Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Maybe by Christmas???

Passage from Panama City to Galapagos
Day Five
Noon, Monday, February 27 to Noon, Tuesday, February 28
Noon Position: N 04.04.79 / W 083.32.19
Distance covered in 24 hours: 59 nautical miles
Distance Covered from Panama City: 446.6 nautical miles
Fish Caught: 1 – a little tunny - but too small to keep
Motoring: 3 hours 15 minutes
Sailing: 10.75 hours
Drifting: 10 hours

A slow day. There continues to be absolutely NO wind. The seas are glass slicks with barely a wisp of air crossing the decks. We've tried the drifter (a-symmetrical sail) many times and are getting better and better at deploying it – only to return it to the sock within 15 minutes because there isn't even enough air to keep that light air sail full. The swell continues to give us good isometric exercise as we balance.

Projects get done. We did test the engine today after Michael in the water check yesterday. The good news is the whining noise is gone. So perhaps something was on the prop or shaft or strut and has worked itself off. That's the good news and we celebrated by running the engine for a bit over three hours to make water, charge batteries and actually get about 13 miles ahead. That's probably all we'll have all day. But the good news is, no major engine issue to worry about. Whew!

With the engine on, we actually made enough speed to be hopeful about fish and did get one small tunny. We're not big fans of this fish and it was a bit small – so we released it in the hopes of good karma for a fish more on our wish list. But it was fun to at least have that action. It was a yellow feathered lure.

We did have a small bird hitchhike a ride most of the day with us. He would fly off and return throughout the day. He was pretty fearless sitting on the front bow rail no matter whether we were pulling in sails, putting up drifters or whatever, he seemed unimpressed with all the activity and just sat there.

The challenge is staying cool with no breeze and steady sun. It sure would be nice to make another 100 mile day! But don't count on it in tomorrow's entry.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Passage from Panama City to Galapagos
Day Four
Noon, Sunday, February 26, 2012 to Noon, Monday, February 27
Noon Position: N 04.35.32 / W 082.41.93
Distance covered in 24 hours: 76 nautical miles
Distance Covered from Panama City: 387.6 nautical miles
Fish Caught: 0
Motoring: 0 hours
Sailing: 16 hours
Drifting: 8 hours

Now we understand what being in the doldrums means. There is just little to no wind out here and enough swell to cause the sails to collapse. That's not good for the sails nor the rig so when there isn't enough wind to keep the sails filled enough, we resort to pulling in all sails and just drifting with the currents. We did have a few hours of full sails on a broad reach which was wonderful. Then overnight we just drift. We have used the new sail, the A-symmetrical drifter and it works great in the light air. It looks cool too.

Michael went into the deep blue Pacific to check the prop and shaft today. The water was warm and luckily the current and the boat were moving at the same speed. We were becalmed so it was a good time to do it. The good news – there was nothing on the prop or shaft. The bad news – there was nothing on the prop or shaft so we still have to figure out the whining noise.

Thanks Kathryn for the info on "crazy water" - Ed from Avatar isn't giving in though to up-swellings – he still thinks its whale farts. We appreciate the quick effort to get us answers – and it was interesting. There are still some patches of it – but not as many as the first few days.

No fish yet - of course going 2 knots isn't exactly fish catching speed. We continue to hope for wind.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Galapagos' Tortoises Move Faster!

Passage from Panama City to Galapagos
Day Three:
Noon Saturday, February 25, 2012 – Noon, Sunday, February 26, 2012
Noon Position: N 05.14.90 / W 081.36.36
Distance covered in 24 hours: 67.6 nautical miles
Distance Covered from Panama City: 311.6 nautical miles
Fish Caught: 0
Motoring: 1.5 hours
Sailing: 22.5 hours

There is just no wind. And what little there is comes from every direction. We also have an engine issue on board (we think). When we turned the engine on late afternoon to try to smooth the ride out for making dinner, there was a "new" noise. We think its coming from the shaft/cutlass bearing/strut area, It is a whining noise that doesn't go away either at idle or speed. Michael will get in the water at some point to make sure there is nothing wrapped. We wouldn't do that at night (there are those fast, pointy nose, teethy critters out there, plus its too dark to see properly). And then today, we had a lot of squalls – which meant some decent wind but also really choppy seas. So perhaps tomorrow. We want it flat for that project.

