Isla Taboga, Panama

Saturday November 1, 2008

With new anchor and chain scattered all over the deck in a somewhatly organized fashion, we decided to upanchor and head over to Taboga Island, just 7 miles offshore and see if we could put some order in the camp. The holding over there is more sand than mud so we figured it would be easier to work over there. We upanchored which took us half an hour of cleaning the first 25 feet of chain from the already two-inch long growth clinging to it, then the last 50 feet from a four-inch circumfrence of the stickiest gooiest mud you´ve ever seen. We guess a better description would be industrial sludge. Michelle thanked every supreme being that ever has been listed in literature that we installed the washdown pump on the deck which made things at least a bit easier. Most people try to clean up that mess with a bucket of water and a scrub brush. UGH!

Finally underway we decided to pass by the latest addition to the anchorage, a replica of sailing ship, The Bounty. You can see her entire story here so I won´t go through it all. Suffice it to say she looks like a grand old dame and it was fun to circle around her a few times snapping photos.

The Bounty

We bobbed our way over to Taboga in very little wind and dropped the anchor in a picturesque little bay already home to a handful of other yachts. The depth - 50 feet minimum. That made for interesting anchoring considering the old chain was still fed through the windlass so we had to lower it all by hand in sections which had been snubbed off with a safety line so that we didn´t lose a few hundred feet overboard in one huge rush. Of course now the wind had risen just to further complicate matters but all went smoothly, the new anchor grabbing very quickly and we were able to slowly lower a 200 foot of chain into the water in 40 foot sections in a very controlled manner. We attached the snubber, set the chain stopper in place and tied off the other 200 feet of chain in various spots as a safety measure until we could get it stowed downstairs in the chain locker properly. So now we have our 66lb Bruce Anchor still sitting on the bow tied off so it won´t fall overboard which needs to be manhandled back up over the railing and onto the deck. Then the rusty old chain in the chain locker below deck needs to be fed out and dealt with. Then the new chain fed through the windlass and into the chainlocker. This would occupy the next 4 days of our lives, with rust flakes and mess going in all directions. We still have stains on deck for the rusty chain which sat on the paintwork for just 24 hours. Robin chopped a section out of our old chain which was irredeemable. We reorganized the chain locker, found a spot to safely stow the Bruce Anchor which we will keep for now, and 250 of the 375 feet of our old chain which we will keep also as backup in case something unforseen happens.

Wednesday November 5, 2008

We have been here in the anchorage at Taboga and still haven´t been ashore so today we decided to take some time out and have a bit of RnR for a couple of hours. Taboga is a pretty island with flowering plants everywhere. It was only after we´d been ashore that someone mentioned it was also known as the Island of Flowers. It is a really laid back little island with not too much happening, brightly painted houses, a few scattered restaurants, shrines on every other corner, a well used couple of beach areas and is mainly a day trip escape from Panama City for the locals. We found the graveyard which for some reason we always seem to find in whatever place we are in and in a bazarre and probably macabre kind of way, enjoy. It was a very pleasant couple of hours spent ashore. Ok now we could get back to work!

Snapshots of Taboga Island, Republic of Panama

La Plaita Anchorage, Panama City

Thursday November 6, 2008

We lifted the hook which we have to admit looks a fierce weapon, and headed back to the mainland this morning. Sadly we didn´t make it back before the daily rainstorm which was so heavy we could hardly see 20 feet in any direction. Instead of heading back around the other side of the causeway we decided to drop the hook in the anchorage on the canal side. We were the only boat in the anchorage as everyone anchors on the other side during the rainy season due to the southerly swells which make things uncomfortable. We figured the season has to be almost over and can put up with a few days of discomfort if we have to and thus not have to shift the boat again. It turned out to be a pretty good anchorage swell wise. The work boats heading in and out of the small marina on this side make for some interesting wake action but it´s doable. The dinghy ride definitely makes up for the discomfort. No more 2 mile trip to get to a dock to beg to be let out of the gate like a monkey in a cage only to have to then head to the office to pay five dollars and twenty five cents for the priviledge. Sometimes I´d really like to smack the security guards upside the head as they stand there talking, some rudely turning their backs and making everyone wait, however we smile patiently and greet them ever so sweetly. Michelle cracked a molar the other day probably from grinding her teeth in frustration. Anyway we still have to pay five dollars and twenty five cents to dock the dinghy but now we don´t have to beg to be let out of a security gate. And the usual into the wind return trip of an afternoon on the other side has now become a lovely downwind trip back to the boat of only 1/4 mile distance.

