It was hard leaving Bonaire, especially since there were a few more things we could have done but mostly because two kid boats had turned up – Higgins a family of 5 with children pretty much the same age as ours in the same gender order, and a new friend kid boat called Bonaire. We are excited to have met Bonaire as they are going to the same sailing destinations as us!!!! Yay, they are the second kid boat we have met staying the cyclone season in Marquesas/ French Polynesia. The night before we left we had an impromptu gathering on Neverland that ended up in dinner for 14!!!! The kids had an absolute ball, especially Alex as the two boys on Bonaire are one year below and above him, he finally has friends that are rough and tumble like him. Though I must say I was pretty stoked to see the three boys pouring over a Captain Underpants book, laughing and obviously enjoying the book thinking it was a little naughty so making it all the more amusing. The kids were playing pirate dress ups with swords and light sabres, to swinging on halyards and climbing all over the boat, making up their own games to playing quietly in their cabins.
It was also a weird feeling as we knew we had a 5-6 day passage coming up (longest one yet). We arrived to Curacao after a 12 hour slow passage, re anchored and got Neverland to hold on the clay mud third time lucky, with a change of anchor spot. The following day we were off to complete our mission in Curacao, as this was a supplies stop for bottom paint and a sheave that was ordered a month ago and was needed to be collected. We started walking towards the main town and a big (home sized) public bus stopped (later we realized how lucky we were to happen to be at a bus stop at the correct time, as we later waited an hour for a bus home).
We weren’t going to check in to customs as we knew it was a mission with the customs and immigration other sides of the river and our plan was to stay only a short time. Markets lined the river front with so much fruit and veges, it was a sight to see especially after not seeing good quality fresh food since we started this trip. Though we had no time or bags to food shop. Off we trudged to customs in town which Stu had figured out with his previously downloaded google maps (good man), it took ages but we were all thankful to get there as the aircon was cool and Tarzan was playing on a TV in the waiting area, so stoked as usually the kids are bored and start playing up a bit in customs. Then off for the long hike to immigration, past some lovely well preserved heritage buildings on the river from brightly coloured pinks, yellows, blues etc, lined with a white border. Curacao is obviously famous for these heritage buildings as the souvenir shops were packed with mini replicas of them.
Over the floating movable walk bridge which is obviously an attraction as it motored (a motor room was at the end of the floating bridge allowing it to be motored from a perpendicular to parallel angle to the shoreline) when a large cargo ship came through the harbour. By the time we arrived at immigration we were exhausted but mostly really hot, the aircon was a welcome relief, we were feeling rather annoyed with the check in system they had set up with immigration and customs being so far away from each other. They obviously mostly cater for cruise ships as there were 2 that day. Poor Sienna was so hot and struggling a little to keep up, but to her credit she did it. I later realized she had a temperature, up to 39.5 C that night, man she’s a tough one. It’s always a worry when the kids get a temp especially with no obvious sign of the cause. I checked her ears and there were no other problems – Zika, Chikungunya are around these islands let alone Malaria. Thankfully her temps subsided in a few days with no other complaints.
We ended up hiring a car (with me driving again, cars drive on the right hand side here). We collected our 10 tins of bottom paint and the sheave still had not arrived. Stu is so used to the disorganization of these islands that it didn’t even phase him (I think it did me more so!).
We bumped into S/V Higgins again, they unfortunately had some trouble and grounded on a mud bank (so easily done in this murky water) on the way in, but reversed off it. There are problems with one of the engines from a long mooring line wrapping around it on a previous island, so unlucky.
We headed off to Aruba the next day and met up with Higgins that afternoon which was great and had dinner at a beachside bar. Stu needed Wi-Fi to send off his tax and get weather. The kids played in the water and later on iPads. They were all gleeful to have met up again with Higgins kids so soon. Thanks mum for the mother’s day reminder.
Passage Aruba to San Blas
Off we went after not quite knowing whether we should go or wait for more wind. The forecast showed 2 small lows (wind rotating anticlockwise) with no wind, so Stu and I assumed the mini lows would contain lightning and thunder clouds. Also I was apprehensive as there has been a lot of talk with other cruisers for the past few months about sailing past ‘windy point’ as we call it, which is the NW tip of Columbia. A friend of ours had 50 knot gusts. There is a strong wind against tide there which jacks the swells up, and it’s known for strong winds. Also it would about a 5 day passage, the longest we have done yet.
