Polynesian Dancing….sort of. – by Karin Jnr.

Frankly, when we arrived in Nuku-Hiva I was quite relieved. We had read a book that took place on the island. It was written quite a few years ago, when there were still cannibals prowling about. The place that they write about in the book actually exists. The writer had spent some of his years on the island and used an actual real location instead of inventing a whole new spot on the island. That was pretty cool. The book was sort of boring sometimes, since it was rather old and not the sort of gripping tale we’re used to today. But because we were actually heading for the island at the time it made it more real and interesting.

So when we arrived at the island, it was just after a 27 day crossing, right? I was relieved to see land again, but I was happy with just that. I didn’t go ashore with the first shore party. I like traveling, but I don’t really like going into the unknown. After I’ve been there once, it’s ok. It’s different when visiting friends and you’re curious as to what their natural habitat (their house) actually looks like. But when you know you’ll have to acclimatize to new shops and cultures and stuff…

I did go to shore eventually. They enticed me with Wi-Fi. But that’s not important or interesting, so I’ll skip to the juice.

We attended some sort of dance carnival thing the second night there, I think… Some boat friends, who had already been in Nuku-Hiva for a while, joined us.

The thing was supposed to start at eight, so we arrived an hour early because we wanted good seats and also to eat there. We got a reasonably good table and ordered our food. (Fun fact, the percentage of tomato growth on the island was low for our stay there. The restaurants, which only opened for this time of year, got first pick at the market, and they scavenged all the tomatoes there were. So if you wanted some tomato you’d have to order it.) Our food arrived and the portions were huge! Luckily we had decided to share instead of each getting our own. The other kids, all smaller than us, each got their own and had to take doggy bags.

It’s important to note that Nuku-Hiva is French territory. So their food is nothing to sneeze at. So at the other French islands we’ve been to, it’s usually smaller portions of great quality rather than big portions of quantity. Here it was both Quantity and Quality. When I look at the Polynesians I’m not really surprised. There are fat ones among them, but few of them are obese. They’re just built bigger. Look at Maui from Moana. If he doesn’t look typical Polynesian I don’t know who does, without the moving tattoos and Giant fishhook though… they don’t all have those.

So we waited for the thing to start. We weren’t very sure what it actually was because of course they all spoke either French or Marquesan, only a little bit of English. All we knew was that it was supposed to be cultural.
It turned out to be some sort of fashion show. There were four models, three female and one male.

The first few outfits were made out of plants and stuff, I guess to be a sort of memory to their ancestors who were… uncivilized.

Then it went and progressed on and on to more modern stuff. It was rather interesting to watch, between every ‘level’ they’d have a short interlude where something else would happen.


A few times it was a little play acted out by the guy who announced the stuff and some other two guys who used a broomstick as a pretend gun to shoot the woman in blue who was pretending to be some kind of bird. The narrator guy was a… game official kind of person and I think they were disputing if the guy who shot the bird was allowed to keep her since it landed on his neighbours’ land or something. I’m not sure. Maybe it was plain Tapu (forbidden) to shoot the beautiful bird. I don’t know. It was quite interesting to watch though. The skit was in French for the few other tourists who were typically from France since Nuku-Hiva is French territory and all… But we still didn’t understand much.

Once the interlude filler was a Polynesian dance that was what we thought we’d be coming to see all along. It was pretty and cool.

However it had a transgender guy dancing in the middle of it… It was a little disturbing to watch. There’s quite a lot of it going on, on the islands. It’s sad, the funny thing we noticed however was that when dancing, he just couldn’t manage to look as elegant and flowing as the women around him did. His movements were more solid and stiff. It’s amusing, sometimes, the differences God has designed between genders. Little things like that…


The next weekend we were still there, and they had another cultural thing. The guy at the Marina shop (he was formerly American or something so his English was good) told us that it was going to be more dance this time. So we went.

The performance proved to be more centred on dance than the previous time. There were a lot more people, but still very few tourists. We got the feeling tourists were more of an extra than the income. Nothing was done specifically for us; they were doing it for themselves, not to impress the odd tourist. It was a very refreshing feeling after the Galapagos, where the main thing is Tourists. The ‘How can I impress the tourist’ mindset just wasn’t there.

It was impressive dancing. The guys’ dance moves are strong and solid, completely different from the women who flow and sway. The guys’ dances are aggressive, with loud calling and unisons of ‘huh!’ sounds. I’m very sure that most of the people reading this blog will have seen a Haka performed by the New Zealand All Blacks – well, there you have a little glimpse into what the Polynesian war dances look like. That’s exactly what a Haka is, it’s a war dance.

The woman were a lot more graceful – you can’t see it in the photo, but their hips are swaying like crazy!

I think that’s all I got to say about the dances. So there you have it, a completely uninformative blog as to how they actually dance, but more of a rough image that tells you that they do indeed dance.

I think the dancing was one of the coolest stuff about their culture… Ok, maybe not. There is always the awesome tattoos and all the other stuff, but I won’t go into that.

Nuku Hiva – by Marike

Nuku Hiva didn’t have very clear water, but it wat GREAT to see land again!

Nuku Hiva is an imposing island, with shear walls curling around the sheltered valleys. Once we were anchored inside the little bay, we were almost surrounded by land, as the opening to the bay isn’t that big.

What do I remember of Nuku Hiva?

Huge pampelmoes (grapefruit that tastes exquisite), everyone wearing a flower behind the ear and also the steamy hot-house feeling in the late-afternoons after a rain shower. Nuku Hiva is part of the Marquesan group of islands, which in turn is part of the bigger French Polynesia. This, of course, means that there are subsidised baguettes for sale in the tiny little shops! Yay!

The food on Nuku Hiva is excellent. The combination of French and Polynesian . . . I really like it. You can buy fresh baguette every morning to eat with French quality cheese and local honey. Or even with paté, if you so wish. We supplemented this with great big pampelmoes or any of the other fruit that are available, such as banana or papaya. (All delicious.)

On Saturdays there is a mini-market close to the dock for the tourists. (One thing I LOVE about islands: everything important is within easy walking distance!) Vegetables sell out really quickly, so if you want vegetables you need to be there early. In the tropics there are more than enough fruit – it’s the vegetables that don’t grow so well.

At this mini-market they also sell some local … puddings. They would be cakes, I suppose, except they definitely jiggle. They taste really good. They had a sago-pudding like texture, but not quite. I think they were manioc puddings. They were yummy.

Another very interesting dish was the banana leaf-wrapped parcel. We were told this dish can be made using tin foil instead of banana leaves, but that’s not the traditional method. Basically its young bananas mashed up with coconut milk to form a kind of paste. This is then wrapped up in banana leaves and cooked in a pit. (I’m not sure if there are any more ingredients involved.) The result is quite delicious. ^_^

Banana all parcelled up and a tapioca pudding on the side

Banana mash…thing?

We read a book on our crossing from the Galápagos to Nuku Hiva: Typee by Herman Melville. It really enriched our experience of Nuku Hiva, by introducing us to strange words and concepts before we encountered them in real life. It’s an old book, describing life as it used to be for the Polynesians who lived on the island in the time before there were a lot of European people there.

