Lionheart Cruise

Panama to Key West

 

A Red Frog at Red Frog Beach

Lionheart cresting a wave.......then

Lionheart falls out of the wave, really rough ride!

Coral Cayo, Bocas Del Toro

Red Frog Beach

Native Traansport in Changinola

Carniaval in Bocas Del Toro

Lionheart (top) & Beso at anchor, Isla Providencia, Colombia

Liz, our Canadian Crew, at Rolando's Resturant, Isla Providencia, Colomba

Arriving French Harbor, Roatan, Honduraas

Dales home in La Ceiba, Honduras

Dale with Breeden & Elena with her Neice.

Captain and crew with a 30# Dorado, Mahi-Mahi

Lionheart crew at Chichen Itza, Mexico

Sunset at Key West, Florida

Will and Sue departing Bocas

Bocas Del Toro Marina

   
  

              

 

   This segment of the Lionheart cruising adventure is being written
on April ll, 2006. If you have read the travel log so far, you know
that we transited the Panama Canal 2 months ago, on February
10. In the past 2 months we have traveled north from Colon,
Panama, to Key West Florida. Where we went and what we did
along the way is outlined below in words and pictures.

We left Colon on February 12 in the late afternoon, heading north
up the east coast of Panama to Bocas Del Toro. We left late in
the afternoon, suppossidly ahead of a weather system that would
have kept us in Colon for 1 to 2 weeks. It was a passage of 150
miles so we needed to travel overnight in order to arrive at our
destination during daylight hours, approximately 21 hours later. All
of that turned out as planned except for the part about being
ahead of the storm. We caught that storm (or it caught us) and
made for one off the roughest passages we have ever had
anywhere. The Feslers were with us, so we weren't lonely, but
everyone, especially the cat, were really uncomfortable for 16 of
those 21 hours at sea. I will describe the experience as that of
being in a really hot milk carton, inside a washing machine on the
wash cycle. Nick has never had such a bad night before or since.

We arrived in Bocas Del Toro very tired but looking forward to
exploring this area that is a popular surfing destination. We
immediately checked into Marina Bocas Del Toro so that we could
plug into electricity, do laundry, etc. The stormy weather stayed
over the Caribbean for 3 weeks, so we had plenty of time to
explore the area. The first 3 days it rained and blew. The weather
turned Bocas town into a muddy destination to be reached by a
dingy ride through rough water. The good news is that it is warm
water whether it is waves or rain, and absolutely everybody gets
wet all the time. We accepted this way of life but we did elect to
stay inside during the major rain storms. Staying inside the boat
with the AC turned on, we played Mexican Train, cribbage and
Scrabble with Will and Sue when we were not out buying
vegetables and getting wet. Our friends left us on Feb 16, and we
were in Bocas until March 3.

Bocas Del Toro town is on Isla Colon in Bahia Almirante on the NE
coast of Panama. It is famous for surfing beaches, snorkeling, and
other water activities. There are no giant resorts in this area.
Land accommodations range from $7 (not recommended) to the
classy over-the-water bungalow of Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge at
$150 per night. We cruised by Aqua Lodge and agree with the
tour books that it is isolated and it is beautiful. Bocas town has
many bars and restaurants for a town so small. The booming
industries are tourism and real estate. You can get a shack for
less than $200,000, but not for long. The Americans and
Europeans are shopping for waterfront property in one of the last
places it is available.

While in Bocas we visited Cayo Coral to snorkel and Red Frog
Beach on Isla Bustamiento to watch the pounding surf. On our
hike across the island to the beach we saw a small cocodrille in a
pond, a lemur in a tree top, and the tiny red frogs which give this
beach the name. We anchored at the north end of Isla Colon and
took the dingy out to watch the pounding waves on the coral reef
that surrounds the area. We traveled 2 hours by water taxi to the
town of Changinola on the Panama mainland. There we saw the
operation of a huge banana plantation and saw how the natives in
that area live along the swampy rivers. We attended Carnival in
Bocas town on Feb. 28. It was a big event for the locals, complete
with constummed revellers, lots of libations, and the national
security police out in force. By March 3, when the weather was
finally clearing enough for travel, we were ready to go north.

