May 11, 2009
It is time to call a halt to this log for a week or so. We will continue with the log when the Admiral joins the Ocean Dance on the 23rd of May for several weeks. She will of course be aboard during the transit of the Panama Canal on the 3rd of June.
May 10, 2009
Today the Ocean Dance lost two valued crew members as Dan and Debbie Lowell had to return home to Las Vegas. Dan and Debbie had been aboard since joining the Ocean Dance in Playa del Coco, Costa Rica and it was a pleasure having them on the Ocean Dance. The Captain looks forward to their return as "crew members" when the boat continues on her voyage this fall.
May 9, 2009
Location: Balboa, Panama
Latitude: 8 56.079 N
Longitute: 79 33.336 W
Distance Traveled: 5,222 Nautical Miles / 6,005.3 Statute Miles
A great day in Panama!
The crew awoke early and headed into Balboa via cab for breakfast Afterwards, they caught up with the taxi and driver they had hired for the day, at $8.00/hr, and were off to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort to get a first hand look at the rainforest of Panama!
The pools of the Gamboa Rainforest Resort
The scenery was startling, and the crew enjoyed their visit to this posh resort. Soon they were back in the taxi and heading off to the Miraflores Locks to take in what some say is the 8th wonder of the world.
Upon entering the visitors lobby of the Miraflores Locks, the Captain was greeted by Paul Reed, a guide at the locks who Jim had met a year previously when he and the Admiral visited Panama. Paul was once again most gracious and provided the proper instructions as to how best view the locks, the museum, the movie theatre presentation and of course the buffet lunch in the great restaurant. It was an incredible day watching the huge freighters and tankers transiting the canal through the locks and the canal employees and crews of the ships made the entire lockage process appear effortless. Now if the Ocean Dance crew can be as well prepared on the 3rd of June when the Ocean Dance makes her transit of the canal!
After viewing the Miraflores Locks, the taxi took the crew for a drive through downtown Panama City and of course the horrendous traffic in the city terrorized all the crew except the Captain who had experienced it before. More than once Bob was heard to exclaim "we are going to die" but the taxi driver did a great job in keeping the crew safe and free from harm
After touring the downtown area, the next stop was the mall at the former Allbrook US Air Force Base. Amazing, it had to be one of the most modern and largest malls in the world! Bob found and purchased a new guyaberra shirt which he needed for brunch at the City Club in Panama City the next day and kept raving at the price of $6.99! Everything seemed to be priced a lot less than similar items in the States.
Back on the boat, Dan and Debbie prepared for their early morning departure to the Tocumen Airport and their flight home.
May 8, 2009
The day had finally arrived! The day the Captain had been dreaming of for the past 39 years Ever since he had been stationed in Balboa, Panama in 1969 and 1970 he had dreamed of piloting his own boat to and through the Panama Canal. Approaching the outer sea buoy, the crew of the Ocean Dance paid close attention to the radar targets and AIS information provided on the computer screen. Ok, so no problem boys, we simply "navigate" through the maze of freighters, tankers, bulk carriers, and other ships up to 965 feet in length as we approach the entrance to the Panama Canal. We would have to travel into the canal for a couple of miles before we tie up to our prearranged mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club.
Yes, those are targets and we have to avoid them!
At 11:00am as the Ocean Dance arrived at the outer sea buoy of the Panama Canal, the Captain called the vessel traffic control for the Panama Canal at the Flamenco Signal Station on the VHF radio. Permission was granted for the Ocean Dance to continue into the Panama Canal towards her moorage at the Balboa Yacht Club. Setting a course to enter the canal on the right side, the Ocean Dance made her way towards the first outer red buoy. The time had arrived. The Captain was at the wheel with Bob watching and advising which huge ships were anchored, which were underway, which were entering the canal and which were exiting the canal! The ship traffic reminded the Captain of rush hour on a Los Angeles freeway but the Ocean Dance continued on through the maze and entered the canal. Soon she was abeam of the fuel dock of the Balboa Yacht Club and made a 90 degree turn out of the canal channel and into the fairway of the moorage field. A panga approached and guided the Ocean Dance to her assigned moorage and within minutes the Ocean Dance was secure on her mooring, the engines shut down and the crew could finally relax! She had arrived in Balboa, Panama!
