Written by Kyle Hahn

April 27, 2016 – Depart Port Antonio, Jamaica                                                                                         April 30, 2016 – Anchor in Jamaica Bay, Bahamas                                                                                   May 1, 2016 – Anchor off Clarence Town, Long Island, Bahamas and go ashore                           May 15, 2016 – Depart Bahamas                                                                                                                 May 17, 2016 – Arrive in Stuart, Florida

The last post left off with us dropping anchor at the south end of the Bahamas, on the west side of Acklins Island. We dropped anchor a ways away from the more protected area. We did not have a functional depth sounder so we played it safe and anchored a ways from the coastline, leaving us somewhat exposed. We slept in the following morning, made some minor repairs, and sailed half a day north to Crooked Island, just west of the Landrail Point Settlement. The next morning, we had a nice sail to Clarence Town, which provided a well protected anchorage, a few other sailboats, and fresh food on shore. It had been 5 days since we had stepped foot on land back in Jamaica.


Land Ho! Acklins Island, Bahamas


We had a spare depth sounder transducer attached to the end of a boat hook by zip ties. This got us by as we navigated the Bahamas, and was a step up from our lead line.


Zip ties used to salvage our dinghy pump. “Nothing lasts but nothing is lost”-T. McKenna.

Clarence Town was still recovering from hurricane Joaquin in 2015 and has a small population of less than 100 people. The town’s restaurants and stores are limited but more than enough to make us happy. We were extremely thankful for a fresh salad at the marina restaurant. We had expected to run into crowded anchorages and lots of other boats, but being so late in the season, most boats had already headed north, back to mainland United States and out of the dangers of hurricane season. We met a friendly couple aboard Moondance, and stretched our legs by wandering the town for our first day. We enjoyed a great freshwater shower off the edge of a roof during a heavy downpour, which ridded our bodies and clothes of the accumulated salt. The highlight of our stop in Clarence Town was definitely the day we hitched a ride north to Dean’s Blue Hole, which is a famous free diving location, and one of the deepest blue holes in the world. One can snorkel around the edge, in 5-10 feet of water, and then peer deep into the abyss, which plunges 663 feet into darkness. A national competition had occurred the previous day, where William Trubridge reached 122M (400ft) depth in 4 minutes 24 seconds for a new world record freedive. They were filming him and other competitors for a documentary, so we snorkled near the edges as they descended down beyond sight, without oxygen tanks. Aside from the amazing human feats, it was also a natural wonder, complete with white sand and lovely aquatic life.


Documentary crew filming the free dive champion at Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island


Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island


Our next stop with Winnie was on the northwestern tip of Long Island, in the well-protected bay on Galliot Cay, then onward to Georgetown. Georgetown is a popular location in the Bahamas as well as Stocking Island. A day at the Chat-N-Chill can be described as a retirees’ summer camp, complete with a pig cookout, booze, volleyball, several games, a nice beach and picnic tables.


We continued north through the Exumas, dropping anchor at the Rockers Point Settlement for the best laundry in the Caribbean. We circled the crowded anchorage and found a spot to drop the hook. I was at the bow letting out chain by hand while Kassie was at the helm guiding Winnie into our desired position. As the anchor hit the bottom and I was paying out chain, I heard Kass yell, “Oh no! I am holding this!” The bolt holding the gear lever had rusted through and we were stuck in forward, without a shifter to put us back into neutral. She quickly killed the engine and I dumped some chain and ran aft to assess the situation. The anchor grabbed bottom and Winnie spun a 180 as we scrambled to make a quick repair.  I clamped on a pair of pliers where the lever had been, and we pulled anchor and circled around once more to settle in properly.  We gave the other cruiser’s a show during their Happy Hour ashore.


Next we went through Adderly Cut to visit Lee Stocking Island. Making it through some of the cuts from the East side to West side of the Exumas, and back requires dedicated timing if you want to avoid strong currents and heavy seas. We don’t usually mind so much, as long as it is still safe, by our standard. This means we occasionally fought 4 knot current against us, allowing us to traverse the cut at about 2 knots, or we rode the incoming tide, zipping through at up to 10 knots at one point. Opposing tide and trade winds meant steep seas through the cuts, but the moments of excitement usually lasted just 30 minutes or so until we made it through. Lee Stocking Island was one of my favorite stops in the Bahamas, due to the abandoned research station. After a short row to shore, we felt as though we stumbled upon the remnants of a research experiment gone awry, on a post-apocalyptic deserted island. There were buildings full of abandoned lab equipment and aquarium tanks, empty dormitories, labs full of vials and empty chemical containers, and an overgrown runway nearby. I don’t know what type of marine research they did, or why the center was abandoned, but I was disappointed that so many environmentally conscious people could leave a beautiful island scarred by their runway, buildings, and old equipment. Maybe one day it will be rebuilt.  At least it was fun to walk around without anyone else around, like the beginnings of a scary movie.


High waves through Adderly Cut


Building from an abandoned research project on Lee Stocking Island


Another couple of days landed us in the popular Staniel Cay, which is home of a really nice marina/restaurant, swimming pigs on a beach nearby, and home of the “Thunderball Grotto”, made famous from the old James Bond film. It is at Staniel Cay that our dinghy finally died. We had patched it numerous times, and were holding the transom to the pontoons with paracord. On its last day, we pumped it up to row ashore, then pulled it up onto the hot beach. The extra pumps we gave it, combined with the hot sun, caused the seems to give way. We were in the process of motoring over to Thunderball Grotto, when we couldn’t keep enough air in it. Kass continued to pump using the hand pump, when the transom folded down and we almost lost the 4HP engine off of the back. We quickly turned around, and made it back to Winnie, as Kass held the bow out of the water while I was holding the engine above the water, still using its propulsion to make headway. It was like the scene from Pirates of the Caribbean, as Jack Sparrow stepped off of his ship while it sank behind him. We managed to save the engine, but the dinghy was just a pile of deflated PVC in the water. The only thing that still held air was the inflatable floor, which leaked slowly. Lucky for us, we were in the Bahamas, near civilization, and almost back to the United States. It was a good time for it to die, and served us well when we truly needed it. From then on out, we were able to anchor Winnie close enough to beaches and snorkeling spots that we could swim ashore, or paddle our inflatable floor with a dry bag to land. We visited the swimming pigs, snorkled the beautiful Thunderball Grotto, and swam to Pirate Beach. At Pirate Beach we reunited with our friends aboard “Party of Five”, whom we had originally met in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. We spent two nights anchored near Waderick Wells Cay, doing a long hike, and snorkeling within the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. We even saw our first really scary looking shark lurking near us while snorkeling, which made me get out of the water quickly (Kass stayed long enough to get a pic). We found another less-known but equally as beautiful grotto which we had to swim under some rocks to get inside of the large cavernous interior. We stayed anchored one last night on the west side of Highborne Cay before departing NW towards Florida. We passed through Nassau, with Atlantis Resort on our starboard, and the bustling downtown on our port, but did not stop. We left the Berry Islands to our port, and Freeport on our starboard as we headed NW towards Florida. It was an easy downwind, broad reach tack with the trade winds taking us to the Saint Lucie Inlet of Florida. We experienced numerous dolphins on this route, playing in our bow wake and showing off their leaps and agility.


All that’s left of our dinghy



Thunderball Grotto


Thunderball Grotto


Thunderball Grotto


Bahama pigs


Wading in the water with the Bahama Pigs


The island with the lesser known grotto. Rocky Dundas, Bahamas. From the approach we couldn’t see where we would enter.


A view into the interior cavern.


Inside Rocky Dundas


Exploring Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Darn it! Broken flip flop. Kyle sewed it back on for me and I still have them.


“The mail boat done reach.” One of my favorite phrases in the Bahamas meaning the mail boat has arrived.


Our last sail in the Bahamas. We couldn’t have done it without our trusty Monitor Wind Vane

Once we had passed the breakwater of St Lucie Inlet, we followed the Intracostal Waterway (ICW) a short distance to Stuart, FL. My parents had just bought a trawler in Stuart, located at the Loggerhead Marina, which gave us a good destination to land at.

This leg of our journey was complete, but it would take a lot of time for it all to sink in. We have done a lot of reflection since then, and have figured out different ways of taking lessons away, and how to carry those lessons into our new life on land.

I have yet to tabulate our miles traveled, and overall stats for the trip. More to come on those stats, and reflection, once I get around to it. We spent about a year and a half living aboard Winnie, traveling through Cuba, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Jamaica, and the Bahamas.

The voyage started a long time ago now, starting in Norwalk, CT, where I first found Winnie. From there I took her across Long Island Sound, up the Hudson, through the Eerie Canal, Lake Eerie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, through the Chicago ship canal, hauling her out where she would live in my parents front yard for over a year, refitting her for deeper waters. She then went back into the river system where my crew and I reunited her with the ocean once again. It was a hell of a ride, and the most authentic thing I have ever witnessed, been apart of, or done. More to come on this later.




We were greeted in Port Bowden by a very welcoming Rastafarian. Kyle asked to take a picture and he obliged, but first wanted to pull out that straggling dread lock he had tucked into his beard.

Written by Kyle Hahn

April 5 – April 27: Jamaica

April 5th, 2016 we made landfall at Port Bowden. We stretched our legs on land and slept great in the well protected bay. Civilization was sparse around Port Bowden.  We saw various small farming operations and a few shacks along the rough road.  In the morning, we motorsailed 4 hours to Port Antonio where we reunited with our friend Dauphin and his parrot Baby Rico. He had departed from Panama and motorsailed straight to Jamaica. While we were peacefully sailing on one lovely tack from Colombia he had ran into heavy seas and strong winds. His passage was a wild ride with sea sickness, breaking waves, lines snapping, engine problems, and sleep deprivation.

While in Port Antonio we frequented the fruit and vegetable market and caught up with Dauphin and Rico.

The highlight of our time in Jamaica was renting a car, and driving through the Blue Mountains!  Our plan was to drive the narrow, winding road through the Blue Mountains, across the island to Kingston, and return via the more modern highway.  The road was a little rougher, windier, and more narrow than we had expected, but it made the challenge even more rewarding.  The road snaked through lush jungle, past waterfalls, many small villages, and coffee farms.  If we came upon another vehicle, we had to pull off the road, or often back up for a ways until we could find a spot in the road that was wide enough for 2 cars to pass.  To add to the difficulty of driving in the mountains, and even more so in the cities, Jamaica drives on the left side of the road.  Once we cleared the highest passes, we came upon “Holywell” which is a campground and park.  If we had brought a tent, we would have just stayed there for a day or two.  The air was fresh and clean, and the view over Kingston was spectacular.  We continued traversing down the mountain road, which became wider and smoother as we approached Kingston.

