Nancy and Sam welcome you aboard Windfall, our 1977 Maple Leaf sailboat. Windfall is a center cockpit design, 42' length, 13.5' wide, and 40,000 lbs of cruising fun!

On August 7th, 2010 we set sail on our "No Itinerary" world cruise and enjoying the "Cruising Life" very much! It's a wonderful adventure!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

We're on the Caribbean !

Windfall -  "Fendered-Up" ready for the transit
6am - Our Adviser comes aboard

Passing under the Bride of Americas - Here we go!

Wednesday May 16th4:45am - Awaiting the adviser to come to buoy #6 (entrance to the Panama Canal) to meet us aboard Windfall for our transit. The canal authorities tell everyone this time but the advisers usually get to boats at 6am the   We met our adviser, Edwin, who we found to be a wonderful guy and kept us smiling.
Our line handlers consisted of Nancy, Doug, Linda, with "Tucker the dog" (Aquadesiac), and Larry (Rocinante), they all wanted to get some canal “experience” before taking their boats through “The Ditch”.
Crew, Adviser, ...and Tucker
                Our first 3 lock passages had Windfall side-tied to a big Tugboat (easy), then the 40 mile trip across the “Cuts” and Gatun Lake to the Gatun Locks on the Caribbean side of Panama. We were waiting for two boats, a 70’ power boat and 72’ sailboat traveling together with young crew and coming from Mexico doing missionary work. The first two locks we were side-tied with the power boat tied along the wall, next was the 72’ sailboat side-tied to the powerboat, then Windfall side-tied to the 72’ sailboat. As the doors open for the next lock, we untie the boats and reposition inside the next lock. All was easy …that is…till we came to lock #3.
Captain and Admiral - Side-tied to Tugboat "Dolega"
Behind us was a PanaMax ship 660’ long and 106 wide…giving only 2 feet of clearance on each side of the ship to the canal walls. The ship began to move ahead before we (the three boats) were secured in the next chamber! Let me just say that when a HUGE ship moves inside the chamber, pushing a HUGE amount of water ahead, that water must go somewhere…and it did! We had a HUGE amount of water pushing us forward toward the lock doors and walls, and to make things worse…neither of the other boats were even tied to the wall or together…and Windfall had to wait while they fight the current and attempt to tie together before we could side-tie with them!
Windfall did TWO full 360 degree turns inside the chamber while waiting for the two boats to get secured and ready for us! For those who do not know the difficulty of handling a 42’ sailboat in tight quarters…this was DIFFICULT! Somehow we managed to keep Windfall out of Harms Way and only scraped our anchor along the canal wall once! GULP! It was a high stress moment for the Captain, Crew, and Adviser of Windfall.
THAT'S the giant that caused our problem!  Beware! Beware!
The Adviser didn’t have good things to say about the big ship’s Pilot who allowed the ship to enter the chamber before all three boats were secured, he added how some pilots properly wait for the boats to become secure then move the huge ship ahead…and others just don’t care about the small boats transiting the canal…as was the pilot of the huge ship behind us. This is where, and how, many boats transiting the canal become damaged, Windfall and the other two boats were lucky this time.
All smiles after TWO 360 degree spins inside the canal
After the excitement with Windfall safely secured to the other two boats, Nancy came back to the cockpit with tears in her eyes…tears of joy, relief, and very thankful Windfall and crew were now safe. I must admit, I too was nervous keeping Windfall off the canal walls, turning the wheel hard port and hard starboard with engine full forward then full reverse. Thank you Lord! We are safe!
We entered Shelter Bay Marina around 5:30pm as the crew quickly headed to the wonderful showers and pool awaiting our arrival. Nancy and I toasted Champagne in the cockpit, “To a safe arrival and wonderful Crew!” Thank you Doug, Linda, and Larry!
Windfall's 7,000 miles since leaving Portland set in the canal! 
After a wonderful dinner for the Windfall crew at the marina restaurant, and several well deserved drinks, we said good-bye to our crew heading back to Panama City via Roger the Taxi driver who we’ve used many times before.
A toast to the Crew and a safe transit - We made it!
The next morning we slept in till 8am...which for me (Sam) is very late! We had not been tied in a marina since El Salvador! After a few rolly nights at anchor in Panama being tied in a marina slip felt pretty good. 
We quickly checked-in with the marina and signed up for a van ride to Colon to check-in with the “Capitania de Puerto”. It was much like going to the local DMV…what should take 15 minutes took 2 ½ hours! “Keep smiling,” one woman told us, “I’ve been coming here 10 years and this is normal!” Sheesh!
Our next item on the list was a dehumidifier to leave inside Windfall at Bocas del Toro and leave it running for the 7 months while we are gone back to the USA. And of course…more food for our 4 day sail from Shelter Bay Marina to Bocas.
Nancy and I enjoyed cold beverages in the hot afternoon sun while in the wonderful swimming pool…Ahhhh, that is wonderful!!!
Aquadesiac is to transit the canal in few days. So while we waited, Nancy and I got out our bicycles and started riding around the area to see what is here. Shelter Bay Marina is built on the old US Fort Sherman area, complete with large buildings to house solders and many barracks, given to the Panamanian government as were many other US properties. From our bicycles we spotted Capuchin  Monkeys scampering in the tall trees high above, and we could hear Howler Monkeys in the distance. Whew! Time to head back to the pool!
Nancy and I rode our bikes around the area
Sunday afternoon May 20th - Aquadesiac entered Shelter Bay with overheated crew ready to check-out that pool and sample the many coldies served up in the bar.   
Monday May 21st  - We set our course the next morning for the Rio Chargres and Ft. San Lorenzo, a Spanish fort built in the 1600’s to protect the gold being brought down the Rio Chargres. Ahh, but where there’s gold there’s PIRATES!  Captain Morgan to be precise! Yes, the real Capt. Morgan!