The good news about the squalls is that it dumped some rain on us and really did a good job cleaning the decks, solar panels, rigging and windows, It needed it from dusty, gritty Panama City. The solar panels are already putting out more amps! Unfortunately it did get the cockpit cushions pretty damp – but the clean decks are nice. The squalls had some lightning and thunder, but not too much wind. It is exciting getting them at nighttime though.

So with the unknown engine issue, we will continue to sail no matter how slow. Saw some sea birds, flying fish, a turtle, a small bird that may end up hitching a ride (he looks quite interested in Astarte), dolphins but no fish on the end of a fishing pole. Our friends on a nearby boat "Avatar" saw a whale last night that stayed near their boat for about 20 minutes.

We are getting into the routine and rhythm of being "at sea." We wish the seas would flatten though and that "crazy" water seems to be getting crazier. There are larger and larger pockets of it and there seems to be more patches of it. Ed on "Avatar" calls them whale farts.

Boredom is a bit of an issue. The seas are a bit too rough to get many projects done comfortably or easily. Though Michael has put new tackle on many of the lures and fixed things here and there. Barbara prepares the meals and does most of the clean-up. Plus, you have to check the veggies and fruit everyday for spoilage. But naps are regular features along with several radio nets and contacts and some reading. Glad we spent the time in Panama storing things well and getting the boat in order for passage. Things are pretty tidy and not flying around the cabin.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Slow Go

Passage from Panama City to Galapagos
Day Two:
Noon Friday, February 24, 2012 – Noon Saturday, February 25, 2012
Noon Position: N 05.46.41 / W 080.36.34
Distance covered in 24 hours: 87 nautical miles
Distance Covered from Panama City: 244 nautical miles
Fish Caught: 0
Motoring: 2 hours
Sailing: 22 hours

Changes in latitude. Changes in sails. Changes in direction. Changes in speed. Changes in fishing lures. And of course, changes in underwear (just seeing if you're reading this!).

It was a slow day – we didn't even make 100 miles in 24 hours. The wind has died and is coming from all directions because of its lack of velocity. We are getting good at changing sails aboard – we've tried just about every combination in every configuration to keep the boat moving forward and the sails from banging themselves to shreds (along with the rig). Luckily the seas are relatively benign so we don't have huge waves or chop to deal with – just enough to be annoying – folding in the sails and causing them to snap back and shake the whole boat.

The phosphorescence in the water at night is pretty magnificent. When we are moving at any decent speed – we leave a sparkly trail – like afterburners. The waves that the boat creates is also quite lovely to watch as the sparkles dissipate in the water. Plus, when dolphins visit, they look like glowing torpedoes as they make their way through the water.

We finally spotted some flying fish today – the first we've seen in the Pacific. Thought that would be good luck for fishing – but chalk up another zero fish day.

Then there is the "crazy water." That's what we're calling these patches of "noisy" water. You can see them in the distance and there is this very rapid-looking patch – not very large – that you go through. It is very noisy and weird – but there are lots of them. We're guessing they are some type of current – but there are lots of them – some separated by narrow patches calm water. The "crazy water" is usually takes less than a tenth of a mile to get through and we can't see any noticeable impact on our speed or direction. It's just weird and we've never seen it before in the Caribbean or Pacific Northwest.

Otherwise we continue edging our way further and further south and west – making our way towards the equator. Everyday we are further south than we've ever been on our boat The water temperature changes a lot here – we see it go up and down by several degrees in a matter of hours. . Our buddy boat, "Avatar" is a bit ahead of us and they've had a few squalls – but we've not gotten the decks wet at all. We see the rain in clouds ahead – but we never seem to get to them.

We're still eating some fresh goods which is nice – the tomatoes, tangerines and avocados seemed to have lasted. We'll cut the watermelon tomorrow and see if that's still edible, We're settling into the routine – but it seems that all the sail changes, big ships approaching and clanging rigging happens at night keeping somebody from getting their "off-watch" rest. But we nap plenty during the day to make up for it. Last night we had to call a few big ships to make sure they saw our little sailboat. The AIS system aboard makes it great to have a name to call and to really know if they'll be close enough to you to bother them (because when you call they do seem "bothered.")