Once in Kingston, we stopped by a marine chandlery so Dauphin could purchase some more lines to replace the ones that broke during his passage, along with other various parts.  We drove through Trenchtown to see the neighborhood that Bob Marley came out of, and stopped by the Bob Marley museum.  We opted not to go in, as the day was getting late and the museum was expensive (~$25/person).  We made our way back to Port Antonio as it got dark, via a much quicker and safer highway.

After a couple of weeks in Jamaica, we were getting the boat, and ourselves, ready to continue north to the Bahamas.  We studied the expected wind and current patterns, to make our passage through the “Windward Passage” between Cuba and Haiti.  We couldn’t decide on whether we wanted to visit Cuba again by making a landfall on the south coast, in Santiago de Cuba.  Our route would take us nearby, so we decided that we would start sailing north, and make our decision based on our eastward progress and how we were feeling.

On departure day, we were first delayed in the morning by heavy rain, but decided that we still needed to depart if we were to make our safe predicted weather window.  We said our goodbyes to Dauphin and Rico, and started motoring out of the bay.  Just 4nm north of the coast, I noticed our engine temperature rising.  The exhaust was starting to smoke a bit, and we were checking different components, while the waves rocked us about.  We hailed Dauphin on the VHF, so he was aware of our situation and standing by for assistance.  The temperature continued to climb to 200 degrees F, which can cause serious damage to the engine.  I also found a fuel leak, spraying a fine mist of diesel into our bilge, so we immediately shut the engine down.  We decided it would be safest to return to Port Antonio under sail to make the engine diagnosis and repairs.  The entrance had a fairly strong cross current, rolly waves, and barely enough wind to make it back into the bay.  Dauphin came out in his dinghy, and we tied alongside so that his engine power could bring us in, and keep us off the rocks nearby.  We secured our boat on a mooring, and discussed our next plans of action as we dried ourselves out.  For the next few days, we ran tests to diagnose the problem, and eventually got things running smoothly.

Another week had passed before we had our engine running cooler, and we found a suitable weather window.  We probably did an equal amount of motorsailing and sailing, as we approached the south coast of Cuba.  When we got within a few miles of shore, we motorsailed east, with a slight countercurrent to help us along.  We adjusted our course to stay about 4-5 miles away from Guantanamo, to avoid any coast guard conflict.  We timed our approach to the eastern tip of Cuba, and the windward passage for first light.  As we snuck through, northbound, we saw huge ships passing by every 15 minutes, mostly southbound.  We were thankful that the weather was calm and the visibility was good with so much shipping traffic.  We were originally planning on making a landfall in Matthew Town, Bahamas, but continued northbound to Acklins, where we dropped anchor and rested on the west side of the island.  Our spot was safe, but not very protected.  We did not have a working depth sounder, so we used a small weight and line off of the bow as we approached shallow water and potential anchoring locations.  We knew this technique would be a little tricky in the shallow waters of the Bahamas.

That sums up our time in Jamaica. We’ve been back in the states for a while now, but we are determined to wrap up our blog so it tells the complete story from beginning to end.

Port Antonio


We were ecstatic to see our friend Dauphin and his parrot, Baby Rico, safely moored at the marina in Port Antonio.





Curried goat anyone?


This is the lighthouse that guides ships in and out of Port Antonio. We entered from the right in this photo (north), and then made a turn to starboard once clear of the small island.  When we had engine problems at sea, Dauphin met us just outside of this entrance in his dinghy to help guide us back in safely.  Sharp rocks! 




There are lots of push carts which vendors use, which reminds me of “Cool Runnings”



This unsuspecting restaurant off the side of the cliff is home to “Dickie’s Best Kept Secret”.



We enjoyed a four course vegetarian meal expertly prepared by Dickie. The British certainly left their mark on Dickie.


Our rental car, which took us through the Blue Mountains and across the island.


Passing by a waterfall in the Blue Mountains.





Holywell National Park and World Heritage Site.  I think we were feeling so happy to be there, we forgot to take many good photos in the park.


This is where we will pitch our tent the next time we visit.


I was struggling to reach the last flower on this tree. Kyle leaned out over the hill, pulled down the branch and waited patiently while I snapped a few photos.



EITS Cafe was an awesome find as we were driving through the Blue Mountains. They have several overnight rooms, their own farm that serves their restaurant and several more in Kingston and several dens to hangout. This place is away from the tourist traffic and beautiful.





Dauphin in front of the view from EITS cafe.


Bob Marley Museum in Kingston


We stopped at a pet store in Kingston to pick up a treat for Baby Rico. This character was all about Kyle.


We went swimming at Reach Falls for a few hours.  There is a path behind the falls that we climbed up to the pool at the top.


A guide took as up the river leading to the waterfall. On the way back down he showed us a path like an obstacle course. We swam, climbed and slid on the smooth rock where the water had worn it smooth. It was a 30 minute obstacle course all provided by nature.



Jamaica has several artists making wood carvings for sale. This artist carved a bust of “Nanny of the Maroons”. Legend is Nanny was an escaped slave who joined the native tribe of the Maroons and liberated other slaves and maintained freedom from British slave owners. There is still a community in Jamaica with descendants of the Maroons.


Goodbye Jamaica. Our next stop is the Bahamas.


Written by Kyle Hahn and Kassandra Henning

March 9 – April 1: Colombia

Our last post left off with us making landfall in Cartagena, Colombia on March 9th, 2016. Our long approach through Boca Chica, and across the large bay to the historic “Walled City” of Cartagena gave us a good perspective on its history.

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A map of the Caribbean for reference

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The blue dotted line shows our sailing passage from Panama, through the San Blas islands to Colombia and then our departure from Colombia. We also visited the cities of Medellin and Bogota.

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A map of the Bay of Cartagena. We entered through Boca Chica, deep draft entrance, and departed through Boca Grande entrance, which has a submarine barrier with a narrow cut in it.

Looking at a map of Cartagena, you see that the city is located in the Northeast of a very large bay, with a large island, Isla de Tierra Bomba, in the center. When approaching the city by water, as the Spanish and English explorers and settlers of the day did, ships would have the option of entering through the “easier” Boca Grande entrance in the north, or continuing south with the winds and current to the heavily guarded, narrow Boca Chica deep-draft entrance. For protection of the city, the Spanish built a submarine barrier of stone almost all the way across the Boca Grande entrance, thus forcing potential attacking ships to pass by this entrance, and try to make it through the Boca Chica entrance, which was guarded on both sides by forts. Even if a ship could make it through the entrance and past the fortifications, they would then enter the large bay of Cartagena, where Spanish line ships would be ready to battle.

Such a battle took place in 1741 when 29 British line ships, many frigates, and over 27,000 military personnel attempted to take the city. They struggled to make it through Boca Chica over several days, losing many of their ships and men. Once they made it into the bay, they sent word back to Britain that they made it through and would easily take the city now. The message made it back to Britain, but the weakened British forces could not take the walled city and well built fort, Castillo de San Filipe. An estimated 3,000 Spanish, with just 6 ships of the Spanish line, defended Cartagena. With Cartagena being such a valuable strategic point in trade and military, the outcome of this battle may be the main reason Spain was able to maintain its influence on the region, and why Central and South America speaks Spanish to this day.

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An image of Cartagena, Colombia “The Walled City”

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An image of Castillo San Filipe


Castillo de San Filipe from the water.


We had fun exploring the numerous passages and tunnels.


Kyle climbing up the walls towards daylight.


The history of Cartagena, and the beautiful old walled city made Cartagena a great stop. From our anchorage, we had a short row to shore, and a 10 minute walk into the city center. The exchange rate was ~19 pesos to 1 USD, and the cost of food was low. We ate well for less than $5 per meal, and most of our entertainment just involved walking around.






We were also making repairs and prepping Winnie for an upcoming passage north to Jamaica (~500 miles). Due to a semi-permanent low just north of Cartagena, which is often blowing 40 knots from the east, we made sure we were extra prepared. We loaded Winnie with some extra diesel in case we would have to use a lot of engine power to get clear of Cartagena without losing our eastward progress. We watched the weather patterns for 2 weeks before deciding on our departure date. Due to the very polluted waters in our anchorage, we hired a local guy to clean Winnie’s hull, which he did for just $15 USD! The same guy helped me fix my 4hp outboard, so we didn’t have to row ashore anymore! We heard good stories from all of the other sailors, about how Colombia has high quality craftsmen, hard workers, for a really good price.

Back in January, Kassie and I had left Winnie in Panama and made a trip by plane to Bogotá and Medellin, Colombia. We had a lot of fun in these two cities, which may have influenced us to go ahead and sail to Cartagena. The flights were very cheap (Bogotá to Medellin was just $23 USD!) and even more so than Cartagena, the prices were cheap. We stayed in nice private rooms in both Bogotá and Medellin for around $15/night for the two of us.

Upon arrival in Bogotá, we first noticed extremely nice people. While wandering around, looking for a place to stay for the night, a man in a suit approached us and in limited English, asked us if we needed help finding anything. Usually we are skeptical of such offerings, as many people are trying to sell you something or run a little hustle. This man told us a couple of places to check out, and then walked with us a few blocks to a place he thought might be a good deal. He was proud of his city, and genuinely just wanted us to have a good experience there.   We found that a lot of positive changes have happened in Colombia over the past several years, and the citizens are proud of it. It is much safer, the public infrastructure has improved, and tourism is growing. Colombia is filled with art and energy. Buildings are covered with high-quality graffiti and murals. Boutique stores sell fashionable handmade clothing, art prints, and gifts. Locally owned restaurants serve food for all budgets and tastes. The local chain, Crepes and Waffles, was one of our favorites. Both cities were full of chubby bronze statues and paintings by the famous artist Fernando Botero. The street art/grafitti tour was one of our highlights in Bogotá.  At night the city parties hard, and we found ourselves in an amazing Cuban night club with a live band that everyone was dancing to.

Below are some pictures and captions highlighting our time in Bogotá and Medellin.


Bolivar Plaza in Bogotá, Colombia


Rooftop of an art museum in Medellin

Monseratte is a mountain in Bogotá. The mountain rises 10, 341 feet above sea level and has a church at the top. The options to reach the top include walking or taking the cable car or funicular. Kyle and I took the cable car and enjoyed visiting the gardens and walking in the cool mountain air with views of the city below.

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An image of the church on Monserrate





Ajiaco is a traditional Colombian soup made with chicken, three types of potatoes, and sometimes hominy. Capers, heavy cream, rice, avocado and lime are served on the side. We enjoyed a couple different versions from a couple different restaurants while in Bogotá.



