Christmas And New Year’s Eve. In The San Blas Islands

We’re alive and kickin’, here in the San Blas islands! Internet service is more available than expected, but usually requires precise placement of a cell phone (used as an internet hot spot) at the highest outside point possible. It’s a familiar sight here, to see phones encased in plastic bags, hanging from, or being hoisted up a mast. At best, the service comes and goes, making uploading challenging, with the strongest hours coming in the middle of the night…oy! Some people have boosters installed on board, to up the strength of the signal. Others travel to anchorages that may have better service.

We do not have a booster, and are trying not to spend our time chasing the internet, so getting a signal worth doing anything, for any amount of time, is basically a crap shoot.

I’ve finally caved, and have spent several all-nighters (with nap breaks during weak service periods) while we’re in a location with decent service, to catch up a bit, and share what we’ve been up to for the past two months. Yes, I guess I could have written a post without photos attached, but that would just be mean.

We made our way from Linton Bay, on Panama’s mainland, to the eastern Holandes Cays in the San Blas islands, where we anchored in the Swimming Pool. Named for it’s shallow, clear blue water, the pool lives up to it’s name. The anchorage provides an nearly 180 degree view of the surrounding reef, and the breaking waves are easily heard day and night.

The views behind us were just as beautiful, with the colors of patch coral in the distance.

On our first morning at anchor in “the pool,”  we had a visit from Venancio, one of just a few master mola makers in the San Blas. We’d been told to keep an eye out for him, and were surprised to see him so far east.  Venancio told us that he makes the eight hour round trip to the eastern Holandes from the island where he lives, just once a week, so we were lucky to catch him.

Venancio came aboard with a trash can full of molas, and some beaded bracelets. He took each mola out, and explained it’s design as he laid them out for us to see. They were beautiful; full of color, and all hand stitched.

We chose several of our favorites, and then Venancio packed up his trash can, loaded it aboard the ulu (wooden canoe) and covered it well, protecting the molas from the salt air and spray.  Mola purchase in San Blas..check.

The week before Christmas, we heard a general announcement on the vhf that there was going to be a cruiser gathering on Barbecue Island, located at the front of the anchorage, just behind the reef. We were excited to meet the other cruisers in the anchorage, and arrived with an appetizer to share with the group. The weather was perfect, and we met many new friends. (photo courtesy of s/v Sundowner)

Once the sun set, locals on the island, who run a small “resort” (I use that term very loosely) lit a bonfire for us. Their fire starting was far from skilled, as we watched them spray the huge pile of wood and palm fronds with gasoline! (photo courtesy of s/v Sundowner)

As expected, Scott spent many hours in the Aluminum Princess, exploring the anchorage and the area around the expansive reef.

He always has his pole spear handy, as his snorkeling outing often turn into hunting expeditions…many times successful ones!

Scott dropped a lobster head into the water behind the boat, to see what might bite. It seems that Triggerfish find them pretty tasty. Regulars here in the San Blas refer to Triggerfish as “Bob.” Maybe because there are many in the waters here…not sure. Bob likes lobster.

On windy days, current would run through the anchorage at close to four knots, making swimming very challenging. Scott’s solution was to take the Princess to one end of the anchorage, tie himself to it with a 30 foot line, and drift along behind it, as the boat made it’s way back through the anchorage in the current.

He  caught quite a few very large conch like this, having just enough time to get to the bottom and grab them before being pulled along. Neither of us were up for the job of cleaning conch (eewww), so we shared them with some of our new friends in the anchorage…and joined them for some fresh ceviche as a thank you!

We would get regular visits from the Gunas, in their ulas (dugout canoes). They usually had molas and jewelry for sale. We already had more molas than needed, but were happy to fill their water jugs with fresh water, and occasionally a juice for small children. They also took our aluminum cans, to sell to the Colombian trader boats who recycle them.They both row and sail the ulas, and the women’s traditional dress is beautiful.

