Month: November 2015

Feeding the fish

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Our voyage from Shelter Bay to Bocas took 25 hours. That’s 25 hours of constant large swells, against the current with troubled winds to try work with. It was quite an adventure! I’ve come to realize that photos never do waves justice, and once again, these simply don’t show the size of the swells.

Just as I went to take this third photo, a huge wave splashed over the bow and all the way back to where I was at the helm.


I have never been seasick, and once again didn’t take seasick pills, and neither did Jude. She ended up feeding the fish 4 different times off the stern, and after my watch I returned to my berth and was organizing a few things while being tossed around a little, and all of a sudden became SO nauseous that I had to hurry to the head to throw up. After that I was fine again. There’s a first time for everything!

As the sun grew closer to set, the waters calmed slightly for a short while, and I felt such incredible peace and gratitude on the water.


I walked around to port side and the creatures were all sitting watching out over the ocean in the setting sun, singing out loud into the wind.


In the afternoon of the following day, as we came into the calmer water close to Red Frog Marina, the sun was close to setting and greeted us with a welcoming warmth.


After docking, the creatures took a bucket of soapy water and washed down all the metal on Tanda Malaika, and then Jude followed with a hose and gave her a good spray down. Our showers felt so good, and so did our beds.

Since we were sailing on Thanksgiving, we decided to cook our Thanksgiving meal today. With our tiny propane oven, it too 10 hours to prepare the food, but everyone felt like it was worth the wait. Danny worked so hard for his meal, pulling down ceiling panels in our berth trying to find a leak that left our sheets wet on our crossing. He found the leak around our stern window and removed all the old calking so he can replace it with new tomorrow.

I am so grateful for my family. I have the best 11 creatures anyone could ever wish for, and a husband whom I love so deeply. I have been blessed with amazing parents and siblings and have experienced good health and energy to enjoy life with. I am a blessed woman.


Leaving Shelter Bay

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It’s been a crazy couple of days, with pouring rain, provisioning in town, doing laundry by hand and trying to keep things organized and clean.

We are finally ready to sail to Bocas and then on to the Cayman Islands.

Life has some interesting twists and turns, and being humble enough to be flexible can be difficult sometimes. It all continues on regardless of our choices, so making the correct ones is so crucial. Being good to ones self is crucial too.

I’ll write again once we arrive in Bocas. Fair winds and following seas to all.


Day #2 in Portabelo

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It rained for a while last night, washing Tanda Malaika clean. It kept drizzling for a while, so Jonathan whipped up some breakfast for everyone, and we also tried the granola I’d made yesterday. It was all delicious.

The first place we wanted to explore was the third fort across the bay from the town. We loaded into the dinghy and meandered through the sleepy sailboats, and pulled up on a small sandy beach. This fort was much bigger and extended all the way up a hill. Many cannons lay ready to fire, and parts of several structures were scattered about. Danny found the large brick oven in one of the structures, and I could just imagine baking many loaves of bread among the brick and stone. Just beyond the walls of the fort, I noticed a couple of lime trees, which had a few limes on them. Aidan, Danny and I stood below it and reached up and picked the larger ones we could find, when suddenly Danny felt bites down his back and I felt them up my legs. I looked up into the branches and realized we’d shaken up an ants nest and they were letting us have it! Danny pulled his shirt off and shook it out while I danced around smacking ants on my legs. It was quite a funny sight, but we did get some good limes out of it!


We stopped back at the boat to grab the pickle, and made our way back into Portableo. Many of the locals laughed and made funny comments about the pickle, and we took it to the fort for a photo shoot for it’s instagram.  As usual, the pickle was quite photogenic.

We walked back into town and the creatures took us to a monkey in a cage that they had seen. As soon as the monkey saw the pickle it started jumping around excitedly and wanted to hold it. It held it with it’s hands and tail for a while, then wrapped it’s tail around Mycah’s leg. I felt so bad for it and wanted to sneak back and set it free.


After chatting with him for a while, we entered the church and sat quietly, studying the statues of Christ and watching the many candles burn at the alter. Big metal fans blew down on us and it felt so good to cool off for a few minutes.

At a food stand on the main street and each picked out a coconut treat. Some were strawberry flavored, some chocolate and some milk. They were very sweet and not quite as good as they looked, but it’s always fun to try new things.


