Tag Archive: cruising kids


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.

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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.

Colombia to Panama by Ella Modesitt

Colombia to Panama

By Ella P. Modesitt

Leaving the dock from Santa Marta, Colombia I felt really really weird.  I was back on the sea and it was really wobbly.  It was almost too wobbly for my brother, he fell down and got a big puffy fat lip and bruised his gums and blood all over.   There was lots of blood.   Lots.  Boo hoo.

Just one of the big ships

When we went sailing, we went all night long and when I woke up I was in Cartagena, Colombia.  I saw lots of huge buildings all around.  When we left the next morning there was this huge ship that honked at us.  HOOOOOOONK!  He was not happy with us, because we were a little boat in his way.  There were forts on both sides that are so old.  Cannons used to work there to protect the forts and sink ships.  I’m glad they didn’t sink us.

As we sailed along, my dad caught a big Mahi Mahi.  It was huge – an inch bigger than me!  I’m seven years old so he was pretty big.  The Mahi Mahi was so entirely strong that he took the whole fishing pole off the boat and it sank to the bottom.  This was the cool fishing rod that we traded a kayak for with our friends on Bikini.  Well, we still had a line onto the fishing rod from another YoYo fishing line.  We reeled the line in from that fishing line slowly so that we could catch the fishing rod.  We didn’t lose it after all.  And we also got the Mahi Mahi.  When mom was filleting it, dad was washing off all the blood.  A shark smelled it and swam right under the boat.  And my mom was scared and didn’t want to stand in the water like she usually does.  The Mahi Mahi accidentally slipped out of her hands and into the water.  BooHoo.  My dad didn’t want to jump in the water after it because there was a big mean shark in the water.  We caught five other fish so that was good.

I saw land and yelled, “Land ho!”  We were in Puerto Obaldia, Panama.  I saw a baby

Land Ho!!!

dolphin swimming with its’ mama as we were getting close to the land.  We anchored Rivers2Seas.   Then, we went swimming as a family.

Chase and me played with some other kids in town on the playground.  Alan, Arturo and Alejandra played and swung on the swings with me.  Later, we walked around town. We played tag.   It was a pretty cool town.  There were lots and lots of cool people and really cool houses.  Some of them were huts and some plain.  Some houses were made out of wood and some from bricks and rocks and stuff.  The roofs were made out of thatch palm fronds.

I liked the main square because so many people were there.  One bench had “love” written on it, which I liked.  People were walking around, some with babies and some with kids.  There were lots of kids there.  People were playing soccer, volleyball, bingo and running around.  I swung and a little girl pushed me and my little brother too.  I liked them a lot.  Some were pretty and some had ragged clothes because they were really poor.

“Other than wanting to throw up, dinner was good.”

We had dinner there, which was pretty good, except for the chicken foot, which was pretty bad.  The chicken foot was fried and still had the claws on it.  If I had to eat that I would have thrown up for reals.  Other than wanting to throw up dinner was good.

Panama is pretty beautiful; there are coconut trees, banana trees and horses walking down the beach.  “HeeHaw” says one of the donkeys on shore.  People in dugout canoes fish all around us.  This is my 22nd country and it’s my favorite.

Picking up our friends Evan and Olivia Bartlett from the airstrip brings smiles that can

Sammy and I – my hero

only come from seeing someone that you have been friends with half your life.  Our stay in Nargana is punctuated by visits to Sammy and Mina’s home.  On one visit his son gets a neighbors foot long land turtle for Chase.  He is happy just to look, but when he gets to hold it, he’s ecstatic.  Another visit Leroy, his son, climbs a coconut tree so that we can have some fresh juice.  Chase finds a suitable tree a week later, but gets stuck six inches up; I don’t even try.  Leroy is a hunter and gives Chase and I wild boar teeth for a necklace.  The three-inch tooth is more imposing than the shark tooth necklace that chase has, but I’d rather go against the boar.  Taking another dinghy trip up the Devil River brings less wildlife than our last visit with more talking and less scouting but is equally fun.

All three fuel tanks have been topped off from some suspicious 55-gallon drums but filtered through an amazingly dirty towel (so all should be good?)and we are ready to head out to some more picturesque islands.  Cocos Banderos is our destination along the tranquil seas.  The islands are small, spectacular palm-filled, translucent turquoise water surrounded havens.  My best part of the day is when I realize there are seven islands I could swim to today.  I make it to three.

The Cocos Banderos

My father has helped us to concoct a story of buried treasure at the hands of Captain Hook.  Finding an old, although oddly smelling freshly burnt, treasure map in a bottle floating by, we decipher the islands and realize the treasure is on the island next to us.  Mounting a SUP and swimming expedition the six of us head out to find treasure.  Chase finds the old hut first, takes the right number of steps and when they find the “X” in the sand start digging like mad.  Ella finds a necklace of her Gram’s with jade and gold frogs.  Swooning and smiling she holds it to her chest like she is hugging Gram.  Chase finds a Snoopy doll, which sends him into beaming smiles and giggles.  “Snoopy’s back” is a constant refrain for several weeks.

Hanging out

Treasure found, we play a game of baseball on the island that’s the size of a baseball field’s

infield.  Home plate consists of two coconuts and the other bases are in foot deep water marked with starfish.  Giggles, splashes and cheers fill the air as we play.   Ella finds the smallest anchor ever weighing less than a pound and begs to keep it.  She knows that weight is such an issue, but really wants it.  It’s only a pound so we now have a 6th anchor aboard (2 for the dinghy, 1 plow that we use constantly and 2 danforth anchors).

With more exploring to do we take the dinghy to an island with two palms and a large sandy area.  Making life size sea turtle models fills the kids time while three adults snorkel the reefs surrounding our jewel in the sea.  The kids are learning more about sea turtles daily so when Chase points at the full moon in the sky and says that it’s time to lay eggs and starts making sand eggs, I am hardly surprised.

Moving on to the Holandes Islands brings us to an anchorage called the swimming pool because of the nine-foot depth and resulting green glow.  We jump ship immediately after anchoring, enjoying the cool waters of this giant pool.  The kids will swim anywhere, but they do prefer to swim in water where they can see the bottom – it’s understandable.  When the water is forty or fifty feet deep and the bottom can’t be seen it can send the mind into the what was that movement over there hysteria.

The kids jump from the deck into the turquoise waters below screaming in delight.  They have swordfights on deck, and then zoom down the slide as they chase after an imaginary Captain Hook.  Once in the water we catch starfish and silver dollars.  Mounting a SUP expedition, we head to a nearby reef for some snorkeling.  Using Ella’s new anchor we moor the boards diving into the warm water.  The shallow reef brings all the colors up brightly and we see a Spotted Eagle Ray and then an octopus – another successful expedition.

