back to Panama - The San Blas Islands log 12/06/2000-01/30/2001

Panama Log - Colon and the Canal

Wednesday January 31st, 2001

As we approached Colon, we began to see many freighters, but most were anchored or moving slowly and did not cause any serious difficulties with navigation. One of our cruising guides explained that there are two entrances through the breakwater into the harbor. The main one in 500 feet wide and handles the bulk of the commercial canal traffic. We decided that we would be best off going through the smaller entrance to the east. We called the signal station that controls traffic and let them know that we were entering. The response was basically "OK but stay out of the way". Once inside the breakwater we motored through an anchorage for freighters and over to "the flats" where yachts are allowed to anchor. Here we were greeted by our friend Pete, who directed us to a good spot with his dingy. We dropped the anchor, got Ladybug shipshape, and then took naps.

Jan flight back to the US is early tomorrow morning, so we took a bus to Panama City in the afternoon. We got a hotel room and then had a few beers and pigged out on seafood in the hotel restaurant. Then we went out to explore the city. We were pretty tired but we managed to have a good time. -DWH

Thursday February 1st, 2001

Jan caught a taxi at 5am. I hope she had fun and has a good trip home. Stacy and I saw her off, but were back in bed two minutes after she was gone. We got up at a more reasonable hour and spent the day exploring the city. It's quite nice and easy to get around. A taxi ride anywhere in the city is only $2. Late in the afternoon we caught the bus back to Colon. It's about a two hour trip and is also $2.

When we got back to Colon we found Jo and Matti at the yacht club. It turns out that we missed some excitement while we were gone. A freighter was pulling away from the pier near us and was pushed sideways by the wind. The tug that was assisting it was out of position or lost it's line to the ship. Anyhow, the freighter was momentarily out of control and hit a sailboat near us. The boat that was hit was only 75 or 100 feet from us. It is a steel boat, but sustained significant damage. If that had been us, we might have been crushed. -DWH

Friday February 2nd, 2001

Some other cruisers have arranged for a bus trip to a large store in Panama City. Everyone is busy provisioning for the Pacific. Jo and Matti went along and loaded up on some stuff.

Stacy and I explored a little in Colon. Colon is a relatively dangerous city. There are definitely streets that we would not want to walk down even during the day, but by sticking to the right areas and taking taxis, most of the dangers can be avoided. Despite requiring some caution, it's still not a bad place to be. It definitely has some character. I especially like the buses. I think they are old school busses from the US. Each is painted elaborately, some with huge murals. -DWH

Saturday February 3rd, 2001

Steve Weber used to say that you know that you are a real biker, in the bicycle touring sense, when you find yourself sitting outside a convenience store eating cold beans out of the can. I think there is an equivalent rite of passage for the budget cruiser, though it is not nearly as enjoyable as eating beans. Today our head failed. Jo and Matti rebuilt the starboard head a couple months ago, so they have already been initiated. Despite being the "experienced" head rebuilders on board, they did not seem interested in helping and kindly explained the difference between "we" and "I". Actually "we" was correct because Stacy helped me. I won't go into the details, but let's just say that if anyone wants to know what it's really like to be a budget cruiser, I have a job for you. (And don't even ask me to supervise. I'm sure you can figure it out.)

With that behind us...............

Most nights here we find ourselves at the Panama Canal Yacht Club. Tonight was no different. Here we met Kipp who sails a 39' Prout catamaran and is originally from Wisconsin. We enjoyed talking to him for quite awhile. He is scheduled to go through the canal on Wednesday. Two of us are going to be helping as line handlers on LaBoutique on Wednesday, and it sounds like the other two will be able to help on Kipp's boat, Samibella. That works out well. We want to make sure that all of us go through the canal at least once as line handlers on someone else's boat before we take Ladybug through.

Later in the evening Matti met a couple women in the bar. Kris is an American who lives here with her husband, who works for a shipping company, and her four month old baby. Kim is British, but was raised in Panama. They were great fun and spirited us off to the Washington Hotel to dance the night away. We were going strong at midnight, and all did shots of tequila to celebrate Matti's birthday. Eventually the old people got tired and dropped out around 2 am. Matti and the girls were still in party mode when they dropped us off at the yacht club. -DWH

Sunday February 4th, 2001

Stacy got up and baked a birthday cake for Matti. We are all ready for a birthday party, but Matti has not surfaced. We eventually ended up waiting at the yacht club, but by 8:30pm we were all tired and decided that we are not going to see him until tomorrow. We got back to the boat and were debating about eating his cake when Pete and Sue from LaBoutique pulled up with Matti in their dingy. Time for cake. Happy birthday Matti! -DWH

Happy Birthday, Matti!

Monday February 5th, 2001

I decided to tackle an easy job to give me confidence before working on the drip from the diesel water pump. I suspected that there was a problem with the VHF antenna wiring and found a connection that looked pretty bad. It should be an easy job to replace it. I even have the parts onboard. The problem was that water can run down the wire where it goes through the deck. The connector is a couple inches under the hole, so I would actually expect water to run into it. Well it did and once it got into the connector it wicked into the braided shield. The braid was nothing but black powder. The coax needs to be replaced. That's OK because it was the thin coax which is not good for the 60 or 70 foot run from the radio to the antenna. The problem is that the coax that we should use is about $1.50 a foot. I'm not in the mood to spend $100 for coax. Well, we also have an antenna for the "boat phone" that came with the boat. We have never used that and never plan on it, and it has the right sized coax for the job but different connectors. I just need to pull the wire out of the mast, solder on new connectors, and run it back through he mast from the VHF radio to the antenna. No big deal, and our radio should work great when I'm done. Well, when it got dark is was about half way done with my "confidence building job". Oh, and I found other suspect connections on wires coming out of the mast, so I have most of that disconnected also. If everything goes well tomorrow, I might just have everything back together.

