This month, June is the 2 year mark for us being underway from our home at Columbia River Yacht Club in Portland Oregon. When we started this adventure, we thought that this 2 year mark we would be close to being done….but that isn’t the case. Our plans have adjusted multiple times, as they should when things happen. But we are so happy they did because we would not have experienced some places that we were not planning on going.
This first disruption of our plans was the overhaul in the Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Shipyard at Opequimar. It took many more weeks than we anticipated. They did a great job but the length of time made us change our plans. We decided to head north up to the Sea of Cortez for the summer. And what a great time we had! We would go back for sure and maybe someday we will do that. It was one of the best times we had.
One of the other best times/places, that was unexpected, was when we hit the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean Sea side of Panama. This was definitely in our plans but we were totally surprised by the level of friendliness from the native Guna Indians. We were blessed to have them share parts of their lives with us and we will never forget this memory. Also the beauty of the land and the hardship these people live every day to just survive is amazing. We were blessed to be able to experience it.
Now we had many small change in plans and we really only plan out the next stop just before leaving the current one. But the Sea of Cortez was a major change to our plans. One of the other major changes to the plan was just recently when the Covid 19 hit the world. We were in Jamaica and we planned on going to Turks and Caicos and had family coming to join us. Well, of course that didn’t happen and we decided to undertake the longest run we had ever done, 4 days, alone with no crew. We made it safely to Florida and were glad to be in the US during these trying times.
We are frequently asked by people we meet about the roughest weather or worst storms. Of course you will all remember our cruise from Costa Rica to Panama, Our most TERRORIZING Cruise ever. We tell this story often to people we meet along the way, with wide eyes watching us as we point to the top of the fly bridge where the sea water attacked me in the middle of the night. This was a life changing event for me as a sailor and I truly respect the sea as it has its own agenda.
Of course, we are always doing repairs on the boat, well, I guess I should say Dan is always doing repairs. At least the repairs are being done in exotic locations, right? Because repairs are so much of our energy, to keep moving and be safe I asked Dan what his most concerning repair was and why. This repair issue was the overheating of our main generator. It actually had two issues, but we did not know that at the time.
Being that the overheating was in our main generator and it was old, we had a bit of concern and needed it fixed quickly. We were in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico at the time, which adds to the complexity if parts are needed. The first issue was a clogged and leaking heat exchanger. It was very troublesome because it was difficult to disassemble, being old & rusty and was hard to get it unfastened in a very tight location. Eventually he was successful, but the part had to be ordered from Cook Engines in the US and then have it shipped. Because it was heavy and expensive part, we paid bucks! Customs in foreign countries can hit you hard. The second issue was found a couple days later after the heat exchanger was replaced. We had a worn out and clogged exhaust mixing elbow. The sea water passage had become clogged, limiting the flow which causes more overheating. We had lost our main generator again. But this time we had friends coming down and they brought the part with them in their luggage and helped Dan fix the elbow. All of this was a major concern because this was our main generator wired to our inverter. We had to use our alternate generator which limited us to 50 amps max.
The winner of best pictures is a slam dunk on “Sunsets & Sunrises”. So many I may need to create a picture book with all these pictures to put on my coffee table, someday!
I was not sure how to put these two years into a overall blog when there was just so much to talk about, So I thought I would put the last 2 years into a list of data points.
730 days/2 years living aboard Angelique
8,386 nautical miles
7 countries visited
Cruised past 6 countries without stopping
12 Scuba/snorkels dives – not enough times, for sure!
1 new dinghy
1 haul out/overhaul
5 times we used 2 anchors – bad holding & bad wind/wave direction
3 times major direction change in plans
2 marina power failures while gone off of the boat – not fun!
