Click HERE to see Mahina Tiare's track and current location on Google Earth
Leg 4 - 2015, Update 1
May 26, 2015, 1500 hrs, 9.14 N, 79.55 W, Log: 185,107 miles
1008.7, Cabin Temp: 87 F, Cockpit: 89 F, Sea Water: 85.1F (Gatun Lake -
Motoring at 7.5 kts with 14 kts NW headwinds
the Panama Canal - approaching Gatun Locks
WE ADMIT IT! WE LOVE THE PANAMA CANAL AND CONSIDER OURSELVES "CANAL JUNKIES!!!"
¾ the way through our Panama Canal transit and it has been an exciting and
excellent transit so far. Currently Guillermo, our Pilot Advisor, has asked
for "best possible speed" to see if we can reach Gatun Lock, the final lock,
before we enter Limon Bay and the Caribbean Sea. If we're quick enough, he
has permission from the lockmaster for us to slip into the lock before a
blue and white PANAMAX car carrier that is currently raising anchor in Gatun
Lake ready for its scheduled lock down. Upon entering the chamber first,
we'll be tying center chamber by ourselves with the huge car carrier behind.
If we don't make enough speed we'll be spending the night side-tied to a
huge mooring buoy in the lake, locking down the next day.
Leg 4-15 crew:Derek, canal pilot advisor, Jennifer, Pierre,
Geir, Peter, Momi, and linehandler Blondie and Amanda in front.
Side-tied to local tour boat in Miraflores Loc
To show you how much we love the canal, I went with
our Leg 3 crew to the first ever public viewing of the new,
not-yet-completed giant-sized third lock (absolutely huge!) and for a
holiday we spent a night in the Country Suites Hotel on the banks of the
Pacific Balboa canal entrance where we could watch a steady parade of ships
day and night.
Our current crew all took the time to go to the
Miraflores Locks Visitor Center to watch canal lock operation and generally
learn how the locks work.
We had our normal safety orientation
Sunday from 4-6 pm, collecting passports and filling out tourist visa
thing Monday morning Elias Castillo collected
our passports, got our visas and zarpe (outbound clearance) returning at
noon Monday when our crew joined us. Tina McBride,
firstname.lastname@example.org) our excellent canal
agent and long-time friend came aboard at noon to meet our crew and inspect
her rental lines (4 lines, each 125' long with 18" eye splices).
After expedition orientation Monday afternoon we readied and re-arranged all
of our ten docklines (the surge in La Playita Marina had been incredible, so
we kept adding more lines!) and tied on our 12 fender tires ready for our
pre-dawn departure. After refreshing showers we then hiked a mile or so out
to the snazzy Flamenco Marina where we enjoyed an excellent Lebanese dinner
at a new restaurant chain Beirut.
This morning Blondie, the
professional line handler supplied by Tina McBride arrived at 0530 and by
0600 we were underway and shortly after we were on standby waiting for our
Leg 4 - 2015, Update 2
June 24, 2015, 1500 hrs,
18.32 N, 64.36 W, Log: 186,560 miles
Baro: 1022.2, Cabin Temp: 87 F,
Cockpit: 88 F, Sea Water: 84.6F
At anchor, Peter Island, 4 miles S of
Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Thankfully our full steam
ahead for Gatun Lock proved to be adequate and we successfully locked down
ahead of the car carrier.
Mahina Tiare entering Gatun locks ahead of Panamax car carrier - image taken from the canal web cam
Panamax car carrier towering behind Mahina Tiare in Gatun Lock
Our canal transit ended with a canal
launch picking up Guillermo, our pilot advisor off Colon and then us
high-tailing to arrive at Shelter Bay Marina, (www.shelterbaymarina.com)
three miles away just before dark. Marina manager
John Halley kindly met us, directing us to a slip, taking
our lines and welcoming us to Shelter Bay. Minutes later our crew helped
Blondie cart the transit dock lines and tires ashore and then headed ashore
for showers, cold drinks and dinner. What a blur the day had been and with
no scrapes or bruises we were ready to set sail for the San Blas Islands in
Actually, we set sail for Portobelo, a wild-west kind of
end-of-the-road town which had been a major Spanish port transporting silver
and gold and was heavily fortified against pirate attacks although the
notorious Henry Morgan managed to successfully sack the town.
surprised to find nearly 50 vessels including many cruising boats apparently
left anchored unattended while owners flew back to Europe or North America
for the hurricane season and even a rusty old ferry.
