Thanks to the broken throttle cable in Port Antonio we missed our weather window to head across the Caribbean. The Colombian Low blew up and so we had to stay there for about a week longer than we would have liked. It was a fairly uneventful week with only the town bull-shit to keep us entertained. We fixed the throttle cable thanks to George at the marina fetching us one from Kingston. The marina management started to get irritating though by adding things to our bill when other cruisers would skip out on them. The excuse the angry lady behind the counter gave was that she saw me talking to them, so they must have been my friends and on my tab. Stupid.

On February 6th, we finally left for San Andreas, Columbia, an island off Nicaragua. The sail was downhill and 550 miles long and we had winds less than 15 knots but occasional huge waves. It was our first really long passage and it went very smooth. We only caught one derado though and it was way to small to keep. Off the south coast of Jamaica there were some very small dolphins that came in swam in the bow wake late at night. They stayed with us for several hours, but they were interestingly tiny. The biggest one was maybe 4 feet and the smallest about 18 inches, and most of them about 2 feet. We haven’t seen dolphins in Slick’s wake since Florida. We also pre-prepaired food for the trip which made the whole passage easier, especially considering the size of the waves broadside throwing us about the cabin. There was also an unexpected counter current that took a knot of speed from us (it was going backwards from the chart description), so instead of arriving in 72 hours as planned, it took us 92. That was frustrating.

We arrived in San Andreas, Columbia on the 10th in the afternoon, made our way to Nene’s Marina as suggested by Captain Tom. Things went smooth and once again we cleared customs in a bar. In Columbia you have to hire an agent and after all the fees, immigration and customs, it cost us $160, Ouch! There was a sport fisher tied up next to us and they had a steady stream of hookers and drugs coming to the boat. We talked with one of the guys and he explained it all to us, in a nutshell, Nate and I got a real education. The crazy part is that people on the island used cocaine so often that it was practically ubiquitous, sort of like Jamaicans and weed. One of the days we rented a Kawasaki Mule, which is a cross between a tractor and a go-kart and drove all over the island, basically on every road or trail we could find. This took all of three hours. We cruised up to a barrio called “The Barracks” that we were told to avoid, it looked pretty bad and we left before too long, but on the way home the Mule gave up and we had to push start it after that. That’s what we get for taking the “two year old” model. All in all, the cost of seeing this island was a bit much thanks to the marina cost and the customs fees. Even if we would have visited other island we still would have had to pay the fees again, which is a bit frustrating. All in all we left San Andreas a little disappointed, but it was nice just the same.

The trip to Panama was an easy one, but we got underway very late thanks to the immigration official taking his sweet time clearing us out. Jon and Heather from Evergreen where in-route to Colon as well and we didn’t want them to beat us there, except they had left from the Bahamas so instead of an overnighter, they had been at sea for like 9 days. In any case the wind was fairly light and it was an easy 220 mile sail. The fishing was a little different too, ever since Capt. Tom gave us an extra pole, we use two of them. Both of them went off at once as we crossed over a 3000′ deep bank. Turns out we went over a school of tuna. Nate’s spit out the hook but I reeled mine in, it was so little though, maybe 3 lbs, that I didn’t want to bother gutting it. More interestingly though, the meat line (a line we tow behind the boat with a lure on it) hooked a fish, and it seemed big. It didn’t surface, but it certainly wasn’t wanting to come in, I thought we would break the line or lose our lure. Eventually the fish spit it out, so I brought it in to check the lure and the hook was bent straight! Moments later the reel went off and it sounded like it was going to explode. I turned the boat down to shed speed as Nate was fighting something huge. I looked out to see immense thrashing in the water and a marlin broached, it was probably 8 feet without the bill. Crazy Captain Jonathon told us to drive for them when we hook them so we tried. We really were not wanting to catch it, just get our lure back. This was the biggest fish i have ever seen hooked. The monster broke the line though after a second surface. I tried to get a picture but the whole thing was over in about 20 seconds. Why these giant sport fish are hitting our 3 inch fake squid is beyond me, but they are pretty impressive to see. We saw many other marlin just below the surface of the water as we headed to Panama. As we approached the coast of Colon there were about 100 AIS contacts, ships from all over the world. The sun set and we navigated them in the dark and into the marina as well, which was kind of hairy. Many of the ships would pull up anchor and it always seemed to happen as we got near.

We tied up and sure enough, Evergreen was there next to us, neighbors again. I tried to knock on the hull but I think they were sound asleep. Who else did we find here? Tony from Aqhuabi, our friends from the Bahamas. After a few happy hours we were all caught up with both boats. It turns out that evergreen came in only 3 hours before us. Jon and Heather and I went for a walk out around the marina in a park that’s here, we saw monkeys, leaf cutter ants and an old firing battery from when the Americans ran the place.

Customs here consists of tons of paperwork in quintuplicate, and mandatory tips, which is a new concept. All in all it cost us $213 to enter with boats. Along with this, the marina is 45 miles from Colon on the north side of the bay, which on one hand makes it safe but on the other means you have to buy their food and such. The canal will be about another $1000 to pass through so it will be a pricy visit. We have tons of work to do while here to get ready for the Pacific crossing. In addition it seems we are always waiting on someone for something, an inspector for this or a call from that agent. I really wanted about 10 days to do some inland travel but it seems the canal authorities have other ideas, and you pretty much go when you can otherwise you might be waiting awhile.

We went through the canal as line-handlers to get some practice on Aqhuabi and it turns out that the whole evolution is pretty straight forward and easy. The hardest part being dealing with the other cruisers as they send sailboats through the locks as a big raft and it is clear that most boaters have never rafted before. We made a good time of it though as the Tony and his dad have a pretty similar sense of humor to Nate and I. Two days of transit and then we came back from Balboa on a bus. We were dropped off in the downtown of Colon and it is a huge dump, one might actually change the emphasis and make it lowercase to accurately describe it.