We left Bocas on March 4 in the company of another boat, a
Nordhaven 40 named Beso, owned and operated by a couple from
Santa Barbara. Their destination was Florida. In our discussions
with many boaters, we had determined that buddy boating in the
Caribbean waters off the coast of Central America is a good idea
for many reasons. Among the reasons are that there are not very
many cruiser friendly ports on that coast and there really are
pirates. So, having another boat that travels about the same
speed as you do gives you company and radio contact, especially
important on those long nights at sea. We also picked up a crew
member for the journey north to Florida. She is a Canadian
woman, Liz, about our age whom we had met in El Salvador. She
was crewing on a sail boat which developed mechanical difficulties
and had fallen way behind schedule in getting to the Panama
Canal. We had enjoyed her company and had told her to contact
us if she needed a ride north. Liz arrived on March 1 to join the
crew. She was with us until we arrived in Key West and her
experience from 5 years of Caribbean cruising and having one
more person to stand watch on the night passages was most
helpful. She is also a great cook and used to making do with what
the local markets can provide for the ships stores. I learned much
from her and enjoyed her company for the 38 days she crewed
with us.

From Bocas we traveled north to the island of San Andres. This is
a Columbian Island which lies about 100 miles off the coast of
Nicaragua. I won't go into the details of the 31 hour crossing but I
would say it was very much like the trip from Colon to Bocas; rough
on the equipment and the crew! When we arrived at San Andres,
we saw for the first time the beautiful aqua blue waters and barrier
reefs that we expected to see the Caribbean. San Andres is a big
resort town that caters to wealthy Columbian vacationers. There
are huge hotels and condos and it is a duty free shopping port.
However, a 2 hour taxi tour of the entire island takes you to caves
where the pirate Captain Morgan stashed his loot, beautiful ocean
views from coral beaches, quaint little huts where you can sample
the local seafood, and a view of the homes of the native San
Andreans. We took our dingy out to the coral reef that surrounds
the island and had a great afternoon of snorkeling.

On March 8 we made an 8 hour trip to Isla Providencia, the second
Columbian island off Nicaragua. A rough crossing that brought us
to one of the prettiest anchorages yet seen on the trip. There
were a number of cruising yachts anchored in the bay, all waiting
for weather to go either north or south. One of the boats
organized a snorkeling trip to the barrier reef and then lunch on
the beach at one of those quaint beachside restaurants which are
so prevalent in this part of the world. The snorkeling was fabulous
and so was lunch. We stayed in Providencia for 7 days. We took
a 2-hour taxi tour of this island also, stopping for local spots of
interest and lunch. This island is not a tourist destination but the
locals seem to have a better life than seen at most of our ports of
call in the last 6 months. They suffered serious hurricane damage
in the past 2 years, but the Columbian government has provided
funding to rebuild roads and replace roofs on almost every
structure visible. The literacy level among the 4000 inhabitants is
very high. The language is English because the English settled
the area, however, the Columbian government now requires the
schools to teach Spanish as well as English. We met the Port
Captain who was very helpful to cruisers and is working on
increasing tourism to his island in order to improve the economy.
He gave us info on how to contact the Columbian Navy and the
fishing fleet if we needed to do so at night. We enjoyed our stay
here very much.

Our next passage was 208 miles north (28 hours at sea) to Cayo
Vivorillos off the coast of Honduras. This again is the picture of
Caribbean beauty. Basically a reef that forms a bay which affords
a smooth anchorage. Again we traveled with Beso and again met
several of the sailboats we had met in Providencia. The local
fisherman traded conch for rum and we have feasted on conch
fritters ever since. Liz and I took the opportunity to wash and air
out all of the bedding. We thought we had some kind of bug on
board that was biting us during the night and causing righteous
welts that itched like crazy and sort of looked like smallpox.. It was
an exercise in futility because we continued to get bites until we
got to Belize.

