March 26, 2010

The Pacific

We crossed under the Bridge of America's at 1 pm today and we have officially arrived in the glorious Pacific Ocean!! What a cool couple of days. The Panama Canal transit went great. I hope some of you got a chance to see us on the live web cam. The kids and I were waving HUGE Canada flags on the front of the boat. We were thinking of you.

Once we were anchored we had our first swim in the Pacific Ocean. It felt great. As I look around at the other boats in the anchorage and see them all rigged out for the crossing it is blatantly clear what we are about to embark on. It is close, so close! In a matter of a week or two we will be .....leaving! OMG. Maybe a twinge of that fear that I said had dissipated has returned :-) but I am still super excited. I think it is kind of like that feeling when you are riding a roller coaster and it is click, click, clicking upward to the top and you feel scared and excited all at once and the clicking noise (which would be all the other boats getting ready to go) adds to the intensity of it all. Then you reach the top and 'whooosh' down you go and you throw your hands in the air and you just go with it!

I may not throw my hands in the air but there is no stopping this roller coaster.

March 25, 2010

Leading the Adventure

Today is the day!!! We are finally scheduled to go through the Panama Canal and they have a live webcam so you can watch from home. Basically the way it works is:

Thursday, March 25th

  • We leave the dock at 3pm today and go and anchor out near the entrance.
  • Our Panama Canal Advisor joins us at 5:00pm and then we motor up to the entrance of the first set of locks called GATUN LOCKS.
  • At this point we raft up to 2 other boats. Artemo will most likely be on the outside and and a catamaran will be on the inside.
  • We enter the locks rafted up as a nest of 3 boats and this is usually between 6:00 and 7:00. You can watch this on the webcam but since it is night time for the first set of locks you may not be able to see us that well. Also this webcam is kind of grainy.
  • The Gatun locks are a set of 3 locks and we do all three rafted up and then we enter the Gatun Lake.
  • Right at the beginning of the lake we tie up to a huge mooring ball and the Panama Canal Advisor is picked up for the night.

Friday, March 26th

  • Our pilot joins us at 5:30am and we begin motoring across the lake
  • At about 10:30 we reach the final set of locks called MIRAFLORES LOCKS
  • We raft back up and enter the locks.
  • You should be able to see us on the MIRAFLORES webcam which is quite good and it will be daytime at about 11:20 but I would monitor between 10:30 and noon if you are interested. The kids and I will try and wave towels on deck so you can see something!

We are really excited. I am sorry I haven't written for a while. We have been doing all those things that we have read about for so long and I have been savoring every moment...even the exhaustion. I feel like for so long we (or maybe perhaps I) have let this adventure pull me along, like a current but over the past week there has been a shift. I am finally feeling like I am leading the adventure. The fear has dissipated and I am now feeling excited, curious, and happy.

I am provisioning the boat for 6 to 7 months because from what we have read there won't be a proper grocery store until New Zealand. We have also heard that everything will be very expensive and often times rotten or full of bugs. You can all just imagine what it is like to buy for this extended period. I purchased $1000 worth the other day and made quite a dent in the list but I am sure there will be another $1000 left to spend. Alex and I spent the afternoon dividing and vacuuming sealing everything. $1000 dollars worth of groceries sat out around the boat for a couple of days, while I cleaned and repacked locker after locker. I was shocked when I had all the food repackaged and a home for everything! I even kept an inventory of where every item was stored. We will see how long that lasts :-).

Cornelia (from Gromit) and I figured out how to do all of the paper work for the canal and check out without an agent. We were very proud of ourselves. Many others are paying from 500 to 600 for the services of an agent. We spent 75 each for a fellow who speaks good english and could take us office to office, girl power!

Amelia is the queen of the marina! She knows almost everyone and at least once a day someone introduces themselves to me and says they know my daughter. Man I love her. She makes this whole trip so much more fun. She is loving having her friends (Maia and Zoe from Gromit) here. They are swimming non stop. Alex is also doing great. He has made a good friend from France named Wesley and despite the language barrier they have been having a great time. Alex's mission this past week has also been to get as much knowledge from all the salty sailors on fishing. He has $50 to spend at Panama City and he wants more gear and wants to get the biggest bang for his buck. Through his conversations with our neighbor Harry he generously offered Alex lures, a rod and even some line! You can imagine how thrilled he is. He has been pouring through a book he borrowed from Gromit on fishing. It is so cool to see him this excited.