This is way up there on my “I can’t believe I did that” list, talk about a numpty! An hour into the passage Stu discovered the head hatch had been left open (accidentally by me) and sea water had been pouring in!!!! The toilet floor was in half a foot of water which had spilled over into the bilges which were almost full!!!!! ……Ok well maybe a tad of an exaggeration! We only found out as thankfully we heard the automatic bilges operating. I was feeling sea sick despite my magic pills, so although I was beating myself up Stu was a super star and de soaked and mopped it all up (such a blessing as having my head down a bilge would not helped my sea sickness any!) – what a man, he didn’t even complain, probably because he could see how upset I was. He assured me we would both do worse than this in the future, which helped.
It was sloppy, even though we were downwind we had a swell from the starboard aft quarter making it uncomfortable, Jake was feeling pretty yuck too. I could function this time but the exhaustion from tiredness was draining, though I have certainly felt worse. This was not such a great day for me, by the end of the day I had worked myself up worrying about pirates (as we were off Venezuela and then Columbia), I had been grumpy all day and feeling sea sick and then further worries entered like how am I going to do the Pacific which is 3 weeks at sea? It all seemed like a heavy cloud was over my head striking lightening bad thoughts into my head. At the end of the day I yelled at the kids (not really called for) and Jake even said why are you so Angry? Not cool on my behalf. Stu asked me if I was alright, I wasn’t, we had a conversation about my worries one being pirates and he reassured me the weather was bad and none would be venturing out this far in a little wooden dingy, which made total sense. I felt a little better and maybe I should have opened up earlier rather than just trying to deal with it myself.
So when everyone was in bed, I asked myself why am I so uptight and angry with zero tolerance today. I spent some time looking up a Joyce Meyer book I have (about the bible) and I realized that is what was missing, no time with God and letting it all get to me. I can’t do this on my own under my own steam and actions, I need God to protect us. I apologised to the kids the next morning and read to them the insights I discovered about God, Angels, speaking the word out loud and how Angels react to this and how bad tempers and complaining can be altered in your life. Stu was right onto this as he has been watching us complain and had been trying to change the mood by stopping the viral chain of winging catching from one to another. It was a great conversation and at least something good came out of this. I had a great night shift.
The next day was much better for us all, funny that when one is not so great especially the mum how it affects everyone, especially the kids. The kids actually did some homework as the swell angle had changed and was now on our stern making for a smoother trip much more enjoyed by us all, but especially Jake and I. I went to bed as was knackered and I said to the kids do some school you choose and much to my surprise they did. Spurred on by the promise of iPad points to be used after school. This is the latest tactic to entice them to do school. Jake and Alex made up their own game, it’s like chess meets Harry Potter but more complicated and I’m not sure that they know the rules or they just change them to suit themselves, which involves a lot of fighting during the playing of the game. It was much more peaceful when they were making it rather than playing!
The end of the second day at 2030 the kids were almost in bed (Sienna had passed out) and we heard an almighty crash and felt the boat shudder and another crash sound! Stu and I glanced at each other with alarm in our eyes and darted outside, scooping up the spot lights just in time to see a massive log go past our port stern.
Engines off and we drifted while we inspected for possible hull leaks.
No obvious external holes in hull…….tick.
Starboard engine still running smooth with no shudder…….tick.
Raised the daggerboard as it was down a little, it seemed to raise with no scrape sounds………tick.
Stu checked the bilges again numerous times and they were still dry, phew. We proceeded much slower (it was night time) at 4.5 knots, lowered the port daggerboard again enough to protect the propeller and rudder. The next morning, we turned the engines off and drifted while Stu jumped in (attached to a line in case of strong currents). The daggerboard is damaged with some fibreglass exposed and a vertical crack in it, it needs repair, lucky as the daggerboard saved the rudder and prop.
