Thursday, May 31, 2007

Right Turn

by Bob

It is Thursday, May 31, 5:30am. We are at 9°45'N 086°50'W, going through the water at 7.7 knots heading 317°. Over ground, we are
going 6.2 knots at 328°. We have a current from the north, and we're skidding sideways a little.

The wind is 12 knots from the west, waves are about 4 or 6 feet high, water temperature is 79° (down from 83° at 6°N). Outside air
temperature is 78° with light snow.

After Panama, we decided we'd visit Isla del Cocos. It's an island 200-300 miles off the coast of Cost Rica. As the largest
uninhabited island in the world (24 square miles or kilometers, I forgot which), I thought we finally found a place where we
wouldn't offend people.

So we took off into the wind toward the island. For a few days. We were about a day and a half away when I decided to see if our
book on Costa Rica had any info on Isla del Cocos.

It did. It's a national marine park of Costa Rica. You cannot go within 12 miles of the island without written permission from Costa
Rica. That takes a minimum of 5 days, and we would have to go to Costa Rica first to clear into the country. Those snobs!

So we turned right toward Mexico. Now we plan to skip over Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatamala, El Salvador, and possibly Siberia.
That'll teach 'em!

Yesterday, just after we turned right toward Mexico, we rolled out the gennaker. I believe the proper nautical term might be
unfurled, but since our gennaker is on a roller I prefer to use rolled out or unrolled.

A jib is the sail on the front of the boat. We have two of them, a small one called a solent and a big one called a gennaker. The
gennaker is used in light wind, up to 16 or 17 knots apparent. The solent is used in higher wind, and can be used to go more
directly into the wind than the gennaker.

When we brought out the gennaker, the wind was in the low 20's, a little high for that sail. It was enough to stress the winch a
little when we trimmed it. But we were going fast -- 10 and 11 knots.

Then I noticed something on the sail. We broke out the spotlight, and saw a couple of rips, 2-3 feet long. So we rolled up the
gennaker (furled it, too) and broke out the solent. Back down to 8-9 knots.

Today we got some fairly light wind, so we brought down the gennaker onto the trampoline and patched it. We taped it, and Mike sewed
some of the bad spots. He is a heckuva seamster. Then we raised it, unrolled it, and sailed! A few minutes later, the wind was
getting up to 19 and 20 knots, so we went back to the solent.

Last night, Mike was sitting outside peacefully when a large bird relieved itself all over him and the nav station. Today he
retaliated against the avians and caught a bird while fishing. With Mike's and the birds' mindless escalation and policy of mutually
assured destruction, I'm a little nervous when I go outside tonight.

Tonight the sky is mostly clear, and I think it's one day before the full moon. The moon is really bright at any rate. It's a big
change from not even being able to see the horizon.

OK, OK, maybe there's not really any snow.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


We are sailing in the Pacific!

It's raining, waves are around 7-feet high, I just beat Mike at chess, and we caught a 22 lb tuna. We are headed southwest toward
California. We plan to stop at Acapulco.

However, Tropical Depression One is supposed to develop into a tropical cyclone just south of Acapulco in 5 or 6 days. We might get
to sit around a couple of days waiting for it to go away.

There were dolphins around the boat this morning. They're short, fat, and dark colored. There's a bird flying around now. Its
scientific name is "big brown bird."

I think you can still track our location here:

We're moving again!

After we got to the Pacific, we went to the Flamenco Yacht Club to dock the boat. It's not as nice as Shelter Bay, but it's what's
available. There wasn't any shore power available on our part of the docks, so people were running generators. The guy next two us
was running a very loud portable generator.

When I checked out, I learned that they give Catamarans a special rate -- double! Some places charge 1.5 times for a catamaran, but
this is the first time I've ever been charged double to dock. Especially without electricity.

The primary task for me, after getting fuel and docking, was to get rid or Melinda! Unfortunately, I had to wait until the next
morning to get her to the airport. So we ate dinner at a restaurant with metal utensils (Bennigans).

The next day I got groceries, had laundry laundered, got scuba air, and stuff like that. We were supposed to get our Zarpe, or boat
clearance, on Thursday, then Friday morning, then Saturday morning. We finally got it Saturday afternoon.

Mike got in on Saturday. I didn't know what flight he was coming in on. I tried to call him in Houston between flights but he was in
Panama when he answered. We took off yesterday afternoon for parts unknown.

It took 11 days to cross 40 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific. But that is a lot faster than Tierra del Fuego. I think. I
should probably go there sometime and find out for sure.

Now Mike and I are making our way up the Pacific Coast of Panama. Except we're headed south, at 195 degrees. Weird.

Panama Canal

We were finally cleared to cross to the Pacific on Wednesday. It's currently a 2-day affair for small boats to transit the Panama
Canal. You take off in the evening, anchor overnight on Gatun Lake in the middle of Panama, then take off the next morning for the
second half.

There are two sets of three locks in the canal. You are required to have four line handlers and hire a Panama Canal Advisor. If the
boat is longer than 65 feet, you hire a Panama Canal Pilot. A pilot is like a high-powered advisor that costs $2250 and gets you
faster service crossing in the canal.

We were also required to have four lines for the four line handlers, 125-feet long and 7/8" diameter. We rented these.

They gave us a time of 16:30 to be at "the flats" anchorage ready to go. 16:30 is the equivalent of 3:90 p.m. in the afternoon.
Rudy, Jose, and the other line handlers got to the boat around 3:00. They attached 14 tires to the sides for bumpers, in addition to
our 10 bumpers. They apparently had heard about my boat driving.

On the way to the anchorage, Cristobal Signal told us something about 19:00. So we anchored until 19:00. They told us we'd be going
through the locks rafted to two other boats. The Minnow would be in the center, with a sailboat tied to each side. The Minnow would
do the driving and the other boats could assist with their engines if we needed them.

At 7:00 pm, we pulled up the anchor to get ready to load the advisor and take off. The other two boats were already driving around.
It was raining. The three of us drove around the anchorage until the advisors arrived at about 8:15. We took off about 8:30. It was
raining. I was wet. Next time I'll stay anchored until the advisor is on the boat.

