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Raiatea, Society Islands of French Polinesia, August 25, 2006

A boatfull of kids left Tahiti for Huahine, the sleepy and natural island of the societies two weeks ago. We left in the evening and did an overnight passage.

The week in Moreea was very enjoyable if it wasn't for Juan, who had the dengue fever and was forced in his bunk with fever and the nasty symptoms of the desease. Victoria, his finacee, who came to visit him, stayed with us on the boat and got to see the island but both could not make their planned vacation come true. After a week of suffering Juan decided to go back to Buenos Aires with Victoria to recover from this hard fever and the associated down. We hope he gets better quickly.

Before leaving Papete we got Zoe Henderson on board who will help us with the boat and the watches from here on. Zoe is from London and has sailed from the Caribeean to the Marquesas on an english boat.

Tamara and Tatiana arrived from Germany and blended in very well as both are used to the boat life when they sailed for 3 years with their parents. In Huahine we met our friends on Kupere from New Zealand, Blue Marlin from Norway, Manta from Nevada USA and Luna from Holland. Bart, a windsurf professional with Dagmar from Germany and their daughter Solei made our junior crew hone their windsurfing skills and several dingy tours were made to get to know the beatifull island. After a cold front we all went hiding from the strong winds in a deep bay and had a few card playing evenings with the friends.

As the weather settled we went to the "south anchorage in one of those post-card bays and stayed a few days. Now that the boys have vacation every day is filled with beach and water activities and everyone drops into its bunk in the evening exausted from all the paying. Zoe, Corinna and I have work to do on the boat and when Philipp capsized the dingy we had to clean up the outboard motor that filled with water... In Raiatea we will meet other boat we know and get to know the famous sites of what used to be the capital of polinesia in ancient times. The acheological sites are very interesting and the history of the locals quite interesting. All is well o board and all are having fun.

Cheers, the esslefamily


Morea, Society Islands (August 5, 2006)


Finalmente escapamos da vida de cidade (que tem seus sérios atrativos) para uma semana de relax na ilha de Morea. A namorada do Juan, Victoria, chegou da Argentina e vai passar a semana conosco à bordo. Ontem, ao chegar na baía ao lado da Capt. Cook's Bay, o mar estava tão translúcido que dava a impressão que íamos encalhar de tão raso que é. Mas, a ecosonda marcava claros e traquilos 6 metros de profundidade. Aqui vamos fazer tracking, mergulhar e snorkling - os meninos querem fazer "scurfing" que é surfar atrás do botinho. Nossos amigos velejadores vão chegando aos pouquinhos por aqui!
Semana que vem chegam as filhas da Ingrid e do Georg Reygers - Tatiana, minha afilhada de 13 anos e a sua irmã Tamara de 15 anos. Vai ter muita bagunça à bordo, mas elas são muito legais e queridas. As duas velejaram com seus pais por 3 anos no Caribe e portanto conhecem a vida à bordo.

We finaly escaped the city life and are now in Morea near Capt. Cooks bay.
The water is so clear that we thoght we might be running aground but the depthmeeter marked 6 meters. We will spend an enjoyable week here with Victoria, Juans finacee and will then pick up Tamara nd Tatiana, my goddaughter, who are comming from Germany on the 11th of August for a month to reinforce the female contingent of the crew.

Papeete, Tahiti

A week of city life is behind us and we were able to get most of our projects done and Corinna raided the local Carrefor for supplies that should keep us stocked until Tonga. We wanted to go to the Marina Tahina behind the Airport where EVERYBODY is anchored but got stuck in the city warf to wait for the morning light. But then we liked it (It had good fresh water) and the convenience of doing everything by foot kept us there for the rest of the stay. We visited the pearl museum and got the closing show of the local festivities with very impressive dancing and beatifull dancers!
We then made an adventurous jeep tour of the islands mountains. We swam in the fresh waters of the 100 waterfall valey. Incredible how full of life the nature is. We were also made aware of how sensitive an island ecosystem can be: one brown/green plant introduced from Mexico "for decorative" purposes in 1905 is now a big plague invading the rainforest and stealing light and space from the native plants. It was spread by a hurricane that messed up the plants and send out seeds of it from the Botanical Garden... Amazing story. In Raiatea they are now testing a fungus that kills this plant. But will it also afect others? - A Pandoras box! And this is on this little island in the middle of the pacific... The same is happening everywhere in the world.
Sabine and Florent had a house from friends for a few weeks and invited us for a nice dinner. Sabine is having job interviews in Papeete so they might stay for a year before they move on. We all went to have a decent haircutt our first, after Panama city.