Portobelo's historic cathedral and counting house
shoreline for a safe place to leave our dinghy while we explored ashore, we
saw several dinghies tied up at house with a "Casa Vela" (sail house) sign.
The German owners were sailmakers and sold beer and said we were welcome to
our dinghy there. Ashore we found several new hostels, and met a guy
from one who said there was a regular business of taking backpackers on
sailboats from Portobelo to Cartagena, Columbia and vice versa, a distance
of about 150 miles with only very expensive air flights.
Casa Vela; cruiser's hangout in Portobelo
Early the next morning we
set sail on a 42 mile passage direct to the San Blas Islands. Our navigator
for the day was busy as we wove our way through some narrow and shallow
coral and sand channels to Yansadar, a favorite anchorage off an uninhabited
islet and in no time most of our crew were in the water exploring and
helping sponge the bottom. For the first time since Oregon we had rain and
overcast which was a respite from the hot tropical sun.
after we had anchored, two Kuna men pulled up in a skiff, but instead of
offering us molas (traditional embroidered applique panels) to purchase,
they had potatoes, onions, broccoli, frozen chicken and many types of local
fruit plus beer and Coke which they had purchased in Panama City,
transported across the country and were now selling to cruisers. Very
industrious and we were pleased to purchase some more fruit and veg!
Crew navigating through narrow, shallow channels to Yansadar
Friday we briefly stopped off Mormake Tupu, telling the Restrepo family we
would return in the morning to visit the village and deliver school books
and supplies to the headmaster. Venancio, the oldest son of this family of
artists was away, but shortly after we anchored at Gaigar, a protected
fairly remote mangrove anchorage a few miles away, Venancio, returning from
a visit to Panama City came aboard and said that he would speak to the sila,
or village chief about our visit the following morning.
after, Lisa Harris the most famous mola-maker (and transvestite) came by to
show us her latest molas, explaining the designs and symbols.
Lisa displaying molas
Peter with Lisa and mola
Saturday morning we anchored off Mormake Tupu islet and went ashore at
the Restrepo family dock. We've visited this family four times in the past
15 years, having first been introduced by other cruisers. As in previous
visits, we brought reading glasses (thank you Charles & TC), which are much
sought-after by the women who sew and sell molas to cruisers as the one
source of cash income in their society. Jennifer and Pierre had also
generously purchased a substantial amount of school reading glasses in
Panama along with school supplies which they were able to donate to the
school headmaster along with three boxes of Spanish Scholastic Books we had
Kuna woman trying on reading glasses
donated by Jennifer and Pierre
Delivering Scholastic Books and school supplies
That afternoon we headed to a new anchorage
on the far NW corner of Western Holandes Cays, in a cove between two outer
barrier islands, each having only one family of residents. Here we found the
most vibrant and healthy coral reef and fish population we have ever seen
ANYWHERE! Many, many different types of vibrant coral, dozens of species of
fish and good visibility. The location; 9.35N, 78.46W is one we have marked
on our chart and circled on Eric Bauhaus' recently-updated and expanded
excellent Panama Cruising Guide.
Panama Cruising Guide
Mahina Tiare anchored in Paradise (Western Holandes Cays)
First thing Sunday morning most of our crew were snorkeling again,
mesmerized by the beauty. After class we dinghied ashore, hiking around the
island meeting the single family living there.
That afternoon we sailed to
an anchorage nicknamed "Swimming Pool" by cruisers, the most famous in the
San Blas. Surrounded by palm-tree clad islets, a few of which have a Kuna
family or two living on them, cruisers have congregated here for many years.
I had expected to find 15-20 cruising boats, but there were only five, and
the crews of three of the boats said they had been based there from 5-17
years, only occasionally returning to Shelter Bay Marina for supplies.
Jennifer & Pierre on Western Holandes Cay beach.
Monday morning while we were covering our weather class, an older Kuna
man in a dugout paddled up and asked if he could trade us fruit for charging
his cell phone. He returned just before we set sail with a few mangoes and
avocados and asked if we could also full his water jug.
