Thursday, January 07, 2016

De Pjotter, onze Breehorn 37 staat te koop zie 

The Pjotter, our Breehorn 37, is for sale please visit

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nada es Imposible

Over  the last 27 months we have traveled 25 000 nautical miles, visited 28 countries, completed two Atlantic Ocean crossings, sailed into the Arctic Circle and survived one near sinking in the Gambia, one hurricane in Nova Scotia, one lost propeller blade in the San Blas Islands, one terrifying run-in with heavily armed customs agents off the coast of Cuba, one storm that chased us between Newfoundland and Iceland and one man overboard in the Faroe Islands.

But what have we really experienced?

Real life on board Adjusting to a life with very different and sometimes uncomfortable guidelines, living in a small space, thinking up creative solutions to entertain ourselves in this very small space, never having any time alone,  fresh water management and the resulting change in hygiene habits,  procurement of  food  in out of the way places,  strict policies to avoid bugs on board, never ever ever ending boat maintenance,  an ongoing worry about safety on board and a nagging fear that something horrible will happen or something critical will break down. 

Wonders of nature.  Mountains rising up out of the clouds, craggy cliffs and caves,  startlingly blue water, awe inspiring waves, incredible sunrises and sunsets, the wonderful variety of shapes and colours that the sky and sea can produce and the thrill of ‘land in zicht!.’  Hearing a hippopotamus grunting next to the boat,  the storm kestral that kept us company in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a huge humpback whale gliding in the water a few meters away, exchanging a smile and a wave with a group of dolphins frolicking off the bow…

Memorable Arrivals.  The English coast in the distance after our first overnight voyage, passing the waypoint buoy off the coast of Suriname following a 14-day Atlantic crossing, the statue of liberty as we entered New York Harbour, my parents welcome in St. Andrews New Brunswick,  the Lange Jaap in the distance as we sailed the final miles.

Amazing  people The boy in Gambia who lived in a mud hut but had a poster of Zinidane Zidane on his wall, the Irish musician adventurers who had sailed both the Northeast and Northwest passages , the Russians that were attempting the same adventure on a rubber raft, the unassuming Spanish man in Cape Verde with a huge homemade boat and a flying dinghy, Laura Dekker the youngest solosailer in the world, the many kind people in Newfoundland who offered us so much support, the warm welcome at a wedding celebration in Fair Isle, a uniquely open and supportive cruisers community and some really extraordinary friendships that I know will last long after this adventure is over.  

The Family Unit Being a snug little entity of our own,  completely relying on and trusting each other seeing the thrill of new experiences reflected in the eyes of the people you love most in the world,  Seb’s grin when he reeled in his first fish, Emma’s proud face when she swam under the dinghy, Macsen’s squeak of delight as underwater wonders appeared before his diving mask, long hikes in the wilderness, playing in the snow together for the first time,  drinking hot chocolate in the cabin when it is cold and raining outside, never missing a moment, being so close and intimate and generally feeling that when we are together nothing is impossible. 

What an experience! So pure and so real.  We have now come full circle and we bid farewell for now to our life on board with very deep sadness looking forward to our new lives knowing that we will always have this wonderful adventure.    

Pjotter standing by…

Thursday, August 25, 2011

'Only do the amazing things' Helderse Courant newspaper article

Sebastiaan, Rhiannon, Emma en Macsen Ambtman zijn na ruim twee jaar zeilen weer terug in Nederland
Klik op artikel om te lezen

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Licht in Zicht!

At 3am this morning, August 18th, we caught a glimpse of the flash of the Lange Jaap. This is the beautiful big red lighthouse of Den Helder with a light range of 30 nautical miles. Seb grew up in Den Helder and the Lange Jaap has been a large and visible symbol of home for him for his entire life. Rather emotional to see it again from our Pjotter after 27 months away. Just one of several highly emotional moments that I'm sure we will experience over the next few days.
We expect to arrive on Texel, an island in the North of the Netherlands, at around 1100 this morning. Our plan is to stay there for two days and then to sail the last six nautical miles to arrive in Den Helder on August 20. Full circle.
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Tuesday, August 02, 2011


After a 166 nautical mile motor sail through little wind along the dramatic coast we turned the Pjotter into the Sugandafjoerdur to the little town of Sudureyri.  In addition to the stunning location, sandwiched at the point of the 13 km long Sugandafjordur,  the town is also notable for being a forerunner in Iceland in sustainability.  Sudureyri gets all its energy and hot water supplies from sustainable sources.  The villages’ prime fishing grounds lie close to shore so little fuel is used to power boats and traditional fishing methods mean that the natural balance of the fish stocks is not endangered.  