We drove up the canal to the first lock. We stayed to the right of the channel so other boats and ships could pass us. It was easy,
but I had to pay attention for literally minutes to void being crushed by a ship or ramming the side of the canal. It might have
been a first for me.

Just before the first of the three Gatun locks (on the Atlantic side of Lake Gatun), we rafted up with the red boat on our left and
the white boat on our right. Then we drove to the lock.

It was really strange going up to the lock at night. The lights, current, and rain made everything pretty disorienting. But I
behaved normally and they just figured I was drunk or something. The fresh water from the lake and river mix with the salt water of
the ocean just below that lock, producing quite a bit of turbulence. I was crabbing to the left quite a bit, then a few seconds
later I was crabbing the opposite direction as we passed through a circular current. Those other people were really wondering.

It looked like we'd never fit in that small canal with the tiny ship ahead of us. But things were farther than they appeared, and we
pulled up behind the ship. It was a big car carrier. The advisor was a little surprised to be behind such a big ship.

Four guys on the top of the canal (way above us at that point) threw "monkey fists" down to our boat, attached to some small ropes.
A monkey fist is a weighted knot they use to target line handlers and boat drivers. If they miss and don't nail anybody, the line
handlers get to tie our big ropes to their small ropes. The guys on the canal then pull up our big ropes and loop them over cleats
on the canal. They our line handles pull in (going up) or let out (going down) the big ropes through our cleats.

Since we had three boats and four ropes, we put two ropes on the left (red) boat and two on our boat. The boat on the right was
smaller, so they got no ropes. We went up at the Gatun locks, so they closed the gates behind us and filled the lock with water.

We rose up with the water, which is considered a good thing. After the lock was full, the big ship took off. Quickly. It made some
giant waves that had the red and especially the white boat bouncing around. The line handlers and advisors were doing a lot of
speedy communicating. Or maybe it was exclaiming. They asked the ship to take it easy after that, and it wasn't so bad on the next
two locks.

We stayed rafted together and drove up behind the ship on the second lock, and repeated everything, except the guys on the canal
kept hold of the small ropes and walked along with us. I think if they don't nail anybody the first time they throw the monkey
fists, they don't get to throw them any more.

Once, one of the canal guys dropped a rope in the water instead of attaching it to a cleat. So we twisted around the white boat was
headed for the side. We corrected with the engines before we broke anything, though.

Instead of a line handler and ropes, the ship used locomotives and cables to hold it in the middle of the canal. It looked like it
only had a foot or so clearance on each side. They apparently build the ships to fit the canal.

After lucking out and making it through the third lock without damaging the canal or the boats, we took off and tied to a giant
mooring buoy on Lake Gatun. Or maybe it was Gatun Lake. Our advisor got off, and the line handlers, Melinda, and I went to bed.

While I was driving, Melinda helped me, too pictures, cooked, got drinks for people, and got really irritated when the line handlers
treated her like a girl. She didn't appreciate the chivalry.

The next morning around 6:30 or 7:00, we got a new advisor. The other one probably resigned after experiencing my boat handling. We
motored a few hours to the Miraflores locks and went down. We had to wait for a while at a dock while they blew up some rocks in the
river across from us. They set off about 30 timed charges. We saw birds, ships, and stuff on the way to the locks.

We went down through the locks with no major problems, and then motored out to the Pacific Ocean. It was pretty neat.

Photos are at

Friday, May 25, 2007

Panama Canal Photos

We made it to the Pacific Ocean! Here are two bunches of photos. I'll write about it "real soon now." In fact, these will finish
uploading "real soon now" also.

Monday, May 21, 2007


I uploaded a whole bunch of pictures and moved the earlier ones to:

Check it out!

Motor Boats

I lied in my last entry. Some of the Kunas of the San Blas islands do have boat motors. We went to the Hollande Cays first, and saw
no motors. When we got closer to the "big" town we saw some outboards on canoes. Porvenir, the port of entry, actually has
electricity and an airstrip.

Melinda and I did some more diving and snorkeling and kayaking. They we headed to Porvenir to pay our $8 fee to enter the San Blas
Islands. We were a little late on that. When we got there, it was storming again. We drove around a while, and then I anchored about
1/2 mile away from all the other boats. They offices were closed when we went to the island, but I left some money with someone for
the General Congresso Kuna. We took off for Fort Sherman about 5:00 yesterday morning, and docked yesterday afternoon at Shelter Bay
Marina. As usual, they were very helpful and friendly here. (The food is good, too.) (The laundry was welcome, too!)

I have a bunch of pictures to upload. I'll post links "real soon now."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

5/19/07 from Melinda

We're cruising along again, this time we're headed sort of West to another San Blas Island; I think we're checking in or something.
I never really know.

Today Dad and I went diving, kayaking, and snorkeling. We saw two turtles before and after we went diving. But we saw loads and
loads and loads of colorful fish on a reef we kayaked to.

Here's a simple list of what critters we saw:

Foureye Butterflyfish
Spotfin Butterflyfish
Blue Tang
Ocean Surgeonfish
Bicolor Damselfish
Dusky Damselfish
Sergeant Major
Yellowtail Damselfish Juvenile
Barred Hamlet
Harlequin Bass
Spotlight Parrotfish (Initial and Adult phase)
Goldspot Goby
Spotted Goatfish
Yellow Goatfish
Elkhorn Coral
Staghorn Coral
Blade Fire Coral [toxic]
Boulder Brain Coral
Black Sea Rod
Social Feather Duster
Christmas Tree Worm [cool to poke]
Star Horseshoe Worm
Spaghetti Worm
Touch-Me-Not Sponge [not sure if toxic]
Milk Conch
Cushion Sea Star
Donkey Dung Sea Cucumber [looked like it too]
West Indian Sea Egg
Long-Spined Urchin [not good to poke]
Turtle Grass
Spiral-gilled Tube Worm
Pink-tipped Anemone [probably stings]
Orange Fire Worm [toxic]
Lettuce Coral
Lobed Star Coral
Branching Fire Coral
Sea Fan
Double-forked Plexaurella
Red Sponge
Vase Sponge
Knobbed Zoanthidean

But that's not nearly everything. We had to stop snorkeling and hop back in our kayaks so we wouldn't get struck by lightning.