Paloquemao Market was amazing! Probably everything grown in Colombia was represented here. The market has vendors selling fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, herbs, and flowers. We spent a couple hours exploring this bustling marketplace. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country by landmass . We bought fruits we had never heard of before. We had lulo and uchuva and pitahaya to name a few.



Fruit salad with cheese, sweet cream and/or ice cream is a common treat.


Shopping in Colombia is so much fun. In all three cities we enjoyed seeing unique clothing, jewelry and art. I purchased a jazzy knitted party sweater from this lovely woman. She has a neat store with all her own knitted crafts. She knitted this sweater in just over a day. I am completely impressed.



The knitter’s store front. I (Kassie) am an amateur knitter and had fun looking at her art.


Traditional and modern living were often sharing the same space. We learned about the Colombia Conflict over the years displacing thousands of people from their homes. We learned about the efforts of lawyers and other advocates fighting to help resettle people back on their rightful land. We saw homeless mothers washing their toddlers on the street from water given to them by store owners. We saw a homeless community outside of the Bogotá city center where a young homeless woman was putting on makeup and presumably preparing to walk the few blocks over to the Red Light District. To us it seemed like even though Colombia is at a time of peace, the country has much work to do to restore the lives of the victims from the decades of violence and corruption.



Comuna 13, Medellin

Below is an image of the escalators in Comuna 13 in Medellin. The escalators were completed in 2011. They span 384 meters in 6 sections and take less than 10 minutes to go from the bottom to the equivalent of 28 stories to the top. Vehicles are not able to traverse the neighborhood, so before the escalators were in place, residents only option was to walk. For this reason, the 12,000 residents were isolated from the rest of the city and struggled with drug trafficking and violence during the Colombia conflict starting in 1964 and hopefully coming to a complete close with recent peace negotiations between the government and revolutionaries. Comuna 13 was known during the 80’s and 90’s as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world. Because of these positive changes, the community is a safer more connected place for its citizens. Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 8.10.00 AM





Gondolas to Parque Arví took us on a 20 minute ride from the metro train up and over the city to the park far into the countryside. At the park ,we stepped off the gondola at an attractive newly constructed building and then found a well maintained trail to hike along. 






Fernando Botero  was born in 1932 in Colombia and is world famous for his modern paintings and sculptures of oversized people and animals. We saw his art displayed at museums in Bogotá and Medellin.

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We shouldn’t leave out that we ate at a Colombian chain restaurant called “Crepes and Waffles” which has great food, ridiculous ice cream deserts, at good prices. The restaurant was started by single mothers in Colombia, and is ran almost entirely by women. A great successful business from Colombia, that has locations throughout Central/South America now.




Street Art is an important part of the culture in Colombia. Because of the decades of political unrest people have used graffiti and murals as a way to communicate. We learned street art became a legal form of speech after a deadly confrontation between an artist and police officers. Police officers shot a man in the back as he was running from his mural. Through community protest, the laws changed and now people have a legal path to street art. Property owners often hire talented artists to paint murals to protect their property from random tagging. Out of respect, most murals are left untouched by other artists. We took a tour in Bogotá of the street art. If you visit, we recommend the tour to learn about the artists and art. bogotagraffiti.comIMG_1106IMG_1103IMG_1188IMG_1185IMG_1124IMG_1853IMG_20160126_173848

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Our tour guide


Now Back to Winnie

From our anchorage in Cartagena, we were getting ourselves ready to depart, and eyeing our weather window to make it north to Jamaica. We picked the day, and made our way through the shallower northern entrance of Boca Grande at sunrise. We had 9 foot depth across the submarine barrier, and the channel was well marked. As we made our way north through the first 100 miles of potentially strong wind and current, the seas were relatively calm. Taking it slow and picking a good weather window really paid off. We turned our engine off midday, and sailed on a starboard tack for the next 5 days, heading basically true north. We put an extra reef in the main sail during the night, but for the most part, barely touched a thing once our sails were trimmed. We had a consistent 15 knots of wind, which kept us moving along nicely close-hauled. We landed in Jamaica on the southeast end of the island, at Port Bowden. It was a very well protected anchorage, and the coast guard was a stones throw away. They all had huge smiles, were very jovial, and relaxed. They offered us free water from their dock, which tasted great and I took my first shower in 5 days with a hose on the dock.


Boca Grande entrance


Our approach to Jamaica

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That brings us to April 5th, when we arrived in Jamaica. We are safely back in the U.S. with our boat, so if you are reading, you no longer have to worry about us, aside from the trouble that we can get into back on land!


Last Fun Times in Panama, San Blas, and Onward to Colombia

Written by Kyle Hahn

Photos and captions by Kassandra Henning

February 8th-11th: Visit from friends

February 20th and 21st: Linehandled through the Panama Canal on a catamaran “Onotoa”

February 25th: Departed mainland Panama

February 26th – March 8th: San Blas and Colombian Islands

March 9th: Arrived in Cartagena, Colombia

Once we completed the rigging, the boys had some time to come visit us in Puerto Lindo. Enrique, Austin, and Enrique’s cousin Jose came out for 2 days. We enjoyed some meals at the local restaurant (Casa X), listened to Enrique play guitar on the boat, took a dinghy trip out to Isla Grande where we climbed the lighthouse, went swimming, hauled Austin up the mast, took a dinghy ride through the mangrove tunnel, visited the monkeys on Isla Linton, and watched Enrique play a show for all of the locals in Puerto Lindo.

After a busy 2 days, we returned to Panama City where we said our goodbyes to Austin. We also went to a show in Casco Viejo where our friends Enrique and Diego (of the band “Making Movies”) played at Onplog venue.


The gang eating dinner at Casa X in Puerto Lindo, Panama.


Enrique serenading us on Winnie. 


We moved the serenade on deck.


Austin was a good sport with all the kids who wanted to use his camera mic for karaoke. 

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Enrique performed for the kids one evening. It was fun watching how he would teach them the chorus or have them play a beat on his guitar case. They loved it and learned quickly. 


Austin doing anything for the perfect shot. 


Diego and Enrique playing in Casco Viejo. We are looking forward to seeing the movie they worked on while in Panama. 


We still wanted to experience the canal before leaving Panama. We sailed Winnie ~25 miles SW to Colon, where we would hopefully find a boat transiting the canal which we could line handle on. It felt good to get Winnie heeled over again, now able to trust her rigging was secure. We first anchored on the east side of Colon harbor, off of Club Nautico with 4 other boats. It was quite industrial, with slow moving mammoths docking, unloading, and departing 24 hours a day. The wind was strong during the evening, but we were anchored in just 10 feet of water with plenty of chain out. From this anchorage, it was very easy to catch a $3 taxi to a major shopping center where we did some provisioning. The following day we motored across the busy harbor to Shelter Bay Marina, where most boats prepare and wait for their transit through the canal. It is required that each boat transiting the canal have 4 line handlers to assist the vessel through the locks. Upon arrival at Shelter Bay, we started asking around to see if any boats were going through that still needed line handlers. By the end of the day, due to some changes of plans, we found a boat that needed 2 crew to assist them! They were scheduled to transit the following afternoon, so the timing couldn’t have been better.

With Winnie docked at Shelter Bay, we hopped aboard the Austrian catamaran “Onotoa”. We would be transiting the locks tied up in a group with 2 other monohull sailboats, both Austrian as well. There are several ways which they organize recreational boats to go through the canal. Sometimes tied along a larger ship, sometimes tied along a lock wall, and other times center tied in the middle of the lock. Each boat carries 4, 125 foot lines to tie up with, as well as many fenders to protect the boats from the rough concrete walls, or other boats. For us, we would all be tied together, with a sailboat on each side of us in the center. The 2 other Austrian sailboats were “Esperanza” whom we met in Puerto Lindo and “Modesta”. We tied up before entering the locks, motored as a single unit through each lock, and then would break apart once the locks brought us up to Gatun Lake. It took us 2 days to complete the transit, spending the night on a mooring on Gatun Lake. Everything went smoothly, and we really enjoyed our experience seeing the canal, and having fun with all of the Austrians in our group. The only hiccup we had was our starboard engine having issues overheating, so we went through the first day with only one engine. Instead of getting overly stressed, our captain calmly made it through the first set of locks with one engine, and was able to diagnose and fix the problem that evening on Gatun Lake. The husband and wife (Sylvia and Helmut) who were cruising on Onotoa were headed across the South Pacific, and we have already heard news that they successfully made their crossing in 30 days from Panama to the Marquesas, covering 4190 nautical miles! Check out their blog at for details of their voyage, including more pics of the canal transit.

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Crew and boat match! We are all lucky we found eachother the day before “Onotoa’s” canal transit. 


The crew for the catamaran “Onotoa” before leaving Shelter Bay to transit the Panama Canal.


We crossed the bay to the anchorage where the pilots who work for the Panama Canal board the recreational vessels. We discovered the starboard engine was overhearing and not operational. Kyle, Sylvia and Helmut quickly worked to troubleshoot the problem.


Still troubleshooting…


Time to dive in. Still not sure what the problem is. We transited the first day with only the port engine. That evening Helmut found the thru-hole was partially obstructed because the ball valve was not completely opening to allow water to come in and cool the engine. Easy fix. 


Once outside the locks we secured the monohauls to each side of the catamaran


A panorama to show how the three boats went through the locks. Distorted but you get the idea.  


Canal workers threw a line with a monkey fist tied at the end to the linehandlers. The linehanlders on the boat tied the boat’s line to the thrown line and the workers pulled the boat’s line and secured it on the canal wall. The linehandlers took in the slack as we went up or let out line as we went down. 



Helmut was a great captain and always had a big smile. 


Being the center tied boat is pretty sweet. Once tied to the other boats, our job was done and we were able to sit back and enjoy the ride. 


Kyle hiding from the sun in the main salon. Their boat had nice windows, so we could enjoy the ride from inside. 


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Thanks for the picture Helmut and Sylvia

We returned to Puerto Linda. We said our goodbyes to our sailing friends and checked out of the country. February 25th we departed mainland Panama for the San Blas.


Sailing in the San Blas


Kyle trying to fish. 

The San Blas Islands might be our favorite destination in the last year of cruising, so we were happy to be back and spend some more time there. After Chichime, we sailed with 1 reef in the main, in 20 knots of wind to the East Holandes. We anchored for the night off of BBQ Island, in what is nicknamed the “swimming pool” for the beautiful color of the water.

