Archive for November, 2012


The Sail home to the USA

As we ready Rivers2Seas for our passage from Isla Mujeres to Florida my feelings are all mixed up.  Moody.  I go from happy to the lead the “normal and easy” landlubbers life in Colorado to depressed that this is the last.  The last time to anchor, the last bridal set, the last foreign country, the last passage, the last time to say we are on an adventure.  At any moment the tide can turn and my mood swings.  I so badly want this voyage to continue and parts of me are glad to be done.

Our successes as a family have surpassed my hopes.  We are tight knit as they come.  We not only travel together well, but also do it with style.  We enjoy each other’s company.  After spending 15 months living on a boat 24 feet wide by 41 long all cramped up and on top of each other, stresses galore, even downright terrified at times to say we still enjoy each other’s company is a weighty one.

I wish I knew how we got along so well.  It would great advice for anyone to improve their family life.  Fact is, though, I haven’t a clue.  We started out liking each other and didn’t come out here to improve our relationships, although we did.  Respect for each other and our boat roles have been important.  Lindsey and I play vital roles in the management of our boat lives.  Without one, the other wouldn’t succeed and both of us are acutely aware of that fact.  While doing separate tasks we are also invariably intertwined to accomplish the goal.  Several guests have commented on how they could never interact that well with their spouses.  I’m a lucky man to have found such a mate to mesh my life with.

The kids are at the perfect age for this voyage, they still trust us without doubt, enjoying the hardships and victories like champs.  Younger and they would have been to dependant on us for survival and wouldn’t remember the adventure.  Older and they would miss everything about home and friends and wouldn’t want to participate.  I think that any boat kid from age four to eleven would love life at sea.   Those kids are fun for the parents to have around 24/7 too.  The teenagers I have met have solidified my feelings that there is no way to voyage with them for too long.

Today we are waiting for the winds to die down a bit and then head out for the 450-500 mile passage.  I’ve done all sorts of models on average speed and how long it should take.  A large storm is forecast four days from now so we have to beat that.  If we average six knots we will be in Fort Lauderdale in 3 days and 3 hours, 7 knots – 2 days and 16 hours, 8 knots – 2 days and 8 hours, 9 knots – 2 days and 2 hours.  The massive Gulf Stream is going our direction and we will actually zigzag a bit to follow the 1-2 knot favorable current.   There are so many factors at play that any of the scenarios could prove correct.  Obviously, the nine-knot average would make us all a bit happier.

I have downloaded the forecasts for wind patterns, wave heights, pressure variants and Gulf Stream locations.  I called Chris Parker yesterday to get his predictions.  Everything points to a good crossing.  The boat hatches are all fastened, dinghy tied up with eight separate tie points, fuel filled and jugs strapped down, route planned and plotted on the GPS, safety items charged and stowed, the salon has been converted to a giant bed, the kids given a dose of Dramamine, water filled, water speed meter freed, props sanded, hulls scraped, cushions stowed – USA here we come!

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Panama to Providencia

By Ella Modesitt

We left the Kuna Yala islands early in the morning, sailing over to Puerto Lindo.   On the way we caught a Blackfin Tuna.  We had sushi that night!

Climbing the jib, I’m 19 feet off the sea!!

It was fun to be on the mainland again, we heard lots and lots and lots and lots of birds and monkeys.  Monkeys talked from three different places surrounding us.   “whhooo, whooo, heee, whoooo” the howler monkeys screamed from troop to troop.  Monkeys make really loud howls when it is about to rain.  They made a racket and then it rained.  We went on a dinghy expedition to some islands and there was a house that the monkeys had taken over.  A monkey swung from the porch into the house!  It was really funny.

His face looked like a tiger with whiskers all over, a tail that was longer than him and really long arms and legs.  When I climb up the halyard line hand over hand I pretend a monkey is climbing with me.  We can climb together.

Our family was hanging out up front on

Camels in the jungle??

Rivers2Seas.  Chase and I were playing pirate

games.  And then, mom said “Is that a camel over there?”  I said, “ahh mommy, camels live in the hot desert.”  It’s hot here but it’s hotter in the desert because there is no water.  We looked through the binoculars and saw that it was really a camel with one hump.  I think the camel took a wrong turn.