Jo is working on adding maps to the web site so everyone can actually see where we have been and are going. He and Matti also got sucked into helping with the mast wiring project for an hour or two.

Stacy did some shopping with our friends from Sangaris and others. Craig from Sangaris got everyone in trouble by suggesting that they pop a few beers while still in the super market. Now he is a guy that I would really like to hang out with a little more.

Stacy made pizza for dinner. Jo and I are going to start a new club - B.I.G. (Brothers In Gluttony). Eat till it hurts! -DWH

Tuesday February 6th, 2001

It's 5:30 and the mast rewiring is done! It only took two days and three trips up the mast, but the radio appears to be working much better. (We had trouble before talking to the signal station, which has a tall antenna, from about 2 miles out. Now we can hear freighters that we know are 5 miles away and they are clear as a bell. We will have to test it for maximum range, which should be about 25 miles, sometime soon.) The rest of the mast wiring has also been cleaned up. Oh, I should also thank the guy at "Radio Dick" here in Colon. He gave me some good tips on soldering connectors onto old coax cable - it has to be hot, you need to use good solder, and the wire has to be clean.

Jo and Matti did laundry today. Now they are in having dinner and a few beers. Everybody is excited. Several of our friends are heading through the canal tomorrow. Jo and Matti are going with LaBoutique. They are leaving very early in hopes of getting through in one day. Pete said he wants them on board by 4:15am. Stacy and I are going with Kipp on Samibella. Kipp is picking us up at 7am. I guess we picked the right boat.

Stacy has not been feeling well. She has a slight fever. She still managed to make a triple batch of oatmeal raison cookies for tomorrow's transit. We'll send half with Jo and Matti and take half with us.

Stacy is a little jealous of the club Jo and I are starting (B.I.G.). If she joins I guess we will need to change the name to P.I.G. -DWH

Wednesday February 7th, 2001

The guys left around 4pm and were back to Ladybug on the same day. They had a smooth transit through the canal on LaBoutique.
Kipp picked Dave and I up around 7pm. The two line handlers, Tito and Roberto, were already aboard. Our pilot arrived around 9. Then we had to wait for the ship that we were scheduled to go through the Gatun locks with. We tied to the tug for the 3 locks going up. We had a nice motor sail to the anchorage in the lake at the mouth of the river. We all had naps, then a beer and a swim. Kipp made a wonderful Italian dinner and served us red wine! It was a great day, and Kipp was great to invite us along.
-SLC

Thursday February 8th, 2001

Last night Dave and I slept on the front deck of Samibella and watched ships pass us all night. We woke around 7AM and the decks were very wet with dew. I slept quite well, except the moon was so bright I kept thinking that someone put a spot light on us. The two sets of locks went smoothly today. We were in the center, tied to both walls. We arrived at the Balboa Yacht club around 3PM. We got a bus back to Ladybug. I have never transported 7 tires wrapped in plastic on a bus before. These were the tires that Samibella used as bumpers for the canal transit. Usually you pay 3 dollars for each tire in Colon, then on the other side you pay a taxi driver to take them back to Colon. With the tires from LaBoutique and Samibella we have enough to properly protect our hull from any potential damage during the canal transit.
When we got back to the yacht club, I went to the bathroom to change cloths and wash my face. I was surprised when a woman that I did not recognize asked me if I was on Ladybug. I said yes and she explained that she had met Matti and Jo yesterday. Her name is Jiin (pronounced Jean) and it turns out that she is looking for a crew position. Not paid, but to share expenses and travel with us. We were not looking for a fifth person, but we are open to the idea. This would stretch our water supply and make the boat a little more crowded, but it would help immensely with the watches and other responsibilities. -SLC

Friday February 9th, 2001

Matti and Jo went to Panama City for the day and Dave and I just went to the grocery store and internet cafe (no power - no emails). Then we came back to the boat and packed to go to Panama City tomorrow. Dave made chili for dinner and we relaxed.-SLC

Saturday February 10th, 2001

Went to Panama city with Craig and Katherine on Sangaris. They rented a car to pick up people at the airport. We spent the morning shopping at the marine store and a hardware store. We had Seviche (raw fish cured in lime juice) for lunch at a very cute little bar called La Tablita. This bar is over 30 years old, open air, and a little of older men talking on cell phones and drinking rum and coke.
We went to our favorite hotel California.We had mussels and beer in the lounge then we showered and went on a date. We were celebrating Dave's birthday as he will be leaving for the Netherlands tomorrow. We had a wonderful dinner at El Trapiche (thanks to Guy for the great recommendation). Then coffee at a diner and finally desert and champagne back in our hotel room. Great celebration, it will be hard to say good-bye to Dave for one more week.-SLC

Sunday February 11th, 2001

I woke with Dave at 5:30 to say good-bye and wish him luck on his trip for Marquip to the Netherlands. He plans to be back next Sunday. I traveled back to Colon by bus. I arrived around 1PM and did a little grocery shopping for fresh veggies and fruit before heading to the Yacht Club. I found the guys and had lunch with them and Jiin. We went back to the boat, I was exhausted and took a long nap. I spent the rest of the day putting stuff away, organizing laundry, cleaning the storage area under the aft berth, and making room for Jiin. Jiin moved into the v-berth today. We are all testing the waters to see how compatible we are. The rest of the crew watched a movie, and I read my book (thanks to Ryan and Linda for the great books you sent us in our Christmas package!!). -SLC

Monday February 12th, 2001

Got up around 5:30 to do laundry. I was the only one there, so it all got washed. Things were going so well until the power went out, luckily everything dries here instantly in the sun and the wind. I spent some time emailing at the yacht club, and the rest of the day was spent putting away laundry and getting ready for our Mega Depot run tomorrow. This is like a Sam's club and we will be purchasing large quantities of canned goods, pasta, rice, peanut butter, oatmeal and other items with long shelf life. -SLC

