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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ensenada Orange

This place is fantastic. We had the calmest night last evening since leaving Isla Cana almost 3 months ago. There were no wakes from the pilot boats (Panama City), no swell, no wind chop, just a nice calm night. To top it off this bay has beautiful silky black sand beaches with hiking trails and wild fruit like orange sized limes (great for rum drinks!). The water is much warmer and I can see about 20 feet down without any effort.

Anyway we might stay another day or two before heading all depends on the weather forecasts.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Ensenada Naranjo

Feeling lucky that we didn't get pummeled at Punta Mala and with a forecast of light winds we decided to leave Benao after 2 nights and a day of surfing while our luck was still holding. While we have a long history of getting surprise weather and naturally the 20-25 knots of east wind was a surprise. The fortunate thing is we were going west. So instead of doing 1 knot against it we were doing 6-7 with it. All those headlands really build up the seas with the current swirling around them and it was just like sailing along South America again. The bouncy soup of whitecaps wore us out.

We arrived in Ensenada Naranjo almost 2 hours faster than planned. It was calm and out of the easterly winds. What a relief, until 10pm. Then a funky little swell starting rolling in bouncing our little boat like a basketball. It's hard to sleep inside a basketball. We put another line on the anchor chain, put out the flopper stopper and moved to sleep on the couches. About 6 hours later when the tide changed the little chop died down...interesting. A larger boat (which most people have) probably wouldn't have felt much.

Hearing the howler monkeys again this morning made up for it. Now we'll see if we can find a better spot in the bay and try to get some more rest. We heard there are a lot of hiking trails here too, so we'll have to do some exploring.

{GMST}07|16.459|N|80|55.443|W|Howler Monkeys|Ensenada Naranjo{GEND}

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Ensenada Benau

It was a rolly ride, but we managed to pass Punta Mala, a notoriously miserable part of Panama with very little excitement. Some rain a little wind and in the final rounding of the point we ended up motoring because there was no wind. We waited for exactly the right forecast and to our luck the forecast was right. This time of year it isn't uncommon to have 30-40 knots of wind at Punta Mala. For the rest of Pamana it is mostly downhill from here.

This spot is a famous surf beach and has about a 2 mile stretch of beach which is calling to us. We're both way to tired to attempt a shore landing or any surfing. The water is still a bit on the cold side, but the sun is blazing so it will feel good.

I was hoping to get WIFI here but we had to anchor a bit further out than most people because there is a trimaran anchored in the prime area. I'm not sure the signal is strong enough to reach the boat anyway....

{GMST}07|25.526|N|80|11.398|W|Past Punta Mala|Ensenada Benau{GEND}

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Beating the odds

I think the betting pool had us at 2:1 we wouldn't actually make it out of Panama City, but we did. We are on our way to see Western Panama, an area we have yet to visit.

We got a lot of work done on the boat and found lots of parts and materials we haven't seen since leaving the US about 5 years ago. We spent a lot of time shopping and very little time meeting all the people anchoring around us, which was too bad. There were a lot of new boats coming over from the Caribbean and many old friends gathering here to -- surprise -- shop.

Of course we haven't gone far. We are only about 20 miles away at Isla Otoque where we can clean the bottom of the boat, and get ourselves back into the mindset of sailing after adjusting to the frantic pace of the city. It's nice and calm here and we are starting to unwind.

{GMST}08|35.736|N|79|36.069|W|Bye bye big city|Isla Otoque{GEND}

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

All that work

We've been busy. Before going through the canal. Before my mom's visit. We busted our butts. New batteries, a new solar panal, patched our sails, worked on our engine and the grand project of them all:

Yes after 6 years of warm drinks we now have a fridge. After some research and talking to other cruisers we opted for the Engel fridge/freezer. It is a nice compact unit that can either be a refridgerator or a freezer. We ripped out the old ice box which was fiberglass and crappy foam insulation:

Then I painted the inside with white enamle paint, which turned out to be disco gold, not white.

We added some radiated heat insulation to the walls.

Then I got busy building walls and a floor and adding thick foam insulation. We also added a formica finish.

Then finally some paint, wiring and we popped the Engel into place. Getting it to fit properly was a HUGE headache, but in the end it turned out great. There is a HOT side and a COLD side. The hot side is vented and the cold side is insulated. This allows us to put other items like bread or things that just need to be kept cool all around the outside space of the Engel. That gives us more room for drinks and other things in the fridge.

Hard to beat cold beer in 90 degree weather. And so far the solar panels are keeping up with the power demands as the Engel only needs about 15 amp-hours a day, with us turning it off at night. It's been great!

Went through the Panama Canal

Ok, so we didn't go on Sarana (because we don't want to go that direction), but we did go through the canal. Small boats like us sailboats need extra crew to handle lines going through the Panama Canal. Other sailors usually volunteer to help those boats in return for some food and getting some money for a cab ride back.
We went through with MOONDANCER X and it was a pretty cool experience. It is amazing they built this canal 100 years ago and it is working like clock work.
Here were are going up 25 feet in the first set of chambers at the Mira Flores Locks. The total rise with 3 sets of locks is almost 60 feet above sea level. Notice the bubbling current that can cause a lot of turbulence and problems for us small boats. Here in this chamber we are side-tied to a tug.
Check out the tourists checking us out:

There is a lot of traffic in the canal in fact the WORLD just passed us by:

It was a great trip and Nancy and Tony on MOONDANCER were great. They feed us and kept us going with snacks. We were fortunate to have an advisor who was very good. He managed to squeeze us into the locks ahead of a couple of ships and thanks to his efforts we were able to complete the transit in one very long day.