Monday, April 28, 2014

Just a Little Down Time

Sorry we have not posted in a few days but while Beck has been gone we have just been hunkered down on the boat.  We get up in the morning and I make the kids a big breakfast, they do school until about 12:30, we have lunch and then they go ashore for a couple of hours while I read.   In the evening I make a big supper and we watch a movie or play a game.... Hmmmmm actually sounds a lot like life back at Honeymoon Bay!

I have had a lot of time to myself this week and with Beck home for her Grandma have been thinking a lot about life.  I remember one time I asked her grandpa if he felt like an old guy or a young guy when he thought about himself and he replied almost immediatly,

"I'm a young guy in my head!  I still want to do all the things I used to, and still kinda think I can.  It's only when I try sometimes that I realize I can't."

My kids would like to hike the Grand Canyon.  I have talked about it for years.  It was always one of my favorite places, so much so that I named one of my sons Kanyon.  My response when Emily asked me about it was,  "You bet!  Let's do it!"  My wife's response was,  " Oh Kristofer, I don't think you can anymore..."  Well I am sure she is right to some degree.  I would have to work out for months in order to be in shape for that again.  I could do it, but not like I remember.

One of the things my Dad always said was,  " It's tough to get old son..."

What on earth does this musing have to do with sailing?  Only EVERYTHING!  The world is HUGE!  There is still a whole lot of it that I would like to see and sailing is one of the few things you can do for quite a while as you age.  There are times though where I sure am glad I'm not twenty years older.  Dump the spinnaker into the water and have to pull it in by hand.   Wrestle that flogging mainsail with the broken halyard down in 30 knot wind.  Pull that anchor chain and 55 pound Rochna up from 30 feet by hand when the windlass breaks...  The list goes on.  I get some grief from family sometimes because I am not out earning a huge paycheck, banking money, buying houses, all that stuff.   I can only do one or the other and someday I can't do either.... Which one will I look back on from my rocking chair and regret not doing?   I guess I am betting that my regret would be that I didn't SAIL!  Well I may be rocking that chair in an oversized refrigerator box by the side of the highway but I bet I have better stories to tell the other bums beside me.

Oh and we set sail on the 3rd instead of the 2nd.... The 2nd is a Friday.
Captain Tofer

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Short Stop in Costa Rica

Wow!  This is quite a place!   Costa Rica so far has been both beautiful and rediculously expensive.  Clearing in cost us $350. US Dollars, the marina charges $3.50 per foot and, get this, $40. Per day to use their dingy dock.... Yep you read that right.  Prices in the restaurants are right on par with St Thomas.

We are in Los Suenos right now and it is our hope that as we cruise around we will discover a better cruisers world out there.  This place caters to the SportFish community and I guess if you can dump $3k in fuel for one day out fishing cheap dockage is not really high on your priorities.

I did get a bit of a chuckle out of an old guy, dressed in all brand new "fishing" clothes... You know... The fancy shirt with flaps all over it that air out your pits and neck, nylon shorts with little hooks for hanging... Whatever you need to hang on your shorts when you are sport fishing, a fancy hat and a silk bandana around his neck...  You get the picture.   He had just bought his coffee and croissant at the coffee shop and the girl behind the counter gave him change in Colons from his American... He got out his little calculator and figured out that she had shorted him 200 colons... He was rudely berating her ability to do math and she was trying to explain that she didn't have the exact change because he used American and it was early morning... He insisted she make it right...  This guy has a half million dollar Sport Fish boat, is wearing, $800. in fancy sport clothes, and he is berating the poor girl for .36 US. THIRTY-six-CENTS!  

Becky catches her cab in a bit here.  She will be flying home to Bellingham, WA for a week to be with her sick grandmother while the kids and I explore.  We will try to find places to connect with wifi but if we can't we will still send out updates to our buddy Mike, who will post them for us.

On the second of May we will again set sail.  This time for the long passage (4700 miles) to Hawaii.  We hope you will be patient with our sojourn here and join us when we make the big pacific leap to Maui.

Captain Tofer and the Crew

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 19 Position Report

Las Suenos, Costa Rica
Anchored out awaiting customs and immigration.