Aquadesiac entering Rio Charges with Ft. San Lorenzo above

Fort San Lorenzo - Captured by Captain Morgan

The 400 year old Spanish fort San Lorenzo and some of it's cannons

  From high above on the cliff overlooking Lajas Reef, Morgan’s  men watched his ship ran aground and started to sink, and with three more ships racing closely behind they too ran upon Lajas Reef and began to sink.
San Lorenzo high above and Lajas Reef where Capt Morgan sank his ship and three others.
That had to be a bad day to stand high above and watch your Captain sink his ship below…along with three other ships as well! And, I’m sure per the Captain’s orders, not ONE WORD was spoke about “The Incident” among the men.
We just had to snorkel where Morgan lost four ships, but found nothing. Next time I’ll bring dive tanks and our underwater metal detector!
 Later that evening I toasted Captain Henry Morgan and crew with a Captain Morgan Rum and poured a bit of the Grog into the water! Kind of fitting don’t you think? 
Recently, National Geographic located the ships behind the reef and started a documentary about Captain Morgan. I was fortunate to actually meet the group who found the wrecks while I transited the canal with friends aboard Varuna last year.
Dude, where's your boat?
Tuesday May 22nd - We anchored at Euero, a remote beach about 45 miles from the Rio Chargres, not much here just a place to anchor for the night.
 Wednesday May 23rd - Set our course for the island Escudo de Veraguas said to be one of the most scenic of all Panama…Well, we’ll just see about that! It will be hard to beat the Las Perlas Islands on the Pacific side! But, I must say, the water on the Caribbean side a very beautiful sapphire blue color that really can’t be described with words.
Welcome to Isla Escudo de Varaguas!
As I’m writing this, 16.6 nautical miles from the Isla Veraguas, I can see coconut trees lining the horizon of the blue-blue water ahead….I’m starting to believe the island’s scenic beauty may be true.
This is our second BEST snorkeling area! VERY COOL!
The island is beautiful with its coconut lined white sandy beaches making an amazing contrast with the blue sapphire Caribbean water. Amazing to say the least! Along the beach are five or six abandoned thatch huts once used by local fishermen that add charm to the island. One hut even has a hand carved dugout canoe resting beside as if ready for fishermen to take out beyond the beach and begin tossing hand nets.
Just look at that water!
As Windfall found the perfect sandy spot to settle in for a couple days, Nancy watched our anchor gently touch the sandy bottom 25’ below in the clear blue Caribbean water. It wasn’t long before we were in the 85° water; time to get the scuba tank out and clean the boat bottom and propeller. As I scrapped the barnacles from the hull, I watched as each fell like feathers to the sandy bottom 25 feet below, the water is so clear it can only be described as swimming in a wonderful aquarium. 
It wasn’t long after we finished cleaning the hull Doug and Linda come over to enjoy the evening sunset, sipping coldies in the cockpit, and gazing upon that bright Caribbean sun sinking into the gorgeous blue horizon. No “Green Flash” at tonight’s sunset…buy we’ll keep watching. At certain times, when the sun is at the very last point to fall into the Caribbean water, it’s rumored there is a very quick green flash of light, this is our new quest….To seek out and find new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone…no wait a minute…that’s not it. Oh here, here it is: “To see the infamous “Green Flash” somewhere along our Journeys.”