The star!

So we were walking through town and I see my name on the store right there.  “La recuerdo de ella,” which means the the memory of ella (her).  The houses were made out of concrete and very colorful.  All sorts of colors, my favorite was a bright pink house.  Chases’ and

mommys’ favorite was a green house the color of a green apple.  Daddy’s favorite was the orange house.

Portobello was our next anchorage.  The museum told us about lots and lots of pirates.  It

one of the cool forts here

was attacked seven times by pirates like Henry Morgan.  Hiking to the fort, we had to cross and itsy bitsy plank that went over the moat.  Inside there were bunches of canons pointed out to sea to hit ships.  I’m glad that they didn’t sink Rivers2Seas.  We went to four different forts.  One fort we had to hike and hike all the way up the hill.  I know why they built the fort up so high because the pirates would get so tired climbing up that they would turn around.

From Portobello we sailed to Colon, which is where the Panama Canal is located.  We couldn’t go to town because people were fighting and shooting because they were mad at the government.  We went swimming in the pool at the marina instead and walked through the jungle.  Monkeys threw poop at us!  We ran for it.  I’m glad they didn’t hit us.  Chase found a turtle and we all yelled, “Turtle! Turtle!”

We had a tea party in the marina lawn with mommy, Liz, Sue and me.  It was really pretty and we played I spy.  I even got to do the last one, which was really hard.  It was the tea, which was brown.  Winston, Sue’s teddy bear, and Tianna, Aurora, Barbie and Cindy Loo Who all came to the tea party too.  We ate some yummy cake.

When we were leaving, I was sad because we wouldn’t see Sue and Andy on Spruce for a long time.  They are heading to the Pacific and we are heading north.  We sailed for two nights and two days straight.

Sailing we put up the jib and the main and we sailed for a long, long time.  My dad caught a medium sized Mahi Mahi – yummy!  I see mostly waves and blank for ever.   We were in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the ocean.  My dad said that we were 150 miles from land.  Chase and I played silly games together.  Mom and dad watched out for reefs and boats.  At night, Chase and I went to sleep in the salon with the table down for a big bed.  Mom and dad took night watches.  Daddy goes up for half the night and then mom for half the night and then dad for half the night and then mom for half the night.  It’s not so easy sailing all night.

In the morning I said “where’s land?”  I wasn’t looking the other way and it was right

Land Ho!!!

there!  I saw big green fluffy mountains.  It felt good to see land.  I realized that we had found Never Land.  I took out my all about fairy instruction book and looked at the map and saw that it was Never Land.  The split in the mountain was Pixie Hollow, and I thought I saw a little lake that was mermaid lagoon, the cave was captain hooks treasure cave, two big mountains and Never Never peak all assured me that this was Never Land.  We anchored in the Cove.  Good thing that Captain Hook was not there.

Panama to Providencia

As we enter Colon, dozens of giant ships are anchored everywhere awaiting transit through the Panama Canal.   Black smoke rises all around Colon as people protest the government and a planned sale of prime commercial land called “the Free Zone”.  The violent protests between the Panamanian people and police resulted in several deaths, commercial businesses closing, looting, citywide street closures and general mayhem.

 

the escort into port

We are safe in the marina at shelter bay, but nothing can be accomplished while here.  I need water filters, fuel filters, maps and groceries.  The taxi drivers will not venture into Colon.  If they don’t feel safe then I sure don’t want to be there.  In the week that we are in the marina, tensions escalate most days as discussions volley back and forth from the government and the people.  During a lull in the Molotov cocktail throwing, I am able to get a taxi for $50US to take me to the grocery store.  After two months without a large grocery store to fill our cupboards we are really low on food.  The locals have the same idea to stock up with food and join in the melee inside the store.  All the bread and chicken is sold out.  People cram the aisles pushing carts into each other and me.  A frustrating three hours waiting in different lines for cheese, meat and then the long checkout lanes and finally I am able to push my two cartfuls of foodstuffs outside.