There is no trash removal service here in the San Blas. Bottles are broken into pieces (the theory is that the pieces will eventually turn into sea glass) and dropped overboard when in deep water (at least 150 feet), along with steel cans (anything that will rust away). This isn’t just practice reserved for the San Blas islands, the U.S Coast Guard has similar requirements for trash removal offshore.

All other trash here is burned. Being new to the San Blas, we weren’t sure which beaches were acceptable for this, as all of the islands here are owned by Guna families, whether they are inhabited or not. Until we learned the rules of trash burning etiquette, Scott improvised.

Channeling his inner “MacGyver,” Scott fashioned a rack from a wire coat hanger (I’m shocked that we had one on board, although he probably had it squirreled away for just such an occasion),and placed it in the bottom of an old varnish can. He punched holes in the bottom for air, and voila!, a burn can for the grill was born.

This would have been the perfect solution if we burned every day, or made less trash, but we do neither of these things. Instead, Scott would spent two hours or more burning everything from paper to an old pair of shorts.

Positive…our trash burned down to a tiny pile of  ash. Negatives..it took hours, and we had to close up the saloon, to avoid being choked out from the smoke.

Luckily, or new-found cruiser friends invited us to join them for a trash burn run. We followed them about 20 minutes from the pool, to a beautiful spot, where they meet to burn trash. Fires are made near the waterline, so that high tide will wash away the leftover ash.

We soon realized that trash burning here is a social event. Once the trash has burned, and while we wait for the ashes to smolder and cool, it’s time for bobbing with drinks in the clear blue water; now that’s my idea of a day’s work!

By the way, wearing some kind of shirt is a must in the water here  (unless you’re our friend, Sharda, who is blessed with skin from Trinidad!). I learned this the hard way, frying my shoulders and back from the reflection of the hot sun off of the water.

When we first arrived, there were few boats in the anchorage  here, but during  the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. the numbers grew.

 

Of course, Christmas would not be complete without lights! We lugged along our holiday lights, and Sea Life was quite a festive sight in the anchorage. (photo courtesy of s/v Sundowner)

After enduring a stretch of windy weather in the pool, with the accompanying currents and insane salt spray, we decided to change locations for the next go-round. After the new year, we headed around the corner to the Hot Tub (yes, from the pool, to the hot tub..tough times).

With more protection from the winds, the water in “the tub” is much calmer, and the current much less strong. In addition to more beautiful views, the water is supposed to be warmer than in the pool, hence the name. However, we found it to be much cooler…ahhhh, refreshing.

 

 

Scott found a great honey hole around the corner, catching lobster and Lionfish. They are invasive, so he tries to kill them whenever he can. Lionfish are also good eating, but challenging to clean, due to their poisonous dorsal fins.

Once again, Scott used lobster tails for bait, and attracted a huge Bob! He grabbed his pole spear, and shot it right from the cockpit, without even getting wet. Unfortunately, Big Bob did not go down without a fight, flopping and bleeding all over the cockpit when Scott removed the spear tip.

Scott delivered this massive fish to our friends, Jon and Shannon, on s/v Prism. They were waiting for a new dinghy motor, requiring them to row everywhere.

In case you’re wondering, Howard is enjoying life in the San Blas. He keeps an eye on us from one of his favorite perches, up under the solar panels, and loves when the fish light goes in the water each night.

So our first few weeks in the San Blas were off to a great start. We made many new friends, and enjoyed the beautiful views. More to come, as we explore new anchorages. Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott’s Bachelor Days

While I was gone for five weeks, Scott enjoyed some serious bachelor time. A conversation two weeks into my trip home went something like this:

Me: How is everything?

Scott: Ok, but the boat kinda smells.

Me: Have you done laundry? (keep in mind, I’d been gone for two weeks)

Scott: I’ll probably do it tomorrow.

Me: Are you showering regularly?

Scott: Well, maybe not as regularly as society would like.

Me: Ok, so the laundry stinks, and you stink and therefor the bed sheets also stink. Maybe this the cause of said smell.

Scott: And I may not be rinsing the sink as good as I should, ’cause it kinda has a smell, too.

Me: Please pay someone to clean the boat before I come back.

