Greetings from Shelter Bay Marina, just inside the breakwater of the Panama Canal—on the Caribbean side. Rascal has been here since December and soon to depart for destinations north—eventually getting to Florida where we expect to spend the summer of 2018 cruising the east coast of the USA before heading back down to the Caribbean after hurricane season.
Below is a Google Earth shot of the breakwater and Shelter Bay (near the top of the photo.) Note a big ship just leaving the Canal and the other ships waiting to go through the Canal (to the south).
Ships arriving from the Caribbean enter the Canal from the north near Colon), go through a set of locks, enter Lake Gatun, and travel south to the next set of locks near Panama City and into the Pacific. A fascinating venture. We served as "line handlers" for a friend's boat and helped them through the Canal. We got off in Panama City. Our friends are going around the world and left from Shelter Bay. Rascal, on the other hand, is going back to America (at least for the summer of 2018...
Our trip from Panama to Florida will be our most challenging (and grueling) venture since it involves a series of hops over long distances where the two of us will share watches 24/7 for days at a time. (Except for the pirate threat all over the east coast of Central America, we would normally just take our time—a year or more—hopping from port-to-port from Panama to Mexico.) We'll be staying far off the coast of Central America.
When we get a window of favorable weather, we will depart Panama for Providencia, a small dot of an island about 260 nautical miles NNW and off the coast of Nicaragua—roughly two straight days at an average of 5-7 knots.
After a few days of hanging out (and another good weather window,) we’ll sail 400 nm north to The Cayman Islands. This will be about 3 ½ days.
After a rest stop at The Cayman Islands and the next good weather window, we’ll have a three-day sail west to Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
From Isla Mujeres, it’s a three-day sail to Key West, Florida—possibly stopping in Havana, Cuba along the way. From Key West, we’ll begin our trek north stopping for a few days or a few weeks in St. Augustine, Savannah, Charleston, Wilmington (NC), Norfolk,-- eventually getting to Washington, D.C. on the Potomac River and then to the Chesapeake for the duration of hurricane season after which we’ll head south to Florida, the Bahamas, and the Eastern Caribbean for the winter.
Where will we be when? Who knows. (Someone once said the most dangerous item on a cruising sailboat is…a schedule.) We don’t plan to be anywhere any particular time. We just need to be out of the hurricane belt until after the season—and we don’t want to be in cold weather any time…
We look forward to visiting some of our east coast friends along the way.
Below is Rascal in Linton Bay, Panama. Photo taken from a friend's drone...
Thanks friends who worried that we sunk or were stranded on a desert island. Shamefully, I have just gotten so far behind since my last post in August just as Hurricane Irma was making landfall on Dominica. Since last September, we sailed from Curacao to Santa Marta, Columbia, to Cartegena, to Linton Bay, to the San Blas Islands, to Portobello, and to Shelter Bay Marina at the entrance to the Panama Canal. Today we will help some friends as "line handlers" for their 50 mile crossing of the Panama Canal to the Pacific Side. It will take two days. Rascal will stay on the Caribbean side. In the interim, if you want to know more about the cruising lifestyle (on other boats), please follow this link to another section of our website: www.svrascal.com/the-cruising-life.html
Dive master took us over to a stick in the mud...at least it appeared to be so...until it's mouth started to move.
So how did that eel get its body into the sand in the first place, I wondered...and then we came upon another...
Linda stayed on the boat....but I went diving. Taganda is located a few miles north of Santa Marta. Got my Advanced Open Water credentials over a long but fun weekend.
A fun time in Cartegena! Gilles Dupart has owned the French restaurant "Oh la la" since he immigrated to Columbia from France about 15 years ago. It is French cuisine with a Columbian twist. About 8 of us had a hand in cooking a fabulous 6-course meal...
Now this was a pleasant surprise. We left Rascal in Santa Marta and took a bus with our friends Steve and Liz to Cartegena, Columbia. It took about 5 hours but on the other end was this beautiful walled-in city. We stayed in a quaint little boutique hotel, walked around for three days, ate well (!) and then took the bus back to Santa Marta.