The Ocean Dance on her mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club, just before the Bridge of the Americas
The voyage which started in September, 2007 when the Ocean Dance departed Everett, Washington for Ensenada, Mexico for her refit; then back to San Diego for the summer of 2008 and subsequently returning to Ensenada for more "boat work" before continuing south had reached its destination. Balboa, Panama would be a temporary stop before she transits the Panama Canal on June 3rd. Balboa, Panama is an incredible 5,961 statute miles from Everett, Washington! The Ocean Dance performed well during her voyage and the crew members who joined the vessel on her various legs performed equally as well.
All that was missing on this remarkable day was having the Admiral aboard, but soon she will be back on the Ocean Dance. On May 23rd she will return to the Ocean Dance to help celebrate the ship's arrival in Balboa, Panama and of course the Captain is very much looking forward to her being aboard and taking command of the vessel!
May 7, 2009
Latitude: 07 38.631 N
Longitude: 081 45.375 W
The crew awoke at the schedule time of 02:45am to prepare to get underway to the Balboa Yacht Club, Panama City. This last leg of the current voyage would cover 212 nautical miles with a scheduled arrival time in Panama City of 08:00am the following morning.
But, the Ocean Dance would not be hauling her anchor just yet Mother Nature had decided to put on a spectacular light show for the crew of the Ocean Dance. The crew started in amazement, and apprehension, at the lightning strikes which literally surrounded the boat and went on for several hours. The night quickly became day as the lightning continued to strike, sometimes within a half mile of the Ocean Dance! The Captain made the decision to "stay put" until Mother Nature gave her permission to proceed to Panama City.
The storm passed on and the Ocean Dance raised her anchor at 06:45 and set course for Panama City. Of course, as soon as she was out of the waters of the Panamanian National Park at Isla Coiba, Bob once again set out in his attempts to catch the thus far elusive dorado!
This guy is having too, too much fun!
May 6, 2009
Location: Island Coiba
Latitude: 07 38.631 N
Longitude: 081 45.375 W
The crew was awakened by an incredible howling noise coming from the jungle! Ah, so that is what a howler monkey sounds like! We had read where Isla Coiba was home to thousands of these very loud, loud monkeys and enjoyed immensely being able to hear them howling! Bob soon called everyone to the side deck as he had spotted monkeys scurrying along the beach. We saw one, then two more, followed by at least 16 other monkeys running across the beach! Now this is a tropical paradise complete with wildlife!
The crew set out for Isla Granito del Oro, a small island located off the eastern shore of Isla Coiba. The guide books had claimed the best snorkeling in the area could be found at this small reef surrounded island about 4 miles from the anchorage.
Closing in on Isla Del Granito, the crew was simply amazed at the beauty and tranquility of this deserted island! The waters were cobalt blue outside the reefs and inside where the water became shallow, the water turned an amazing turquoise green. It wasn't long before the anchor was set well outside the reef and the crew was aboard the AMI dingy heading to shore with their snorkel gear.
Isla Granito de Oro is beautiful and isolated
Back aboard the Ocean Dance, the crew decided to remain anchored off of Isla Granito del Oro and have lunch. But soon they were interrupted by a panga from the ANAM (Panama's National Park Service) and soon the Panamanians were asking for exorbitant fees to anchor within the park. We had read in the guide books where a nominal fee of $10.00 per person plus $20.00 for an anchorage fee was required to visit the marine park but these guys wanted $20.00 per person plus $180.00 anchorage fee. Soon the negotiations were concluded and the amount of $100.00 was agreed upon for both the crew and the anchorage fee as long as the crew would not require an official receipt! In other words, we had just experience our first encounter with the dreaded "mordida', or "bite". Hm, I wonder what Mr. Ruben Blades, the Minister of Tourism for Panama, would say to this practice. I would advise any other boaters transiting these waters to avoid Isla Coiba The islands are beautiful but
Returning to their anchorage on Isla Coiba, the crew set in for a good night's sleep as the departure for Panama City was scheduled for 03:00am the next morning.