We headed over to the yacht club this afternoon around 3pm for the afternoon jam session and Michelle did five songs which brought the house down. She has been doing a wee bit of practice on the guitar as well so that she can finally learn to accompany herself but with limited time it´s a slow process, or at least slower than she´d like. In the meantime she is usually accompanied by Joe from Ora or Phil from Sisutl.

Thursday November 13, 2008

I have no idea what we´ve done the last week it seems to have disappeared so fast. Wait let´s see. The dinghy has been patched a number of times. We even made a new piece out of hypalon which holds the seat, Robin cutting it out and gluing it together, Michelle sewing various bits which needed extra reinforcement. If they weren´t so fiddly to make we could go into business as it really did look quite professional when it was done. Michelle has done various bits of shopping which entails hours of time, bought some more sunbrella to make a raincatcher for the bow section of the boat and which will be used while we are sailing as our big canopy obviously can´t stay erected. Robin also finally finished the last gutter on the big canopy which aids in feeding water directly into our water tanks. It was the last one he had left to do. The whole system works very well although we are looking more and more like sea gypsies every day. We have bought some scuba tanks finally and Robin has had them hydroed and filled and tested. Everyday since we´ve been here a few more boats have joined us in the anchorage. It´s becoming quite a busy little community with everyone working feverishly on their projects. Over half of us are heading out across the Pacific come the New Year so it really is a hive of activity. We have met another couple from Tassie, Joe and Adrienne on Ora and as they are fairly new to cruising having bought their boat here in Panama we´ve all been helping them get settled in to the cruising life.

Monday 4 of us girls off various boats rented a taxi van and hit the leather shop, the fabric shop, a hardware store, a stationers, and finally pricemart which is a bulk buying grocery store. You´d think a couple of hours for all this. No..... five hours later we finally made it back to the boats. The shopping was done in record time, the traffic congestion was another matter. It took hours and hours just to drive around. We arrived back at the boats and all 4 of us about died with exhaustion. It was hilarious having 4 husbands arrive at the dock to see all the goods we´d purchased. They all just shook their heads in wonder that 4 women could actually leave something in the stores for someone else to buy. Rolls of fabric of course take up a lot of room!

Anyway I digress. Today was jam session day again at the Balboa Yacht club so the crews of Stravaig, Tao 8, Ora, Sisiutl, headed over from La Plaita anchorage. The incredible part about that was each of the boats had a musician, Jeff, Joe and Phil all being very good guitarists, Michelle of course being the singer so the afternoon was a lot of fun. Mita Kuuluu who had helped us across the sand bar back in El Salvador last March had also rolled into town and Bill is an excellent Flamenco Guitarist in addition to Jazz and Blues and he was a massive hit with the yachties. Michelle even broke out a few songs on the guitar. Wonders will never cease.

Some of Thursday´s Jam Session lineup

Wednesday November 19, 2008

Robin has spent the last three weeks trying to organize an order of goods to be sent via Marine Warehouse in the States to Panama. We need amongst other things Toluene, a special solvent for repairing the dinghy which we have run out of and can´t replace here in Pamana City. Between holidays in Panama, the lack of response to his emails, the having to get over to the Marine Warehouse representative here by foot, who promises profusely to have an answer for him tomorrow and of course which subsequently never arrives, he´s almost a raving lunatic. Selling one husband, special discount - any takers? We have done a few more chores and created a put a few more on the todo list so I´m not sure we´ve gained any ground. Then again Michelle keeps telling Robin that in spite of having a todo list the length of your arm, she´s certain the boat would happily sail us across to Australia and laugh at our anxiety to have everything perfect. Sometimes one can get a little to anal over these things.

Sunday night we had a nice break, attending a party for a few hours over on Stravaig. They will be leaving us soon to head into the Carribbean and they will be sadly missed. Jeff, an Englishman is such a ball of fun, an incredible endless source of information, his knowledge of the sailing world truly profound and we have thoroughly been spoilt by his acquaintance and his willingness to share his experiences with us. Jose, his wife who is Dutch is such a delight I can´t imagine ever meeting a nicer person. In fact we doubt it´s possible.

Thursday November 27, 2008

Happy Gobble Day to all those from the US of A. We had 20 people over on Warrior today for Thanksgiving. We are asked if we could be host to a party as we had the most deckspace. As it turned out the weather was fairly inclement and probably no other boat in our anchorage at the time could have kept everyone dry. Cramming 20 people below decks is almost impossible for sailboats. Everyone bought something, and we ended up with a fantastic array of food, from Turkey to great salads, vegetable dishes, stuffing, puddings, even cranberry sauce. Melissa off Sisiutl had to take the prize for both her contribution of gourmet restaurant quality food and for the most consumed. We are all still trying to puzzle where she put it all. We had a great day which started around 2:30pm and we finally managed to kick the stragglers out around 11:30pm.