Seb was invited out for the day on the Gestur Kristinsson, a 37 foot fishing boat skippered by a local fisherman named Höskuldur and carrying one additional crewman named Niels.  The three of them motored out of the protected harbor at 0530 in the morning and returned with 2,4 tonnes of haddock, cod, catfish, monkfish and sole at about 1700.   Emma and Macsen and I hurried out to meet them on the dock to watch the fish being unloaded.  Seb was jubilant and full of tales of the 18km of line (18,000 hooks) sent out from the boat, the complexity of gaffing so many fish,  catching a monkfish with a mouth as big as his own head, taking stitches out of Niels’ thumb and many more.  After the fish were hauled out and weighed we ushered a rather fishy smelling Seb back to the boat carrying a huge monkfish tail and a good size sole.  He spent much of the rest of the evening filleting and together we rigged up a drying frame for the leathery monkfish skin, a strange and interesting souvenir.   We finally settled in for a delicious meal of monkfish and rice at about 10 o’clock in the evening.  

The monkeys and I had spent the day wandering around the village and soaking in the swimming pool and hot pots.  The pools are outdoors and from their warm waters you can hear the sheep baaing and can watch them scrabbling around on the steep cliffs above. Rather pleasant.  We topped our day with an ice cream (we are in Iceland after all) before heading back to view Papa’s catch.    

                                          "I am going fishing!"

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Arctic Ocean

On our way to a little island called Grimsey on the North of Iceland we were honoured by a visit from Neptune of the North. He joined us to celebrate our crossing of the polar circle (66 33 44N) and entry into the Arctic Ocean. Macsen was a little scared of him but remained polite throughout his visit. The appropriate libations (Laphroaig) were liberally poured overboard in thanks for our safe passage.
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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Reykjavik and the Golden Circle

Thanks to an abundance of geothermal heat, swimming is a national institution in Iceland, and nearly every town has at least one sundlaug (heated swimming pool).  In our first five days in Iceland we went swimming outside almost every day and ate a total of seven ice cream cones per person.  We never achieved this quantity of swimming and ice cream eating in our time in the warmth of the Caribbean. The weather was very sunny and relatively warm (between 8-15 Celsius) and the hot pots (thermal pools) were delicious.  After 9,5 days at seas we felt in need of a little pampering and touristing so we rented a car and headed out on the Golden Circle to see the major sights in the area.  The countryside is stunning with huge rocky cliffs and bright green hills leading down to shining lakes and fjords.  The South coast was bleak with black evil lava rocks lumped across the landscape giving the place a mysterious and wonderful feel.  You can easily see why stories of trolls and fairies and other wonderful creatures abound in this landscape.  The countryside is relatively untouched and there are few houses (over 35% of the 320,000 Icelandic people live in Reykjavik) but the tourist hot spots are crowded.   
Our first stop was Geysir, location of the mother of all geysers after whom all other geysers in the world are named.  Geysir used to shoot up 100 metres but over the years visitors have thrown stones into it and now it only spouts a few metres high.  Sometimes people do things that aren’t very clever.  Just next to Geysir, however, is Strokkur and this one shoots an impressive 25-35 feet of water and steam every 8-10 minutes.  It was hard to drag the monkeys away.  They would wait eagerly and then throw their hands in the air with a big ‘whooaaaa!’ whenever she blew.     