The marina provides shelter from the nearby crazy city with a nice pool, a surrounding jungle and other boaters to talk with.  This has been our only experience with living in a marina and the fun associated with it.  Everyone is constantly working on his or her boats and are willing to talk and hang out.  It’s kind of like a working party.  I couldn’t work much except to change out a shive (pulley) for the main halyard at the top of the mast, which saves a whole lot of work hoisting it up.  Everything else I needed parts to accomplish and that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Walking into the jungle gives us all a fun diversion from the boat.  Howler Monkeys swing

Friends in the trees

from tree branches just over our heads screaming as they go.  All of a sudden, several of them start throwing poo at us, which sends all four of us into a panic.  “Run!” I scream.  Luckily, the kids heed my advice and run like the wind.  From a safe distance we howl with laughter as I relay to the kids what they were throwing.  “Then what were they pouring on us?” Chase asks in his innocent four-year-old way.  “Well, that monkey must not have had any poo, he was trying to pee on us.”  “What?!!?!”  The laughter continues as we walk away.  No direct hits today.

We are out of propane after our stay in the Kuna Yala.  The propane stores in Colon have all been closed or impossible to get to.  We could wait for things to settle down, but that could be weeks.  Cold sandwiches taste good too; it will have to change our menu a little.  We have places to go.  If we aren’t going to be able to enjoy anything in Panama, we might as well go.  Pulling out of the marina winding through the docks, our friends on Spruce jump out of their boat saying they have three small one-pound propane bottles.  “Do we want them?”  You bet!  I need to maneuver close to the dock as Andy tosses each one to Lindsey.  She was a Golden Glove recipient in her Division 1 softball days during college, so she fields them all with ease.  It is one of those fantastic moments in boating where everyone is there to help each other.  I am choked up with sentiment and our luck.  I need coffee in the mornings.

Leaving Colon behind our wake feels good.  Black smoke rises all around in even more fires than when we entered a week ago.  One of my great sorrows about travel on a boat is that we can rarely make inland forays to the countries.  Leaving Rivers2Seas at anchor all night or for days at a time without us doesn’t feel safe for the boat or our belongings.  We had hoped to travel to Panama City and maybe do some rafting while here as our boat was safely snuggled into the marina.  So if we weren’t going to be able to enjoy our stay, I’m glad to be on the sea again.

Sailing for fifty-two hours brings us to Providencia, Colombia, which is a hundred miles off

Providencia – providence

the eastern coast of Nicaragua.  It’s a strange location that would become more dramatic to us in the coming days.  We had to motor most of the way, but seas were calm making for a pleasant passage.

Providencia is a clean, artistic, and small island.  At only four miles by one mile it is small and the inhabitants are proud of the fact that there is less than one person per square kilometer.   It’s nearby sister island of San Andreas boasts the densest population of any Caribbean island.  This is definitely the place we want to be.

Going for one of our strolls to view the area, we cover several miles along the Eastern coast walking over painted causeways, tranquil beaches, loud jungles and the bustle of a small town at work.

Most people use motorcycles instead of cars and carry anything that a truck would.  Seeing a desk go by between two guys on one bike or a family of four or five or dragging fifteen rods of rebar twenty feet long behind or an entire welding setup is simply entertaining.   Riding the taxi to fill our two propane bottles, I rest each on a knee speeding to the store.  I certainly had no helmet and carrying two bombs is less than appealing, but it cost less than it would have in Panama and there are no riots in the streets or tear gas or bullets flying by or Molotov Cocktails…it’s pleasant.

The people are what make this island spectacular.  All are friendly and welcoming.  Many islanders in the Eastern Caribbean are jaded by tourists and see us only a walking dollar.  Here people are truly welcoming.  At one restaurant the proprietors sit and talk with us the entire meal, only leaving to stir the food or flip the fish.  Walking down the street with two jugs of diesel and talking with a local man I express how much I like his island and the people.  Clearly this man does not have much money, yet, as we part he slips a lime into my shirt pocket.