Scott’s answer to the squashing the smell? When I talked to him the next day, he’d sprayed some body spray into the air conditioning vents, so the smell would travel down into the stateroom. I told him I was actually fine with that, but to still do the laundry, and shower more often! Thankfully, when I came back, everything smelled and looked normal.

In the meantime, Pete, our neighbor across the pier, had to empty his fuel tanks for repairs, and offered it to us…free of charge. Scott just had to get it from Pete’s boat to ours.

After waiting in vain for the mechanic at the marina to help out with pumping the fuel, Scott went to town and bought 100 feet of hose, removed his pump from our engine room, assembled everything on the pier, and pumped 350 – 400 gallons of fuel from Pete’s boat, across the pier and into our tanks.

Before beginning, Scott moved all of the fuel we had into one tank, just in case Pete’s fuel wasn’t the cleanest. As always, Scott filtered the fuel down to 10 microns as he pumped it, and said that it looked great. It was a bit of a hassle, but the process saved us approximately $1,000.00!

There were also several excursions on the Aluminum Princess while I was gone. Scott’s first outing was to the Snyder Canal.

Bocas del Toro is home to Panama’s first man-made canal. The Snyder Banana Company received permission from the Colombian government in 1899 to construct a canal from near Isla Colon to nearby Changuinola, in order to develop banana plantations on property recently obtained from the estate a German banana grower in the area.

There needed to be some way to transport banana bunches to ships waiting in Almirante bay, so construction of the the Snyder Canal began. The United Fruit Company purchased the Snyder Banana Company in 1899, and completed the canal 1903.

In addition to bananas, the canal was used to barge construction materials, supplies, bridge and steam locomotive parts and personnel to Changuinola. A telephone line was installed along the length of the canal, to communicate the control of heavy barge traffic.

Bridges and railroad systems were eventually built, connecting port facilities to plantations from Changuinola to the Costa Rican border 30 miles away.

 By 1909, with the railroad system in place for transporting bananas to newly opened port facilities located on the mainland, the Synder Canal was declared obsolete and was abandoned.

Referred to as “the other Panama Canal,” the Snyder Canal parallels the Caribbean coast, not far from Bocas del Toro. These days, the shoreline has grown into the canal in many spots, making for interesting travel. Scott also passed several local Indian homes on his journey.

As most of the land along canal is also fronts the Caribbean Sea (canal on one side, Caribbean Sea on the other), Scott noticed many investor signs along the way. It seems that they intend to eventually develop the shoreline here.

As the canal ends, the water opens up again, with field-like grasses on either side.

Scott next traveled the Rio Banano, a small, natural river nearby. Unlike the man-made canal, the Rio Banano is thick with mangroves. They crowd the shoreline, and hang down from above like tropical stalactites.

Scott navigated the twisting, turning path through the muddy, sediment-filled water. He hoped that his prop didn’t snag anything along the way, not wanting to put his hand in the murky water to free it.

Scott loves a good day of exploring, and enjoyed discovering these two interesting waterways. Here are more photos of his Aluminum Princess excursions near Bocas.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Exploring Bocas del Toro

The country of Panama is an isthmus (a narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land), bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Bocas del Toro is located at the northwest end of Panama, near the border of Costa Rico.

Image result for location of bocas del toro

Bocas del Toro Province is made up of an island chain off the Caribbean coast, and a section of nearby mainland. The archipelago separates Almirante Bay from the Caribbean Sea, and is made up of 10 islands. It was originally dubbed “the Galapagos of Panama” for its scores of biologically unique islands and islets. Our marina is on the main island of Isla Colon, where the capital, Bcocas Town is also located. The archipelago also includes 50 cays and some 200 tiny islets.

Not surprisingly, during the 17th century, the archipelago became a haven for pirates. They repaired ships on the islands, built others with wood from the forests and fed upon the many sea turtles in the area.

Gold was not plentiful in Bocas del Toro, so the Spaniards did not colonize the region with the same ruthlessness that was seen in other parts of Panama and the Caribbean.