We made several more stops as we made our way east, including Rio Diablo, Isla Tigre, and Achutupu. As we got further east, the villages became more traditional, and we saw far less boats. We really enjoyed the more tranquilo vibe, and it was obvious that they didn’t see the tourism that the more often visited western San Blas islands received. We spent about 5 days anchored off of Achutupu, where we only saw one other cruiser on our last day. Aside from wanting to see some of the eastern San Blas islands, we also were making our way east and south to avoid the strong winds that commonly blow off of Colombia. By stopping through the islands until we made it south to a latitude of 9 degrees 10’, we would have a chance of sailing, and not having to bash into the easterly trades. The plan worked well, and once we had a good weather window, we made our eastbound crossing, covering about 140 miles to Isla San Bernardo, Colombia. From there, we stopped through some gorgeous Colombian islands before checking in to Cartagena.



Isla Tigre


I am holding the national flag for Guna Yala and the other is their revolution flag. 






Washing our clothes up the river with the other women from Achutupu


Kyle admires all boats. He really liked the Guna’s ulus.


A man working on one for his family. He explained each family makes their own and they are not for sale. It takes about three weeks start to finish. 


We did find a kid who was willing to sell the small one he had made as a toy. Kyle’s favorite souvenir. 


Mamitupu is the most traditional village we saw. We saw only one Claro dish for television at one of the shops and heard a few radios. And as usual the people were very inviting and let us tour their island. 

The island of San Bernardo was calm and beautiful. We anchored in 10 feet of water, a short row from a lovely beach. The island had lots of little palm roofed hotels along the beach, but at least half of them seemed to be abandoned, and there were almost no tourists to be found. At the end of the day, we were preparing to take our evening bucket baths, when a suspicious little fishing boat with 5 guys showed up from mainland, and anchored a couple hundred meters from us. It interrupted our bath, but also spooked us, as they didn’t appear to be fishing. We found ourselves in the dangerous situation of being the only sailboat in an anchorage, in an unfamiliar location, without any means to call for help if anything were to happen. Most likely, it was just some guys hanging out, ending the day with some beers on a boat, but we wouldn’t sleep well in this anchorage. Just before nightfall, we decided it would be safer to just sail on, heading offshore where they would have difficulty tracking us in their little boat and small outboard. We spent the night slowly navigating through nearby reefs and islands, timing our arrival to Isla Grande, Colombia at daybreak.

Isla Grande is part of the Islas Rosario group of islands just 15 miles SW of Cartagena. Isla Grande was a nice island to visit, but the island lacks any source of fresh water. Almost all of their water has to be shipped from mainland during the dry season, which we were in. The island is too small for cars, but has lovely bike and walking trails all over. Also on the SE end, is a large resort with a big swimming pool. They let us tie our dinghy to their dock for free, and we spent some time hanging out in hammocks and swimming in the pool. Just to the west of Isla Grande is a very unique island with an open-sea oceanario and aquarium. They have many different species of fish, dolphins, crocodiles, turtles, and sharks. We enjoyed viewing such lovely animals, but it is always questionable when supporting the capture and containment of animals. The animals seemed adequately cared for, quality marine research being done, and were focused on educating the public on ocean stewardship and protection.



Around noon, we were finished with the aquarium and had to depart for Cartagena if we were to make it before dark. The first 10 miles we easily motor sailed, but as we approached Cartagena, the winds blew strong out of the NE, and the current was running against us at possibly 3 knots! We attempted different techniques of motor sailing near and offshore, but could only make 2 knots/hour progress against the wind and current, even with our engine running and sails up. It took us 3 hours to make the last 5 miles to the main entrance to Cartagena, but we did and all was well. We entered through the southern entrance of Boca Chica, past the Spanish forts on both sides, and north through the large bay, close to the historic Walled City. We anchored in 40 feet of water, amongst many other boats, just off of Club Nautico, in the Manga district. We stayed on Winnie until the following morning, when we would go ashore and check in to Colombia.


Cartagena, Colombia


Cartagena, Colombia

The next post will have to cover our time in Colombia, and our passage north to Jamaica, where we currently are. By the time we get home, we might finally catch up on blog posts!

Return to Puerto Lindo and a Change of Plans


Written by Kyle Hahn

Photos and captions by Kassandra Henning

January 1st, 2016, we departed the San Blas Islands, ambitious to head back west to Puerto Lindo, and onward towards Colon, the entrance to the Panama Canal. We said our goodbyes to S/Y Monarch, not knowing if we would see them again. Our plan was to stop over in Puerto Lindo, then continue to Colon, where we needed to complete the formalities for the Panama Canal transit. We motored north for a few hours, directly into the wind and waves, attempting to clear the surrounding reefs so we could sail west in deeper water. The waves were close together, and fairly steep, making Winnie roll side to side without any sail up to stabilize us. We were doing fine, knowing we had to do this for a couple of hours until we could sail.

During this time, we lost a fender lashed down near the bow. It was our nicest fender. Although the seas were rough, we had to try to recover it. Unfortunately, the fender had no rope attached to it, making it nearly impossible to hook it with a boat hook. When approaching the fender from the windward side hoping to drift to it, Winnie’s rocking motion sent waves pushing it just out of reach. On our final approach, realizing we weren’t going to be able to get a hold of it, I grabbed our roller furling line, told Kassie to hold the boat in neutral, and jumped in the water after it. It was only about 10 feet away from Winnie. Once I had it in my hands, Kassie reeled me back in. I was in the water for maybe 30 seconds, but it definitely felt strange swimming in the open ocean, loosely connected by a rope.  It could have easily been one of those obviously stupid maneuvers or an awesome save. I had a nice bath, and we didn’t lose a thing! Another hour longer and we were sailing west, with a stiff breeze, 3 meter seas, but comfortable.

After a full day of sailing, we approached Puerto Lindo in late afternoon. Making landfall is so much easier and stress free at a familiar place. When we turned equipment off and walked the deck to check the rigging, I noticed our inner side stay was loose, and fraying near the mast. We felt lucky that despite this cable failing, the mast was still standing, and we had no other damage. If it had been any other cable (outside side stay, backstay, or forestay) we would have surely been de-masted. Our ambitions to leave the following day for the Panama Canal were instantly crushed, knowing not only was it necessary to fix this single stay, but it would be prudent to replace all of our standing rigging, given its unknown age and obvious ware.


Ugh! Another project…at least the scenery is beautiful.

We were losing confidence in Winnie. We have been through plenty of rough weather that challenged both Winnie and us. We have also spent most of our time in the past several months tackling large projects; mainsail tear, cracked backstay chainplate, both bilge pump failures and countless smaller repairs and general maintenance. We had to be confident in Winnie’s ability to take us safely, weighed down with provisions for 40 days, across the great Pacific Ocean. We questioned it all now.

What was certain was we needed to figure out how to replace our standing rigging. “Standing rigging” includes all 8 stainless steel (SS) cables that keep our mast upright. We spent many hours hoisting each other up and down the mast, taking measurements of the cables, as well as the pins and holes the fittings would have to match at the mast and the turnbuckles on deck. To simplify things, we decided to upgrade the rigging to have ¼ inch SS cable all the way around (prior inner stays and backstay were 7/32”). We needed 210 feet of cable to be on the safe side, which could be coiled and weighed in at 37 lbs. Because we did not have access to a swage machine, we opted to use swageless, mechanical fittings (Sta-Lok) to attach each cable at both ends. After a few days of research and asking around, we concluded we would have to order the SS cable and fittings from the U.S. to ensure we purchased quality materials. Luckily for us, our good friend Austin was planning a trip to Panama and was happy to haul the cable and fittings in his checked luggage.


I was at the top of the mast taking measurements and Kyle shouts up, “Hey your good right!? I am going to hop in the dinghy and take some photos!”

While awaiting the arrival of our friends and project materials, we left Winnie at Linton Marina and took an inexpensive flight to Bogota, Colombia and return flight from Medellin, Colombia. We spent eight days in Colombia and loved it. We decided we wanted to sail Winnie to Cartagena, Colombia, and we came to the firm decision we are not going to take Winnie across the South Pacific or risk more damage doing the Baja Bash up the coast of western Mexico to California. Factors that we took into consideration included:  1) A dreadfully long nonstop passage of around 40 days from Panama to the Marquesas, 2) El Nino weather patterns possibly increasing the chances of tropical storms, and decreasing the chances that we would have wind and current with us, 3) We do not have a water-maker, making it difficult to pack enough water to safely make it that far, and 4) The last straw being the standing rigging replacement.  We are disappointed our grand plans of sailing around the world are most definitely not going to happen, but we have other ideas in mind now.  We still have work to complete and the Caribbean to cross before we are back in the States. Though it is the end of one plan, our adventure is still far from over.

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Arvi Park in Medellin, Colombia


Comuna 13 of Medellin, Colombia

Austin, along with the band mates/brothers Enrique and Diego Chi flew into Panama on January 27th. With all the parts in hand to fix our rigging, we carried out our plan of attack. One cable at a time, we would hoist one of us up the mast, take and re-take measurements, and place safety lines to support the mast before removing the old cable. We attached the appropriate fitting to the end of our new cable and attached the fitting to the mast.We then pulled the cable tight towards the turnbuckle on deck, and marked the spot to cut it. We then pulled the cable tight towards the turnbuckle on deck, and marked the spot to cut it. 

We used a Dremel tool to cut through the ¼ inch 1X19 strand cable, giving us a clean cut.


Attaching the fittings to the end of the cable involved separating the strands to squeeze a cone around the inner core, and within the outer strands of wire. Once in place, the top and bottom piece could be joined to make a single, strong, connection point. It was tedious work cutting the cable ends cleanly, and forcing the cones into the wire. It had to be done correctly, so we could trust it to take the loads our sails and mast exert.

We did about 2 cables per day, limited by the hot sun, and waiting for periods of calm. We completed the work at anchor and couldn’t work efficiently if we were swaying too much while hoisted and sitting in the butt bucket. We probably went up and down the mast around 20+ times for this project.  The project went as expected, and we are confident in our completed standing rigging. Even doing all of the work ourselves, the parts alone set us back about one grand.


Puerto Lindo and San Blas Islands

Written by Kyle Hahn

Photos with captions by Kassandra Henning

December 1, 2015 to December 29, 2015

From our last post, we had just arrived in Puerto Lindo, Panama.  Puerto Lindo is a tiny town on what is called the “Costa Arriba”, which has a strong Afro-Caribe influence.  It is an hour and a half bus ride north from Colon.  The town consists mainly of a strip of concrete houses along  a 1/2 mile section of waterfront. A new marina, Linton Marina, nearby is currently under construction, but providing docking and water.  There are only a few places to have a meal, and the local stores don’t have much to offer aside from cold coca colas, bread, rice, beans, candy, and canned tuna.  We were only planning on staying for a couple days, before heading further east to the San Blas Islands, but circumstances led us to stay for over a week.

