|The Adventures of Lynn and Les on "Cottonwood"|
Well, the Panama Canal was everything we expected, and then some. After we exited the Canal we headed for the Caribbean! Our next leg took the Cottonwood to Bocas del Toro, Panama (the bulls mouth). This is a group of islands north of the Canal, with palm thatched roofs for many of the buildings, not very populated, but beautiful. Lots of Americans and Europeans buying land and houses here, but it hasnt turned commercial or touristy yet. I wanted to look at the available lots on one of the islands, but by this point in our cruise, the weather here was a little too warm and humid for me, and it was their winter!
Lynn loves crosses. We collected many from the countries we visited. When we took a walk around Bocus town, she was startled to see what appeared to be a cross, submerged in the water along shore, right in town. So she had to take a picture. You have to see this. Its actually an accident from a building that was just torn down. We enjoyed the small village atmosphere of Bocus, and we saw that many local fishermen still fish from hand made dugout canoes. And just like people in town, wave and say hello. I continue to be amazed at how friendly the Central American people are toward us.
Next, we headed for Isla San Andres, a little over 300 miles into the Caribbean. This island actually belongs to Columbia, even though it is a long way from that country. This crossing was our largest open ocean crossing. It took approximately 50 hours straight to reach the island. It was not tourist focused, but was well populated. Not all that interesting to us. But it was only a stopping point for fuel, so we didnt explore any. We then had another coastal two-day voyage to reach Roatan, Honduras.
Roatan, so far, has been a real favorite. At this point, I would even give it an equal billing to Costa Rica, white sandy beaches, clear, beautiful water. And quaint little villages like what we expected to see for a Caribbean island. The coral diving is world class. In fact, we met many people on sail boats (we were the only power boat that far from cozy marinas), and most all said they were there for the diving. Some even said they were not sailors, but divers who get there by sail boat. A lot of these sailors knew each other and have been here many times. We even attended a get together at one of the local bars for an all you can eat lobster and filet cookout. Several of the boaters brought guitars and an electric piano and had a sing fest of country western music. They were actually very good! Roatan is one stop we definitely want to return.
Our only bad memory is an error I made. We were moving from a tie up at a wooden dock at Fantasy Island, to a marina just a mile away. But, as I learned, channels are not marked well down here. You actually need to ask locals for exact information. I should have stayed within 20 feet of a metal pole, but 30 feet away and we hit the bottom. I couldnt get the boat off and it was getting dark, choppy, and windy. We put out an anchor and tried using the wench to pull us off. Two local young men came out in their small skiff and helped us. After an hour, we finally got off the rocky bottom, but trying to keep the boat from drifting back into the shallows, we were unable to coordinate the retrieval of our anchor and chain before it got caught in the props. We then drifted back onto the rocks. We were finally able with the help of the local boys to get the chain undone and aboard, but we were hard aground. We called for help and after a couple of hours two fishing boats came and tried to pull us off. Unfortunately, they didnt have the power and only wound up breaking a large cleat, a small cleat, a teak railing, and two hawse hole fittings off the boat. We found we couldnt get a larger boat until morning. The tide range was 4 feet and we got stuck and it was high tide so waiting and floating off was not an option. We spent the night on the rocks being rocked back and forth, and at low tide around 3 am, the boat was listing over 25 degrees. Thats a lot for a power boat, believe me! The next morning we were easily pulled off by a larger fishing boat and two inch line. And after all that, not one person asked for any compensation! The next day I dove on the bottom and found that we needed work on both the keel and the props. I took a wrench down and straightened out many of the small dents in the prop edges made by the chain. We planned on having the boat hauled in Isla Mujeres where we were told they were very capable.
Howard needed to catch a plane from Belize so he could be home for the arrival of his daughters new baby. He was to rejoin us in Cancun, Mexico. But the weather would not allow us to get there in time, so he caught a flight from Roatan to Belize and then home. We made a brief stop in Belize at San Pedro, but then moved on up to Cozumel, Mexico. This turned out to be a brief stop as well. There was a series of fronts expected to move through and we were going to be hung up here tied up to a very poor marina wall that we were allotted. Bad place to be according to a local American who ran a fishing business there. So we pulled out and went on up to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, an island just off the coast of Cancun. The crossing was very rough with 4-6 foot seas and windy, but Lynn and I made it ok.
We spent two weeks up on the hard getting the keel hardwood plate replaced. Unfortunately, when they plugged in power to the boat they blew out our inverter. I checked afterward and found they had 130v, and 130v to ground as well. I had a new unit sent in under warranty, but all in all it was a very expensive mistake, and they would not take responsibility for the damage to our inverter. Oh, well, just another adventure.
While getting the boat repaired, our daughter, Simeon, flew in to visit us, what a treat! We took a water shuttle to Cancun and picked her up at the airport. After spending a couple of days on the boat without power, except for some extension cords run to the freezer and refrigerator, we decided to move into town. We found a room with three beds. We then went and got Howard from the airport and all of us stayed together. We actually changed hotels several times, but really enjoyed the stay in Isla Mujeres. We finally got our boat back and anchored outside the village. We said goodbye to Simeon and made plans for our trip across the Gulf Stream, past Cuba, to Florida. We had to wait another several days for a weather window. We got one of 4-5 foot seas going down to 2-3 foot seas, and left for the crossing to Key West, Florida.
Dont let anyone kid you, weather reports can be wrong. This turned out to be our worst leg. It started out 4-5 foot seas, and then just got worse the whole way. We were in 8-10 foot seas with 35 knot winds. We broke our mast, got water in many places it shouldnt have been, but we made it safe, with a very messy boat inside from things flying around.
But we were finally back in the good ol USA.Next time, Key West.
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