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!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bocas and the local islands - WOW!

  Whew! The crew of Windfall has been busy getting ready for Nancy's sister, Janet, and husband, Mike, to come aboard and spend a week here in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Chores have included slicing fresh sweet pineapples, and stocking the boat with all kinds of fresh veggies and goodies to enjoy.
Yummy fresh pineapple!
     Here at the dock is a group of volunteer's with FLOATING DOCTORS who volunteer their medical services to the local community and nearby islands. Nancy was asked to help with a project for an 5 year old girl with cerebral palsy who is blind and mute. The mother had asked for something to help shower her daughter. Soon the eager volunteers were on the dock measuring, cutting, and gluing a PVC frame for a waist high mesh top table.  Nancy sewed the mesh for the table and the next day went with the two other volunteers to take the table to the mother and daughter. I was going to put a picture of the little girl on this blog...I just couldn't, it really rips your heart out. But, the mother was very excited and happy for their "shower table" and couldn't thank them enough...Well done, everyone!

Wonderful volunteers of the Floating Doctors - Project nearly complete

      Mike and Janet arrived eager to see Bocas...after an hour in the warm sunshine I think they saw it all! Ha
    We were soon planning a 3 day sail & snorkel trip to Crawl Cay, Zapatilla Islands, and Bahia Azul.     
     Crawl Cay was great, we dropped anchor in a flat calm pool of blue-turquoise water. Coral and fish were spotted along with one lobster. Lots of snorkel boats come here filled with tourists thirsty for the warm water and cold beers at the nearby beach-side cafes.
     After a breakfast of Nancy's now famous "Banana Pancakes", we managed to motor all the way to the white sandy beaches of the Zapitilla Islands a mere 5 miles away. As you can see in the picture below...there were "horrible conditions" least for sailing that is!
Hey Mike! Are you having a good time? Just look at that water! WOW!   
     We dropped anchor for the afternoon in the crystal clear 20 foot depth and could see the anchor's chain leading all the way to the white sandy bottom. Sadly, Janet came with, or acquired, a stomach bug that kept with her the entire trip thus limiting her water activities and taste for local fares.
That's our NEW anchor buoy !
     The Zapatilla Islands are part of the beautiful Bastimentos National Park where $10 is required to visit for the day...and worth every penny! Snorkeling these two island paradises are exactly as wonderful as you can imagine. The turquoise blue Caribbean water was at a very comfortable 82 degrees, flat calm, light wind, and with enough sunshine to burn the Coppertone Baby! 
   Colorful coral reefs surround both Zapatilla islands. With many tropical fishes, sponges, and giant brain coral as big as a table, it's hard to decide where to go snorkel next!  
Giant Brain Coral

A colorful Bluehead Wrasse hiding among the coral

Whew! Another "rough anchorage" for the crew of Windfall (Bahia Azul)
     We sailed in light winds to Bahia Azul, or Laguna de Bluefield as shown on the charts. The bay is named after the Dutch pirate Blauvelt, who roamed these waters in the 17th century in search of booty...or maybe just looking for great place to snorkel! 
     A fisherman came along side and asked if we wanted to buy his 3 lobsters he had in his canoe. Sure! How much? "Ummmm, $1 each", he said shyly. Soon the dollar lobsters were aboard with promises of more to come tomorrow!
     We met Enrique while taking his boy to school in a canoe. Enrique is the Ngobe (pronounced "No-bee") chief of Punta Allegre (Happy Point). He offered to guide us to a nearby waterfall and to meet his family. Whew! We piled into Blondie (our dinghy) for a trip up the small creek lined with lush jungle vegetation. We docked and begin hiking the trail to the village.  It was a hike uphill then down to see the waterfall, but the views were wonderful and the water was clean, fresh, and cool as we stepped in. Ahhhhhh, that's nice! 
"Chef Enrique" showing us the trail from the dock to the village

