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.

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“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.)

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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

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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!

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

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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!

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What’s the Hold-Up?

Rode Trip is still in Bermuda, which leaves you asking…”Are they still in those stocks?”

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“Can’t Brian get enough of COLD, micro-brewed beer?”

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“Are they having too much fun in the rockin’ Bermuda clubs with their new friend, Glen?”
(Fun Fact: Glen is our friends’ Sanders and Valerie’s nephew who is also visiting Bermuda.)

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“Are they interviewing crew?”
(Sanders & Glen visit Rode Trip for the afternoon.)

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“Do they have cold feet and don’t want to leave the beautiful, calm harbour?”

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“Have they found their dream home?”

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“Have they been sucked into the Bermuda Triangle…”

Actually, Rode Trip had every intention of setting sail as soon as the weather offered us a good breeze. The boat is stocked and all minor repairs from the previous passage are complete. Not only have we been exploring Bermuda during this pit-stop across the Atlantic Ocean, but we’ve also been doing quite a bit of research for our next destinations and we have one major check to get off our preparation list before entering the Azores – liability insurance.

Liability insurance is necessary in Europe, particularly if staying at a marina. Marinas expect liability coverage for $1-Million; just in case our rinky-dink boat bumps into a mega yacht. We knew this and we dragged our feet. We thought if asked we’d play stupid and say we were in progress of attaining it. But after conversing with many of our fellow cruisers who’ve had experience in Europe, it became painfully clear that we’d need to submit our insurance papers (along with boat documentation and passports) to clear into European countries. UGH! We plan to stay at a marina in the Azores so to avoid any conflict we want to have policy in hand prior to leaving Bermuda.

Obtaining liability insurance is not so easy as we’d hoped. American companies won’t provide liability only; they want to offer full policies and they want an out of water survey within the past year as well as the owner’s boating resume. Brian put together his boating resume, it was actually quite impressive. But the expense and effort of an out of water survey is ridiculous when we are only seeking liability. European companies do provide liability only, just not for US documented boats. We’ve gotten promising feedback from two companies thus far and have our fingers crossed that they’ll offer us an affordable plan.

In the meantime, when we aren’t drinking swizzles (Goslings Black Rum, Goslings Gold Rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, Grenadine, bitters), we’re also pricing marinas for the winter season and researching sights to see for our Mediterranean itinerary.