(1) Lauderdale to Key West – COMPLETE

LEG 1 (Shakedown Cruise)

Ft. Lauderdale to Key West – COMPLETE!

First leg down!  Actual time underway was 25 hours, all of which was spent under sail.  Sea conditions were 3-5ft seas with occasional 6 and 7ft sets, winds 20-25 knots out of the east, occasional stronger gusts, small craft advisory over the lower half of the route.

Provisioning complete!  Most boat systems were tested functional. Generator worked.  Some odd issues with electronics, but could by operator error.  (imagine that!)

A number of important tasks were NOT finished before we were FORCED out of Lauderdale.  The dock lady made us leave a day earlier than she’d originally told us to leave.  >:(

We don’t like her!  Since Reliant is officially in the Conch Republic, I’m now free to say “Eileen from stupid Dockfinders, BUZZ OFF!!”

We had to replace one battery in the house bank before departure, and the outboard for the tender has unresolved issues, but is currently at the service shop.  A few other miscellaneous technical items on board will need to be addressed on the next leg, but overall the boat did well.

We worked hard and didn’t have a lot of time to play, but the day we spent ashore in Key West was a blast!

Thanks to Lee for all the help(the gulf stream fish thank him for dinner on Wednesday night).  Super big thanks to Jim Sr. for the huge help provisioning and prepping for departure, plus the awesome meals!

Reliant is currently double tied on a mooring at Garrison Bight.

Leg Completed!


(2) Key West to Cancun – COMPLETE


Key West to Cancun – May 20th – 29th

The fun factor on this leg was pretty low, and it started with the Coast Guard documentation papers being delayed until Wednesday, which meant we were stuck in Key West for the first half of the trip.  As a result, Cuba was out as a stop over.  Key West would have been more enjoyable, but we were on standby everyday for departure.

We missed a nice weather window on Monday, and conditions across the Gulf Stream were what is typically predicted, sloppy seas, and hard going against the current.

What wasn’t predicted was the squall we hit about 8 hours out of Key West.  40+ knot winds, and instantly built seas.  We still aren’t sure how, but after the squall passed we confirmed that at some point we spun out the starboard engine prop.  Suffered some additional rigging damage, and frayed the head sail a little, but the boat is still in one piece.

Some electrical bugs came up that had not yet shown themselves.  Will take some time to work through it all.  So much for trying this trip on one autopilot.  :{

Nathan did a great job on deck and was a huge help, and Gabby get’s the best crew award for keeping everyone positive and hanging in on overnight watches.

Reliant is currently at V&V Marina, Puerto Cancun.

Leg 2 Complete.


(3) Cancun to Belize – COMPLETE


Cancun to Belize – June 24th – July 2nd

Fun meter up a notch or two on this leg.  Credit to PaPa Pablo’s “Ron Burgundy” sense of humor.(with the mustache, Will Ferrell bares a striking resemblance)

Thanks to Paul and Sean for the huge help in port with repairs prior to departure.  Thanks to Patty and Stacy for some awesome meals!

Mexico was hot, but off shore was nice.  We hit Chinchorro Bank, and I mean HIT(inside joke for leg 3 crew), and did a little diving there. Weather otherwise was mostly fair, but the tropical waves pushing through made for bigger than desirable seas.  That made overnight passages tough, and dives spots messy.

Arrival into San Pedro, Belize was fun, very el Caribe!  Incredible to be inside the huge reef.  Like sailing on a massive pond.

Boat issues a plenty.  Had additional prop problems, as well as more autopilot failure, but we were able to bypass the drive controller and were fortunate to have autopilot for most of the trip.

AIS still not functional, and radar was plagued by intermittent operation. We now think the numerous instrument failures, along with electronic problems with the washer/dryer, tank gauges, and inverter controllers, are all do to a previously undisclosed lightning strike!  No Bueno to discover while underway, but we’re dealing.   Nothing money can’t fix.

Still, the dude abides…

Leg Complete!  (see 3.5 for current Reliant status)

(3.5) Belize and Roatan(area) – COMPLETE

LEG 3.5

Belize and Roatan(area) – July2nd – July9th

AH BELIZE!   What can I say to express how off the charts, unbelievably, totally Caribe, stellar beyond compare, scuba diving crazy, Belize is?  They even still have pictures of the queen on their money.  GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!