Tomorow arrives our skipper Juans fiance Victoria from Buenos Aires and he will receive her at the aiorport with the traditional flower necklass!

Toau. Tuamotus


The local couple, Gaston and Valentine received us and handed us the mooring lines to this beatifull bay called Anse Amiott. It is a rare false pass into the coral and you are protected by the reef but can not go into the lagoon, so a very protected anchorage. We went diving with the tanks with our british friends from Tigger, Peter and Toni and Patrick dove down to 15m for the first time over the outside reefs. The coral was very alive and colorfull and we saw hundres of differnet fish species in great clear water. The week ther flew and we met up with Blue Marlin from Norway and Sumé - both boats have girls on board and we met them in San Blas Panama for the first time. The family receives the sailor so well that everybody stays and gets comfortable. You go to have a special dinner at their restaurant and we ate like kings! The lobster and fish are from the reef and we tried the famous coconut crab - delicious - it looks like a giant hermit crab without the shell and it is strong like a bull! when hungry it drills it strong fingers into the nut to scratch out the meat. And the every afternoon the cruiser meet up and play voleyball or make a cookout our anything. It is a real little paradise spot.


July 19, 2006

Position: Fakarawa - Tuamotus


After a smooth crossing from the Marquesas we came into the atol of Kauehi. The pass, normaly a nerve wracking experience with strong currents and breaking waves was calm and the time we chose at slack tide proved to be right. We crossed the lagoon and anchores in front of a beautifull little village. The water has that incredible color of turquoise to aquamarine and snorkiling and diving is on the agenda again! We were joined by or friends Florent& Sabine from ZANGRA and met other sailors in the anchorage. On Esprit there was another boy who joined in quickly to play with our wild bunch. A few days later in came Phoenix with Johnny and Garret and the boys team was complete!

In the Tuamotus land and water are scarce and there is not much activity besides tourism and coconut plantations. But over the years the black pearl farming has become more ubiquious and the beautifull jewels of the sea come mostly from these atols. We found out about the next pearl farm and payed them a visit. Quite interesting to see the process of the pearl insertion, nurishment and harvesting. Many pearls are sorted until you find one of the grade that will go to a Parisian jewlery store! Corinna and the boys loved the experience!

After a great beach song evening in Kauehi with our felow cruisers we left to go to the south pass of Fakarawa some 40 miles to the NW. We crossed that pass without incidents and dropped ou hook in a beatifull anchorage with cristal clear water. An incredible drift dive was awaiting us at the pass
the next day. Snorkling in the current, over colorfull reef, with white tip sharks around you, fishes of all colors passing by - breathtaking. These are some of the best diving spots in the world.
After a few days there we went on to the northern corner of this large atol to witness the local festivities of the 14. of July. 4 days of dance and singing contest, roweing regattas around our boats and an incredile session of spear-into-the-coconut contest, called the javelin.
A cultural delight and a nice way of meeting the locals. Besides the 5star hotel MAITAI there are very few tourists on the islands - a real refuge from the buzz!

We now want to go to TOAU and anchor in a bay where a friendly family lives and will go diving and snoreling - always after homeschooling!

By the end of July we shoud be getting into Papeete, Tahiti where our goddaughters Tamara and Tatiana will join us for a months.

Godspeed! The Essles

Kauehi - Tuamotus

S15.50 W145.07

brm that grows the famous jewels. I hope you will see her with some of them around her neck in a few days. We want to go to Fakarava and maybe Toau before we sail down to Tahiti.


