Log of February and March 2006

March 30th, Position:20 N and 79:54 W

Cristobal Harbour in Colon, Panamá

After a tears inthe eyes goodbye from Kuna Yala - the beatifull San Blas archipelago we header towards the west and stopped oafter about 44 miles in Isla Linton for a smooth evening. The sail was uneventfull (graças a deus) and our jury rigg turned out not to be necessary, thanks god.

In Linton we maed a little veneing adventure with our friend leicia and Hervee and took our dingies through a thick mangrove forest to reach the local french restaurant. the boldness was rewarded with good fod and excellent deserts. After weeks in the islands an ice cream tastes better than hagen daaz with passion!

The Next day we said goodbye to Khamsa who will head toward Guatemala nad the rio dulce where as we go on to Christobal colon the atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal. if you ever get your hands on the documentary about the building of the canal see it - wha an impressive human legend this is!

we will now see that we cross the famous canal inthe next few days and then focus on getting our mast shipped and back onto the deck of our dear DIVA who si a bit tired of just motoring around.

March 20th Position 9:35.8 N; 78.46.4W

Western Holandes Cays

Today we moved on from our favorite spot in Eastern Holandes Cays to find an even nicer beach and reef out in the Western side of this very large barrier reef. The water is as clear as it is in an olympic swimming pool and you can see the fish 15-20 meters below you. When diving to check the anchor, I was almost a bit afraid... did I see a flash of grey skin in the deep? No - nothing - but hey, as city dwellers and movie goers, who wouldn't be afraid of sharks, crocks etc. Actually, 99% of these animals are 3 times more scared than you and are anxiously trying to dissapear at sighting you.

The extended week in Banidup on East Holandez was crowned with diving and fishing which is quite good here. Two snappers landed on the grill and our neighbours from ZAAZOO, Ben and Rosangela (de São Paulo!) are avid sear gun hunters. Ben is a professional diver and a passionate free diving hunter. He would not come home with less than 20 pounds of Grouper, snapper or Baracuda. We had one last night over a beach fire and it tasted delicious!

The San Blas are really desert islands with NO infrastructure at all. This means: whatever you need, you need to have on board. The indians trade a bit of platains and fish with you for other food stuff but only Tienda Eidi, an open powerboat that sells fruit and vegetables to the cruisers once every... well every now and then ... can help with resupplying. Our inventory is slowly going down and high use items such as flour or muesly are gone. Time to move on.

Our mast is ready as of today and now awaits shipment from Charleston, South Carolina to Panama City with a 40 foots container. Hopefully all goes well and we can start working on the boat as soon as we arrive. Transit is sheduled for March the 28th. There is a website where you can see who is in the canal. We should be there on the 28th.

Juan arrives this Thursday 23rd in Panama and flies to Porvenir where we will pick him up. Then we go on to Portobelo and Colon, the infimous port city on the atlantic side of the canal.

Once on the other side and in the Pacific, we will put the boat in the Flamenco Marina, right off the main channel where all the big ships pass by and just 15 minutes from Panama City's center. Our Friends from YPO will assist us and ensure some fun while we work hard on he repairs.

But for now we will still enjoy the last week in this paradise. We shall definetly come back here in the future!


March 6th, 2006

Position: 9 35 N; 78 40 W - Cayo Holandes, San Blas, Panama

Estamos agora em Green Island, um lindo lugar ao sul do coco bandeiro eonde estavamos antes. Compramos verduras e frutas novas e agora vamos curtir o local. Tem até um jacaré de agua salgada aqui - Tem uns 2 metros! Nossos amigos franceses do Khamsa estão aqui do nosso lado junto com outros da comunidade cruzeirista muito simpatica. Aula de manhã e praia a tarde. A Corinna esta fazendo comidinha boa e a noite sempre rola uma reuniao em algum barco.

Ontem teve queijo frances no Hervee que recebeu seu sobrinho pro uma semana no barco.

Quando faltam as coisas e que agente dá valor mesmo. Um brie gostozinho desceu com algo muito especial nossas guelas.

O clima a bordo ta bom e ja passou o susto. Contratamos um novo skipper - denovo argentino - funny isnt it? - que vem no dia 23.3. para aqui em sanblas. Ele estava com um outro barco que vai voltar para florida para ser vendido. Muito legal - tem 36 anos e tem um jeito legal com os meninos.

Veleja desde criança e tem muita experiência.