Many of the things we learned from the book are only relevant to the history of the island, but there is one specific thing we learned from the book which is still quite prevalent: the eating of “pooey-pooey”. To my great delight, we actually had the opportunity to taste some!

Pooey-pooey is a kind of sticky goo made from fermented breadfruit. It tastes a bit like beer and none of us liked it especially. It was just very cool to know it really exists!

In the book, the hero is constantly mentioning pooey-pooey as a dish the locals eat. Typee is one of those older, really descriptive books where the setting of a scene takes priority over any action that might serve to keep a story line going. It seemed as though every meal had to be carefully documented and pooey-pooey was a major recurring theme.


We love coconuts! Nobody pays for coconuts on Nuku Hiva. You just pick them up from the ground.

We didn’t spend nearly so much time in the South Pacific as my Dad had hoped we would. We have learned the hard way that sailing is mostly being stuck in places you don’t specifically care for and skipping through the spots that are the stuff dreams are made of.

Some time ago we worked out that around a third of our time, we actually spend at sea! That is, actively moving from one place to another.

From top to bottom: France; French Polynesia; Nuku Hiva.

Even though Nuku Hiva wasn’t the diving utopia my Dad really wanted to get to, we still could have stayed in Nuku Hiva for a month! It was the island where we learned the most about the historical culture of the Pacific.

Many factors led to us having such a rich experience in the short time we were there. Nuku Hiva is a little out of the way – there are very few people actually living there. No big towns, only quiet villages. “Out of the way” also means that it doesn’t attract many tourists. Sure, quite a few yachts come by, but cruisers do NOT inspire the same hustle and bustle as holiday-goers would! Everything is relaxed. Overall people work on ‘Island time’.


The main thing we spent money on was the island tour.

Up to date the Nuku Hiva island tour has been the best we’ve ever had – mostly just because there is so much to work with on Nuku Hiva!

The island used to be rather over-populated before the European settlers arrived, so the island is choc’n’block full of … stuff. Old meeting grounds, pi-pis, shells and rocks used for tools, some old tiki – the list could go on.

We kicked off the tour with a lovely look-out over the bay and then headed to another part of the island.

Our guide, Richard, told us stories about when he was young. How everyone used to ride horses everywhere and how they trained dogs to smell out where the chickens were hiding their eggs. Now, of course, they don’t have to do those things anymore. The French government has built a lovely road for cars to drive on and there is now a chicken farm on Nuku Hiva.

Let loose in the museum. (We had the guide’s approval!)

The club my Dad is holding is specifically Nuku Hivian.

We did many various and wonderful things, including a visit to Typee valley, the place where Hermin Melville’s novel is located.

We saw many pi-pis. Pi-pis are large, rectangular blocks of piled rocks. The individual rocks are quite large and they are stacked carefully into these platforms that the people used to build their houses on. I have no idea how old they are, but I’m guessing pretty old.

A rather overgrown pi-pi

An example of what the structures on top of the pi-pi s could have looked like


All through the tour we were allowed to pick fruit! There were limes, avocado and we also picked some pamplemoes – so delicious and FREE! ^_^ It was pretty awesome.

Richard helping Sophia reach the pampelmoes

At some stage we also visited a souvenir shop, which had some pretty cool stuff in it.

Karin and I were really fascinated by the tattoos.

I remember hitting Rio de Janeiro for the first time and feeling overwhelmed by all the tattoos. Our circles back home has very few people with tattoos, so it was quite shocking. However, the surprise soon wore off. To tell the truth, I’m starting to wonder how I could ever have been shocked by tattoos at all.

But I do still really dislike tattoos that don’t compliment the person. Generally I like something small and flowing. Big and gaudy don’t cut it.

The Pacific tattoos fascinate us because they are geometric. Patterns and pictures, yes, but … complimenting. Of course, each symbol has a meaning: chess-board squared represent pi-pi rocks, certain lines are fish, many other symbols are specific to certain families.

Richards’ tattoos

On the other side of the island we enjoyed a very good lunch and then visited a little museum before returning to the boat with all our spoils.

(We bought the bananas)

Expensive trinkets and free fruit. ^_^

Nuku Hiva was a very good introduction to our time in the Pacific.

Operation Mahi-Mahi – by Sophia


Now before I start with this story  I must say that we are not the best fish caching people. So if you happen to be a good fisherman then it would probably be a good idea for you not to read this, because you would get a heart-attack.


We as a family have a very interesting history with fish, for example: the first fish did not want to die and we had to kill it with the winch handle there was blood everywhere! Lost our lure once because we forgot it out over-night, etc. but I am not going to talk about just any time that we caught fish but THE Mahi-mahi operation.


Now we all agreed that the crossing from the Galápagos to the Marquesas was to be the time when we where supposed to catch fish. We put the line out every day until I thought there where no fish in the ocean. So when Franci and I were bringing in the line we where not expecting a fish…BAM! To our surprise, there it was. Sadly it never made it on board. The fish gave a great leap in the air and twisted itself off the hook… no fish for us that night.

The next day we caught one on each line at the same time. And… lost them. Again, we failed in catching our dinner.

Again we tried. We caught a Mahi-Mahi, pulled it one to the boat, but didn’t manage to get it into the frying pan as it thrashed wildly and jumped back into the ocean. So we had to wait another day. I thought we weren’t good at fishing, but now I knew. Yet, despite our dampened spirits, we lowered our lines again the next day.

The lines snapped taught. We had fish yet again! Franci and Dad tackled the one line furiously. We were determined not to lose dinner again! As Franci and Dad tackled the line I was called up by the now familiar cry of ‘ONS HET ‘N VIS!! ONS HET ‘N VIS!!’ (we have a fish, we have a fish) as Karin ran down to fetch the camera. Of course everybody was now in the cockpit, maybe today would be the day, we finally caught… dinner.

My Dad was wrestling the fish the keep it one board. Now he was on top. Now the fish was on top. But at last he conquered it. Sitting on the fish to keep it still while hacking it with a hammer.

Marike, meanwhile, was checking on the other line. Just in case, you know. She felt a strong pull and a yank she. On by our vas experience and knowledge on the subject, she knew instinctively… there was a fish. She kept it trailing in the water until Dad could come and help. You wouldn’t believe how strong those fish are.

And that is how we became experts in the arts of fishing! 😀

The next day, we put out lines, excited by out victory the day before. We caught one mahi-mahi with much excitement, bordering on blazé. We now had a lot of fish, yet foolishly, the next day we put the lines out again. Franci was now addicted.

We caught one, lost one, one just twisted off. For little did we know that we were not fated to catch another Mahi-mahi that trip. And that we were entering the dark and ominous territory of the dreaded Kidron (dramatic music plays)

We never saw him, we never saw him strike. But time after time he left his mark. First, one lure disappeared. We reaplaced it carefully tying the knot and checking the hook. But then, both lures disappeared, chomped off by his menacing jaws and hungry desire for squid lures….

And that concludes the Mahi-mahi operation.