Tuesday February 13th, 2001

Big day of shopping. Our school bus left at 9AM for a very bumpy 1.5 hour ride to the Mega Depot in Panama City. The shopping went well. We spent about $600 dollars on food items. We managed to have lunch and a beer at La Tablita then a quick stop in Abernathy (the marine supply and fishing store). We were all exhausted by the time we returned to the marina-but now the real work would begin. Our friends on Weebegon delivered me and the paper supplies to the boat. But it took our dinghy 3 more trips to deliver everything. Once everything was on board, then we had to find places to stow each and every item. This was challenging, but we all worked together. Everything was reorganized and stowed by about 7pm.-SLC

Wednesday February 14th, 2001

I e-mailed Dave for his birthday. He is still in the Netherlands, hope he receives my birthday wish. Then I tried to call him at the plant where he is working, but it was too late in the day. Jiin and I went into town to do some errands. We ended up at he Mediterranean cafe for a late lunch.We splurged and shared a banana split because we were feeling sorry for ourselves on Valentine's day. We finally made it back to the yacht club and I continued my mission to try to call Dave. I got the hotel # from Rafael and I tried for over an our to call him. But my AT&T card would not let me dial overseas from here and the Yacht club office was closed. Oh well, I at least tried.

I took a shower at the yacht club and met up with Gabby from s/v Steadfast (British) (Adrian, Benjamin-youngest, Tris). We talked for a while then Jo and Matti showed up with beer in hand. This was going to be Matti's last night on the boat. We are really going to miss Matti. He has been an awesome crew member. He hope that he goes home to do what he needs to do and comes back to Ladybug sometime in the near future. Thanks for everything Matti. The party moved to the boat and continued until 2 or 3 AM!! -SLC

Thursday February 15th, 2001

I woke up at 4AM to head through the canal with Berndt, Frances and Natilie on s/v Nonmadol (German). Jo gave me a ride at 5AM to the boat and I was quickly introduced to John who was the 4th line handler and sleeping in the cockpit. We had tea and got to know each other while we waited for our pilot who showed up at 7AM. The trip up the locks went very smoothly. We were tied to a tug and I was responsible for the both spring lines which were tied to the middle cleat on the boat.
We arrived in the lake around 9AM we were all the way up and ready to sail/motor across Gatun Lake into the cut. Around 11AM the timing belt on the outboard engine broke. We continued to sail while Frances and John replaced the belt and worked on the timing. They adjusted the timing several times and with further investigation found out that some damage occurred between the valves and the piston. We made it to the anchorage in the lake under sail and dinghy power (2hp!). We successfully anchored and had lunch. Then Frances took John and I to shore around 3PM. It took 2 private cars, 3 taxis and one bus to get us back to Colon. We had dinner and the Yacht club. Miriam on s/v Weebegon (Swiss) gave me a ride back to the boat. I found Jiin sleeping in the cockpit. Nice to find someone on the boat. We talked for a bit, but we were both wiped out so we called it a night. -SLC

Friday February 16th, 2001

Jo and I headed for town together. He was on his way to fill the gas tank and I was on my way to the internet cafe. I also did some shopping and then I took a taxi back to the Yacht club. At the Yacht club I met up with Ian s/v Fidelio (English). Ian was buying beer and we toasted to the anniversary of a dinghy racing club in England called Ranala (Sp?). The rest of the day I spent making a Tonga flag for s/v Sunbow. -SLC

Saturday February 17th, 2001

A silent night of sleeping under the open stars, dreaming of 4 foot and crystal clear glass breaks. 4 a.m. I abruptly awoke to the sounds of Jo sirening our wake up call. WAKE UP!!!. Slobbering with my face pressed against the surf board bag, I gathered my senses and grabbed my shampoo and soap for an early sea-bath. Stacy would be line handling for a boat by the name of "Peace and Aloha"and I would be tagging along. The dinghy, giving us our second bath, dropped Stacy and I off and continued to transport Jo to a boat called "Zephyrs" in which he would also be helping to pass through the Panama canal. There would be three sail boats going through. Stacy and I started out in last place, but made a quick recovery in between Miriflores locks and Gamboa into second. As we passed Jo's boat as we took some photo's of Jo slipping into second. Cruising through the Gamboa lake is a beautiful site to see. We witnessed lots of water and trees, while others saw monkeys and crocodiles. I guess Stacy and I were focusing too much on the incredible oatmeal cookies and pistachios and of course maintaining our challenging victory. Our pilot Jimmy was excellent. He assured me that there was no race, he emphasized a structural plan. Ahhh, but it was still great fun. I finally got promoted from observer to worker and Stacy from worker to supervisor. All in all the trip was exciting, we got to meet really great people while helping out with the lines through the locks, a once in a lifetime experience. We all managed to return to Colon safely. I returned to the stars through the open hatch above my room as I drifted off to sleep. -JIIN

Had a really great canal transit with David, Ellen, Eric and Jason on s/v Peace and Aloha (Hawaii). I am starting to feel like I kind of know what is going on during the transit, but there is always more to learn. We had an easy trip up the locks tied to tugboat Harding. The crew on Harding was very friendly, including Victor. Victor has traveled the world on ships for the last 30 some years. He was hinting at an invitation to a night club when I quickly informed him that I already had a wonderful husband. Oh well, being twice my size and several gold teeth he wasn't my type anyway. Our trip through the lake was smooth and uneventful. The locks down we tied to s/v Aldeberan (Irish - Pat and Olivia) on one side and on the other side we tied to a tug. This went fairly smoothly. We had some difficulty while waiting and a very low pier. The tires were not low enough to protect the hull. The other event was when the wind caught us and we had to use the electric winch to crank the stern line and get us back to the tug.

Stacy doing her job in the locks up to Lake Gatun as a line handler aboard s/v Peace and Aloha.

Sailing through Lake Gatun on s/v Peace and Aloha.