Today we've been getting frequent Kuna visitors trying to sell us things. Some of them don't seem as friendly when I tell them I
really don't have any money (I don't). Some come on board and hang out for a while though. Yesterday we watched Star Wars (the
younger ones picked it out) and ate pineapple. Today some girls my age came on board and we spoke in broken Spanish about random
things that I only know in Spanish. I usually get asked how many children I have and if dad is my husband. Crazy. I tell them no and
no and I'm not getting married until I'm 40 and then they usually laugh pretty hard. The kayaks have been a hit so far for anyone
that's tried them. If I ruled the world, everyone would have a kayak.

Now it is pouring on us as we're motoring through walls of rain. I bailed water out of the kayaks. Dad lost important papers and dug
in the trasha few times. Then he found the papers a few hours later in his drawer. It was pretty neat.

Other updates: my jellyfish stings itch like heck, we ate our bean/veggy leftovers, watched butterflies are free and some other
movie with katherine hepburn in it which was really good, vacuumed, looked up "roof" in the dictionary and found out you can say the
double o's like either boot or book, and lastly, we have no more apples. Now we're watching South Pacific because I've never seen it

Friday, May 18, 2007

We have another date!

We've been moved back to May 23rd for the Panama Canal transit. They were short on "advisors". An advisor is like a pilot, except he
is not in control of the boat. He just tells you what you should do in order to keep from breaking your boat.

After we got diesel on Wednesday, Melinda and I took off for the San Blas islands. We sailed! We were doing 10 and 11 knots for a
while. Around sunset, the wind gradually died. So we motored.

At one point, just after dark, I rounded a corner and the GPS showed us going the opposite direction of the compass, at double our
forward speed through the water. I decided right away that a 20-knot current is not very common a few miles offshore in the ocean,
so I reset all the electronics and it went back to normal. It was a little disconcerting, though.

We went through a thundershower around 11:00 pm. There was some lightning and a lot of rain, but the wind never got over 20 knots.
There was no moon, and it was cloudy with no towns around, so it was completely dark outside. You couldn't see the horizon.

Around 2:00 or so we got to the place where I planned to anchor. Melinda was asleep. I saw another boat's mooring light. I got out
the spotlight, and noticed some sprinkles. By the time I had gone the last mile to the anchor spot, it was pouring down rain,
complete with lots of lightning and thunder.

I shined the spotlight ahead, and noticed something white in the water. So I turned to avoid it. It turned out to be a lot bigger
than I thought -- it was a sailboat. Without its anchor light on. Of course, the probably didn't expect some idiot to come in at
2:00 am and try to anchor in a thunderstorm.

The anchorage area was pretty small, and the GPS map was not overly accurate, and I had a hard time judging the distance of the
unlit boat, and I could hear loud breakers on the other side of the reef (over the sound of the storm). So I decided to move down
the shoreline a little.

The water was over 100 feet deep just a little distance from land, and there was a small strip of 15-30 foot water suitable for
anchoring. I decided to let the wind blow me back into this strip. I looked down, and all of a sudden I was in 3 feet of water
(under the bottom of the boat). So I took off real fast. That was pretty scary, with the thunder and lightning and breakers and not
being able to see the shoreline and etc.

So I took off and drove another mile or two, found a 30-foot deep "island" in the middle of 150-foot water, and anchored there more
than a half mile from shore. I turned my mooring light on in case some idiot decided to anchor in the middle of the night. The rain
stopped just a few minutes after we anchored.

The next day Melinda and I went scuba diving around the boat. It was really nice. But I had dropped the anchor in a bed or coral, a
big no-no. So I moved the anchor chain and the anchor around a little bit so Melinda wouldn't hurt me for hurting the coral. I
scraped on my foot, which puffed up really nice. The coral hurt me worse than I hurt it.

The Kunas are the Indians (or indigenous people or native Americans or first nation) who live on the San Blas islands. In the early
1900s, Panama became independent from Colombia. The Kunas did not like the new Panamanian governor, so they killed him and his
staff. Panama was on the way for some big-time retaliation, but a US Navy boat intervened. The Kunas were given the San Blas islands
as an autonomous region of Panama. They more or less govern themselves.

Today the Kunas are just a little less advanced that people in Arkansas. They have no electricity or motor vehicles (including motor
boats). They live by the old Kuna laws. Or maybe that makes them more advanced, I'm not sure.

Women own property and choose husbands. They follow the old religion with multiple gods. They speak their native language. But the
young people we met speak Spanish and a little English, and they can read and write. They go to school some, but I don't know how

The Kunas make molas and sell them. A mola is made of a few sheets of colored cloth, sewn into designs. They are and made, and sell
for $5 to $30.

After scuba diving, we took off in the boat for the eastern Hollande Cays. That's part of the San Blas islands. An older guy in a
dugout canoe came up to the boat to charge us a $5 tax for visiting. That was OK with me, because they don't have much money there.

He invited us over to his island, about 1/2 mile away. Melinda and I kayaked over a little while later. It looked like about 10 or
12 people lived on the island in a few huts. Most of the huts had thatched roofs, but one had a tin roof. That one may have been for

Melinda bought some molas. Two boys tried out our kayaks while Melinda and I were touring the island. I took some pictures. I had
read that you're not supposed to take pictures of the Kunas, but I asked and they didn't mind. I printed them off and gave them
copies the next day.

Melinda and I took about a 3-mile kayak trip around some islands and to the main barrier reef. It was really neat -- big waves were
breaking on one side, and on the other side it was perfectly calm. The reef is about 150 feet wide, and you can walk on it. The
water is really clear (on the calm side). We could see all kinds of plants and animals in the water, except there were no cows.