Marquesas Crossing – by Franci

This is our chartplotter screen when we were 2222 nautical miles from the Marquesas. I don’t spesifically remember it, but we probably have the engine on at this point as we’re moving at 5,7 knots but the wind speed is only 9.1 knots.

This following blog is a little different, because I actually wrote it during the crossing. Sort of like a diary entry especially for the blog, kind of thing. Anyway, so here it is:

As I am writing this we are coming to the middle of our eleventh day at sea. We’ve done 1265 nautical miles so far – another 1776 to go! I am seriously starting to miss being able to walk far distances, it gets a bit cramped on the boat after a while.

We’ve more or less managed to find a routine now. Marike and I are taking the opportunity to finally catch up properly with our school work. This may seem strange to some of you, but we’re actually quite enjoying having one month of uninterrupted school routine.

However, I do struggle to use my days productively while we’re sailing. I’m not sure if it’s just us or if other sailors experience it as well, but for us it is really easy to just sleep the day away, and then somehow manage to doze at night as well. And it’s so easy to just sit and stare at the ocean and all its undulating waves. . .I know there are other things I need/want to do (like blogging – Marike is trying very hard to make us catch up), but then I end up staring at the sea some more.

In the mornings the last watch officially ends at 8 o’clock, so that’s when I wake up. At 9-ish we eat breakfast and do family devotions and then from about 10:00 till 15:00 we do school. At 16:30 we all converge in the cockpit and learn some French out of our “French for cruisers” book (a very useful tool for any boat going to a French-speaking country). And then my mom reads our family book aloud to us till dinner. We all do various activities while listening to the story: Karin draws characters from her daydreams, Sophia either draws or colours in, Marike draws or makes crafts, and I just add a few more patterns to my pattern book. Although, if the boat is too unsettled we tend to resort to phone games rather than pencils.   I realise that some of you might be a bit sceptical as to whether we’re actually able to do activities and listen to a story, but the truth is that the activities actually help us concentrate on the story. Honest : ).

Unlike most sailing vessels we do not actually have a set designated day watch, the only requirement is that someone should be in the cockpit during the day, and if possible, that person should not be my Dad.   Our night watches are very formal though. I’m sure our night watches have been explained before, but because we’ve chopped and changed a few things (and because I like telling people facts ; P), I’m going to explain the watches again. The watches run from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., with each person getting a four hour slot that overlaps with two other people’s slots. So the watches are from 20:00-00:00, 22:00-2:00,00:00-4:00, 2:00-6:00, and then a wonky watch that gets split into two with the person getting two hours in the early night and two in the morning (from 20:00-22:00, and then 6:00-8:00). Right from our very first crossing it was established that my Dad gets the 4:00-8:00 watch, as he is a morning person and normally wakes up at around four anyway. After much trial and error it has been established that my Mother gets the wonky watch, so that she can spend two hours with my Dad in the morning and (actually quite crucial for the rest of the day’s routine) make breakfast as soon as the watches are over. The rest of us have to cast lots to see which watches we get and then we shift watches after a week so that the unlucky one isn’t stuck with a watch they don’t like. My favourite watch is the middle watch of 00:00-4:00, because you get four hours sleep before the watch and when you go back to bed you can fall asleep in the happy knowledge that the morning is still quite a while off. My least favourite watch is the 22:00-2:00 watch; if we watch a movie or if dinner was a little late, we often get to bed later than 20:00, which means that precious sleeping time before my watch has been lost; also, I always seem to be in a nice deep sleep at around 22:00 and then it’s not fun having to wake up when it’s my turn to go up : /.

Marike mostly blogs during her watches (if the weather is calm enough for her to have the laptop in the cockpit) and I do most of my Bible reading in my first two hours. Karin and I help each other memorise Bible verses when we’re together and whichever one of us is with my Dad reads Percy Jackson to him. I’m not sure what Sophia does during her watches, I haven’t had her as a partner yet.

So, that’s roughly what our daily routine looks like right now. It’s not monotonous though. The wind and sea is always changing, if ever so slightly. It has been more settled than in our first week at sea. The wind is about 11-12 knots and the water is calm. The calmer the water, the less wind we need in order to move at a respectable speed. We also have a current in our favour, which is helping (although I, for one, am still not entirely sure how there can be a current of 1+ knots in the middle of the ocean).

My Dad uses our Satphone to download his emails once per day, and any news received through there is always fun to hear, no matter how little it is.

Before starting the crossing we had thought the Pacific Ocean would be almost empty, except for ourselves. It surprised us, therefore, when we saw a fishing vessel marked on our AIS and then saw its very bright lights on the horizon as we got closer. It turned out to be only one of a whole fleet of big tuna factory ships cruising the area. We could see their lights scattered around us that whole night and only finally lost sight of our last one the following afternoon.

On a more cheerful note, we’ve also had the privilege of seeing two pods of dolphins : D. In the first pod the dolphins were grey and very big – with an average length of about 2m. They spent quite a bit of time swimming back and forth at our prow (front of the boat). Our bowsprit is the best place from where to watch dolphins, since it hangs over the water and the dolphins at the prow swim beneath it. While sitting there we can often also hear some of the dolphins chattering clicks and whistles.


The dolphins of the second pod were much smaller, and bicoloured : ). Their backs were black/dark grey and their faces and chests were light grey/white, with a very definite line splitting the two colours. These delightful little creatures didn’t stay with us long though, but were soon speeding off in their own direction – disappearing into the light of the yellow setting sun. To our delight they gave us a last show as the whole pod started porpoising into the sunset (jumping completely out of the water and diving in again a second later). The best way to describe it is that they were all engaged in a high speed pursuit. Maybe they were chasing the flyingfish we’d seen a few moments before their arrival, or maybe they were just playing.

And then of course, there is all our fish drama. We’ve never been good fishermen and not particularly successful with our trawling lines we put out during crossings. A very big reason for this would be the fact that Sophia and I were the ones mostly driving the project. Since she and I like putting out the lines and like the prospect of catching a fish, but neither actually like eating the fish, we never drove the project too hard ; P. But as of three days ago Marike and my Dad have officially taken over the project. My Dad had enough of reading about other sailors catching so much fish on this crossing and yet we still had managed to land none (and he also actually likes eating the fish, so it makes more sense for him to drive the project). Up until this point we’ve only every really caught tunas – they are difficult to haul up because they’re strong, but once they are out of the water they are no trouble, they just seem to be utterly surprised and shocked not to be in the water anymore. However, here in the Pacific the fish that bite the lures are Mahi-mahi and they are aggressive! These fish do not stop fighting until they’ve been dead for a few minutes. They twist and turn and fight and tug. Thus far we’ve lost two of them while pulling them in towards the boat, and the one we actually managed to get on board managed to twist off the hook and jump off!   Marike loves challenges (and also the idea that we can make our stores last longer by supplementing it with fish), and has taken on the project of catching a Mahi-mahi with gusto. She and my Dad swapped the broken and old lures for new ones and discussed and practiced the best way of getting a Mahi-mahi on board and keeping it on board.

