-bie on the beach (a tradition for the six of us (only last time in Provdencia it included exploding rocks!). We enjoyed a dinner of mahi, courtesy of Chapter Two, and side dishes from the other boats. We then ended up on Astarte for chocolate cake, lots of laughs and some additional adult beverages. Its always fun to reconnect with folks we've met in the past.

We'll probably stay here a few more days and enjoy more underwater exploration. Maybe Michael's spear will connect with dinner!

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Two Year Anniversary

On February 6, 2009 we untied the lines from our home in St. Petersburg, FL and headed off on this adventure. Some days it feels like only yesterday and on other days, it feels like we've been doing this for decades. Both feelings are good ones.

In those two years after leaving the home dock, we've put more than 6500 nautical miles under the keel. That would be about 7475 statute miles. We've been to the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico, US Virgins, St. Martins, St. Barts, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, various islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines' (Bequia, Mayreau and Union Island), Grenada (including Carriacou), the out islands of Venezuela (Los Testigos, La Blanquilla, Los Roques, and Islas de Aves), Bonaire, Curacao, Venezuela's Los Monjes, several stops on Colombia's Caribbean coast and Cartagena, Panama's San Blas/Kuna Yala area as well as Linton and Portobello areas, Providencia (Colombian owned) and Honduras' Roatan and Guanaja islands then back to Providencia (with stops on some reefs along the way including the Hobbies) and back to Panama then back to Colombia and again back to Panama. Whew. We've stopped counting the various anchorages or specific islands at which we've anchored.

We've dealt in various currencies including dollars (US, Bahamian), E Cs (Eastern Caribbean); Euros (French/Dutch islands), Pesos (Colombia), Lempira (Honduras), Balboas (Panama – they are actually the US dollar but they mint their own coins), and Bolivars (Venezuela).

The languages on the shores we've visited as well as amongst other cruisers have been numerous. English (of the US, Canadian, Australian, British, and New Zealand varieties), French, Dutch, German, various island dialects, Kuna and Spanish. Our Spanish continues to improve – we've passed on learning the others.

As one boater once said, "cruising is a series of howdies and so longs" and through the two-years we've met some incredible people on land and aboard other boats. We've been out long enough to see people multiple times in various countries and the reunions are always great fun. We've made friends from many countries and always look forward to making new acquaintances. After two years, now we're not always the "newbies" - though amongst many boaters, we have decades to go before we have their level of experience. Many cruisers are what we call "commuter cruisers" - living part time aboard and part time on land. We're full time cruisers staying on the boat most of the time with the occasional visit to see our moms, family and friends and take care of some business.

We've stayed at anchor most of the two years with marina stops only when absolutely necessary. Marinas do a number on your cruising budget. The anchor chain looks like its been in the salt water for the two years it has!

We never counted the number of books we've read – but there have been many great reads and book trades are one of our best entertainment sources. The good thing about trades is that you read things you would probably never buy for yourself in a bookstore – and most of our favorite reads these last two years were the books we got on trades.

Boat maintenance is an ongoing adventure. Cruising has been described as "fixing your boat in exotic locations." We've had fun times and great adventures hunting out boat parts and repair options on various islands in various languages. Every time we've managed to make a friend and learn a lot about a country. Michael has managed to get the boat back in working order after each new issue.

Sampling local cuisine is another of the true joys of this adventure. We love trying new fruits, vegetables and local street and restaurant food whenever possible (and if our budget permits). Tasting every beer on every island is also a cause Michael (and Barbara) endorse. At one point we started a list of all the beers – but have somehow stopped counting them as well. Luckily, we've been healthy over these two years cruising – both of us have shed some pounds and are in better shape than when we were working our landside jobs.

Fishing - by line or spear has continued to challenge us. We've had some luck - but not enough to really be considered "fish-gatherers." The biggest to date was a lovely grouper Michael scored by spear. There was also a nice collection of hog fish from the Hobbies (until the spear broke), some lobsters and conch gathered, along with a few mahi on the line. We're hoping the next two years bring us more fishing joy (with or without bananas on board). If we fail, we hope to travel with boats that are great fish gatherers and will share (like our friends aboard Tumshi).

Guests have graced us with their company – Lorna and Dave came to the Turks & Caicos, Honduras and Panama; Kathryn and Mark visited in Panama and hopefully will join us in Honduras, Richard and Rene made a San Blas visit as did Margaret and Lloyd and Frank broke out of his Ohio existence for a Grenada visit. We love the company and look forward to having more friends decide that an Astarte visit is worth the effort.

We've managed to live within our budget and still keep track of every penny we spend. Some countries cost less than others whether its for supplies, food and fuel or for their immigration, customs and cruising permits. Our guests have been generous bringing us many a spare part and food treats. Health insurance remains our single biggest expense costing us almost 40% of our annual spending (for little coverage!)

Things have been wonderful for us – but there are some hardships as well. We miss the ability to pick up a phone and call our friends and family easily. Seeing family and friends is more costly and takes major planning (where to leave the boat etc.) so it happens less frequently than we would like. And maybe on some days, we miss ice cream and potato chips.

But we do have each other (yes, we are still happily married), an incredible boating community and sunrises and sunsets in exotic locations. We've been to places that are only accessible by sea and have had wonder-filled experiences. Whether on the water, under the water, or on land we are building a mental album chock-filled with great memories.

It's been a happy and marvelous two years aboard Astarte. We're glad we didn't wait any longer to start this adventure. Thanks for being aboard via this log.

Perhaps we'll toast it with champagne (or a local beer).

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ciao Lorna and Dave

Our recent guests have flown back to cold Ohio (if the Cleveland airport is open) and we enjoyed our time with them aboard Astarte. They are frequent guests and pretty much have the routine down pat. Unfortunately Lorna wasn't up to full "party girl" health, but we did enjoy their company, some sailing and snorkeling, a river adventure, a few games and time solving the world's problems! Thanks to them for all the goodies they brought from tasty snacks, decadent chocolates and pastries, fabric and boat parts plus many other thirst quenching libations.

After they departed Kuna Yala, we headed back up the Rio Diablo – this time not for sightseeing, but rather to do the laundry. Michael also cleaned the water filters up here, taking adventure of free, fresh flowing water. As usual, we looked like a laundry boat using every clothespin and hanger we had on board. The breeze and sun were out for good drying.

We stayed in Nargana just long enough for a cook's night off (dinner out) and a little provisioning after our laundry day. Today (Thursday) we headed back to Esnasdup. It's been a rather cloudy, rainy day with a lot of wind. So we'll just get a few more things put away and just relax. When we have guests (which we really do love getting) it means a bit of reorganizing aboard to make room for them. We do have a lot of "stuff" that needs to find homes while guests are on board. Now that we are back to "normal" we get to clear out the aft cabin and make the v-berth and forward head the attic and laundry room as usual.

We'll take a few days to relax and then we have to decide where we're heading next and when. We've not had internet access now since Cartagena (December) and we have to check on some things so that may be a priority. Michael's been working hard (and getting frustrated) at trying to get the cell phone to work as a modem again. We were able to do that before we left Panama before but this time he's running headfirst into brick walls (or perhaps firewalls). If we can get that done onboard – we'll probably be able to stay longer in San Blas. If not, we'll probably have to head towards Portobello in a few weeks.

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