On the way over from Cocos Banderos I caught a Skipjack Tuna.  Lindsey shows Olivia how to

Sashimi appetizers

fillet it for sashimi and then we all enjoy a couple platefuls of the melt-in-your-mouth meat.  But, before the sashimi arrives they start throwing the scraps into the water.  A nice two-foot Snapper fish seems to be liking the dinner.  So do a couple of nurse sharks.  Armed with my Hawaiian sling I slide into the water.  The fish is squirrelly and doesn’t let me get too close.  Telling Olivia to “chum the water again”, she throws another handful of fish parts over the side.  I can get the fish closer but not close enough.  I grab my underwater camera to take some pictures of the sharks under Rivers2Seas.  One is four feet long and the other about six.  Swimming down the nine feet to the ocean floor is easy even though I have a camera in one hand and my Hawaiian sling in the other.  Feet away from the sharks, I start to video their circuitous path picking up the skipjack parts.  My first indication that something was wrong, although unheeded, is when I notice that the shark has spots all along it’s back.  Actually, I believe at the time I thought it was cool looking.

The shark does two loops looking at me from the same spot each time as I float on the surface.  On the third loop, it lunges straight at me fast.  My sling is six feet long and I’m holding it in the middle giving me a three-foot range.  As my foot pushes to keep me on the surface it comes close to the lunging shark.  I strike its nose hard with the sling twice.  The first strike feels like I have hit a piece of coral, hard and unmovable.  Except this time the hard unmovable coral is moving towards me pushing back my hand.  The second strike is softer and only hits the rubbery skin.  Lasting less than a second our battle is over and my opponent swims away.  Making a speed record back to the boat, I pull up the ladder as everyone wants to know what all the shrieking is about.  No grown man wants to hear that he was shrieking for sure.  But, sad to say it was true.  I’m just happy to be onboard.  A quick look into our aquatic oceans book reveals the Tiger Shark, juveniles having spots that grow together in adult years.  Looks like mine was a teenager.  Reading on it says that they are some of the most aggressive sharks in the waters.  Needless to say, but I doubt I shall utter the words, “chum the water again” while swimming with any shark.

The next day we resume our swimming regime, but the kids keep a weary eye out for sharks.  They have played a game since birth called Hey mister shark what time is it, asking if they want to play, they steadfastly refuse.  With the two SUP boards tied in a line of the back they run down them trying to stay on until the end.  Giggles galore.

During all the play the man on the boat behind us continually comes on deck to glare at us, shake his head then head below.  As we are heading out to do some more snorkeling from the SUP boards he asks to speak with the captain.  Having been standing on a SUP already it takes less than fifteen seconds to arrive, yet he has demanded twice more to speak to the captain, even though I said I would be right over.  When I arrive, he says, “You’re the captain?” with utter disdain.

“Yes, how are you today?”

Ella diving into the “Swimming Pool”

“Are you going to move?”

“No, we’re going snorkeling.”

“You must move.  You are too close.”

“We aren’t that close to you, the anchor is dug deep and we have lots of scope out in this nine foot deep water.”

“Well, since you’re the new kid on the block I’ll tell you.  The wind blows hard here and will drag a poorly anchored boat.”

“Yes, I know.”  We have already had some 60-knot storms come through and know of other boats dragging and hitting reefs.  That’s why I dive on the anchor each time and let out more scope than most boats.

“If you don’t move I’m going to ram my bowsprit up your ass of your boat.”  By the way he says boat I can tell he doesn’t like catamarans.  By the glares at the kids all day I can tell he doesn’t like kids.  By the glares and mutterings at our happiness I can tell he doesn’t like much.  Our conversation goes nowhere, but I don’t like the fluky way the boats here try to push opposite ways and I don’t want to hit another nearby catamaran.

“I’ll move.”

“You should read a book on how to anchor.”  He then throws some more obscenities at me, turns around and walks to hide in his cabin again.

The fight gets the best of me and I tell him “there’s no need to be an asshole.”  The singlehander with nobody else to talk to loses his marbles at this point and becomes raving mad.  Luckily, I can’t understand a word he is saying.  He is Swiss and has reverted back to that.   Unluckily, his antics make me laugh which sends him into hysterics.

I head back to Rivers2Seas and we decide to not just move, but to move to a different anchorage a half-mile away near a different island.  The kids don the name of Captain Grumpypants to the man who we would see a few times over the next two weeks.

There are several types of sailors out here: singlehander men (I’ve yet to meet a singlehander woman), couples, couple with kids, pairs of men (I’ve only seen one pair of women) and then large groups usually charterers only out for a week.  Most of the groups get along fine, except the singlehanders.  These men have ditched it all and shunned society.  Or they just don’t get along with anyone.  Or they just couldn’t find someone to go with and left before their dream never happened.  Some of the latter are the ones who crave companionship and can latch onto anyone who can speak.  The others degrade into this mental instability where they talk to themselves muttering constantly.  There is nobody to share any of the good or bad moments, nobody to talk about experiences or confusing situations that are constant in a travelers’ world.  The longer these guys are out here, the more unstable they seem to become.  I have travelled alone before and I don’t mean the going to a fancy hotel and eating at nice restaurants type of travel that can be fun.  Expedition travel is different with tough challenges hardships and glorious triumphs.  That type of travel for me is unpleasant and not nearly as rewarding when I’m alone.  While misery loves company, so does happiness.  I like the fact that for years to come Evan will see me and say, “Chum the waters.”  Life is more interesting with people in it.

Our new anchor from the days of pirates

Reanchoring by a nearby island, we drag through the sand then catch on something that holds us well.  I’m worried that we have hooked a piece of coral and as soon as the wind shifts we’ll no longer be hooked and drag to the next island.  Visibility isn’t great in the 35-foot deep water, but I can tell there isn’t a large coral head holding the anchor.  Diving down I can see the outline of something straight.  A couple more dives tells me that it’s an anchor covered in coral about three feet by five feet.  With some serious work over the next couple days, I winch up the 150-pound anchor attached to a 3-inch chain twenty feet long.  It’s seriously rusted, old as anything and undoubtedly cool.  Figuring it must be a pirates’ anchor from at least 200 years ago, I manage to hammer off the rust and coral before getting another crazy memento from our trip.  (Research now puts the date between 1785-1825.)  I’m doubly glad that I let Ella keep her one-pound anchor.

A local Kuna family comes by in their dugout and leaves later after we buy some Christmas

presents for family back home.  Having invited us to their home on another nearby island we show up the next day in our dinghy.  Cries of “Tortuga” greet us before landing.  Once again Chase is the hero in these parts with a name everyone

New friends

loves; Turtle in English, Tortuga in Spanish, Yauk for small turtle in Kuna, Morro for large turtle in Kuna.  We constantly hear cries of “Tortuga” from passing dugouts.  Today it is the beginning of a friendship with these locals.  We have some fun with them and when I bring out my camera the fun really starts.  Families are posing together and with Ella and hanging out in their canoes as a living room set.  A woman who a week later I discover is Sammy Morris’ niece introduces her 11-month-old son as “tortugito” – little turtle.  Chase is ecstatic – kinfolk.

