Monday, May 22, 2017

Watch our progress
This is the link to our tracker so you can watch us as we transit the Panama Canal tomorrow 4 am start time so we are excited!!! 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

History, humidity and haircuts in beautiful Cartagena, Colombia

While our new crew member Nicolas looks after Rumpus, we're visiting beautiful Cartagena. We're staying in the old centre which is surrounded by impressive fortifications.
The 'cuadrilonga' flag adopted after Cartagena de Indias declared itself a sovereign and independent state from Spain in

To get here from Panama you fly two legs of a triangle: first SE to Bogota, capital of Colombia, 2644 metres above sea level, then back North to Cartagena.  
Rain and humidity greeted us; locals thought it was 'cold/frio' at 32degrees C.

The Colombian peso is worth 0.00050 NZ dollars. So when something costs 30,000 pesos...for example's about $15.  
the drink vending machine at the airport
Day 1: exploration day, visit to the Naval Museum and training ship and haircuts for both of us at Fifi's salon. 

R at our Hotel Kartaxa in Calle Bolvedas


ceviche, guacamole and plantain tostadas with sangria and local beer

the modern part of the city is all on the tongue of land called Boca Grande, beyond the fort

Stand up Paddling Colombia style, supporting the snorkelers getting  langoustas (lobsters)

the stern section of the Columbian sail training ship

stall after stall all selling the same weird looking sweets

cheese cut to order or pre-wrapped in banana leaves

Avocados, mangoes and limes in Calle Venezuela

After school treat: a green mango made into curly slices.

Monday, May 15, 2017

New Crew... and Panamanimals

We decided to take a side trip to Cartagena, Colombia so we are staying the night in Panama City before we go to the airport in the morning. What an amazing sky and coastline. Bus broke down getting here and it took hours, but worth it for the view.

From the window of the Plaza Paitilla Inn

We had dinner at the Balboa Yacht Club which is at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal.

The Puente de las Americas has a shape that looks very familiar to Aucklanders


We have new crew! Nicolas from Madrid, and Katya from Uzbekistan. 
They are both in their late 20s and both speak 5 languages. They have only just met each other (and us) so this will be an interesting time. They are free travellers who prefer not to travel by air and seem very keen to help out and to learn.  We are pleased and relieved as the prospect of a two-handed passage was looming. 

Back in Shelter Bay this morning Vicky, Bryce, Molly and I went on a nature walk from the marina.

morning grooming

handball court behind the disused recreation centre for the former base

black hawk

Three toed sloth high in a tree

why did the agouti cross the road???

howler monkey feeding upside down

Pechiamarillo (Yellow pants) - actually a tyrant flycatcher.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Quantum of Shelter, Quantum of Solace

Sarah at the bow approaching Shelter Bay.

Shelter Bay, at the Atlantic end of the Panama canal, is where the James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, was made. We’ve been here for a few days now. Although Rumpus hasn’t moved an inch, we've made plenty of progress preparing for the Pacific. 

Getting here: leaving the San Blas islands, we stopped at Isla Linton: mangroves, a very new tiny marina and a floating bar where we had our 5th wedding anniversary dinner.
Isla Linton looks EXACTLY like the Thunderbirds base on Tracy Island.

A few hours’ motoring around the corner brought us to the Atlantic approach to the canal. 30 huge ships awaited their turn to transit the canal as we approached the breakwater, with dozens of cranes on the shoreline. 

For some reason I imagined Tintin and Captain Haddock on board this little one.

My favourite was this brilliant abomination called “Niccolo Machiavelli"

The USA leased the Canal Zone until 31 December 1999 so there are bunkers, munitions, battery buildings and forts all falling into disrepair with the jungle re-encroaching. Leafcutter ants criss-cross the pathways; monkeys howl and jewel butterflies decorate the undergrowth.

On our afternoon stroll up the hill from the marina

The old base theatre, converted into a sail loft with a cruisers' herb garden tended by April  - and  passing boats' names and artwork for good luck


Since Cuba, Sarah and Ryan have been feeling very unwell, with suspected giardia and nasty reactions to insect bites. After consulting their NZ doctor, who warned that giardia can recur even after treatment, they’ve decided that it would be unwise for them to continue with a 4000 mile ocean crossing.  They’ve gone to a hotel in Panama to try to recuperate. So we are looking for crew! Any volunteers or suggestions? (email

Making the best of things, we have been very busy on Rumpus. 