From the 16th century to the mid-1800s, Bocas was little more than an uncharted frontier. Blazing sun, torrential rain, floods, bugs, landslides, and a plenty of feverish diseases made it pretty inhospitable (hmmm, aside from the landslides and diseases, sounds pretty familiar to us!). Later on, a little fishing village settled where Bocas Town is today.

Bocas town

In 1899, the United Fruit Company planted itself in Bocas town and over the next century that followed, it established vast plantations that stretched across the entire peninsula. Based in Bocas del Toro, the company rapidly expanded through Central and South America, constructing elaborate networks of roads, bridges and canals as well as entire towns and cities to house their workers.

However, one by one, plantations began to fall to a mysterious and deadly infection. “Panama disease” was a fungus that incubated in the soil and spread by floodwaters. By the 1920s, the banana plantations had died out.

During World War II, the Japanese cut off the world’s supply of abaca, which is used to make Manila hemp, the raw fiber in rope. Unable to tie their warships, the U.S. government enlisted the United Fruit Compnay to grow abaca on an industrial scale, and  Bocas del Toro was suddenly booming again.

Today, United Fruit is part of Chiquita Brands (based in Cincinnati), and their workers in Bocas del Toro Province grow and export three-quarters of a million tons of bananas annually.

Chiquita

Alright, enough historical tidbits….Now that the Aluminum Princess was in the water, and we’d made a dent in the to-do list, it was time for some exploring. Our first run was an hour-long ride along the shoreline of Bocas Town, just before sunset. Restaurants, hotels and homes in all conditions are crammed together, many  built entirely over the water.

Carenero Island is just off of Isla Colon, and Bocas Town, so we took a spin past that shoreline next.

While perusing the piers of Marina Carenero (because Scott never tires of looking at boats), we noticed this interesting tenting over a boat having work done. It strapped right to the pier, providing a sturdy structure for the work being done inside.

On the other side of the island, as we motored close to some over-water houses, Scott caught sight of a Maryland registration sticker on a small sailboat that has seen better days; neglected boats make him sad.

A few days later we took a longer ride, heading around the corner from the marina and over to the small settlement of Saigon, which backs up to the far side of Bocas Town. Most all of these houses sit over the water, in all shapes and sizes.

Next it was on to Starfish Beach. We actually didn’t see any starfish, just several interesting, low-key restaurants. We made a mental note for a future visit.

On our way back to the marina, we enjoyed views of the gorgeous clouds over the mountains of nearby Costa Rica.

Scott was concerned about leaving the Aluminum Princess in the water for days at a time, and set about devising a way to allow the bottom to dry. His answer? Tie off the bow of the Aluminum Princess to Sea Life’s windlass, lifting it out of the water and up toward the pier. From there, Scott gave it a good heave, and hauled her out. It’s quite a sight, but it works.

While I am visiting friends and family at home, Scott has plans for day-long excursions in the area. Here are many more photos of our first days exploring the waters of Bocas del Toro.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Sea Life’s Web TV Debut!!

Sea Life has debuted on the web! Our crusing buddy, Kevin, sent us a link to Cruiser TV, a new web tv show.  The first episode features Isla Mjueres, and guess who’s in the opening scenes (with the Aluminum Princess floating proudly behind her)?? Sea Life also appears clearly in the background during a later segment as well…howdya like that?!!

We’d heard that they were filming for the show when we were in Isla Mujeres, but had no idea that Sea Life would be in the footage!

The video is 26 minutes, and although it’s not the best produced show on the net, it was neat for us to see Sea Life! She appears at about 35 seconds in, and again at about 2:05. Check it out!!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Rondón

When we visited Delmar on our golf buggy day, he invited us to return for a rondón, a traditional African-Caribbean dish. It sounded like fun, and meant more coco locos, so we agreed to come back. After spreading the word around the anchorage a bit, we wound up with a group of ten. Delmar’s place is “just around the corner” from the anchorage, so we were able to arrive by water.

We are unable to get off of the bow of Aluminum Princess, so while the inflatable dinghies pulled up onto the sand, Scott anchored us fore and aft.

We then waded to shore, and made our way across the beach and up the steps to Delmar’s.