Ah! The anchor. Evan and I had a great time paddling this dugout.

As we are leaving I tell Eric who speaks the best Spanish of the bunch that we should trade

paddles.  Immediately, he comes out with his best paddle and we are both happy for getting the better deal.  He tells me to try his paddle out with his dugout.  It’s fun.  Getting Evan, my

paddling buddy for years in with me, we make an erratic circle with laughter all around.  These boats are tippy and responsive.  Eric keeps telling me to look out for the rock below.  Not too worried, we continue on.  I’m more worried about the crab attached to the back that keeps grabbing my paddle.  When we stop Evan gets out and proceeds to dump us both in to the great hilarity of all present.  That’s when we find out about the anchor, a rock, that we have been dragging around.  Once again, the joke is on us.

As we are leaving, a fishing boat has entered the bay and it’s time for work.  Heading back to Rivers2Seas we tow their dugout behind us.  Later, I call them over and present them with fish hooks and Rivers2Seas hats.  In a great gesture later that night they return with five small lobsters as gifts.  It’s actually rare for the Kuna to trade or give gifts back so we are deeply grateful.  They teach us how to devein them by using the antennae which works wonderfully.  Later a large lobster dinner becomes our birthday celebration for Olivia.

We have had a great visit from our friends, but after nine days it’s time for them to go.  They are travelling in Panama for three weeks and obviously wanted to stay longer and we wanted them to stay too, but food, propane and diesel are all in short supply or impossible to get here.  Every day they spend here is a day earlier we would have to leave the San Blas Islands.   They find a ride to Carti on a 75-foot megayacht, which I bet takes only an hour.  It would have taken us 2-3 days there and the same back.

More storms and more lightning

The storms took a break while Evan and Olivia were here but come back for four days straight.  Several hours each morning are filled with lightning strikes to close to count the distance, tingly feelings in our hair and thunderous roaring that reverberates through the boat and our bones.  I get some cool video of a couple strikes but am a bit scared to get too much.    Another boat sees a strike forty yards from us that strikes a coconut tree.  Our Kuna friends had a strike hit six feet from their hut that he said almost made him go deaf.  I kept part of the tree that exploded from the impact.  We get dozens of strikes within a half-mile of Rivers2Seas.  It has been a bad season for storms and many sailors are reporting that 10% of boats have been hit resulting in $4,000-45,000US in damages.  One friend half-jokingly wanted to wrap herself in aluminum foil to protect her.  She settles for earplugs and closing the curtains to form a cave and hides under the covers.  If you’re not scared of the lightning out here, you’re not paying attention.

Once the storms subside there is enough light for us to travel again.  Our goal is the Eastern

Many reefs around here are marked nicely with wrecked boats. Not exactly comforting.

Lemons, but light is fading as we enter the large bay.  Our horrible charts and less than adequate books are not much help as we negotiate a 8 foot sand bar while skirting several reefs.  As with many of the reefs here a smashed up sailboat rests on one of the reefs from a sailor with not enough light, time or experience.  Our charts show a shoal that we can find and several rocks that we cant.  The water is deep inside the bay at 60 feet but most all of the boats are moored and won’t swing.  With a minimum of 240 feet of line out we will swing almost 500 feet in a circle.  Not knowing where the rocks are or the bottom composition we try to anchor once, drag and bring it up to head for a different anchorage.  The kids were ready to swim and are unhappy; so are we the light is fading fast.

The Chichime Islands are only a couple miles away so we skirt around a sailboat wreck 70 feet off port and head through a reef cut.  At Chichime two wrecked boats mark two separate reefs, but another six are unmarked.  The confusing guidebook points the wrong way.  Lindsey’s keen eye from high above sees the reef and points the way.  Inside we anchor with another 20 boats in soft sand.

Teaching local kids to SUP in Chichime

Grabbing a beer for Lindsey and I and lemonade for the kids I relate my stories of these three islands in my past.  My first sailing experience was to travel through the Panama Canal for five separate boats, then to work aboard Chantyman and sail to Portobello and then this anchorage with two other sailboats.  It was my introduction into paradise.  The smallest island with two palms on it became my campsite while there.  We didn’t stay long before heading out to Providencia and the USA.  I came back here a couple years later with Bobby and Chad when we bought the dugout canoe.  The island to our starboard is where machine gun toting policeman arrested us then dragged us on to into Nargana.

Ella practices getting high for reef spotting.

One set of three huts lined the shore of one island; the other was only used to get water out of a well in the middle.  The islands are all the same size; a football field, a half football field and a volleyball court size.  Now though, there are five settlements of huts, a bar on each of the larger islands, a backpacker hostel with cabanas, tents, showers, volleyball and dining area, 20 boats in the anchorage and a helicopter even landed on one island.  Paradise was found in my absense.   Disheartening for sure, but not unexpected.

All but a couple of the boats are the singlehander men that seem so strange.  The vibe is weird here, the Kuna come begging for goods and the scenery is marred – we stay two nights before getting out.  Long enough for someone to board us in the middle of the night and steal all the money out of my wallet lying in the entrance.  The $100 is not of significance, but the violation is without a doubt.  Other cruisers are adamant it was not the Kuna but one of the other cruisers.  We agree, but it is sad.

As one boatload of cruisers is talking to us from their dinghy (to ask if we had a dive compressor they could use, which we don’t) they were astounded that we had been in the San Blas for six weeks and they hadn’t seen us.

“We started in the Eastern San Blas and have been working this way slowly,” I said.

Just one of the beautiful islands surrounding us

“Oh, the Holandes.  I don’t like it there.  There are too many Americans.”

“No, the Eastern San Blas.”

“Huh?”  He’s confused.

“We started in Puerto Obaldia, then Puerto Escoses, Isla Pinos, Mamitupu, Ratones Cays, Isla Tigre then we hit the Western San Blas in Nargana.”  It’s defeating for all of them in the dinghy.  We have been travelling the uncharted waters of a very difficult area with kids.  He had tried to insult me with his crack about Americans in the Holandes, yet it proved we have done so much more than all of them.  It feels good.

Leaving the Chichime Islands behind we motor two miles away to Yansaldup Island.  It takes an hour and a half winding through tight channels between reefs.   A wide bay surrounded by reef has one other trimaran ¾ a mile away and us.  Our type of home.

A great beach for the kids

We rest doing boat chores for several hours and then SUP trips to nearby islands a couple miles away and redneck snorkeling (using the dinghy over reefs to check out the animals below) each day.   A week later it’s time for us to head over to Porvenir to check out of the San Blas Islands.

Porvenir is an island with only an airstrip on it and the customs house.  Nowadays it is twice as long as it used to be.  With my buddies after our dugout canoe trip we waited here in our hammocks for a boat to take us to Puerto Obaldia on the Colombia/Panama border.  Each time a plane would land, twice a day, the local Kunas would come out to watch.  I thought they were amazed with flight and all it’s possibilities.  Actually, they were just watching NASCAR – Kuna style.  So many planes have crashed on the short runway plunging into the sea that all want to see it happen.  Made me glad we were waiting for a boat and not a plane.