18 airline tickets purchased, traveled away from boat
1 awesome supermoon
100’s of amazing sunset/sunrise pictures
40+ dolphin sightings
1000+ hours fixing & maintaining stuff
24 engine oil changes
1 stolen phone
3 Airbnb’s – during shipyard work
50 different visits from our friends/family
4 different visits from Ken and Cheryl – Our good friends
6 different visits from our kids, Kylie, Chase & Mitch
2 Hired hands – who were brothers
2 Navy football games attended – different cities
40+ motorcycle rides
48 blog posts about our adventures
75+ books read (hard, on-line & audio)
100+ bicycle rides
60+ Uber and taxi rides
27 nights Angela spent on boat without Dan
So many new boating friends/acquaintances
2 very grateful and blessed owners of Angelique
As we reflect back on the past 2 years living aboard our Motor Yacht, Angelique, we are amazed at how far we have traveled, IN OUR OWN BOAT! So many awesome memories we have and we are EXTREMELY GRATEFUL that I have been writing them all down in this blog. Also, incredibly grateful to our friends and family that have joined us and helped with moving the boat in those times we needed it. And of course, all the people we met along the way, which are now new friends with which we will hopefully keep in touch.
I hope that if this is something you are interested in doing, that you do it! Yes there are rough times, lots of maintenance and repairs. But what an adventure you will live and relive as you remember what you accomplished.
We hope you and your family are healthy and happy. Blessings to you from Dan and Angela on MV Angelique
Sitting in quarantine on Angelique in Florida is no more fun than you sitting at home. We do similar things to keep ourselves busy and healthy. Writing for me is a blessing. It has become something I look forward to rather than dread. When I started blogging, I wasn’t sure what to write about and how to go about it. I just knew I wanted to keep track of what we were doing and share it.
I thought I would share about Mexico. I think it is our most favorite countries we have visited, to date. We have spent the most time there and came to love it.
“What should you expect when you travel on your boat to Mexico?”
First, getting into the country is different than traveling inside of the US. We have to check in at customs & immigration. This requires us to go to the national office, sometimes close by and sometimes not. We also may be required to visit a bank, to pay the immigration office, occasionally they do not take cash. You would need to pay the bill at the bank and bring back a receipt. Then we would need to head to the Port Captain’s office to check into the local port. Sometimes these were not physically close and required a taxi or the marina’s office folks to cart us around. In some countries like Costa Rica & Panama we hired an agent to get us checked in/out. This was very valuable when we started reading the complications of moving from place to place in these two countries. Mexico is cheaper and simpler.
When we go to these offices we take all our critical documents needed to check in. Dan created a “Boat Book” with plastic sleeves for sliding in and out all the documents. This book holds all the vital paperwork needed to get in and show a customs/immigrations officers & Port Captain’s office. We are also often asked for copies of our documents and have a small printer we can use to make extra copies.
This book holds:
US Coast Guard National documentation
Import or cruising permit (TIP – Mexico)
Zarpe – Arrival and departure documents (we have saved them all)
Dispatcho or Arribo – Port Captain exit and entry documents
Homeland security decals
Radiotelephone license – FCC
Ownership of boat, bill of sale
registration for all vehicles (boat, dinghy, waverunner, motorcycle)
titles of all vehicles
Red fonts documents are required frequently, we carry the others in cases we need them.
Most countries also require you to purchase a travel/cruising permit for your boat to be in their waters. Mexico has a “TIP” Temporary Import Permit. Mexico’s TIP is a boat & owner specific permit that lasts 10 years. If you are buying a boat and you plan to take it to Mexico, make sure the previous owner has canceled their TIP, or it will cause you issues. You could possibly be sent back if you are not prepared. We entered in Ensenada and had worked with the local marina staff months and months before we entered. See, we had a TIP that was not canceled and the owner would not help, as he said it had already been canceled and it wasn’t. But the previous owner did give us the contact information in Ensenada of some folks that had helped him and we were able to get everything in-line before we arrived. We don’t recommend this approach, if at all possible, have the last owner cancel the TIP.
You need to remember that every time you move you are required to check “out and in” of each next major port of arrival/departure. You will need to visit the Port Captain’s office to accomplish this. If you are staying in a marina, you can ask for assistance. You will get different level of assistance in each one. This seems really hard and complicated. But once you figure it out and have a process for it, it isn’t as hard as it seems. Well worth the time for the experience.
We also joined a boat rally and we highly recommend this, as it gives you new people to meet, a place to ask questions and you learn a lot by just being with people that have done it before. From the West coast there are two different rally’s, The Baja ha ha & the Cubar. Either one is fine.
