September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific

By Liz Tosoni

Las Perlas
Islands Panama

We sometimes feel guilty leaving Feel Free on her own on the hard, for months on end. Like nervous parents, we watch and wince every time she is lifted out of the water, placed on land; and every time she is lifted again and dropped back into the water, we breathe a sigh of relief. Its unnatural for a boat to be sitting on the hard earth, out of her element, like a beached whale waiting to be rescued. But its one of those things that Tom and I have learned to live with.

This time, we left Feel Free in Shelter Bay Marina just outside Colon, Panama. What we found upon our return was our beloved boat unharmed after a summer of sultry, tropical heat and electrical storms but covered in dirt and grime, mould and mildew.

Wildlife took up residence during our absence too- a cute iridescent insect, a shy frog, a curious gecko, a prehistoric beetle.

If she could talk, I wonder what Feel Frees words would be. How dare you to leave me for so long in this place! Look at what has become of me. Inside and out, Im filthy. Its disgraceful. My systems are getting rusty. Now, get on with the work and lets get going. Take me out of here!

Well, we got on with the work as fast as we could, which wasnt fast enough. Doing all that dirty work while living on the hard is definitely among the most unglamorous aspects of the cruising life. But, what satisfaction when the jobs are done and the boat is floating freely, bobbing happily, and then sailing away.

Speaking about unglamorous, thats probably how one could describe the way we sometimes have to get to shore in some of the worlds most famous ports.

We are now on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. Yes, we recently transited and Tom will provide all the details in the next entry. Here, Feel Free lies at anchor in picturesque Las Brisas de Amador, from where a short taxi ride will take you to and from Panama City.

Its one of those great cruiser hangouts: it costs nothing to anchor, its safe, there is free wifi for everyone, a morning net allowing you to find out anything you need to know about the area from other cruisers, cultural activities, nice cruising just a day sail away, and its within easy access to quaint restaurants and the best shopping weve seen since the Mediterranean, but a lot cheaper.

Our first trip ashore I met a young mother with her two young blond kids, also getting out of a dinghy.

After quick introductions I learned they had sailed from Russia. Then came the next obvious question:

How long have you been here?
Oh well, we came here with the older one, planning to spend a couple of weeks provisioning before heading to the South Pacific. That was almost five years ago! The younger one was born here. Its an easy place to live.

Its just that kind of place. We've met several circumnavigators over the years who, when asked if there was any place of all the countries they have visited that theyd choose to live in, would say Panama, for the fine climate, the friendliness, the affordability, and the strong economy.

But lets get back to the unglamorous part which has to do with landing your dinghy and getting to shore. Not too long ago there was a nice long floating dinghy dock, accommodating the 15 foot tidal range you encounter on the Pacific side, next to steps leading to good ole terra firma. It was a perfect arrangement, very convenient, easy and handy. Unfortunately though, shortly before our arrival there, the middle section of that nice long dock, the section next to the steps, sank, and has not been repaired. Now, one can still leave a dinghy on the same dock but to get to shore, there is a rather tippy little red boat, set up by an enterprising fellow who receives a weekly fee from all yachties who use it.

A block and tackle arrangement allows you to pull yourself to a set of slippery, concrete steps. Balance is key! After a morning of major provisioning, Tom is heading over to pick up our dinghy. Next step-drive the dinghy to the slippery steps, where we somehow manage to transfer goods into dinghy. It can be a comedy routine for those watching. This lot took two trips to Feel Free by the way, and without mishap Im pleased to report!

After a summer of working in Canada, then a week in the BVIs as Captain and Chef, next, our time in the boat yard, followed by all the preparations for the transit, followed by the transit itself and then all that provisioning and the countless small maintenance jobs in the convenient but crowded anchorage, Tom and I were more than ready for a holiday, for some honest to goodness island time.

So, we upped anchor and set sail for Las Perlas Islands, just 35 miles away, an archipelago in the Bay of Panama, made up of 227 mainly uninhabited islands, with plenty of secluded anchorages and untrodden shores. Just what we were after.

Its hard to imagine that these peaceful islands, where in our time its rare to see another cruising boat, were a hub of activity just 500 years ago. After Vasco Nunez Balboa discovered the Pacific and then the islands, he came to realize the existence of the rich pearling grounds in these very waters. Word got around of course and then came the legions of pirates and conquistadores. In 1515 two Spanish conquistadores, Francisco Pizarro and Gaspar de Morales, defeated the indigenous King Toe, enslaved his skilled pearl divers, and brought huge quantities of pearls back to Spain. Apparently, the famous 31 carat peregrina pearl of Queen Mary Tudor of England came from these islands. They say that even though pearls are not cultivated these days, you can still buy them from the locals at a good price.

King Toe lived on Isla del Rey, which I can now see clearly from the cockpit. We are anchored in a bay off Isla Canas, considered to have the best all round protection in the islands, just northeast of a small village on Isla del Rey. With the southerly winds we are getting, its the best place to be. Ashore at low water is a long, sweeping sand beach, camel coloured, backed by dense tropical foliage of every hue of green. At high tide the bottle green waters lap up against the jungle shore, stealing the beach from sight.

I am delighted to discover that the beaches of Las Perlas are like none weve seen. From a distance they appear just like any other beach.

On closer inspection though, you cant help but notice the trees against the landscape, smooth, rust coloured limbs and branches taking on a beauty all their own, their roots twisted and gnarled, digging deep into the sand or rock for nourishment.

Then there are the rock faces, exposing their many intricate lines and contours, swirling, thin threads of amber against a striking teal.

Beneath these ancient rock walls are layers of rocks of varying sizes, shapes and designs, then stones, thousands of beautiful stones, each one unique, as if fired from a potters kiln. The minerals in the sand give them their fine detail and polished by constant tidal flow, they are as smooth as babys skin. I had to start a collection.

I dont need another collection, but things we have found on the worlds beaches have become treasured souvenirs of the countries we have visited, even gifts for family and friends: sea glass from Curacao, sea biscuits from the San Blas, mini sand dollars from Vanuatu, cowries from Polynesia, nautilus (nautili?) from New Caledonia, tiny seashells from Mexico (glued to a mirror frame in the forward head), a perfect paper nautilus from the Sea of Cortez, and now, a sea rock collection from Las Perlas.

When we are old and grey (not yet!) well look at our beach souvenirs and recall the beach, the anchorage, the country, the people we met there, the things that happened.

When people say Every beach looks the same after a while I am always surprised. Maybe they dont take the time to take a closer look, marvel at the details.