Aqui tem bastante peixe e o programa é pescar ou mergulhar de harpão. Ontem fui para fora do recife com nossa vizinha e vi muito peixe mas pegar que é bom ficou prar ela.

Um abraço a todos. Mark

March, 2006 - San Blas - An Island Paradise

Position: 9 35 N; 78 40 W - Cayo Holandes, San Blas, Panama

Whoever visited here says this one of the prettiest places in the worlds oceans.
Not knowing so many places, but spoiled by the Brazilian beatifull coastline, we can confirm that this place is surely one of the few real pearls out there in the ocean!

After Cayo Holandez we motored to the famous Coco Bandero Cay - a group of five small isletts in th emiddle of a large reef.

An old cargo wreck shows the outer limits and the waves carry over when the tide is high. We anchored in the middle of the three inner islands an the waves and current didi roll us a bit but the beauty of the place imediately caugh on.

The boys adopted the island to our left (later we found out that the name is Esnatupile) and built a seating site with wood logs and even prepared a fireplace. Proudly it was presented to the grown ups including shell decoration and mock-up "sea-food".

The next afternoon we quickly organized a cook-out with the neigboring boats. What a great evening. Wine, lobster, salads, big crab and we quickly got the fire going. The boys were sooo happy. They had build that site and now we had about 15 people around the "table". Real acomplishments! We came to Coco Bandeiro with KHAMSA's Hervee and Leticia and there we were joined by Sabine and Florien from France as well as Daniel Santos' TADEUS a Sundeeer 60 also designed by Steve Dashew our boats designer. On board were the owners son Alexeis, Eugenia and the canadian doctor Diana plus Daniels long time skipper Juan Garcia - all from Argentina.

We quickly conected the dots and figured we had lots of common sail racing friends from San Isidro and Yacht Club in Argentina - Vasco Arrondo, Guille Parada, Sicho, Gonza Campero, Victor Torres, JuanPa Cadario, Santi Lange, Matti, etc, etc. all from the larger Torquel-Gabi Borgstrom clan of North Sails Argentina. So small is the world then.

The evening was so nice and joyfull that the next evening we did a new eddition now with lobster and a smaller crowd.

But during the day our medical kit was tested by Hervee who hurt his hand with a deep cut on a piece of wood on the beach. Diane, the physician was quicly picked up and we got Dr. Rolf Schmidts (our dentist in São Paulo) kit out with needle and line, surgical pliers, and got the would cleaned and stiched up with 8 points around the 4th finger and the hand palm. Very lucky that Diane was there and we all learned a bit more with the practical "hospital in the wild" experience. Hervee recovered well and so far no infection has ailed him.

The next days we spent the afternoons on the island, the boys playing with Bow and arrows and camps as indians and nothing to worry about - noone was on the island - so it was a kids paradise. Corinna would take her swimming fins and swimm to the next islands and do walk-arounds there to exercise.

If it was not for the strong northerlies and the rolly nights this was surely the perfect anchorage!

During these evening outings I had a chance to chat with Daniel and with Juan his skipper and we agreed that Juan would join us after he went back to Argentina with Daniel. For us this is great news and a big positive sign that we can count on help with the next long leg towards the pacific.

After a week we decided to go to Nargana, a developed island with generator and carnaval street party - all very simple and still kuna-indian-like but clearly "developed" with all the negative parts that come with it like TV, trash and consumerism. As Brazilians we are used to observe the effects of this double edged sword "progresso". There we got fresh produce, vegetables, flour, bread, sodas and also ordered 50 galons of diesel - that is yet to be delivered! We also explored the beautifull river that comes form the mailand and got a glimpse of the kuna way of life. The river banks were like little farms and gardens as all kunas work their little lots here to get what nature can offer.

Back in Nargana we ate at Nelli's Café and celebrated Sabines birthday. After resupplying we headed out to Green Island where we now lie at anchor.

The mast is on schedule to be shipped March 20th and we plan to leave the San Blas by 22nd to head towards Colon and the canal crossing.

Until next update. Cheers, Mark, Corinna, Patrick, Philipp and Alexander

February 14th, 2006

Finaly enjoying the cruisers life

Eventhough we are without mast, we decided to relax and wait for the mast to be built here in the San Blas Islands. We just spent a week at Cayo Holandes, on its west side in a beautisfull lee of an Island. The reef is close and we can hear the waves crashing on it. The Wind is mostly strong to moderate from Northerly directions and only the ocasional rain cloud casts a breif shadow over mostly sunny days.