Nuku Hiva - Marquesas

S8.55 W140.05

From Uo Pou we sailed north to the Controllers Bay in Nuku Hiva. Almost the only boat in this impressive anchorage. When we dingyed ashore, we walked to the village and hiked up the hills to an archeological site where the old marquesian rituals were held. Marquesians were quite developed people, fearless warriors, excellent canoe rowers (until today everybodys sport) and also cannibals. The rituals and feasts on these stone platforms must have been amazing! Thanks God things changed at least for us white suspects. The people still carry amazing tatoos on their skin and the Marquesians are vey proud of their art. A different world - I am glad the kids are seeing all this.

Taioae Bay on Nuku Hiva was our next destination. Its a beatifull bay were the Governor of the Marquesas is based. We met up with our friends from Phoenix and the boys were very happy to see the kids. A few days in the "city" and a quick repair on the generator ( a tempeature switch had gone fautly) and we were ready for some beach life. A car ride through the island with 4x4 fun gave us aglimps of the famous northern bays and we left to meet up with Florent and Sabine of Zangra. Phoenix and Elysium with Louis and Tracy followed on the same day. Dozens of tiny mellon headed whales, a bit bigger than pourposes, played on our boat bow much to the fun of the crew!

Anaho bay will enter our book as one of the most beatifull in the world!
An incredible scenery, beatifull beaches and a nice sheltered corner in which to anchor. We indulged with smimming , snorkeling and Juan and Florent went with Corinna and Sabine to catch octopus. Several evenings with wine and friends followed. A nice relaxing spot!

Back to Taioae to get fuel and see he worldcup football matches! First Argentina lost and Juan was down, then Brazil out... what a dreadfull result. And now Germany is out as well. I guess we have to cheer for Portugal now. The French were absolutely happy about the result. We watched the games early in the morning in a restaurant and filled the room with crusier friends all waving brazilian flags - in vain. But it was good fun - thats the important thing.

Now wetake off to the Tuamotus - 530 miles to Kauehi, our next destination.


Ua Pou - Marquesas

We are at 09.21S and 140.02W in the bay of Hakahau in Ua Pou!

Here we checked into the Marquesas and French Polinesia and had outr Passports stamped. We have met our Friends Sabine and Florent Nasse on their Boat ZANGRA (France) and Niels and Hannelore from JONNA(Denmark) - they have two kids Jens and Caroline. Next to us its the US trimaran Elysium and the british cat TIGGER. The all went across the ocean from Galapagos with us and were part of our daily radio updates. Yesterday we hiked up to the cross on the bay mountain and had a fantastic view! The Pinacles on Ua Pou are like the suggar loaf in Rio de Janeiro. We are taking it easy here in the "civilization" and bought some ice cream and fresh croissants! Fromhere we will sail to Nuku Hiva - he northern most island of the group!

all is well on board - cheers!


In Marquesas

After landing in a little paradise in fatu Hivas Bay of Virgins we are under way to the northern group os Ua Pou and Nuku Hiva. The islands are lush and phantastic as they were praised and one can spend alot of time here. He are enjoying it thoroughly.

Estamos indo da Ilha de FATU HIVA que é a mais do sul e onde chegamos de longa travessia para um grupo de ilhas mais ao norte das marquesas - Ua Pou e Nuku Hiva - cada nome...

O fato que as Marquesas são realmente lindas e muito "paradisisacas". Voce anda nas ruas do vilarejo e todas as arvores são de frutas, Goiabas, Pamplemouse (aquela laranja gigante meio amarga que aqui é doce) manga, fruta pão e outras mais locais. Hibiscos,jasmin manga e aquela florzinha branca cheirosa. Realmente o lugar cheira bem. As pessoas são simples e parecem bem resolvidas, tranquilas. O ambiente é receptivo e simpático e a criançada é só alegria. Vem todos te olhar e conversar (em frances é claro).
O vento passa no vale e a esquerda e a direita paredões de rocha de lava cheias de plantas. Fomos para uma cachoeira de 40 m de altura e nadamos na piscina de agua geladinha. Como a rocha é preta o sol esquenta a aqua que desce - então é como um chuveirinho quente. A trilha pelo mato foi outra coisa especial. Nos brasileiros somos mimados com matos e cachoeiras lindas, mas esta realmente esta no topo da lista.