After leaving Curacao, it took two days and two nights to make our way to Santa Marta, Columbia. We continued to stay far north of Venezuela to avoid pirates. Along the way a lot of stormy weather and lightning! But a nice surprise in Santa Marta. A new marina and a very friendly town nearby.
Radar shows that we're screwed. We turned left but still got slammed. Heavy seas, wind, lightning.
Hurricane Maria just made landfall as a Category 5 on the most beautiful and luscious island in the Caribbean...I'm dreading what we'll find in the morning; it is likely to cause the same destruction that we've seen in Sint Maartin, the BVIs, Barbuda and other islands though hopefully the mountains will block the worst.
Dominica is a relatively poor island and an independent country. But their citizens have a lot of pride. Listen to the words of Dominica's national anthem by Martin--a local who showed us around and rowed us up and down the Indian River when we visited a few months ago. Beautiful.
You can see some more of that beauty below and in a previous post 'Martinique to Dominica'
Our thoughts and prayers the last several days has been with the friends we’ve made and the places we visited over the last couple of years. Fajardo, Calebra, St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Barbuda, Antigua, St. Martin, and St. Barth—all seriously damaged or completely destroyed. Who knows how much injury and loss of life.
Now we are focusing on our own preparations as we await Irma in Palm City, Florida. And we’re thinking about the many friends and other family members from Florida and all over the Southeastern U.S.
Why are we in Florida? Linda and I recently left Rascal in Curacao for our annual trek to the U.S.A. and have been staying with my sister and her family in Palm City (adjacent to Stuart, FL). We live on Rascal almost year-round except for some time to see doctors, dentists, see family, and attend to an occasional business trip. We had planned to go back to Curacao next week but then Irma...
Along with millions of others around us, we are right in the path of Hurricane Irma. We could have fled north but decided to stay put. The DeVault family has been through four hurricanes in this house—and each time have upgraded their hurricane plan so we feel very secure. We are also not in a flood plain; I think we are 45’ above sea level.
All day yesterday and today, we been working steadily to implement that plan. Anything that can fly around has been brought in the house or tied down. Lawn furniture; outdoor lighting, potted plants, exercise equipment, etc. And most importantly, (see below) metal shutters have been bolted into the walls to cover the windows and sliding glass doors (it’s dark in the house now).
We are also prepared for what may happen after the hurricane: We’ll be checking on our neighbors and they’ll be checking on us. We expect that we will be without power for one or two weeks. We expect to not have running water. We expect that we won’t be able to leave the house for a week or more as trees and debris will block the roads. We expect to miss air conditioning...
We’ll use pool water to flush toilets and bathe; we’ve stocked up on food that doesn’t need refrigeration; we’ve got plenty of drinking water; the gas tanks in our cars are filled; we have two full propane tanks for cooking on the grill (and boiling water); and happily we have medical supplies and, not uncoincidentally, the house is occupied by an MD, a nurse, and a qualified EMT!
I’m sure it will be pretty terrifying as the hurricane passes through but I’m confident we’ll be safe. The house was built after Hurricane Andrew and after they improved the building code.
We know and appreciate that we are very fortunate to be in a home like this with a family like this. They are terrific. We also know that a lot of lives are going to be changed by Irma and Harvey and maybe even Jose (following close behind.) Who knows what effect on the economy; who knows what effect on our politics or our nation. Life will be different for a lot of people.
But we’re optimistic. While it will be challenging for everyone in Irma's path, it will create a lot of opportunity to build new and meaningful lives for people ready to step out and make good things happen.
I'll post on the other side of Irma--after we get power and after we've returned to some form of normalcy or maybe after we (eventually) get back to Rascal!
Video above shows Avery DeVault (my college student niece) putting up metal shutters and a panorama of the view from the back of the house (yesterday.)
Rick and Linda Grimes bought a sailboat and left the U S of A for the Caribbean in 2015.