Back on Tanda Malaika, we relaxed as late afternoon turned into early evening, and after resting the creatures took a walkie talkie with them so we could stay in contact, and went back in to Portable one last time. Danny and I tried our luck at fishing once again, and even though fish were jumping, tormenting us all around the boat, we didn’t catch a darn thing. After about an hour we saw a huge storm coming into the bay from open ocean, and radioed the creatures, who said they’d seen it and were headed back. Just as they reached us, it started to rain, and a few minutes after everything was put away and ready out on deck, it began to pour. What a beautiful rain! Thunder and lightning  filled the thick, grey skies, and buckets poured down hard and washed the world around us clean once more. I made a huge pot of spaghetti and a towering mound of garlic bread, and everyone ate till overflowing.

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Since today is Kjira’s 24th birthday, Emma made a birthday cake in honor of her, and we all sang happy birthday to her across the miles, and ate cake together. Once again, Emma’s creation was so delicious.


The creatures pulled out games and began playing together, and I was more than ready for bed. Tomorrow morning we will set sail for Shelter Bay, and hopefully receive our batteries soon so we can set sail once again.


Day #1 in Portabelo

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This morning I decided to make granola. I began mixing the ingredients, and commented that I wish I’d remembered to purchase coconut flakes at the grocery store. The next thing I knew, Jonathan and Aidan were on a mission. They cracked open and peeled down a coconut for me, and brought it in and grated it so I could add it to the granola. What sweet man creatures!

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The girls continued to work hard on our friends boat, and when we were all done with our projects, we tossed up the dock lines and set out on a 3 hour sail to explore Portableo. At first winds were light so we motored, but a short ways into our voyage they picked up, so we raised the main sail and unfurled the jib. It’s quite magical moving across the water powered by the wind.I had a little cruising buddy visit me while we were underway..


Portabelo was established during the Spanish colonial period, and is located on the northern end of the Isthmus of Panama, and was used as a center for exporting gold and silver in the mid-eighteenth century. Pirates came in and plundered the city which was said to have so much gold stashed that silver overflowed into the streets.

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I was determined to catch a fish, so I sprayed the lure with WD40, just like the fisherman told me to, and let the line out far beyond Tanda Malaika. He told us that WD40 has fish oil in it, and the fish are attracted to the scent, but after our entire voyage with empty lines, I became convinced that there simply are no fish left in the sea.


As we entered the bay at Portabelo, Jude and I sat at the bow talking about the many pirate ships that had sailed these very seas. We imagined the calls on board as men prepared to fire cannons at Portabelo’s forts, hoping to steer free of incoming cannon balls. As we neared land we could see the forts standing tall and proud, holding on to every last bit of strength and structure as long as they could. Many sailboats lay at anchor, and periodically a dugout or panga would appear as they moved from one area to the next. An old abandoned sailboat lay to it’s side in the water. What a peaceful, beautiful scene.


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After anchoring we climbed in the dinghy and made our way over to shore. We pulled up in an area where we saw three other dinghy’s tied up, and climbed out. Several people were sitting out on a veranda, and we made sure it was okay to leave the dinghy where it was. They welcomed us to Portabelo with friendly smiles and asked where we were from. After chatting for a minute, we asked if they knew where Captain Jack’s was, because we’d heard that it was a good place to eat dinner, and it ended up that Captain Jack himself was sitting right there, and told us where it was and that the food served there was quite delicious.


We walked through the first fort we came to, and felt excitement as we imagined men loading cannons, calling when to fire, keeping fires burning to light the fuze, and cheer when they were successful. The walls were built of rock and large pieces of coral, and cannons lay exactly where they had been left 250 years ago.

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People in town were happy and moved about selling things, cooking, chatting in groups and hurriedly making their way home. Brightly painted school busses with massive pipes at the rear, transported people around. Their hooters were loud as they made their way through town.

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A beautiful church stood tall in the middle of town, with stained glass windows and wooden beams spanning across the ceiling. Many candles had been lit and several statues of a black Christ and white Mary, where overlooking the neatly arranged pews.



We came across another fort, which had many more cannons, and stretched along the far end of the bay below the town.