We have two trawling lines out, each tied to a ring at the outside of either side of the cockpit. From the rings the lines go underneath the safetylines and into the sea. Our lines consist of a short piece of rope attached to a piece of bungee cord (which takes the strain and prevents the fishing line from snapping if a particularly large fish should grab the lure). Up until this trip we never actually knew when we caught a fish, we just sort of checked the line every now and then and hoped the fish hadn’t been stuck on the lure for too long before we pulled it out. Ahem. Anyway. . .My Dad came up with a very easy and simple solution: he put a washing peg on the lip of the cockpit and hooked the rope of the line over the peg; when a fish jerks the line the peg jumps off with a nice crisp snapping sound and voila, we know we have a fish : P.

Hopefully when we get to the Marquesas (or whenever else this blog finally gets posted), we’ll have a few photos of us and some big fish to add to it : )



Hooray! I do have lovely Mahi mahi fish fotos to put on this blog : ). We must’ve sailed through a school of them, because both of the lures were taken at the same time!



This action shot gives the wonderful yellow colour the fish become while being hauled in : ). They can change colour from blue to yellow quite quickly





This is us being very happy that we can finally have Mahi Mahi viskoekies (fish cakes) for breakfast

Intermission – by Franci

During the three week crossing from Galapagos to Marquesas we, (i.e. my Dad), had time to plan our route through the Pacific and at which islands we’d have time to stop. Unfortunately, because of our long delay in Panama and our deadline to be in Fiji at 1 October, we only had about 3 months for the myriad of islands scattered throughout the Pacific. And due to the immense size of the Pacific, one month of that time would be spent in just getting from one island to the other.


This frustrated my Dad especially. He hadn’t wanted to stay that long in Panama and also there hadn’t been too much to do there tourist-wise. The rest of us didn’t feel quite so sad about this prolonged stay (I didn’t, anyway.) Most of our time in Panama was spent at Shelter Bay Marina and it is situated in the middle of an army/naval nature reserve – acres of ground covered in beautiful rainforest right on our doorstep : D (metaphorically of course, because boats don’t actually have doorsteps).

And … lots of rainforest equals lots of birds. ; )

The first week at the marina we were still figuring out how everything worked and were becoming familiar with our new surroundings. Marike started doing yoga stretches in the morning and I joined her once or twice, but then I went on a walk with my Dad and we met some other yachties who were bird watching. . .bottom line: yoga lost me forever!  There were a few of us who would leave the marina at about 7, and then just wander down a path that leads deeper into the forest. We never got very far, though. After an hour and a half’s birdwatching, I could get back to the boat in less than 5 minutes ; D. It’s just because there were so many different birds to see! In the three months we were in Panama I saw about 120 species of birds, almost all just in the small area of Shelter Bay Marina.

The male Golden-collared Manakin (Manacus vitellinus). I was really happy to get this wonderful clear shot of this densbush-loving little bird : )


A Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus). I just had to include a picture of one, since they are one of the birds mostly commonly and easily seen. Because they catch insects they often sit quietly on open perches and then (seemingly totally random) fly a short, erratic dance and then calmly return to their perch as if nothing happened.

My absolute favourite bird was the Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) that hung out close to the cruisers’ veranda. These are adorable little birds: they have grey backs and long, light yellow legs. Underneath they are snow white and completely bereft of any spots except during the breeding season. As they walk their tail is constantly bobbing up and down and this is joined by an irregular head bob here and there. I often saw it alone when it was hunting on the grass for insects. The bird’s tail would bob-bob-bob until it spotted a potential meal, then it suddenly went completely still and slowly moved closer step-by-step with its head down, ready to strike. It only takes a split-second longer for the bird to quickly grab its prey and then to resume its tail bobbing as if nothing at all had happened.

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) on the hunt.

One of the bird-watchers had a hummingbird feeder which we set up in a quiet corner of our daily path. We were actually quite pleased by how many visitors came to it – they’re just very hard to photograph!

A Long-billed Hermit (Phaethornis longirostris). I am extremely pleased with this photo. These Hermits (don’t worry, I’m also not exactly sure why they’re not called Hummingbirds) fly in little time-travel jerks. When they’re actually moving they move too fast for me to see them – all I hear is wirring wings. But then they hang in the air for split seconds in which they are hovering in exactly the same spot and you can see them clearly. Another reason I really like this photo is because you can see the Hermits tongue. Yip, the bird’s beak is black and the rest of that curve is its tongue. Cool fact: only pidgeons and patridges can suck, every other bird species need to tilt their heads back in order to swallow liquid -or they need to lap it up with their tongues : )

In the end it worked out that I was the one that had to keep the feeder filled, as my boat was the only one stocked with white sugar needed for the sugar water. It has to be white sugar because brown sugar isn’t as good for the hummingbirds and artificial sweeteners gives them no nutrition and may cause sores in their mouths. I liked having the job of feeder-filler : ). Whenever I went to replace the old sugar water I took three plastic bottles with me: one with soapy water to clean the feeder, one with normal water to rinse it out and then the sugar water itself. Getting the water in the feeder was slightly tricky, because the rope loop it was hung on was just slightly too high for me. Getting the feeder down wasn’t a problem (as such), but hanging the full feeder back up while balancing on my tipitoes without tilting it (and thus making the feeder and myself quite sticky with sugar water),  was quite a different matter. The one time I managed to do it without spilling anything was when I got Marike to do it for me. ; P

Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus). If you aren’t looking for them, the chances that you’ll see a toucan is remote, because they love the tops of the trees. Just keep watching a tree with any kind of fruit – a toucan is bound to show up.

A male Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena). These birds are actually quite big, but very easy to miss since they are well camoflauged and hardly ever move. When this particular tree was fruiting we (the bird watchers) could always count on some kind of Trogon sitting in its branches.

But there weren’t just birds in the rainforest. There were also capuchins, howler monkeys (to be heard every other day), butterflies (which were very bountiful) and sloths. Panamá apparently means ‘an abundance of butterflies’ in a native language).

Yes, Sloths! = D. We were all excited when we heard that seeing a real, live, wild sloth was actually a possibility. It took a while, though, before we saw our first sloth. When they’re curled up sleeping (which is most of the time) they look like big balls of algae growing in the trees! The first one we saw was while we were on a family outing in the reserve and it was actually quite close to the road : ). In our exuberance we must have disturbed/scared it a bit, because it started running away – very, very, very slowly.

A Three-toed Sloth

In the movie Zootopia they have sloths working in the government office, and this sloth moved and looked exactly like those in the movie (they are Three-toed sloths). During other nature walks we saw more sloths, also of the Two-toed kind. Because of their facial markings the Three-toed sloth looks happier and friendlier than the Two-toed sloth, so I like them the most : ).

A Two-toed Sloth


The White-faced Capuchins always seemed to be high in the trees, and just watching all their antics gave me vertigo (shudder). They think nothing of jumping from one 15m tree to another 15m tree, or of playing wild, fast games there in the heights. I once saw a whole family launching themselves one by one into a palm tree 2 meters away and about 4 meters down (but still another 4 meters above the ground) and the landing place was a very unstable one, according to me. Vertigo is clearly something capuchins do not suffer from.

This is a Coati, another one of Central America’s exotic creatures. They’re usually in family groups, but the whole family never crosses the road at the same time. As soon as you think that the last Coati has finally crossed the road, a few more cross.

