Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Albuquerque Cays

Before we begin a passage we always spend lots of time investigating the weather. We look for a good wind direction that will allow us to sail as much as possible. We look for seas that are not too big and that also come towards the boat from the side (beam) or behind us. Sailing right into waves is not fun. We make sure there are no storms in the vicinity. But, weather forecasting is an art, not a science.
So we leave Bocas del Toro in what we have decided is a pretty good weather window. We are heading to the Albuquerque Cays. These two very small islands lie north northwest of Panama, about 170 miles away. We are traveling with another boat named Sapphire.
It becomes immediately apparent that the weather forecast was not spot on.
Our chart plotter shows our position(small black boat) and the radar warns us of a squall (purple ugly stuff).
We double check just to make sure. Yep, looks like a squall coming our way.
No worries. We are ready.

Our friends, Bob and Sandy on Sapphire, are up ahead of us. They give us the nitty gritty on what to expect from the squall. Thanks Bob and Sandy. That's good info.

Soon we are right in the middle of the purple blob. Kind of like being swallowed by Moby Dick.

The wind is now blowing around 25-30 knots. We are glad we only have one sail up. Our big heavy duty main sail. It can easily handle the wind. So can the flag.

As the day progresses we seem to be constantly surrounded by squalls. Luckily only a few swallow us up. The rest wander off to look for more interesting victims.
It takes us 28 hours to get to the Albuquerque Cays. It has not been one of our more pleasant trips and we are glad to be here. Sapphire basking in the sunset.

So you might wonder what brought us to these small islands. There is not much here. One island is home to 10 Columbian military men. They get stationed here for 30 days. No boat, no bar, no girls, no fun!
The other island is home to a motly crew of fishermen who travel between these rich fishing grounds and their home base of San Andres, 30 miles away. They make this trip in their small skiffs. Truly amazing to us.
But we are here, not to entertain the troops and certainly not to compete with the fishermen. We are here to enjoy the beautiful crystal clear waters and to explore the bountiful reefs with our snorkel and mask....and our spears (just in case we happen upon a lobster or two).

Fishing camp.
But we must make a visit to Columbia's finest, El Armada Nacional. Just to let them know we are here and show them our paperwork.

Their headquarters could be from WWII, somewhere in the Southpacific. But it is updated with a satellite dish. We are amazed that they have two dishes here: one for communication and one for Direct TV. OK, we no longer feel so bad for them.

Solar panels, radio towers, welcome to the 21st. century Colombia.

The island is well tended. There are raked sand walkways lined with conch shells, nice touch.
At the end of this walkway is the open air kitchen. They do have a cook here.
The troops have plenty to do here. The Colombian Flag displayed here in painted conch shells is a fine example of what you can do during downtime.

Laundry of course is done by hand and if you don't have clothepins, improvise.

working out is important and what would a military base be without a gym?
It's not LA Fitness but it has it's benefits. Fresh air for beginners.......

Barbara orders our guide to give us 25...with a smile

Most importantly the troops guard the island. We spent lots of hours debating what or who posed the biggest threat to these islands. Our conclusion was boredom and the weather. But just in case a hostile foreing power should decide to invade, the island is always on full alert.

We can see clearly now, how it might be

A group photo on the helipad.

Fine Line at anchor, Albuquerque Cays.

We spend 4 days at the Albuquerque Cays and we would like to stay longer. We have had a great lobster dinner and wouldn't mind more. The weather, however is getting windy and our forecasts received on the SSB (long distance radio) is not favorable for this exposed anchorage. So we head out for San Andres. The trip is much nicer than our last voyage. Of course, it is only 30 miles so 5 hours later....
Hello civilization.

We arrive just in time for Thanksgiving (2 days ahead but you know how much cooking goes into Thanksgiving!)
The gang brings lots of goodies and we enjoy a great day of beautiful weather and great food onboard Fine Line
All the trimmings.

And thanks to Sandy on Sapphire, the Captain is in pumpkin pie heaven.
We are in San Andres until the weather becomes more favorable for our next voyage to Providencia.
Adios amigos
Anne and Steve
S/V Fine Line

Monday, November 14, 2011

Where To Now Capitan?

Where to now Capitan?
Lots of people come to Bocas del Toro, Panama and stay.....for years. It is easy to see why. Life is easy here. There is plenty to do..... and not do :)

Day or night it is beautiful

Every evening the clouds stack up on the mainland. It provides us with magnificent lightning shows. It generally stays west but once in awhile we duck as the thunder overhead crashes and almost shakes our boat.

We have met many interesting people

local Indian boy looking cool in his backwards baseball cap and Billabong shirt

The kids here travel by Cayuco (small dugout canoe). No fear of the water.

We finally catch up with the elusive Red Poison Dart Frog.

There are lots of cool insects.

The visiting dolphins always make our day better.

We see plants and trees here that will maybe one day look really good in our yard?

Our diet is not the best but a roasted lamb over and open fire is hard to resist. Diet starts tomorrow...yeah right!

We have been invited to some cool homes. This is an infinity pool in the local Red Frog Villa development. You can rent a villa or buy one. Bring lots of $$$$

Just off shore is the pretty little island known as Swan Cay or Bird Rock....whatever your mood. Places here in Panama have various names. It makes it interesting when asking directions.

Up close it looks prehistoric. You cannot walk here but the snorkeling around the island is nice.
Up a river

Our friends Barbara and Terry, enjoying a hike.

Local restaurant with really good food, beer and yes, Ganja should you be in the mood?

Look at those smiling faces. We are really in the mood......for lunch that is.
From our lunch stop at Roots we hiked up the hill to this organic coffee shop. The shop also makes organic cacao treats. And it is also a hostel. And they can take you on a tour of the area. And they can do your laundry. And you can trade your books here. Whew, talk about multi-tasking.

One of our favorite adventures here in Bocas del Toro was the zip line at Red Frog on Bastimentos Island.

Through the trees up high

Great fun
Right side up or upside down

Tana and Anne give this ride a big THUMBS UP

From here we head north east to San Andres and Providencia Islands. Colombia owns these islands located off shore from Nicaragua. They have pretty water, good snorkeling and stores for provisioning. San Andres is a popular resort area for mainland Colombians. Providencia is the quiet sister island that has maintained its rural ambiance. We will visit here until early 2012 and then we will move to the Bay Islands of Honduras for the spring season.

Adios for now
Anne and Steve
S/V Fine Line