A little while later, six people from that island came up to the boat in a dugout. We tried to be very sensitive about their
traditional values. We took pictures, printed them, and watched a Star Wars movie in Spanish. I thought the older lady (the island's
matriarch?) might be a little conservative and not allow the movie, but she liked it as much as anybody. The kids were joking about

The two older ladies were in traditional dress, but the youngsters (ages 4 to 20) were wearing regular shorts and shirts. They were
all pretty nice.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

May 16th for Melinda

We're moving again! And this time *gasp* without a motor. I told dad to time it. So far it's been over an hour, which is very
strange indeed.

We had a nice visit on land. We went out into the jungle one night and heard all sorts of whoops and cheeps and weeerrrreeees. It
reminded me a lot of the Amazon, except I wasn't massacred by mosquitoes...yet. We saw a super long trail of leaf-cutter ants, which
I paid close attention to since I had on flip-flops. Looking closer at them, the ants carrying the leaves and whatnot were
medium-sizedish. Then there were "guard" ants walking along to kill people's feet with their shark-like mandibles. Neat. I saw on tv
somewhere that leafcutters bring the leaves into the ground to farm fungus, which they eat.

After bypassing the ants, Dad and I noticed something that sounded like things were being thrown at us from above. Typical, but from
above? Spider monkeys. They were clambering along the treetops, staring and making a cheep cheep noise. Everytime they moved, things
fell out of the tree.

Then there was the first night without air conditioning. Ahh yes, it was nice and cozy, just like a tropical sauna. Dad decided to
open all of the windows and doors, which let in approximately one million disease-carrying mosquitoes in. I'm almost certain I'm
doomed to die from some rare disease any minute now. I'll probably instantaneously combust.

Dad and I went to Colon the next day and didn't get mugged. The city has old, broken down buildings with colorful laundry lines
hanging outside shattered windows. The driving reminds me of a cross between Dad's and a monkey's. The streets aren't very sanitary
so next time I'll probably wear tennis shoes. It'd be interesting to spend more time there.

The next day we returned to the jungle and saw/heard many amazing birds.

Now we're at sea! The sky is gray and the water is gray, but there is beautiful, bountiful wind. We're headed to the San Blas
Islands, which should be great for snorkeling and molas. I'm very happy to be moving again, although it was extremely entertaining
to watch dad go after flies with a fly swatter for hours on end. Perhaps we can get him a fly swatter for when we get home?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


We have a date! The Minnow is scheduled to transit the Panama Canal on May 22. We arrived in Panama on the morning of May 13. You
can see the boats on the canal here:

On Sunday when we got here, I ordered diesel for the boat. They have to bring it in, and said it would be here on Monday. On Monday
they said Tuesday. On Tuesday they said Wednesday (today) noon. If we ever get diesel, we plan to take off for the San Blas islands
for a 3-4 days.

On the way from St. Petersburg to Mexico, Mike was cooking. He said he smelled something burning. I thought this was redundant. The
Steven and Fullerton said they smelled smoke too. So there I was, on the boat with three hallucinating people.

On the way from the Caymans to Panama, I noticed the left engine wasn't charging the batteries. This didn't surprise me a lot,
because that engine had overcharged or undercharged since we got it. The warranty repair people never did fix it.

Here in Panama yesterday, I decided to take a look at the engine and alternator and stuff. I noticed a thick cable that was burned
9/10 of the way through, touching the alternator mount. When I pulled it away from the mount, there were sparks. I guess that might
explain why it seemed like the house batteries didn't seem to hold their charge as long as they used to. I assume it hadn't been
charging ever since Mike smelled smoke in the Gulf of Mexico.

I spent some time splicing the cable with wire ties and duct tape. Now the left engine charges the batteries. The splice didn't even
get hot when I made a test run.

The "zinc" is a sacrificial anode that is attached to a prop, boat hull, etc. It's a piece of zinc that corrodes faster than steel
or brass, so it corrodes instead of the prop and other metal parts on the bottom of the boat.

Since the left engine had been +24v, thanks to the burned wire, I was afraid the zinc might be gone. So I went under the boat and
looked. The left zinc had more missing zinc than the right one, but it should still be good for a while.

Monday, May 14, 2007


by Bob

Melinda and I are in Panama!

It was really cool coming into the canal area. Dozens of ships were anchored out for a few miles. A few of them were playing follow
the leader into the canal. There is a controller, kind of like air traffic control, who tells people where to go and what to do. He
was telling ships when to start their engines, raise the anchor, turn, and when to go into the harbor. The controller is called
Cristobal Signal, and he lives on channel 12.

We managed to get into the harbor through the hole in the breakwater with no trouble. We anchored around 8:00 am in "the flats"
where small boats (i.e., anything smaller than a ship) wait to head into the Panama Canal. Then I called the Shelter Bay Marina to
see if they had any dock space. They did!

So we headed over there. Cristobal Signal told me to cross underneath the stern of a bulk carrier who happened to be tooling down
the channel, and cross the channel real fast. I wasn't to sure about getting underneath a big ship, so I crossed close behind it.
And I crossed the channel fast. Luckily, Cristobal Signal told the ship to shut down his engines before I crossed behind. There was
still quite a lot of turbulence.

Shelter Bay is across the bay from Colon. Colon is a fairly rough town complete with muggings, murders, and even some violence. They
recommend that you always take a taxi rather than walk, because tourists are ripe targets for muggers.

Shelter Bay is out in the country, where Fort Sherman used to be. Fort Sherman was a U.S. army base built in 1912. It was turned
over to Panama in 1999 along with the rest of the Panama Canal. It occupied 23,000 acres.

Melinda and I went walking this evening down an old road. We saw monkeys, a huge line of leaf-cutter ants, a coatimundi, some
strange birds, and a couple of old artillery batteries. We heard some really strange noises in the jungle, probably the abominable

Tomorrow we plan to go hiking when there's enough light for photos. The problem is, neither of us knows enough to know what to be
afraid of. There is supposed to be a big jaguar living out there, among other things.