There were also a few old abandoned American buildings in the forest that we could walk to. In 1903 The U.S. government started negotiating with the Colombian government for permission to build the Panama Canal. But the Colombian government refused. So then the U.S. helped the local Panamanians gain independence and in return got the contract to build the canal. As part of the original canal building agreement the U.S. obtained the canal and a certain width of the land next to the canal as their permanent possession. However, after many protestations the canal in its entirety, as well as all the land, came under Panamanian ownership in 1999. Unfortunately, most of the American built buildings were stripped of anything useful and are now just standing as old, broken ghosts of what they once were.

The Prison ruins

Shelter Bay Marina has a few of these buildings, including an old theatre (turned into a sail loft), a small chapel, and then also an old prison and three ammunition batteries (built for defence of the canal in the World Wars) deeper into the forest. It was hard to think that these building hidden in the forest were clean and well-kept not so long ago – because now they have trees growing on the roofs and bats and lizards living in the corners.

One of the batteries

Seeing one for the first time I could imagine I was discovering an old Inca temple ; P.

A different battery : )


So that’s why I didn’t mind staying in Panama for so long. It was still a long wait though, and we were all happy when it was finally our turn to go through the canal.  I wanted to write these things about Panama, but then family made the decision to move the blog on before I could add my piece (which is just as well, otherwise the blog, and all of you with it, would still be in Panama).

Galápagos overview add-on – By Franci

First of all I want to apologise to all our readers for the time it has taken for us to put up a new post. During our stay among the Pacific Islands we had the very legitimate excuse that there simply was not enough internet for blogging. But I’m afraid no such excuse can be used any longer.


I will start my writing by merely adding bits to Marike’s Galápagos overview which I think should not be left out. : ) I have nothing more to add to our San Cristóbal or Santa Cruz experiences, but Isabela needs some extra stories.


The bay where we were anchored in at Isabela was more beautiful than in the other islands, partly because it was a lot more remote. Isabela is the biggest Galápagos island, but has the smallest population of all four inhabited islands and the people there are heavily dependent on the tourists coming in from Santa Cruz.  We were not allowed to use our kayak there, because people give kayak tours and they feel a little threatened if ‘normal people’ can go about in their own kayaks – a concern I understand.

To get to land and to the boat at low tide we had to take a special channel around the outside of the small bay we were anchored in, because of all the rocks between us and the land. However, we were not warned of this fact by anyone. The first time we went to land it was high tide, so we just went straight to the dock without thinking much about it. When we came back late that night we were quite shocked when we realized it was now way too shallow to go back to Shang Du the way we had come. The moon was shining brightly on the little waves caused by the shallowness of the water, and we were quite perplexed about how we were going to get back to the boat. We knew there had to be a channel, otherwise someone would have warned us that our boat would only be accessibly at high tide . . . right? By God’s grace my Dad found the channel in the dark and so we didn’t have to wait till 2 a.m. (the next high tide) after all : ) [That had been the only solution I personally could really think of, since my Dad didn’t seem keen to try and carry the dingy over the shallow piece].


Isabela is home to the rare Galápagos Flightless Cormorant, (of which we unfortunately saw none), and the cute little Galápagos penguins (with which we had a chance to snorkel!). The Galápagos Penguin is the second smallest Penguin in the world, just after the Little Blue Penguin of New Zealand. There was a kind of natural snorkel pool close to the dock, and when we got there, there were three completely wild penguins swimming face-down in the snorkel pool, utterly ignoring any human that came close.

We could slowly edge our way right up to them, and if they thought they were coming too close to you or that they suddenly didn’t like you, they would actually peck. (A definite sign that you let the bird come to close). From afar penguins just look beautiful and cute; from close up they are still very cute, but they actually look quite grumpy as well.

At one point the one (a younger one) got out onto the smallest rock sticking out from the snorkel pool. The other two immediately decided that specific rock looked very comfortable and chased him off so they’d  have space to sit (despite the fact that the entire pool was surrounded by rocks sticking out of the water). We and a few other tourists who braved the deeper water went right up to the rock for a better view and the penguins just acted like we weren’t there.  The first penguin tried getting back on the rock, but the other penguin very aggressively  pushed him off so that he nearly fell on top of a tourist!



Marike’s telling of the Blue-footed Boobies nesting was also incomplete. Quick history lesson: the English name for the bird (‘booby’), came from the Spanish word ‘bobo’, which means ‘stupid’. When the Spanish first found the islands they thought these nesting birds were very stupid, because they would stay on the nests and be caught instead of flying away. So now you know where that rather strange name comes from. : )

Blue-footed Boobies pair for life, but the male needs to keep on impressing his female in order to mate.  Apparently, when the male is interested in mating he brings the female little dry sticks as presents. Why on earth a stick is such a lovely present is a total mystery to everyone except these birds. But the more commonly seen way for the male to impress his female is to do a little dance for her: he stands in front of her and alternately waves one foot and then the other in the air  (very funny to watch, especially since the male does it so seriously and earnestly). The dance is ended with the male lifting his wings halfway, throwing his head back and whistling as loud as he can.




Other than those two items I think Marike did a great job in her overview of Galápagos. : ) Although . . . did she ever mention the large Hummingbird Moths that were everywhere? Well then, I’m mentioning them now. And they were everywhere. It was very disconcerting at first because I kept seeing them from the corner of my eye and thinking I was seeing a bird, only to figure out it had been a moth!

Marike has some sugar-water in her hand. That is the only reason the moth is sitting there!




And I just remembered, there is something I want to add to our doings in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz is the main tourist hub.  Everywhere along the wharf there are souvenir shops – the trinkets and shirts are all pretty cool.


We went on a mini tour of the highland and saw some completely wild 100+ year old tortoises sitting in mud pools on someone’s farm. Everything except for the top of their shells and the top of part of their heads were submerged under the gooey mud. They looked like old petrified dinosaurs, because they don’t move fast or often.  Have you ever seen the movie ‘ET the extra-terrestrial’? Well, apparently the director of that movie visited Galápagos and then modeled ET after the tortoises. : D

They got the farmers on Santa Cruz to make the fences high enough for the big tortoises to pass through underneath. At the farm we went they had three old tortoise shells into which we could get for photos. It is very cool, because we could see how the shell is literally bone and how the backbone of the tortoise is attached to the shell.