Jungle explorers on the hunt for action and adventure

Path with Enrique leading us to the village

New construction...and what a VIEW! WOW! With a nice cool breeze to beat the heat
     Before leaving that afternoon, we watched as several 5-12 year old students canoed back home from school....curious, they turned toward Windfall. Nancy was ready with chocolate chip cookies for all. Let me just say here....wild dogs couldn't have got a cookie faster than those little hands!  "Whoa! Whoa! ONE cookie per student!"   Quickly, manners returned to the cockpit and smiles were on each child's face...with a few little cookie crumbs too. 
About 10 Ngobe students stopped by for chocolate chip cookies

     Sure to his word, our lobster buddy had nine more lobster for the crew of Windfall! Mike gave him $10, then another $5 as the "pescador" (fisherman) cleaned his catch for us...and we learned how to get a little more meat in the process! Yum! 
     He kept the heads and bodies, surely his family will be enjoying a nice lobster bisque for dinner that night...or just lobster soup I suppose.
     As we left the calm bay we were facing 22 knots of wind right on our nose (of course) and 3 foot waves from the open ocean. It made for a choppy ride till we passed into the lee of the Zapatilla islands on our return to Bocas five hours away. 
     With a call from our VHF radio, our friends were waiting at the dock to help catch Windfall's lines. Easy to dock with no wind, but we were a bit worried with 17 knot winds blowing as we entered the marina! Thankfully, the wind died as we entered the marina and a smooth docking was made...Thanks to our crew and helpful friends! (no boats were harmed during this docking)
      The next morning Rick and Sue (Moonshine), with Mike, Janet, Nancy, and I made a trip to the Oreba chocolate farm. First you start with a wild and fast water taxi ride to the mainland, then catch a van to the farm and then begin the hike to the top of the mountain where the Cacao (chocolate trees) grow.
Our water taxi had a Yamaha 200 horsepower motor...and USED IT ALL!

Totally organic and delicious chocolates are grown here!

Our guide showing various edible plants we will be eating with lunch later in the day.
Another path.....UP-hill............ALWAYS UP-hill !

Huff... Huff... Puff.........I think we lost the trail !
We spotted the elusive "Red Frog" in the jungle forest....pretty cool!

Yep! That's a chocolate pod with seeds...the white pulp tastes like melon. Yes, delicious like that too!

These are Nibs. The seeds after being  roasted in a pan over a open fire...the real way to make chocolate.

Nancy working the stone to grind the roasted seeds to make the "original" chocolate.... like they did 500 years ago!

Cocoa pods on the branch and ready for harvest.

First you ferment the seeds with banana leaves for eight days.....
...then you dry in a hot-house.... turning every half hour....for eight more days...

......Then you celebrate with delicious chocolates!

       We had a great time with Mike and Janet aboard and we are looking forward to more family and friends coming along on our next adventures. 
     We enjoyed a wonderful lobster dinner as a going away for Mike and Janet. Sam cooked the lobsters with butter and roasted garlic, Rick & Sue (Moonshine) brought along an awesome fried rice to go with Nancy's nearly-famous coleslaw salad and coconut macaroons were served for a sweet dessert.... YUM!!!

     Hey Nancy! Have you seen the chocolate we brought back from Oreba Chocolate Farm? What? I can't hear you with your mouth full of choco....HEY! SAVE ME SOME!!!
How do you end a great vacation? With a delicious lobster tail dinner with friends and family of course!
Thanks Mike & Janet!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

     We're back at Bocas del Toro Panama and back aboard Windfall!
     We took a deep breath, opened the hatches, and peaked inside to find the boat was in great shape. The dehumidifier worded wonders with not a bit of mold or mildew inside or anywhere we could find. (Whew!)
     The past few days have been filled with projects to ready Windfall for cruising and family visits  due soon....or as we say "Cheap Crew".
     Our trusty Honda 15 horse outboard was giving us a bit of problem with varnish in the carburetor - even though I ran the gas out of it 9 months ago. UHG! Doug (Aquadesiac) helped me tear the carburetor apart a few times, breaking a METRIC screw in the worst of places. I found "A guy" who had the specific screw we needed...3 screws for $5..a bargain when you have no choices. Finally, our trusty steeds roared to life, I felt like the doctor in Frankenstein..."IT'S ALIVE...IT'S ALIVE" !
Still bringing in more canvas to the cockpit !