That afternoon we sailed to
At 1300 on
Monday, June 1st we set sail, slightly unsure of our destination. We were
considering stopping at a new IGY marina in Punta Marta, west of Cartagena
and Baranquilla, Columbia, but not as far along as the Venezuelan border,
but on emailing the marina's ship's agent they said clearing in and out of
Columbia required a minimum of 2-3 days, too long for our liking.
Returning a charged cell phone in exchange for fruit
Calm seas and favorable N winds prevailed as we sailed whenever possible and
motorsailed when necessary staying 20-50 miles offshore to avoid headwinds
and contrary currents. Tuesday we passed several ships drifting off
Cartagena, waiting for dock space and Wednesday we passed Baranquilla where
the sea turned the color of mud and trees and small bits of islands drifted
by. At times the headwinds increased to 20-25 kts and we would reef down the
main, motorsailing and tacking to avoid rougher conditions offshore.
Thursday morning we held an inshore tack until we were in calm waters
just a few miles from shore and an oil platform in the lee of Punta Vela.
While crew ghosted MT along, I changed engine oil and watermaker pre-filter
and we transferred our deck and lazarette fuel jugs into the main tank. That
done, we tacked to sail NE toward Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. Friday was
our roughest day and with winds of 20-25, gusting 35 we had all three reefs
in the main and four in the genoa. We concentrated on keeping boat speed
down to 5-6 kts so the motion below would be tolerable, but overall sea
conditions weren't bad considering we were going against the trade winds.
The forecasted SE winds that would have allowed us to ease sheets and go on
a close reach only materialized the last night, but Saturday brought much
nicer sea conditions and Amanda was able to teach galley orientation and
By 1100 Sunday our crew spotted skyscrapers ashore and
by 1300 we had passed the capital, Santo Domingo and were winding our way
into Marina ZarPar, a joint venture between an American and local guy. Just
as we were approaching the dock, our throttle cable broke and so we had
Jennifer in the engine room to increase engine revs while docking.
Our first impression of the
DR was that of exuberant total chaos! 50' sportfishing boats would zoom by
just a few feet off our beam (we were moored on the face of a long marina
dock) with music blasting and people dancing on the foredeck. Yep, it's the
weekend...time to party!
First view of Marina ZarPar
I'd learned of Marina ZarPar through Seven
Seas Cruising Association bulletin (www.ssca.org) and from
and had found Yolanda Renal, email@example.com, marina office manager
and dockmaster Rigo Pichardo, firstname.lastname@example.org to be most helpful
both by email and now in person. I'd also read that DR customs have been
working at overcoming their previous bad reputation and we had no difficulty
clearing in with customs, immigration and security officials, several of
whom had offices in the marina.
We were pleased to find huge
commercial self-service washers and dryers, a friendly little restaurant,
free w-fi and showers in the marina.
Tasty crew dinner at Teresita restaurant in the marina
Monday was a very busy day.
Amanda and I went for a long run along the beach and toward the small local
resort town of Boca Chica, then after making breakfast took a taxi to an
excellent new supermarket a couple miles away. Rigo helped arrange taxis and
after lunch we all headed 12 miles away to Santo Domingo, first to a large
marine store where unbelievably, I found the exact throttle cable we needed,
then to the "old colonial city" where we met Felix, an excellent
professionally-trained and licensed guide who guided us on a fascinating
walking tour of the many restored historic buildings, most of which are 500
years old. Santo Domingo is very proud of the fact that this is where
Columbus landed, and site of the first church in all of the New World.
Crew listening to Felix as he describes the Cathedral's
Parque Colon, located beside the Cathedral, is a delightful square surrounded by interesting architecture, galleries, shady trees and café's and would be a great place to chill for a few hours
Fortaleza Ozama is the oldest Military Plaza in the Americas. It was used as a garrison and prison well into the 60's.
Having arrived the Fortaleza Ozama situated on the river
Amanda now had her bearings and pointed out where the sea wall was that
Maiden moored to in 1988. The roadway and buildings in the image are a
recent additions since Amanda was here.
Maiden won the Whitbread
qualifying race from Cadiz, Spain to Santo Domingo on handicap. Their win
caused such an uproar with the maxi yachts that they protested to the
Whitbread Race organizers to change the handicapping rating for the round
the world race so that there was no chance of a small boat taking a prize.
