Written by Diana in April in Panama and finished in Norway in May 2010.
A cold winter in
Having left White Admiral safely on land in
We had an enjoyable evening before Christmas at Martin and Tonje’s flat, meeting her family, including her mother, grand-father and aunt. This was an indication that they have now a serious relationship, which we are very happy about, Martin is a lucky man!
Before going back to work, I had a few days in
Three months soon pass, and suddenly we were packing again for the tropics. Another good neighbour, Tore, drove us in falling snow to the train station in Drammen, we spent the night with Stein’s mother Eli in Sandefjord, and were off the next morning on KLM and Martinair to Amsterdam and Cuba.
The flight into
Most of the other days were spent in and around
We had the same impression of
On our last day we had decided to invite René, the boat yard manager and his family, to lunch on the boat, but despite being in charge of the yard, the security staff would not give his wife and two children permission to come aboard. This is probably the worst thing about the Cuban society, that everything is controlled, there are security guards everywhere, your neighbour could be watching you and ready to report if you do anything that seems to be against communist principles and the revolutionary ideals. Viva la Revolucion! Anyway, we took René and his family to a nice restaurant, probably a much bigger experience for the children, who never otherwise have such a treat. We hope they will grow up into a freer and better society, and hopefully; that the Cubans can solve their massive problems peacefully.
Jim left us on the morning of the 8th March. Jhonny was supposed to drive him to the air-port, but came so late that Jim had taken another taxi 2 minutes before. Poor Jhonny, so desperate for work, but not very reliable!
We decided to leave the same day for
A rough sail to
The next day we motor sailed in a very light wind, enjoying the lobster tails which Jhonny had got for us (he managed to do some things right), but as soon as we rounded the west tip of Cuba at night, the wind freshened from south-east, much sooner than our weather forecast had predicted. Three miserable days of tacking back and forth followed, with a near gale right on the nose, only making about 50 nautical miles a day. The only ship we saw during this time was a U.S. coastguard vessel which came quite close, and over the VHF radio wanted all the details about who we were, where we had come from and where we were going. They were quite friendly about it, so I asked them to send an e-mail to Elisabeth, so nobody would worry that we would be slow getting to
After the poverty and lack of goods in Cuba, it was almost overwhelming to be in prosperous Grand Cayman, with its American-style supermarkets, restaurants, souvenir shops and especially banks, which seem to be on every corner, leaving no doubt we were back in the realm of capitalism! The atmosphere here is very Caribbean, the local accent reminded us of
Sail to San Blas
This time the weather forecast was correct, and we had five lovely days with a light north-east breeze sailing pleasantly often with winged genoas. We have begun the habit of keeping one engine idling at night so that we have unlimited electricity. This means we can watch films and use as much light as we want, much easier to stay awake. Martin had downloaded a number of films for us, and we both particularly enjoyed ’Invictus’ about Nelson Mandela and the Springboks Rugby Team.
We had our fishing line trolling behind most of the way during the day, but it was not until we were approaching El Porvenir on 21st March that we caught a nice mackerel, perfect for our first dinner at anchor.
Back in San Blas
It felt great to be back after two years, and we soon were out walking on the air-strip on El Porvenir and visiting the nearby
Our first guests, Martin with two kids Hedda and Johan, and partner Tonje were due to arrive on 26th March, so we had good time to get a few jobs done and the boat ship-shape. We had found out that our cockpit floor and benches had become too smooth, and were very slippy when wet, so we did a paint job with a scattering of sand between coats to make the surface rough, which worked very well. The local shop on Wichubhuala had as usual neither vegetables or chicken, so I was a little anxious about how to get enough fresh produce before they arrived, but like a miracle, the ’veggie boat’ appeared the day before they were due. The Kuna Indians themselves do not seem to have much business sense, and Panamanians are not allowed to set up permanent businesses in Kuna Yala, the Indian area, but the veggie boat is run by a couple of enterprising Panamanians who come along the coast about once a week, and visit yachts with a good supply of fruit, vegetables, chicken, beer, wine and so on. Now we were ready for our family to visit us, and were standing by the air-strip the next morning as the plane arrived from
The children; Hedda (8) and Johan (5) soon discovered that the water temperature of 27-28 centigrade makes swimming a delight, and they could spend hours each day messing about in the water, and were both soon accomplished snorkelers. We had missed Heddas eighth birthday earlier in the month, so had a birthday lunch with treasure hunt to find her birthday present, a huge ring for playing in the water with, and a non-birthday present, a soft beech freesbe for Johan.
The next morning we set off on our Kuna Yala round trip. We were going to pick up Elisabeth, Hugh and little Finn on 30th March at another small airport about 20 nautical miles away, Corazon de Jesus. We planned two stops on the way, Salardup and Esnasdup (dup being Kuna for island), both typical San Blas anchorages with azure water, coral reefs for snorkelling, palm trees, and white beaches! No problem entertaining people here! Johan began the first day with feeling ill and vomiting, but later the same day was swimming and snorkelling as if he had never been ill. At Salardup, we took an expedition to a deserted little palm island for a picnic, fried fish and salad followed by toasted marshmallows! At this anchorage as well as the usual reef fish, there are usually spotted eagle rays to be seen, and we were all lucky to have this extra thrill. At Esnasdup, Stein and Diana had seen a sea crocodile on a previous visit, but we were not lucky enough to have this repeated. Between islands Martin had the fishing line out, but just didn’t seem to have any fishing luck this year, disappointing after so easily fishing barracudas last year in
More visitors in San Blas
The morning plane from
After waving goodbye to those leaving on the morning plane, Elisabeth, Hugh and Finn had one last day with us. This was spent mainly on the
The next morning as Elisabeth and family got onto the plane, they had just time to say hello and goodbye to my sister Linda and her Norwegian partner Rune, who were arriving for a week. They had fortunately also managed to get some fruit and vegetables with them, as our cupboards were now almost out of fresh produce, but it was still necessary to get more. So our first stop was at the West Lemmon Cays, a popular anchorage where we heard the veggie boat was coming in two days. Here there was really a surprise, a little Internet cafe has been installed! It is run by Kunas, a small thatched hut with three machines, and a little bar beside it, slow reception, but great to get our mail after being out of touch since
Our last stop was again at
Little did we know that a volcano in
At last we were alone on White Admiral. We had enjoyed our three weeks with guests, but it is also nice to relax alone. We motored in a calm over to Chichime, another San Blas paradise to enjoy a last couple of days of white sand and 27 degree water, before the journey to Shelter Bay Marina at the entrance to
just 15 nautical miles from Panama Canal, and it took us about three hours of motoring, again on an almost calm sea, to arrive at Shelter Bay Marina. Now we were back in civilisation, with electricity, fresh water and hot showers. The marina is on the edge of a nature reserve, and on our pre-breakfast morning walks, there were lots of howler monkeys to be seen as well a a rich bird life. On 22nd April, White Admiral was professionally lifted onto land and into a high security storage area.
After the usual rush to get the last jobs done, including varnishing the floor, we were off by bus to
We arrived safely the next morning in
It was altogether a long, tiring journey, and it felt great to be back home. Now it is work for us both over the summer, before going back to White Admiral and
|From 100504 Winter & Spring 2010 report|