Graham is doing great. He has gotten so many things done while we have been on dock. He doesn't often sit and take a break (but I know he loves a project). He had our AIS working before but know it is realizing it's full potential. We can now see other boats overlayed on our radar and chartplotter. It is very cool and will bring a huge peace of mind as we cross the Pacific.

Early yesterday morning Graham, Alex and I went for a walk. It is shocking that we can walk only a short distance out of the marina and see so many cool things. We saw a huge migration of Capuchin monkeys jumping from tree to tree. It was one of those moments when you hope you don't all of a sudden wake up. So neat to see babies on the mom's back and the look out monkeys throwing branches at us. Really unbelieveable. We also saw a couple spider monkeys. Oh and the other day I saw an ant eater! They look just like the ones in the cartoons.

Today I am going to cook, cook, cook. We are told and we saw when we went through, that the transit through the canal is all about the food! It really is a celebration. I have to tell you that when we cross under the Bridge of Americas on Artemo and head into the Pacific Ocean it is going to be a moment that none of us will soon forget.

March 16, 2010

Quick Note from Panama

Hi Everyone! We are at the Panama Canal on the Caribbean Sea side. We are transiting through the canal today with another boat to get the knowledge of how it goes before we take Artemo through! I am in a huge rush but I wanted to post some pictures of our fun at San Blas. A couple of quick notes that I will write more about when we are back from our trip through tomorrow, Gromit made it safe and sound! Their boat looks amazing and we are all VERY happy to finally be together. Jeremy and Chris are back in Toronto. We had a perfect visit with them. They got a taste of lots of aspects of our life! They even had their own private dolphin show as we drank our morning cappuccinos, jumps and all! Absolutely amazing. Ok, I gotta run. Enjoy the pictures of San Blas and I will write of our adventures this past week very soon!

March 11, 2010

What the heck is BURGOA??

Yesterday after 10 hours of sailing and being sea sick (or possibly hungover from Margie's bday celebrations) we arrived at Isla Grande. The guide book says that Isla Grande is a holiday island for Pandamainians with hotels, restaurants and mini supermarkets. NOT! We found the mini market. It was just a lady behind a dusty counter with a few items on the shelf behind her that you needed to point at to receive. There was nothing super about it. We found THE restaurant on a dock and we were the only customers. When we came in we passed this very old women. She moved very slowly and only nodded when we passed and all chimed "Hola". There were two fellows wearing only shorts who fished right next to our table. We ordered from the Spanish menu. Graham and Amelia stuck to what they knew...pollo (chicken). Alex went with fillet of something....had to be fish and I spotted BURGOA on the menu. Omg. After a couple of weeks without meat a burger sounded delicious!

I watched as the waitress approached the old woman with our carefully written menu items....and then I realized, this was the cook. The woman took the sheet to kitchen and got her glasses out. Once she had read the items over thoroughly she got out a book? Not sure what happened after that but 30 minutes later we had 4 really disgusting meals in front of us! LOL.

The chicken was chicken, just not that tasty. The fillet of fish could of been used as a puck and my burger was not a burger! We are thinking maybe burgoa means octopus but if anyone finds the answer let us know. I am really hoping it wasn't turtle.

This morning we woke up and took the dinghy over to the most amazing sand beach on Isla Grande. The water was clear and deep up to the shore, so we all had wonderful sea baths. There was one other lady on the beach with her 3 yr old daughter Luna. She was a backpacker from Germany staying in a hostel nearby. It was funny because she watched as we left Artemo and pulled our dinghy to shore, it was like we had just landed in a UFO. She said she just couldn't imagine our life. Too funny. We were so impressed with her backpacking with her child. What a cool way to travel.

We arrived in Portobello today. We will be meeting Jeremy and Chris here tomorrow. We went to town to see if we could get some groceries and you won't believe what we saw walking down the road??? Amelia's earrings. LOL. One of the cruisers (Wendy) that she had swam up to in one of the bays in San Blas was walking down the street and wearing the earrings that Amelia had made. This made Amelia very happy. We all had a good visit in a shady bar and then made our way over to the grocery store (again I use that word loosely).