Felix recommended the colonial Mimosa Restaurant for dinner which
was very enjoyable dining experience in the tranquil bricked mango tree
courtyard. Once back aboard MT, Amanda and I managed to change out the
throttle cable late into the evening without having to dismantle the shifter
mechanism - a cause for celebration!
Early Tuesday morning
immigration, customs, the navy and security service, complete with a German
shepherd drug sniffing dog came aboard to clear us out. Rigo had earlier
explained that the DR has a deal with the US that all boats clearing out and
headed for Puerto Rico must be checked by the sniffer dog. Rather bizarre
and the dog REALLY did not want to go aboard, but we had no problems, other
than having to quickly remove all traces of our pancake breakfast as it was
confusing the dog, and were soon on our way.
By hugging the S coast of
the DR we had very mellow motorsailing conditions and our plan was to cross
the often tempestuous Mona Passage at night when the trades are generally
considerably lighter. Sure enough, we had only 8-11 kts for the Mona Passage
and by 1330 on Wednesday we'd moored to the new Ponce US Customs & Border
Patrol dock next to Caribbean Images "marina". It took several hours to
clear customs but eventually we were given the all clear and happily moved
to the new "marina" which actually turned out to be a small dock without any
services other than water, but perfectly ok.
drug sniffing dog searching for pancakes
Thursday our crew took
off to explore Ponce town and an interesting castle while Amanda and I
rented a car for a 2 hour drive to Fajardo's West Marine and Costco enroute.
Puerto Rico seemed prosperous, well-organized and clean after the Dominican
Republic and Panama.
Friday morning we topped up fuel at Ponce Yacht
and Fishing Club with the cheapest diesel we've seen in decades: US$2.47 per
gallon before motorsailing to Patilla, a coastal village for the night.
Saturday morning we had a 0330 start for the channel crossing to Puerto
Rico's Vieques Is, where we enjoyed visiting Esperanza, a small beach and
fishing village. Sunday we got another 0330 start, this time for the choppy
channel crossing to St. Croix, in the US Virgin Islands. We moored at St.
Croix Marine and toured historic Christiansted that afternoon.
Monday morning I cleared
us out of the USVI, (US Customs Border Control office is conveniently
located adjacent to St. Croix Marine) and Amanda went aloft to check the
mainsail track and at 1130 we set sail on a glorious reach for the British
Virgin Islands. As this was our first serious off-the-wind sailing, our crew
were in a celebratory mood! Geir had recently completed two instructional
cruises of the BVI and pointed out several of his favorite snorkeling and
anchoring spots as we sailed past Norman and Peter Islands. We arrived at
Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda at 1900, just before dark, finding many available
berths in the well-organized and impressive marina complex.
Charging to windward toward St. Croix
the following morning we cleared customs near the marina then set sail for
Gorda Sound, the famous area at the north end of Virgin Gorda Island. Derek,
an excellent swimmer and diver and I surprised the rest of the crew with a
surprise man-overboard situation where Derek "fell" overboard and I
demonstrated our version of the Quick-Stop Lifesling rescue. Once we reached
Gorda Sound, each crew member executed the same maneuver.
up a mooring ball in front of the Bitter End Yacht Club and enjoyed walks
along the boardwalk that afternoon and cold drinks overlooking the protected
harbor with Saba Rock and Richard Branson's Necker Island visible. Wednesday
morning we all headed long out on long hikes to the summit and along the
ridge of Virgin Gorda with stunning vistas before doing a photo shoot of MT
in front of the Bitter End YC and setting sail.
Fabulous view of Bitter End Yacht Club and Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda Island
MT sailing past Bitter End YC
We had planned to sail south, nearly to
The Baths, but with daylight fading, Geir suggested picking up a mooring at
Great Dog Island, where he'd snorkeled. It was perfect, there weren't any
boats, the snorkeling was incredible, and when a passing rain squall really
tipped on us, goats clamored down the steep rocky cliff to drinking water
that had collected in small rock pools. Early Thursday morning we sailed to
The Baths, the remarkable jumble of giant granite boulders found on nearly
every chartering ad or brochure for the BVI's. We arrived before any charter
boats, took a mooring, swam ashore and had a great time hiking from one
beach to the next.