The man made cut that allows ships to pass from Gatun Lake to the Pacific Ocean over the Continental Divide.

S/v Peace and Aloha rafted to s/v Aldeberan for the trip down the locks to the Pacific Ocean.

When we arrived in Panama city I called Dave's parents, no answer. Then I called my Dad. Amazing, Dave had been on the phone with him 2 minutes prior. Talk about telepathic connection, even on opposite sides of the globe. I found out that he was not on his way home yet. I, we would have to wait until Wednesday night to see each other. So Jiin and I started our trip back to Colon. We took a city bus to the main bus station for .15 each. We arrived at the Yacht club just after our fellow line handlers Ken and Judith (s/v Sunbow). Shortly after we arrived we saw Jo and Peter and Paula (s/v Enchantress) walk in. We all had a few beers and discussed our experiences as line handlers. What a long day... we arrived on Peace and Aloha at 5:30AM, our advisor Jimmy arrived at 6:30, we made it through the last lock at 5PM, we arrived back in Colon at 8:30, and we were back on Ladybug at 10PM. -SLC

Sunday February 18th, 2001

Jo and I headed for the internet cafe around 9am. Excite was down so I decided to explore the Oriental shop. Some interesting stuff, probably more interesting if I could read Chinese. I saw packaged Jelly Fish! Didn't know Jelly Fish was edible. I bought some dried seaweed and some dried shitake mushrooms, which caused a few moans from Jo. Back to the internet cafe to find that I could read my email, but not send anything - what a day. Found out Natalie is no longer on the German Catamaran, she is now on s/v Beacon. Hope it all works out for her, she is so nice. The rest of the day was spent taking a nap and starting a New Zealand flag. I also made a really great dinner with the seaweed and mushrooms. Even Jo said it was pretty good.-SLC

Monday February 19th, 2001

Finished New Zealand Flag. Internet cafe. No news from Dave, hope he is still planning on arriving on Wednesday. Jo fixed shelf in kitchen to hold our bottles of cooking oil and vinegar. Jo also replaced the undersized screws on the hatch in the starboard v-birth. We need to do the the same on the port side.

-SLC

Tuesday February 20th, 2001

Cleaned and made Ecuador flag this morning. Jo updated the web site and worked on taxes at the internet cafe. The rest of the day was spent folding and organizing our paper charts. After 4 hours the 300+ charts of South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia are in some kind of order, not sure what our method was. Jo referred to it as organized chaos. -SLC

Wednesday February 21st, 2001

Jo got picked up around 4:45am for his job handeling lines on s/v 'T '. I awoke several hours later with high hopes of seeing Dave tonight, but when I checked my I e-mail I found out that he is still in The Netherlands and working hard. He is a bit frustrated and doesn't know when he will be back. What a disappointment. I am really hoping that he will be here by Monday. Jiin spent the rest of the day making digital photo of her pictures. I finished making a wind scoop for the starboard aft cabin and I also worked on making a few necklaces. Tonight we are looking forward to seeing 'Castaway' with Tom Hankes at the movie theater. -SLC

Thursday February 22nd, 2001

Broken record...Internet cafe...still don't know when Dave will be back. I haven't received a ransom note yet, so I don't know how much money to send! When we were filling the water jugs to come back to the boat, we ran into Hordey from the r/v The New World Legacy (research vessel). I invited myself for a tour on the boat, and he said I should come by in about an hour or so. This boat has two 800HP engines. Several generators, air compressor, 8 TVs and VCRs, 2 fridges, 6 burner stove, automatic flushing heads, washer &dryer, 25 gallon/hour water maker, etc. They are publicly owned and funded and basically dive for treasure. Most of their recent diving has been in the Chagris River not far from the Panama canal. I got to see about 20 of the canon balls that they recovered from there. I think museums will purchase these type of artifacts from them. The biggest wreck they have dove on is La Capitana off the coast of Ecuador. They showed me a video from the Discovery channel about the discovery of this wreck. This boat was full of treasure and sunk around 1654. I got to meet the captain and a few of the 12 crew members on this research boat, they were all super nice and very polite. Hordey gave me a bronze coin that was recovered from La capitana. What a souvenir and fun field trip. -SLC

Friday February 23rd, 2001

Jiin and I went running this morning for about 45 minutes. Felt really good, not too hot. I went to the yacht club to check email, no news from Dave. Jiin spent all day working on the digital version of her photos. I took a nap then tackled the ripped spinnaker. Jo and I spent about 5 hours fixing about 2 rips. Each rip was about 9 yards in length. The spinnaker material is light weight and easy to sew on. But the volume of material involved with a spinnaker is a bit overwhelming. Hope we have learned a thing or two about flying the spinnaker so we don't encounter any more spinnaker disasters in the future. We all went to the Yacht Club for burgers to celebrate the repair of the spinnaker. It will be an early morning tomorrow. Jo and I have to be on board Sunbow at 4:30 AM to help them transit the canal. Should be another fun day.-SLC

Saturday February 24th, 2001

Jiin took us over to Sunbow at an early hour. We met John and Bob from s/v Nepanthy (SP?) the rest of the linehandlers. Ken and Jude were wonderful hosts for the day. Great bagels and sandwiches for lunch. The trip through the canal was fast and uneventful. We arrived at the Balboa Yacht club around 2pm, very early! I have never been to this bar before and found that I knew almost half of the people there. We ran into our friend Kim, Pat and Olivia s/v Aldebaran, Mr. Pilot Oneil and friends ( James and Richard), Laura s/v Muna, and Natalie. I went swimming with Natalie, then showered and finally joined Jo in the bar for a beer. I found out that Richard Zaleski is from Bay View and knows the family of my good friend Peter Casper, pretty cool. Richards brother is an editor for the Madison Capital Times, which will hopefully be a good connection for publishing some of my writing in the future. We headed for the bus to Colon around 7PM, to find that we did not have a ride to the boat. But we found our good friends from New World Legacy and they gladly delivered us to our boat our 1AM.

