Plz Mr Big Bad Wolf … Let Go of My IsoBars!!!

PLZ Mr Big Bad Wolf, Let-Go of My Isobars!   Here’s a Winterlude Update originally written to describe weather … a glimpse into life as a cruiser when the winds howl, luckily in Panama there’s no such thing as a Norther, but someone forgot to tell them to eliminate squalls too!

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March 15, 2009 … Eastern Holandes Cayes, San Blas Islands, Panama….

Please please Mr. Big Bad Wolf, let go of my isobars and don’t blow my house down!!! Winterlude is a boat, made of fiberglass and stainless steel, not a house of straw, still whenever the wind pipes up to gale force and blows for days, it can get nerve wracking! There was a big HI pressure system sitting just off the east coast of the US and the Columbian LO sitting just north of Cartagena and between the two weather systems, the isobars are stacked up almost on top of each other… which translates in layman’s language to gale force winds, giant waves and gray skies! The weather this year certainly hasn’t been as good as last year, but then the winter in the US has been yuckier than normal too, so I guess it’s just going around everywhere!

In between gusts, we got great news from the home front … son Andy & wife Jackie had their first baby … our first grandchild on Wednesday, March 11. A baby girl, Gillian Grace, born 7 lbs 8 ozs, 18 1/2″ long at 3:13 PM … I am absolutely SURE she will have David wrapped around her little finger in no time at all! We can’t wait to get back and meet her in person. David got to “talk” to her on the phone the other day… made his year! 🙂

Better Days, Winterlude Anchored in the Holendes Cayes, San Blas Islands, Panama

Better Days, Winterlude Anchored in the Holendes Cayes, San Blas Islands, Panama

Back aboard, good thing I enjoy David’s company because being unable to get off the boat for days, living in an 18 foot space would become trying otherwise! This will likely be a short update because it’s literally what we’ve been doing until two days before this update was due on the 15th! There have been other highlights from stolen moments between gales & current. We had a day of glorious snorkeling at the Minefield, one of our favorite anchorages. We snorkeled my favorite reef & the clarity wasn’t good, but it was great to see that wall again & swim against the current in the passes & let the current sweep me back through. Anchored here in the Hot Tub (cruisers have nicknames for all the anchorages … it’s just easier than saying we’re anchored behind Kalugirdup Cay!), the water is so clear yesterday we watched two giant eagle rays swim under our boat and a turtle leisurely swimming by about a boat length out.

David spotted a BIG dog snapper (my 3rd favorite edible fish, behind hogfish and yellowtail snapper) under a coral head in about 10 feet of water off the reef by Sibadup. The bad news was that David thought the snapper was too big for his spear gun! Luckily a friend was happy to shoot the fish in the head & we shared the fish. Three dinners later, the dog snapper is gone. It had to be 15 lbs minimum! But luckily another boat sailing up from the far Eastern San Blas caught a giant marlin. We’ve never been lucky enough to catch a marlin and normal policy is to release them, but this one kept biting and would not let them remove the line, so they ended up with the fish. They split it up, fed the Kunas here and several boats got “a little fish”… our share of a “little fish” turned out to be 8-9 pounds! We steaked it up & shared with new friends on TaraVana. Marlin tastes like swordfish, white meat and steak-like. We have 3+ dinners in our freezer from that fish, so we don’t need fish for awhile!