I curled up in the largest shell and fit without a problem. : ) Maybe Sophia could have fit in the shell with me, but we decided it would probably be best if we didn’t try to find out. ; )


The boat project we tackled while there was our forward water tank. Its one side got quite pitted with rust-bubbles here and there. We’re not sure why it reacted like that. But anyway, as soon as we used all the water in that tank my Dad unbolted the lid and Marike and I took turns working inside. We tried once, and Marike and I could fairly comfortably both sit inside the tank – there just isn’t any space left to work (i.e. to swing the chipping hammer)

Last of all I need to tell of our great big stock up before we left on our 3+ week ocean passage to the Marquesas. All of us (except Marike, who was finishing up the painting on the boat) went to the local food market and took up our battle stations. My Mom was the one choosing the vegetables and fruit; I translated the prices from Spanish and was in charge of the money; my Dad carried away our boxes and bags once we had filled them and Karin and Sophia stayed with the steadily growing pile of food at the front of the market. As our food pile grew the people walking past (mostly locals) would do a double take when they saw these obviously tourist girls sitting next to the pile of food. Among other things we bought 19 dozen eggs – not exactly an amount averagedly bought by normal households, is it? : )

Thankfully we did not have to carry all our spoils back to the dock, but got a taxi to take us back instead. After the provisions were safely packed into their nooks and crannies, we were ready to leave. : )

Galapagos Overview – by Marike

The first things that come to mind when I think of the different Galapagos islands


San Cristóbal

Sea lions. Definitely sea lions. They where everywhere! The last time we saw sea-lions was when we were in South Africa, but they weren’t so plentiful or so bold as the ones in the Galápagos. XD

I think of my first glimpse of the Galápagos ‘arid’ landscape. This is the part that looks, and I quote, “as if it had rained black stones.” (I’m pretty sure that’s how one of the earlier explorers stated it.) Large, jagged, inhospitable black chunks of rock with spindly trees growing out from between them. Cacti are scattered about, some looking like stacked melons.

The animals and birds we found in the Galápagos were very tame, but we noted this especially in San Cristóbal. (Whether it was because it was our first landfall or that the birds there really are tamer than elsewhere, I don’t know.)

I also think of kayaking to the beach in our ‘Panamá Piesang’, (Panamá Banana 😉 ), seeing for the first time that the “glass” bottom actually works!




Here I most definitely think about the volcano, Sierra Negra. It’s last eruption was in 2005 and it is still an active volcano – but it is a friendly volcano. No explosions with ash all over the place, like Mount Pelee in St. Pierre, Martinique. This volcano gives loads of warning before erupting and even then the lava just oozes out. No drama. Sierra Negra is also reported by our guide to have the second largest crater of any active volcano in the world. It is about 10km in diameter and only trumped by the Yellowstone volcano in the USA.

The best part of the volcano tour for me was Volcan Chico, which means ‘volcano child.’ This is the area that the lava flowed into during the last eruption, 12 years ago. It’s really cool to see ‘cooled-lava’-type landscape. We were warned very strictly to stay on the path, since parts of the lava flow could potentially collapse due to air pockets trapped under the surface

The lava was mostly Ai-ai lava. (Ouch-ouch lava). This means the lava, prior to cooling, had been filled with numerous tiny bubbles. (Air or otherwise.) When cooled and broken up into pieces, the surface becomes extremely painful to walk on. (Apparently not quite painful enough to stop Karin going barefoot.)


Isabela is also the island where we took our Tuneles tour. Isabela is quite a big island, but I think about 60% of it is inaccessible by land. (For example, the flightless cormorant lives on Isabela, but the only way to see it is to take a cruise-boat from Santa Cruz island. We weren’t allowed to visit them with our own yacht.)

The Tuneles are old lava tunnels that extend into the sea and, over time, have broken down so that they now look like lava bridges standing in the water. I am SO glad we did that tour – definitely worth it! On our way over to the tunnels we saw manta rays!!! I didn’t think I would ever see manta rays in real life! It was so cool – we even saw one jumping! ^_^ We didn’t swim with them, which would have been the ultimate awesomeness, but to see that huge dark blotch in the water just a metre or two from the boat, “wingtips” sticking out of the water on either side – it was still cool. B)

To get to the tunnels we had a boat ride starting from the pier and we motored for a long way down the coast. (It’s on the way that you see the mantas.) From the open sea the driver of the little speed-boat then needs to navigate a channel that barely is twice the width of his boat right through the middle of breakers. All I can say is that those skippers know their boats and they are definitely extremely local. If it had been a deserted island we would never have found the tunnels on our own!

Gliding through the lava-tunnel formations on the protected water had a certain charm. Cacti grow on-top of the tunnels and the water is so still you can see the damsel fish under the surface, each one protecting it’s patch of algae.

The highlight was that we were able to see blue-footed boobies nesting, which is another national-geographic type experience I didn’t think we would ever get.

One last thing about Isabela – marine Iguanas. Most times after we had tied up our dinghy at the pier and walked up the path a bit, we would find them either on it or next to it, stretched out in their, as Franci calls it, “death poses”. The way they just lie there, it really looks as if they are giving up on life. 😉


Santa Cruz

Thankfully, neither Isabela or Santa Cruz had San Cristóbal’s Sea lion infestation. The first few days are highly entertaining, but the novelty soon wears off – sea lions can really stink and make a noise!

At Santa Cruz we mainly regrouped. School and work needed some catching up on and the forward water tank needed some work.

We did still go to shore. In fact, we even bought some T-shirts at the tourist-trap shops. 😉 As Karin Jr. puts it – San Cristóbal had a case of the dive shops. You see the red flag with the diagonal white stripe at every second storefront, each endeavouring to make their presentation more interesting than the neighbours’. Isabela had a case of the restaurants. There is a whole street dedicated to them! Then there is Santa Cruz, which definitely suffers from souvenir stores. Again, a whole street is lined with tiny little shops, each selling pretty much exactly the same stuff as the one before it. Well, I suppose not exactly, otherwise we would only have had to walk into one of them. 😉


Santa Cruz is also the place where we did the coolest Galápagos diving EVER! We went diving with hammerhead sharks. B)

It hadn’t started out as all of us going. By the time we reached Santa Cruz, we had already spent enough money on excursions and were set on doing the “free stuff”, like going to the local tortoise breeding centre and the walking to the beach. However, we were told that at Santa Cruz you are guaranteed to see hammerheads. Since our Dad never saw the hammerheads on our previous dive excursion in San Cristóbal, we all agreed to let him go on a dive trip on his own.

As it turned out, there was a miscommunication at the dive-shop, so although my Dad had been told to wait at the pier to be picked up there, nobody came.

It was definitely a let-down, but after going back to the dive shop the owner was very apologetic about it and offered to have all of us go diving for a very sizable discount – so we took it. =D

It was really spectacular!


Before I wrap up this blog, I also need to tell you about all the tortoises.

The giant tortoises are the main attraction of Galápagos. At least, it feels that way. Every Island we visited had a breeding centre, some place you could visit to see the tortugas gigantes.


Random piece of information: On all the islands, there is this tree that is extremely poisonous to people. It’s sap will burn and irritate your skin if you come into contact with it and you die if you eat its fruit. Every time you see this tree next to a walking trail there is a sign posted warning you NOT to eat the fruit. It’s fine for the tortoises though. Apparently, for them it is a healthy food. Moral of the story – don’t employ a tortoise as your food taster. 😉

There used to be thousands and thousands of tortoises on the islands, but of course, after people came, things changed. The tortoises are able to survive months without food or water, so they make an excellent source of fresh meat. Captains used to load a lot of tortoises to resupply their ships.