Jantamos na casa de um casal de artistas - ela faz desenhos de nankim sobre caca de arvore e ele esculpe os famosos totemzinhos chamados Tikis. A fruta pão com doce, peixe cru marinado em limão e leite de coco e um cozido de frango com curry. Delicia e sabores novos e prazeirosos. Até assistimos o jogo do Brasilx Croacia na choupana
- todos de camiseta Verde/amarela e armados com bandeirinhas e o Juan nosso skipper de camiseta da Argentina. Santo Kaka nos tirou do sufoco. Jogaram, mas a Croácia não foi moleza não.

A travessia dos Galapagos até aqui durou 16,5 dias e foi muito rápida - os outros demorararam 20 - 22 dias. Crédito ao nosso barquinho e a uma boa estratégia de regateiro evitando o vento em popa total que é mais lento que o travéz. nos útimos 5 dias o vento soprou mais forte (20-25 nós) e reduzimos as velas e as ondas nos balançaram bastante. Mas as noites estreladas, o luar, os golfinhos na proa compensam o desconforto - by far.

Os outros barcos se espalharam pelas ilhas e acho que a turma das crianças vai congregar logo logo em Nuku Hiva Até o proximo update.


Closer to the Marquesas

1120 miles to go. Its 5 a.m. and I (Mark) am on watch since 2:00. Its a beatifull night with all the stars you can imagine and a few more, only some small clouds and no moon - so its pitch dark and you can see the glimmer of the pancton. All has been seen before but - oh how beatifull it is! It is a long passage and the days goe by quickly. The kids manage well with all the motion and study and play as if we were on anchorage.

Yesteday morning we saw a school of Porpoises (Golfinhos) that came to play at DIVAs bow - there were at least 30 of them. And the boys went forward and screamed and schouted and the animals stayed for some 20 minutes - we observing them swim and they observing the 3 blondheads scream - I am not sure who had more fun, the boys or the "Flippers".
Precious moments -that's why we came!

In the afternoon we made a "desfile da fantasia" to comemorate our good progress and the jury gave prizes from the most ridiculous (mark) to the most complete(Patrick) to the most original (Philipp) and the whitiest (Alexander). The prize of a chocolate bar was consumed in minutes!

I am learning to play the kids computer game (oh gosh are they fast) and everyone is reading. Corinna is in Africa with Tania Blixen and now with James Mitchner. Juan is reading about Simon Bolivar. In the mornings and in the afternoons we do the Radio check In over the Single Side Band radio (SSB) that has a very long range. All the sailboats that are crossing check in tell they position and any events of the day that basicly resume itself to fishing. Tunas, Mahimahis and Wahoos are reported with great pride. Most of the other boats are couples sailing but there are 4 families under way: Denmark, Brazil, US and UK.

All is well on board and we are making good progress. Cheers to you all!


We are starting day 7 now (June, 1st) and are 1200 miles under way.
We are getting the trade winds from the south east at 15-18 knots. So its been great sailing all the time and we only motored out of our port in Isabella. So far so good. It is getting choppier out here but, hey, we are in the middle of the ocean.

Looks like 10-11 more days - that would be a phantastic time en route!
We got a Tuna and a wahoo and the stopped as the frezer was full! The daily routine is watchkeeping for Juan and me and school for the boys on an easy schedule - every other evening there is movie night (a bonus for the passages). One never gets used to all the motion of the waves - but yes one does get used to some of it and the mornings and evenings are secdial moments en route. The stars can only be seen like that in a meenless ocean nite. Uau.

Every morning our deck is littered with 10-20 Squid that jump on deck at night. we plan to collect them and make Moqueca de Lula! Juan is eagerly looking for more fish on our lure. Its a squid!