He immediately came to greet us, and made quick work of cutting coconuts, which he serves the coco locos in.

He was quite the one man show, serving us drinks, and another group food. We chatted and enjoyed the view, while waiting for our turn at rondón.

 

After doing a bit of research, I’ve learned that rodon is a soup made up of different types of seafood (fish, crabs, small lobsters or shellfish), with coconut milk, plantains, vegetables, peppers and spices. The word rondon comes from the words “run down”, which refer to going down somewhere to look for vegetables or fruits for cooking the dish.

Rondón is a traditional dish shared by different countries, so the ingredients and spices vary from region to region. Our rondón meal was “interesting;” not the most flavorful meal I’ve ever had. Aside from a dumpling, plantains, and some kind of fish, it was hard to discern what else was on our plate (I’m fairly sure that it included a pig’s tail).

Both the food and sauce were grayish in color, and it was very hard for me to get a knife through any of it it. Oh well, we try and be open to new things on this journey, and the drinks and views more than made up for it.

When it was our turn to eat, we all gathered around a large table under the palapa. Delmar played music for us while we ate. I think he enjoyed the break.

After dinner, some of our group made their way back to the anchorage, while Kevin and Marina and Scott and I stayed. Delmar built us a fire on the beach, and we enjoyed ourselves until way after dark.

Although it wasn’t our favorite meal, our host, the atmosphere and of course the coco locos were great, and we can now check rondón off of our list!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

Guanaja…It’s SOO Pretty Here!

The waters surrounding our anchorage off of Graham’s Cay were beautifully clear.

Scott enjoyed many hours of exploring and snorkeling. By the way, the Aluminum Princess has recently been equipped with an oscillating fan (thank the Lord) and a rod holder…ain’t she fancy!

In the evenings, Scott would drop his fish light off of the swim platform, providing hours of entertainment for Howard. The fish were so intriguing, that he eventually ended up hanging down and swatting the water…I couldn’t watch.

We also took the Aluminum Princess over to Savannah Bight for a “drive by.” Sitting opposite Graham’s Cay, on mainland Guanaja, Savannah Bight is the larger of two main settlements on the island.

We all enjoyed the anchorage here, especially Howard. He spent much more time outside.

Unfortunately, due to stronger winds in the wrong direction, we were unable to anchor here this time around. A weather window appears to be opening early next week, for us to start our journey toward Panama, so this morning we raised anchor, said a second goodbye to El Bight and headed for Roatan.

Scott wants to repair the fridge while we are plugged in, as cooling the unit back down will take a decent amount of power. We’ll also do a final grocery run, to stock up on cold and frozen foods, since we’ll be back at 100%. Hopefully, there will be time to squeeze in an outing before we shove off.

In the meantime, here are some photos from our anchorage off of Graham’s Cay. If you like pretty water, click here.

And here are some Guanaja grocery photos that I forgot to include with Shopping Day, for those who are interested.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Around The Corner To French Harbor

On Friday morning, we left West End and came to the area known as French Harbor. The wind forecast wasn’t the best (meaning we’d have head seas, no one’s favorite), but waiting for something better would have meant five or six more days at West End.

French harbor offers, among other things, a large grocery store, an Ace Hardware, a marine store and very few tourists. So, we made a quick but fairly bumpy trip (Howard was not pleased) “around the corner,” and along the southern coast of the island.

The rough ride was worth it, as we had decided to take a break from the sweltering temperatures and get a slip in French Harbor! Once we were out of the open ocean, I was able to take some pictures.

We made our way to Fantasy Island Resort & Marina. Timing was just right, as we were able to follow one of their dive boats through the reef, saving us the hassle of eye-balling our way.

Steve, the dock master, was there to catch our lines. He and his wife left Hawaii, bound for Annapolis, Md! When the dock master position presented itself, they accepted, and are now permanent marina residents. Steve helped us side-tie to the pier, which offers us terrific views from the boat.

The sound of breaking waves on the nearby reef is so loud, that you’d think we were anchored near a waterfall!