Wichi Walla is the island forty meters from Porvenir.  With one last effort to find a sail for our dugout canoe I ask a local, Ernesto, for help.  Soon this wiry man with passable English is bringing us home to home in our efforts.  The first sail is nice but lacks a jib.  The second home we must parade through fifteen kids watching a movie on a big screen TV.  It seems so oddly out of place with the sand floor, bamboo framed thatched hut.   Up above in the rafters are large bags full of clothes and other things; it appears that some Kuna are packrats and hoarders.  We continue the search and settle on one for $30 Balboas (actually they use US dollars and don’t even print their own money except for a handful of coins).  A crowd of ten men has watched the episode and thinks it is hilarious that an American would want one of their sails.  I have only two twenties and nobody has change, absolutely typical.  I buy the man’s well-used wooden ironwood paddle that he has used for dozens of years for the extra ten.  We both made a great deal.

Walking back through town that is very accustomed to tourists with a sail, mast, boom,

I’m going to miss sights like this

spinnaker pole and paddle, we are seen as suckers in the house.  We get accosted for more purchases with women and kids streaming out of their homes selling their goods.  Finally boarding the dinghy we have the sail set up, five paddles, a new bracelet for Lindsey, a mariachi gourd, a calabash bowl and a shiny jib.

It is with great sadness that the anchor is brought up at 6am.  The San Blas islands have treated us so well.  This is the place I most wanted to visit on our round the world voyage.  I love the Kuna people and their affinity for traveling in canoes either by sail or paddle.  The exquisite white sand islands surrounded by deep blue water and sparkling emerald water are what people view paradise as – and they are right.  This is paradise here.  We worked hard to get here over the last year and the last seven weeks has been everything I had hoped.

Sailing over tranquil seas riddled with tree trunks and coconuts brings us into Puerto Lindo.  The anchorage is a surprise with 75 boats in the protected bay.  Monkeys howl from shore and then are answered by the troop on the far shore.  Parrots squawk in that crazy call that cannot be mistaken.  A cacophony of other bird sounds rise deep within the jungle walls.

Lindsey has taken a lot of grief over the comment about the log looking like a crocodile.  Sitting on the trampoline listening to the jungle, she says, “Is that a camel?”  We all laugh at her before even looking.  Ella is adamant that camels only live in the desert.  Oddly, it is a camel.  I feel as though we took a wrong turn somewhere and now are living in the Madagascar movie.  A few days ago we saw the same four engine propellered plane as in the movie come low out of some dark clouds with one engine out, flames and smoke spilling out.  We guessed that a lightning strike took it out.  We couldn’t see if four penguins were the pilots, but it’s possible.

Puerto Lindo has some cool areas to explore by dinghy, but is filled with old cruisers ready to die and boats that already have.  Meeting a boat with two boys four and five keeps us there a couple extra days as they play and laugh together.

inside the fort, soldiers wait for the likes of Henry Morgan

Heading to Portobello just a few miles away, brings us into one of the most famous ports

keeping Spanish gold (mostly) away from pirates like Henry Morgan and Vernon.  The place had been ransacked and burned many times and the forts just kept getting better.  Making some hikes to four of the forts takes up most our day as we pretend that the cannons are aimed at captain hook and his cronies and our Ninja Turtle and Fairy Princess are there to help.

Hauling up the sails is refreshing as we haven’t been able to sail in the Kuna Yala.  The sail is cut short as we weave in and out of freighters waiting to cross the Panama Canal.  Literally there are over 50 all around, some moving, mostly anchored.  It’s intimidating.  Smoke billows over Colon filling the air with an acrid smell.  Later, we find out that people are rioting and protesting the sale of land burning cars and shooting policemen.  Our planned restocking will have to wait, it looks like we may be having spaghetti again tonight.

We are in the marina at Shelter Bay now waiting for weather to head north.  Having only spent 3 nights previously in a marina (except leaving it in Santa Marta to head to Colorado) it’s a weird world of cruisers coming together.  Normally we would be anchored out, but all but one person we meet insisted on the safety of the marina.  Many had stories of scary incidents.   Colon is one of the most dangerous cities around, so spending $500US on lodging seems like cheap insurance.   We have, however, told the kids it was just so they could swim in the pool, enjoy the library, have cheap juices in the bar and go on jungle hikes during the day – all for them.

Happy still!!!

The Kuna Yala (San Blas) are my favorite place on earth – a true tropical paradise.  Reefs and lightning keep most sane people out.  Luckily, we aren’t sane.

Santa Marta, Colombia

COLOMBIA

     We arrived to the marina in Santa Marta, Colombia after a brutal 26-hours of travel.  Our bags were strapped to the smallest taxi ever and

There is one piece of twine holding all our bags for the 4-hour taxi ride

we had traveled four hours in this Romancing the Stone-esque car (the one that Danny Davito hid in when they were looking for the stone).  The kids poured themselves out of the taxi, having been woken up every hour or so as the taxi pulled into a random-open-all-night gas station to put a couple pesos worth of propane in his car.  Every time he filled up, we all had to pile out of the car.  It is now four-o’clock in the morning and we are beyond exhausted.  We get all of the bags out of the car and traipse down to our boat.  She looks beautiful, the kids run around yelling, happy to be back, exhaustion apparently forgotten in the light of old, familiar toys.  It is already hot, Brad tries out the air-conditioning, since we are still attached to the dock and can use electricity, it works, wonderful.  We all finally decide that old toys will be just as cool after a few hours of sleep.

Coffee at Juan Valdez on the main square

After a couple hours of sleep, we get up, unpack, and see our boat in the sunlight; it is nearly black with dirt.  Caked on, sooty, literally….black.  Too exhausted to even deal with that, I concentrate on the inside.  It seems less intimidating.  After a couple of hours of Pinesol, she’s smelling like a Colorado Pine tree Forest….perfect (the less charred part).  We decide to take a nap and I look for my book…..Where is my book?  Uh-oh.  I left it in the taxi from Cartagena….including the kids’ favorite snuggly toys, Brad’s snoopy from childhood that has now become Turtle’s favorite snuggly toy, my wallet, my favorite skirt that the wallet was in, and probably ten more things I am forgetting.  The full magnitude hits us and we start frantically calling the credit card company.  No new purchases but now what do we do for money?  We don’t know if we can stay past another 48 hours so we can’t have them

Fun in the city

send another one.  Brad has a different card but it keeps declining because: we “didn’t tell them we were traveling.”  After Brad explained that we had been traveling for a year and he told them that then, at which point the worker said he’s only been working for three months, great.  Can you make a memo please?  He said it should be working in 2 minutes.  Meanwhile

Ella performing in front of the machine gun toting guards. Glad she’s good because they won’t be throwing rotten tomatoes if she’s not.

we are standing in a packed grocery store with 785,000 pesos worth of food (meat, ice cream, other various really-painful-to-you-foods-if they-spoil) surrounding us and people wondering who the obvious foreigner-freaks are that are holding up the line.  They put us in the “other line” and Brad tries again with the card after the designated “2-minutes” (it has really been about 15) it declines again.  We return to the telephone salesman and ask to use the phone again.  This time Brad is

not so pleasant as he pleads our case.  A new customer service representative doesn’t know why it won’t work and explains that “99% of the credit card purchases in Santa Marta, Colombia are fraudulent” Great….Did I only have one card in my wallet or was the other one in there too and now we have $??,??? charged on our accounts….I start panicking.  Brad gets the ok to try the card again, it works.