Spotted Eagle Ray Swims Just Beneath Me Snorkeling

Spotted Eagle Ray Swims Just Beneath Me Snorkeling

Back to the weather, that BIG BAD WOLF trying to blow us away was annoying! You wonder in some of the big gusts if the anchor is going to hold — we know it’s buried completely from snorkeling it after anchoring. A friend on another boat claims his Chinese knock-off anchor is trying to burrow its way home to China! But a connector could break or …. and Winterlude would be on the reef behind us in a very short period of time. So no matter how long we’ve been cruising or how many times we’ve inspected all those connections, we’re still uneasy when waking in the middle of the night to a particularly big gust. Wind above about 22 or 23 knots turns the KISS wind generator into a helicopter – which is exactly how it sounds once the winds reach 28 knots! And with the vibration of the wind in the rigging, the boat vibrates like a helicopter is taking off directly from our deck! The worst part is sitting in the cockpit, day after day, looking out over the beautiful aqua clear water, seeing the wind blowing the tops off the waves crashing on the reef and knowing that the snorkeling is just going to stink. So far, we’ve mopped the floors, equalized the batteries… twice … defrosted the refrigerator, cleaned stainless, waxed, done laundry … twice … and every other mundane task we can think of waiting for the weather to moderate. I learned how to get TIF weather files, 24, 48 & 72 hour wind wave and surface analysis charts from NOAA via Winlink SSB radio, studied Spanish, did a bit of writing, and too many sudoku puzzles. David’s going through a book every two days, at this rate, he’ll be finished with every book aboard by tomorrow or day after!

Due to the bad weather, again this year, no supplies are getting into the San Blas Islands. Most supplies are carried either by Columbian Trading boats or by boat from further west along the Panama Coast, near Colon. With 15 foot waves crashing on a lee shore, no boats are risking losing their boats, and maybe their lives, to bring supplies to the San Blas. So there’s no gasoline, no diesel, no fruits & vegetables, and dwindling supplies of rice, sugar, flour and the basics. Luckily, this year, we did a bit better job of provisioning than last year! This year we have plenty of canned & frozen food, toilet paper, propane, and other essentials. Unfortunately we’re down to our last carton of milk, but that just means I’ll have to eat oatmeal or Quaker breakfast bars (or my last grapefruit) for breakfast instead of raisin bran – hardly a major imposition!

The Waterslide, Holendes Cayes, San Blas Islands, Panama

The Waterslide, Holendes Cayes, San Blas Islands, Panama

We’ve played more games of Skip-Bo than either of us can remember — a card game — and I’m ahead in the overall tally — Farkle, a dice game and Yahtzee – no Mexican Train this year, no one else seems to be playing and I’m not sure it would be fun playing just the two of us. We borrowed a DVD player from David & Damon on Bruadair, plus a folder of about 20 of David’s 600 movies and we’ve watched 5 of 5 Harry Potter movies, plus Monsters Inc., Sixth Sense, Snow Falling on Cedars, the Blue Seas, a great documentary about reef life from BBC, Hannibal, Kingdom of Heaven, the 7th season of Amazing Race, and dozens of other movies. The good news is that Mr. Amp Ogre (that would be my David) hasn’t been whining about amps with the KISS wind generator whizzing away generating more amps than we can use! We’ve been turning ON stuff just to burn electricity – that will change soon, I’m sure.

The weather is finally predicted to moderate this week … after 10 days of the BIG BAD WOLF howling, we’re all ready! There’s a boat that just came into the Hot Tub anchorage, Legacy, and they are “roving Spectra Watermaker reps” — go figure, what a great idea, a major manufacturer paying a cruiser to work on people’s water makers and carry a supply of extra parts. We need a hose for our watermaker, so we’ll pay Chris a visit in the next day or two. Sometimes you just meet people that you really enjoy … that’s the case this week when Rick & Ami from TaraVana stopped by to introduce themselves. Turns out we both enjoy snorkeling and fish/coral identification and David & Rick both enjoy spear fishing. We’ve been fish identifying and spear fishing two days in a row now & we’re having a lot of fun … which accounts for why despite the fact that I sat here for 2 weeks with little to do, this update is late! J Gotta play this year when the weather allows!

Exploring the Holendes Cayes, San Blas Islands, Panama

Exploring the Holendes Cayes, San Blas Islands, Panama

The reef behind the boat is calling my name, so I guess this update is done! More in two weeks!

Jan & David
s/v Winterlude

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