San Andres, Columbia to Bocas del Toro, Panama

We sailed off the hook after breakfast and buzzed past s/v Eva Marie as we departed San Andres. David and Victoria were on deck ready to wave farewell; they were anchored directly in our path and despite us shouting, “STARBOARD,” while coasting closer on a port tack they preferred to risk collision rather than hoist their anchor to get out of our way. It was all good fun as Brian sailed us around s/v Eva Marie and out the channel.

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Paul was eager to take the helm and expertly steered us through the channel. Shortly thereafter Brian set the auto pilot and we were cruising along in light winds under full sail with the main, genoa, and staysail.


“So this is cruising!?” Paul observed as we all sat, hands free, in the cockpit admiring the coastline of San Andres. Paul’s previous sail on Rode Trip was her delivery from Halifax, NS to Portsmouth, NH when we’d just bought her in 2010. On that trip, Brian and three crew members took turns hand steering during a 4-day passage. They were less than comfortable (strong winds, high seas, cold temperatures, no lee cloths on the bunks) and were learning a completely new boat on the fly. That delivery was Paul’s first and only offshore experience; this passage would prove to be a luxury cruise in comparison. Paul had been more familiar with lake racing; watching the competition, constantly trimming sails, hand steering, adjusting course to keep up with constantly shifting wind. With Paul aboard, our sails were perfectly trimmed (not that Brian’s trimming skills have dwindled, but certainly getting up and going to the foredeck to actually look at sail shape is above and beyond cruising expectations.)


Approximately 5-hours into our passage, we came upon the Albuquerque Cays. These two, small cays were completely surrounded by coral reefs. An excellent stop for snorkeling and spearfishing! We anchored Rode Trip in about 20-feet of water, dropped the dinghy, and grabbed our gear. Brian gave Paul a short tutorial on how to use the Hawaiian sling. I was on dinghy duty while the guys explored below the water. Paul is certified to scuba dive. He’s visited many reefs, but this was the first time that he was not observing the beauty of the coral and fishes. Paul was now on the hunt! Our survival at sea depended on whatever fascinating fish or lobster he could kill! Brian managed to spear two Spanish lobsters. They were so small compared to the lobsters in New England or the Bahamas that we looked at them as though they would hardly provide appetizer. Spanish lobsters grow to only 8-inches long. Back at the boat, Brian prepped fried rice and lobster for dinner while Paul and I readied the boat to get back underway.DCIM101GOPRO


During the nights, we each took a 4-hour shift; Brian started 8pm-12am, then I took 12am-4am, and Paul took 4am-8am. It was smooth sailing and we all had plenty of sleep. Paul seemed to think that the bunk with a lee cloth was much more comfortable than being packed in-between sails in the v-berth as was his first experience aboard Rode Trip. During the days, we tried to stay cool and Paul tried to stay out of the sun. Both of these tasks would have been much easier if Rode Trip had a dodger and/or bimini. But we don’t, so we sweated it out. Paul and I kept our eyes on the sea whenever outside, but we saw more garbage than sea creatures. We also spotted one very bloated, dead sea turtle floating on the surface and one massive water spout amidst some passing squalls. The guys set the fishing line often; we caught one barracuda and threw it back. Although Paul likened the passage to a camping trip, he did enjoy the food. Eggs and plantains for breakfast, fresh bread each day, homemade carrot with coconut milk soup, and homemade cookies for late-night fixes.DCIM101GOPRODCIM101GOPRO

Paul enlightened us with all of the current events and new technology that we’d been missing back in the states. He brought several gadgets with him and thought of various forms of data collection that he could do aboard Rode Trip. On day two, we did speed trials. Paul set the GPS on his android phone within clear view of the cockpit. Then, he focused on sail trip and steered course. The GPS displayed speed in kilometers per hour; despite his best efforts we didn’t increase beyond 10kph which is roughly 5 knots. Not too shabby for the Wetsnail in 10-12 knots of wind. The guys were quite happy with their performance!




We sighted land on our third day and Paul very nautically shouted, “Land ho!” Panama lay straight ahead!


Schools of fish were jumping and gulls were swooping very nearby, so rather than head straight for the entrance to Bocas del Toro the guys took advantage of this opportunity for some more deep sea fishing. Brian caught a tasty lunch! While I broiled the fish, Brian and Paul navigated us toward Bocas where we’d soon set the hook – our third country this year!



A Day at the Hole

It was one of those days…the kind where things just aren’t going quite right and all I’d wanted to do was crawl into a dark hole and come out once again to start over.  Brian and I were NOT catching a break on weather windows although we were preparing the boat and  itching to move!  That afternoon my wishes were granted, thanks to our friends Shiv and Emily.  I crawled right into an enormous, dark, and yet brilliantly beautiful hole only to emerge refreshed!

Welcome to Dean’s Blue Hole!  This gem is located on the southern end of Long Island, Bahamas near Clarence Town.  Dean’s Blue Hole is said to be the deepest blue hole in the world, reaching a depth of 663 feet (203 meters).  It is well known to freedivers who travel to Dean’s Blue Hole to train and compete. Our friend, Shiv, is currently training.  If you’d like to learn more about freediving, let the experts Ren and Ashley at Evolve Freediving teach you.  It was Ren and Ashley who introduced us to Dean’s Blue Hole and shared with us a glimpse of their freediving world. IMG_7984Brian and I paused on the beach for a sobering moment as we observed Dean’s Blue Hole for only the second time.  We thought of Nick, whom we were so fortunate to have met during our travels.  Nick gave his life to his passion of freediving; he died during a dive competition at Dean’s Blue Hole this past November.IMG_7989

That afternoon we spent in good company while we snorkeled, dove, jumped off cliffs, flew a kite, and threw a frisbee at Dean’s Blue Hole.  We caught up with Shiv and enjoyed getting to know Emily.  We met fellow travelers, Justin and Anna.

IMG_7974IMG_7980At the end of the day we re-fuled at the Flying Fish Marina in Clarence Town.  Good eats and many laughs at the Outer Edge Grill!


Shiv & Emily

Shiv & Emily

Justin & Anna
Justin & Anna



Dean’s Blue Hole

We were in for a treat today! Our new friends, Ren and Ashley (sv/Nila Girl), were taking Brian, Matt, Jessica, and I to Dean’s Blue Hole near Clarence Town, Long Island. Dean’s Blue Hole is the deepest known, saltwater blue hole at 663-feet deep. Not only would we visit the blue hole, but we would also learn a bit from Ren and Ashley about the sport of freediving. Ren and Ashley are both freediving instructors and Ashley is a world record holder. This is an amazing sport that takes great discipline. Check out Ren and Ashley’s website to learn more: Evolve
Dean’s Blue Hole – the platform you see in the center of the hole is where divers train and compete.


Suit up! Time to check out this hole.


To the deepest depths and the highest heights…my brave companions took the plunge!



What a fabulous day! Thanks to Ren and Ashley for giving us this opportunity. On the drive home we stopped at Forest II for the absolutely best conch burger we’ve ever eaten! Long Island just keeps getting better and better.