The Blue Lagoon is a field of milky blue water glowing and steaming in the middle of a black lava field, impressive.  The spa area consists of a huge rocky pool heated to 38 Celsius by the Svartsengi geothermal plant. Our hotel was locate 600 m from the lagoon and the path us led through an eerily beautiful lava field.  Each day the walk would take a little longer as Emma and Macsen honed their troll and fairy hunting skills.  There were hundreds of exciting little nooks and crannies in the moss covered lava that they peered into each one hoping to make friends with the little folk inhabiting them.  We spent hours floating around the pool, eating ice cream in the water (nothing is closer to heaven for a 3 and 5 year old) and smearing the silicon mud on our faces.  Seb and I both tried a floating massage and had our tense passage-weary muscles rubbed while floating around outside in the huge warm milky bath.  After two days we headed back to the Pjotter glowing warm, relaxed and with skin as soft as a baby’s bottom.  

St. John’s to Reykjavik

Imagine our dismay when, about five days into the voyage, we learned of an approaching low pressure system that promised very heavy winds (35-50 knots!) and waves to match (up to 22 feet!)…not something we were keen to experience.  Although it never looked as they we would be anywhere near the middle of it we were uncomfortable even to be on the periphery of such as system.   Our options were to turn East, adding several hundred miles and 3-4 days to our passage or banking that the winds would remain steady enough to continue our rapid progress straight ahead to arrive in Iceland ahead of the system.   After carefully studying our forecast information we agreed to keep our course and minimize our time at sea. The forecast 15-20 knots of wind SSE-SE delivered and we managed to keep our speeds over 7 knots for the last 5 days.  Our average for the entire 9,5 days crossing was 6,8 knots!!!  All in all it was a physically comfortable and enjoyable crossing with steady winds and minimal seas.   Mentally it was much more trying but regular weather updates and emails from friends and family kept our spirits up most of the time.  The monkeys were an absolute joy and remained positive the entire time, pretty incredible for two young children kept in a small, wobbly enclosed space for days on end. 

At 1200am on July 12th, exactly 9,5 days from departure, we tied up our Pjotter on the public wharf in Reykjavik.  Two very pleasant and efficient customs agent were  on board within an hour and we checked in with them while sitting outside in the cockpit and completed all of the paperwork in the midnight sun.   After a very brief but highly enjoyable ‘ aankomst biertje’  we settled with great relief into our finally still bed. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 9: Whew, arrived in Reykjavik!

Date: July 12th, 2011
Time: 0000UTC
Position: 64.09.316N / 021.56.386W
Trip: 1521nm
Underway: 228 hours

Conditions: happy, tired and satisfied.

Off to bed..

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 8: Pilot Whales

Date: July 11th, 2011
Time: 1200UTC
Position: 61.05.08N / 027.27.13W
COG/SOG: 35-40 degrees / 6.5-7kn
Trip: 1264nm
Distance to go (DTG): 244nm
Underway: 192 hours
24h distance: 164 nm
Conditions: SE 15-20, cloudy w brief sunny patches. Cabin 20 degrees, outside 13 degrees. Sea 2-3m
Sails: main single reef, genoa double reef

Today a pod of pilot whales came to swim in our wake. Their glistening black bodies plunging through the wake in perfect synchronization with one another. I think that they were trying to reassure us that we are almost there. We keep our eyes peeled for whales and dolphins. There are minke, humpback and even orca and blue whales around Iceland. Exciting!

I finally dare to give an estimated arrival time, late on the evening of the 12th. We expect to arrive in Reykjavik Harbour at around midnight local time but that is no matter as it will still be perfectly light out. Simplifies navigation significantly. We are still cruising along at around 7 knots with 20-25 knots of wind. Over the last 24 hours it has become a little more uncomfortable and every now and then someone splashes a large bucket of water over the boat. So far we have managed to elude this joker and they have yet been able to soak Seb or I as we are adjusting something outside.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 7: Northern Nights

Date: July 10th, 2011
Time: 1200UTC
Position: 59.08.27N / 031.01.11W
COG/SOG: 35-40 degrees / 7kn
Trip: 1100nm
Distance to go (DTG): 400nm
Underway: 168 hours
24h distance: 172nm
Conditions: SE 15-20, cloudy w brief sunny patches. Cabin 17 degrees, outside 13.2 degrees. Sea 2m
Sails: main single reef, genoa double reef, full cutter

It is 2230 as I write this and outside it looks like high noon. The sun will probably go down within an hour or so but will be back up again by 0330. It makes our night watches much more pleasant but it is very difficult to explain to the monkeys why they always have to go to bed while the sun is still up. Most unfair.