Now you are ready visit Mexico and have some fun! See the sights etc. As you start to interact with the local community, remember you are the guest! Most importantly, be kind and courteous to these folks. They will be excited to see you and take your money, of course. Tourism is their livelihood. For the most part Mexico is very inexpensive, especially if you are living with the locals and not in resort. So, if the marina is in a resort area, take the time to travel to the local farmers market, shopping store and don’t buy from the expensive stores near the resort.
Because you are living in Mexico and not just visiting for 1 or 2 weeks. You will be exposed to more of the ongoing daily culture. You have to go grocery shopping, buy stuff to work on repairs on your boat, etc. We enjoyed being more ingrained in the culture of Mexico. We got comfortable and knew our way around some of the towns really well. You will start to notice all the uniqueness of the country which you should embrace. Those that try and live a US life inside a foreign country will first, not experience the real country and second, be really disappointed.
“YOU have to have an Open Mind and accept that everything is different”
You “shouldnot” expect to see the same type of cities, roads, houses, restaurants, grocery stores, laws, taxis, sidewalks, attitudes, approach, style of speaking etc, etc, etc. Mexicans are much more about relationship building. They want to have a nice greeting before they get into the topic in question. Americans, right to the point! Understanding this is critical to building relationship and getting what you need & want. They are different and you should try and understand the uniqueness of their culture. At the shipyard in Puerto Vallarta, we had OUTSTANDING quality of work, very affordable pricing due to using a personally recommended project manager, who was a great communicator, super attentive, involving family members in their business. This was able to work because we accepted how they did business in a slow, relationship, family, and holiday considered way.
The grocery stores are different and not like the US, but if you are continuing to be open minded and trying new things, you will find new and interesting foods. Also the food expectations should also be open minded. You will not find perfect shaped or clean fruits and veggies. We also think everything needs to be refrigerated, which isn’t the case. Eggs are not washed and not refrigerated, meat out in the open & food carts are often scattered along the road sides.
Another way to enjoy the experience is to learn the language. Spanish isn’t that hard. Neither Dan or I knew any Spanish, but worked hard to learn what we could as we went along. Now, we certainly can’t hold conversations, but we learned how to ask questions, greeting, small words that helped us along the way. It helps with the locals valuing you and your visit, if at least try and speak some spanish. Of course you can take a class, use an app – Duolingo and practice as often as you can.
It is also really important to understand you can NOT get the boat parts in Mexico that you can expect to get in the US. BRING spare parts and/or have redundancies of items. Also any speciality lubes/oils etc. Carry them into Mexico on your boat. We cannot stress this enough. Bring spare starters, alternators, pumps, impellers, turbos, and lots of nuts bolts screws electrical connectors and plumbing parts, etc… Having something shipped not only takes a long time but crossing over the border, customs gets their cut. Sometimes 30-50% of the shipments retail cost.
For fun you might want to consider bringing kayaks, paddle boards, bicycles, snorkels gear, scuba gear, games and playing cards, & DVD movies. Also if you plan on anchoring out and visiting islands as we did up in the Sea of Cortez, you should consider a smaller lightweight dinghy that you can pull up on the sand. This is one mistake we made, ours is too heavy to haul up on a beach.
Internet & Phones add another complication. You get internet at marinas, but it isn’t as fast as US and surely isn’t as reliable (staying up and working). If you go in remote areas you will get no service, internet or cell. It is very spotty as to where you will have service in areas like the Sea of Cortez. Phone service was an unexpected issue we experienced. You are thinking…. You won’t have this issue because your US phone plan says = “USA, Canada and Mexico”. We didn’t expect to have an issue either. BUT, just before 3 months time T-Mobile told us they would cancel our plan and numbers if we didn’t go back to the US before the 3 month time. Depending on which plan you have you are only allowed 3-6 months in Mexico until they cancel your plan. This is for Verizon, AT&T, & T-Mobile. We personally went in and asked while we were home trying to solve our problem. We ended up buying Mexican phone numbers that we could fill with data and make calls. BUT it was extremely hard to keep filling up and we really weren’t happy with the service. There are lots of folks that buy these type of plans that either live or travel to Mexico often and they do fine. It just wasn’t okay for us. We asked some of our friends, Dean and Roxane what were they doing. They told us that they are on an AT&T plan with their adult kids, the more people the better. The plan that AT&T uses for large groups allows no more than 50% of the usage from Mexican travelers. So that is what we did, we have these awesome friends that let us join their AT&T plan and it is working out great!