 

We go home, put the food away and await our “agent” to see if we can stay in Colombia for longer than a few more hours.  I talk to the

our Cowgirl turning 7

home school program that was supposed to send Ella her curriculum in Colorado but there was a mix-up at the main warehouse and we didn’t get it, then they said they could send it to Colombia, but turns out they don’t think they can after all…..great.  Ella just got a continuance on her summer for another four months.  We wash the outside of the boat, put everything out and get ready to sail.  We hear from our agent (after Brad sat in Customs for four hours) that we can stay for another three months if we would like.  Good.  That out of the way we turn to properly provisioning the boat, slowly.  After we leave

Fresh fruits

Colombia, we will be in the beautiful San Blas Islands of Panama.  Brad has been talking about them since I met him so I am excited to see them.  The only downside is we have to have all of our food and drink on board; Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, desserts and drinks for two plus months.  Provisioning is difficult as Chase and Ella sometimes eat a lot…..sometimes not so much, and what do you get that you will want to eat for snacks, dessert etc. two months from now??  The problem is daunting but we are now taking it slowly and buying a little bit each day.  Ella is tired of going to the store every day but it is a necessary evil.

We can also relax and enjoy being in Santa Marta again.  It is a bustling little metropolis; the marina has many more cruisers in it compared to when we left.  We have met a lot of other people stocking up before moving on to San Blas.  When we were here in May, we had met

Hazards of walking include open manhole covers leading to the sewers below

another cruiser family on a catamaran, Freda and Jean-Noel.  They had two girls slightly older than Ella and Turtle.  We had a great time with them in a short amount of time; I find that I miss them a lot.  We have met another French boat with two little girls, 1.5 and 4 years old.  The kids ran endlessly up and down the dock, until after dark, Chase was “tagged” into the dark water.  With Ella screaming: “Mommy, Daddy!  Chase went into the water!!! Chase went into the water!!!  Brad was over the side, completely clothed including sunglasses, and propped him back up onto the dock.  He was not happy and that was the end of freeze tag with an “I get to be the tagger next, mommy.”  Salt water was dripping off of him everywhere.  The kids played a couple more days until it was time for their boat to move on to Cartagena.

We have turned our efforts to exploring the city, finding markets and cold beers in little corner bars, museums and beaches.  The water is really polluted here so our little water babies have been land monkeys for the time being, they are definitely ready to return to the sea.  We talked with the Bartlett’s yesterday and made the final plans, as much as we could guess, for Evan and his wife, Olivia to meet us in Panama.  Looking forward to some good times with them and perhaps a new credit card)  Brad and Ella have just left to buy a paddle from a local fisherman, and Chase and I are “chillaxn” (Chase’s word, not mine) together finding new apps to fill the iPad for the long months ahead without internet.  We are looking forward to the quietness of the islands and the adventure of the next couple of months…. Enjoy the cold weather wherever you are…….it is HOT here!!

Ella Modesitt

By Ella Modesitt

In Bonaire, I went SCUBA diving with my dad.  It was fun.  We went under two boats – the dinghy and

I’m a Mermaid!

Rivers2Seas.  I saw so many fish, there must have been 100 of them.  I liked it because we could be under the water together.  My dad and I shared the same tank.  I felt totally like a mermaid.  I moved my legs like a mermaid too.

We saw a parade.  There were people with really pretty dresses.  One little girl gave me and my brother a piece of candy.  They were dancing in their fancy dresses.  The music was really loud so that everyone could hear.  I think a little too loud.

I liked the colorful buildings

We sailed to Curacao.  Daddy went to customs all day long.  I played with a little French girl on our boat.  We played hide and seek with Chase.  I did not understand a single word she said.  She didn’t want to go home.  Chase and I played on the best park yet.  It wasn’t broken or torn or rusted.  Chase and I got ice cream.  We went to customs and looked at all the houses.  They were all sorts of colors.

On the passage to Santa Marta, Colombia in the night there was lots and lots and lots of lightning.  We all had to go down into one room so if the mast was hit by lightning we wouldn’t be killed or injured.  We put on wetsuits that were really hot and read some books.  Chase was throwing up.  There was lots of rain.  I did not see any cats and dogs.   I didn’t really sleep – it was too hard.

We were close to land but before we got there lightning came again.  We read some more of my Mermaid book.

Rivers2Seas is now tied up at a dock in Santa Marta Colombia.  I have sailed a super duper long way.  I have been to 21 countries so far.  My favorite country was Bonaire or maybe Saba or…all of them.

St. Lucia to Bonaire

Right now I am exhausted.  Bone tired.  I haven’t done much during this passage from St. Lucia to Bonaire.  Not much except worry.  The sailing is great, easy even.  A large following sea gives us a nice push in the exact direction we want to go.  The wind is directly behind us pushing on the jib and genaker giving us an average of over 6 knots towards our goal that was originally 450 miles away.  We now have about 150 to go after sailing for the last 48 hours.  Yep, the sailing is going great.

The crew is doing well.  Our newest member, Worm (or Gunner or Damian depending on which ski patrol you know him from), has been a real asset.  Lindsey Worm and I take 3-hour watches, which gives us six hours off.  Well, it could.  An hour before my shift started last night Worm woke me up about a ship that was close and not moving.  We couldn’t tell if it was a tanker or two separate fishing ships.  An hour after it was first sighted, all of a sudden it took off fast and did a semicircle around the boat at 12 miles perfectly.  I wouldn’t know this if I couldn’t track him on radar.   It is a weird track, but he’s probably just fishing.  Later, after my shift was over Lindsey woke me from a deep sleep to say another ship was coming right at us.  It was coming fast, but the worry made it seem to take forever.  It was just another fishing boat.  All sleep had to be abandoned for the day.  Time to wrestle with the kids and read books together.Leaving our home in St. Lucia

Why am I so worried?  Pirates.  Not the ones my kids are pretending to be right now.  I can handle the foam swords just fine, even when I get that full smack across the face.  It’s the AK-47 wielding pirates that would board, kill me, rape my wife and sell my kids that has me worried.  I would gladly take the killing if the other two wouldn’t happen.  But really, I’d rather none of this to take place.