We found Captain Jacks around 5:30pm, and by this time we were all hungry and hot. We were informed that the cook hadn’t come in, but a replacement was taking his place for the evening, and he knew limited dishes on the menu. We all ended up ordering Hawaiian Burgers or Asian Chicken burgers, and after over 2 hours, were served our delicious meals. Captain Jack stopped by our table and welcomed us, and apologized for the long wait. Though we were hungry, we assured them that we didn’t mind, and had been enjoying each others company. When we received our final bill at the end of the meal, they had only charged us $20 for all 8 of our meals. Danny left the waitress a large tip for her sweet service. Her name was Elena, and she thought Aidan was the cutest little man child she’d ever seen.


Since it’s cooler in the evenings, Portabelo came to life the later it got. Bands came out to perform and people congregated in the parks.


We made our way back to Tanda Malaika with full bellies, and the creatures took showers in their swimsuits out on the stern with the outside shower. We all got comfy in our berths for the night and looked forward to our adventures for the next day.

Tired Crew

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We have some friends that have their sailboat docked here at Shelter Bay, and they haven’t been able to get back to it for several months. When they heard that we are here, they asked that we check their boat out for them, so today we spent the day cleaning. After returning to our moldy boat a few weeks ago, we were really sympathetic to what they are feeling right now, so we rolled our sleeves up and got to work. (Actually we were in t-shirts, so no long sleeves to roll up.)

Jude, Mycah and Emma took the interior and worked hard, and will finish tomorrow. Danny got busy on electronics and power to the boat, and Aidan and I cleaned decks and lazarettes.

The pool felt so refreshing when we were done, and after Danny and I staying in it for longer than we should have, we were both so cold. It was only 80 degrees outside so we came in and I bundled up in sweats and a shirt.

Aidan got word that fresh baguettes had been baked and were for sale again in the marina restaurant, and he bolted out of the pool, ran and grabbed money and exclaimed that he’d been waiting 5 days for this, and he bought his own $2 baguettes to eat.


We bought a few for the family too, and Danny roasted some garlic and we dipped the bread into garlic and olive oil. It was delicious. I love this picture of Danny. There’s something quite satisfying (and rare) about seeing my man in the kitchen!


Since everyone had worked hard today and were pretty worn out, I made a big batch of steak fajitas.


Danny and the creatures were so excited, and ate their fill.

Even though it’s not even 8pm yet, Tanda Malaika’s crew are ready for bed! After finishing our friends boat tomorrow, we may set sail for Portabelo. It’s a three hour sail from here and sounds like an interesting place to visit. I’ll keep you posted…

Provisioning in Coloń

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All the girls creatures and I took a taxi into Coloń for groceries this morning. We also needed to stop by the post office to mail off the kids homeschool exams. Here’s what 4 gorgeous girls in the back seat of a taxi looks like…


Our driver was Rodger, and spoke English quite well, and especially likes the words ‘complete’ and ‘listen’. Every time I spoke Spanish to him, he’d say, “listen….” followed by the correct way of constructing the sentence I just attempted. It was awesome! We had free Spanish lessons all day long.

In order to get to Coloń from Shelter Bay, one has to cross over the Panama Canal. As we approached it, we could see that the gate was closed, meaning that a vessel was passing through and we had to wait until it was in the next lock. It takes quite some time, so we got out and watched. I explained to the girls how the whole canal process works, and they were fascinated as they saw it in action. This container ship is at sea level, approaching the first lock.


The Panama Canal is 48 miles long and consists of three sets of locks, with Lake Gatun in the middle, which covers 180 square miles. The lake is 85 ft above sea level, and the canal provides a much faster route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The longest ship ever to transit the canal was the San Juan Prospector which was 973 ft long with a beam of 106 ft. As we continued on, we passed construction on the new canal which will be complete in 2016.


Rodger decided that he wanted to show us a few interesting places in Coloń before hitting the post office:

This is a mosque on the edge of town.


Coloń  was founded by Americans in 1850 as the Atlantic terminal of the Panama Railroad, then under construction to meet the gold rush demand for a fast route to California. At that time it was named Aspenwall, although the Hispanic community called it Coloń.


Driving in the city of 78 000 was busy and fast. All of us got motion sick because we aren’t used to things moving by so quickly. Many of the buildings are extremely run down.


This is an American built museum that is no longer in use. We climbed the stairs to the roof and looked out over the Pacific. Jude had to climb down and collect a few rocks and shells for her collection.