This (dead) bug is about 4" long and found in the water by our neighbors boat - it eats're safe!
      We toured the local Smithsonian Institute Tropical Research Station and learned that, in fact, the sea levels may NOT be rising, but that the land may be SINKING! Tough to tell the difference when you're standing on sand. The scientists are now wondering if the monitoring stations are moving (sinking)...Hmmmm. If you're standing in mud is the earth growing around you???
2 or 3 toed Sloth just "hanging around"

Smithsonian Institute - Bocas del Toro

The dock at Smithsonian Institute -We spotted a small barracuda in the water here

For you surfers - nearby Red Frog beach at it's best for you!

Typical tourist wanting to buy everything she sees!

     We needed to do a little repair on our main sail, breaking out her repair kit filled with needles, tapes, special threads, and things I'm not sure of.  Nancy had to hand-stitched the repair - Nice job Nancy! Try sewing a full main sail in your cockpit sometime...not much room to move around in for sure! While she was in the sewing mood, she re-stitched our canvas as the sun had damaged the UV thread. Now, she's ready to re-work our main sail cover that's in need of some TLC.
    Plumbing....let me just say it took 3 days to install a new faucet in our back head. Yes, 3 days of total frustration, and I even came up with a whole new list of swear words to make up for it. (Sorry, Nancy). It's not like you go to Home Depot and get everything you need in one place, no you have to take your dinghy to a dock, walk about a mile, (not forgetting your list of things you need), try to find the right fitting (which they won't have), and then rework the whole plumbing design in your head while staring blankly at the wall. Once you've made your purchase, you have to pack your items back..stopping at the store to get a "few more" items from the that you're packing about 500 pounds of a "few more" items you have to get it into the dinghy, back to the marina, and back aboard. As you can see, life aboard isn't easy...but the rewards are well worth the trouble in the end.
     I bought fittings that didn't fit properly (China bastards), new hose clamps that failed (China bastards), and even a new hose that burst apart AFTER 1 day of being installed! Oh, plus the plastic fittings on the faucet itself broke - China bastards. Good thing we brought two faucets to install in both bathrooms. I've had it with ANYTHING made in China!!! Bastards! Now that the US has sent the manufacturing jobs to China we have only ourselves to blame for the cheap products.

     We've enjoyed several dinners and lunches at the local marina open-air restaurant....delicious foods prepared by local woman. The views overlook the anchorage on one side and the marina on the other....nice to say the least, to sip a cold beverage, and gaze across the views with a tropical breeze to help cool you. is good!
     March 13 - It's a SAD day aboard Windfall, we just ordered 250' new anchor chain and 7 HUGE boat batteries...Boy, this is going to cut into our "fun stuff" fund...but, it's necessary.  Nancy, Linda, and I went snorkeling yesterday...82 degree water...looking for the elusive Seahorses, but found none.
     We really enjoyed the swim after working sooooooo hard aboard (Insert your thought here: "You poor people, we really feel sorry for you!")