We found Mark Bunzel & Joe Russell's "Exploring the Virgin Island
Islands" superbly helpful
Jennifer exploring The Baths, Virgin
MT sailing past The Baths
Shortly we set
sail for Salt Island, practicing taking sextant shots enroute to where Geir
recommended we pick up a mooring and snorkel over the wreck of the Royal
Mail Ship Rhone, as he had done earlier this year. We were surprised to see
how huge (310' with 300 passenger cabins) and how accessible (stern is in
only 20' depths) the well-preserved 1867 wreck is.
We had a great sail to Great
Harbor, Peter Island where we took a mooring and after covering boat
maintenance, splicing and going aloft we headed ashore to check out the
and Peter exploring the Rhone wreck
small bar and restaurant. Friday morning we covered passage planning, using
our Panama to Australia PowerPoint show as an example. As Momi and family
will be departing within weeks of this passage and as several other
expedition members are planning similar voyages, it was keenly received.
Soon after we set sail on the four mile passage to Road Town, capital of the
BVI and home to Village Cay Marina & Hotel, our destination. Once docked, we
enjoyed lunch before Amanda and I went to sign crew off at Immigration.
Arriving in Road Town, Tortola
That night for our
graduation dinner crew chose Dove, an upscale Asian/French restaurant
located in a quaint Caribbean, and we were delighted with an exquisite
dinner. Saturday morning it was a final round up on our teaching after
cleaning and packing and then on to new adventures!
Here's our hearty
Leg 4 crew:
I am an academic anesthesiologist working at
the U of W Seattle and am originally from Scotland. My earliest boating
memories were of exploring the little islands in Loch Lomond in a dinghy
from our motor boat. By the time I was seven I was sailing and have not
looked back spending every summer sailing around the Hebrides with my
parents. I moved to the USA in 1980 and eventually to Seattle where I
introduced my sons to sailing lessons at an early age. I have owned a few
boats but my longest term dream has been ocean voyaging and my present boat
is a Najad 355 which came without instructions-- so I joined John and Amanda
to learn how to use her for ocean cruising. I plan to sail her or perhaps
another yacht with my family and friends when I retire, which will be soon!
I'm from Israel and me and my family "invest" all our time and money
traveling to new places around the world, sometimes also climbing high
mountains. Usually we travel for a few weeks, and from time to time we leave
for longer trips. On our last long (one year) trip, we (me, my wife and 1.5
yr old) traveled overland to Russia, Mongolia, China, NZ and finished in
Australia. Now one week after this expedition ends, I will be leaving with
my wife and three boys aboard our Lagoon 380 catamaran for two years of
adventure, sailing from Greece to the South Pacific.
a contractor, furniture and cabinet maker in San Francisco. In my late teens
I sailed on a schooner off the coast of Maine and the experience never left
me. Since then I have had the dream of getting a boat and sailing around the
world. Besides being on the ocean, I also have a passion for freediving and
underwater photography. My plans are to fulfill my dream and sail to the
South Pacific and New Zealand.
Originally from Norway, but
living in Vancouver, Canada
I have dreamt about blue water sailing for
most of my life, but have been a power boater for the past 30 years, only
starting taking sailing lessons two years ago. I joined this expedition (and
chose a difficult one!) to see if I have what it takes to sail offshore.
This has been a great experience that has encouraged me to pursue my dream.
With my husband Pierre, I own a Bongers 39, a South
African-built sloop which we are considering sailing from Vancouver to
Mexico and the South Pacific. Two years ago I crewed with two girlfriends on
their Morgan 38 from the Galapagos to the Marquesas. It was a very easy
downwind passage and I chose this leg in order to experience and build
confidence in heavier upwind sailing conditions. It's been a fantastic
experience and a long beat to windward is no longer a scary thought!
I was introduced sailing in Quebec in 1980 and crewed in local
races aboard a Catalina 27 in Victoria, Canada in the late 80's. We bought
our current boat in 2003 and lived aboard in Vancouver for five years. We
now enjoy exploring B.C.'s coast and came on this expedition to help decide
if we want to get ready to cruise the Pacific.
Leg 4 Itinerary
leg 1 | leg 2 | leg 3 | leg 4 |
leg 5 | leg 6 |