We are still making good progress and keeping our 7+ knots average. Our angle on the wind is a little higher causing the boat to heel a little. Emma and Macsen take advantage of this and have developed a game that has them sliding from the navigation table into the kitchen. Points are given for the best 360, twirl, backwards twist etc. Good fun.

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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Day 6: Sunshine!

Date: July 9th, 2011
Time: 1200UTC
Position: 56.54.46N / 034.19.43W
COG/SOG: 35-40 degrees / 7-7.5 kn
Trip: 928nm
Distance to go (DTG): 571nm
Underway: 144 hours
24h distance: 174nm (!)
Conditions: SE 15-20kn, cloudy some sunshine, cabin 21 degrees, outside 9.7 degrees, sea 1.5-2m
Sails: main single reef, genoa double reef, full cutter
The sun popped out for a few hours this afternoon and that felt sooo good. We even opened the companionway to air the cabin and I sat on my watch with the sun baking my back. Maybe it really is July! All is well on board and we are making good progress. Our usual average speeds of 5-5,5 knots (120-132 nm per 24 hours) have become 7-7,5 knots (168-180 nm per 24 hours). This will hopefully bring us to Reykjavik ahead of a low that is moving North East towards us and bringing heavy winds. Full speed ahead!

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Day 5: The Smooth Faced Viking

Date: July 8th, 2011
Time: 1200UTC
Position: 54.53.10N / 037.52.14W
COG/SOG: 40 degrees / 5.5-6 kn
Trip: 754nm
Distance to go (DTG): 740nm
Underway: 120 hours
24h distance: 132nm
Conditions: light variable winds. overcast. Cabin 21 degrees, outside 8.5 degrees. Sea <1 m
Sails: full main and iron jib (motor)

Provided that we do not have to make any significant course changes due to weather conditions, we passed our halfway point today. This event was celebrated in a low key way with the baking of a cake and the opening of a huge box of Lego for the monkeys. I say 'for the monkeys' but Seb and I dug into the Lego with just as much enthusiasm as Emma and Macsen. To round off the celebration Sebastiaan the Hairy decided to remove his beard as a show of gratitude and respect for Neptune (or perhaps to Odin and Thor). Emma is not at all keen on the smooth face of her Papa and wants him to grow it back immediately. Macsen just kept staring at him as though he wasn't quite sure.

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Friday, July 08, 2011

Day 4: Vastness

Time: 0600UTC
Position: 54.30.96N / 038.26.66W
COG/SOG: 35 degrees / 5-5.5 kn
Trip: 724nm (almost halfway)
Distance to go (DTG): 769nm
Underway: 114 hours
24h distance: 149nm
Conditions: light variable winds. overcast. Cabin 21 degrees, outside 8.4 degrees. calm seas (<1 m)
Sails: full main and iron jib (motor)

There is little sun and the stars have been clouded out by mist or clouds every night so we are very grateful for our modern GPS and chart plotter. We do have a sextant on board but we haven't seen anything to 'shoot' in the past 2 days. Tracking our position on the paper chart on the wall helps show the monkeys where we are. I have no idea how the early navigators managed to find anything out here. Truly remarkable really. The size of the sea is overwhelming and it helps us greatly to do continued and detailed analysis of what we can expect, where we are and when we will be another centimeter further on the vast blue of the chartplotter (if you zoom out it looks much more manageable). One or two big ships per night cross our path and even if we only see them as little purple triangles on our AIS and they are 25 miles away it still feels good to have them there. We look back on our first Atlantic crossing fondly and our daily chat sessions with our friends sailing relatively nearby. Even though we are less than 500 miles from the coast of Greenland the sea seems absolutely endless. I'm glad that we have such a cosy crew on board.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Day 3: A Day Underway

Time: 0500UTC
Position: 52.39.92N / 041.00.21W
COG/SOG: 35 degrees / 7 kn
Trip: 578nm
Distance to go (DTG): 928nm (down to 3 digits)
Underway: 89 hours
24h distance: 164nm (!)
Conditions: SW winds at 20 kn. Fog. Cabin 18 degrees, outside 11.9 degrees. Moderate seas (2-3 m)
Sails: full main and reefed genoa