The marina here is really nice. It's only a year or two old, with floating docks, a restaurant, laundry, wireless internet, etc. We
went to the Panama Yacht Club on the Colon side this afternoon. It's a little small and a little old, but it's closer to town. I
prefer not being close to town.

Even though there are security guards there, and even though the boats were obviously occupied, a couple of boats and their
inhabitants were recently robbed at the Panama Yacht Club. By comparison, I haven't even locked our boat or dinghy since we got

I have an autoresponder on my email in because I'm not checking my email regularly. I was emailed a newsletter that I occasionally
get. My robotic message autoresponded. The newsletter autoresponded back to me. I autoresponded back to it. This kept up for over
11,000 iterations.

When I started checking my email yesterday, I caught on right away that 11,000 emails is more than I'm likely to read anytime soon.
But it would take a long time to go in and delete those a page at a time using the webmail interface. So I decided to just let them
all download using Outlook 98, and that would delete them off the server. It worked! At least it looked like it worked.

This morning, I checked my email. It started downloading the same 11,000 messages. The server didn't like them all, and they got
stuck before they could be deleted. Must have filled up those infamous internet pipes. I ended up downloading over a thousand more
of these today before James fixed it.

My new computer has a setting for wireless adapter power level. I keep it turned up to max power.

They don't have fuel pumps here, but they'll bring in diesel either in jugs or a tank to pump into your boat. I was in the office
this afternoon checking on our diesel order and there were people complaining about the wireless internet being really slow. How

When we got to the marina, I plugged in the shore power. It didn't work. I messed around with everything to see what the problem
was. There was no problem readily apparent, except that the shore power didn't power the boat.

An AC connection has three wires, one neutral and two hot in opposite phase. Opposite phase means that when the left one is
positive, the right one is negative. The alternates 120 times per second (60 cycles per second). It's 50 cycles per second in Europe
and most 220v countries. If you connect a voltmeter from neutral to either hot wire, you get 120 volts. If you connect it across
both hot wires, you get 240 volts. If you do this while the voltmeter is on the ohms setting, the voltmeter smokes.

I checked the voltage coming into our boat. Our boat only uses one of the hot wires, since we normally use only 120 volts. It was
getting less than 60 volts.

I went to the dock and measured it there. It was 240v across the two hot wires. I figured there must be something flaky in the power
cord. I disconnected, cut off, and re-assembled the shore side connector. No change. Then I did the boat side. No change.

Then I had an epiphany. The neutral wasn't connected on the shore power, so it wouldn't work at 120v. I moved to another outlet and
everything started working. At least we have nice clean connections on our shore power cable now. And the air conditioner has been

This morning a guy from the Panama Canal Authority came by to measure our boat. They do this because they charge by boat size. Our
registered size is 52 feet, but we have a joisting pole that sticks out the front of the boat. So our boat measured 56 feet.
Tomorrow we should find out when we're scheduled to cross over to the Pacific.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

10 Hours from Panama

by Bob

At Providencia we were supposed to meet customs and the agent (Mr. Bush) on our boat at 10:00. Some of the government people were
busy and they didn't make it until 11:00. They were all very friendly.

There were several other sailboats at Providencia, most of them U.S. Three boats came in while we were there, one with a faulty

Melinda and I walked around the islands, ate, and surveyed the power plant. We took the dinghy around part of the island. There are
a lot of small caves that I'm pretty sure have pirate gold. Providencia used to be pretty popular with pirates.

The people there seemed pretty normal to me, kind of like a typical small town though the average income is a probably bit lower
than Oklahoma. When we were there, the news of a plane crash, maybe a military plane, spread through town. We never did get the
details, but a lot of people were concerned.

We had planned to take off this morning from Providencia, but we decided to go ahead and head out last night.

Bright and early this morning I rousted Melinda and we had a wild birthday party complete with 21 candles in a can of spam, and
birthday cake. That was the first cake I've ever baked. It was a little messy. OK, OK, a lot messy. But I cleaned up most of it.

We were estimating Panama at about 2:00 pm, but when I called ahead I found out they don't make admeasurer appointments after 1:00
on Sunday. So I sped up. We're running both engines now, and should be there by 8:00 am. Of course, I learned since then that nobody
will be available tomorrow.

An admeasurer is someone who measures the boat so they can decide how much to charge us for using the Panama Canal. It seems a
little redundant, since the boat documentation certificate has the official length, width, and tonnage. But it is a required step
(and so important) for crossing to the Pacific.

There will be a few day's wait once we get all registered, cleared, measured, and visa'd. We're thinking about heading out in the
boat and touring the coast of Panama. After laundry, hopefully.

Melinda got a couple of coconuts at our last stop and has been sanding them to make bowls.

Yesterday a bird landed on the boat, maybe some kind of swallow. This morning it was dead. Tonight another bird landed on the boat.
These land birds should stay closer to home!

We've also had some moths and dragon flies on the boat this evening, 75 miles off shore. I suspect they hitched a ride on a thunder
shower and were attracted by our most excellent navigation lights (bulbs replaced by Brian and I) and steaming light (bulb replaced
by me).

Our air conditioner is not conditioning today. The satphone antenna was getting very flaky, so I overhauled it. This was hard
because the BNC connectors we had require a solid center lead, and ours is stranded. With the aid of two pairs of pliers, a
1,233,231 watt soldering gun, a good amount of electrical tape, and other various and sundry tools, I got it working. It's even
better than when I started!

Tonight's movie was Second Hand Lions (excellent). Last night: Valley of the Dolls (weak) and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (pretty
good). Other recent showings: Key Largo (pretty good), 5 Corners (weak), Sahara (good, but not like the book), Anchors Aweigh
(entertaining), On the Beach (interesting 1959 viewpoint), Hell in the Pacific (I gave up after 15 minutes), CC and Company
(interesting 1970 viewpoint, Joe Namath and Ann Margaret, weak movie).