I took a bus trip with Annie and Liam to Panama City to the biggest grocery store I’ve ever seen. They were stocking up to cross the Pacific on their catamaran “Gone With the Wind”.
Their stamina and staggering quantities of provisions were truly impressive. Bulk buying at its best. 

The bus trip to Panama City from here includes a vehicle ferry across the canal, where you can see the huge bridge they’re constructing and the Panamax container ships transiting the 3 locks at this end of the canal. 


Meanwhile, back at the marina: 

Thorsen, the German engineer (who’s spent a few months in 
Whangarei) expertly fixed our rudder mounting issues: “As good as a bought one - sweet as” he declared Teutonically…

Mike Barker, a “1% er” (Bandito biker) and Kiwi rigging expert, gave us some sound advice on our spinnaker pole setup and shared his passion for bikes and boats…

and April, the wonder sailmaker, has fixed our trusty genoa with “a few more patches than we originally discussed…..”

April's sail loft
I’ve discovered the morning yoga sessions and we’ve enjoyed evening swims in the pool after hot sticky days of boat work. Most afternoons there are drenching thunderstorms so the decks are freshly sluiced and we’ve collected rain for the water tanks.  

And, like a good James Bond movie, there is an element of intrigue and suspense about when, how and with whom we will transit the Panama Canal. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

San Blas Islands, Panama and how we got here

We were sorry to say goodbye to our Cuban harbourmaster Jorge. He’d given us currency, transport and repair advice from the moment we arrived. On the VHF, as he guided us to an anchorage, he said: “Don’t worry, you can ask me anything you like! I’m not single, but I AM available!!!!”

So, from Cuba, head south for 700 nautical miles between Jamaica and Haiti and on across the Caribbean sea, and you’ll find  the beautiful San Blas Islands, politically part of Panama but run as an autonomous region by the independent Kuna people.

The Kuna come out in their dugout canoes to sell you their handcrafted ‘mole’ appliqué designs. We paid their officials a cruising permit fee of USD20 per person and USD20 for the boat. They asked to see a photo of the boat! and took photos of our passports with a cell phone. All very gentle and civilised. (nb no English spoken but they seemed to understand my basic Spanish)

Our passage was very bouncy and uncomfortable for the first 2 days and nights.  The seas east of Jamaica are shallow and confused in places. We had vigorous easterlies for the first two days and nights, with 3 reefs in the main and a handkerchief genoa.

As you can imagine, chaos inside the boat. We all pulled together really well, with watches of two hours on, six hours off. Frequent flying fish, curious birds, and dolphins on day 3. 

The Rumpus arrival tradition continues. Torrential rain greeted us in Porvenir.
This little island has  a short airstrip and a couple of administration buildings with a few national guard cadets, some local women, and if you’re lucky an immigration official. Our first night at anchor we had extremely heavy rain and thunderstorms at 3 am. All hatches closed, all electronic equipment into the oven (does that actually work?) and all manky clothes and towels outside for an extreme rinse. What a great way to get the boat and all our gear clean and fresh again!  Pots, buckets and bowls outside to collect the rain and top up the water tanks.

Thursday (our day 2 in these islands) and we have motored east to explore. There are 352 islands in this group, mostly completely uninhabited. This is tropical island bliss.

Rumpus is anchored in a lagoon among stunning islands, with the sea roaring on the reef. We’ve snorkelled on a beautiful nursery reef, cleaned the Cuban oil stains off the side of the boat and Rupe went exploring. Paddled round the island and soaked up the beauty.

Rupe met the couples on the other two boats in this perfect spot. They’ve  been here for 20 years (!!!!!!!) They rarely move! We bought lettuce, tomatoes and avocados from the local produce boat. Tomorrow, back on track westwards towards Panama where we have to wait for a spot in the queue to transit the canal. The adventures of Rumpus continue.

Sarah conning through the reefs

The Wild Things on Rumpus!