The fog seems to have settled over us and most of our time is spent inside at the moment, apart from frequent sail tweeks and checks outside. A little different than our first Atlantic crossing when the majority of our days were spent sunning in the cockpit. The monkeys afternoon time was easy to fill with a long daily bath in their buckets. And we thought that we had to be creative then. Fortunately, they are older now and can entertain themselves a little more. They constantly amaze us with their games of imagination and the stories they fabricate to support their play. Once again we try to keep some structure in the day and it now looks something like this:

0830 Monkeys up and off-watch adult gets up for breakfast
0900-1030 Various activities (We try to vary these between mental and physical thus a painting hour will be followed by an exercise/yoga/ crazy dance/follow-the-leader game, adults switch between weather reviews, lookout and boat management)
1030 Fruithapje (morning snack - so far we still have fresh clemantines, peaches, apples and blueberries)
1030-1230 Various activities (if we are feeling lazy this may include a movie for the monkeys but so far we have only done this once)
1230 Warm lunch (We've taken to eating our heavy meal at lunch and a light lunchlike meal in the evening)
1300-1500 One adult naps with the monkeys
1500-1630 Various activities (the monkeys can both spend ages drawing or colouring, the walls of the boat are becoming rather full of their artwork)
1630—1700 Borrelhapje (this is an afternoon snack, brings us all together and we usually try to make it something special, today was apple crumble with whipped cream and hot chocolate)
1700-1800 Various activities
1800-1900 Dinner (lunchlike)
1900 Off watch adult goes to bed to read and relax (we call this happy hour)
1930 Try to SSB with Herb, the weatherman (this worked well today but can sometime be frustrating due to propagation problems)
2000 Monkeys join the off watch adult in bed (hopefully the adult is already asleep)
2000-0830 Watches continue three hours on three hours off

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Day 2: Weather

Time: 0130UTC
Position: 51.05.85N / 045.02.37W
COG/SOG: 60 degrees / 6.5-7.5 kn
Trip: 395nm
Distance to go (DTG): 1140nm
Underway: 62 hours
24h distance: 168nm (!)
Conditions: SSE winds at 15-20 kn. Fog and rain. No moon. Cabin 20 degrees, outside 11 degrees. Moderate seas (2 m)
Sails: full main and genoa + cutter

Bombing along at an average of 7 knots on relatively flat seas has been pleasing us for the last 24 hours. This fact compensates more than a little for the additional distance that we have decided to sail. Our current course is taking us East of our rhumb line and out of our way an expected 120 nautical miles. Our hope is that this Easting will help us to keep some stronger Northerly winds off of our nose later in the passage. Our weather sources are varied at the moment. We tried to keep in touch with Canadian weather guru Herb Hilgenberg, but unfortunately have not been able to contact him for a couple of days due to SSB propagation. Prior to our departure and underway we have had some tremendous help from a local Newfoundland meteorologist named Duncan Finlayson. He is a fellow sailor and has even sailed to Greenland in light seas without any water on deck. We have also consulted a commercial weather router for the first time named Commander's Weather. This information, coupled with our own downloaded weather faxes, grib files and written reports will hopefully keep us is favourable conditions.

The sphere on board remains positive and relaxed. Both of the monkeys are becoming highly skilled artists, we read a lot of books, Seb cooked a delicious nasi with peanut sauce for lunch and we danced around and did some silly exercises. All in all rather a nice day.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Day 1: So Far So Good!

Time: 2000UTC
Position: 49.32.35N / 049.25.70W
COG/SOG: 60 degrees / 6.5-7.5 kn
Trip: 197nm
Distance to go (DTG): 1340nm
24h distance: 142nm
Conditions: SE winds at 15 kn. Sunny few fog banks. Cabin 20 degrees, outside 7.5 derees. Light to moderate seas (1-2 m)

Leaving Newfoudland, the cosy marina and all of the wonderful people we'd met was a challenge, especially with a long, cold and blustery crossing to Iceland before our noses. As such, the sea seemed rather large around us as we headed out of Long Pond, especially when I caught a glimpse of the vast expanse of blue on the chart plotter.