The Venezuelan coast has become so notorious that our insurance company won’t allow us to travel to the country.  Too bad, when I was there to bicycle south to Chile in 1994 it was a fantastic country with some really friendly and giving people.  Drug runners now control the coasts and hijackings and murders are a real possibility.  The AIS (automatic information system) is turned off.  We don’t want the pirates to see a 41-foot by 24-foot private sailing vessel out here, unprotected and easy picking.  There is certainly no need to give them a road map to where we are.  Our navigation lights are still on at night, so if they get close, they could find us.  This is why I worry.

I worry at watch.  I worry while I’m “sleeping”.  I worry constantly.  I don’t talk about it to anyone.  Why would I?  If they aren’t worried, then I should let them enjoy this really nice passage.  And anyway, the captain is always the first to be tossed overboard.

 

As I was checking out of St. Lucia the immigration officer questioned me about Ella.  “She’s crew?” she asked dubiously.  “Well, yes she is,” I replied.  I had almost written that she was more than crew and actually first mate.  That would have caused some trouble so I’m glad I just put crew.  She is actually crew, with responsibilities.  She helps run this ship.  “Yes maam, she’s six and does a great job aboard Rivers2Seas.”  When the woman next looked at Chase’s passport with “crew” marked, she just looked up at me with these eyes of disbelief.  I was ready to list his responsibilities like the anchor light, navigation lights, steaming light, repairman’s assistant and monitor of the fishing lines.  She didn’t ask.  Bummer.  I wanted to impress her with what a 4-year-old can do if given the opportunity.  It seems most kids these days have absolutely no responsibilities.  Ours do and it has made them far better people.

We had some people aboard who left the transom shower on all night.  It has one main on/off handle and another one

on top the mast again

on the showerhead to use so that water is conserved while moving the head around.  The head doesn’t really shut off.  Well, I told these adults about it and explained how to use it and they left it on.  We lost 70 gallons of water.  Some of the water went into the hull, but most just overboard.  I had to use the wet vac in all three bilges down the port hull to get it all out.  I was very nice when I mentioned that it was really important to turn things off.  The reply is what will stay with me forever.  “If it’s that important to you Brad, then maybe you should have checked it yourself.”  My 4-year-old can handle it, but not these 40-year-olds.  I just replied that I agreed.  Mistakes happen. Some people are sailors, some aren’t.  Are Chase and Ella crew on Rivers2Seas – you bet?  Certainly better behaved and more fun than people who on paper appear that they could be sailors.

The spare halyard just broke and sent the genakker flying into the sea.  The three adults managed to wrestle it back onboard without much issue.  I always wondered what would happen if one of the halyards broke.  Now I know.  I’m just glad it happened in light winds and during the day after my coffee.  The hard part will be winding a spare line through the mast when we hit port.

We make the 470-mile passage (a little more than the direct path from tacking) in 77 ½ hours.  Not bad, considering the wind was directly behind us, which is a poor point of sail and only at 15 knots.  A Mahi Mahi made for a nice fresh dinner en route.  A school of 400-pound tuna got us excited, but we didn’t catch any.  Watching the hundreds of fish leap out of the water covering a several hundred-yard space was truly amazing.

Rivers2Seas above with dinghy and fish below

Bonaire is described on all their literature as a diving paradise.  It is.  After tying up to a mooring ball, because you can’t anchor and damage reefs that way, we do a dive right off the back of Rivers2Seas.  Down 40 feet to the bottom and the reef cliff then plunges down to 114 feet.  I know the depth because I just had to go to see the bottom.  Two dives a day for two tanks adds up pretty fast, so we opted to get a package fill of our tanks – 21 fills for $107US.  Compared to the $100 per dive price, we have congratulated ourselves on the nice gear we purchased.  Nice, as in it works.  Most of it is falling apart, but the essential components work if just a little leaky.

SCUBA diving brings us to another world.  Every creature is simply weird.  Hundreds of fish from tiny yellow angelfish no bigger than the end of my pinky to large 6-foot tarpon patrol the water.  Odd shaped fish like flutes and puffer fish and boxfish swarm all around the tube coral.  Sharp-tongued eels slither around the bottom poking their heads into holes looking for food.  Shrimp and other spider looking guys run around the coral heads.  It’s simply amazing to witness.

The MAN – Turtle at his best

The kids have been having fun snorkeling but wanted to try the

A SCUBA diving family!

SCUBA.  Ella is now hooked and asks to go every day.  Thankfully, I can appease her and take her diving for a few minutes after my dive.  Hey, if I have to go diving to make my kids happy, that is what I will do.  Chase enjoys it too but would rather do cannonballs off the boat.

We arrived in Bonaire during the Queen’s day celebration and saw a brightly colored if super short parade.  The kids loved the dancing and colorful costumes.  The town has a slow pace and clean atmosphere.  The Dutch islands are the best taken care of in the Caribbean.  We will return to dive here and to Saba for sure.

Heaven?

The weather forecast for the difficult run to Cartagena, Columbia is looking really good.  Low winds mean small seas in this notorious spot.  Tomorrow we will leave for Curacao and then head off to the South American mainland the next day.  Woo Hoo.

Guadaloupe

Guadaloupe

by Lindsey Modesitt

We arrived in Deshaises (pronounced Day-Hay) right before sunset after a rollicking ride.  After touring around the anchorage we settled on the back side in a secluded little spot.  After dropping the anchor, the kids ran up to the front trampoline to play “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” it is a kid show from a perfect end to the dayback home about some kids that live on a boat, and fight bad pirates, usually specifically, Captain Hook.  While having our sundowner wine, the kids enjoyed swinging gently from the anchor (as opposed to bucking wildly on the seas).

Guadaloupe is a fascinating country.  Steeped in history, it is now a French country (and has been mostly….throughout history) and they do everything French.  All the way down to the perfect, I mean PERFECT, du Pain (bread).  Brad and I have been reading Caribbean by James Michener and he has a lot to say about this island in the shape of a butterfly.  To start, the island really is in the shape of a butterfly, dissected in the middle by a river that is so narrow, according to Michener, you could jump across it (or motor sail your sailboat up according to recent guidebooks).  The western wing is called Basse Terre and the eastern is called Grand Terre which is interesting as “Basse Terre” means small island and this part of the island is anything but.  With big towering volcanic mountains, this is the bigger of the two sides (and newer volcanically) as opposed to “Grand Terre” meaning big island and it is more of a salt and sand flat, beautiful, but older and therefore more run down by centuries of nearly constant trade winds.