New World Legacy: Rob(boss), Charles(boss), Wallie(captain), Orville(cook), Hordie(mechanic), Wilson, Watson, Elson, Jeremiah, Carlos

-SLC

Sunday February 25th, 2001

60 minute Jog to park in Margarita with Jiin and Natalie. We stopped in the cemetery on the way home. Saw a gravestone with 'Cohen' written in Hebrew. Many beautiful and very old graves. Stopped at the internet cafe, finally info on Dave's arrival. He will be here Tuesday night!! I am very happy. Went back to the boat for lunch and a nap. Later I went to shore for a shower while Jiin visited New World Legacy. We were then coerced into going to the disco. This is a local disco every Sunday from 6pm to 9pm. They played mostly salsa and techno. It was fun, most of the girls there were working, but very friendly atmosphere. They played a funny game where they tied balloons to their ankles and tried to pop the other person's while protecting your own. We had a good time. -SLC

Monday February 26th, 2001

John (s/v Trojka Danmark) picked up Jiin and me at 6AM, then we went to pick up Natalie (s/v Beacon). Gurte (s/v Carolina) was already on board.The four of us were to be John's line handlers, even though the boat (22ft, 6ft beam) is small enough that John could have done the lines himself. Our advisor did not arrive until 9:30. Which meant a night in the lake was no longer probable but likely. We were all thinking the same thing, Trojka is only set up to sleep one person. But knowing John I concluded that we were in for an exciting and very interesting day. We had some trouble rafting to m/v North Star the first try. Bow line was dropped and the wind and current were strong. Second attempt was successful. We had to be very careful because too many people on one side of Trojka threw it off balance a lot. North Star is a beautiful 86 foot boat mainly set up for cruising and fishing. We were quickly offered cold soda's (which Nat accepted much to John's disapproval because he didn't want to look like a poor host). We were also offered use of the head, which was very appreciated as John's boat was only equipped with a bucket for that purpose. All went well on the locks up to the lake. We arrived in the lake and said goodbye to our new friends on North Star. We had a nice motor sail through the lake. We knew we were spending the night, now our only hope was to find that North Star on anchor waiting for us. When we rounded the corner nobody dared to look, finally John yelled 'North Star is there'. We all whooped with excitement and quickly shouted to the captain Stewart 'Can we tie up next to you'. He agreed and before long we had showered in the fresh lake water and were sipping cold beers. Stewart commented that 'This boat has some great party potential', and we knew we were in for a fun evening. We toured the boat and they offered us popcorn and more beer. The owner, Monty was very generous to have us on board. The guest/cook/fisherman, Jim and other guest/fisherman, Wayne, were super nice to us. We all had a wonderful dinner (roast beef, baked potato, shrimp, salad, etc...) together and listed to music late into the night. We were invited to sleep on board. I found a nice settee on the upper deck under the bimini, a private room with a 360 degree view of the horizon! Had a wonderful nights sleep. -SLC

Tuesday February 27th, 2001

Woke up to a beautiful sunrise from the top deck of North Star. My throat was sore and I had managed to lose my voice, so I squeaked the rest of the day. John made us wonderful pancakes and we were soon underway. We had a good trip down the locks to the Pacific ocean. We anchored in Balboa and went ashore to the Yacht club for a quick swim in the pool, shower and a nice lunch. Then the crew said a long good bye to John and made our way to the bus station. Jiin called (my voice was getting worse by the minute) Ryan to confirm Dave's arrival. He is on his way! So grabbed a Taxi to Hotel California. The best driver... he found a liquor store so I could buy Dave a bottle of wine even though it was a holiday today (Carnival). The driver escorted my into the store to make sure of my safety. Then on the way to the hotel, he offered my a throat lozenge, as I could barely speak. I had a nice rest back at the hotel, then around 8 PM, I found the bus to Tocumen. This 45 min/.30 cents bus ride was very interesting with lots of lights, loud horns, loud music and people. I saw many busy streets and bars on the ride. I found out where to get off the bus from the driver. I only waited 30 minutes for Dave. I was so happy to see him, but I could only express myself with a hug and a whisper. We talked all the way back to the hotel in the taxi. We had a small picnic in our hotel room, while we watched the Carnival fireworks from our window!! -SLC

 

Oil changed in both engines. Hours = 1450 -Jo

I finally made it back from Holland at 10pm. I was exhausted after 22 hours of airports and planes, but suddenly everything was better when I saw Stacy's smiling face. It was good to work for a while, but I'm really happy to be home. I really have not been on the boat that much in the last 4 months. Stacy and I had a three and a half week trip home for Ryan and Linda's wedding and to visit our families, and now I've been gone on two work trips for a total of about 6 weeks. So I've been gone for almost 10 weeks in the last 4 months. But now the bank account is no longer in danger of going negative, and I'm ready to sail! -DWH

Wednesday February 28th, 2001

Stacy and I had a big, slow paced breakfast, which included a conversation with a Peace Corp volunteer working here in Panama, and then caught a bus to Colon. We ended up at the yacht club around 2pm. We had a few beers and over the next eight hours I was introduced to a whole parade of new friends.

Somehow in the whole process of helping me readjust to me new climate (read "drinking at the yacht club"), Jo managed to buy an old sail from s/v Tranquility (Mary and Rick) for $40. He has a plan for a storm sail. We will also have leftover dacron for patch material, and we can scavenge the sunbrella that was used for UV protection. Good buy Jo!-DWH

Thursday March 1st, 2001

Jogging with Natalie(60 min).

I faxed info to Nation Vessel Documentation Center in West Virginia for the renewal Decal for Ladybug. Dave worked on the boat.-SLC

The crew worked hard on boat projects while I was gone, and now it's my turn.