The meals are always a highlight of the day and our pizza dough is almost perfect now! Fish and vegetables, Pasta, Arroz e feijão, everything has a chance and we enjoy it thoroughly.

We want to approach the marquesas from the south to Fatu Hiva (bay of virgins) and then go up to Hiva Oa for check in and some fresh stuff and then to ua-pou on your recommendation and nuku hiva which is said to be the nicest of the islands.


On Our Way to the Marquesas Islands

01.30S;92.47W - 2850 miles to go

After some great experiences in the Galapagos, we are off to the Marquesas Islands. The group of islands is the first of the French Polinesia group followed by the Tuamotus and the Society Islands where beatifull Tahiti and Bora Bora are.

For now our trip has been excellent - Its the first day though of a 20-22 day passage. This is one of the longest ocean crossings and there is absolutely nothing close by. So a bit of "frio no estomago" (anxiety) was present when we lifted our anchor in Isabela Island. It was a very beatifull morning and the sea was calm as a lake. "Phoenix" , our friends departed with us and we could see their colourfull Spinaker fly until the evening. The boys have been chatting on the VHF (short range radio) and exchanging fish infos. We were blessed first with a 3kg Tuna, later Johnny and Garret followed suit and caught two Wahoos. These are delicious fish and we made some excellent sashimi. The japanese sushi knife and the lesson I got from my forum buddies was really essential and we use it quite alot.

The lonelyness is broken up by daily radio nets of all the boats going towards the Marquesas. There are more than 15 boats going, so you can hear about the conditions ahead of you on the daily check ins. We call in at 09:00 in the morning and 6 in the evening. I downloaded the weather faxes from the NOAA website and conditions are very benign for the next 72 hrs. So you know that other boats are out there and know where you are.

Juan and I split up the night shifts and during the day the boys and Corinna keep a lookout. So far we have only seen one fisherboat, but you have to be alert! The Radar helps to spot things on the horizon such as cargo ships and larger boats. Interestingly we NEVER steer the boat - the autopilot SIMRAD - we call him Simbad - does the job very well. Simbad is a nice crew member that never complains and does not even eat! Only a few amps from the battery bank.

In the Marquesas we would like to first stop at Fatu Hiva - the southern most island and get to know the famous Baie des Vierges (Bay of Virgins) as the scenery is supposed to be one of the most dramatic in polinesia. The islands are not very populated and life is still simple. But we will update you when we get there. For now we are the companios of the dolfins that play at our bow and belong to the sea and the winds.

All the best to you all and thank you for the friendly e-mails we receive.

It is a great way to stay in touch.


Estamos gostando muito dos Galápagos. Realmente estas ilhas são um perfeito "laboratório de pesquisa"! Ja vimos muitos animais como pinguins, iguanas, tartarugas, e é claro os leões marinhos. Acordamos às 4:30 horas, para ir até a pequena ilha Bartolomé! Não vamos com a Diva, pois não pedimos aquela autorização da Marinha do Equador (além do alto custo de US$ 500,00 por dia) para visitar as ilhas com o nosso barco! Nós fazemos tours com os barcos daqui mesmo e também são bem bacanas.

Conosco estão os 5 tripulantes do barco americano PHOENIX e os dois meninos Garret e John ja são amigos dos nossos. Eles vao surfar a tarde na praia das tortugas e voltam realizados. Os meninos curtem ter amigos na mesma idade e poder brincar e passear independentemente. Aqui tomam o Aquataxi (uma lanchinha que pega agente no barco por 0,50 cents de dollar e leva para a
vila. La tem uma praça com quadra poliesportiva e uma rampa de skate - ai a coisa acontece. Os equatorianos são um povo simpatico e simples - muito agradável. O Phoenix tem um amigo e ex tripulante aqui em Galapoagos - o Sergio - que é guia do parque e surfista sério de Hawaii e campeonato. Um cara bem zen e legal. Ele leva a garotada para a praia numa trilha de 2,5 km
atravez dos cactus e rochas de lava! Ao final (meio suado) se abre a linda praia das tortugas e todos correm para pegar a primeira onda. Que fantastico!