All is good aboard the good ship Astarte. It's slow – but we're making progress.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

First Day towards the Galapagos

Passage from Panama City to Galapagos
Day One: (departing from Isla Contadora, Las Perlas Islands, Panama)
Noon Thursday, February 23, 2012 – Noon Friday, February 24, 2012
Noon Position: N 06.47.04 / W 079.44.00
Distance covered in 24 hours: 132 nautical miles
Distance Covered from Panama City: 157 nautical miles
Fish Caught: 0
Motoring: 1 hour
Sailing: 23 hours

We motored away from the anchorage and through the reef shallows then turned off the engine and put up the headsail and main and had a great reach for a few hours. Then the wind came more from behind and we had a downwind sail first with both main and genoa then we had to pull in the main as it was blanketing the headsail. We did lots of sail changes and adjustments throughout the day and night. The seas were quite mixed and choppy – coming from all directions – more like the Caribbean than what we had been led to expect of the Pacific. In fact, at night, sleeping was downright uncomfortable and near impossible. We do a three hour on-three hour off watch system after dark – during the day we wing it, The first few days out are always the most difficult until your body adjusts to the sleep pattern, boat movement and routines. So, we are hopeful that over the next few days it will get better.

We are communicating a few times a day via our SSB radio with a British family aboard a sailboat "Avatar" that left a few hours before us from Isla Contadora and are also headed to the Galapagos. So its nice to know there is another boat out here.

Hope we get a fish today – both lines are in the water.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

We're On Our Way!!!!

Today's the day. Thursday, February 23, 2011 we begin the first "real" leg of our Pacific passage. We hope that the name "pacific"" really does mean peaceful. We tried to call some folks last night, but the cell service was not working. We apologize, we really wanted to chat with some of you before we actually departed.

We will try to post to the log daily with our position. However, please do not worry if we don't post. There could be any number of reasons for that from seas too rough to write or a computer or radio issue. So don't worry – remember if we are in trouble we have an EPIRB (radio beacon) we can set off in a real emergency .

Our time to pull anchor is around noon – we still have a few last tie downs and we have to put "Otis" (the windvane) together (which means getting the rudder and paddle on). Plus, we just need to check the cabin to make sure nothing will take to the air and break. But otherwise, we feel ready. The wind should be okay as we leave Panama's Las Perlas islands, but it looks very light as we get further and further south. But that's a long way off and things can change quickly.

The trip to the Galapagos is about 850 miles. Depending on winds and currents that could take us anywhere from five days to twelve days. The average for most boats has been about ten days.

We'll have fishing lines out and hope for a smooth passage.

So here's the Latitude and longitude starting point:
N 08.37.16
W 079.02.29

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Waiting for Weather

We're still anchored in the Las Perlas off Isla Contadora. We're not alone though – there are lots of boats here waiting for weather to make the move south and west. A few boats we've been following on the radio nets have been becalmed or have wind right on the nose. So we'll wait a few more days and we're making good use of the time with more cleaning and stowing and organizing for the big offshore trip. Michael's been scrubbing the bottom so we go as fast as possible and we've both been unloading every space and reloading it to the max. We usually write down in our "where is it?" book what we end up putting in each place, but we're certain we'll still be looking for things we need.

Unfortunately all the fresh fruit and veggies we bought at the fresh market don't seem to be lasting very long. So, by the time we actually get offshore, we probably won't have anything fresh left. Oh well – that's why we stocked up on so many canned goods.

Michael did put some new photos on – its under "Dave and Lorna visit" and includes a few pics of the fish we caught and some underwater critters.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Out of Panama City

The shopping is done. We made the last trips to a few grocery stores, pharmacy and the large fresh fruit and veggie market in Panama City. We stowed what we can and have every locker filled. We have cases of food and beer in the heads and a few crates filled to the brim on the floor of the main salon. We are full. Of course we keep thinking of those few things we forgot (water chestnuts, more stainless polish, small bottles of rum for "gifts"). Oh well, no more shopping. We can do without what we don't have.