Good morning,

Yesterday and last night were beautiful.  The full moon made this trip a real pleasure.  We have never enjoyed a motoring trip more.  It was great to be able to sit at the table and eat a meal without everything flying about.

We arrived at 7:30am local time and discovered that they would not even take our lines at the fuel dock until we had cleared with customs and immigration.  Apparently we were supposed to do that in Golfito, when sailing north from Panama.  We are now anchored out, having sent all of our paperwork in.  They may not actually be able to clear us in until Monday because of the holiday and we are not allowed off our boat until we are cleared in.

The marina is $3.50 per foot per day = $170. Per night plus tax, so it's pretty close to $200. Per night... Obviously that will not be happening so once we clear in and get fuel we will spend one night at the marina so we can clean up the boat, take showers etc, then Beck will fly out and the kids and I will do some exploring, anchoring out.

In the end, we will spend more here than if we had gone to the Galapagos but Rebecca will be able to be with her Grandma for a week at this crucial time.

Wandering Dolphin in Costa Rica

April 18 Position Report

Wandering Dolphin 4/18/14 POS

08 14.09  N   083 49.39  W
SOG 4.8kt
COG 310T

Wind: -8 Variable
Seas: Flat Calm
Pressure: 29.6
Temp: 90.8F

Motoring 1800RPM

Good Morning,

Wow!  It was a HOT day yesterday.  We were grateful that we fixed the fridge so we could have cold water at least.  We lounged around looking for a place to get cool and not be touched by another human body... That is a real challenge with six people on a 47 ft boat in nearly 100 degree temps.

In the late afternoon we caught a BIG Bull Mahi.  It was over five feet long, we didn't weigh it but it provided us with four one-gallon ziplock bags FULL to bursting with meat.  I made the family fresh Mahi fish sticks by breading and frying strips of the steaks.  Beck made sweet corn and stuffing and homemade tartar sauce and it was GREAT!  Everyone except Benny loved the fish.  Beck went back for seconds on fish and she HATEs fish.  It is actually kind of amazing that anyone ate the fish after seeing the bloody mess of the deck when we were butchering it.  We have been watching "The Walking Dead" for our offshore show and we all laughed that our deck looked like a scene for the show had been filmed there.

We will be in port tomorrow morning at this time.  Leg 3 "Panama to Costa Rica" will be finished.  Our next big leg will be from Here to Hawaii.
We are going to take our first Secchi Disk reading today for the University of Plymouth.

The Crew of Wandering Dolphin

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April 17 Position Report

Wandering Dolphin 4/17/14 POS

07 12.70 N  082 16.15 W
SOG 5kt
COG 310T

Wind: NE  less than 10
Pressure:  29.6
Temp:  90F
Seas: 0-1ft

Motoring 1800RPM

Good Morning!

This is the first time we have actually done any extensive motoring offshore with our new Beta Marine Engine and I must say that it is a whole new thing for us not to be cursing the "Iron Jib."  There is no smell and it is quiet and the fuel consumption is amazing.  We will have no problem making it to Las Suenos.  We should be getting in on Saturday morning early.

Everyone is doing really well.  The kids are getting some X-Box time in every day (another advantage to the motoring-unlimited power!) They have only been doing reading projects for school so now we will have some math and science catch up to do.  Keeping Kaleb in reading material is going to be a challenge on the trip out to Hawaii.  He has read most of what I bought him in Panama.  Thank goodness for Kindles.

I checked the watermaker yesterday to see if my lift pump fixed our problem and it sure did.  It's working great again.  Unfortunately it now uses more power because it has to run the extra pump.  With the new power consumption taken into account I could be making 10 gallons per hour instead of 1.5.  Of course purchasing a new watermaker is out of the question.

Everything else is working great on the boat.  Oh, well the starter has an occasional hiccup...where I have to tap it with a wrench to get it to start.  I will see if there is a starter rebuild shop in Las Suenos.

I tried fishing yesterday and the line is out this morning.  I am the only one disappointed that we haven't caught anything yet.

Thanks to Jim V. and Aline again for the riddles and jokes.  We are about half successful in getting the answers and it gives us a lot of laughs and fun.

Hope you all have a great Thursday!