Beautiful sun and a lovely wind from the beam have given as a unexpectedly warm and pleasant trip so far. Our lunches and afternoon borretljes have all been held in the cockpit. Great news given that we were afraid that the monkeys would develop a vitamin D deficiency during this passage as they would never get outside. Dolphins have been leaping about the boat and we've seen a whale in the distance. We are also surrounded by a variety of birds that give us a cheerful feel. So far so good!

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Sunday, July 03, 2011

‘Over de Noord’ - The Northern Route

You may have noticed that our website is, once again, not entirely up to date.  Apologies for that.  Although it appears that we are still enjoying the sunny weather of Cuba,  in fact we left Cuba on May  7th and are currently at the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club just outside of St. John’s.   Our plan is to leave on July 3rd for a 1400 nautical mile passage to Reykavik, Iceland.   This promises to be a cold voyage but we hope for fair winds and will be longing for the geothermal  baths of Iceland while underway.   If it is not too cold to take off my mittens I will write a short update of our progress every few days.  From Iceland we will sail to the Faroe Islands, on to the Shetlands and Orkneys and then on home to the Netherlands.  We expect to arrive in Den Helder in the third week of August to give ourselves some time to resettle back into our home before Emma starts school on September 5th.  Please do continue to scroll down the blog from time to time as I do plan to include coverage of our fun adventures from Cuba, up the East coast of the US, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland once we have internet coverage again.  

While we are underway you can check our latest position here.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Things that go Bump in the Night

Departing Providencia was a sad task as we had fallen in love with the island and were loath to leave it behind.  But onward we must go, so we pulled up the anchor and, along with the big Pjotter, headed northwards for a 700 nautical mile sail to Havana, Cuba.   

The sail was fast and pleasant, although winds were high from time to time, and we found ourselves just off the North coast of Cuba on the evening of the April 28th.  It was pitch dark, I was well settled into bed and Seb was on watch when we heard the familiar “Pjotter, Pjotter, here the Pjotter.”  We spoke frequently on the VHF with each other so this in itself was nothing unusual.  The unusual part was the panicked tone of voice.  The next message was much more alarming. “There is a small fishing boat next to our boat, they just appeared out of the dark” “They are shining their search light on us and they refuse to identify themselves.”  Seb called immediately to me and together we motored as quickly as possible towards them in the dark.  Seb called his father on the sat phone and he notified the coast guard while I readied the EPIRB and our flares…on the off chance that we would require assistance.  We were both shaking a little.   The reports on the VHF from Kees and Marta became more unsettling as we heard that the men on the boat were armed, had pulled up alongside their boat and were holding onto their railing, still refusing to identify themselves.  The two boats came into view in the dark and we made out 4 men, one carrying an incredibly scary looking machine gun (I guess they aren’t any other kinds).   They were all wearing t-shirts and jeans and were shouting questions in Spanish and generally looking very intimidating and it was all quite terrifying.   After several very, very, very long minutes it finally became clear that they were Cuban customs officials, checking if we were up to anything untowards.   When they were finished with the big Pjotter, they came alongside our boat and fired a number of questions at us, offered no information themselves, and finally rather grudgingly let us proceed.  As soon as our heart rates were back to normal (this took some time) and after several reassuring chats over the VHF with Kees and Marta, we settled back into our watch.

Exploring my Welsh Roots

The infamous pirate Henry Morgan used Providencia as a base for raiding the Spanish empire, and rumours suggest that much treasure remains hidden on the island.  The 4500 inhabitants are primarily English-speaking (many descendants of Morgan himself) and their pride in this swashbuckling Welshman is reflected in the names of the landmarks, Morgan’s Head,  the slightly ruder Morgan’s Crack and Morgan’s Fort.   
Upon arrival we radioed in to ‘Mr. Bush’ who is the local agent , and within ½ hour we had 6 local officials on board who checked the boat and our documents in a friendly way and cleared us (again) into Colombia.   