While I was working in Holland Stacy's brother, Ryan, ordered 100 feet of copper foil for me. We need this to finish the wiring of our SSB radio. We had tried to find it here in Panama, but were only able to buy 25ft from another boat. Since I had a layover in Atlanta, Ryan was able to order it and deliver it to me at the airport. Thanks Ryan! So, I started the SSB wiring. Hopefully we will be on the air in the next couple of days.

While I was busy with the SSB, the rest of the crew was also busy. Jo arranged for us to get measured for the canal transit, cleaned up the boat including the bilge where I will be putting down copper foil, and worked on our charts. Stacy went running, made arrangements for the Coast Guard to expedite our Certificate of Documentation renewal sticker so we will have it before we leave Panama, and went to the sailmaker to get supplies.

After working hard in the morning, Stacy and I decided to take it fairly easy in the afternoon. We went into town to pick up some supplies and groceries for dinner and then stopped by New World Legacy (the research/treasure seeking vessel). I was given a tour of the ship and shown the documentary from the Discovery Channel. Very interesting! La Capitana was huge for her time, and absolutely loaded with treasure. Many have looked for her. I think the guy who found the Titanic even gave it a shot for a while. Eventually it was Rob McClure, a retired police chief, and his crew that found her. According to the video, that is when their trouble really began. At the time the government of Ecuador was very unstable. Now that the location of millions of dollars of treasure was known, the government became very interested. Eventually a deal was struck - the finders and the government would split the treasure 50/50. As the treasure was brought up, a gun boat collected it. Everything was stored at a military base. But when it was time to split the booty, the government was not anxious to give any of it up. It sounds like there was a lot of hard feelings and a few lawsuits, but eventually (after a couple years) the treasure was split. A number of the New World Legacy crew have beautiful necklaces made from silver coins from the wreck. They gave Stacy a bronze coin which she has made into a necklace. It is so cool. The date on the coin is no longer visible, but all of the coins from the wreck that did have dates were from between 1649 and 1654 (when the ship went down). Wow!

Jiin is fasting during the day (in the spirit of the Ramadan). Stacy and I returned to Ladybug around 6pm with groceries. Amazingly, Jiin, jumped at the chance to make dinner. It was fantastic. -DWH

Friday March 2nd, 2001

Jogging with Jiin(60 min).

Checked on documentation decal, was sent... but where to ???

We were scheduled to have the boat measured and inspected by the canal authorities between 8 and noon. Of course they didn't show up until 1:30 PM in the midst of Dave's haircut. Jose was friendly and interesting. Boat was measured within 45 minutes. Now we have to pay the fee, then we can schedule the transit. -SLC

Saturday March 3rd, 2001

Jogging with Natilie(50 min). Stopped at grocery store on the way back for last minute supplies for Beacon.

We had the Beacon crew (David, Alex, Vincent, and Nat) over for Appetizer type snacks around 5pm. At 7PM we headed into shore for the private viewing of Captain Ron at the Pier. Rick and Mary on s/v Tranquility found out that Dave and I had not seen this movie, and really felt that our offshore training was incomplete without it. The TV was mounted from the bow of their boat and we all sat and watched from the pier. Very funny movie, we all enjoyed it. Thanks Rick and Mary!! -SLC

Sunday March 4th, 2001

Dave and I did boarded Beacon at 7AM for yet another canal transit. We rafted through all the locks with 2 other sailboats (Arowaki - New Zealand, and a German boat). We spent the night in the lake. We had a swim, nap, a nice dinner and a good nights sleep. -SLC

Monday March 5th, 2001

Woke around 7pm, pancake breakfast and helped scrub the deck. We were off with our advisor around 9:30. We went under the Bridge of America's around 1:30. We all tossed our quarters and made appropriate wishes. Upon our arrival in the Flamenco anchorage we were energetically greeted by our friend John. We all shared a bottle of champagne to celebrate another successful transit. Then we all headed for the Balboa Yacht club in the back of a pickup that I managed to flag down for us. We had a quick beer, then Dave and I headed down the airport to meet Guy. We were late so we took the Taxi the whole way. We arrived and found the flight to be on time. Then the flight disappeared and we found out that it was 3 hours behind schedule. We waited patiently, so did the taxi driver. When Guy finally arrived he was very happy and surprised to see us. He said this is the first time anyone ever surprised him at the airport. We went back to the Balboa Yacht club and found Nat and John hanging out. Eventually Dave, Guy and I ended up spending the night on Beacon, thanks to the generosity of David (Beacon's owner/captain). -SLC

Tuesday March 6th, 2001

We awoke around 7am and headed to shore quickly, we were all anxious to get back to the bug. Back at Panama Canal Yacht club, we found Jiin helping with fuel jugs. We had a quick lunch then headed out to the bug. Dave went to work on the radio project and Jo, Guy and myself headed in to pay the transit fee. We paid the 500$ fee in cash but wanted to charge the deposit on the credit card. No luck, we tried 4 different visa cards. We eventually took all of the cash out of the ATM and paid.

Back at the Yacht Club Jo called to schedule our transit, one week back log. We are hoping to go through next Wednesday. I made a million phone calls to try to track down our new documentation decal. It was supposed to be sent Federal Express to us, but I think they sent it to my Dad's house.

I made a pasta dinner, and we all went to bed early. -SLC

Wednesday March 7th, 2001

I woke up at 5:30 to beat the rush at the Laundry. Dave spent all day working in the radio. I managed to locate our documentation renewal decal. It arrived at Dad's house yesterday. He will be sending it to us here at the Yacht club by express mail. Thanks, Dad! Dave and I made a trip to Radio Dick and another hardware store for 8 gauge wire.

I gave Guy a hair cut and took a nap.