The Crew of Wandering Dolphin

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 16 Position Report

07 08.33 N. 080 12.02 W
COG 259T
SOG 6.5kt

Wind... We wish
Pressure: 29.6
Temp: 87F

Sky:  Clear but hazy

Motoring 1900rpm

Good Morning!
We had a nice day yesterday with flat seas.  The only downside was motoring rather than sailing.  Of course there was a steady stream of big ships all day and all night last night.

We fried up some corn Arapas and put taco meat, beans, lettuce and tomatoes on them for supper.  They were Great!  The. We watched the final episode of the first season of "The Walking Dead" we have seasons 2 and 3 but I think we may need something more for that long passage to Hawaii.

Beck is worried about her grandmother who is not doing well at all and will be flying home for one week once we get to Las Suenos.  The kids and I will check out Costa Rica and make sure the boat is ready for the big leg to Hawaii.

We may stop along the way to top off our fuel just to be on the safe side.  We have had to motor at higher RPM yesterday than normal because of adverse current.  Right now we have favorable current so it probably balances.  Bob, could you please send me the position for a good fuel stop?

This morning there were LOTS of big dolphins swimming around the boat and some were jumping out of the water SUPER high.  Amazing athletes!

I'm still amazed that we are here in the Pacific...

Kristofer, Rebecca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, and Benny

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Message to the Bashers of "Rebel Heart" From a Sailing Mom

After much thought about the cruising family aboard sailing vessel Rebel Heart and their loss this week.  My heart aches for them while they are in need of love and support from the community and world around them.  Whenever something tragic happens the media is there to point fingers and asses blame, even when they know nothing about the people involved. This family just lost their home and yet now they have to deal with negative press and everyone judging their actions.  Mainstream media is heartless, twitter is ugly and Facebook rants.  I can't help but think that we now live in a world devoid of compassion and full of haters.. One of the FaceBook posts that got my blood pumping was one where a lady thought all of the money that folks are giving to these poor people to help them rebuild their lives should be given to the Coast Guard!  I wanted to ask her what made her an expert on life choices and parenting.   So my mind raced with thoughts of my own life choices and situations my family has found themselves in in the past, situations where we had also lost everything and where we needed the help of Police and Fire Departments.

As a mother of five children who have been mostly raised aboard Wandering Dolphin, in the midst of our final preparations to leave Panama on our own voyage in the Pacific to Hawaii just days away, I started to look back on our life choices.  We have made bold choices as a couple for our family over the last 25 years.  Our story started in a simple one bedroom house with a white picket fence until our first born son Jimmy was born.   Then we move up to a five bedroom house with the works (and a fence of course.)  We had a jump start on the normal American nine-to-five life but one day we realized that living in that BOX was not for us.  We wanted more.

Once we began to follow our dreams the world opened up.  We experienced God's Grace and great adventure.  Lives and not just our own were changed for the better and we continued to dream.  Folks, there are choices everyday you live.  Some are as simple as,  "Will I drink water from a plastic bottle today or from the tap?"   "Do I fly or take the train?"   "Where do I want to live?"   "Which way should I drive to work today?"  Everyday is filled with choices and every one of those choices has consequences that you cannot know... some are good... some are tragic.

In our 26 years together, we have made plenty of choices.  We have had great adventures, mountain highs and deep lows.  You cannot plan for the unknown.  Here is an example from our life.

We were relocating to Montana from Wyoming in 1993 to start a Boys home..   A gust of wind came off the mountain top, it hit our little 19 ft travel trailer and flipped our Ford Explorer.  Everything we owned was in either that trailer or the Explorer.  Our baby was in that car!  Think of all the accidents just like that which end in tragedy!  God Blessed us and no one was hurt but the car and trailer were destroyed.  Can you imagine someone then saying to us,   "Interstates are to dangerous! Only bad parents would take their Children on the Interstate!"  or filling the media with condemnation saying,  "What the hell where they thinking taking their children out there on that highway for that dangerous drive?"


"They should pay the EMT's for their time", "All donations should go to the people that helped in the rescue".  

These are examples of what is being said to the family of Rebel Heart.  It is unbelievable and it breaks my heart.