The kids have been waiting for Halloween and asking repeatedly if the locals celebrate the

our cowgirl and Ninja Turtle

holiday.  They do, but in a different style.  All the kids pack into the town gymnasium in a screaming melee of giggles.  Welcomed with open arms as we strut in with a cowgirl and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, we grab some open seats in the bleachers.  All sorts of shows are put on with the culmination of a funny and talented clown that had the entire place in hysterics.   The speakers are turned up so loudly and the result so static ridden that I can’t understand the Spanish.  When a bunch of girls go up to the stage for what I think is a costume contest, I urge Ella up there.  The contest turns out to be a dance contest and I can honestly say that I am so glad Ella is voted off.  Kids in the audience choose which kids would get to stay on through several votes, whittling down the number of kids on stage.  Whoever dances in the most lewd, seductive and provocative way gets the most cheers.  All these six year olds need is a pole and they could be on any strip club.  There are others in the crowd who appear equally offended by the crazy behavior, but it’s their island.  When the boys get up there the gyrations get hotter and bigger.  There is even one boy and girl acting out a man and woman having sex.  It’s crazy.

The kids get treats and cakes and ice creams from the adults, but no trick or treating.  I had hoped for that as a good way to meet locals.  We are all a little sad.  But, Halloween came in a sort of Charlie Brown style.

Hiking to a rock outcrop named Morgan’s head gives us a nice hike through jungle with lizards darting every which way.  Frogs announce our arrival around each bend with miraculous views when the trees part.  A snack of saltines with peanut butter gives us a little rest for the hike back home.

 

great walkways

Some rumors about eminent war with Nicaragua explain why there are three navy battleships in the outer anchorage.  It’s rather unsettleing.  After civil unrest in Panama and now nations at war, it seems as the world has gone mad.  Nicaraguans feel that San Andreas and Providencia and the neighboring coral banks should be theirs because they lie within 200 miles of their coast.  Nicaraguans feel that the wealth from fishing and oil reserves this large area could provide is worth going to war over.  Colombians feel the same way in their desire to protect their islands and fishing grounds that they have held since 1822.  There will be a decree stating what the international court of justice decides in less than a week.  The Colombians meanwhile are strengthening their position, thus the three navy battleships nearby.  I don’t want to be anywhere near this place when the decree comes out.  War is never pretty and my ship wouldn’t survive much of an attack.

Pulling up anchor at midnight we start the 380-mile trek to Roatan, Honduras.  We wanted a weather window for Isla Mujeres, Mexico but that wasn’t happening and we would rather wait in an area that isn’t at war within itself or with other nations.

Chase and Ella are both seasick in the seas but we have a great fast sail up the Nicaraguan coast and the fabled Mosquito Coast quickly disappears.  The two kids compare puke bowls and whose is bigger in a way that only kids can do.  The bowls fill as fast as we can dump them.

A hundred miles out from Providencia, a Colombian navy frigate angles his boat pointing at Rivers2Seas as he questions us over the VHF radio.  They are obviously making a statement that these are still their waters.  I think it’s weird when he asks if there are any women on board.  I think it’s outrageous when he asks if we have weapons on board.  The Honduran coast has a few of its’ own pirates and a bad reputation among sailors.  Now, I have told everyone within earshot that I have a young wife on board and no weapons to defend ourselves.  It’s not reassuring.

Thirty hours into the sail and we turn to the West which brings some better seas.  I

seven colors of green

understand better the desire for these fishing grounds as our freezer bulges with two five pound Skipjack tunas and a fifteen pound Blackfin tuna.  These are good waters.  I hope along with the locals of Providencia that whatever happens, oil will not be drilled for here.  The prospect of black gold changes everything, but the locals seem to have the right mindset.

We spend our time reading, napping and telling stories to the kids.  The kids play innumerable imaginary games as we bounce down the seas.  My favorite is when Ella sets up a desk and starts selling raft trips.  I’ll take a hundred people please!  Going to bed, the kids ask for another “Daddy story.”  I give them one of my newest titled, “Don’t chum the waters,” which sends them into hysterics.  They keep interjecting their own thoughts and views; the laughter is loud and boisterous.  Lindsey calls me out to check the sails, so I do some adjustments and by the time I return Chase is fast asleep and Ella is telling me to turn off my light.   A minute and a half ago we were all rolling in giggles.  Even on the little crew passages are tiring.

Our timing for the passage proves perfect as we motor into French Caye, Roatan, Honduras just before dark, 65 hours after leaving Providencia.  If we made it in the dark we would have had to drift offshore all night until we could see the entrances and reefs.  Another good passage is behind us.  I can barely stay awake and fall asleep before the kids at 7 P.M.  Lindsey does that last haul with the kids and crawls into bed minutes later.