It's My Birthday!

by Melinda

The birthday party started at 5:45 when dad woke me up shouting, "Happy Birthday! Are you getting up?!" and trying to play Happy
Birthday on the piano. And then he said, "You better hurry!"

I knew immediately that he had probably caught something on fire so I came up. And yep, he had. A can of spam with 21 candles in it
was burning brightly on the table. I quickly extinguished the flames.

Dad seemed awfully delirious at this point; he did the entire night watch after goofing off all day yesterday at Providencia. HE
MADE A CAKE. Of all my years of knowing my dad (21 years I might add), I've never seen him make a cake.

I couldn't believe it. It was a genuine, edible yellow cake with chocolate frosting. He ran off to sleep while I had breakfast
birthday cake. HE DID THE DISHES. Holy, holy crap.

Not even a minute after walking on deck, a huge mass of dolphins started swimming towards the boat from all directions. I counted
about 20 zig-zagging in a wave at our bow. It was still before dawn but light was starting to touch the mushroom clouds all around
us, creating a very unique glow.

Then the dolphins left, the sun rose, and I went inside to avoid the heat and played two games of scrabble against myself.

The rest of the day's plans are to keep eating birthday cake, sand a coconut, whip lines maybe, play the piano, play more scrabble,
read, cook dinner, and possibly watch a movie.

This birthday rocks!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Santa Catalina Harbor

We are anchored in Providencia's Santa Catalina Harbor, waiting to clear customs. We got here about 2:30 or 3:00 am. The Bush Agency
apparently does all the customs clearing here for boats like ours. They (he?) are supposed to meet us on our boat at 10:00 this

The trade winds are missing! We have run the motor (one of them) almost all the time since Grand Cayman. Whenever the wind was from
a good direction, there wasn't enough of it. A few times I have put up the sail, but never did last very long. Most of the time the
wind has been 5 to 10 knots, but yesterday it got up to 12 knots occasionally. The boat handled these high winds very well.

I looked at the weather and saw sbutropical depression Andrea with 35-knot winds. I guess Andrea's influence doesn't go this far

We've also averaged about a knot of current against us since Panama. I thought this might be a discrepency in our water speed vs.
gps speed, So I took the boat in a circle and checked the speeds. The ocean was indeed against us.

We have over half the fuel we left Grand Cayman with, and we're literally 7/12 of the way to Panama! According to the wind forecast,
unless we wait until next Wednesday we'll be motoring on into Panama.

The fixed to broken ratio is not looking very good at the moment.

1. The air conditioner is about 70% broken. It all works, except the compressor won't come on.

2. The watermaker is fixed, until the errant pump finally fails.

3. The left engine doesn't charge the batteries, for some reason. We asked the boat manufacturer and the engine manufacturer to fix
this a few times when it was under warranty. They never could find any problem. So we're limited to the generator and the right
engine for battery charging.

That looks like the broke-to-fixed is 2.4:1. Fixed-to-broken, on the other hand, is 1:2.4.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Making Water

We are now 22 miles from Providencia, Columbia. That's an island at 13°22'N and 081°22''W. It's closer to Nicaragua than mainland
Columbia, but Columbia owns it. I thought about stopping at Serranilla Bank instead, but I read that the Colombian military
approaches boats sheltering there, but usually allows them to stay the night. Providencia seems more inviting.

The watermaker is essentially a pump and a membrane that squeezes the salt out of the water using reverse osmosis, leaving drinkable
and showerable fresh water. We use that a lot, because I like to shower and drink water and drink tea.

Our watermaker has been on the decline ever since Mexico. The parts per million (ppm) of salt in the fresh water output has been
going steadily up, and eventually passed the 750 ppm limit.

Last night, I ran it for about two hours, restarting four times, before I could get any good water out of it.

Mike called Spectra, the manufacturer, to see what's wrong. They gave me some things to do. I replaced the filters. I cleaned the
strainer. I looked for leaks in the sea water input. I disconnected the saltwater discharge hose and ran it into a bucket, checking
the gallons per minute. It was 2.25 and should have been 3.6.

Then I called them on the satphone. We have a sick feedwater pump. We have a spare pump on the boat, but I hate to tear into it out
of range of a garden hose if I can help it. Luckily, Dean at Spectra told he how to change the pump speed and make it work. He said
to speed it up.

I took apart the control panel and found the proper potentiometer (after another phone call). I turned it all the way to the right.
I wanted that baby running FAST. No change. Then, almost as an afterthought, I turned the pot all the way to the left.

Big change. I got lots of good water, faster than before. The feed pressure was a lot higher. I walked away for a minute and then
looked back. The lights on the control panel were out and the watermaker was off. I hiked down into the engine room where the
watermaker is located, and saw it had thrown a breaker.

Maybe all the way to the left was a little too far. I backed off a quarter turn and now the watermaker is happy, I'm happy, and
Melinda is asleep.

Spectra is a pretty good company. Their people have been knowledgable and helpful every time I've talked to them. Their watermakers
use less electricity than any of others I've seen (for comparable output), and they run off 12v or 24v DC.

When we got this boat, it had a watermaker that only ran if the generator was running. It took too much electricity for our inverter
to handle. And we have a big inverter. This meant if the generator went out, we could get no water. And that happened to us crossing
the Atlantic. Now we have the Spectra that requires a fraction of the power and does not need the generator.

We also have a spare watermaker, lower capacity, mounted next to the main one. We also have a small manual-pump watermaker. And we
have a lot of bottles of water on the boat. Hopefully we won't have to worry about that "ne'er any drop to drink" stuff.

The Rest of Thursday

by Melinda

I wouldn't want to leave anyone in suspense now....

Now that I think about it, I haven't done any productive stuff today except maybe cook dinner and do the dishes. Dinner was tuna
salad on crackers and a baked potato. Plus tea (which dad "cooked").