Later in our life we lived on a farm in Montana with all of our kids.  Most of you would say that this would be a wonderful safe place to raise a family.  It used to get to 45 below zero in the winter, with a wind chill it would be 70 below!  If a kid walked out the door without a coat in the winter unobserved they would be dead in six-minutes!  Safe?  HA!
Later a house fire burned that place to the ground.  NO lives were lost, but the entire house and our belongings and everything owned by our friends were suddenly gone.

What if you were us and after this fire you suddenly received unsupportive, even hateful mail even from those who you thought were your friends?  Suddenly hate mail calling you bad parents hit you while you are recovering from this devastating loss?

The very post I referred to in the beginning was posted by a lady on a Facebook Page dedicated to lifting this family up and helping them out!

In our travels as a family over the last eight years I have been to places that are called "safe" and  proper to raise your family.  Many of these places have bars over the windows of every dwelling and high fences with barbwire on top of all of the schools.  Murders happened everyday in the streets but if we told people we were buying a house there they would think it was great.  I'm sorry, those are not the places I want to raise my children!  My own father-in-law, who had spent his whole life in Wyoming, was distraught at the thought of our kids swimming off our boat in 30 feet of water for hours with no life jacket.  In his world this sounded crazy but my children don't live in his world, they are sea people!  My children can literally swim all day, laughing and playing like most kids play on a playground!  Again, one person sees a perfect place and another calls it dangerous!

Just a few weeks ago in my home state of Washington there was a mudslide that took many lives And many rescue workers had to sort through the mess.  My prayers go out to those who are hurting.  Would you ever think of punishing those people because of where they choose to live, build a house and raise a family?

What about the families that took a family vacation in Thailand when the Tsunami hit.  Was that poor parenting on their part?

I am thankful for the men and woman that risk their lives daily for me, the Military, the
Coast Guard, Firefighters, Police and my list goes on.  They have made a life choice to be todays Heroes.  Do we judge these folks because their profession is risky?  Or do we pray to keep them safe daily?  Do we encourage our children to play it safe or to admire and become one of these heroes?

As a parent my choices today will mold and add to my children's character.   Some of us choose to live in the house in a neighborhood, a home on a countryside, an apartment in New York City, in a hut on an island or perhaps a boat traveling the water.   My hope is to give my children the vision to dream, the courage to adventure and compassion for the people around them.  Every parent wants to keep their children out of danger but locking them up in a house full of TV and Internet is, in my opinion, the real crime against the future.

So those of us on board Wandering Dolphin encourage all of you to dream, and to be courageous. Live your dream.  Experience your adventure.  Make your life count for something.  Your dream will not be your neighbors dream, but just maybe you will inspire them to get out of their boring unhappy rut and to actually begin living.

We are FOREVER grateful to those who have helped our family heal and rebuild. My Heart and Prayers are now for the Family of Rebel Heart.  

Liv'n Our Dream...About to journey out for 30+ days offshore with our kids, and a boat full of love to the brim.

S/V Wandering Dolphin

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Panama Canal

The journey through the Panama Canal from the Caribbean to the Pacific has been part of our destination for almost ten-years.  We first bought the boat in 2003 with the very idea of immediately sailing it from Florida to Bellingham, Washington.  The journey we are on now was our original "shake-down cruise," if you will.  We intended to live on and prepare the boat for our circumnavigation in Bellingham where Becky's family lives.  When I arrived in the Bahamas my plans changed.  How could we sail past all of these beautiful islands, not to mention the whole Caribbean?  We decided to move aboard in Florida, cruise the East Coast of the USA, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and on down the chain to Trinidad.  When our home in Montana was burned to the ground through arson we found ourselves with nothing left but our boat.  There had been no insurance money and our home and business had been destroyed in one day.  The loss of our home and business changed our plans.  Now we had to work part of the year just to make ends meet.  We spent the next seven years working for six months and cruising for six months.  Finally this year we found ourselves in a position to continue our voyage and to finally make the trip we had planned so many years ago.

As I write this we are anchored on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal.  I'm not sure if the wonder of this is felt as keenly by all of the cruisers who pass this way.  I can only speak for myself, and I am in awe of where we are right now and dazzled by what we experienced in our path between the seas.  I thought you might want to experience the whole thing in a small way through this blog post.