Getting Cash is an interesting issue and I do recommend getting Mexican Pesos, you will need them. Yes you can use your Credit Card at restaurants, grocery stores, etc. but taking a taxi, tipping, farmers market, street vendors, a quick drink, you need cash. What I recommend is to use your debit card in a machine to get cash. Yes, you will be charged a fee and the conversion rate at the moment in time that you get the cash. But this is the easiest and best exchange rate. PLEASE use a debit machine attached to a local bank and be aware that there are thieves that can scan your card if you are not careful. You need to pay attention to the fee and the conversion rate, which are both set by the owner of the machine. The fee is a one time transaction fee, so pull out as many Pesos as the machine will allow in one transaction. All machines we went to have an option for “english”. That was nice.
Mexico is one of our most favorite places to visit/stay. We were in Mexico for a 1 year+ in many different areas. I’m sure we will be back. Dan and I feel Mexico is a very safe place to be. As long as you are aware of your surroundings, just like in the US. Pay attention and enjoy. I often went places by myself, either on a shuttle bus, taxi or Uber. (Available in the bigger cities). I only once felt a little uncomfortable. NOW there are cities where there is a bit of unrest, like Acapulco, so I would not act the same in this city and we were extremely careful there.
If you are open-minded to new adventures and new ways of living and don’t expect the same from Mexico as US, Canada or Europe. You will really enjoy yourself.
Watch for our NEXT Blog
…. SpaceX Rocket Launch in Florida (Hope it isn’t postponed)
When we landed at Vista Mar Marina after Our TERRORIZING Cruise to Panama, we had a few days to settle in and enjoy Panama before heading to Flamenco Marina, which is near the Panama Canal.
We spent time in Vista Mar Marina because it was a bit cheaper choice for a Marina than the Flamenco Marina which is about double the price at $2.50 a foot, a night. Ouch! We needed to be in Flamenco Marina to be close to the Panama Canal and do all the prep for our trip.
Our cruise to Flamenco was uneventful, yay! We were happy after our previous journey into Panama. As we approached the Flamenco marina, which was very close to the canal, we saw a crazy sight. Many large freighters, tankers, etc anchored just outside of the entrance, all waiting their turn to get in. I’m guessing close to a 100 ships. This picture only shows those ships that have AIS (Automatic Identification System) and have it on at the time. The green boat symbol on the chart is us. This scale shows both sides of the canal and those who are already transiting. It was an amazing sight.
The magnitude of all the ships is not viewable by any photos. It was just impossible to get pictures of all these ships to show you how massively big they were. The scope and range was just so overwhelming, there are no words to describe it. Plus all the personal pleasure crafts that were anchored around the corner were also waiting their turn.
Our Friends Ken and Cheryl joined us a couple days after we arrived. We did a trip to the grocery store after they arrived and we met Maria our Uber driver. We were chatting about the store she was taking us to and she warned us about the area, she said it is not a good area (we certainly didn’t know). She suggested we go to a different one, “Riba Smith Supermercado” near a very nice mall. We were so glad we did. It was the first foreign store that I had been to, in over a year, that actually looked like a US grocery store. We went crazy. She waited for us and hauled us back to the marina. Maria also took us to a good dinner place that night, “Diablicos” with authentic Panamanian food. We also went to the Panama Canal Museum and walked around town. We were so very lucky to have her, we would recommend her to anyone… (let us know if you need her contact info) We were also able to watch the Super Bowl in a restaurant near the marina too! We had a good stay in our expensive marina.