After plugging in and cooling off, we headed to the pavilion at dusk, where cruisers gather each evening. As we arrived, we were surprised to meet some of the marina locals…monkeys!! There had just been a bit of drama and screeching, that was quickly soothed by Steve’s offering of peanuts.

There are three monkeys who live on Fantasy Island, two males and a female (the names currently escape me). We are told that the female does not like women, so I kept my distance as she ate her peanuts. Steve warned us to keep things like shoes and such inside our boat, because the monkeys will take them. Scott is fairly sure that they have already made off with one of the gloves he uses when bringing in our paravanes.

The beer and wine bar in the pavilion is self serve, with latches on the refrigerators to keep the monkeys out, of course. A book is provided, to tally drinks next to your boat name. Payment is on island time, made that evening, or the next, or at the end of the week or at the end of your stay. We enjoyed music and singing from another cruiser, and chatted with a few of our new neighbors.

In addition to the monkeys, there are roosters and iguanas roaming on the island. Howard spotted this huge guy climbing the tree right outside our boat.

There are also many agoutis. These animals look like a guinea pig and a rat mated. They aren’t afraid of humans or noise, and wander the grounds (including the piers) freely as they look for food. Ick!

Howard is in “Wild Kingdom” heaven! The crying to get out began as soon as we tied up and he caught sight and smell of the grass. He was mesmerized by the agoutis.

We took him out to get some fresh air, and he immediately ran to the grass. After wandering around for a bit, he got right to chewing on the palm fronds.

As you can imagine, he did not want to leave the grass. Once inside, he showed his frustration by yelling at me and then biting my feet and ankles. Howard gets quite “sassy” when he doesn’t get his way. However, it’s not all bad for him. He gets daily walks, and enjoys watching the grass and trees for passing animals.

We spent all of Saturday washing the dirt and salt off of the boat. Scott spent hours pre-rinsing, and then we washed..and washed…and washed some more. Sea Life is a big girl, and the bath was much needed. We even washed the sides below the rub rail, turned the boat, and did the same on the other side. It was like a spa day for the old girl, and we could feel her breath a sigh of relief.

Yesterday, I started to reclaim the interior, that had been neglected once the heat and humidity kicked in. After a thorough  vacuuming, cleaning of heads and general straightening, we enjoyed some time with Diane and Jeff, who are from the UK. They are just down the dock, and we invited them over to pick their brains for further information on Colombia, Panama and the Eastern Caribbean.

Today, Scott went into town with Jeff and Diane to visit Ace Hardware and some other stores. Since they left at high noon, I chose to stay behind and catch up on the blog, emailing and boat chores. Their dinghy has a small leak, so instead of pumping it back up, Scott fired up the Aluminum Princess and they all headed to the dock that’s used to access town.

We plan to stay here for a bit, and use the marina as a home base while we explore the area. Here are more photos of our trip to French Harbor, and our first days at Fantasy Island.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Movin’ Down Island

With the forecast calling for winds below 20 knots, we planned to move out of El Bight and farther down the coast yesterday morning. However, on our trip into Bonacca for some food and an ATM run, the winds appeared to have picked up instead.

The Aluminum Princess slogged through white caps and sizeable waves in the open waters between our anchorage and town. With Scott wanting to tow her behind us when we moved, and concern for a comfortable stay at anchor, we decided to wait until this morning to change our location.

However, as I worked in the cockpit late yesterday afternoon, I noticed that the towels drying on the line weren’t whipping quite so violently (after getting slapped pretty good in the head by one earlier, I should know). Realizing that the winds had died down, I woke Scott from a nap, and we scurried to ready and go. It was only an hour ride to our next anchorage, but we liked the idea of waking up the next morning already settled.

We raised anchor and headed out of El Bight, around the corner and further down the coast of Guanaja. As always, the views did not disappoint along the way.

As planned, the Aluminum Princess tagged along behind for the ride. After a short and easy hour, we arrived at our next anchorage, off of Graham’s Cay.

Graham Thompson runs a small resort on his island, appropriately called Graham’s Place.