Before we left St Thomas I researched online and discovered a number of cruisers who recommended using an agent to make the Canal arrangements and the one name that came up over and over again was, Roy Bravo.  I emailed and called Roy while we were still in St Thomas and he sent me a detailed rundown of the cost to transit the canal.  Without breaking down the whole estimate sheet he quoted around $2,500.00 total cost for the entrance fees, cruising permit (six people), canal fees, his fee, $450.00, and line rental.  He provided all of the fenders, checked us in and out of Panama (we never even had to go see an official)  he did all of the canal paperwork and set up the measuring of the boat.  From the very beginning we knew we had made the right choice.  Because Roy has connections he was able to book our measurements for the next day and we could have transited the canal within three days of our arrival in Panama.  We chose to stay and provision the boat over the weekend so it was one week from our arrival till we transited.  We knew of several boats who had done everything themselves and had been there for a couple of weeks and were still waiting on a transit date or had been bumped.  The process for them involved multiple calls to the canal authority, taxi trips down to the office, and they had to put up a sizable security deposit in a bank account which is waived if you use an agent.  We were not the only boat to have great luck with Roy.   "Wunjo," the boat next to us in the marina, sailed by single hander John Michelle, also used Roy and came in the same day we did.  They could have transited earlier but because his parents were in Panama to help with the transit, they decided to explore a little bit before transiting and they ended up being our buddy boat on the transit.   In the end, because Roy was able to save us money on cruising permits and other things, we ended up only paying $1,700.00 total, including fees for Panama itself.  Some of the folks who did it all themselves claim to have done it all for around $1,000.00 and I am sure that is possible if they took the bus everywhere, walked to the offices and bartered for their fenders and lines.  For us, it was well worth the money we paid to have everything taken care of and we would recommend Roy Bravo, without hesitation to anyone planning on a Canal transit.

Transit Day #1:  Gatun Locks

We were told to be out in the anchorage at 6:40pm last Monday for the boarding of our advisor and the beginning of our transit.  We actually left the marina around 4:30pm just because we wanted to be anchored before dark and have a nice dinner before the advisor arrived.  You are required to provide a HOT meal for your advisor so Beck made spaghetti and garlic bread and she just reheated the sauce for the advisor later on.  This was a great way to do it because all of your line-handlers, and you need four, are all fed before the transit begins.  The advisor boat actually didn't arrive until about 9:30pm.  We found him very informative, pleasant and knowledgable.  Once we pulled up the anchor we made our way toward the Gatun Locks.

While underway our advisor told us that because we were the biggest boat we would be the center boat in a three boat raft to transit the locks.  He also informed us that the center boat was the boat who would power and steer the raft.  I have to admit that this was a little intimidating to me, but I have moved a LOT of boats in close quarters over the years doing deliveries and took this in stride.  As we made our way toward the locks the channel narrowed and we were informed by our advisor that when locking up to the lake the small boats would enter the locks behind a large ship.  As we approached the final red buoy he asked us to hold position while the 800 foot Cargo ship passed us to enter the lock.  This was when things began to get interesting.  The sailboat in front of us, who had obviously been told the same thing, began to reverse in order to hold his position.  The wind was blowing us down toward the lock and as soon as he began to reverse he began to walk to port, right out into the channel where the ship was bearing down on us.  Instead of powering forward and holding his position the captain of this boat reversed harder and now was in real danger of being run down by the behemoth cargo vessel approaching the locks.  Our advisor was franticly trying to radio the advisor on the other boat to find out what was wrong but as we found out later the advisor on that boat had his hands full with an inexperienced crew and a captain who would have fit very nicely on a Klingon Vessel.  I yelled out,
"Hey guys?  You do know there is a BIG ship bearing down on you right?"  In retrospect, I should have just kept my mouth shut and watched the train wreck.

At any rate, they powered forward and took up a position behind us, almost t-boning John Michele's boat as they powered forward as fast as they could.