Well tomorrow will be exciting. I told Chris and Jeremy to take a bus to Portobello and walk to the dinghy dock and jump up and down and yell for us. Chris said that they would be the 2 guys waving enormous Canada Flags on the dock. We have no idea what time they will be getting in and we are hoping it all goes well. We can't wait to see them.

March 08, 2010


The last few days life has returned to normal. In the morning the kids do their school work, Graham fixes something and I help the kids, tidy and bake something. In the afternoon we go off to snorkel the reef. We usually call our friends on a boat called Siren's Song to come and play with us. They are 3 really cool ladies sailing together. Carol is the captain and Margie is her friend. Rixzene is on board as crew for a few weeks. They are the folks that we bought the Hooka off of in Cartagena. Rixzene is also the doctor who took a look at Alex when he got strep throat. Funny how our lives keep connecting.

It is so inspiring to meet women who are taking care of themselves. Self reliance in the true sense of the word....not like the 'Graham reliance' I tend to practice :-)! Rixzene's love of the underwater world fuels the kids on. It is definitely contagious. I can't wait to show you some of the photos. The reef at this anchorage reminds me of the reef that made me fall in love with snorkelling in Eqypt. It is deep, deep, deep on one side and a beautiful shelf of coral on the other. The fish are abundant and you can see some really cool things if you look hard enough, just like an easter egg hunt. The kids love to have me watch them and have them point out all these cool new friends.

Lady H came in to the anchorage yesterday to. We met Lady H in Blanquilla, Venezula when we buddy boated overnight with them to Los Roques. Joyce is a dive master and Paul is a real character. They made a hairy carry choppy overnight sail so much better. I remember every time I called Paul and Joyce on the vhf they were the voice of calm. Totally put everything in perspective. Joyce brought over a gift today for the kids, since she had heard they got their dive certification. She brought them a beautiful fish identifying book. I just can't help but think how lucky we are to have so many amazing people cross our paths.

(oh another interesting fact to throw in here to before I forget is that the other day we met this really cool lady out sailing on her boat and after we had spent a nice time with her enjoying a beer, we say good bye and Graham says, "Do you mind me asking what you do back home?" and she says that she is the co-author of the Unix System Administrator Textbook, currently on its 6th edition. I couldn't believe it. I remember owning this book in college! funny)

We have so much power right now it is so great. It brings me such pleasure to see the kids looking at how many amps we are using and what voltage the batteries are charged to. I love that they can see the direct correlation to the power they are using.

Today we finally got word of the most exciting news!!! Our friends who we met in 2006 on an off shore sailing course in Toronto and who bought their bought and renovated it in their driveway are ENROUTE TO PANAMA AND WILL ARRIVE ON FRIDAY!!!!! We have all planned, talked and dreamed about Gromit (their boats name) and Artemo sailing across the Pacific together since we met them and now this moment is so close. I am welling up (of course) as I type. Their story is so similar to ours. They have also had many trials and tribulations. I can't wait to journey with them. You will hear lots about Cornelia (mom), Mike (dad), Zoe (12 yr old daughter), Maia (10 yr old daughter), and Liam (7 yr old son) as we continue across the pacific. You can see the link to their blog on the links side of this page.

Our plans are to pick up Jeremy and Chris in Portobello, Panama on Friday. This will allows us to bring them on board for the night and then sail on Saturday for the final 4 hours to the entrance of the Panama Canal together. It will be so awesome to have this moment with them. Then once we dock Artemo, Gromit should be there waiting for us! Everyone think positive thoughts that Gromit's journey from Jamaica to Panama goes off without a hitch!!!

Well, we just finished a nice dinner of bean burritos and rice. The cupboards are looking pretty bare. Time to get moving. I need a grocery store. I am craving a double double and a chocolate dip donut!!! Think of me tomorrow in the Tims line up.

Miss you in San Blas


March 06, 2010


We have been having a few sick days on board. The kids both picked up Kayvon's cold before he left. The weather has been perfect for staying in bed, reading and watching dvds; overcast, cloudy and light showers.

I have been spending my time reading up on provisioning and new recipes. I am shocked that after almost a month since I bought groceries we are still making delicious meals. Yesterday for lunch I tried out a new lentil burger recipe and made a couple loaves of bread. Everything turned out great! This is all a huge accomplishment for a person who normally doesn't even make macaroni.