There large murals on a couple of the walls that surrounded the property.

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He also took us to the famous Washington Casino Hotel, where Theodore Rooseveld stayed.

It is still used as a hotel today, and is beautiful inside.

We finally reached the post office, which was down a interesting little alley way. I felt like I was going in to deal something naughty on the black market.


Rey’s is the store we shopped at, and the girls were excited to be in a big grocery store. I had texted them each part of the grocery list, and we set out to gather the goods.

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While Rodger loaded all our bags into the boot of the taxi, the girls ran over to Dominos Pizza to grab some for dinner tonight. We were all so excited to see a Dominos. We also passed a McDonalds.

Skyler almost went crazy on the way home with 4 large pizzas on her lap. We were all starving!

Once reaching Tanda Malaika and the manly creatures and my Sweetheart, we ate pizza and began the interesting task of packing everything away. In order to do this, it helps to be good at playing Tetris, since storage space is limited. We remove all labels from cans after writing on them with a permanent marker and discard any cardboard. We also empty bags of flour into ziplock bags and add Bay leaves to the bags to keep weevils away. The paper and card board have tiny eggs on them, just like everywhere else in the world, it’s just that living in the tropics provides a wonderful climate and environment for them to hatch out and infest your boat.

It’s been a fun but busy day, and this evening Tanda Malaika’s crew are all worn out, full of pizza, and ready for bed. (We did all come to the same conclusion on the pizza though – we are so used to eating fresh, unprocessed food, that we felt gross and sick after the pizza.)


New family car unveiled

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This morning Danny was like a little kid with a present on Christmas morning that he just had to unwrap. We all gathered outside and carried the new family car to an open area to release it from its cardboard and plastic coverings.

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As things progressed, more and more cruisers gathered to watch, and shared in the excitement. Several offered to help, and then a young bald guy named Jordan stepped in and began supervising. It cracked me up.

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Finally we had her all unpacked and inflated, then Danny, Jonathan, Jude and Mycah transferred the heavy outboard engine from the old dinghy to the new one, and we took it for a spin around the neighborhood.


We saw a catamaran being lifted out of the water and enjoyed having the wind in our hair as we planed out beautifully and sped across the water.

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This dinghy is from Australia and has an aluminum bottom, which makes it lighter for it’s size. That’s important because when we are underway, we hang the dinghy from our dinghy davits at the stern. Given the size of our tribe, we have upgraded from a 9ft to a 12ft. Having a dependable dinghy is crucial when cruising, because it is what we use for transportation to town for groceries, or from anchorage to beaches etc.

Not too long after that, Tanda Malaika got mail…


Our water maker arrived in two heavy wooden boxes. Danny immediately got busy with his drill and opened the boxes so we could remove the contents and give the delivery man the empty boxes to use again.

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Mycah, with her strength and energy, came and helped us get all the parts onto Tanda Malaika. We got some strange looking things I tell ya!

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Danny researched the various water makers, and after much contemplation, decided on EcoTech. Parts are readily available, they are easy to install and run, and reviews showed that customers have been very pleased. This water maker will make 30 gallons of fresh water an hour, by drawing seawater in through a through-hull, running it through its many membranes and strainers, and Bobs your uncle! Fresh water! Just one more way to live off the grid. Our friend, Dennis, back at Red Frog Marina, has installed a couple of these already and said he would help Danny put it in.

After that I became a crazy woman on a mission, to scrub off some of the mold that has come to live with us out on deck. When we purchased Tanda Malaika, it was really bad on the molding around the stern edges, and it has been so difficult to remove.


I started out by using a powder called ‘Bar keepers friend’, and that didn’t work, then our neighbor gave me some degreaser he swore by, but it didn’t work either. Another sweet lady saw me scrubbing and brought me 409 which didn’t work, so I finally filled a spray bottle with straight bleach and blasted it. Finally after 3 hours of scrubbing I had success. Whenever someone is working on their vessel, when people walk passed they always stop to offer help. I love the helpful and happy mentality of cruisers.

Our topping lift line (red one) has begun to fray, so we decided that today was as good as any to replace it. I had purchased new line that can hold 3000 lbs and has metal in it, at a marine store in California . Good line is so crucial, and living on a boat has taught me that not all line is created equal, and good line is expensive.. This 150 ft line cost $600.