Saturday, March 9, 2013

CARNAVAL - A cruiser friend just had to kiss the trunk of the elephant

Nancy and I have had a great time since arriving in Panama City with our generous hosts Ron & Heather aboard Sun Dancer.  We spent the first few days provisioning Sun Dancer for our coming adventure(s). Not to be missed was of course……CARNAVAL in Panama City…the second largest in the world! Lets just say we enjoyed music…delicious foods…beers…uh, more beers…more music….uh, more beers… and more delicious foods! The sights were amazing, the parade floats were colorful and exciting, and the Panamanian people were friendly.
Sun Dancer at anchor - Panama City
Our first sail was to Isla Taboga (our favorite) and of course it’s CARNAVAL time on Taboga as well, which means LOTS of people on a little island and beaches. After a few warm days we set sail for the Las Perlas islands, 35 miles distant, and to some beautiful anchorages that the only word I can use is awesome. This is what cruising is all about, great friends, calm seas, and toasted drinks towards beautiful red sunsets and turquoise blue water.
 We spent a few days enjoying some of the many wonderful Las Perlas islands, ending with a dinghy trip to Isla San Telmo to see the “Explorer” submarine beached since 1865. While on the island four boys came along with a six foot long live iguana in hand…”Comida por la cena” (food for dinner). Well heck, as many of you know, nothing beats good fried iguana for dinner, I’ve even heard it called “Chicken of the Tree”! Hmmm, I wonder if they ever serve “Iguana wings” with BBQ sauce! I’ll check on that and get back with you…if you’re interested.
A new resort community is currently being built on Perlas Island...far from any population = $$$$$$$

Listen..... you can actually hear the warm breeze in the palm trees ......Ahhhhhhhh

The Original Take Home's "Chicken of the Trees!"  

San Telmo Island - The 1860 Submarine "Explorer"  - Nancy is ready for more explorations!

As we soon found, three other cruiser boats had heard, via the SSB radio morning check-ins, that Sun Dancer is heading to the Darien.  Sailboats “Iris”, “Gosling”, and “Rio Nimpkish” asked to tag along with Sun Dancer, as we have been there before and can lead the way. Sure! Come on along! We’re heading deep into the Darien jungle and further to our Wounaan friends village 7 ½ miles up the shallow mangrove lined Rio Sucio.

We approached Bahia San Miguel on the rising tide and entered the shallow Rio Sucio, closely watching the depth sounder as its alarm sounded warning after warning of shallow water.  With only two feet of water under Sun Dancer’s keel, we slipped into the deeper channel and safety of the river’s anchorage.  
We dropped anchor into the same secluded spot where just last year Windfall had set peacefully for our two separate trips to visit our Wounaan friend’s.
The next morning, we led the way as our little pack of dinghies raced up the river…well, ok, one dinghy only had a 5 Hp motor…so we plodded up the river. Along the way, Nancy and Ron spotted four Toucan birds in the trees above. Time for a photo shoot and chasing toucans along the river!
Sadly, progress has touched upon our loved village, we spotted logging activity near the village and a logging road passing next to the village. Recently, the Wounaans were granted land ownership and sadly a logging company came in with cash and equipment to buy the hardwood logs for a mere $40 per tree. That may sound like a lot for a tree, but take a look at the picture and tell me if you’d sell your forest of rare hardwoods for this low price each. But, on the positive side, there is now a dirt road leading to another village that has the PanAmerican Highway only 4 hours  away and Panama City at nearly 7-8 hours. 
Word travels fast that four “Yatees” are anchored in the lower river. One bota (a small fishing boat) came along side of “Iris” and asked, “Is Sam and Nancy here”? Yes, our friends said, they are at your village right now! And with that, the bota’s motor was at full throttle and racing toward the village.

Anchored safely in 15 feet water on the Rio Sucio - Darien Wilderness

Ron(Sun Dancer) and Janet (Iris) having a great time in Cana Blanca
Ya'll get ready for this!
Nice eh, Ron?
The church concrete project is now completed - thanks to "my" concrete crew! Very nice!                                                         The blue canvas background is a gift form last year

And you thought rice came in a bag...nope! It has to be pounded and sifted - The chickens know a free meal

Nancy with her Wounaan friend Coralia in the church

Explaining how to correctly apply creams and medicines-in Spanish!  (Nice job Nancy!)

Danielle gathering delicious fresh oranges for us to enjoy...and they ARE delicious!