Thursday May 24th – Or “Black Thursday” as I call it, I’ve turned 52 today. Oh well, it’s really just another day in Paradise. We enjoyed the day snorkeling and diving; Doug and I did two dives where we seen barracuda, sting rays, lobsters, and assorted brightly colorful fish swimming around us without care.  We snorkeled one area with the girls that we voted as the second best spot we’ve EVER snorkeled (Isla Islotes, Mexcio being #1). This area of the island was so fun and even had a cave that we snorkeled through that went from one beach and come out at another beach…it was very cool! WOW! We MUST come back and spend several days just exploring, snorkeling, and diving the entire island.  
Nancy made a delicious birthday cake for me and we celebrated with a wonderful dinner under the stars shared with good friends and the tropic warmth.

Friday   May 25thBOCAS DEL TORO - As we passed the colorful small town of Bocas, we called on the VHF for directions to enter Bocas Marina. Chuck, the marina manager, told me it was “low tide” and will be a “little shallow” in one spot…But there would be enough depth to make it in…I watched as we inched Windfall across the entrance and the sonar reading 6 feet…5….4….3….2….then 6 feet GULP!! I’m sure Nancy and I both lifted our feet as Windfall crossed at the shallowest reading! WHEW! We’re used to the Pacific’s 20 foot tides, but here in the Caribbean 18 INCHES is the maximum tide! This will take a little getting used to being comfortable with.
We made it to Bocas del Toro! Whew!

Busy "downtown" Bocas"
Bocas Marina is a great little place to leave Windfall for our months away, secure, very low key, friendly, and safe from any hurricanes. We already plan to spend much more time here when we return.
Windfall's view at the slip...nice!!
 With dry throats, and a friendly cruiser’s bar next door, we ordered coldies to quench our thirst. We were in luck as later that evening there will be a live band and a celebration for the marina secretary retiring and going back to her home in South Africa. We had a great time, but were also tired from our passage and really not eager to preparing Windfall for our necessary time away.
Nancy called friends, Dave and Cristy, who lived in Portland and have lived in Bocas for the last three years. Dave said he’d come over and “show us the town”. Bocas must have a lot to offer if they’ve been here for 3 years and not ready to leave yet! The town’s building are very colorful painted bright yellows, turquoise, peach, and purples. Bocas, built in the banana  like a colorful town written from a Hemingway novel… ….I know Jimmy Buffet has been here,  I’ll check if “Papa” has been here too.
Local boys in their dugout
As we cleaned Blondie (the dinghy) we spotted a few young boys playing catch with a baseball but they only had one mit. I asked if they like baseball, "Yes!" was the reply. I returned from Windfall with my old baseball mit and three new baseballs! The smiles were priceless. Later the boys were swimming near the dinghy, Nancy and I knew what to look for in Bocas the next day and give to the boys...swim masks and snorkels. The next day the boys paddled to Windfall and we  gave thema new baseball bat...and then presented new swim masks with snorkels!  Oh! The boys were excited to test the masks and play some ball later!
 Windfall is now secured and ready for our trip to the USA. We love the Bocas area and plan to stay around there when we return January. It's hard to leave our Windfall, but the crew at Bocas Marina is very talented and will take good care of her while we're gone.

Colorful hotel in Bocas