Our trip through the Panama Canal started months before, with the preparation we needed to do. We contacted an agent through a referral of another boater. We hired “Rogelio De Hoyos from Panama Cruiser Connection” as an agent. (let us know if you want his number too) We had decided that we wanted to pay the extra for his knowledge & experience. He scheduled our transit, did all the paperwork & permits, answered all our questions and helped us understand how and what to do. We also got 4 lines and 8 fenders to use on our yacht for the transit through the canal, included in the cost. Having these saves our lines and fenders from getting filthy dirty and ruined. 1 day after we arrived at Flamenco Marina we had an official from the Canal come to check our boat and measure it. You are charged to go through the canal based on the length of your vessel. We knew it would be expensive because Panama raised the cost of the transit effective January 1st, 2020. You are also required to have 4 people on board to handle lines and fenders. We had Ken, Cheryl and myself. Dan was the Captain and not counted as a line handler. We had planned to have one of Dan’s friends from the Naval Academy aboard, Scott and his wife Lauri. We were really sad that Lauri got sick and they were not able to make the trip. We send both of them our prayers, hoping she gets well soon. Rogelio, our agent, found 1 line handler for us. John was an experienced line-handler with the canal transit and helped greatly with what we should expect.
Two days before our departure the agent brought the pile of lines and fenders and told us our pilot was to arrive at 3:30 am on our boat. We had planned to pull out of the marina the night before, as we needed to be near the mouth of the canal when the pilot arrived.
“Pilots are required for all boats bigger than 65 feet long”
The day before our trip…….. our line handler arrived around 6:30 pm and we took off from Flamenco Marina to an anchorage outside the canal. He recommended that we have someone stay awake because if the Panama officials call us on VHF to tell us the pilot would arrive earlier or later, we would need to reply. So Ken took on the hard duty of staying awake until 2 am & then I took over to let him get some sleep. We were notified around 3 am that our pilot would arrive now at 5:45. The Pilot arrived on time by pilot boat and we quickly pulled anchor. We learned we have a numbered slot, where odd numbers are southbound and even number are northbound. We were number 27E, my favorite number… Ask me why.
The Pilot informed us that we were scheduled to go through with 3 other boats, a 100 foot charter boat, a tug and a huge freighter. The tug boat ended up going in an earlier group so now we just had the 2 other boats. Our request was to not be on the wall, to be tied to another boat that was tied to the wall. Which is what we got and we were really happy.
“When you are tied to the wall in a lock, the wall stands still and you move up or down (depending on which way you are going) This requires you to release the lines or pull in the lines as you move. It is a bit harder and more risk of getting damaged on the wall if a fender isn’t appropriate placed or you mess up the lines”
wall markings to tell how far from front to back of lock
workers helping toss lines
The 100 foot boat and our boat were waiting for the massive freighter to arrive. They were about 45 mins late. We could see him on our AIS and just had to wait. The freighter was going in the lock first and the two of us were going in second with our boat tied to the 100 footer.
“There are 6 locks, 3 up and 3 down with a artificial lake (Gautun) in the middle”
Our first lock was a nice and clean move into the lock. We were able to tie easily to the 100 foot boat after the large freighter was inside. The water went up and we moved safely. When the lock opened up the big freighter in front of us went out first. We untied from the 100 footer and hovered in the middle so that 100′ boat could untie and move forward first. In the next lock they had to tie up first so we could tie to them.
The Second lock went pretty nice too. No issues, we tied up nicely and again the water move up and we moved out after the freighter cleared. This time we had a little cruising time before the 3rd lock. So we were able to move forward as soon as the freighter moved. While we were cruising in part of the lower channel we let the 100′ boat pull past us so they could go in first.
The Third lock also went well with no issue or concerns. This time we were tied up on the right hand side (starboard) rather than the left hand side (Port) of the 100′ boat. The lock was just a different shape. We then had to navigate Gatun Lake towards the last 3 locks. We were pretty sure of ourselves on how it worked and getting tied against the other boat. We didn’t expect it to be much different, but some changes happened that impacted us greatly!
We were told that we would have a different group of boats with us on the way down. The 100′ boat was only scheduled to go half way and headed back the other way for a day trip after spending time in the lake. Their paid guests were only going for a Panama Canal day adventure and back again. The large freighter was asked to wait and go into a different lock, being that he cause us to be so late.
“Gatun was the largest man-made lake in the world, at the time it was created, 1914”
Gatun Lake was an interesting cruise and we went through it pretty fast, within a couple hours. There was wildlife and other boaters that are mostly locals and some other boats holding for one reason or another, to get through the canal at a later time. We were surprised that the water was so dirty. Not sure why it was so greenish-Brown.