After the ship entered the lock it was time for us to raft up.  Our advisor radioed to the other guys letting them know that John Michele's boat would raft up first and the other boat was to stand down and wait to be advised that we were ready for them.  John Michele motored up to our starboard side and the tie up went smooth with everyone on both boats laughing and high-fiving the handlers on the other boat.  We exchanged pleasantries and introduced ourselves while we were tying up.  Suddenly we looked over and noticed that the other boat was approaching our port side at full speed without having been radioed to do so.  Our line handlers were still on the starboard side and had to rush to port to grab lines.  The crew of this boat had been told to keep quiet and no one said a word, as they tied off the stern line I introduced myself and asked for the name of their vessel  and the Captain/owner yelled,

"This is a VERY stressful time!  It is NOT a time for pleasantries!"  He sounded like a guy who had been forced into the cockpit of a 747 and ordered to land her.

I chuckled and looked at John Michele, who smiled and laughed.  The tie up with the port boat was a mess.  They had all of their lines under their fenders and had to retie them.  All of this was happening as the raft was slowly drifting down in the wind toward the lock.

Once we were all tied up it was my responsibility to steer and power the boat into the lock.  Suddenly my monohull was a trimaran!  Having spent a couple of years as Captain on Sweetest Thing, a 48 foot catamaran, I knew that the best way to steer this monstrosity was to use the engines of both the starboard boat and the port boat using reverse and forward to position the raft.  John Michele quickly understood what we were doing and I would give him a little fwd motion to go forward and a little motion aft to let him know to power in reverse.  I didn't initially ask anything of the port boat because the wind was blowing us in such a way that we were able to control it with just my boat and John Michelle's.  We came into the lock and the guys on shore threw their monkeys fists with the lines.  Again it was all smooth on John Michelle's boat and a wreck of yells and what not on the other boat.  John Michelle had his lines attached and transferred with no issues and his handlers positioned perfectly but the port boat was slow tying off their aft line which caused the whole raft to drift forward in the lock and turn to starboard so I asked for them to reverse, looked over and there was no one at their helm!!  I asked again and the captain just stared at me from his port side.  I looked at my advisor who then yelled for the port boat to reverse.  Finally the guy jumped down to his helm and hit reverse as hard as he could, jerking all three boats and shaking our masts together.  I yelled,

"Gently! Easy on Reverse!"

When he let up we were now too far the other way but John Michelle was right on top of it and straightened the raft out.

Once the lock doors were closed the current of the water entering the locks began to push our bow to starboard because, again the port guy didn't keep his aft line snug.

I smiled over at the Captain of the port boat and asked nicely for a little reverse again and he just stared /glared at me.  I was perplexed and laughed and smiled and said,

"Do you understand what I am asking?"

He stared at me and then yelled angrily,

"Yes I understand!  Are You an advisor?   I don't think you are an advisor!"

I was stunned and before I thought about it I asked,

"Are you a Dumbshit?  Because you look and act like a dumbshit." (Those of you who know me won't be too shocked by this...)

He jumped out of his cockpit and started to leap on my boat saying he was going to kick my face in!  I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried people.

Now both John Michelle and I realized we couldn't count on this guy for help so I looked at john Michelle and said,

"Ok!  We won't use him!  You power in forward I will reverse!"  We did it and straightened the raft and I asked my advisor to keep an eye on the port boats stern line to make sure they kept it snug.

For the next two locks John Michelle and I acted like he wasn't even there and steered the raft with our boats.  It went very smooth and we had a great time.

Once we locked through the final chamber we entered Gatun Lake.  By now it was 12:30am and the big mooring buoys had four boats on them so we had to anchor in 65 feet.  Yikes!  I sure was glad I had a working windlass!

The night on Gatun Lake was calm and tranquil, like being anchored on a... lake.

Transit Day #2:  Gatun Lake

Our advisor on the first day had told us that our next advisor would arrive the next morning at 10:00am.  We had been given a schedule which had shown the arrival time at 6:30am so we were a little surprised but it would be nice to sleep in.

I never sleep very late so I was up at my normal 6:30am.  Our friend Jim from St Thomas, who was helping us with the transit, was also up.  We began to put the boat back together and around 7:00am Rebecca was up making coffee.  We were all just sitting down to drink our first cup of coffee when the pilot boat arrived with our advisor and he was ready to ROLL!  We shuffled around and managed to get the cockpit awning stowed and the anchor up (from 65 feet!) in under 15 minutes.  Rebecca started making pancakes and eggs while we started motoring down the lake.