May 5, 2009
Location: Isla Calava, Panama
Latitude: 07 59.032 N
Longitude: 082 01.517 W
The crew arose early and started the engines after making the boat ready for her cruise to Isla Coiba, a distance of approximately 29 nautical miles from Isla Calava. However, the Ocean Dance would not be following a straight course to her next anchorage at Isla Coiba. She would be taking a diversion from her straight course to pass over the Hannibal Bank, one of the world's most renowned fishing grounds. The Hannibal Bank is known for world record marlin, giant tuna, and other species. The excitement ran high throughout the entire crew as the boat departed her anchorage at Isla Calava and headed to the Hannibal Bank.
As soon as the boat cleared Isla Calava, Bob went to the cockpit and began rigging lines and getting them overboard. The freezer of the Ocean Dance is getting low on provisions so Bob has been tasked with providing fresh fish for the crew to enjoy for the next few days as she continues on her way to Panama City.
May 4, 2009
Location: Isla Parida
Latitude: 8 07.302 N
Longitude: 82 20.861 W
The crew awoke after a long, long night's sleep and set about preparing the Novurania dingy for a circumnavigation of Isla Parida. The scenery of the island is absolutely spectacular! The islands were formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago and it is amazing to see small islets of volcanic rock topped with the most beautiful, lush vegetation.
The crew traveled clockwise around the island in search of a small resort mentioned in the various guide books aboard the Ocean Dance. But, the only people the crew spotted on the entire circumnavigation was a lonely panga with three fishermen aboard ( with a line which must have had 1,000 or more hooks on it ). The crew approached the panga and asked if they had any fish to sell but as the long line was still aboard their panga it was obvious they had not begun to fish for the day. Damn, now Bob would have to catch fresh fish for the Ocean Dance! No pressure Bob!
After circumnavigating the island, the crew made the decision to haul anchor and cruise the approximately 30 nautical miles to Isla Calava, this in an effort to get a jump on the following day's cruise to Isla Coiba and the famous Hannibal Bank.
The anchor was hauled and the Ocean Dance cleared her anchorage at Isla Parida and set course for her next anchorage at Isla Calava.
May 3, 2009
The crew awoke at 12:30am and prepared the boat for her voyage to Isla Parida, Panama. This would be the Ocean Dance's first anchorage in Panama and the crew, especially the Captain who had dreamed of cruising Panama aboard his own boat for the past 39 years, was looking forward to setting the hook in Panamanian waters.
Once the sun came up, Bob immediately started to put out lines in search of the thus far elusive tuna, dorado or marlin! It wasn't long before the Captain heard "FISH ON FISH ON" from the cockpit. Pulling the throttles back to idle speed the Captain headed back to the cockpit to see if he could assist Bob in landing the fish.
Bob had hooked a fish alright! A magnificent blue marlin began leaping out of the water at the end of Bob's line, a fish which Bob estimated to weigh 400 pounds! And I can attest it was not an exaggeration on Bob's part! The fish was HUGE! After a few leaps, the fish seemed to look at the Ocean Dance as if to say "ok, you guys are headed north then I will go south"! The fish took off in the opposite direction of the boat's course and Bob kept repeating "I cannot turn the damn fish, I cannot turn the damn fish". Bob was fishing with one of Tom Holzbaur's new rods and reels and set the drag to full but the marling didn't seem to mind that at all. Soon the 400 yards of line was completely taken by the fleeing marlin, a loud snap was heard as the end of the line separated from the reel and the marlin was last seen heading away from the Ocean Dance with Bob's precious marlin lure and 400 yards of line! Of course during all this action, another smaller marlin took another of the lures but spit it out shortly after attacking the lure. A double hook up! Now this is fishing!
The Ocean Dance continued on her voyage to Isla Parida but would not be hooking any more fish this day.
At 11:08am, the Ocean Dance crossed the Panama / Costa Rica border. It was a dream come true for the Captain as he had dreamt of this day for the past 39 years. Ever since he had served in the US Army and was stationed in Panama he had wanted to pilot his own boat to Panama and through the Panama Canal It was a very, very emotional moment when the Captain raised the Panama courtesy flag on the Ocean Dance as she entered Panamanian waters. The voyage would not have been possible without the love and support of the Admiral who will join the Ocean Dance in Panama City on the 23rd of May, and the Captain is looking forward to having her aboard the Ocean Dance!
It only took 39 years to raise the Panamanian courtesy flag!