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This is a screenshot of our Delorme tracking from Puerto Lindo to our last day in the San Blas. 


Restaurant Casa X was a common hangout for us. The family who owns and operates it are very kind. They have a dinghy dock sailors are welcome to use whether they have a meal or not. 


Restaurant Casa X also has e this pack of nice white dogs. We counted 10 one day. Siesta in paradise.


A dinghy ride through the mangroves will take you to a marina, Panamarina, and on to the neighboring town, Casique.


Dinghy riding with Rico.


On Isla Grande is a light house. We went by dinghy, had a nice walk and enjoyed the view. 


View from Isla Grande out to the Atlantic Ocean. 


View of our anchorage in Puerto Lindo.

One of the first reasons we decided to stay longer was due to an alternator problem we were having.  Our alternator had stopped generating electricity a week or two prior, and I finally ran all the tests I could think of to diagnose our problem.  Not having a working alternator was not much of a problem for us, since we do not have many electrical demands, and the solar panels provide plenty of electricity to keep our batteries topped off.  Regardless, I took the alternator off, Dauphin and I took it apart, and we diagnosed the issue.  A corroded copper wire which connects to the brushes had broken off.  We decided to take the bus 2 hours to Colon to find a shop that could repair it.  We luckily found a shop that carried various alternator brushes (for $1.50/brush) but didn’t work on alternators. We needed someone who could solder it back on.  After asking around, we found Isaac’s Repair Shop which was exactly what we needed.  Although he didn’t speak English, I showed him where I thought it was broken, and he immediately invited me inside his shop to start working on it.  He layed it on the table and taught me how to test various aspects of the alternator, and explained how they work in detail.  He had me help him take it apart, put the new brushes in, and run the new tests.  I was excited and grateful that he took the time to give me a lesson on alternators and how to fix them.  Within 30 minutes we were done, and he would only accept $15 for the repair.  Friendliest mechanic I have ever met!  It was a successful day in the boat world, where most projects take many more hours and days than are usually expected.


We rode chicken busses more times than we can count. Often times the busses are crowded, three to a seat and standing in the aisle. Some drivers will play loud reggaetone music. Dauphin often joked he is going to miss it too much and needs to buy Chicken Bus CDs before departing Panama. 


Isaac is the mechanic who helped us with our alternator. He speaks some English and has a brother living in Texas. We asked him if he would ever live in the States. He shook his head and with a smile said “No. The bad women.”


Kyle and Isaac trying to take the thing off of the thing so the thing will work right.


Transcultural repairing

After our alternator was good to go, we provisioned our boat to stay in the San Blas for a month.  The nearest grocery store was a 45 minute chicken bus ride away.  The buses were always packed with people, sometimes fitting over 100 people on one magic school bus. Our buddy boat, “Monarch”, was also provisioning, as well as getting their sails repaired by a sailmaker in Puerto Lindo.


Down come Monarchs sails.


Tying up the sails into manageable bundles.  

At last, we picked our weather window and decided it would be a good time to depart for the San Blas Islands.  Unfortunately, Rico the parrot decided to take flight the evening before our departure, just before a downpour of rain.  His parents (Dauphin and Jody) were worried and decided they would stay another day or 2 to search for him.  We decided to stay and help look, in solidarity. In under 24 hours, many of the locals had gone in search of Rico, and someone found him and brought him back to them. We spent around 9 days during this stop in Puerto Lindo.  We departed December 10th from Puerto Lindo at 0600, arriving to the San Blas Island of Chichime before sunset.


Winnie sailing in San Blas


Winnie sailing in San Blas. 


Winnie sailing in San Blas. Thank you Dauphin for the photos!


Beautiful San Blas water.



Coffee on Monarch in the mornings was a generous treat.

The next 3-4 weeks would be spent exploring various islands within the San Blas Archipelago. The San Blas Islands are part of the region of Kuna Yala.  It is difficult to describe another culture such as Kuna Yala from the perspective of a passing sailboat, whom doesn’t speak Kuna, and cannot begin to infiltrate the complexities and variables that exist within their society.  I’ll try to say a bit, but know I am only writing a brief summary of the small amount we saw and understood.  The region is within Panama, but is autonomously governed by the Kuna Indians.  The Kuna’s have lived on the islands, and nearby mainland for 1000’s of years. They have been able to resist domination, colonialization, and the disintegration of their traditions.  The fact that the islands are self governed with nearly no tourism infrastructure make them very unique.  Each island community is governed by the Saila (chief) and the congresso.  Some islands have chosen to remain very traditional, whereas others have adapted to conveniences of the modern world.   The most traditional villages consisted of thatched roof huts, dirt paths, dugout canoes, coconut and banana farming, fishing, but disallowed things such as television, cameras, and recorded music.  On the other end of the spectrum, some villages consist of concrete houses, with paved pathways, sometimes a runway nearby, outboard engines, the common “Claro” dish on the roofs, and the influence of television and even internet very evident.  All of the Kuna’s that we met were laid back, stress free, and seemed to smile very easily.  It was a great experience to peek into their way of life.

The San Blas are difficult to reach by way of land, and without a boat, some of the most beautiful islands would still be out of reach.  One of our favorite locations, nicknamed the Swimming Pool, is a perfect anchorage in bright turquoise water, extremely clear due to its distance from the mainland.  There are at least 5 main islands surrounding the anchorage, with numerous reefs to dive on and search for fish. There are just a few thatched huts, on a couple of the islands, where local Kunas tend coconut trees and fish.  We were lucky that a vegetable boat stops by every 4 days or so, with fruits and veggies from the mainland.  Some locals also brought us crab one day, so we had a feast with our friends Dauphin, Jody, and Rico.  Both “Monarch” and “Winnie”  would stay a few days in one place, then decide to pull anchor and sail a short distance to another island. Most days were filled with walking around the islands, dinghy explorations, and snorkeling.  I was trying to get better at spear fishing with the spear pole that my friend Tyler got for me before we left on the trip, but I only managed to hit one small fish.  Dauphin gave us some lessons in snorkeling and free diving a couple days.  We anchored in about 8 different locations through out the San Blas in the 3-4 weeks we stayed.  When we were anchored near land, a common adventure was to take our dinghy up the small rivers to explore, as well as swim in the fresh water, collect water for drinking, and do our laundry with the other locals.  For those familiar with the San Blas, or are into google earth, we made stops in Chichime, “Swimming Pool”, Maquina Island (aka Mola Maker Island), Rio Azucar, Rio Diablo, and East Lemmon Cays.  With Monarch’s 20HP dinghy, we made trips to many nearby islands as well.  We spent Christmas Eve hanging out with Douglas aboard “Gillean”, and had Christmas pizza with “Monarch” the following day.  For New Year’s Eve, we were anchored in the East Lemmon Cays watching fireworks all across the horizon.

January 1st, 2016, we departed the East Lemmon Cays, said goodbye to “Monarch” who was going to stay a little bit longer, and headed towards Puerto Lindo.


Isla Maquina. Winnie is anchored at the Gaigar Anchorage. 


Isla Maquina. Secured the dinghy next to the ulus.


The school boat


The Congresso building on Isla Sidra neighboring Isla Maquina. We arrived on the day of a Chicha ceremony. Chicha is a fermented sugar cane drink. Men and women were divided into different buildings. Men brought coconut shells to the buildings each only carrying one shell. We didn’t want to intrude so we refrained from entering the huts. 



Isla Maquina. On Isla Maquina and Isla Sidra each house had a solar panel and a 12 volt battery. 


A house on Isla Sidra. Propane is subsidized by the Panamanian government and most use propane to cook with.


A house on Isla Maquina. Earlier there was a crowd watching Harry Potter.


Isla Sidra. We didn’t get the story on these stuffed people. We saw them a few times occasionally with a political sign. 


Pig pen on Isla Sidra


Isla Maquina. When the women heard visitors arrived on their island they brought out their molas to sell. Molas are a common craft in the San Blas. It is a form of storytelling through textiles. 



Children are always excited to see Rico.



Two women wearing traditional clothing. Typically the headscarf is red with yellow print of animals or geometric. The blouses have molas on the front and back. The skirts are a rectangle piece of fabric tied at the waist. The fabric is bought from Colombian trading boats or Panama City. They are wearing a continuous string of beads around their calves and forearms. 

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Colombian trading boats come frequently to the San Blas islands. The Kunas sell their coconuts and bananas. The trading boats bring fuel and oil drums, clothing, food, plastic furniture, paper, pens, beads, fabric,  anything the Kunas are wanting to purchase. 


Mola Lisa came to our boat to sell us molas she and other women made. Mola Lisa is transgender. Only women are permitted by the Congresso to make molas. She explained some of the different patterns and designs. Each village’s Congresso decides what may be sewn on the molas. Traditional depictions offer protection and a gateway to heaven, such as yuca plants, geometric patterns, and medicine dolls. If a women dies while wearing a less traditional mola such as monkeys she may be called back to the monkeys and forever live with them in the trees. 




A mola with two yuca plants. The more traditional molas are often symetrical. The pink bird on the one at my side is not a mola. These are crafts for the girls to practice making molas. A mola has several layers of fabric. The shapes are cut out of the top fabric and the color underneath is what will show.  The pink bird is applique. Shapes are cut out of fabric and sewn on to one piece of fabric. 



A medicine doll. A family will have several dolls in their household. If a family member becomes sick the island’s medicine man or women will speak with the medicine doll who has been watching over the sick person and tell the medicine man or women what the sickness is and how it needs to be treated. The medicine doll must be fed, allowed to rest and if ignored will leave the household. 



Near Isla Sidra is a runway planes use to commonly use to fly in and purchase lobster from the Kunas.



We followed the runway and reached a trail through the banana, coconut and breadfruit trees.



In the traditional villages, each family will have an ulu for fishing and reaching mainland. Most are able to be rigged with a sail. 


We took our dinghy up Rio Azucar. A fresh water river on mainland. The men go up the river most days to tend to banana and coconut trees. 


Rio Azucar has beautiful crystal water. The smooth dark stones on the river bottom captured the sun’s heat. We had another fun nature spa day.



River baths are a step up from our cockpit bucket baths. 



We explored several islands of the San Blas and returned to the Swimming Pool. The beautiful water, protected anchorage, distance from mainland and heavily populated islands make the Swimming Pool paradise. It is the most tranquilo place we have been so far. 


