Monday, February 25, 2008


February 24, 2008 Sunday

Friday afternoon we went over to Bocas Marina to play dominoes.  Met new people and twiddled away a few hours.  It was nice, except that I managed to get another dozen or so no-see-um bites, even though I wore long sleeved shirt, long pants and high socks.  This is ridiculous.  Bocas del Toro definitely is not the place for me.

Now that we have made the decision to get out into the Pacific, I am ready to get moving.  The more we read, the more antsy I become to get started.  It is a long way to go by end of November and a lot to see and sitting here seems like wasting time.  We sent an email to an agent in Galapagos Islands but have not yet received his response.  From someone who is there now, we understand that it is now impossible to stop at Galapagos without an agent.  The port captain is now on a computer system that tracks every boat in Ecuador; if you are not in the system then he can’t clear you in; and the only way to get into the system is through an agent.  Seems simple enough and we don’t mind using agents.  Our experience so far has been that paying an agent to deal with the local authorities is well worth the money spent.  We do need to get over to Panama City to visit the French Embassy or Consulate and obtain a 90-day visa so we can visit French Polynesia with as little hassle as possible.  So I am anxious to get to Colon so we can get started on the things we need to do.

This week I made up a shopping list for groceries to last 8 months.  Good thing I already had a written inventory of all food on board to work from; this made it easier to calculate what would be needed to supply us for 8 months.  There are supposed to be only a few places to purchase limited provisions in the Pacific islands and everything is very expensive (like $10 for a box of breakfast cereal; $25 for 3 chicken breasts; $15 per dozen eggs; $20 for 3 tomatoes – all spring 2007 prices).  Goal is to have enough food on hand to last until New Zealand near the end of November and to arrive in NZ with empty freezer and food lockers because NZ is notorious for not allowing even canned meat or honey to be brought into their country. 

I prepared more “BeBe Brownies” mix and vacuum sealed enough to make 6 batches of brownies.  So it will be easy to make brownies while underway to satisfy those midnight watch chocolate cravings.  We have lots of instant hot cocoa pouches to go along with the nighttime brownie snacks.  The passage to Galapagos and the first part of the passage to Marquesas is supposed to be colder weather due to the Humboldt Current.  Heck, I get cold on overnight passages here in the Caribbean; so likely we will be really cold during those passages involving the Humboldt Current.  I also prepared homemade baking mix and have sealed pouches measured to make bake all those things one normally makes with Bisquick.  Bisquick is rarely available in the places we have visited so far, and I know it won’t be available in the South Pacific. This is a simple mix to prepare and very useful.  But when I made the first biscuits from this mix, I discovered that my supply of baking powder had lost its effectiveness.  That is a common problem in the tropics.  Baking powder expires rapidly; probably because of the intense heat and high humidity.  Now I need to remember to add more (new) baking powder each time I use one of these pouches of baking mix or brownie mix. 

Bill set up an account for us with Commanders Weather.  We have used Chris Parker for weather forecasting up until now, but Chris specializes in only the Caribbean and part of the Atlantic.  Commanders Weather does forecasts worldwide.  We will be able to contact them for passage planning anywhere.  I think we pay separately for each forecast, whereas with Chris we simply paid an annual fee and received passage planning via email whenever we requested, along with regular daily email forecasts.  This will make Commanders Weather be considerably more expensive; but, again, one of those services that it is well worth paying for.  We have met several people who have used Commanders Weather for years and recommend it highly.  We also will be using grib files which are received free via the SSB radio using either Winlink or Sailmail.  We have found these grib files to be quite accurate here in the Caribbean and are hoping the same applies to the South Pacific.  We simply radio a request for waves and wind for a specific geographical area, and within an hour we receive the grib file forecasts for that area for the next 24, 48 and 72 hours.  These grib files are overlaid on our electronic charts so it is simple to see what to expect for our planned route for the next 3 days.  Works great.

Electricity is off for this island this morning.  No dock power means no air-conditioning.  That means BUGS.  It is gray and overcast again.  There is a good breeze blowing right now.  Hope it keeps up (or even better that it blow harder) so that the no-see-ums don’t fill up the boat.  It is too hot to cover up on long clothing.  Think I am going to go lie in bed under a fan and cover with a sheet.  Oh, I cannot wait to leave Bocas and get away from these bugs.

The electricity came back on shortly after noon and we were able to close up the boat and get back to A/C.  Good thing as it was hot and buggy until then.  Tonight was another potluck dinner.  I partially stir-fried some veggies and Bill finished cooking them down at “the cage” while he grilled some sausages.  This marina has something that we have never found at a marina before.  They have a fully-stocked kitchen in an area at the beginning of the dock that we all call the cage – because it has chain link or wiring all around the sides (to allow air circulation) and it is locked each night.  There is a refrigerator stocked with cold drinks and beer.  You take what you want and mark it on a tally sheet and it gets added to your bill.  They also have a microwave and a stove that anyone can use.  This is wonderful.  I use it for baking quite a bit – actually I prepare things and send Bill down there to light the oven and handle the baking part because I don’t want out there with the bugs.  This keeps our boat from heating up and also uses their propane instead of ours.

Adjacent to “the cage” is a TV room.  Has a ceiling fan and a couple of chairs.  Unfortunately, it also has millions of the no-see-ums that come up from beneath the dock through the slatted floor boards.  I sat down there for about 10 minutes when we first got here and watched BBC news and CNN, and got way too many bug bites.  So I won’t set foot back down there.  Darn shame, too.  Because I would love to be down there tonight watching the Academy Awards.  Oh well, guess I can read the results tomorrow on Google news.

Remember the snake that crawled onto our friends’ catamaran in the San Blas Islands last November or December?  We received an email from Melissa and Buddy on another catamaran named S/V INDIGO MOON.  They were anchored off the same island and a boa the same size also crawled onto their boat.  Has to be the same snake.  Melissa said the snake appeared docile but every time they knocked it into the sea, it would crawl right back aboard.  They finally got someone to take it ashore in a dinghy.  It didn’t come back after being placed ashore.  Strange coincidence.

February 25, 2008 Monday

This morning we received an email reply from Johnny Romero, the agent in the Galapagos Islands.  According to Johnny, the fees to visit the Galapagos will be:

National Park fees $100 per adult
Fumigation Certificate $120
Customs $30
Agency Fee $150
Permit for transit arrival $120
Port Fees $180

That is $800 just for the privilege of anchoring in a very rolly anchorage for 20 days.  Everything we do will cost extra and our boat cannot be moved from the main port anchorage.  No wonder so many cruisers opt to skip the Galapagos.  That is a little expensive.  We will not stay for the full 20 days; probably more like only a week to 10 days.  But I assume the fees are the same regardless if we stay fewer days.  Oh well, it is something I want to do.

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