At about 3:00pm in the afternoon, the Ocean Dance arrived at her anchorage in Isla Parida and the island was absolutely beautiful, yet remote. There were a few high end homes on the shore of the bay where we anchored but when we approached the caretaker after landing the dingy on the beach we were told it was a private compound and that we could not enter. Private? I would say so, the three or four homes on the island even had their own helicopter landing pad!
Do you really think these two can find the small country of Panama?
Returning to the Ocean Dance, the crew read, relaxed and settled in for a few hours of watching "24". A quiet evening was spent enjoying the beauty and solitude of the island.
May 2, 2009
Location: Bahia Drake, Costa Rica
Latitude: 8 41.964 N
Longitude 83 40.235 W
After cruising for 25 hours from Playa del Coco, Costa Rica the crew made a unanimous decision to stop mid-afternoon and drop the anchor in Bahia Drake, Costa Rica. The winds had increased, or "freshened as sailors like to say" and the seas had become choppy to the point that it made sense to stop and relax for a bit.
Entering the bay carefully though the first rain the Ocean Dance had experienced during her voyage, the crew carefully picked a spot protected from the winds and seas and dropped the anchor. It was a very, very careful entry into the bay as it was this very same bay the Sir Francis Drake ran his ship aground in 1579. I imagine he had a problem with his GPS at the time!
The crew relaxed, sent emails to their respective spouses at home and set in for the night. An early departure was scheduled for 2:00am as the voyage to Isla Pardida, Panama would take approximately 14.5 hours to complete and the crew wanted to arrive at their next anchorage during daylight hours.
May 1, 2009
The paperwork cha cha continued Having been promised the immigration office would open at 8:00am this national holiday in Costa Rica to sign the necessary documents required for the Ocean Dance to receive her zarpe (international exit papers), the Captain arrived at the office of immigration at 7:15am. Not wanting to be late he arrived well in advance of his scheduled appointment. There really was no need to be that early as the woman running the immigration office did not show up until 8:20am. But at least she showed up. Ah, this is where it gets interesting as the woman explained to the Captain that she did not live in Playa del Coco and had to drive from her home many, many miles away to meet the Captain, and all this on her day off! This rhetoric of course was for the sole purpose of soliciting a propina (tip) and soon a price was negotiated and the proper papers signed and delivered to the Captain. It is interesting to note the propina also covered and exit permit for Bob Hersch who would be joining the crew today in Playa del Coco but would not arrive in Costa Rica via Continental Airlines until 11:30am. So how is it possible to obtain an exit permit for someone not yet in the country you ask? Easy, the answer is American dollars speak very loudly in this country!
Having obtained the required immigration paperwork, the Captain returned to the Port Captain's office for his blessing of the zarpe and of course, the necessary propina as he to had to come into the office on his day off to sign the paperwork for the Captain!
Finally, finally, all paperwork was completed and the Captain returned to the Ocean Dance to collect Dan and Debbie to come ashore and wait for the arrival of Bob Hersch!
The timing with Bob's arrival went perfectly, the crew was soon back aboard the Ocean Dance, the luggage stowed, the Cats started, the anchor hauled and the Ocean Dance set about on her course for Isla Pardida, Panama! Adios Costa Rica..
And for those cruisers who read this and may consider cruising Costa Rica I offer this simple suggestion. Keep your course true to Panama, remain offshore of Costa Rica and do not, I repeat do not, put yourselves though what we had to endure here. The government officials have made it a nightmare to check in and out of the country and so much so I would highly recommend skipping this country and sailing on by!
April 30, 2009
Another day in Costa Rica trying to get the necessary paperwork to exit the country. The process was the same go here, go there and in the end the Captain ended up with nothing but a promise that the necessary paperwork would be completed the next day, Friday which also happened to be a national holiday in Costa Rica! Good luck with everything coming together as promised!
Having a most frustrating day, the Captain and crew returned to the Ocean Dance to complete a few chores necessary in the unlikely event the Ocean Dance would be able to get underway for Panama tomorrow
Great news, Bob Hersch has confirmed he will be once again joining the crew of the Ocean Dance and is scheduled to fly into Liberia, Costa Rica on Friday morning! Bob is an avid boater, and the captain of the Adventurer from Huntington Beach, CA, and is a very welcome addition to the crew once again.
Dan, Deb and Jim went about preparing the boat to get underway on Friday and completed the provisioning required.. It promised to be a fun, fun voyage to Panama!