We had hoped to leave on Saturday, but another repair was needed that was unexpected. The water maker decided to be a problem child and one of the pumps wasn't working. Thank goodness Michael had a spare motor – and he replaced the old one. It was a painful job though and Michael is aching from trying to get the old motor out. But its all back up and working. While Michael worked on projects, Barbara went shopping to finish provisioning – a last run to a groceries and the veggie market where she got pounds of potatoes, onions, cabbages, carrots, lettuce, garlic, ginger, tomatoes (from red to green), green beans, peppers of various hotness and sweetness, limes, a watermelon, a pineapple, tangerines and 60 fresh (unrefrigerated) eggs. She wanted to also get a stock of bananas and some squash/pumpkins but couldn't physically carry anymore.

We also cleared out of Panama with the Port Captain in Flamenco and Immigration. It was a bit crowded as many people are checking out at this time of year and Carnival started on Saturday so many offices are closed through next Wednesday (or if they are open you have to pay overtime charges.) That all went incredibly smoothly – but took a few hours. So we have the "salida" (exit) stamp in our passports and the "zarpe" (exit clearance papers) to Galapagos.

We didn't make the Saturday plan to leave. So we enjoyed a last ice cream treat with our friends John and Sukanya from "Millennium" and some of the Carnival music (heard on the boat from the city). Bright and early on Sunday morning we departed the Las Brisas anchorage and headed for the Las Perlas to do the last packing, boat bottom cleaning and check, and relax. We did try to sail the entire way to save our precious fuel, but there was very little wind. We did manage to put up the new asymetrical drifter (the new sail Tom delivered for us) and sailed with that for about four hours. It worked great in the light air. Bad news – no fish – we're certain we were going just too slow. It took us all day to get the 35 miles to Isla Contadora.
Tomorrow is a full day of more organizing and cleaning and looking at the weather predictions. We hope that we can leave here on Tuesday or so – weather permitting. There are lots of boats anchored here waiting to do the same trip – so we'll have some company out there. Several boats have left over the last few days as well.

Full water tanks. Full fuel tanks. Full refrigerator. Lockers stocked. We're as ready as ever to make the Pacific passage.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Passage Prep Equals Non-Stop Work

With only a few days left before we leave, we are still scrambling to get everything done. Sorry for the lack of entries but getting ready for the long ocean passages ahead is really hard work.

Since our guests Dave and Lorna left Astarte and headed back to Ohio, we have been shopping, buying, packing, checking, cleaning, storing and researching. The lists seem to grow rather than get smaller. The boat is lower in the water with all the parts and provisions we are stocking.

We had a computer failure in the process and that has taken more time than we had anticipated. You can't buy an English language computer here very easily and so we bought a Spanish one thinking we could simply change the language on the software. That wasn't the case unless you buy the top line software version (not in our budget). So we'll hope the repair on this computer works.

This is a typical day in our last few weeks. And we've done this everyday except the weekends. Get up early and load the dinghy and outboard. Listen to the radio nets then rush to shore to either drop off or pick up something (ie. laundry, propane tanks) from the "Gente de Mar" service. Then bring it back to the boat. After we off load that – we head back to shore for a shopping adventure. This shopping trip can be to one of the many places we've been going: a grocery store, mall, hardware store, fabric store, boating store or all of the above in one day. The trip often depends on whether or not we are taking the local bus or have hired a cab.
We will often bus to a location and once loaded up – hire a cab to take us back with our bags of stuff. And once we get back to the dock and offload from the cab, we then have to load up the dinghy and get back to the boat. On many occasions, this has meant more than one dinghy run. Michael would take a load of stuff back to the boat (about a ten minute dinghy ride often very wet, into waves) and Barbara would stay on shore with the remaining stuff. Then Michael would return and we'd reload and then load it up on the boat. We are certainly getting a good workout doing this.