Went to see Hannibal at the movie theater with Nils (s/v Peter Pan) and Gurter. Very entertaining, ultimate shock value!-SLC

Thursday March 8th, 2001

Jo and Guy went to the internet cafe. Jo is still working on his taxes. Dave is still working on the radio. We heard people in the Galapagos, but are still unable to transmit. I guess it is not tuning correctly. And of course I am sitting here trying to catch up on the log! -SLC

Friday March 9th, 2001

We got the SSB working today. I talked to Aldeberan who is on the way to the Galapagos. He said that we sounded like we were next door. That is very encouraging. I guess the 25 square feet of copper foil in the bilge is working a an adequate ground. Since the ground side is working, the next step is to get a permanent antenna. Stacy, Guy, and I headed for the "free zone" in Colon and picked up a whip antenna.

Jo took the fuel hoses off the starboard engine. They need to be replaced, but they have special fittings on the ends and to by new hoses from Volvo would be $300 (for 4 hoses - 2 for each engine). Jo is going to see if we can get new hoses made with the old fittings.

Stacy and I had a date tonight. We went out to a fancy dinner and wine. Very nice. -DWH

Saturday March 10th, 2001

Jo had good luck with the hoses. He got one made for $15. Unfortunately the guy nicked the edge of one of the fittings when he was cutting it off, but it is repairable. He then went to a better shop and got the other three made for about $30. They look good. I was going to work on mounting the antenna, but it looked like Jo was having so much fun (covered with diesel fuel) that I jumped in to help. In addition to changing the hoses, we also changed the filters. We got the starboard engine to run, but there is some problem with the port engine.

We also replaced the zinks on both engines.

We made another grocery shopping trip. Ladybug is really getting loaded up. -DWH

Sunday March 11th, 2001

I'm reading a ghost story by Stephen King, but I think the ghosts are leaking out of the book and into the boat. Jo and I tried and tried to get the port engine to run. We could get it to start and run for a few minutes, but then it would die. After much investigating we determined that the fuel was not flowing properly out of the primary filter. The really strange thing is that everything we changed was downstream of that point. There is a fitting screwed into the filter. The new fuel hose screws onto that fitting. When the hose is removed, nothing comes out. So we removed the fitting, which we have never touched, and the diesel gushed out. Upon inspection we found the tip of a pencil wedged in the fitting. We have no idea how it got there, but it must have been there when we bought the boat and just now moved to a position that was blocking the flow. Either that or ................. maybe Ladybug is haunted. -DWH

Monday March 12th, 2001

Jo checked with the canal scheduler in the morning and found out that we are going through tomorrow. We spent the day running around trying to get everything ready and then found out late in the day that we have been bumped to Wednesday morning. That's OK though. Since we got almost everything done today, tomorrow will be a pretty relaxed day.

We got an interesting email today from our friend Vickster. She saw a photo of Ladybug in a Madison newspaper. We don't have all the details, but it sounds like a a tourist of a cruise ship took the photo, probably in the San Blas Islands.-DWH

Tuesday March 13th, 2001

We finished up getting ready for our transit. This included taking Ladybug for a short spin and raising her sails. The girl is ready to go!

I found out that we can get Siemens 75 watt solar panels from Marine Warehouse in Miami for $439 including FedEx shipping to Panama. We would like panels, and this is a really good deal, so I snapped and ordered two. This will really reduce how much we need to run the diesels. I also ordered a Link 10 battery monitor for the starboard battery bank. We have one on the port bank and really like it. -DWH

Wednesday March 14th, 2001

11 AM: We all woke up between 4:30 and 5:00 am this morning. Stacy took the dingy in to pick up Rick and Mary from s/v Tranquillity who will be helping with lines and observing. They will be going through with their boat next week and want to get some "canal experience". The rest of us got Ladybug ready. By 5:30 we had our full crew on board, the anchor up, the dingy tied down on the net and were waiting for our advisor. She arrived right on time and we were off. Our advisor's name is Gisele, and she is a tug boat captain.

We went through the Gutan locks "center chamber" (in the center of the chamber with 4 lines to the sides of the canal, the other options are tied to a tug or rafted up with other yachts) with a freighter in front of us. Jo was at the helm. Guy and I were on the bow lines. Stacy and Jiin were on the stern lines, with Rick and Mary helping them. Gisele did a good job giving us directions, and everything went very smoothly. We worked very well together. Everyone was focused, but there was no shouting and no really stressful moments. Before leaving the last of the three "up" locks we passed Cokes and cookies to the line handlers on shore.

Once out of the locks we entered Gatun Lake and raised the sails. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever sailed. There are many small islands, and if you are lucky you might see a caiman (alligator), monkey, or a Tucan. Mary saw a Tucan, but it flew just before the rest of us got a chance to see it.

5:10 PM: We are in the Pacific! We just passed under the Bridge of the Americas. Traditions says that when you go under the bridge you are supposed to toss a coin in the water and make a wish. Stacy was all prepared with enough quarters for all of us. We hear that there is another tradition that you are supposed to drink champagne after a successful transit. We will be doing that as soon as the hook is down and set.

The "down" locks went almost as smoothly as the "up locks". There were a couple interesting moments when the current played tricks with us, but Jo's expert boat handling kept it from becoming a crisis. Other than that it was a wonderful experience. We went through "center chamber" again with a 260 foot mega sailboat behind us in the locks. The crew worked together like a well oiled machine.

LATER: Eventually we got the anchor down and popped the champagne. Everyone was in the mood to celebrate our safe transit. We were joined by people from other boats in the anchorage (cruisers can smell free alcohol), and it turned into an excellent party.