One of the several vegetable boats visiting the Swimming Pool. We were able to buy fresh produce at least once a week without having to pick up anchor. 


Crab dinner on Monarch. Kyle is ready to start whacking. 


Swimming Pool anchorage


Swimming Pool anchorage


We are going to miss this view from our companionway hatch. The San Blas are a special place and we are very lucky to have our own boat and the opportunity to experience it. 

Goodbye Bocas. Hello Buddy Boating!

Posted by Kassandra Henning

At a small quaint coffee shop called Déjà Brew in Bocas Del Toro, we met fellow cruisers planning on sailing to the San Blas islands: Jody, Dauphin and their parrot Rico aboard S/V Monarch and Toni and John aboard S/V Ariadne (pronounced R E odd nee). Making friends planning on sailing to the same destination was the motivation we needed to wrap up our project list. We knew we completed the necessary repairs to make Winnie seaworthy again and it was time to start sailing.


S/V Ariadne and S/V Monarch leading the way as we depart Bocas del Toro

Our three sailboats departed Bocas on November 18th. Our lifelong friends at Marina Carenero gave us a fond farewell and helped us cast our dock lines. We motored a few miles to the entrance of Red Frog Marina and arrived just us our new friends were coming into the pass. We followed the two boats through the mangroves and small islands for several miles and then put up sail for a couple hours bringing us to Laguna de Bluefield. S/V Ariadne was generous and let us tie up alongside instead of us dropping our anchor. The bay was quiet and calm. The people living on the islands have canoes called ulus with only a few having outboards. Unlike Bocas with loud hostels, cars and constant panga traffic the bay was a welcome tranquil change. Toni made us a delicious dinner and we had fun getting to know them and seeing the inside of their boat.


Winnie tied alongside Ariadne (A ~45 foot Island Packet center cockpit)

The next morning we were ready to explore. The cruising guide gives details about a path that leads up and over the hilly island to a beach exposed to the Atlantic Ocean. John was interested in coming with, so he, Kyle, and I headed for shore in our dinghy. After asking for directions, we took the dinghy to a small river typically navigated using ulus. Because the water is shallow, we were unsure about taking the outboard up it. Oh and we forgot our paddles. (It seems silly, but this is the first time in months we had packed the dinghy and dinghy accessories away for a passage and we were a little rusty.) A stern faced, hard bargaining six year old was willing to take us up river for two dollars a piece. After balancing in a six foot by foot and half ulu for a couple minutes we doubted our ability to stay inside the boat all the way up the river. We took the dinghy, and Kyle expertly drifted around the tight turns while John and I kept a look out for obstacles and used bamboo to push us off of rocks and fallen trees. Once we could not go any further by dinghy, we went for a long muddy walk up and down steep inclines and declines. After an hour we turned around realizing we hadn’t even made it halfway. We retraced our steps, and brought the dinghy back to the mouth of the creek. Two thirteen boys who had paddled out to Winnie to meet us the night before took us up another shallower river in their ulu. We were hot and muddy and much more ok with falling into the river. The river leads to a series of cool, clean, small waterfalls. We waded through the water and walked the bank to the top and then jumped from short waterfalls to small pools until we reached the bigger pool at the bottom.


Kyle and I often think of a 4 year old boy who walked with us a short distance and blew a plastic whistle with every step. On our return, he saw us coming and ran to his house to grab his two year old sister to show us. He sat in the doorway of his house with her in his lap. He was excited and rapidly told us all about his hermanita. When she started crying, he hugged her, bounced her on his knees and made shushing sounds just like his mother likely does. 


The small agua dulce waterfalls.

After swimming, the kids brought us back to our dinghy and shared young coconuts full of coconut water with us. Luckily we had enough gas to make it back to our boats because of course we also forgot the spare gas can. Just before dark, Kyle and I made a quick stop in the little town.  The town surrounded a sports field, has a nice concrete pier to dock small boats at, and has a school powered by a large solar grid.

The next morning we departed for Escudo de Veraguas. The anchorage was exposed to the sea and the waves came in unabated. Toni on S/V Ariadne has a harder time with seasickness than I do, so they left to sail through the night to the next protected anchorage.



Following S/V Ariadne and S/V Monarch from Laguna de Bluefield to Escudo de Veraguas

We took the three crew members from S/V Monarch in our dinghy to see the island. An hour before sunset, Rico flew to the top of a thatched roof building and wouldn’t come down. Dauphin and Jody called and whistled. Jody climbed a nearby tree trying to reach the stubborn bird. Rico flew into the jungle and after a few more minutes of searching we had to return to the boats before dark. On the way back, we ran out of gas. We remembered the paddles and jerry can, but no funnel. Oh boy, get it together Winnie crew.



Escudo de Veraguas


The next morning Kyle and Dauphin departed on the Rico Recovery Mission. To make better time in the dinghy, Jody and I stayed back on the sailboats. I am sorry I wasn’t there to take pictures. Luckily Rico was quickly spotted near the place he flew from but was not willing to come down. Dauphin tied a stick decorated with beads called the Rico Stick to a long stick and then Kyle mounted Dauphin’s shoulders and held the sticks out gently to not startle the bird. Rico stepped on the Rico Stick and said, “Hola.”


Rico in the tree refusing to come down.


Rico safely recovered and returned to his clothes hamper for the dinghy ride back to the sailboats.


Kyle steering the dinghy after the successful Rico Recovery Mission on Escudo de Veraguas

Escudo de Veraguas is beautiful and with calmer seas we would have stayed and explored longer, but the sailboats were rocking and rolling too much to be comfortable. With the first Rico Recovery Mission a success, we decided to pull anchor and sail to the Rio Chagres, near Colon. The passage to Rio Chagres would take around 24 hours.

At daybreak, we arrived at the mouth of the river. It poured rain most of the day. In less than an hour our small rain catcher filled our portable 14 gallon water tank and 5 gallon bucket. We watched the howler monkeys play in the trees and caught up on sleep from our overnight passage.


Kyle and I taking Winnie up the Rio Chagres 


Winnie in the Rio Chagres


Jody, Dauphin and Rico kayaking in the rain on the Rio Chagres


Enjoying the rain while we dinghy explore

In the morning, we visited Monarch for coffee and cookies. We easily convinced them to join us on a hike through the jungle. The guidebook has details about a 53 meter crane the Smithsonian keeps in working order for research and anyone is allowed to visit it. We slowly dinghied along the riverbank in search of a trail. Not finding one, we settled on a satisfactory spot to tie the dinghy and start making our way to the GPS coordinates for the crane. We used our handheld GPS that showed the crane half a mile away. Our GPS is for water navigation and doesn’t show any map topographical details. We climbed further and further up into the jungle. Rico rode on Dauphin’s shoulder. He ducked, lifted branches over his head and moved up and down Dauphin’s back to avoid limbs and vines. We used a machete to chop away thorny vines and all of us tried to make a mental map of creeks and rock formations. The hike took us two and a half hours, until the crane suddenly appeared in the middle of the jungle.   The crane was in good condition and a groundskeeper gave us permission to climb the inner ladder to the top. Jody stayed on the ground with Rico and the three of us made it to the top to take some photos and enjoy the view.


Taking a water break on our hike. Rico is hard to see. He is on Jody’s left shoulder.


A view of the crane from the base.


Rico stayed on the ground with Jody and enjoyed a sunflower seed snack.


Slowly making my way  off the ladder. I am very afraid of heights and it took some prodding from Kyle and Dauphin to convince me the view is better if I stand up.


I spent another few minutes in this position. The extra two feet higher my head would be from the ground once I stood up was freaking me out. 


Finally made it out to stand out over the jungle canopy


A view of the Rio Chagres from the crane


A view of Colon City


Dauphin going as high as possible


Kyle, the crane operator

With only three more hours of daylight left we quickly worked our way back through the jungle. Our GPS ran out of batteries, and we were relying on a compass to keep us moving in the right direction. We were all a little nervous about finding the dinghy before dark and to ease tension we would speak up when something looked familiar. Dauphin who is very talkative was constantly trying to reassure everyone. “Now I’m serious, guys. I remember those red little flowers. Don’t you remember Kassie when you saw them and said, ‘Those are pretty flowers’?” After an hour of working our way down steep declines and trying to find the best holding ground for our footing, we were in unfamiliar jungle. We continued to follow the compass. We would reach an area too steep to traverse, back track, find a more manageable path and help each other down. Dauphin slipped and fell hard busting his tailbone on a rock and sending Rico falling off his shoulder. He was hurting but still able to move quickly, so we didn’t slow down. It took us two hours to reach the riverbank. Jody and Kyle walked in separate directions to find the dinghy. Luckily after only a few minutes Dauphin and I heard Kyle shout he found it. We were proud that by compass alone, we were able to traverse through the jungle and land just a couple hundred meters from the dinghy.  We relayed the message to Jody and all made it back to the dinghy with some daylight to spare.


(These three pictures seem to capture my emotions though the day. A calm selfie before the hike. A moment halfway up the crane when I was too freaked out to look up or down. The end of the adventure back in the dinghy filthy and wild hair.)

Up the river past the Gatun dam for the Panama Canal is a boat ramp. Several people drive out to go fishing from the riverbank. We took the dinghy and left it for the day. We followed the drive to the main road and caught a chicken bus. We rode by the construction of the new locks and through the Gatún Locks to Colon. We spent the day shopping for boat supplies and Thanksgiving dinner.


Dauphin, Jody and Rico enjoying the beautiful weather Thanksgiving afternoon before we went back to the sailboats to cook

We spent Thanksgiving on Monarch. They have an oven aboard and Jody worked hard to bake a chicken and homemade apple pie. We had mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, carrots and a lot of fun sharing stories.

Planning on a weather window forecasted to have calmer seas, we stayed at the mouth of the river a couple of days. We checked out Fort San Lorenzo and one day we were lucky enough to see a cab driver fishing with friends. He drove us to the nearby marina Shelter Bay where we visited friends and filled 3 jerry cans with diesel.


Secured the dinghy before hiking up to Fort San Lorenzo


More fun climbing through the jungle


Rico and Dauphin at Fort San Lorenzo, with Winnie and Monarch anchored on the Rio Chagres in the distance.


The view from Fort San Lorenzo. Just barely you can make out the sailboats anchored at the mouth of the river. 