The Canal and pilots really control what happens and you follow direction as told. We changed Pilots in the middle of the lake too. The pilot that joined us in the morning had some request come through that he needed to leave. A pilot boat picked him up and brought us another pilot.
The Fourth lock (first one going down) we saw a tug boat ahead of us and were told we would tie to him, a different freighter was going in behind us. As we headed into the lock Dan could see the turbulence from the Tugboats engines. Tugs have very, very powerful engines and inside the lock the water just gets pushed around and creates a huge motion in the water. We struggled a bit to get close enough to the tug to tie up. The wind was more of a factor, because these locks we were going down in height. We started off with the water high, almost level with the lock walls. Rather then starting at a low point and being protected by the lock walls. The wind did impact us as we were attempting to tie off on the Tugboat, but we got some lines over and for them to help us tie off to them. (you can see in the picture the Tug crew were not extremely helpful) Then the large freighter was tied behind us. When the water went down, the employees stopped it and took it back up. We weren’t sure what happened at first but the large freighter had big anchors hanging out on the sides of his bow. His tie off in the lock wasn’t perfectly even and he was going to hit the wall, so up we went. They pulled a bit with the mules which evened it out a bit, then back down we went.
“A mule is a Train like hauling machines for the freighters, one on each side, costing $2 million USD apiece”
The canal owns about a hundred of these. All large freighters are pulled through the canal, not using their engines. Smaller boats, like us, use their own engines.
The Fifth lock (second one going down) was tough and scary!It was the most challenging lock. The wind had picked up and we may have headed into the lock a bit too early and were impacted by the spinning water from the tugboat. As we headed in, the stern (back) of the boat started twisting towards the right (starboard) side of the lock. Dan couldn’t control the movement without hitting the tug. We backed out and attempted it again. The same thing happened but this time we were heading for the wall on the wrong side of the lock. All of us “line-handles” had to hustle over to the starboard side of the boat with fenders and boat hooks to push us off and protect the boat. Dan was attempting to move us forward without us rubbing the side our boat on the opposite side of the lock wall. He needed to twist which would have the stern touch the wall. We were all panicked and started screaming at Dan, not to go backwards anymore then what we were already doing. There was a uneven section on the wall that could have really taken a big chunk out of the boat. Well, we touched the wall with the corner of our boat as we slid back and twisted. Thank Goodness, we missed the uneven pointed section. We just got bruised with a few scrapes and a couple small spots that can easily be repaired.
Dan said, “It was one of the hardest maneuvers he has ever done, as there were large invisible and uncontrolled forces on the boat”
It could have been much worse, we only have a small amount of damage on the boat starboard stern corner. Not claim worthy, just some touch up needed. We were finally able to get close enough to get lines over to the Tugboat and get tied up. It was crazy scary. Not for our safety, but for the boats safety. We didn’t need big repair bills.
One of my FAVORITE pictures was taken in this lock #5 before we went down. You could see the last lock #6 in front of us and the Centennial bridge. Which I think looks like Sails of a sailboat at an angle. The water is also more clear and clean as we neared the Atlantic side.
The 6th and final lock was just as hard as #5 but we had a better outcome. We held back longer to let the water settle inside the lock before we headed in after the Tugboat. The Pilot told Dan to head directly at the stern of the tugboat and allow the water/wind to push us away. We were able to get our bowline over to the Tug which allowed us to pull along side of him and it worked much better.
We were happy to be through the canal and we were all exhausted and ready to be docked at Shelter Bay Marina. This marina is located inside the Panama Canal breakwater so it is much more protected than Flamenco Marina. We quickly tied up with the help of the marina guys and went to celebrate our victoryat the local restaurant. We had a nice dinner and we all were in bed early that night!
The actual transit took approximately 12 hours, not counting the waiting and pilot boarding.
Here is our time Lapse Video of our trip… Please LIKE our video on YouTube!
Watch for our next blog on… Shelter Bay/Colon & San Blas Islands – Should be a good one..
It will be our first Blog on the Atlantic/Caribbean side