Stacy and I took a swim before bed. It was very refreshing (and much colder water than on the Caribbean side), and the bioluminescence was fantastic. I even tried to keep my eyes open while diving in so that I could see the flash when I hit the water. This didn't work (my body is smarter than my brain), but I was able to open them just after I hit, and it was sooo cool..-DWH

Thursday March 15th, 2001

We had a big breakfast, and then made a list of the things we want to get done before we head to the Galapagos. It is a long list, but everyone is very motivated. Stacy and Guy went on a mission to get pages added to our passports, track down our solar panels and registration sticker, and do important shopping. Jo fixed the roller furling (extrusion had slipped down in the drum and was making it hard to turn), put some RTV on the leaking fuel fitting, and worked on a couple other little projects around the boat. I investigated the water leak from the port water pump which involved removing the pump and taking it apart. I found a suspect seal and went into town to track down a replacement.

On the way back from buying seals, I stopped at the Balboa Yacht Club where I suspected I might find some of the crew. I was right. Guy was sitting at the bar, and Stacy had just left. Guy had contacted FedEx, and they were supposed to be delivering the solar panels to the yacht club bar between 5 and 7 pm. How convenient. Guy and I waited at the bar. Later Stacy showed up. The three of us had a good time talking with Adrian and Gabby from s/v Steadfast, Blake from s/v Miss Lindy, and to other cruisers. I also met Pat ONeal, the canal pilot that sailed on Ladybug in the San Blas while I was off working. Soon it was far past 7, and it was clear that we would not be seeing the solar panels tonight, but we still managed to have a good time. -DWH

Friday March 16th, 2001

Another day of trying to finish up things so we can go sailing again. Stacy, Guy, Jo, and Jean headed to town. I stayed on Ladybug to do battle with the water pump. I was not completely successful, though in the end the water pump was pumping very well. Unfortunately it is still leaking (though from a different spot, and while it will be some work, I'm pretty sure I know what to do to fix it).

I did a cooling system test on both engines. At 1200 RPM the port engine pumps 5 quarts of water in 30 seconds, and the starboard engine pumps 3.5 quarts in 30 seconds. This info may be useful for future comparisons. I wish I had checked the port engine before rebuilding the water pump.

Guy had talked to FedEx, and once again the solar panels were to be delivered to the yacht club. Jo and Guy sat there carefully watching for someone who looked like a FedEx delivery person. People were coming and going, and in general there were a lot of people having fun. Then the guy who had been sitting next to them at the bar for the last two hours asked the bartender if she knew the crew of Ladybug. He had a package for them............. The delivery guy had been sitting next to them in the bar for two hours! All I have to say is that if I ever need to work in Panama, I want to work for FedEx.

Meanwhile back at Ladybug............nothing quite that exciting. I was exhausted after wrestling with the diesel all day. (Any good mechanic would have done much better, but if any average guy wants to know what it's all about..............get on your knees in the shower, pour a quart of oil over your head, turn on the faucet at the sink but block the flow of water with your left thumb, and finally take apart the pipe under the sink which you can't actually see, clean out the hair ball, and then put it all back together. That may be a slight exaggeration, but not much. Oh, but don't get confused. I'm still having fun). I took a nice nap. When I woke up I found that Stacy and Jiin had prepared a fantastic salad, opened a bottle of wine, and had set up the saloon for movie night. Most excellent! -DWH

Saturday March 17th, 2001

The captain was sober this morning.

This morning we worked on some projects, but in the afternoon we picked up Pat ONeal at the yacht club pier and did a little sailing. The wind was very light, but it was still sailing. -DWH

Sunday March 18th, 2001

Another day of working hard to get ready for the Pacific. Actually, the problem is that 1) I went to work so I have a little money to spend, 2) we found a great deal on solar panels (which we were not planning on buying) and reasonable deals on a battery monitor and SSB antenna (which we were planning on buying) , and so 3) now we have to install there wonderful things. And projects always take longer than expected. Anyhow, we finished with the SSB antenna today.

We invited the crew of s/v Steadfast to dinner tonight. Tris and Ben had a good time fishing with Guy. They both had luck catching catfish. After dinner we set up the movie theater in the saloon and they watched a James Bond movie. We had a good time talking with Adrian and Gabi. There is a nice "Steadfasters Family Photo" in the Guest Log. -DWH

Nice catch Tris!

Monday March 19th, 2001

Today Jo and Guy worked on mounting the solar panels, and I worked on mounting and wiring the battery monitor for the starboard battery.

Adrian went to Colon today, and among other things he checked to see if our boat registration sticker has arrived at the Panama Canal Yacht Club. Unfortunately there was no mail for Ladybug. We hope it gets here soon, because we need it before we leave.

Tris and Ben must have had fun fishing last night because the stopped by to give it another shot. Later Guy made a brave attempt to learn how to clean catfish. Luckily Stacy had purchased some squid, so we were able to have calimari with a small side of delicious catfish for dinner. -DWH

Ben with part of our dinner.

Tuesday March 20th, 2001

Steadfast took off for Las Perlas this morning. We were all jealous. A little later we got a call on the VHF. It sounds like his water pump is going out. Ok, now we are not quite so jealous. What a bummer to have problems so soon.

Jo and Guy finished mounting the solar panels and modifying the bimini. At one point it looked like we were going to have to make a new bimini. The zippers would not work, and we could not get it back on the frame. Jo was ready to go looking for materials. Luckily Stacy knows zippers (from camping, sewing projects, etc). A little soapy water and a little patients was all it took. Soon the bimini was back up and looking good with the new solar panels.

Later Guy went up the mast to put some padding on the spreaders so we will be less likely to tear our spinnaker again.

Guy working on the mast, about 30 feet above the water.

Stacy and I went shopping for some project supplies and a couple presents for ourselves. We got two nice inflatable kayaks. These will be great for exploring and will make it easier to be a "one dingy family". We also called the office at the yacht club in Colon. The post office there has our mail, hopefully with our registration sticker!

I worked on the wiring of the solar panels. Running wires on a boat seems to always be a royal pain in the rear.

With the projects nearing completion and the registration sticker here in the country, we actually have a chance of taking of for the Galapagos tomorrow. This is very exciting!-DWH

forward to Panama City to the Galapogos log 03/21/2001 - 04/10/01