Spending over eight days on the calm river waters and waiting patiently for a weather window led us to be complacent and make a few mistakes on the morning of our departure for Puerto Lindo. We hadn’t lashed down equipment as well on deck and tidied up the cabin the night before, so we were rushing to put it all away. Knowing we would not arrive in Puerto Lindo until late afternoon and only wanting to snack underway, I made a substantial breakfast of banana pancakes with chia seeds. Which, because of the rushing, we finished eating right before weighing anchor. Obviously the weather was not good sailing conditions. A favorite saying of mine from a friend in Bocas is, “The wind is always too strong, too light or right on the nose.” The waves were 8 to 10 feet, frequent and hitting us on the beam. The wind was coming over the bow so we couldn’t have any sail up to stabilize us. Kyle was queasy for the first couple hours and I of course was full on seasick. We departed the Rio Chagres on November 30th and safely arrived in Puerto Lindo. Over two months later and I still have not made one of our staple meals of banana pancakes.


Winnie anchored at Puerto Lindo. 

A Long Visit Home and Working on Winnie in Bocas del Toro

July 14th, 2015– Flew home from Panama City                                                                         October 6th, 2015–Returned to Panama                                                                                   November 18th, 2015–Departed Bocas del Toro, Panama

Winnie anchored off of Starfish Beach.

Winnie anchored off of Starfish Beach.

After two and a half months in the States (July, August, September), Kassie and I returned to Bocas del Toro, for the next chapter of our adventure. We spent the two and a half months seeing family and friends, partying for Lotawana Day, attending a couple weddings, trips to Michigan to see Kassie’s family, a trip out to Dodge City, KS to see my grandpa, and a roadtrip out to Nevada to attend Burning Man. With all of the road trips, mixed in with replacing parts and planning repairs for Winnie, the time flew by quickly. We were ready to get back to Panama and our boat as Missouri’s fall weather set in. We packed our heavy baggage, stuffed full of boat parts, a new sail cover which we sewed while home, a few tools, and some sheets of Lexan (similar to Plexiglas, but made of polycarbonate instead of acrylic making it stronger and lighter than Plexiglass) to build a new spray windshield for Winnie.We were ready to get back to Panama and our boat as Missouri’s fall weather set in. We packed our heavy baggage, stuffed full of boat parts, a new sail cover which we sewed while home, a few tools, and some sheets of Lexan (similar to Plexiglas, but made of polycarbonate instead of acrylic making it stronger and lighter than Plexiglass) to build a new spray windshield for Winnie. Once again, we were able to pass through Panama City, spending a few nights hanging with our friend Jonathan and visiting the Miraflores Locks and Panama Canal Museum before taking the long bus ride to Almirante, and then the boat ride out to Bocas del Toro. Winnie, as well as Dylan and his friend Chelsea were waiting for us. Dylan and Chelsea were staying in Bocas over the past few weeks and preparing for a backpacking adventure north through Costa Rica, so our time overlapped by only a few days.

A few sailors had come and gone while we were away, but we got to catch up with some old friends who were still around. Winnie was safe and sound at the marina, with just some scum on the hull and a seized up alternator from sitting in one place for too long without starting the engine. Both easy fixes. We started in on our project list, which consisted of hoisting our newly repaired mainsail and trying on the new cover, adding 3 new fans to the interior, fixing interior lights, taking apart and cleaning the carburetor on our outboard engine, doing fiberglass work where our backstay attaches to the boat, and building a spray windshield out of Lexan.

The largest and most important of all of these projects was the backstay repair. Before we left Winnie, we noticed that the backstay chainplate had started to pull away from the fiberglass transom. The fiberglass had cracked, and if it failed, the whole mast could fall down. Winnie would not be able to sail safely until this was fixed. It took nearly a week to complete the entire project. It involved grinding and chiseling away the old fiberglass while inside a small compartment aft of the cockpit. Once the fiberglass was ground down and smoothed out, new fiberglass layers could be laid in its place, making it stronger than it was back in 1963. It was a miserable week of fiberglass dust, sweat, and the smell of acetone and resin, all while curled up sideways in the aft doghouse. It is satisfying that the job was done correctly, and hopefully I won’t have to crawl back inside anytime soon.

Aside from the vigorous boat projects, we took trips into Bocas to watch the Royals play the Blue Jays in the ACLS championships, and watch my home team beat the Mets for World Series Champions! We spent a few days walking around Bocas, making good meals, and sightseeing. Once the backstay was securely in place, we finally took Winnie out for a day sail. We took Winnie to Starfish Beach, at the Bocas del Drago entrance channel. It is a popular day trip to a really nice beach. We dropped anchor for a few hours just 100 meters from shore, walked the beach, swam, and checked out some starfish. We were able to make it back to the marina before dark, satisfied that the engine ran well and all of the sails and lines are in working order. We continued completing a few smaller projects, and began provisioning the boat for our soon departure.

Our plan was to sail to the San Blas Islands, located 200 miles east as the crow flies. They are a group of islands self-governed by the Guna Yala Indians. We had heard amazing things about the beautiful islands, and were excited to see it for ourselves. Along the way we made stops in Laguna de Bluefield, a mostly uninhabited island named Escudo de Veraguas, and then further east to the Rio Chagres, which is the river that was damned to form the Panama Canal.

Time at Home


Kassie cutting canvas back at Lake Lotawana to sew a new mainsail cover.



The sweet life of fair weather fans. We were excited to watch a Sporting KC game. August 12th we went to the US Open Cup Semifinal game where Sporting KC beat Real Salt Lake 3-1. It was a fun game with a home crowd that never disappoints. 



On the first day of Burning Man we worked on building our home on the Playa. Here is our yurt not quite complete. We lived in it for about 9 days with about 15 other Burners. We loved our time at Burning Man and are planning on going again this August. 



Spray Shield


Building the frame for the spray windshield in the work area at Marina Carenero. Multiple layers of plywood staggered and epoxied together.



We used the adhesive 5200 to attach the wooden frame and then screwed the Lexan to the wooden frame and the aluminum solar panel.


Fiberglass Backstay Project


This is where the backstay attaches to the deck.



The “before shot”.  This is underneath the deck, where the stainless steel chainplate was loose and the fiberglass cracked towards the top and along the side.


Kyle using a Dremel tool to cut away the old fiberglass.

I used a Dremel tool and grinder to cut away the old fiberglass, and remove the water-saturated wood piece inside.


Scrapping out the rotten wood from before.

Once I removed the cracked fiberglass, I scraped out the rotten wood from before. Water likely caused the damage and with the structure of the wood compromised the fiberglass shell was taking too much of the load from the chainplate causing the fiberglass to crack.



The mulch like wood cleaned out.


Time to start grinding.

Time to start grinding.


Awkward position after awkward position to grind away all the old fiberglass

I was in awkward position after awkward position to grind away all of the old fiberglass.


Kyle covered in fiberglass from grinding away the old stuff.

I am covered in fiberglass from grinding away the old stuff.


Grinding complete. Ready to start glassing.

Grinding complete. Ready to start glassing.


Work compete. No pictures of laying the fiberglass because it was a two man job. I used a wooden board cut to fit and covered it in resin to strengthen it and then laid fiberglass matting and roving while I Kassie mixed two part Epoxy. We had to work quick in this heat, so that the Epoxy wouldn't kick off and set before we had it smoothed out over the matting and roving.

Work complete. No pictures of laying the fiberglass because it was a two man job. I used a wooden board cut to fit and covered it in resin to strengthen it and then laid fiberglass matting and roving while Kassie mixed two part Epoxy. We had to work quick in the tropical heat, so the Epoxy wouldn’t kick off and set before we had it smoothed out over the matting and roving. We laid a total of 10 layers of fiberglass, alternating between matting and roving.  The backstay is now reattached and I feel confident it is stronger than when she was built in 1963.

All of the other projects were less interesting and pretty straight forward, although time consuming.  We spent just over a month in Bocas this time, and we were ready to untie those dock lines and get moving again.



Bocas del Toro, Panama

We successfully arrived in Bocas Del Toro on June 25th. Since hurricane season officially starts on June 1st, we were relieved to have made it far enough south to be out of danger. The hurricane zone extends south to Costa Rica, but not as far south as Panama. We were still in the hurricane zone for the first few weeks of June, but kept a close eye on low pressure systems that sometimes form out in the Atlantic. We had good weather, and easy passages south. On our passage to Bocas, the current and wind were more in our favor than we anticipated and we approached the entrance to Bocas late at night. We stayed off the coastline tacking back and forth until we could clearly see the entrance at dawn. We found a nice place to anchor while we rested and debated the different marina or anchoring options. Knowing we had several repairs to make on the boat and planning to keep Winnie in Panama during most of hurricane season, we decided to check out the marina options. We decided on Marina Carenero. It is a small marina with almost 30 sailboats in slips lining either side of a single dock. The other marinas nearby were much larger, housing many very expensive boats with staff far too over zealous to investigate why young adults were on their property.

Winnie docked at Marina Carenero

Winnie docked at Marina Carenero

The marina feels like home. We are welcome to an outdoor kitchen to cook meals and store food in the refrigerator. We have laundry and showers on shore. And at the end of the day, we gather around a kitchen table for “Happy Hour” with the same 6 to 12 sailors. We celebrate our day of boat projects or land adventures with a cold drink. We rehash our days and make plans for tomorrow with advice from our friends. Our odd group of neighbors creates a community of support we are lucky to be a part of.


The cozy dock kitchen we use while at Marina Carenero

Dylan already had a plane ticket purchased to make a trip back to the states, and Kyle and I were ready to do the same. We had a long list of repairs to complete before we could sail on comfortably and confidently. The projects to take priority before we left Winnie at the marina included, replacing our automatic bilge switches, deciding our plan of action for the 6 foot tear across our mainsail, patching up our leaking dinghy, fixing our navigation lights, resealing a leaky window, and packing broken parts to replace while home.


Our mainsail ripped on the gusty passage to Vivarillo, and we were only able to sail with the top half of our sail, with the bottom half fully reefed. After researching new and used mainsails for hours, we decided to use a sailmaker, Lobo, in Bocas to patch the 6 foot tear and replace the entire leech of the sail. We think our mainsail may be 20 years old and most sailors would quickly decide to find a new one. But when Lobo told us it still has life left it in it, we easily made up our minds to pay him for the repairs. Not only are we attempting to sail on a shoestring, we also think it is important to reuse every resource possible.

Kyle spent many hours upside down, deep in the bilge, troubleshooting our automatic bilge pump switches, while I stood comfortably above him occasionally passing him a tool. Teamwork! For redundancy, we have 2 bilge pumps, with 2 automatic switches. One switch broke somewhere in Belize, and the second in Honduras. It isn’t an issue when we are always on the boat, because once a day we could manually turn the pump on and pump out a little water. Without the automatic switches functioning, we couldn’t leave Winnie by herself and expect her to automatically pump out the slowly leaking water. We had one spare, and were able to buy another one in town; problem solved. All of our projects came together and we found time to explore the area.