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We used duct tape to attach the new line to the old one, then pulled it up inside our 75 ft mast, out the top and all the way out to the end of the boom. The new line obviously followed the old, and after a beautiful bowline was tied, our job was done. Watching Danny tie the bowline, (which is a very important knot to know as a sailor), reminded me that I needed to make sure all the creatures knew how to tie one. So I called all hands on deck and Jude gave them a lesson. Everyone did splendidly.


Afterward we taught them a stopper knot and then how to coil lines correctly.

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As I left to go inside from being on deck, Mycah grabbed my leg, so I kept walking, dragging her body along across the starboard hull. Silly goose.


This evening Danny and I were busy outside working on some things, and to our wonderful surprise, Skyler and Jude made dinner. It was Skyler’s idea, and they both jumped on it. They made coconut rice, black beans and spam, and cut up fresh pineapple and served it on tortillas. Top that with a little ‘Bocas Bitchin hot sauce’ and it was absolutely delicious.


When darkness fell, I took Danny and all the creatures to a field of grass where fire flies sparkled all over. It looked so magical and the creatures loved them.

It’s been a busy, long day for this crazy group of hooligans, and we are all tired and ready for bed. Who knows what tomorrow will bring!




Flying monkeys

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There’s not a whole lot to do here at Shelter Bay. This morning was beautiful and sunny, so we took advantage of it, and spent time on projects and outside activities.

I unscrewed the blinds in our berth, and took them outside to scrub. A little Joy soap in water did splendidly, and they are once again clean and white. I set them out to dry for a bit and have now screwed them back in. I also decided it was a good day to attack Jude and Emma’s toilet. It has a leak, so they haven’t been using it. I undid the bolts around the base and removed the hoses attached. Right where one of the hoses attaches, under the bracket holding it tight, I noticed the it was cracked. I could see from the color of it that water had been leaking from it, so I got the hand saw and cut off the end. I hoped this was going to fix the leak, and put everything back together, but didn’t have the strength to attach the hose I’d cut, so I asked Danny for help. He attached the hose, ran the toilet and saw that it was still leaking from around the macerator, so he put a silicon gasket onto it and is letting it dry for 24 hours. Hopefully that’ll do it.

The creatures did their school work and then all went swimming. This marina has a great pool and hot tub.


While they were doing that, I grabbed my camera and went for a walk into the jungle. The pampas grass was so beautiful. It always reminds me of when Jan and I would break off one of the tall stems and pretend they were swords.

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The smells and colors of the rain forest were intense due to the rain. I could smell the rich scent of flowers and decomposing leaves.

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I sat and watched leaf cutter ants as they carried their large loads across the road.


I came across a large family of Capuchin monkeys, making their way across the canopy. They jumped one by one from trees on the right side of the road to those on the left, and after jumping they’d stop and look back to make sure the next one was coming, then move on. In the Wizard of Oz movie there are flying monkeys, and I always thought them to be a fictitious species , but today I was proved wrong. I saw flying monkeys and captured in my lens to prove it…

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Everywhere I looked I saw beauty – in textures and patterns and color.

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As I exited the area, I looked back and took note once more of how miraculous nature is. We live in such an incredibly beautiful world, and I found myself softly humming the song ‘What a wonderful world’.

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Back at Tanda Malaika, we received an exciting delivery this afternoon. Our new dinghy. It’s still all wrapped up, but hopefully tomorrow it’ll be sunny for a bit and we’ll open it up.

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We are still waiting for the water maker and batteries, then we can set sail once again.



Nature Walk

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It rained through the night and into the morning, and when it finally stopped we all went for a walk to see what we could find. Since Shelter Bay was once called Fort Sherman, and was a military base, there are some interesting structures to see. Some of them have once again been occupied.

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The jungle here is filled with extremely tall palms, pampas grass, mango trees and so many other varieties. More than two thirds of the worlds plant species are found in tropical rain forests.

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High up in the tress we saw beautiful toucans. There are about forty different species, and we saw two of those species.

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There is no difference in color between male and female toucans, but the females generally have a shorter bill. The bill appears to be rather heavy, but it is filled with a spongy tissue, making it extremely light in weight. I have always been fascinated by toucans, and was so excited to see them.