Chegou o dia de partir para a ilha Isabela e ficarmos por lá mais uma semana antes de partirmos rumo as Marquesas! Aqui tudo é bem tranquilo e já reencontramos vários cruzeirstas que conhecemos em San Blas. Todos vão proseguir na mesma rota. Aqui em Isla ISABELA a coise é bem rusica. Vamos de cavalo conhecer o vulcão Chico que ainda espirra sufura e alguma coisa
quente para cima! A vista é daquelas de desmaiar. O sol esta quentinho o ventinho fresco e o local para ancorar bem menos rolly que em Sta Cruz.

Em uma semana devemos partir para a travessia. De la mandamos outro update.
Abraços a todos da Esslefamily



position: 00.14 South; 087.51W

On Tuesday we crossed the Equator and we had King Neptune come aboard to baptise all the first time crossers (the 5 Essles) and give them new names and certificates as "true blue water salts"! We are now 150 miles from Galapagos and all is fine aboard. The cool breeze that drove us the last two and a half days has softened a bit to 8 kts and we are motorsailing to get going. After the christening event this morning and some Tuna "a la Garcia" for lunch the schoolbooks came out this afternoon so that we can have a school break in Galapagos and study all the animals and sceneries without the formal classes.

The ride has been good and we are looking forward to drop our anchor in Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz, the smaller one in the middle of the archipelago.

See you!


April 20th Position: Marina Flamenco

The mast is up!

We are underway to Galapagos!


We are underway to Galapagos!

Smooth sailing so far after a beatifull weekend in Isla Contadora of the Las Perlas Archipelago. Gentle notherly winds are carrying us down towards the Equator. We are at 6.37N and 80.23W and making 7 knots over ground. The currents are amazingly in favor so we are moving ahead fast. The ocean is very smooth and hardly no waves making up to its name "Pacífico". Hope this stays like that for a long time!!

The trip to Galapagos is 1020 miles long and you need to go south first to try to cross the doldrums quickly and then get the Humbold current and the south easterly winds to carry you over to the Archipelago. We plan to arrive in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island in about 7 days.

Today we tested our Genaker (finally) and it is a great sail = Gabi, Juan Garay and the Noth Sails team - well done - the sail flies very smoothly up to 135 apperent wind angle and we were coastig with only 9 knots of wind. So far we have not used the engine. We took on 8 additional 20 liter tanks of diesel for the long trip to Galapagos as you have to cross the windless doldrums and may have to motor quite a lot.

Contadora was very nice - Rafa Arias and his wife Lourdes took us with their power boat to see lovely beaches and coves and we met up with all their friends and fellow YPOers who have their beach houses here. Panamanias love to mingle together and soon we were 5 boats rafted up having a parillada and drinks in the afternoon sun. Finaly we could go swimming again after 20 days in the marina! In the evening we had a dinner party at Rafas and were treated like kings. Thank you!

Batteries refilled we used Monday to finish up with the preparations for the long trip and got a good nights sleep. This morning we lifted the anchor at 7:40 and sailed away by sail only. Que delicia.

Will keep you posted as we move along

The mast is up!

After a full week of hard labor we have mast and sails up and installed! The two Americans, Karl and Peter, that came fom Florida Rigging&Hydraulics were great and all pieces of the puzzle came together nicely (and the little problems that always occur were solved quickly)

A tense moment was when the new Selden mast did not fit in the old hole and deckring of the boat! The crane had lifted the 70 foot aluminum structure and we were getting it in when a milimeter of casting was to thick. So up the mast again and lay it down again and install the new mastring (that luckily was sent with the kit) and by late afternoon we had the stick in the boat!

The Sails from North Sails Argentina fitted very well but it took us a day to install them. The staysail had to be cut so it would fit the roler reefing - so another run to find a sail repair shop. There was one - Odilio - who normaly does upholstering. We broke 7 needles to sew the thick headsail but got it done.

In the mean time, Corinna went to the supermaket 4 times and bought enough food for the next 4 months. Everybody warned us about the high prices in French Polinesia so we stocked up BIG and now the waterline is a few centimeters lower!