We always knew that crusing is not hamock and sundowner drinks and now we can attest to the fact that you simply change your job. To do homeshooling, cleaning, 3 meals and boat maintenanace keeps you very busy. Have not had the chance to finish my first book... But while busy most of the day is very rewarding. The time with the kids is invaluable and homeshooling a wake up call for how important it is to be clode to the developments and not just delegate education to the school and teacher group. You can pick up concepts from class in the morning and use them when playing in the afternoon.

When there is a pile of dishes you do feel homesick and remember your dear empregada who did all that for you! But when you remember the trafic you are happy again. The trade offs of life.

We have made some friends out here. Hervee and Leticia, a french couple on board a catamaran Khamsa with Ema and Lili that we met in Morro de Sao Paulo in 2004/05 are anchored next to us. We do exchange kids, bread and have a glass of whine every now and then. This Monday there was a "Pot-Luck" gathering on the Island and all the crusers came and brought something to eat plus BYOB. There you meet many people from all corners of the world each with their own crusing stories. Its fun. Mostly cruisers are retired and few are families like ours or Hervee and Leticia. Some will cross the canal just as we want to in or around the month of March.

After some tring and testing we now have finaly set up the e-mail on board. if you want, you can send us a message at: essle.family.webmaster@gmail.com - please do not send attachments as our friendly provider charges by the kilo (kbyte), so light and easy is better. the Phone has already paid for itself as it is alowing me to stay here with the family while Florida Rigging & Hydraulics supervises the mast as it is being built by Selden in the US. If everything works fine, it should be shipped to Panama City mid March. Lets cross our fingers.

February 1st: Flight to Miami to get the new mast going

Leaving Corinna and the boys at the anchorage in Porvenir felt odd. Other Sailors are there and looking out for them. But I needed to get to Ft. Lauderdale to nail down the project with the mast builders and start the process, otherwise it could take much longer than the planned 8-9 weeks. This would then eat into our schedule to cross the canal in late march. As it stands we will have the mast delivered to Panama City and cross the canal without the mast in mid march. There we would mount the mast and get going first week of April. Lets see…

The updates are not very fluid as we do not have e-mail on board and there is no e-mail in Sanblas… so we depend on finding anybody that can send a file to our webskipper Pablo Cantisano. I will send as many pictures as I can now so that you can see a bit how we are fairing.

All the best. Mark, Corinna., Patrick, Alexander und Philipp


When I started to write these updates, I always wanted them to be quite boring family updates for friends who care and no sensational news of horror stories like you read in the books or in the magazine articles. But hey, our time has come to give you a thrilling report on how we lost our mast in the middle of the ocean - First, no one was hurt and the boat is quite intact.

But let me start from the beginning: We left Fajardo, PR at 17:00 and sailed out of the bay and Vieques Island with good 15-20 kts wind from the back (easterly trade wind) We put up the main and motored a bit, then opened the jib and poled it out with our Spinnaker boom. Soon we were cruising at very nice 7,5 kts over the water plus a 1kts current in favor. We (the Essles plus Ricky) all needed to get accustomed to the swing of the waves and find new places to sleep as the beds, were a bit uncomfortable.

The winds would go up to 20-22 kts when a cloud came through and the waves were large 8-12 feet, but nothing out of the ordinary. We were enjoying our first long blue water crossing and where averaging 190 miles over the ground a day! That meant the we would come in a day early in to our destination in Provenir in san Blas.

Cabooom, crack, crack, squeak it did, on my watch, around 3 a.m. (these things always happen at night). I rushed down to awake Ricardo from his bunk. "The mast is down!". Ricky jumped out the companion way and we clipped our harnesses tightly to the lifelines. He said: "lets get the tools and the flashlights, we need to get rid of the rig!" Corinna and Patrick, awake from the noise, were soon hading us pliers, hammers and knives while we busily pulled the pins of the rigging. NO time to think about what happen - survival mode. The mast had collapsed to the starboard side and was now strung around the boat as she turned towards the waves. The top light with its green and red colors were shimmering from below the water on the portside of the hull - an eerie view, but proof that the lamp was really waterproof as advertised.