We’d already planned to visit, having heard great things from fellow cruisers. Most hotels and resorts, and some islands in general, aren’t always welcoming to cruisers. Sometimes this is for good reason, but for the most part it’s frustrating and unnecessary. In addition to him being friendly toward cruisers, we now have another reason to like and meet Graham.

Unfortunately, we had no luck with Mexican Fed Ex, and getting the compressor for our refrigerator through customs. At whits end, Scott got Defender involved, the company we ordered the parts from. After more back and forth with no clear instructions or reasoning on the issue, Scott told Fed Ex Mexico to send the stuff back.

He then received an email asking for his credit card number, to pay for “fees and storage.” There was no cost given for said “fees and storage,” and Scott replied that he did not intend to pay. He was through with the matter, having done what little they’d asked of him, with no result or explanation as to why.

Defender has been just as frustrated with the issue. They have someone who deals just with Fed Ex, and with international shipping, and can’t get a resolution. Fed Ex Mexico wants Defender to pay 500.00 for return shipping. Defender has decided to just let the parts go, write it off and refund Scott his money (less original shipping). The company has been terrific to us the last few years, during our refit, and this is a true testament to their exceptional customer service, going above and beyond for Scott.

Ok, so we now turn to Honduras, and getting the stuff shipped there. I again reach out to our friend Louis, who is proving an invaluable resource. He suggested that I contact Graham Thompson, to ask how to proceed. A great idea; a local man, who could point me in the right direction.

It turns out that Graham didn’t point at all. He quickly replied to my email, giving me the information for a shipping company based in Miami, that he and his son use for things that they cannot get locally. Once our parts are in Miami, we can choose to have them shipped via boat or plane, with his name on the package. When they arrive in Guanaja, Graham will be notified. He will pick up the items, pay the fees and we can reimburse him…hoo-RAY!

However, this stupid saga continues. When Scott called Defender to re-order his parts, he feared the sale price originally offered had ended. It indeed had, but they honored the sale price for him…of course. However, the parts are now on back order until the end of the month! This was disappointing to hear, as we know that there are perfectly good parts sitting in Merida, Mexico!

We plan to go ashore and say a big hello and thank you to Graham, as well as get final details before the parts come in to Defender and the order goes through. Since it will take weeks for that to happen, and for the stuff to arrive here, we plan to stay here a few days and then head on to Roatan. We’ll stay there for a few weeks, and then return here to wait for our shipment. Neither location is a bad place to be stuck!

Here are a few photos from our short trip “down island.”

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Boats Big And Small…And Many Friendly People

We are surprised at the amount of large, commercial boats that come and go from this area. In addition to the many commercial fishing boats that work the local waters, there are often larger ships loading and unloading goods. One ran aground recently, just behind where we’re anchored. Two fishing boats helped to free it, before it headed south.

Since there are very few cars on the island, and the main town is only accessible by water, most locals seem to motor, or row where they need to go by boat.

Water taxis are also popular, ferrying both locals and the few tourists that visit back and forth.

Scott got the chance to use one recently, when the Aluminum Princess had a set back. We also discovered how great the locals, and our cruising friends are.

We were on our way to town for “shopping day,” when the supply boat brings the weekly load of fresh fruits, vegetables and supplies. Scott went to increase our speed, and instead the motor revved up, but our speed remained the same.

Not wanting to get stuck in the choppy waters, we turned back and putted our way toward Sea Life. Whenever Scott tried to increase speed, the motor would again rev up, but not accelerate. He was almost certain that the bushing between the hub and the propeller had worn, allowing the motor to rev without engaging the prop. So it seems we needed a new propeller…the search began.

I started with emailing our friend, Louis. He was one of the first cruising friends we’d met in Isla Mujeres, and has spent much time here. I got a quick reply, telling us to find a local couple, Jim and Cathy. He described where there house was, and also told us to just ask anyone about where to find them. He also told us to see Hans, a German man who lives here on the beach (he also makes a mean pizza, more on that later).

We headed to shore, and stopped in to see Klaus and Annette, a friendly German couple who have been here for over 20 years, and run Manati bar. They also told us to go talk to Hans, so we walked the grass path, and over the bridge to see him.