I got keelhauled today. After we struck the mains'l, I asked dad if I could jump overboard. He hastily said YES! And slowed the boat
down to a single knot. Mind you, until you've actually tried swimming to a boat going 1 knot, you really have no idea how fast that
1 knot really is. Luckily and surprisingly, dad let out a line behind the boat so I could reel myself in. I didn't expect that much
force and I nearly lost my swimsuit. So, I naturally and ungracefully flung myself back into the boat in a single, bruising motion.
I had been officially keelhauled... right?

All things that I've noticed today are sure signs of approaching land:

(1) We have a roosting chicken right outside the back door. Or maybe it's some sort of sparrow. It didn't want any bread, crackers,
or tuna; we tried.

(2) I saw a freak insect buzzing around the steaming light, which led me to wonder about this scenario. How exactly does an insect
have the capability of keeping up 5-6ish knots just to fly in loops around a light? Yes, I am CERTAIN it was a bug. It even went
away. I know our speed has been a little slow today but really... I can't even swim a knot, how the heck can a bug go faster than

(3) We're out of avocados, bell peppers, hot mustard, and tomatos. But I discovered the last package of turkey.

(4) More things are breaking. Watermaker, air conditioner, and dad nearly let out the spinnaker today... Good grief.

(5) Culumus Mushroomus - Those always seem to pop up when we near land.

In sevenish hours, we'll supposedly be anchored. My final request to my dear father tonight is please, pretty, pretty please, I do
NOT want to spend my birthday in a Colombian jail. Please not this weekend. Monday yes, the weekend NO. I'll even go to McDonald's
with you once (not that I'll eat anything).


by Melinda

I woke up really, really grumpy this morning. I think it had something to do with dad shouting my name and then asking me questions.
I'm not good with that in the morning. Wake-ups should be delicate and sweet, like a dove gently cooing, "Good morning Melinda, you
have 20 minutes until six, the weather is perfect outside, no traffic, and I made poached eggs on toast and hand-squeezed orange
juice for breakfast."

What's so difficult about that?

Anyway, Thursday hasn't been bad. I read about sailing, ate cereal, applied sunscreen twice, woke up dad about a barge that was
being funny, ate an orange in the sun, drank V8, drank tea, looked up walrus in Spanish, washed my hands twice, looked out for boats
occasionally, played moonlight sonata and fur elise, threw mushy apples overboard, checked out the onions, turned dad's watch alarm
off, looked out at the horizon with binoculars, wiped off the radar screen, went to the bathroom, sat outside, watched flying fish,
wondered why mushy apples floated, and that's it! But it's only 10:30.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wind! (or lack thereof)

Melinda and I are in the midst of a 3-knot windstorm (gusting to 4 knots). We've got clothes and diving stuff drying outside, so
it's nice not to have salt water splashing everywhere. A few minutes ago we put up the sails and I went out in the dinghy and took
some pictures of the boat. Here's one:

I just download the wind forecast, and it looks like we won't see any wind over 10 knots between here and Panama. Unless we run out
of diesel and it takes over 6 days to get there.

We might stop in Providencia, a Colombian island 120 miles or so off the coast of Nicaragua, with a population of about 4,800. It's
a day or two away.

T-Minus 3 Days (until Melinda's Birthday)

by Melinda

It's morning and I'm awake!!! I got loads of sleep last night after we left Grand Cayman. Although I kept hearing random
voices/screaming throughout the night. I was a little startled by every scream, and more confused when it was a woman's. I
eventually figured out that Dad was watching a movie.

Dad woke me up at 0500 to look out for obstacles; I haven't seen any. The water is glassy smooth with random strips of ripples, kind
of like a rotten tomato.

I've spent the majority of the morning watching flying fish scatter everywhere as the sun rose. That's been pretty neat. I also
chased some flies out of the boat. Somebody left their radio on and butchered the guitar for a while until another person came on
saying, "Please stop." The radio's quiet now.

Yesterday was even more fun. Dad and I went kayaking, diving, and boat scrubbing! As for kayaking... I got distracted by fish and
lost dad (typical). I found his abandoned kayak by Burger King. Then I stopped following dad around as he weaved in and out of
cruise ship taxis looking for the fuel dock.

Diving was fun too except I got grumpy beforehand because my mask broke. We saw lots of fishies, loads of parrotfish.

Boat scrubbing was phenomenal.

We saw two little tornado/water spout thingies forming but they went away really fast.

Most important of this entire update: I cooked dinner again last night, except this time it was actually tasty! I made my infamous
"Awesomely Delicious Burritos." Dad highly approved and all is well aboard the Minnow.

Now I'm going to watch fish.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

On the Road Again

by Bob

Melinda and I checked out of the Caymans are are on the way to Panama and parts unknown. We got doused by a heavy shower as we were
fueling up before our departure. We dived and kayaked. In fact, I kayaked to Burger King for Cini-minies. Nothing is too good for
The Minnow.

We dived on a good reef just about 100 yards from where we were moored. The reefs are all over just off Georgetown. There's Cayman
Bank that looks like an interesting place to dive. It's an underwater mountain that comes up to 90 feet depth, surrounded by
thousands of feet of water.

It looks like light winds for a while. We may use up some of that diesel we just bought.

Here some of Melinda's photos. Moretacome...

A Few Fotos

From Isla Mujeres to Grand Cayman:

We got into Georgetown yesterday afternoon. We parked at the big ship pier to clear in and eat dinner. Then we moved to a mooring
buoy. Port security gave me the lat-lon coordinates of two buoys on the radio. That's a good way to do it since everybody has a GPS
now. Except the two buoys were occupied, so I had to pick another.

Two cruise ships came in this morning. I knew they were coming, but it was still surprising to see the giant ships.

Melinda is sleeping. It may be impossible to wake her because the baritone is broken. I broke a valve trying to get it to move. With
a hammer.

Monday, May 07, 2007

May 7th for Melinda

May 7th for Melinda

I'm awake! But as Dad has noticed, I've seemed to acquire a peculiar skill of sleeping through baritone playing over the years... We
are getting closer to Grand Cayman I think. I'm excited because maybe we can buy more oranges. Speaking of oranges, while I was
peeling one during watch last night, there were loads of bioluminescence in the water. The water lit up like a blue Christmas tree
with every splash. Sometimes there would be huge gobs of bright blue goo in it too; Maybe they were squids.

