A PERIPATETIC JOURNEY
not all who wander are lost
We arrived at Shelter Bay Marina a few weeks ahead of schedule in January 2017. Although we planned to return to the San Blas for a couple more weeks, our Panama Canal agent advised us to come to Colon as early as possible because the schedule was filling fast. Before a boat can be placed on the transit schedule, it must be measured by a canal official and that can only be done in Colon. We were hoping to transit in early February, so decided to follow his advice. Once we were measured, he secured a transit date of February 8, 2017. With less than a month to go, we had a lot to do: provision, schedule a brief haul-out for bottom cleaning, prepare the boat for the canal transit and for the Pacific crossing, get Galapagos entry paperwork in order, find line handlers for the transit, have our mail forwarded to the marina, and of course continue boat school.
On the morning of January 2, our international fleet of three catamarans - Juggernaut is from Belgium, Element is from Canada - raised anchor for the brief motor into the wind to the anchorage known as the Swimming Pool. It is situated between small islands (BBQ, Banedup, and Calubir) surrounded by extensive coral reefs that protect the anchorage from waves and swell. When we first arrived, it was a bit crowded, so we went to the other side of Banedup to anchor. After the anchor was secure, Brian went out to explore and found a shallow reef within our swing circle. The wind would have to come from the south for us to swing into it. Although that isn't the most common wind direction in the Caribbean, the weather at the time was a bit unsettled and we decided not to risk it. The anchor came up and we headed back around Banedup to the Swimming Pool which, by now, was much less crowded.
We spent three days at the Swimming Pool doing boat school in the mornings and paddle board, snorkeling, and dinghy excursions after lunch. There was also plenty of back and forth shuttling of kids from boat to boat to play. Late one night, when the full moon illuminated the seafloor below, Kendall saw a shark swim slowly past the boat. The shark (or one like it) was spotted circling the boats during the day as well. Although the water was very clear when we arrived, as the weather changed it grew more murky and we couldn't see through the 10-12 feet to the bottom. With the low visibility, the shark in the area, as well as the two crocodiles reported to live on Banedup, the kids preferred to swim from BBQ Island instead of off the boats.
Every afternoon was the same, however. Around 5:00, we all got in our dinghies and headed to BBQ Island for the sunset. The kids would swim or play on the island while the adults would gather at the palapa-sheltered picnic table with drinks and snacks. The multi-generational family living on the island sold water and Balboa beer, as well as a few handcrafts. We would see the grandmother, the father, and three children when we went to the house to purchase beer. It was common for the younger women to stay inside when visitors came to their islands, so we never saw the kids' mother. The children were between 4 and 7, and they usually come out to play with the boat kids. One afternoon we brought frisbees and had a great time teaching the island kids to throw and catch them.
Often when we arrive at an anchorage, we don't have a plan for how long we will stay, or even where we will go next. Having a strict schedule can get a sailor in trouble by requiring them to travel when the weather is unfavorable or even dangerous, so we try to be flexible whenever we can. When we've been in the same spot for a while (sometimes it is a few days, sometimes it is weeks), the need to move on begins to grow and we start looking for the most favorable weather to move on. If we are in an anchorage with friends and we want to stay together a while, the decision to move on is a group decision. Other times, we may love a spot more than our friends or vice versa, and we'll go separate ways for a while, often ending up in the same place again in the future. After three days at the Swimming Pool, we three boats decided to move a bit further east to Green Island. It was another beautiful anchorage with a larger town reachable by dinghy where we could find SIM cards and gas.
McGlynn family 5 (Isla, Marin, Eoin, Kendall, and Brian) sailing Counting Stars