It was weird as it all seemed to happen at once, as we ran outside to check the crash noise the kids got distracted by an infestation of bugs!!!! Yes, flying bugs, around 15 dragonflies, and moths!! We were 50 nautical miles out to sea. So as Stu and I were sussing out any potential damage we were bombarded with statements and questions about the crash as well as the bugs flying around everywhere. I was busy trying to remove these critters from the saloon for hours, and wiping the marks off the roof from the moths’ wings. The current was coming from the mainland so we figured the log came from a river?? While this was happening we noticed numerous lightning strikes off our stern, a strike about every 15 secs, no thunder was heard and we guessed it to be about 24nm away according to the rain on radar. This was unnerving as we have not sailed with lightening before, Jake quickly popped all devices in the oven (to act as a faraday case) just in case.
As it turned out, we had lightening most nights. The closest we got was around 24nm away straight in front to our starboard. We monitored the 4 lightening rain cloud cells on radar and changed course. A tanker was waiting for work floating right where we wanted to head to, so it was great when dawn arrived and the lightening frequency reduced a lot so we could steer back on course. I was on the dawn watch and when first light appeared that we noticed loads of logs, sticks, rubbish and plant matter – the water looked dirty!! The kids and I were looking out for floating logs which I had to race back to the helm and hand steer around. We were 32 nm out to sea! That whole day either Stu or I were on log watch. After a while you got to know what the water looked like to expect floating logs, some were really big, we even saw a couple of trees with roots and part of the trunk. One spot was like we were in a dirty river, rubbish, old shoes, plant debris and sticks of tree trunks. I had to go on the front directing Stu between the sticks and logs. Very glad the whole day wasn’t like that, but I can tell you it was super-hot and long and boring (though got some alone time!) and I was worried about the kids as Stu was getting some much needed sleep (as he did a massive watch last night being kid kind to me). I couldn’t see the kids or hear them, but this was sorted a little while later. It was a little bit scary a times as a quick run to the helm with a last minute floating missile was required. The big ones we could see a long way off though.
Stu was just running around the boat exclaiming “I saw a Marlin jumping, I just saw a Marlin jumping!!!!! 6 times” super excited we all ran to the bow but no Marlin to be seen. We are around an hour out of San Blas now, it’s super-hot, really humid, around 50% Nimbostratus cloud cover (he he, are you impressed? I’m trying to learn about the clouds and associated weather), tempers are a little frayed due to the heat, lack of sleep and I suspect Harry Potter late viewing by the kids last night! The freezer has packed it in (no ice for water) but more importantly it is chockers with food for at least a month while we are here, the fresh food is almost gone so we rely on the freezer, hmmmmmm San Blas may have to be a shorter stop than predicted not good. It also costs a lot to fill it!
Last night was an awesome watch, I was so tired I had to hit the sack at 7pm. Woke up to more heat, usually it cools down a little at night and I wear a t-shirt rather than a bikini top like I do whilst sailing, but not last night. We were still on the look out for logs, though yesterday we only saw a few when we were opposite a river on the mainland when the currents were coming from the mainland. It was dark with moonrise at 0400, white sparkles were in the water on our bow wave, phosphorescence is so awesome. For the first time we tried a Twizzle! That’s where both the head sails are out with no main sail and going on almost a dead run downwind one sail is out on port side and the other is on starboard – pretty cool and surprisingly easy. Stu says Dave (from Oz with Lou) would have thought it very cool as he helped Stu with the set up. It sure was great to turn the motors off as we have had them on for 24hrs as no wind! We have never motored for so long.
We have been blessed with 2 pods of dolphins frolicking at the bow, a tuna day one to feed us for 2 nights, around 20 flying fish alive and dead on the boat, one flew just past Stu and almost hit him in the head!
Coming in I was at the bow on reef watch, as San Blas is known for inaccurate charts. Stu and I put the coordinates in the chart plotter so we followed them in. We came in slowly there is low water visibility as there was a lot of cloud cover, two low lying sandy coconut tree covered islands greeted us and the mainland covered in green and grey clouds. The air is thick with humidity and heat. We are here in San Blas, Panama….Yipeeee and yay. It feels surreal and to hard believe as we have been thinking and planning this trip for a long time.
Anchor down and Stu is in the water checking the full extent of the tree trunk damage. Rudder and prop ok. The daggerboard has a vertical split/crack with some wood embedded in it and a small chunk out exposing the fibreglass, this will need repairing before we cross the Pacific………eeeeek (but exciting)!
Thanks so much for reading, sorry we didn’t have many pics this time.