We've loaded up on hundreds of cans of vegetables and meat,and ,oh yeah BEER(at a reported $5-$15 per can in the South Pacific we stowed alot); bags of pasta, rice, beans, flour, sugar; and, jars and bottles of olive oil, condiments and sauces. That's just the food. We've stocked up on motor oils, greases and additives. We purchased new foam for our outside cushions (that was a trip getting a large piece of foam back to the boat!) Then there are all those fishing lures, lines, swivels, hooks, weights and clasps to catch the big ones out there. After the non-perishables have been bought, we started on the meats and cheeses for the refrigerator (after a major cleaning of both). Of course, as soon as the freezer was packed solid and the bottom of the fridge was filled to the brim with cheese - the fridge decided to hiccup. So then that project stressed us out and Michael worked on it non-stop with runs to a few hardware stores and refrigeration places. But luckily he has it fixed and its all working though he wants to do a more permanent fix in the future.

We also have started loading the fuel on board. We need all tanks topped off and jerry jugs with 20 extra gallons of diesel on the deck. We carry 72 gallons in the tank and with the 20 extra that still gives us only 92. With 800 miles on the first leg to Galapagos, we have to be very careful using fuel. We should be able to get fuel there (though our "Vagabond" friends have warned us it's not very good).

Once all this stuff is on board – then you have to do something with it. Our space is fixed. We have a 42 foot boat. Every bit of storage space is being cleaned out and repacked. What we haven't used in three years is seriously considered whether it stays or goes. We've sold our folding bicycle, the old outboard engine (with spare parts) and given away Caribbean and Bahama guides and charts (the ones we didn't send to Richard and Rene via Tom). Space is being found everywhere. And the waterline is going down...and down. We think a good inch or two already.

Packing also means puling the labels off every tin and labeling the cans and repacking anything packed in cardboard. Ziplocks are our friend! All this is very time consuming and back breaking.

Once we got the new foam back to the boat, we cut the new cushions and they are done. Michael is also continuing to sew on the new dinghy cover and made good progress over the last weekend when we stayed onboard. (there was an Ironman event here in Amador on Sunday and we thought traffic would be awful. Lance Armstrong competed, coming in second. He sure had a big entourage around him – as he ran by. We could watch from the boat.)

There has also been a fair amount of paperwork involved in getting ready. We have to secure an agent for clearing into Galapagos and that is best done in advance. We also needed to do all sorts of immigration prep for French Polynesia – again securing an agent. But lots and lots of paper has to be filled out and sent (along with those favorite dollars). Michael is also putting in lots of navigation and charting info for the trip. All this eats away at time – and it feels like we're running out of it!

Between emergency repairs (computer and fridge), regular daily cooking and cleaning, and the shopping, storing, packing away – it has been crazy. We still have to check all the rigging (that means getting Michael up the mast) and checking out of Panama with the Port Captain and Immigration. Last runs for fresh veggies and fruit and bread and one more fuel run should finish off the spending spree.

Our goal is to be out of Las Brisas in Panama City on Saturday morning. We'll stop in Las Perlas for a last check out and to store the last of our items and check for a good weather window to leave.

We actually are thinking the passage will be more restful than getting ready for it. And we have enough stores on board – we'll finally enjoy some zero-dollar days on passage.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

One. Two. Three.

Three years and counting. On February 6, 2009, Astarte left the dock in St. Petersburg, Florida and we began a wonderful adventure. The years have been spent exploring wonderful countries, hundreds of interesting and beautiful islands – many multiple times – and meeting interesting people on shore and from other boats.

Exploring the various islands by foot or dinghy , we've found wonderful out of the way places. We've hiked some wonderful hillsides and up various rivers and waterfalls. We have a great appreciation for life under the water as well – constantly learning about new sea critters and fish. We have tried interesting new foods – especially some fruits and vegetables. .We've learned some Spanish – enough for shopping and basic communication and wish we had become even more fluent. We've traded in various currencies and bought products and services from many interesting people and places.

Highlights over the last three years are hard to select – recent ones always seem to be what we remember best. Transiting the Panama Canal is certainly on top of the list – it was exciting to do the big canal on our own boat. Other memorable moments and times include: the bat cave in Bocas; the out islands of Venezuela; Cartagena and Providencia parades; river and waterfall hikes in Guadeloupe and Guanaja; the finca walk and fruit collection in Bocas; climbs to the highest points of the Saints and Providencia; the lovely and remote islands of Kuna Yala; the historic walking tour and pub crawl in Bonaire; the lionfish hunts; the Roatan Marine park; ziplining; quiet sunsets on Astarte when we have the whole island to ourselves; fun nights with friends, food and drink on our boat , at a friend's boat or at social events...and so many more.