Thanksgiving 2008

Friday November 28, 2008

We woke this morning to a very overcast sky, a drizzle of rain but nothing too ominous from any other day. We were both fairly tired after yesterday´s celebration but a couple of boats were heading into the city and so Michelle finally capitulated and said she would share the taxi with them as we needed a few things for the weekend. By the time she´d made it back to La Playita the wind and waves had steadily increased and Robin was just starting to get things organized on the boat. The waves from a south-westerly swell were really starting to toss the boats around but we were fairly sheltered from the wind which had increased to 20knots. We managed after about three minutes of watching the wave action to toss Michelle aboard with not too many bruises. Robin took the dinghy around the port side and just as he grabbed hold of the lifeline a big roller came on through and the lifeline snapped in his hand. We are so thankful for the stainless steel top rail. We eventually got the dinghy tied off and Robin aboard and scrambled to get the front canopy down so we could get the dinghy onboard. Both those jobs achieved we took a short breather then noticed the wind kick up another notch and decided the main canopy had best come down as well. The wind was still coming out of the east at this stage, and the VHF was keeping us informed of the chaos reigning supreme over in the Flameno anchorage as they were taking the full brunt of the storm. Four boats dragged, one onto the rocks and brave young Josh off Tropical Isle managed to scramble ashore, jump in a taxi, drive down the causeway, jump down the rocks onto yacht and salvage it off the rocks. He´s an amazing kid and it´s not the first time he´s managed to save dragging boats.

Taking down the last canopy

We sat pretty tight and solid until around 5pm when we noticed the wind slowly start to clock around to the southeast and new if it kept coming, which it was more than likely to do, we were now the ones to be on a leeshore with both wind and swell to deal with. The swell was now 5 to 6 feet and not pretty. Just on dusk the wind had started to slip past our shelter and we began to feel the full blast of the storm. Everyone in the anchorage was on anchor watch. First casualty was Walrus´s dinghy which Larry from Tao 8 managed to rescue with great difficulty. Then around 8pm Walrus started to drag. We yelled at him over the VHF, blasted airhorns, conch horns, yelled, screamed and nothing seemed to get his attention. Robin felt sick at the though of the rocks just a boat length away and so went downstairs. Just as he did, Mike came on deck and began what would become a long drawn out fight to save his boat. He did eventually manage to get his boat reanchored only to drag yet again and yet again and finally around 2:30am when the wind had clocked around to the west of south, he escaped around to the Flamenco Anchorage. September a tiny catamaran was the next to go as they were now right on top of two other boats. Carina dragged but their anchor managed to reset but they were now very close to Ora. Then the wind clocked to West and now we were directly in front of Ora who had anchored way to close to us in the first place. We sat out in the cockpit, in the stinging driving rain, praying we wouldn´t drag. Ora is a big steel boat with an enormous bowsprit, not something you want to be hit with. All the boats were pitching up and down, but tiny little Carina was probably the worst. At one point they came up out of the water about 8feet and a sudden gust blew them sideways. Their chain rode came out of the water 30 feet and at that point if their anchor had let go they would have been on the rocks. It was probably the scariest moment of the entire night. Then finally around around 3:30am our snubber wore through and we went hurtling backwards towards Ora by 12 feet, the length of our chain loop on our snubber, but in those conditions it was way too close. Now their chain was starting to ride up under our rudder and we knew we had to get out of their before some serious damage happened.

Michelle ran up to the bow to deal with the anchor while Robin started to drive foreward, trying to maintain some sort of control. At first we hadn´t realized it was our snubber that had broken and had just presumed we´d dragged. But on bringing the chain Michelle quickly realized what had happened and set to work trying to untangle what looked like an Octopus on LSD. Bringing the anchor up was as bad as we thought it would be, a difficult situation made worse by the pitching of the boat into the swell which can easily snap an anchor chain if you don´t time it right. However all went well, Michelle paying chain out and in as she watched the waves, and finally the anchor let go and we were off out of the anchorage. It was rough going with crazy confused seas outside the tiny cove we had been in but once around to Flamenco, we were out of the swell and at least the seas were calm if not the wind. We would find out the next day that it was a nasty little low pressure system that sat stationary over Colón. Thus ended another rather eventful day.

Stravaig and Tao 8 Ora Shandrika
Walrus Hiatus Stargap
A few snaps of other boats in the anchorage