Providencia is a small jewel of an island out in the middle of the Carribean Sea.  The protected harbor is surrounded by lovely green hills, the people are incredibly kind and friendly (if you havn’t any money with you you can always ‘come back and pay tomorrow’), the tourists blend in with the locals (rather than vice versa as is prevalent in most Caribbean islands), it is sunny and warm with a fresh sea breeze and fresh mangoes hang from almost every tree.   
Our first day was spent on a short hike from the old town center up to Morgan’s Fort and then down to a secluded beach.  We planned to walk further around to the prominent round rock known as Morgan’s head but Emma and Macsen were too busy digging for Morgan’s treasure in the sand to want to waste time walking further.  Unfortunately, their efforts only uncovered a few angry crabs.  
Black Land crabs that live in the hills of the island make their annual migration to the sea in the spring of each year.  This means thousands and thousands of large black crabs pouring down the hills to wash their eggs off in the sea and then returning to their homes on the hills.  Columbian military personnel are brought in during the migration to close the roads to protect the expecting mummies and the their newborn young ‘uns that eventually follow them back up the hills.   We huddled into the back of a pick-up truck early one evening to drive out to the crab crossing grounds.  Various locals told us wonderful stories of floods of crabs seen earlier in the week.  We saw just a few but it was still an exciting experience to be rolling along with our flashlights out trying to catch a peek. 

Mart offered to take care of the monkeys on the beach for a morning while Kees, Seb and I went for a dive.  What a treat!  The reef was lovely and we saw a couple of reef sharks and a wonderful array of fish and coral.   
Snorkeling possibilities are almost endless on Providencia and at least once a day the Spikkle was called into action to take the four of us out searching for new underwater wonders.  The waters all around the island were incredibly clear and abundantly full of colourful life forms.  On Providecia, Emma started swimming again for real.  Seb and I started out on a drift dive with the dinghy and before long she was in the water with her mask (and no water wings) for the first time and from then on it was hard to get her out.  Macsen also decided he was ready to venture into the water and donned his fins, floaties, mask and snorkel and after a little adjustment to underwater breathing he was soon squealing with excitement every time he saw a new or more beautifully colored fish.  What a joy to share this experience with them! 
Although we planned to stay on Providencia for a short three days we had trouble tearing ourselves away and this, coupled with some poor wind conditions,  kept us on the island for almost two blissful weeks, including Seb’s birthday.  Kees and Marta came for dinner and the monkeys made a birthday cake decorated artistically with all of the M&Ms that didn’t go directly into their mouths.  Emma and Macsen presented him with a hammock purchased in Costa Rica and I was finally able to give him his most recent heart’s desire, a machete.  I have long been against having such a thing on board but Seb claims that it is absolutely necessary for opening coconuts.  I secretly think that he has images of himself leading his little family through the rugged jungle and manfully clearing a path through the dense impenetrable undergrowth…

Bocas del Toro to Providencia, Columbia

Jay, Natasha, Sol and Luna’s boat The Messenger is a pure sailboat and does not have a motor.  We agreed to leave the Red Frog marina with them and sail a short way out into the bay.  They were moving their boat over to an anchorage close to Bocas del Toro town and we were headed off to Isla Providencia.   The wind was light as we tacked out of the harbor trying our best (an really almost succeeding) in keeping up with them.  We had a wonderful sail and realized that, without their challenge to a race, we would have motored quickly out of the bay and missed out on a lovely experience.  A gentle reminder that sailing can sometimes just be for the sake of sailing and not always just a means of getting from A to B.  
Isla Providencia, Colombia is located, oddly enough,  about 250 nautical miles NNE of Panama and 130 nautical miles East of Nicaragua.  We expected this to be a nasty trip headed into the trade winds in the Caribbean Sea and we were, unfortunately, not mistaken.  It took us about 12 hours longer than planned,  involved long tacks into the wind or no wind at all,  and included short uncomfortable choppy seas.  A boring and frustrating trip saved only by the fact that it was relatively short.  We arrived with the big Pjotter in the dark and, judging from the chart and pilot that the entry was straightforward, we  slowly moved into the channel towards the anchorage.  It became very quickly apparent, however, that the GPS was off by approximately 200m.  It was a calm night but rather dark so we chose not to risk the reefs and rocks and anchored a little outside of the town to wait until morning light to attempt the shallower water of the bay closer in to town.