They didn’t just take tortoises though – they also introduced other animals, such as livestock, rats and later even ants. The livestock, such as goats, cattle and pigs, step on tortoise nests, crushing the eggs. Rats eat the eggs. The ants, introduced later by farmers, attack the nests after the babies are hatched. The baby tortoises stay underground for a month after hatching, living off of a yellow protein sack attached to the bottom of their shell. The ants ‘smell’ the protein and invade the nest. They aren’t necessarily after the babies, but when they come into the nest they bite the babies. This causes the tiny little tortoise babies to have heart attacks and die.

At the moment it is still extremely difficult for a nest to survive in the wild. That’s what the breeding centres are for. They breed the tortoises in captivity, and will also go and look for nests in the field to bring them to the centre to hatch.

After seeing the big, slow, grumpy-looking adult tortoises, the babies are adorable!



The night of the sea lions – by Karin (The Mom)

We love the fact that we are sailing in a Mono-hull.

That is, if we don’t think of the speed with which Catamarans sail, or the fact that they hardly roll at sea, or their great view out of the saloon….

Seriously, we DO love sailing in Shang-Du and we especially appreciated her finer Mono-hull qualities when we were anchored at St Cristobal in the Galapagos.

Unlike the very roomy Catamarans, Shang Du does not have a low-access area to the sea. The designers of Cats reasoned (correctly) that those steps will allow sailors to get on and off their boats with relative ease. This ease was not by any means suppose to extend to the sea lions of St Cristobal, but it seems that no-one actually told the sea lions.

True, the sea lions do not target only the Catamarans, but will actually get onto any platform, boat, buoy, rock etc. that will take their weight. They relish the conquest. They move their great bulk as if to melt into the surface and almost immediately close their eyes and fall asleep.

If this was the only thing they did, it wouldn’t be so bad. Actually, they are quite cute. And the first time is such a novelty. A sea lion on your boat makes for great photos.

But it very soon becomes apparent why all the local boats that lie at “sea lion level” are covered in barbed wire and why there are chicken mesh fences to keep them out of public areas.

It is what they leave behind that is the problem. They are huge and their bellies are full of fish. Right? Remember those great access steps? They make great toilets too.

On Shang Du we didn’t skip the sea lions’ attentions completely. Shang Du has a small swimming platform at the back that is very close to sea level. It is the perfect size for one huge sea lion or two small ones. We never had to worry about the fishy deposits, because the platform is made up of slats and the natural rolling of our boat dips it into the sea every so often. There is also a steep climb up onto the boat using a tricky little ladder. So, as long as we kept the seat above it folded down and the area barred, the sea-lions had to stay on the platform and this was perfectly fine by me.

With these restrictions in place, it really was exciting to have our first sea lion visit. They don’t do anything much, but loll around. I watched a smaller one for a long time, fully convinced that it had lost an eye. The eye on the one side was swollen shut as it lopsidedly glared from its remaining orb. It looked so painful and pitiful and much too young to have such a disability. Then, of course, it opened its wound and.. suddenly.. it had two eyes! The girls all laughed at me, but I am quite sure that some of them had their doubts as well. It is amazing how they can close the eye nearest to the sun’s glare.

The novelty of having the sea lions on the swimming platform wore off as soon as the fighting started. Shang Du’s swimming platform turned into prime real estate and it was a great accomplishment for every sea lion to chase off the existing “king-of-the-castle” just to stake their own claim. They do their chasing by loud barking and I’m sure, biting and shoving. It was the barking, however, that was our biggest problem.

Frans and I sleep in the Aft Cabin. That is, the one RIGHT NEXT TO the swimming platform. This meant that we had ringside seats (or beds) to the barking symphony of the “claim-staking” sea lions. They wheeze and bark and cough much too loud to just ignore.

After our first sleepless night, we came up with a somewhat workable strategy. Frans would jump up, run outside and shoot at them with our sea-water nozzle. Despite being completely at home in the sea, the sea lions intensely dislike to be squirted in the face with water. They would immediately stop fighting and all of them would leave. Problem solved for a while.

Even though it was not that obvious to us, it either was the same few sea lions that visited our patch, or they are phenomenal communicators. For, pretty soon, the sea lions only had to see Frans with the nozzle before disappearing under the water. So, as long as Frans jumped up right at the beginning of their fighting, we managed to sleep with minimal interruption.

That is… until the “Night of the sea lions”….

I sleep more lightly than my poor husband, so his cue for midnight action was the pumping of my elbow in his side and some mumbling about the duties of strong husbands.

That specific night I know that I was not properly awake yet when the snarling started. (We’ve had a few noisy nights already, right?). I was really battling to get rid of this sea lion in my dream, when all of a sudden there came a VERY vicious and loud snarling and if that didn’t wake me up, the sight of the furry behind of a sea lion right on our hatch definitely did the thing!! This meant that one of the sea lions did the unthinkable thing and actually jumped the little ladder and climbed over all our obstacles AND landed on our aft cabin hatch, right above my bed.

Frans was able to eradicate the culprit and he felt that there was no harm done. He reckons that it was quite a hefty fella. But It was the end of any chance that I had of peaceful sleep. I kept on thinking that if one made it….others would. They are good communicators, right? Once our nocturnal visitor jumped off the side, he must have realized that some parts of our boat wasn’t so high and that a whole new area of real estate suddenly became available. Ag Nee!!!

I’m sure that I did doze off at some time, but my sleeping was very fitful and in my dreams Shang Du was lined with sea lions on every available surface and they were all grinning at me with one eye swollen shut.

We never did get any other sea lions that ventured past our swimming platform, but I was very ready to leave the anchorage before the word got around.

In looking back, I am extremely grateful that the glass cover was in place over our hatch. Imagine an angry sea lion landing on top of you in bed and then trying to maneuver it out of your boat, pushing it up the steep companionway? Shudder!!




It is even hard to keep the sea lions out of the public areas:

Arriving in Galapagos – by Marike

First thing you need to know about the Galápagos, is that they’re VERY STRICT.

You have to apply in advance if you want to visit the islands and even then you are restricted to three islands unless you are willing to pay more than the already hefty “entrance fee”.

Most cruisers tend to avoid the Galápagos because of this, but ironically for us as South Africans it isn’t so bad. We need to get expensive visas for pretty much anywhere else we go, so to pay to visit the Galápagos archipelago wasn’t so bad.


The three islands we visited were San Cristóbal, Isabela and Santa Cruz.

Our port of entry was San Cristóbal. (They pronounce it with an accent on the o – San Chirs-TOE-val.)

We arrived the very first of May, but weren’t allowed off the boat until we had been cleared in.


We contacted our agent, Bolivar, and he said he would bring all 7 officials to our boat the next day. What an interesting experience! Just as he had said, all seven officials crowded onto the boat and each one had his or her turn inspecting something on the boat. I don’t even know about all the paperwork involved, but I had to do with two specific individuals – the team who inspected the boat for contamination. (Animal, insect, etc.)

