05 Apr 2003

Overview 31 Aug 2003
1 Apr 2002 6 Apr 2004
15 July 2002 2 Dec 2004
5 Nov 2002 13 Jan 2005
5 Feb 2003 August 2005
5 Apr 2003 April 2006

    Once in Bonaire, my dad started looking for his main Christmas present to Chris and I, as well as to himself. SCUBA lessons! Bonaire's reefs have been protected for at least twenty years, and diving is a big thing there. We were anxious to get certified soon, because we had friends coming and didn't want to be spending days that they were here away from the boat, doing our own thing. As it was, we only overlapped a day and a half, and then we got to come back to the boat and show off our spiffy new certificates (the cards we had to send our picture in for... it will take a while).

    With the Romans, we rented a car and drove around Bonaire, seeing the flamingo reservations and the rest of the dry, cactus-covered island. Sadly, my mom was having back problems and didn't come along, also missing a huge, delicious, and CHEAP! lunch we had out in the middle of nowhere.

    We sailed to Curaçao with them, and found, to our delight, that Tween was still there. They had left Bonaire even before we started our dive lessons, planning to spend a little while in Spanish Waters, the main anchorage in Curaçao, and then go up onto the hard before flying back to Holland. They had decided not to go up to the hard, and were going to be leaving the boat in the water. So we had another two weeks with them.

    Curaçao is a hard place to write up, because we did so many things and there were so many people!!! The Romans were still onboard, of course, and then there was Tween for a while, and Delphis whom we had met in Bonaire, and my parents' friends from 80's, all of whom had kids! Tyler and Travis, who lived ashore, didn't do much stuff with us, but us, Tween, and Delphis spent a lot of time swimming, snorkeling, or climbing.

    We borrowed our friends' car to take several Curaçao island tours, and to get my mom's back dealt with. We went to town several times on the bus, to wander around, explore, and to SEE THE TWO TOWERS!!! yay!!! there was only a small theater in Bonaire, and the paro in Venezuela had closed all the theaters, so I hadn't seen it yet. As it was, we got in on THE LAST DAY. I was so happy, and Meredith was, too, cuz she got to see it for a second time "The strike in Venezuela affected me personally," she said. "If it hadn't happened, the Hackings would have seen T2T in Venezuela, and I wouldn't have gotten to see it twice!"

    Tween flew out eventually, and then so did the Romans, although bound for a different location. Wanderer 4, a Kiwi boat that had heard of us in Grenada and that we had been keeping contact with over the SSB radio, pulled into Spanish Waters a little later, and Maya, Briana, and I spent lots of afternoons swimming at the beach. This was right before we updated the website last, and Chris had lots of work to do, so he wasn't really allowed off the boat.

    We were getting into a bit of a time crunch, what with the Harshbargers coming in about a week and a half, about 700 nautical miles away from our current location. And, just our luck, the wind wasn't being very friendly. The passage from Curaao, or even Aruba, 70 miles further west, to Panama wasn't very comfortable at the best of times. We finally got the closest thing to a "weather window" that we would see in several weeks, and Wanderer 4 convinced us to just do it. At the time, we had been seriously considering just saying "sorry" to the Harshbargers, the next visitors to come and the first people for the second time.

    As it was, the 4-day sail wasn't all that bad. About 20-25 knots of wind, and 8ft mature ocean swells were okay, for the first day or two. But then the wind started picking up, and the waves started getting steep and breaking. Still, Ocelot handled most of them just fine. At one point, under a tiny little jib alone, we surfed a wave and got up to 23.5 knots boatspeed. About three times what we usually make with both sails up. yow! The fourth day was fairly hectic, with wind at 25-30 and breaking waves. Lucky us, we only got "pooped" once, which is when a wave comes at a REALLY bad time, and breaks straight into your cockpit, runs down into the salon, and gets everything down below salty. Not an experience you want to have happen more than ... well, never.

    We arrived in the San Blas in time for us to pick the Harshbargers up, and spent six days with them cruising around the small islands and reef systems. It's amazing, the people here live on coconuts. I couldn't believe it when I heard it at first, but now that I've seen the islands, it's easy to imagine. They are absolutely COVERED in palm trees. We had fun swimming and snorkeling, as well as walking ashore on the islands. We also bought several colorful molas, handmade by the resident Kuna Indians. San Blas was also the first place I have ever seen stingrays jumping out of the water six or seven feet and then slapping back down. I don't know why they were doing it, but it happened a lot.

    After about two weeks in the sunny San Blas, we took off with Vamp to Portobelo, a sleepy little town about 60 miles due west of the Punta San Blas. We spent the first day or two of Carnival there, seeing three of the four or five forts, and learning a bit of the history of Puerto Bello, now shortened to Portobelo.

    After Portobelo we sailed southwest, past Colon and the entrance to the Panama Canal, to the Chagres River, where we spent a couple days. It was fun motoring several miles upriver through the jungle, hearing the howler monkeys and birds all around us. We anchored near a surprising large amount of other boats, and there was a dinghy dock from which you could take a delightful walk through the jungle to the Gatun Dam and see the lake and Gatun Locks.

    The boats we were with were anxious to get to Colon and then through the Canal, and we were anxious to get a new autopilot and more chain - tides in the Pacific can be up to 20 feet, and we barely like anchoring in 25! - so we took off after a couple days in the river to go visit a heavily populated area - what a concept!

    Colon is a fairly big city, but not very developed. In fact, when we went for our first trip to Panama City and I was reminded of a true city, Colon looked to me like almost nothing. We could have walked almost everywhere from the yacht club, but as it isn't a very safe town, we took taxis everywhere.

    While we were hanging out in the grungy water, waiting for our autopilot and chain to arrive, I spent a lot of time hanging out with my friends. We'd go ashore and play soccer, or hang out on one of the boats listening to music and dancing. The ice cream at the yacht club was good, too, and cheep. We spent a bit of time enjoying that, as well.

    Now, when you transit the canal, you must have at least five people on board, plus an advisor provided by the canal. Since not many boats have five people on board, most yachters make a deal with another boat - I'll help you through if you help me. Or sometimes they just help another one to be nice, trusting that someone will help them through, as it's hard to come from Panama City to Colon at about 6 in the morning, the time you have to be onboard. So what I'm saying is that, despite the fact that Ocelot hasn't gone through yet - yes, we're still in the Caribbean - all of us have gone through the canal at least twice. Chris and I are actually going to be crewing on another boat, as well. 

    Well, our autopilot has arrived, and we're searching for chain in Panama City, so we now have a date! Yes, we will be transiting on Saturday, March 22, 2003. We won't have our own transit on this incarnation of the site, though, because we want to publish it in Colon, but if you go to Canal Transit, you can see information on our other two transits.

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