In less than 20 minutes we were ready to let EVERYTHING go - the sails, the boom, the halyards, the roller reefs, the etc. etc. The banging on the side of the hull was strong and we knew from reading books that you need to be careful that the rig does not make a hole on your side. That was to be avoided at all cost! I was getting a bit seasick from all the motion and adrenaline. But we needed to finish the job. When Ricky released the backstay, the bimini cover ripped open and the mast sunk a bit. Then we released the port and starboard shrouds. I had cut all halyards, electrical cables, little strings and even sheets and then pulled the pin on the main boom. We now released the head stays and with the sinking of the rig the roller furler bent the front rail quite heavily. Now it was going down quickly - but something was still pulling hard? Bang! another noise, this time the stainless steel wire lifeline broke. Oh sh… we forgot to cut the starboard runner. The whole rig was still attached by that one line. I hurried with my knife and the thick, brand new spectra rope felt like a violin string.

When I cut the line, the rig sank into the 4000 fathom deep ocean. It was 3:30 by now.

We waited a bit and pulled every rope tail into the boat and secured them. We were going to start the engine, so we could not have ANY line foul the prop!

A sense of urgency and relief that the boat an crew were intact rushed through the veins.

Corinna and Patrick look very scared. While working, I kept on shouting little progress reports, so that they knew that things were going in the right direction. But I can't imagine what was rushing through their heads.

The engine started, and we were back on course. We put is at very slow 1800 rpm in order not to stress the good Yanmar and keep diesel consumption low. We still had 500 miles to motor! We now were doing 4.5 - 5.2 knots over water and one with the current. So we went down to rest a bit.

Luckily the radar, GPS and Satphone are mounted on an Antena mast on the boats stern. So we had basic functionality of the key systems. The VHF and SSB radio though were useless without antennas.

What has really happened to the rig? Now we could start to think The wind was good but not too strong 18-22kts. The waves were OK. We did not broach or anything like that. The pole did not hit the water - we had a jib with a very high clew. All stays seemed to be attached to the mast when we went about releasing them. Was it a carbon fiber material failure? Did the lateral compression of the spi boom play a role? Well the truth is, we will never know. Now we must focus on getting to a safe port.

We decided that we had enough Diesel to go to Porvenir in SanBlas Islands and get organized there. Ricky could fly out of there to Panama City and to Brazil. So we went back to our on-board routine of watches now accompanied by the engine noise. But thanks God only material damages.

On Thursday January 24th we motored in between the reefs into the mini airport and immigration station of Porvenir and set anchor just off the runway. It was built in the second world war by the American army and still is a good landing strip for all he Kuna Yala Indian traffic. Ricardo flew out the next morning at 6:30 a.m. and caught a plane to Brazil from Panama City. The twin prop aircraft makes a 20 minute flight to the city airport and there are 2-3 flights every morning. A small restaurant under a palm leaves hutt serves fish and rice for $2,50 and the Kuna Yala tradition museum. - That's it. But beautiful it is!

Now we will wait here in San Blas for the insurance process and mast production until a new mast can be shipped to Panama city. This should take some 8-9 weeks, so we will enjoy the region by motoring from island to island.

Luckily the distances are small, 10-20 miles and can be done in 2-3 hours. The Kuna Indians are very friendly and welcoming people. The area is safe and the kids made contact very quickly.

After a few days recovering in Porvenir we went to Cayo Chichime, just 5 miles to the northeast - a barrier reef with two small islands. We anchored in the lagoon in 10 meters deep water and enjoyed the weekend in calm water. The wind and waves were still quite strong outside the reef and we could hear the noise at night.

There we quickly met other cruisers - Bernd and Sofie from Bavaria on their Amel STELLA and Herveé and his family on their Catamaran. With Herveé we had actually met in Morro de São Paulo, Bahia a year ago when we were there with our previous Boat for the summer vacation - the world is small!

There we could get a taste of the cruisers life and enjoy swimming and snorkeling, home schooling and beach playing. The boys were fast spear dihving with the Kunas and caught fish. We could walk around the islands and see the beautiful colors of the water, the palm and the white coral sands.

The wind was strong bringing the tide just at the high water mark level and that got me started to shoot a few pictures for my project - to document the shores we visit and how they look like today. In some 10-20 years they might look different given the global warming effect. When looking at these shores today I was a bit worried whether the sea levels have risen already?

Corinna and I were getting used to operation the boat by ourselves and I must admit that coming and going from the anchorages with the heavy swell from the ocean made both of us quite nervous. The sails are normally the backup if the engine fails so not having any made us feel the pressure. But with time we will get our self confidence back. Of course getting such a "hit" early in the cruising life is not very confidence building so we now need a few uneventful weeks to get even.

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