We said farewell to our friends Robert & Kiki and Domingo and Martha and sailed off to Contadora where we will spend the extended weekend with Rafa Arias and friends to get to know this beatifull archipelago of Las Perlas. Panama and its people was very gentle and generous with us and we can only take great memories with us. While it could have been a boring and frustrating wait, being at the port became a very pleasent (still lot of work) experience. Our YPOer friends were a big part of this but Panama is a very positive surprise. We can only recommend it!

April 20th

Position: Marina Flamenco

After Patrick's Birthday, we focused on getting everything organized for our mast and other projects, but then we got a welcome break on the YPO Panama Family weekend and the Easter Weekend with Roberto and Kiki Boyd in the beautifull "EL Valle". This place, an extinguished Volcano crater, is something else! Absolutely beautifull and great weather.

Kiki and Robert had us up there for 3 days and we went hiking, 4x4, motorcycling and relaxed by
the pool in the afternoons. Cranberry & Vodka and a steambath - what a treat. Robert and Kiki are the best hosts in Panama and showed us local food, the market, the river, the town, etc. etc. On Sunday we did our Easter egg hunt in the garden with Wiliam and Steffi, the two youngest of their four kids.

It was a memorable weekend and a real treat to be in the mountains in the tropical Panama, another of this country's secrets.

April 2th, 2006

Position: Flamenco Marina – Panama City: 8. 54 N; 79. 31W

An intense but successful Panama Canal transit!

After spending 3 days in Colon, we transited the world famous canal starting at 20:00 at night with a Pilot on board and two other sailor friends Lars from Denmark and John from Florida as line handlers.

The first lock was quite nerve wracking as we were tied sidewall to the rough concrete walls built in 1912 by the US and thousands of workers from all parts of the world. We went in right after a big ship and had another sailboat on our side. The water gushes in from the bottom and creates wild turbulences and out eleven fenders (big rubber balloons you put on the side of the boat so it does not scratch on the wall) were tested for their ruggedness – wow! They were squeezed hard by the water forces.

But we came out on the Gatun Lake at 24:00 unharmed and anchored in sweet water for the night.

The next morning started early and our pilot boarded and took us through the Banana cut (a short cut for smaller boats) and then through the canal in the man made lake in the Panamanian mountains – every now and then a big ship crossed – always an awesome sight! After sandwiches for lunch we were already at the next set of locks – Pedro Miguel – and were lowered to the next level below – a much better experience then climbing! Now more relaxed we took a lot of pictures and flew the flags of our YPO Forum and friends to thank them for all their support to get us to experience this moment! Your mind fills with memories and you know you will not forget this day.

The boys were obviously excited to see so many ships, locomotives, locks and other wonders of the engineers that they were exhausted at the end of the experience.

Juan Garcia is a great new skipper on board, always positive and very dedicated to the boat and all the hard work it is to keep everything up and running. The mood aboard is therefore excellent! Beyond his boating experience, Juan is also a passionate cook and has already put his Argentinean cooking talent to the test of the crew and guests.

When lowered down to the pacific level we all were very relieved that all was OK and we could look forward to our next step – getting ready with the mast and ready for the long haul to Galapagos and Marquesas. Now we are in the Flamenco Marina – at the end of the long causeway that reaches out into the Pacific. Over the breakwater we can see Panama city and its lights. As soon as we got the boat cleaned up and our bodies rested we jumped into a taxi and went to the shopping mall to indulge city life! Ice cream, crispy pizza, movies, shops etc. how wonderful after 2 months of wildlife! Florent and Sabine - French friends from SanBlas came for a sundowner on deck and we exchanges Canal stories!

It looks as if we will spend the month of April here getting the mast up and fixing several smalles items from our ToDo list. Major provisioning is also on the list as the Pacific islands are renowned for the expensive foodstuffs ( the all come in from far by ship only). So Divas waterline will be at its lowest point when we depart. All is fine and we look forward to having a new rig and look like a sailboat again.

Cheers – the Essles!