Lightning, thunderstorms, squalls, heavy wind, blistering hot and calm days and water spouts have been experienced along with gorgeous cloud-free, sunny days or cool trade winds blowing away the heat. We've enjoyed beautiful six day sails and been becalmed with no wind. We've relaxed in flat anchorages and suffered sleepless nights in rolly bouncy places.

We've been scared at night by huge Colombian Navy ships stalking us in the dark and we were welcomed aboard a Panamanian Navy vessel for a tour. We've had small repairs to make along the way and larger projects like a new arch, haul-out or shaft replacement to tackle. Heads have clogged; propane has run out at inopportune times; and things just seem to go "on strike" when you least need it or expect it. But you cope and figure out how to work around a system or fix it in exotic locations. (I (Barbara) am really grateful to my husband Michael for being so capable in this department!)

Every guest visit remains a high point in our travels. We just said adios to frequent visitors Dave and Lorna who got their fourth stamp on the Astarte Guest card having made the trek to see us in Turks & Caicos, San Blas, Roatan and here on the Pacific side of Panama. Kathryn and Mark have two stamps for trips to San Blas and Honduras (Roatan and Guanaja). Frank was the tallest man in the vans in Grenada and a hit at "Fisherman's Friday." Tom came to see us in the Bocas heat and super squall and was forced to pack in a new sail for Astarte. Jim made the journey to Honduras for the no-fish tournament between Roatan and Guanaja (but lots of sharks, snakes and lionfish). Lloyd and Margaret got the Kuna Yala experience and we even got Lloyd to admit snorkeling is almost as good as sailing. Richard and Rene experienced Kuna Yala's land adventure as well as the islands – above ground and underwater. We do love our guests and the special times we have when they come aboard. .

And then there are boat friends – people you connect with when your paths cross. People we probably never would have had the honor of meeting and who's company we've enjoyed or continue to enjoy. There are way too many of these to mention – most we still stay in touch with and hear about their new travel adventures – and some who are helping prep us for our next steps. They are the real treasures of this kind of travel and we are so thankful that we've been honored to know them.

And as we clearly know, this trip wouldn't happen without the family and friends we have to support our efforts. Whether handling our mail, bills and taxes or ordering us parts and pieces or keeping us posted on what's happening with other family and friends or just being there to visit when we land back in the states...providing us places to stay and lots of treats. We love hearing from folks who just take the time to send us a quick e-mail or comment on the web entries. It's nice to know someone's reading his thing!

After almost three years in the Caribbean Sea, we've crossed over via a successful and fun Panama Canal transit and are now in the Pacific Ocean. We've recently taken a break from prepping for the next big adventure with a trip to the Las Perlas islands with Dave and Lorna. Massive provisioning is the next step as we prepare for longer ocean crossings than we've ever done.

Three years and counting – and the bigger and more challenging adventure is certainly ahead of us. Thank you all for being part of it. We hope you are enjoying the ride as much as we are!

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Visiting Pedro

We departed the island of San Jose after one night and had a nice sail to Pedro Gonzales – another lovely island with sandy beaches, interesting rock islands and not many boats. We anchored near one sailboat along a sandy beach. Michael and Lorna started work on making a new dinghy cover. They had an assembly line of sorts going making a pattern off the old cover and cutting and sewing the new pieces. Dave and Barbara decided to swim to the beach. The water was very murky and it was hard to see anything until you got very shallow and could see some fish amongst the rocks.

That evening, the wind came up quite strong and we got a big swell so we moved the boat closer to the other shoreline for some protection. It wasn't a very comfortable night with the wind hooting and the waves crashing against the hull.

