Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Thanks everyone for your thoughtfulness and messages of support.

The last week and a half has been a bit surreal, finding ourselves adrift for 36 hours and finally rescue on the high seas of Panama, (way too close to Columbian waters), a tow to safe harbour (a sportsfishing paradise in the jungle at Bahia Pinas), 200 mile sail over the course of 3 days to get back to Panama. Not at all what we had planned!

Bristol Rose will be hauled out tomorrow and we will be able to see the full extent of the damage to prop and rudder.

WiFi connection has been difficult if not impossible over the past couple of weeks. I'll get some images up sooner or later.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Almost, but not quite.

Last Saturday we left Las Perlas early in the morning for the Galapagos. One week later, we're backtracking to Panama City, just 10 miles to go, as the crows fly.
Our friends on Eowyn should be in the Galapagos in the morning. We wish all the World ARC fleet a safe passage.
Conditions yesterday started off well as we sailed north. Winds increased over the day, again right on the nose so we tacked all day. The past two days have been uncomfortable sailing and we're tired. We were pleased to drop the anchor at Isla Contadora in Las Perlas just as the sun was setting.
Knowing that the winds were forecast to drop during today, we made an early start this morning and have sailed well with a more comfortable angle on the wind than the past 2 days. At 3:30PM Panama City is in our sights, the sea is now glass and the wind just a whisper. We are crawling our way to the anchorage outside Flamenco Marina.
At this stage we still don't have confirmation of a haul out date despite best efforts by friends on our behalf. While Panama has a huge number of sports fishing boats and businesses, our experience has been that facilities and spare parts for sail boats are very limited. Despite going all over town last time, we had no success buying a common diesel pump impeller. Sure, expertise exits but they just don't carry the brands common to sailboats. Some sailors find it easier to fly home to the States to get the parts they need. We can't predict how long the repairs we need will take. The max prop is damaged, prop shaft appears to be bent, autopilot not working and we will see the condition of the rudder when we haul out.
Having seen the AIS signal, we've been able to make contact by radio with friends on Spectra and Jackster. They've literally just now anchored off Flamenco after completing their transit of the Panama Canal. Inspiration Lady is there too and Emily Grace is moored at Balboa YC. It's good to know friends are standing by in case we need their help to get in.
As I write, the wind and seas have picked up again, on the nose, from the north west 25 knots and gusting to 30. We've sailed (and involuntarily drifted) plenty of miles over this body of water, the Gulf of Panama. The trip odometer on our return to Panama City from Bahia Pinas shows almost 200 miles. Almost there, but not quite, we're hoping to be anchored by nightfall and looking forward to reunions with cruising mates. For now, we're tacking our way back.

Sailing back into the haze and hassles of boat work in Panama

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Oh Panama Part III

Panama, this is insane!
Have you ever seen a cruising boat without a list of things to do? Although some of the items on our to do list could not be done in Panama City, we've been able to put them aside for now and enjoy the time in Las Perlas. The islands have far exceeded our expectations.
We are currently in Isla Del Rey anchored off a black sand beach in Concholon Bay. The bay is lined with mango and coconut trees, Bristol Rose is the only boat at anchor.
Earlier this afternoon we stopped in at Esmeralda Village on the way from Rio Cacique. A man and a couple of young boys came out in a small dugout canoe to greet us. Before we had a chance to hand them a bailing bucket their little canoe filled with water and tipped. There was no great drama, Elliot came to the rescue with our dinghy and a bucket and we all shared a laugh.
We asked if it was ok to anchor and we were invited to come ashore to see some pearls (very tiny). Our purchase of some papayas and bananas and a dozen eggs went very easily with the help of a young man named Alexander, who is keen to practice his English. Alexander escorted us on an impromptu tour of his small town, introducing us to his family, pointing out the school, the cockfighting arena, the town park (a raised square with a large mango tree encircled by benches), the supermarket and the cantina. Although everyone we meet is genuinely friendly and welcoming, we can't stay long. We need to get to our anchorage before dark. A crowd of young children run to the beach to help us into the dinghy and say goodbye.
On the way around the spectacular southern end of Isla Del Rey we put out a lure to try our luck. It was lost within minutes. We re-attached another lure in time to catch a 20lb jack. Elliot quickly puts the line out again just as we turned to our anchorage for the night. This time it's a Mahi Mahi, just in time for dinner with more than enough for the five of us.
After dinner, using cut bait, we tried our luck over the side of Bristol Rose. In no time at all we have a 5lb Schoolmaster Snapper. This one we'll cook whole as our trusty guide to fishes tells us they're excellent eating. This is not insane, it's incredible!
What a day, once again Panama, the people, the beautiful islands, the abundance of aquatic life, all have surprised us.
Posted via SSB Radio.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Oh Panama Part II