The economy is based entirely upon French society with everything being imported from or exported to, France.  The people of France still buy sugar made from sugar cane, at a higher price than other easily made sugars, just to ensure a thriving economy of this and other French islands in the Caribbean.  Not to mention the funding that comes from France.  It is an interesting thing to witness as almost every single island in the Caribbean has a thriving history of sugar production (thus Rum and molasses production but more importantly RUM!) but these French islands are the only ones to still use the sugar from these islands as their main source of the white powder goodness.

the familyThe language is entirely French with very little “bleeding” of other languages.  My high-school French got a workout to say the least.  After lots of gesturing and apologizing we generally got our point across with one minor mishap with the taxi driver from the Botanical Gardens taking us way out of our way (and his) all because I couldn’t get him to stop the car at our anchorage, instead we travelled to the popular (and packed) beach.  After much gesturing and apologizing again (and perhaps a few goats offered to his grandmother while I walk around in France) we turned around and after yelling arretez-vous s’il vous plais!!  I think he understood I was not trying to arrest him but wanted him to stop the car.  Thankfully he was very easy-going and full of laughter so we said our good-byes.

We saw another kid boat “Twilight Rodeo” that we had met in St. Kitt’s.  Their kids are 6 (boy) and 8 (girl).  All of the kids got along incredibly well and the parents got some much needed adult time.  Then  the next day we thought it was time for some beach time with other kids so together with Twilight Rodeo, we went to find a beach.  We found one that was empty and spent the afternoon SUPing, eating, drinking and just plain relaxing.  The kids loved it and we loved it.  It was time for us to continue on down the western coast sohome we up-anchor (after a SUP/snorkel) early the next morning and caught a breath of wind for a sparkly sail to Pigeon Island and the Cousteau National Marine Park.  Before we had left Deshaises Brad had happened by another American cruising couple that were selling their boat, Brad inquired about their scuba equipment, and we found ourselves the proud new owners of some scuba gear complete with BCD’s, tanks, weights, and computers, for a song.  Just in time too as we were headed to Cousteaus’s marine park which is said to be one of his favorite places on earth.  With Twilight Rodeo behind us, we anchored and set out across the sound for the snorkel area with the kids.  It was like jumping into an aquarium.  After a little prodding (and a borrowed floaty from Twilight Rodeo) Chase and I set off at a pace a bit slower than Brad and Ella but the two families had a great time and we all crawled back into the dingy.  After dropping the kids back at the boat, we had an enlightened moment and thought we would all swap kids and have a “date dive.” So that is exactly what we did.  Elizabeth and David watched our kids while we took off with our new scuba gear (although mine was malfunctioning a little so I borrowed Elizabeth’s BCD) and Brad and I headed to depths I haven’t seen since diving in Thailand 9 years ago.  It was brilliant.  We came up with ear-to-ear grins.  Twilight Rodeo had some problems with one scuba tank not filled so we took the kids back to our boat so they could play together in the depths too.  They loved it, we loved it, the kids loved it.  We set a date to do it again the next day before taking off to the city of Basse Terre (on the southwestern coast of Guadaloupe).

Basse Terre is also the name of the capitol of Guadaloupe as well (not just that side of the archipelago).  We anchored there (after SEVERAL annoying attemps at anchoring) and got ready to check out of the country and say goodbye to Twilight Rodeo as they were picking up some family and exploring the island for a couple more weeks.  Before checking out, we had heard that there were some spectacular waterfalls that “you must not miss” called Chutes de Carbet.  Always ones to see and do anything that has to do with rivers, we happily set off on this adventure.  We wanted to get a little more of the culture and people of the island so instead of renting a car, we chose to jump on the local bus (and with lots of gesturing and apologizing) we found the one that was definitely going there so we hopped on and high-fived at what great travelers we were.  The bus dumped us on at the junction of two roads and the bus driver pointed to the sign that said “Chutes De Carbet” that way……We started up the road and after about 20 meters there was a little tiny side-of-the-road eatery.  Brad suggested we eat there and I protested as it was only 10:15, the waterfall is right there (we were told it was a 20 minute walk to them) and we will be back in time after working up an appetite.  After realizing that our snack situation was a little dismal, we decided we could eat before and after.  We sat down for the most amazing chicken sandwich I’ve had since we’ve been travelling.  It was incredible.  We gobbled it up, asked the Madam about how far to the waterfall and if there were taxis going often just in case we got tired of the walk.  We were assured there were definitely taxis.  Just stand there and one will be by.  After standing for about 20 minutes in the stifling sun (no wind since we are inland), I walked back down to the restaurant as it was in the middle of a banana plantation, and inquired about buying a stalk of bananas.  She laughed and told me I could have as many as I wanted.  I pointed to Chase and said he eats a lot!  She shrugged and pulled about 30 from behind the counter….free.  I said great, we will be back to get them after our walk.  She sun umbrella - islands stylesmiled and said no problem (I think as this whole thing was in French).  I went back to my spot and waited for some taxis.  Another sweltering 20 minutes and a man came by in a beat-up Toyota-type truck (French version whatever that is) and we climbed in back (including the kids!! Sorry mom;) and rode for what felt like forever.  We got to a little village where the man kept apologizing and saying he was going a different way from the waterfall at that point and couldn’t take us any farther.  We thanked him for his generosity and thought that they MUST be just around the corner.  Brad and I have always found, throughout all of our travels, that people exaggerate and most places that “there is no way you can walk there” is right around the corner and we barely, if at all, break a sweat getting to whatever place it is.  That includes being with the kids.  We set off up the road.  After 30 seconds of walking a women came to a screeching halt in front of us and implored us to stop and turn around.  “It is very far, no way can you make it, with kids too!! No Way Turn around GO BACK!!”  We smiled graciously, and knowingly, and continued on our path.  What insued was the biggest slog fest, parents-apologizing-and-promising-kids-whatever-they-want painful, cry-provoking (of both kids and adults).  Several cars went flying past us (no taxis mind you) most were full of people and therefore could not take a pooped family of four.  We kept going, and going and going.  It was brutal (and straight up).  Chase and Ella were near mutiny and if we weren’t being their mules, they probably would have caught whatever car was going the other way but since they were riding on our shoulders, they couldn’t flag anyone down.   5.5 km later we got to the top of a hill and a couple with an old landcruiser came up over the top and saw Chase laying across the road in determined protest.  They stopped and said our car is a mess in the back, no room.  We said we didn’t care and climbed in.  They asked where we had come from and we told them where we had left the bus.  With looks flying between the two of them, they got really quiet.  After another half of a mile, they turned around a round-a-bout and said there you go.. WHA????? Here is the entrance to the START of the walk to the waterfall…..I looked at Brad with a “let’s catch the first car leaving NOW!!) and he said we made it this far…we are seeing the waterfall.  Chase and Ella seemed doomed to their fate and with nary a complaint, they followed us down the trail to the falls.  It was very Rocky Mountain National Park-esque with lots of signs and perfectly built stairs until we arrived at the falls.  They were beautiful.  We took one more look and headed back down.