Friends always.....
Chief Aladino with his aunt in traditional dress accepting our gifts

They sang for us, blessed us, and thanked God for our safe return to their village

No that's NOT a red head child! Whew! It's Sam with Daisy (Chief Aladino's wife) and their new daughter.

Ron with friends in the village

Chief Aladino, wife Daisy and family - Beatrix (in purple) is one of our favorites!

Ron and I had a great time as we explored the village and surrounding areas

Drying salted fish for the village

Daisy had made this beautiful little basket for Nancy's return (we said we would return and she knew we would) - it took 15 day's to make this basket for Nancy.

Sam met the government health worker - Said NO Malaria or Dengue Fever in this area for 30 years. Whew!

Sam catching fresh oranges tossed down from the tree

The children were waiting for Sam to return
Ok, so they were waiting for Nancy too!

Inside Chief Aladino's casa we look a photos from our last visit - they've kept all our photos

The children helped Sam read a children's Spanish!  -(Thanks Jorge for the Spanish lessons)
We were greeted by our Wounaan friends with the best reception one could ever ask…lots of smiles and waving hands. Of course, our “Yatee” friends were welcomed and greeted as friends and not simply as cruisers wondering around their village.  I did ask how many Yatees have visited Cana Blanca since last year… four boats came into the river but never made it to the village…so we were the only cruisers to visit the village for the last two years! Believe me, it’s not easy to find even when you know where you’re going!!
Upon arrival, I had to check my concrete floor project we poured in the church last year. I was surprised to see the concrete floor was finished and even the wooden stage was completed! The floor looked wonderful and my “crew” did a fantastic job of completing the project. I even found traces of a new concrete project for a community center – a large thatch open sided building for the community. The old adage to “teach a man to fish and he will feed his family” comes to mind. I was proud to have taught our friends a much needed new skill that will benefit the whole community.
With many gifts aboard, it's a slow 4 mile dinghy ride to our anxious friends

Wonderful gifts and donations from friends and family are MUCH appreciated by Cana Blanca freinds!

I can't see! I can't see! What's Nancy got ???

Baby toys and powered milk are always needed and much appreciated

"Captain Ron" putting on new strings on Evan's guitar....New strings makes a difference! (Thank you Ron for your help)
The next morning Nancy, Ron, and I returned to the village where our friends were waiting with the church open to accept our bags of gifts and wonderful donations from friends and family. Generous cash donations bought much needed seeds – Corn, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, watermelon, onions, and garlic. (The store in Panama City asked what commercial farm Nancy was buying all the seeds for).
After the items were passed out, music and song filled the church. The “Jefe” (Chief) asked for Ron, Nancy, and I to stand in a circle inside the church, soon we were surrounded by the entire village blessing us and thanking God for bringing us to them. Believe me, this was an honor and memory we will never forget.
Nancy brought a recipe for Banana Pancakes made with only one banana and two eggs…the Wounaan women loved the new tasty dish! Thank you, Rain (daughter-in law), for the recipe!  
With promises to revisit our Wounaan friends again next year, we set sail for the remote town of La Palma to restock some needed items…ok, beer and diet Cokes. We met up with our 3 other cruisers boats for a planned trip up the Rio Sabana – a river Nancy and I have never explored before and promised to be a true adventure visiting another Wounaan village 17 miles up the river.
Near La Palma - remains of an old Spanish fort to protect the gold from pirates!

Oh yes Senior, we have cock spurs for the Saturday night cock fights
I know you wanted to see the here ya go!

Navigating the shallow Rio Sabana 17 miles up river!

Janet can't make up her mind...the beauty and quality is just too good to choose!

Yes it's a real ..and they USE it - Stockade for your ankles made from HEAVY Cocobolo wood

The material for making those beautiful colorful baskets!