What have you done!
First you showed us Kuna Yala, surely the most picture perfect of tropical islands. Spectacular!
Now we are in the Las Perlas archipelago on the Pacific side of Panama. The Las Perlas islands are different from Kuna Yala in the same way that the Pacific is different from the Caribbean, however equally as beautiful.
On the way, barely out of the anchorage and across the channel that is part of the Panama Canal, we hook a beautiful 20lb Mahi Mahi.
The water compared to the Caribbean has a green tinge and is not so clear; cooler but teaming with sea life; fish are larger and not so easily spooked, white sand beaches with dense tropical dry forests; there's a richness here of flora and fauna. Many birds live on the islands and work the waters morning and afternoon. We now see 15 ft tides! Now, that is different when it comes to navigation, anchoring or leaving the dinghy on the beach.
Anchorages are gentle with no roll, and they're not crowded. So far we have shared our overnight anchorages with only one other boat. Sports fishing boats come and go but don't stay over night.
When we awake to the sounds of the birds diving for fish and the sight of huge boulders scattered about, we have a brief thought that we are anchored in Penobscot Bay off the coast of Maine, that is before we look to another shore to see white sand beaches and palm trees.
Panama, you surprise us at every turn. What a perfect start to our Pacific crossing!
(posted by SSB radio, pictures will be uploaded when wifi is available, maybe in the Galapagos)

Mucho Molas of Kuna Yala

Think Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands and you are thinking Molas! No visit to Kuna Yala is complete without a mola shopping experience. Some of the Bristol Rose crew got more involved in mola shopping than others.

Traditional mola designs are very geometric with themes of animals, ceremonies, nature.

Children often come along for the ride as mother or grandmother show their work for sale.

Sales made, time to sail to the next boat or island.

We all enjoyed the mola experience as various Kunas visited us in their dug out canoes while we were at anchor.

Vernancio, much more than a traveling salesperson

When we thought we had purchased enough molas (if that is ever possible) we received a visit from Venancio. We are very glad we did not turn him away, he has quite the reputation for creating very fine molas.

Venancio's molas are impossible to resist, so I didn't!

Master mola artist Venancio Restrepo shows his business card and descriptions of his work in a publication about Molas.

Taking an educational approach to his salesmanship, Venancio shows how to recognize the work of the masters. Molas by Venancio and Lisa (whom we did not get a chance to meet) are said to be the finest currently available.

Venancio makes perfect matches of thread to fabric. Here he also shows that his stitching is extremely straight, with each stitch carefully mastered and accurately counted for perfect symmetry.

Layer upon layer of fabric, expertly cut and stitched to reveal more colors beneath.

Sea themes are popular in molas.

Venancio stitches his name into his molas.

Two-toned molas are less common but often more striking.

This Kuna home displays a number of applique molas of modern or non-traditional design.

As the book says, "There are also subjects resulting from acculturation that are often amusing and interesting....". This mola is quite a departure from the traditional in theme yet displays some very fine stitching. Maybe not to every taste but still, quite, umm, interesting.

Maybe not a masterpiece, one of my first purchases, just because I like the flow of the design.

I couldn't resist buying a traditional blouse from this young mola maker.

"Photo, $1"

Mola designs are plentiful, that's what makes them so interesting to look at. You know that you'll always see something new and surprising among the many mola artists of Kuna Yala. For much more information on the San Blas and Panama, see Owen's Ancestral Skills blog.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Dog gone but not forgotten!

Sadly we had to say farewell to one of Bristol Rose's favourite crew members prior to departing Caribbean waters. Miss Daisie made many friends throughout the Caribean and has quite a fan base online. It is not the same sailing without her.

She is staying with a good friend, Donna and family in Maryland prior to making the long flight back to Australia.

We look forward to having Miss Daisie back with us and are comforted with the knowledge that she is loved and cared for by good friends.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Oh Panama!

What have you done? High powered sports fishing boats rule.

Surely in a big city with a rich maritime history one could be forgiven for expecting good support for cruising sail boats. Not So.

Fuel Polishing Service costs the same as in the US however the process involves pumping your fuel tanks dry and taking the contaminated fuel away. We expect the fuel will be filtered and re-sold. So we pay twice.

Riggers and sail makers are almost impossible to find. Needed an impeller for a pump. No luck.

Fedex Express costs the same as the States but takes 4 days longer in Panama.

Panama should wear Elliot's old t-shirt with the printed name tag: "Hello, My name is JACK SQUAT. Don't expect too much out of me".

Oh well, next port to get boat chandlery or repairs done looks to be Australia.

Islands of Kuna Yala, San Blas

Bristol Rose in paradise!

Island home of the Kuna

Beach BBQ with friends.

Rosemary and Matt from Crazy Horse

Elliot makes a new friend

Budd Boys like to play with fire

Owen Builds the Fire

Rex, Tom, Gerald, Kim and Owen

Owen tends the fire

Don't get much better