I have learned so much about food storage on this short leg of our trip. Thank goodness we had this trial period before heading off for months on the Pacific. Who knew that you could keep lettuce for up to a month, washed and wrapped in paper towel and in a zip lock bag in the fridge or that cabbage will still taste great after a couple months if stored cool and in plastic? Paper towel seems to be the key to so many of the vegetables and checking this often for moisture and rot.

I am realizing how important spices, dried herbs and sauces are. It is shocking what a little basil or red wine vinegar can do to a plain dish. I will also need to stock up on a bunch of pita bread and tortillas because they last forever and taste great heated up in a fry pan. So many tricks and lucky we have so many books on board all about it. (again Graham's foresight!)

I have also found out what all the hype is about regarding the pressure cooker. They are amazing. Great one pot meals; stews, soups, popcorn and even bread...if you can believe it!

Right now we are all craving whole grains. There was no whole wheat flour or grains to be found in Cartagena. We are also craving greens. I should of bought more cabbage. We still have a couple of tomatoes left (I bought them hard and green), carrots, potatoes, onions and garlic. There is a dugout canoe that comes by every couple of weeks with a few basics and last time we were able to pick up a pineapple and watermelon! I hope we see him soon.

We took the kids over to the island we are anchored next to last night before sunset for some fresh air and a short walk. There are two Kuna families living on the island. The Kuna Indians are very traditional. They live in wood thatched huts with open fires. They wear traditional clothing. The youngest male in the family is raised to dress and act as a woman. It is their custom but seems so strange. I am not sure of the reasoning but if I find out I will let you know. On this island there was a man dressed as a woman with a small child. He looked quite beautiful. We watched from the shore as he washed out a pot in the ocean and went back to his hut to prepare a meal. The strange thing was that none of us discussed this scene until we were back at the boat. We all just walked along quietly and took it all in.

The Kuna support themselves by fishing and making Mola's. Mola's are embroidered pieces of cloth that are really exceptional. Amelia and I bought one yesterday from Venicia. Another Kuna man who spoke and acted as a woman. He was very sweet and his work is beautiful. I will post a picture of it once we are near internet. Amelia gave him a really nice bracelet that she had made.

I am hopeful the kids are feeling better this afternoon. There is a big potluck being organized by one of the cruisers on a deserted island. Should be fun. Amelia and I made a batch of brownies to bring.

A couple of down days has given Graham and opportunity to wire and install our propane control and detection system, wire and set up our AIS and figure out the problem with our auto pilot and rig up a temporary fix! I wonder sometimes if he will ever run out of things to do? Not likely.

Martha brought me a book when she came down called "Mister Pip". The kids and I have been reading it out loud. It is really good. It is the small pleasures like crowding around a book together that make me remember with such clarity why I have chosen this life.

March 02, 2010

Bikini Stains

Well here I sit in the cockpit watching Martha, Tara and Kayvon get back onto their little tiny plane to head home. Our vacation has come to an end. I am surprised how much easier life was with the 3 of them on board. The kids were so happy and it was really nice to have an extra set of hands on board to help out. We are all really going to miss them. They were the perfect boat guests.

We all liked to hear what they thought of our life on a boat. I remember Kayvon said one day, "Is this what your life is like every day?". I was so happy for the kids to hear that and know that they haven't got it to bad!

They were all unbelievable great about their water and electricity consumption. They were totally cool with ocean baths with our sea savon soap and Martha learned how to do the dishes with a very, very, very tiny amount of water and even managed to convince us that she didn't mind!

Everyone stubbed their toes and got a few bruises from maneuvering around but nothing out of the ordinary. Millie noticed today as we were waiting for their plane that Tara had major tan lines from all the sun they had gotten. She says..."Holy! Look at your bikini stains!" Too funny. I guess that will be Tara's reminder of her time here for a few weeks.

I guess highlights for me would be the fire on the beach, hearing everyone's stories of snorkeling with the sting rays, pulling up at a new island and seeing everyone's faces, and seeing everyone enjoy the high high high...HIGH-LIGHTS.

We now are looking forward to March 11th, when our friends Chris and Jeremy arrive at the Panama for our adventures through the canal. Life is pretty good.

....Thank You Martha, Kayvon and Tara for a week we will never forget. You made the San Blas even more special for us. Oh and thank you for lugging all our boat parts and various odds and ends from Toronto down to us. Mucho Gracias!!!!