Hans told us that he could “rig” the prop, but if we wanted a replacement, it should be available in town. Scott had already researched this, and had put in an email to the business he thought may have what we needed.

We stayed and enjoyed beer and conversation with Hans and others at his small bar, and then headed back to Manati. Annette and Klaus told us to stop by the next day, when they would help us call the store, just in case we got no email reply.

The next day, after our sweaty hike, we stopped into Manati, but found no one downstairs. Scott decided to give the email some more time, as we were still able to use the Aluminum Princess at a slow speed. A day later, we received an email reply. The place in town had what we needed…hurray! We were so happy not to have to order it!

That afternoon, a local panga boat made it’s way to our swim platform. It was Louis’ friends, Jim and Cathy! With all else going on, we’d forgotten to ask about them. It seems that Louis had emailed the couple about our situation, so they stopped by to see if we needed help. I think Scott wants to stay here permanently.

We stopped into Manati after our second hike, and found Klaus and Anntte sitting down to lunch. They had seen our boat tied to the pier the day before (we’d left it there to go and hike) , and went looking for us at Hans’. It seems that they’d called the store in town on their own, and were trying to let us know that the part was in stock. It’s so nice to have so many people here look out for us.

I convinced Scott to take a water taxi to get the prop, instead of putting back and forth to town in the choppy water. He dropped me at the boat, and then went back to shore. Annette phoned a water taxi for him, and soon he was off to town in style.

With part in hand, Scott now wondered how he’d work on the motor while we were at anchor. When the Aluminum Princess is up on the flybridge, the motor hangs off the back. He thought of taking it to the pier at Manati, and backing it up into shallow water. Eventually, he came up with this “MacGyver” idea that worked great!

The prop went on in no time at all, and after a brief test drive (with turns that I will not allow when I’m onboard) the Aluminum Princess is back in business!

A few more boat photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Back At Anchor

After a week of treating ourselves to a slip, we left Marina Paraiso on Tuesday, and moved to the nearby anchorage. Aside from Key West, which was a huge splurge, our budget doesn’t allow for long stays at a slip. Once we’d cleared customs and did some chores, it was time to go. We’ll miss our neighbors..

Ok, maybe not all of our neighbors..

We did a quick spin down through the lagoon, just south of the marina. There are several more cold fronts due to come through in the next week (yay, more wind!), and Scott wanted to check out the lagoon for a possible anchorage with better protection. We spied this crazy island, which made up of floating plastic bottles…quite a spread!

This little “cable car?” moves along a rope, to transport people back and forth.

Overall, the lagoon felt quite removed, and the marinas were filled with big sport fish boats.

It wasn’t our first choice for a place to spend a week or more, so we headed back out toward the harbor, to scope out a spot there.

We passed back by our slip at Marina Paraiso on the way..

It took a bit of time to find a spot to drop anchor. Several of the boats have two anchors out, which makes them swing differently. Being single anchor people, we searched the anchorage to find others doing the same. There are a few shallow spots, and an area where we watched a boat snag their anchor line on something on the bottom. They were tangled for hours before getting free, so those areas were also out. We finally decided on a spot at the edge of the anchorage, along side the I-95 path for tour and fishing boats. Not our favorite location, but we decided getting waked from them was better than swinging into someone or floating into shallow water.

All in all, it’s really nice out here. The wakes don’t jostle us very much, and we have nice views of the shoreline and town on one side, and the skyline of Cancun beyond the harbor on the other.

We’ll spend a week or so here, while we ride out the cold fronts and explore the southern end of the island. We have some good looking neighbors…a tall ship from Germany came in yesterday.

The Aluminum Princess has finally been lowered into Mexican waters! She has a new look, in her ongoing metamorphosis. Scott decided to take the black  foam collar off. It was causing a rougher ride in a head sea, and he was losing overall speed. So she now has gone back to a regular rub rail, made of vinyl, to soften impact with us and other boats when docking. She still looks sharp!

So we’re all afloat again.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”