Here's the local store...or "Tienda"in Spanish

Now picture the boats leaning 25-30 degrees and sitting on the bottom! GULP!
We were lead to the community “center” where the village women laid out their baskets and carvings for display.   Deals were made and money exchanged with smiles all around.  Later in the evening everyone came aboard Sun Dancer for snacks and drinks. As the tide began to lower, questions and concerns were raised of how low the tide can become this far up the river…Hmmmmm.  Well, La Palma can have up to 20 foot tides… Hmmmmm.
Similar to the tide, the drinks continued to flow.  Hey look at that, we’ve only got 1 foot of water under the keel! Huh? Uh oh… a spotlight was cast downriver to the other boats…which were now happily leaning at 25 degrees and resting firmly on the river bottom.  Soon, Ron’s depth sounder read    -0.1” feet of water under the keel…we were sitting on the bottom as well. The decision was made to leave at the rising tide …which wouldn’t happen till midnight.
For our cruiser friends, leaving the “cookie” option turned to “ON” with your Chartplotter is a great option when going up a river you don’t know and have to exit in the dark of night. Spotlights were cast from each boat, lighting up the shore. Luckily, only Iris briefly ran aground as we were leaving and gently made its way to deeper water…Whew! (For legal purposes, “No boats were harmed during the making of this adventure”).
We anchored a few miles upriver from La Palma for the night, the next morning we motored to La  Palma to buy more beer and Diet Coke and enjoy having internet to connect with the “real world”.  I was reading a recent article about a 16’ Boa Constrictor….in the Darien…. swallowing a whole man! GULP! WE ARE IN THE DARIEN!! “Hey Nancy…..Nancy….now where’d that girl go”??
With no winds and very calm seas, Ron calculated we needed to leave La Palma at 5:30pm, motoring the 60+ miles to Mogo Mogo in the Las Perlas islands to arrive at 6am. .
We are currently anchored just off the beautiful island of Mogo Mogo… after a nice refreshing swim in the crystal clear 80 degree water, and now sipping on a cold drink…Life is good.
A very special “Thank You” to Ron and Heather for your wonderful friendship and generous hospitality while aboard Sun Dancer. We had a wonderful time… Thank You, thank you, thank you!
Cheers, everyone! 

Ohh...and WHILE we were in the Darien we seen this report.....WARNING FOR THE FAINT OF HEART OR PREGNANT WOMEN....DO NOT READ THIS ARTICLE BELOW!!!!

5 Meter Long Boa Constrictor Swallowed A Man Whole In The Darien

A huge boa constrictor that was more than 5 meters (16 feet) long swallowed a man whole. This incident - which has not been confirmed by the authorities - allegedly took place in the jungle community of Embera-Wounaan ethnicity, known as Sierpe, in the Darien province.
The incident was reported on 30 January this year, when natives of the community caught the reptile that was moulting or shedding its skin.
At the same time, when they saw the snake in the Darien jungle, they noticed that the lump inside of the snake was shaped like a human being.
The reptile was caught by hunters and taken to the community by more than a dozen men.
The snake measured the length of a "red devil" bus - those that are used in the capital.
When the huge reptile was cut open they found the body of a dark skinned man inside, which was already in an advanced state of decomposition.
All that happened to the amazement of those present.
In order to get to that community one must cross the Santa Barbara river.
After removing the body of the unidentified person, the tribal chiefs proceeded to perform a ritual for the soul of the body, which was later buried.
The community bears the name "Serpie" which in the Embera-Wounaan language means "Snake".
It was learned that when traveling to that place, between the trails in the jungle, one always encounters all kinds of snakes.
After the fact, the rumor about the unusual event ran for three days through all of the Darien communities, and only recently reached the ears of the officers of the State Border Service, a source revealed.
"Critica" tried to obtain an official statement from the Public Ministry from one of their prosecutors, however, it was reported that none of the offices held or file a report on the incident.
For his part, the director of the State Border Service, Frank Abrego said they have no report of that event, claiming the institution is responsible for issues and news related to the police, such as drug trafficking and countering narco-terrorist organizations. (Critica)

(Don't say I didn't warn you!)