Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Justin and I arrived in Montego Bay,  Jamaica on the 15th of February at around 8:30 am.  There were two cruise ships in the Bay.  We anchored and made our way to Montego Bay Yacht Club to meet with customs and immigration.  Afterwards, we had lunch at the Yaught Club,  celebrating Valentines Day a little late.

Myself catching up with mom

We spent the next two days drying and cleaning the boat and fixing things that broke in the rough weather. I hoisted Justin up the mast to inspect the damage caused by flogging rope.  Also, one of the sails needed repairs done by a sail maker.  I caught up on laundry, and I tried to update blog, but the internet was too slow.

View of Just Dreamin' from the top of the mast

View of Montego Bay from the top of the mast

Justin at the top of the mast

We then rented a car for the weekend. On Saturday, we went to Rose Hall Great House, one of the few remaining plantations after the slave uprising.  It's said to be haunted by a witch who killed her three husbands. 

Justin and I at Rose Hall Great House

Rose Hall Great House

Justin at Rose Hall

Justin in Rose Hall Great House

Loree at Rose Hall Great House

Our lovely tour guide

We then checked out downtown, Montego Bay, which was boisterous, crowded, and dirty. 

Downtown Montego Bay

On our way back, we stopped at the Boathouse Grill.  They were fully booked.  So we just had appetizers and beers.  It was so good,  we had to make a reservation for Monday night.

Justin in front of the Boathouse Grill

Justin relaxing at the Boathouse Grill
Sunset at Boathouse Grill

Sunset at Boathouse Grill

Myself watching the sunset over beers and appitizers

We went to Negril on Sunday, which is about 90 minutes away. We explored the area.  We tried to visit the lighthouse, but the gates were locked.  We stopped for ice cream and dinner.

Justin and I found a beach in Negril

Negril, Jamaica

Dinner in Negril

On Monday morning, we moved the boat to the marina wharf and attempted our first stern tie.  I decided that I'm not a fan of stern tying, which consists of tying the bow to a mooring buoy and backing the boat's stern up to the wharf.  Not so easy.

We visited Falmouth, where we finally found a post office.  We got our postcsrds from Panama mailed. 

Falmouth town center

We then visited Greenwood Great House, another plantation that survived the slave uprising. 

Fire water pump at Greenwood

Antique music player, still in working order

Loree in front of Greenwood Great House

Afterwards, we returned to the Boathouse Grill for a superb dinner and the most delicious lava cake.

Sunset at Boathouse Grill

View of Montego Bay from Boathouse Grill

I flew out on the 21st to Cape Breton to surprise my family. This was a totally last minute decision.  Justin flew back to Fort McMurray for last week of work on the same day.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Colon, Panama to Montego Bay, Jamaica

We left Shelter Bay Marina in Colon,  Panama on February 9th to make our first Atlantic voyage to Jamaica, which took 5.5 days.

We had to transit the staging area for the canal and cross the break water to get to open sea.  Container ships everywhere, keeping us on our toes and forcing us to dodge; one was even pitched on its side and abandoned.  We had to wait for one container ship to exit the break water and then we had to tuck in behind it to get out before the next container ship came through.

Tankers and container ships waiting to go through the canal

The trip to Jamaica was rough as we were beating to weather for the first four days.  We frequently saw 30 plus knots and sailed with the 90% sail and 3 reefs in the main.  We had waves coming over the boat those first four days.  So we stayed down below as much as possible.  Everything got wet.  However, we made good speed (often 6 to 7 knots).

Myself trying to keep warm and dry while catching up on sleep

Justin tried to grab a flogging rope while we were hoisting the 90% sail.  The rope was moving with enough force due to the strong winds to damage our solar panel.  Justin got whipped all over his body and had welts and bruises for the next week.

Welts on Justin's back from the flogging rope

We had to tack eastward to avoid shallow strips of exposed rock in the middle of the ocean, which added some time to our passage.

On the last day, we needed to motor around Jamaica's west end because the winds had dropped off.


Justin and I arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica on the morning of February 15th.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Panama Canal

Going through the Panama Canal was one of the most unique and interesting experiences of this trip.  Despite best laid plans, Justin's Aunt and Uncle were not able to make it to Panama to join us to go through the canal.   And due to delays in canal scheduling, Mitch and Nicole had to fly out before we got to go through the canal.   Fortunately,  Mitch and Nicole secured a ride on another boat through the canal as line handlers and didn't miss out completely.

We awoke early on February 7th, got our three line handlers on board, and set out before 8 am.  We hired a line handler, Luis, from Balboa Yacht Club.  We found a couple, Russ (an Australian) and Dianne (a Kiwi), on a volunteer line handlers forum.  Russ and Dianne are canal enthusiasts and have been through the canal several times. 

Our crew: Victor, Russ, Luis, and Dianne

We were quite fortunate to have Russ and Dianne as they really made the trip.  They were very knowledgeable about the entire process; they're even writing a book on the subject.   Their knowledge really helped address our concerns and calm our nerves about going through the canal as this was our first time through any canal, let alone the Panama Canal.   They also regaled us with interesting factoids and stories about the canal.   They were better than tour guides.

Russ and Dianne's Website:

A canal boat brought our transit advisor to our boat.  Victor normally drives one of the tug boats in the canal.   He goes through the canal about once per week as a transit advisor.   Victor was awesome and a total professional.   We felt very comfortable entrusting our boat in his hands.

We went through the locks on the Pacific side with a small cruise ship in front of us and two tug boats behind us.  We tied our boat to another sail boat (also from BC, Canada), which was tied to a tour boat (that was once owned by Al Capone and used for bootlegging liquor), which was tied to the canal wall. A large cruise ship was in the adjacent set of locks all by its self.

All the ships entering the Miraflores locks with us

Victor, our transit advisor, sorting out with the other boats how to tie them together

Our route on the chart plotter

Just dream beside the other sail boat, which is beside the tour boat

Justin and I in front of the small cruise ship that shared the locks with us on the Pacific side

Inside the Miraflores Locks

Entering the Pedro Miquel Locks

Getting into position in the locks

We got through the Pacific locks (both Miraflores Locks and Pedro Miguel Locks ) by 11 am.  We motored to the locks on the Atlantic side, arriving just after 3 pm, in time to go through the locks.

Driving through the cut

We made it through Gatun locks just after 5pm.  The other sail boat that went through the Pacific locks with us was a half hour behind us, but was too late to go through the Atlantic locks that night, and it had to stay on Gatun lake for the night and cross the locks the following morning.

Tying up the boat to the wall of the Gatun Lock before the water level is dropped

Touching history

Opening of lock doors

Myself handling the lines while the water level is going down

Exiting the Gatun Locks

Victor, our transit advisor, and Justin

We anchored outside of Colon.  Russ and Dianne stayed on the boat for the night.   I made dinner for us all.

Container ships anchored outside of Colon; one of which was abandoned on its side

We moved the boat to Shelter Bay Marina the next morning.  We swam in the pool and got nice, hot showers. 

Shelter Bay Marina

Abandoned US army barracks by the marina

Then Russ, Dianne, Justin, and I caught the shuttle into Colon for supplies.  We drove over the old and new canals to get to Colon as the ferry was temporarily out of service.  We met the construction engineer for bridge being built over canal on Atlantic side, who told us about the construction and laid to rest some myths about the bridge supports shifting. We said goodbye to Russ and Dianne.
Justin driving over the new locks on the Atlantic side

Russ and Dianne heading home after our crossing

Cars driving over the lock doors of the new canal

On February 9th, we prepared the boat for sea and left Panama by mid day.