We also saw various mammals crossing our path and up in the trees. This little guy is driving me crazy because I still haven’t figured out what he is. I researched for an hour after returning home but came up empty handed.


My guess was that he was some variety of coati, but I’m not certain.

Due to the constant humidity and rain, tree trunks are covered in beautiful lichen and moss, and vines hang like tangled hair. Tiny baby mangoes sit proudly on the end of stems as they absorb ample moisture and nutrients.

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At one point we passed a large, what appeared be, hive of some sort. I wondered if it could be wasp or bee, then Danny suggested perhaps ants, and he was right! Notice how hundreds of then climb the branches to reach home.

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In case you couldn’t tell, I LOVE the rain forest, and all that is in it! I love learning about animals and plants just as much as I love learning marine biology.

Just as we reached Tanda Malaika, it began drizzling once more, and the dog across the dock from us wagged it’s tail at our return. What a wonderful way to start the day.

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Cruising to Shelter Bay

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Yesterday morning was a drizzly one at Red Frog Marina.

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We checked out at the office and took Tanda Malaika over to the fuel dock and filed her up, as well as 10 jerry cans of spare diesel and 3 of gas for the dinghy. We also have two spare cans of water stowed.


We then sailed over to Bocas for a few provisions. The creatures, Danny and I picked up coolant, grease and some groceries, then headed South East and set the sails. The ocean was gorgeous with 8-10ft rolling seas. The creatures sat on the bow and were splashed as they dipped down to the water and backup again. Aidan stood on deck and jumped up as the boat began to rise from a dip, which sent him flying high.

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We all got settled into our little routines and comfy places for our 18 hour sail.

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As evening fell we arranged our night watches. Skyler, Emma and I would take the 9pm -midnight watch, Jude, Mycah and Aidan from midnight to 3am and Jonathan and Danny from 3am to 6am. The evening was beautiful as the sun began to set and colors changed to a richer hue. Danny had set fishing lines and at one point reeled in a nice catch of seaweed and a while later something big took the hook and snapped the entire line.

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When the sun goes down and it’s cloudy, the ocean is a dark, dark place. I took this photo off the starboard side while sitting at the helm around 10pm…


See how beautifully the water matches the sky!!!! It’s an amazing feeling, trusting your boat and your instincts and instruments as you ‘blindly’ sail, unable to see the waves to read them and anticipate dips and swells. Your body adjusts and rolls with it all, as your movements become one with the boat. It reminds me of my days in the saddle as I trotted or galloped and my hips moved fluidly with my horse. It’s a wonderful thing. Everyone on board (except me) took motion sickness pills and it made them a bit sleepy and took the edge off any nausea. I haven’t ever been sea sick but I’m sure my day will come! I’m told it’s pretty miserable. When my watch was over I washed up and snuggled down in my bed. There is no better feeling than being rocked to sleep by the ocean! I quickly fell asleep and woke at 6am.

At the helm, were Jonathan and Danny, and I told Danny to go lie down and I’d take over. Jonathan went as well, and before long, Aidan came up and sat with me. He had wanted to watch the sun rise, and came topside just in time. We were about 2 hours out from Shelter Bay at this point, and could already see huge ships lined up to go through  the Canal. The ships were lined for over a mile.

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As we drew closer, I marveled at how huge some of them were.

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A pod of dolphins came to escort us in, and Aidan and I walked to the bow and watched them bow ride for several minutes. There were probably about 8 of them.


As we rounded past the breakwaters to enter the the bay, we could see the city of Colon’s skyline. Two pilot boats were escorting a huge container ship to the canal entrance.

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As we drew closer to the marina, we could see the coast guard assisting a sailboat that had ended up on the reef. Danny had heard them calling them for help as they beached themselves on the reef, but we were too far from them to assist. Danny called in to the marina office to find out where they wanted us to dock, and I called in to the sleeping creatures, telling them all hands on deck.

We have such a great crew.


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Danny backed Tanda Malaika in to her new slip like a pro, and we all got busy spraying the salt off her and organizing. There are always valuable lessons to learn each time we sail, and this crossings lesson, was to hang the fruit hammock properly on the stern, because if not, we end up with freshly made applesauce all over the deck.


Danny and I took a nap while Jude made no bake cookies. (we call them gorilla poops). I think for dinner tonight I’ll make some pizza. The crew will love that!