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 3.21.12 PM

Bocas del Toro lies on the northwest end of Panama. We approached almost directly from the north.

Bocas del Toro is a popular backpacking destination on Isla Colon. The town is lined with hostels, surf shops, dive shops, and funky restaurants and bars. Bocas continues to grow with plans to expand the runway of the small airport and build a new hospital. Some people describe it as Key West 50 years ago. Winnie is at the marina on Isla Carenero, the small island just a few hundred yards east of Bocas del Toro. Bocas has most of the conveniences, so we take our dinghy when we need to buy groceries, visit a hardware store our treat ourselves to dinner.

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Isla Carenero is a pretty island with a few hotels and a couple restaurants. Carenero is home to maybe a couple hundred people. Kyle and I took a couple hours one morning to walk the circumference of the island.




IMG_0410 A man hand planing the wood for his dugout panga. This boat will likely be a family’s main source of transportation, and possibly a fishing vessel.  Boats wider than this one, with an outboard engine, transport tourists to different islands and beaches.

Dylan learned to surf using the surfboard strapped to our lifeline that caused laughs down the river system in February. He became scuba certified and made friends with local surfers and divers. One day he spearfished and caught several lion fish for dinner.

Kyle and I spent an afternoon walking to a Smithsonian research facility for a free tour.  They partner with multiple universities, and study anything and everything related to the ocean.  We also visited Finca Los Monos, a botanical garden developed by one of the most interesting woman we have met. A world traveler and a free spirit, she and her husband landed in Bocas 20 years ago when the locals didn’t understand what they met by needing a room to rent. She decided to stay and grow a garden. They bushwhacked the jungle with machetes and cultivated native plants and transplanted beautiful trees and flowers. She is a self-taught botanist and gives tours along a trail covering acres of beauty. Our favorite part may have been the end where she takes us through her vegetable garden and lets us eat the leaves and fruit. Lemongrass, curry leaves, ginger plants, peppers, lavender, etc. Kyle and I lagged behind the tour mixing and matching foliage to build bite size salads.


Marlon, our tour guide, teaching us about sea cucumbers and sea urchins.

A small pool to learn about sea urchins and sea cucumbers.


On our tour through Finca Los Monos, the botanical garden


All too soon our departure flight date was upon us, and it was time to make our way to Panama City. We took an hour fast boat ride to Almirante on the mainland, a short cab ride and then an overnight 10 hour bus ride into Panama City with the loudest snorer I have ever witnessed. The man kept up the back half of the bus. Tempted to keep accidently waking him, I thought better of continuously poking a man the size of a bear and settled on having a restless night. Once in Panama City, we met a friend, Jonathan Keating, to stay the night with before our flight the next day. He gave us a speedy tour of his new home, showing us some of the highlights of the city. We went to a bar for the evening and watched the US play Panama in the Gold Cup, the game hosted by Kansas City. Then just like that, two flights later we were landing in Saint Louis where we started in February. We spent two and a half months in the States and returned to Panama October 6th.

Posted by Kassie Henning

Vivarillo, Honduras -> Providencia and San Andres, Columbia -> Bocas del Toro, Panama~June 14, 2015 to June 23, 2015


View from Santa Catalina. Winnie is anchored with a few other sailboats and the other island, Providencia, is behind her.

The story last left off from the island of Vivarillo, which lies near the eastern edge of Honduras, just north of Nicaragua, and about 40 miles NE from mainland. Only sailors seeking refuge or drug smugglers would have any reason to stop by, and that makes it unique and special to us. I tried to search for it on Google maps, but they didn’t even bother to mark its outline. I assure you, it exists. I will think of this miniscule, sand flea infested, barren spot of nowhere fondly.

From Vivarillo, we made a Southeast heading towards Providencia, Colombia. Providencia is one of three Colombian owned islands that lie 145 miles east of the Nicaraguan mainland. The 220 mile passage was pretty smooth with the wind off our port beam. We made good time, finishing the trip in about 48 hours. We entered Providencia through a well-marked channel, and found anchorage next to 8 other sailboats. The center of town was well protected within the large bay, with steep hills surrounding it. We had heard and read that we needed to check in with a man named Sr. Bush, so we hailed him over the VHF radio. He responded, telling us to relax and rest for a while, since the Colombian soccer game was on television and everyone on the island would be busy watching that until after 5pm. We put the outboard on the dinghy and motored to shore to stretch our legs and see the town. Providencia is a small island community, where most of the locals probably know each other by name. In places like these, the stores and bars often don’t have obvious names or hours, since the locals just seem to know who runs it, and at what times they are usually around. We were curious why an island so far away from civilization would be populated, and owned by Colombia, over 400 miles away. The history was dictated by religious missionaries, privateers and pirate havens (a home base for the famous Capt. Morgan), Spanish and English expansion, slave trade, drug smuggling, and so on, due to its important location. The islands are now similar to Colombia, as Hawaii is to the United States. Many Colombians enjoy vacations on this group of islands, but almost all of them travel to the most developed island of San Andres. Providencia is very quiet, with peaceful bays, empty beaches, modest hotels along one side of the island, and a slow pace. It is connected by a small, floating wooden bridge to Santa Catalina Island, which can be walked around in a couple of hours. Pablo Escobar apparently had a house there during his reign. We did some hiking, snorkeling, and wandering about as usual. One day, the Colombian Armada was on shore leave, and they played games of futsol (soccer on pavement) all day at the public court. Our last night in Providencia, we met up with a handful of the other cruisers in the bay, and we all went out for a meal. We have already ran into Steve and Vicki aboard “Tango” in Bocas del Toro, Panama, and will be following Dani and Tate on their blog until we cross paths in person again.


Exchange rate in Columbia was about 1 USD to 2,500 Columbian Peso depending on the day and where we exchanged.


It has become our routine to treat ourselves to a cold Coke as soon as we have the local currency in our pockets.


Took a walk from Providencia across a bridge to Santa Catalina.


The islands’ supply ship. It made regular runs for groceries and other commodities. The price for food was not as high as we thought it would be. The Columbian government subsidizes food and fuel to help keep prices affordable and the island populated. On both islands is a beautiful boardwalk and a very nice up to date school. For fear of losing allegiance to Nicaragua, the closer country, Columbia works to maintain a loyal and satisfied people.

With a good forecast for a few days, but predicted to get worse, we made the decision to keep moving and make the short passage further south to San Andres. We had about a 30 hour passage of large but smooth swells and a stiff breeze off our beam. As we made our approach to the windward or eastern side of San Andres, we felt confident. We immediately spotted the yellow channel buoy and steered Winnie to the proper course. Looking ahead all we could see were breaking waves and a distant coastline. We knew the charted channel made several turns to navigate us through the reefs, but the red and green buoys were ambiguous through the onslaught of crashing sea. With each wave, we watched the depth sounder read 30’ as we rose to the crest of each wave and then 15’ as we fell to the bottom of the trough. As the waves became steeper, 30’ and 10’. The charts showed a channel less than 10’ most of the way to the safe anchorage behind the reef. A large steel hulled cargo ship layed abandoned on its side in the distance, a reminder not to stray from the channel! We were worried that the large waves would allow Winnie to drop low enough at the bottom of a trough to hit her keel on the bottom, which would likely leave her with catastrophic damage. We confirmed we were in the correct position, but were unwilling to risk continuing any closer to the reef and shallower channel. I waited until we were in the trough of a wave, floored the engine and turned the boat 180 degrees, abandoning our approach and pointing towards open water. Kassie took the helm and steered the boat directly up and over the sets of waves, using all 25hp that our little diesel engine had. We held tight for the first couple waves, making sure that we would be able to make forward progress, and escape the power of the sea. Our bow rose high against a wall of water, just topping the crest of the first wave, and as we dropped down the back side, our prop came out of the water and gave us a good scare (the prop is about 3 feet under our waterline). After only 15 minutes of nervousness, and glancing once or twice at our life raft, we were back in open water, with a long smooth swell passing under us again. This was one of the scariest moments on the entire trip thus far.


A local man snorkeling for squid. He is standing on a bluff near our anchorage. Dylan rowing in our dinghy

All sailboats anchor out or stay at the only two marinas on the eastern side of the island, which we were attempting to reach, therefore I went below to consult the paper charts and plan for an alternative anchorage. It took us an additional 5 hours to motor around the island to the leeward (west) side where we were found a safe place to drop anchor just before sunset. We could see the bottom at 35 feet, and had plenty of space since we were the only boat there. Beautiful rocky bluffs were 100 yards in front of us, and there was a shallow inlet, which we were able to row our dinghy into and tie up next to some local fisherman. It turned out to be a perfect, peaceful spot to stay during our ~7 day visit to San Andres. Checking our boat in and out was made simple, yet expensive, by using the required agent who met us in the main town, at a marina to do the paperwork.

One main road encircles the island, making it easy to navigate the buses into “El Centro”, the commercial and tourist center of the island on the Northeastern side. We visited El Centro multiple times, sometimes riding the bus but often times hitching a ride from a passerby. Within the city, we ate at a local place serving delicious broth soup, pork or steak, with rice, beans, and plantains. The city had several good grocery stores, many choices for food, and even a movie theatre. We watched Jurassic Park 3, in English! We felt like sleeping in a bed, and even more so needed a shower, but we were unable to find any rooms available on the whole island due to peak tourist season. We resorted to sneaking into the beach shower at a hostel, and getting some wifi from a ritzy hotel lobby. The town was busy with Colombian tourists, enjoying the beaches, nightlife, shopping, and a Colombian soccer game.


We saw several different statues outside stores in “El Centro.” Kyle is clearly drawn to nurses.

Back at the boat, we took it easy, cooking meals and relaxing. Dylan continued to swim and free dive, now able to dive 35 feet to touch our anchor. Our meals consisted of grilled cheese with spaghetti, vegetable lentil soup and bean tostadas with guacamole.



Needing to top off our gas, Kassie and I walked about mile and a half each with 5 gallon cans. On the way back to our dinghy, we were able to catch a ride with the Columbian Armada. An older man was fluent in English and able to translate for us and the other three men. They were very excited to hear about three young adults like themselves living on a sailboat. Kassie enthusiastically invited them aboard, but they didn’t have time to come see Winnie up close.

We departed San Andres pleased to have met so many friendly people, filled up on our favorite foods and ready for our passage to Bocas Del Toro, Panama.  Once again we had a smooth passage, covering approximately 230 miles in less than 48 hours under sail alone.