Gatun lake is an amazing place.  Fresh water surrounded by jungles and jungle islands with parrots, monkeys and Alligators. I couldn't help but think back to my sea kayaking days and imagine what a great adventure it would be to explore the shoreline of this lake on a sea kayak.

Wandering Dolphin motored along nicely at 6.5 knots with her new Beta marine engine and even passed the other two boats from our flotilla (a first for her under power.)  While we motored down the side of the channel huge container ships would pass by appearing suddenly like Godzilla from around a bend.  By early afternoon we were going through the Galliard Cut, before it was flooded it was called Cullebra Cut.  This was the infamous cut through the mountains that was the single biggest hinderance to the building of the Panama Canal.  Enough dirt was removed from this cut to build 68 Great Pyramids, or to build a Great Wall of China from San Francisco to New York!

I had made it a point to read David McCullough's book, "The Path Between the Seas" in the weeks before our transit.  I am so glad I did this.  What would have been just another body of water that looked like a lake and a river were to me so much more.  I saw each mile for the over 1000 people per mile who died there, most from yellow fever and malaria.  Even though my boys had just done a report for school on the Canal, to them it was just a passage,  I tried but was disappointed that I failed to impart to them the real significance of the engineering marvel that was right before their eyes.  When we passed under the Centennial Bridge and then came around the corner to the Pedro Miguel Lock we were about all excited to see the Pacific Ocean.

Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Locks:

Once again we had to tie up to the same boats as the night before.  This time was pretty much a repeat of the night before with John Michelle's boat and ours laughing and having a great time and not a word exchanged with the other boat.  We made it clear to the advisors that John Michelle's boat and Wandering Dolphin would be steering the raft and asked that the port vessel simply keep their rudder straight ahead and someone at the helm and that if we need their assistance we would relay it through my advisor to them.  The Captain of that vessel had been demoted and his wife took the helm.

On the downward locks we would enter the chambers first followed by the huge ship, so we motored into the lock and took our position all the way forward in the chamber, it all went very smooth for both the Pedro Miguel chamber and the first chamber of the Miraflores locks.  If you were trying to watch us on webcam you would have seen us pass through the chamber but unfortunately we were all the way forward in the lock and that is off the screen on the webcam.

The final Miraflores chamber was a little more exciting because, once again the port boat refused to keep a snug aft line and the raft began to drift forward and to starboard when the chamber started to fill.  This time I looked over at the woman who was at the helm.  I smiled and asked gently for a little reverse.  Without comment she reversed, keeping her eyes on me until I asked her to stop.  Oh if only she had been at the helm the night before!

When the final lock doors opened Wandering Dolphin made her way into the Pacific Ocean for the very first time in her 25 years of sailing!  We passed under The Bridge of the Americas and my heart was in my throat with the thought of what we had done and what lay ahead of us.  There is truly no turning back now.  We must continue into the vast Pacific and we are ready for that!

That night we tied up to a mooring ball at Balboa Yacht Club and Roy Bravo brought us our clearance papers and picked up his tire fenders and lines.

We have been anchored out at the first Amador anchorage for almost a week now and have had lots of time to decompress while we wait for our new Backstay to arrive from Miami.  We  have also heard lots of other stories from boats who just made the same trip and we have found that we were lucky.  There were a couple of boats who turned sideways in the locks, one who hit another vessel and often the fault was with one of the boats in the raft that simple refused to get along with others.  We had john Michelle and his parents over to Wandering Dolphin and will be their friends for life while we hope to never see the other boat anchored to windward of us in an anchorage.

It's funny how that goes.  This community of sailors is just a microcosm of the rest of society.  Those who work together can accomplish great things with little stress but those who choose to let pride and stress get in their way become a burden and let down and even a danger to everyone around them.

Thanks again for riding along!  We should be getting our new backstay in a couple of days.  I will take pictures of our mast monkey EmilyAnne as she goes up the mast to install it.  What a kid huh?

In a Whole New Ocean,
Captain Tofer, Rebecca, EmilyAnne, Kanyon, Kaleb, and Benny
and of course... Wandering Dolphin

A Very Special THANKS to our friend Jim Blakey from Water island and our new friend Marius from  Austria who came along as linehandlers  for this special passage.  The pictures on this post are all pictures Jim took.