All the floor-boards had to come up, and we had to dig out all our pop-corn, rice and pasta. Mostly, we seemed pretty okay. No cockroaches climbed out from anywhere, there were no insects in the pop-corn or rice. I had to pack out all the pasta under my bed, handing them to the inspector one by one so he could shine a light into it, squinting with the effort to see little black bodies between the tan noodles. I think he was oddly satisfied when he did at last find one lonely packet of pasta with bugs in it. 😉

Everybody in the Galápagos seem to be able to speak and understand some English, but mostly it’s only a few words. The inspector was no exception and Franci and I were frequently called upon to “translate.” That is, listen very intently while understanding maybe one word out of ten, then smiling apologetically with a ‘lo siento’ and quickly discussing among ourselves what to report back to the family.

Hehe, not really. Our ‘emergency Spanish’ is still basically just that, but we were able to understand that the inspector wanted us to clean the boat very well after the fumigation. We received a receipt for the packet of contaminated pasta, (I think they incinerate those on the island), then he told us he would come back to the boat after two days to inspect again.

He never did. We never got our paper to say we had been inspected and approved, but fortunately the other islands accepted the receipt of the pasta as proof that we had been inspected.


The fumigation is compulsory and not a big deal. A man comes to the boat with a full-body suit, mask and a poison contraption. Everybody is ordered off the boat before the fumigation starts, so we didn’t actually see what happened. We were told to stay off the boat for at least 3 hours before returning, so to be safe we decided to stay away 5 hours and get our first good look at a Galápagos island. =)


Some of our very first Iguana sightings

The fascinating Cactus Tree. The stem looks just like that of a “normal” tree, but the leaves are decidedly not.

Good morning Shelter Bay! – by Marike

Close your eyes.

We are now travelling back in time.

Okay, we’ve arrived – you can open your eyes now.


Good morning Shelter Bay Marina...”

As the voice crackles over our radio, I tie my hair up in a loose bun.

“…is there any medical, emergency or priority traffic? Please come now.”

The last time we had had a proper net was in Trinidad, over a year ago. I sit down on the saloon floor with my legs in ‘butterfly’ position, bending my head down over my feet to stretch out my lower back.

Nothing heard on that one, which is always a good thing. Is there anyone new to the marina who would like some information on how things work here? Please come now.”

I enjoy doing some stretches every morning while listening to the 7:30 net.

Nothing heard. Okay, just some general information: The marina bus runs twice daily…”

Yep, the dear marina bus! Shelter Bay Marina is on the opposite side of the canal from EVERYTHING. Need ‘_______________’? You’re going to have to take the bus into Colon. Immigration, grocery store, dentist – it’s all in Colon. The catch is getting across the canal. See, there isn’t a bridge. In Panamá city, yes, but the one being built here isn’t finished yet. (The bridges need to be high enough that all the very tall ships can pass beneath them.) It takes up your whole day to go into Colon, but enough moaning – we are actually very grateful for this service the marina offers!

I ease up out of my stretch and shift my position to stretch another part of my body.

…and also we ask that you please return the white trolleys to their place in front of the pool so that cruisers coming back on the bus can find them again. Is there anything else before we move on to buy, sell, trade or giveaway?”

As I get into my stretching routine properly, I feel the perspiration forming on my forehead and back. It doesn’t take a lot to get uncomfortably hot in Panamá!

Nothing heard. So on to buy, sell, trade or giveaway! Is there anyone out there who wants to raise their waterline?”

I listen to the boats calling in. One offers an aluminium cylinder, another is looking for a specific size bolt. Two are getting rid of charts and sailing guides of the places they’ve already been and are not planning on returning to. I smile. That’s só never going to be us! We like mementos too much and with a steel boat – hey, a few sailing guides aren’t going to make a difference!

We recently bought a kayak that another boat had advertised as ‘for sale’ on the morning net. We haven’t transferred it to Shang Du yet, as we’re still located on the hard. The previous owners aren’t going through the canal for a while yet, so they’re willing to hold onto it until we get back into the water.

Last call for buy, sell, trade or giveaway.”

After a short pause the net controller continues.

“Now for social events and activities. Ultra, you there?”

Since Ultra arrived at Shelter Bay marina, the social calendar has definitely become more crowded. 😉

“Yeah, Ultra’s here.”

“Go ahead.”

“Good morning net, this is JoAnne on Ultra with the activities for this week…”

Christian fellowship and Potluck on Sunday, movie night on Wednesday, Friday night cock-tails at the cruisers’ palápa and talks in-between – our whole week planned out! 😉 But it’s loads of fun, especially since these are the people who will plan to have an ice-cream party and then actually make it happen. ^_^

There is aqua fit in the pool every day at 4:15 with April, and Vicky does a nature walk at 8 o’clock on a Monday morning…”

Karin comes in through the main hatch and as I’m right in the middle of the saloon floor, I just lean to one side so she can step past me.

”…crew wanted or offered?”  

Sometimes there are a lot of boats needing crew, sometimes none. It’s usually people looking for line-handlers to go through the canal. We all did that a few times for the experience, but now we prefer to stay at home. I’ve been through 4 times now and Shang Du really needs me to stay put and work on the rust spots.

“…you can also check the bulletin-board outside the marina office, there are loads of adverts there…”

People tend to find long-term crew via sources other than the morning net. 😉

…any commercial announcements? Please come now.”

“Dutch Dreamer.”

“Go ahead Carol.”                                             

“Hi good morning everyone this is Carol from Dutch Dreamer with a shout-out for my husband Greg…”

Even after more than two months of hearing the same commercial announcements each morning, I’m not tired of them.

…generator, small outboard engine and refrigeration needs. Come on by, he’d love to help you. We’re the big yellow motor-sailor at the back of the yard with the big wooden staircase…”

Since they’ve been here in Panamá so long, the staircase makes sense. The only reason we endure the ladder is because we know it’s temporary.


The sail-loft, with it’s big mahi-mahi painted on the side of the building along with numerus other art of sailors who have left a ‘lasting reminder’ of their stay in Panamá. We still need to go and paint out boat name up there with the rest, I just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet!

“…herb garden made by the cruisers for the cruisers, so just bring a baggy and a pair of scissors and help yourself..”

One side of the sail-loft is turned into a garden with all sorts of edible plants. =) There is a big bush of basil growing there too. Someone told Sophia that you can grow basil by just picking a twig and putting it in water, it will grow it’s own root system. So she tried it. Now she has a little basil plant growing in an old peanut-butter jar in her cabin, sitting in the sunshine beating down through the hatch.

”Is there anything else for the net before we move on to trivia?”

Now is the time when people who had missed the first part of the net catch up on any important details.

“Bill, I believe you have some trivia for us.”

I can’t remember when it started exactly, obviously only after Ultra arrived in Shelter Bay, but at some point Bill started giving out rewards for answering the trivia questions. I sit up, my full attention on the radio. The ‘free beer’ holds no attraction for me, but I do like to try and see if I know the answer to the question.

“…okay, I’ve got my cards now. So, for a free beer: what was the lowest price ever paid by someone to go through the canal? …. Go.”

“Ninety-six cents.”

“Very good! And who is this?”


Missed it. I mostly do, but it’s still fun to listen. A few more questions are asked, then the net is handed back to the controller.

“Is there anything else before we close the net for today?”

When no-one answers she continues,

“Well, then that’s it from me. Have a good day everyone! Standing by on channel 67.”