 

As we left the ranger station (the round-about where the other car let us go) we walked about .5 km and found a little vendor.  We asked about taxis back down and as her laughter bellowed down the lonely pavement behind us, we begin our 6 km walk (at approaching dusk) back down the mountain.  With kids on our shoulders we flung our thumbs in the air.  The first car couldn’t get by us fast enough, we had seen them walking to the falls (the ranger walk to the falls) and they weren’t very happy with us then so we were pretty sure they weren’t stopping.  The next car slowed down as they passed us and looked at both kids on the shoulders, mom and dad shot, I didn’t even turn around to check if they would stop.  They passed me and around the corner was Brad with an almost asleep Chase on his shoulders and they slowed to a stop on this 40 degree road.  They got out of the car and offered a ride, we poured ourselves into the car and Chase fell asleep on my lap before Giselle closed the door.   We met Cristor and Giselle (I think that was their names, I apologize if I remember wrong but I wanted to crawl into the back and fall asleep too).  They asked where we were going and I said the bus stop at the end.  Through Cristors amazing English and my tentative grasp on French we had a brilliant conversation with them.  The kids were snoring as were told them our tale and again, looks were exchanged in the front seat.  As we neared the main road (where the bus stop was, although we came out at a different spot so I couldn’t get my loot of bananas) I started, tiredly, to get up and wake up a drooling Chase.  Cristor looked at us and said you must put on your seatbelt for this part….WHA???  He explained that they were staying in Basse Terre (the last day of vacation before heading back to France) so they could take us all the way to the boat.  Brilliant, I wanted to cry, but I held it together and the fantastic conversation continued until we crawled out (poured ourselves out really) right in front of our dinghy and with several “Merci, Beaucoup” (thank you very much!!) and a Bonne Journe (good journey)…we said goodbye and they will forever remain in our hearts as the angels that rescued us from certain death.  If you two are reading this…Thank you again.  We arrived just before five on Rivers2Seas and toasted to good people, you don’t even know, that change your life.  The next morning, we pulled anchor and headed toward Les Isles Des Saintes (All Saintes Island).

on the way to All Saints island

 

 

 

 

One of those great things for us happened as we turned Rivers2Seas south, we started sailing – fast. The trade winds are rather constant winds coming out of the East going directly West. A sailboat can sail best when on a beam reach, the wind coming at it from 90 degrees. The windward and Leeward islands that make up the Eastern Caribbean form a nice curve mostly to the south all the way to South America. A nice beam reach, perfect. The islands are all close enough together that all sailing can be done during daylight hours and since we could go faster with such favorable winds, doing 75 miles in a day can be easy. Because we were no longer heading straight into the wind, Rivers2Seas settled down slowly bobbing through the waves. It almost felt like cheating. Almost. While sailing we could read books, the kids could play their imaginary games, and most importantly Turtle wouldn’t be seasick.
St. Kitts welcomed us with brightly painted homes and a giant cloud over the single mountain. A strong stone fort built in 1690 dominated our landing in the capital, Basse Terre. The history of wars, pirates and great battles is everywhere. The fact that most of these countries are run by different countries shows that nobody actually won. The poorness of the inhabitants shows that they probably all lost.
Checking into customs and immigration at the large port that is more used to the arrivals of cruise ships gave us a view into the city. Nice shops lined the cobbled streets with well-dressed shopkeepers inside. Turtle and I stumbled upon a young school class all in blue uniform talking about an old ships rusted helm wheel sticking out of the water. They stood on shore, we drove up close in the dinghy. We went back to the boat and picked up our girls for a day in town.
The stores are cool with the tourist things you find in these spots and more pirate mannequins than I have ever seen. A cold local beer in a sports bar informed us that Peyton Manning would be coming to the Broncos football team back in Colorado. Cool! Having our news satiated we headed for town. A cool sounding museum to Admiral Nelson beckoned us. Its’ displays, artwork and writing would have done any 6th grader proud. A great subject, cool artifacts and yet they still made it a poor museum. Trudging through some stone gates to the back of the museum brought us into the real city.
The first city was apparently built for the cruise lines and had guards along the stone walls keeping locals out and most of the cruise passengers inside. The difference couldn’t be more drastic. Tiny shops had smaller “shops” on the sidewalk no bigger than a small card table selling fruits, scissors and shavers – you name it. The streets were packed, people going everywhere, horns honking and the typical island people just sitting. We were on one of our usual hunts for a park to play in which we never found. A giant stone church gobbled up most the free land and had a pair of teenagers throwing a ball, but that was about all the “play” we could find. At the supermarket we passed on the packaged chicken feet and settled for some more mundane food like spaghetti.
Sailing for Nevis doing 8.4 knots for the 10-mile passage was as easy as picking up the free mooring ball when we arrived. On the other side of the wide miles long white beach was the Four Seasons Hotel. We invited some new friends on Twilight Rodeo to use our slide and play while the adults talked. Many of the people we have met on this trip mirror our thoughts. They started their own company twelve years ago, sold it and now wanted to travel with their kids while they could. We had a great evening, drank too much wine and stayed up too late. Fun.
The next day was spent at the beach seeing how high and far I could throw the kids. I call it my shotput workout. With one 40-pound kid in my palm I launch them high overhead as far and high as possible. They swim out and then beg for more. After 50 tosses each, I’m spent. A half hour later, the workout resumes.

Sailing at 8 knots for the 40-mile passage to Montserrat brought us to a marvelous little island. Instead of the usual cloud obscuring the peak of this volcano, it was being obscured by smoke, ash, and steam. The plume stretched far out to sea. It would turn out to be a great science lesson. This volcano is one of the most active in the world and has scientists monitoring its actions closely.
Hiring a taxi for the day to do a tour gave us some great history of the island. Our biggest desire was to see the volcano and shortly after our arrival at the volcano observatory, sirens started going off. It was ERUPTING! Rocks and ash flew skyward miles above the cone, ash drifted off to sea with the winds, boulders much bigger than homes tumbled down the sides, white steam escaped new vents and we gasped. “This is cool,” Chase exclaimed. It certainly is cool. The sirens were alerting residents that half the island was now off-limits as a large eruption was a distinct possibility. Heading inside the volcano observatory, a video informed us on some of the really big eruptions that changed this island so recently. The biggest was in 1995 and today’s was the biggest in the last few years. A great addition to our science class today was the kids feeling the volcano, smelling the sulfur gasses and seeing those rocks flying. A little hard for them to comprehend that the earth was exploding; a little hard to explain that we were safe, mostly.

Eruption!!!
For lunch we stopped at Apple Studios, where the Beatles taped the White Album. What a great place to record an album and why not? Secluded in paradise to let the creative juices flow. The kids didn’t understand about the Beatles and were more excited to see the gold record by Cheap Trick that was recorded there. Hmmm?
The rest of the tour showed us some of the housing now that the inhabitants moved from the lush volcano side to the arid windward side. The British government has spent a lot of money to help them relocate but the transition hasn’t been good for all of them. Money doesn’t make a garden grow where it shouldn’t.
Ella and I spent the early morning talking to fisherman, learning about fish traps, fishing and most importantly oars. An old local, Hap, taught us how to build an oar out of local woods, securing the blade to the shaft with stout wire. After his fishing outing, we towed him to shore with the dinghy and bought his oars for the collection.
Another quick sail brought us to Guadaloupe.