Also last night, I learned how to treat different jellyfish stings and say catepillar in Spanish (from books).

One more thing I learned is that waking up my dad in the middle of the night can be fun. He even wore his shorts backwards last
night. Another night he claimed that a fish hit him in the face. He's silly.

Today, I made the best sandwhich I've ever had on the Minnow. It had: carmelized onions, avocado, tomato, turkey, swiss cheese,
spicy mustard, and wheat bread. I felt like a million bucks after I ate it. I also made a list of things to pack for Seattle:
clothes, sleeping bag, towel. Dad added a lawn mower to the list but scissors should do fine.

The latest news: I finished "The Heart of the Sea: The Essex!" Fortunately, we have enough apples on board to keep us from
cannibalism. We fished today! But we both refuse to gut a fish so we're catching and releasing. We made it to Grand Cayman! We plan
on diving and kayaking tomorrow. We ate a meal at a restaurant with metal utensils and dad loved it! He's never going back to Burger
King again. [Editor's note: Melinda has a screw loose] Customs stole Mike's spearguns! I'm okay with that; They looked really

I think that's all.

Melinda's Update for Today (May 6th)

I saw five birds, whipped lines, and raised the daggerboards today. We are puttering along at the blinding speed of 7.2 knots over
the ground. We have about a 0.8 knot current against us. The sea water temperature is 83.3 degrees Kelvin. The depth is 14,957 feet.
I ate a turkey sandwhich with avocado in it and one mushy banana. We're going to have a birthday party in six days.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Here we are!

by Melinda

On our way to Cuba if we're not careful. Today is the first official sailing/motoring day for me on board the Minnow. I haven't
gotten sea-sick but one of the apples that Mike bought made my stomach feel a little woozy. The winds have been between 15 and 25
knots so we're cruising (and we have the motor on too).

There are loads of differences of staying on this boat and the Robert C. Seamans. Here's a list of a few:

- (On the Minnow) I showered today. I showered yesterday. I even showered the day before that! On the Seamans, we were allowed one
fresh-water shower every 3 days. It's not as bad as it sounds but it does make this trip seem very luxurious.

- There are buttons and gadgets that will do much of the work for you on the Minnow. I only cranked the winch a few times today and
took the Mexican flag down. But, you have to know when to press what buttons at what times. No comment on that.

- I have an entire room to myself... better yet, I have the entire port side of the Minnow to myself! On the Seamans, I had a
bunkbed and a couple of drawers.

- There is no official chef in the Minnow's galley... so we just graze and eat a lot of turkey sandwhiches. We had meals 3 times a
day and snacks an addition 3 times each day every day on the Seamans. I've had about 6 meals today.

- We have tubas on board. Seamans had bongos.

- The Minnow has two helms, both facing forward. The Seamans had on the quarter deck facing aft. That means I can get an even tan on
board the Minnow.

Okay duty calls, I better go eat and look for aliens tonight.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Friday, May 04, 2007

Amigos Regatta

Once a year, for the past 30-some years, the racers from the Regata del Sol al Sol take the kids from the island of Isla Mujeres on
a short sailboat race. It's called the Amigos Regatta. It's pretty cool because now, a lot of the parents got to go on the Amigos
Regatta when they were kids. Pictures are at:

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Racing With Dummies, Day 4

by Mike

This morning the sound of engines and the back-and-forth motion of the steering wheel under autopilot greeted me. There was also a
lot of banging on the boat. Further inspection revealed Steve and Doc Fullerton flying kites. The banging noises were their happy
little footsteps all over the deck.

A rudderless boat being towed in waves and swells tends to go back and forth a lot. Thunderbird also had a tendency to surf down
swells, creating slack in the towline. To compensate for this they dragged a bucket with holes in it off of their back left corner
which reduced both problems. Still, we needed to keep our speed at about 7.5 knots through the water to keep these tendencies under

By late morning we were entering the main section of the gulf stream as it heads north between Cuba and Mexico. This meant that that
our progress was a little slower (we were heading generally southwest). And it got a little wavier. The Minnow was happy in these
waves, but Thunderbird behind us was getting skewed and bounced more and more. We slowed a bit to make their ride nicer.

The current in the fastest part of the gulf stream was about 3.5 knots, which is a lot faster than I thought it would be. In the
evening the current ended, the sea flattened, and we sped up again. There was nothing to do except read and recreate.

So we ate supper. We were not allowed to bring red meat into Mexico. Since we had about 2 pounds of hamburger meat we enjoyed 1/2
pound cheeseburgers. They hit the spot.

Towing had advantages and disadvantages. By using our engines, we disqualified ourselves from the race. But since we were out of the
race we got to use the autopilot! We weren't able to use our sails while towing, but that meant easier kite flying! It slowed us
down. But we had plenty of hot water for showers! These were all acceptable tradeoffs.

The most difficult part of it was the inability to fish. There was no acceptable tradeoff for this.

When we were about 8-10 miles from the finish line we talked to the race committee and explained what was going on. This was well
after midnight. They were very helpful and gave great instructions. They had a small boat with a flashing light lead our way across
the finish line and on through the channel to the dock. I think we crossed the finish line about 2:00am, which is about 12 hours
later than we would have finished otherwise. Thunderbird would have finished about noon without the surprise loss of rudder.

At a good spot in the channel we untied from Thunderbird. In the calm water they used their two small outboard motors to take
themselves to dock.

We got ourselves to dock and tied up. The race welcoming committee was all smiles and presented is with a gift of beer and rum. The
immigration official came aboard, did his thing, and officially welcomed us to Mexico. The race was over and the trip to Mexico was

So we played Stars and Stripes on our sousaphones. We also played a few other tunes as we pitched in welcoming a couple of other
boats arriving just after us. At about 4:00am things settled down and found our beds. It was a good trip.