The next day, the water was still very murky, so after some sewing by the dinghy cover team, we all headed on a dinghy exploration. We went to a little island with a cross on it and some steps carved into the rock. Don't know if its a grave (perhaps Pedro Gonzales for whom the island is named?) or just a monument. But we climbed up to it and enjoyed a nice view. Then we dinghied to the beach and walked the long beach collecting some very pretty shells and rocks. Lorna will have new things to put in or near her backyard ponds.

After a more pleasant night at anchor, we left for a new location. We headed to Mogo Mogo. We settled in the cut between Isla Chapera and Mogo Mogo along another beautiful sandy beach. No fish caught on the trip – but we tried. We snorkeled that afternoon in a great spot – the visibility was much improved. Saw all kinds of interesting fish, eels and rays. Very cool. Lorna unfortunately got wrapped with a jelly fish and felt some stings – bummer. Thank goodness for meat tenderizer!

This seems to be a hot spot for local "party" boats. Three came in after we anchored. Lots of music but luckily no jet skis. They left before sunset and we had the place to ourselves again. It's Saturday so we'll see what happens today. Though when we awoke, there are two large Panama Navy ships anchored behind us and lots of launch trips to shore filled with naval personnel. It looks like a military base at the far end of this island (last night we thought it was a home -but upon further binocular observation – we think its a military base.) The ships out here helped give us a clue!
We'll snorkel today for sure – its a sunny lovely morning. Could be a hot one. Last night in the Perlas with our guests – and then back to Panama City.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

What an adventure these last few days with Dave and Lorna! We've seen whales, rays, thousands of fish and even caught several. We've dined on grilled fish, tuna kabobs, tuna hors d'oeuvres and "Fish Mediterranean" The fridge and refrigerator are so full we can hardly make ice!

We stayed in Isla Contradora in Las Perlas Islands for a few days. We hiked the island the first day here and it was a lovely island. There is a small (very small) airport on it and lots of beautiful beaches. We stopped in both of the small stores on the island and even dined out on a great chicken and rice lunch. Because of the big tides here we had to leave our dinghy way up on the beach and we were grateful that we had four people to carry it back to the water, which was much further than when we left!

The next day we put on our wet suits and went snorkeling. The water is much chillier than in the Caribbean. We went to a few places but between the surge and visibility, they weren't great. But we got in the water and did some exploring. There were lots of fish and things seem less colorful in the Pacific but everything is larger. That afternoon, we swam off Astarte and saw literally thousands of fish of all types. Huge schools of various jacks, snappers and bait fish. We spotted giant trumpet fish – the largest we've ever seen and Michael even caught on camera a "smiling" large moray eel. It was an incredible sight – all those fish in one area.

On Tuesday morning we left to head to a different island. We settled on San Jose, a private island that some friends were anchored at and said was quite lovely. We had a wonderful downwind sail - and of course, the fish lines out. Unfortunately, we had a fish line tango...the two lines twisted and rolled together – costing us a lot of line that had to be cut. We'll have to re-figure out where to put the pole holder. But we still did manage to catch a nice size tuna-type fish (identification pending the expert marine scientists in the family). Dave managed to bring it in, land it and clean it. We ate it that night "Mediterranean" style – and it was very tasty. We had so much fish with some leftover tuna and this large fish, we invited our friends Sunny and Blake to dinner with us.

On the sail over we saw a pod of whales in the distance. They looked like they were humpbacks – but a bit too far to be sure. But we saw them spouting and some humps. Always fun. And we've also seen many, many rays. There are these small rays that jump put of the water like jumping beans and flap away as they jump about ten feet out of the water. There are whole schools of these jumping rays and they are pretty funny to watch. We also see schools of rays swimming near the boat. In fact, as we came in to anchor, Barbara saw a school of them and thought we were about to hit rocks -until all the rocks moved when we got really close.

Dave, Lorna and Michael did do some dinghy exploring of the island in the afternoon. Barbara stayed behind to do some tidying and baking. Getting on the beach was too challenging with the huge surge – so they explored some caves and area rocks and enjoyed the sights. It is a very pretty island though a deep anchorage (more than 40 feet).

It was a fun evening with friends and stories...and a late night for the crew of Astarte. Our guests have less than a week left and we still have so much to do and see.

For the banana – fish catching study...we had no bananas on board and caught one fish.

Can't believe its already February.

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