Our next stop was 88 miles north on Roatan. This is an island
about 60 miles off the coast of Honduras. It is a major scuba
diving destination. We stayed in a lovely marina called Barefoot
Cay. The crossing was much better this time. The female crew
were able to spend the afternoon of the 25.5 hour trip giving each
other pedicures. What luxury! Nick did not barf once! We spent 8
days on Roatan where we hooked up with our old friend and first
boat partner, Dale Grenoble, who now lives in Honduras and a
beach house on Roatan. We spent a lovely afternoon snorkeling
off his pier on the west end of Roatan, walking on the beach which
is inside the barrier reef which provides such great diving, and
watching the sunset from his front porch. Dale also took us to La
Ceiba on the mainland where I got my hair cut, the captain did
boat errands, and visited Dales home in the mountains outside of
town. We spent a rainy day at the pool at our marina with Dale,
his wife and his youngest son, 2-year old Brenden. Once again, it
doesn't matter if it is raining, the water is warm, the air is warm and
everyone is going to get wet anyway!

On March 28 we headed north again, into Belize. We made 3
stops in Belize, visiting the offshore reefs named Glovers Reef and
Turneffe Reef (south and north end). These reefs actually form
atolls like those in the South Pacific. The waters here are clear
and warm and we snorkeled after we anchored at each new spot.
As the weather was favorable, we kept moving everyday in order
to position ourselves to cross the Gulf of Mexico to Florida in a
good weather window. Leaving the waters of Belize we crossed
into Mexico where we stopped in Xcalac (prounounced Ish-ka-lak).
This was a very tricky entry through a natural cut in the reef that
surrounds Ambergies Cay which is where Xcalac is located. Think
about surfing into an entrance that is only a hundred yards wide
(big hairy reef on both sides) on a 54 foot surfboard that happens
to be your house! It was a wild ride, executed perfectly by captain
and crew (cat unit slept through the whole thing). We skipped
Tulum because of a similar approach and stayed on Banco
Chinchorro, Cayo Norte. This is an Mexican island off the coast of
the Cancun Peninsula that is surrounded again by a reef. Once
inside the reef, the anchorage is smooth and the snorkeling is
good. The Mexican Navy chose to board and search our boat
here. While I was snorkeling we spotted 2 bottle nose dolphins
swimming very close to the boat. I swam after them and was lucky
enough to have one of them come and look me over very
carefully. He/she swam within 4 feet of me, back and forth. It was
a special experience. They stayed around all night and were there
when we left in the morning. We traveled on to the Mexican
mainland, spending one night anchored on Culibra Cay in Bahia
de la Ascencion. This area is the setting for a significant part of
the story in Jimmy Buffet's book "A Salty Piece of Land" which we
enjoyed reading very much. Bone fishing is big in this region.

From Bahia Ascencion we literally traveled back into civilization,
arriving at Puerto Adventura Marina on the Cancun Peninsula on
April 3. This is a very posh resort area that stretches from Cancun
south to Tulum. The marina is in the middle of hotels and condos.
There are restaurants, bars and shops surrounding the dolphin
pools where one can swim with the dolphins or just watch the
shows. After my personal close encounter, I did not feel the need
to pay for the privilege. From the marina we were able to take a
day trip to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. It was a 3-hour drive
to get there, followed by a 2-hour tour. We were totally amazed at
the scope of the site. The most completely restored building is El
Castillo and it is incredible to see. Visitors are no longer allowed
to climb up to the top of the structure because 6 weeks ago a
tourist fainted while at the top of the many steps and fell to her
death. We had a marvelous time walking around and listening to
our 78-year old Mayan guide tell us about the history and culture
of the site.

We left Puerto Adventura for Isla Mujeres on April 5, and crossed
the Gulf of Mexico on April 6, arriving 35.5 hours later in the Dry
Tortuga Islands, USA. Thankfully, it was the best crossing of all
since leaving Colon. We arrived in Key West on April 8, and are
very happy to be back in the good old USA. Key West is beautiful
by any standard, but compared to much of the world we have
discovered in the past 6 months, it is truly paradise. We will spend
some time here touring and doing boat maintenance. Once again
we are waiting for weather to make our trip up to Marathon a nice
passage.

We have been cruising for 6 months now. We have traveled 5452
miles since leaving Long Beach. Once again we have cell phone
service (YEAH!). We are looking forward to the next leg of our
journey which will take us up the east coast of America to New
York. We will let you know how it goes in future website postings.
If you wish to view our ports of call so far, you can access the
Central America Map page on the Home Page. We would love to
hear from you which is possible also from the Home Page.