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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