I loved it, and I think the crew did too.  The atolls and reefs off shore are amazing.  I think Dr. Dyan said it would take ten lifetimes to do it all. The people in Belize are so nice and laid back, and coupled with the fact that most of Belize is absolutely not touristy at all, you get pretty close to paradise in my book.  Hard to believe it’s so close yet feels so far away.

Just beware the sand flies.(they will eat you alive)

Botswain’s Mate Tatoo(aka Bjorn) had some good planning on meals. We did fun excursions on various little cays, got a a few dives in, learned all about the Boobie Birds, and we all got to snorkle the BLUE HOLE!  We even drove the Big R up into it!(and the Blue Hole isn’t nearly as big as it looks in pics)

The dive at Lighthouse Reef was simply one of the finest dives I’ve ever done.  The reefs in Belize are healthy, and more variety of fish than Hawaii.  Going to be hard to leave, and I’m still not sure that we do. Belize is the perfect place for a boat like Reliant.  In fact, of the 30 boats in Old Belize Marina, two others are Lagoon 500.

A couple of squalls rolled through, but we were out of the way of the worst of them thanks to the atolls and reefs.  Weather off shore was otherwise pretty nice considering the temp and humidity.  The effects of the tropical waves persisted until our last two days.

There were a few naggy issues with the boat, outside of the previously reported repair list from leg 3, but thanks to Bjorn I’m trying to not over react.  Radar is off to Raymarine, AIS is here in LA being serviced, another new prop is on it’s way, and autopilot solutions are in process.  Tank senders are in hand, as well as vent loops for the bilge pumps.

(side note, someone at Lagoon should be strung up for putting the Bilge Pump thru hulls at the water line, and without anti-siphon breaks! Very uncool, and very dangerous!)

Gina get’s the best of crew award for the biggest smiles and for keeping the love going.  Was great to watch the kids have so much fun in the water, but now I know why some animals eat their young! 😛

Special thanks to Matthew and his dad in Old Belize Marina.  They are working on some special upgrades for Reliant, and are going to help with prep for leg 4.

Reliant is currently docked inside Old Belize Marina, just south of Belize City.

Leg Complete!

(4) Belize to Panama – COMPLETE


Belize to Panama- COMPLETE

We did it!  800+nm, south of the hurricane zone, and now I can relax!

For those not familiar, the problem with this leg was getting out of the Bay of Honduras, which means a 48-72 hour block of motoring directly into the trade winds.

If you are really luck, you can leave between Tropical Waves(bad weather) that knock down the winds and make a nice ride.  We got lucky and it happened just as we arrived.  No problem, right?

Wrong.  The start from Belize City was kind of a mess.  I had commissioned a custom hardtop for the fly bridge back in May.  It was planned to be complete by Monday July 24th at the latest.  Of course it wasn’t.  They hadn’t even mounted it by the 28th.

I pushed(imagine that), and got the top secured and ready to depart by the 29th(will post pictures soon).  Not the best finish work, so my OCD meter was pegged for the rest of the trip, but even mellow Mr. Ealing agreed the caulk job was nerve racking.  Still, the weather was forgiving. We were able to motor out of Belize peacefully on Saturday.

Sunday night we ran over a fishing net, which forced a stop in the Bay Islands of Honduras for repairs(which turned out to be a highlight of the trip).  We spent Monday and Tuesday relaxing, diving, and eating in “casual elegance”at an all inclusive yacht resort on a private Cay.  So not only did we find the most incredible spot in the entire western Caribbean(Barefoot Cay, check it out), we got to mark off one of the scratched mission objectives. Roatan!  Thanks to Gary from New Jersey(the manager) for all the help

Departing on Wednesday the motoring was wet, but acceptable.  Outside of about 6 hours of really rough conditions just before the turn southward, the weather for the rest of the trip was very fine.

On Thursday we reached the Banco Vivorillo.  Beautiful and remote, but not empty.  We counted four full size fishing boats, plus launches collecting lobster traps.  From what we could tell, they had no interest in us, but stories of fishing boats turning out to be pirates, and our tight schedule to reach Panama meant a short stay. We anchored for a couple of hours then continued on.  Lot’s of jelly fish at the bank!

Friday afternoon we reached Isla de ProvidenciaHands down the highlight of the trip for me.  The place was beautiful, and something about the remoteness and sailing into the harbor made it like a scene from a movie.  We stopped long enough to refuel and go ashore for dinner, then continued on.

The trip down to Panama was uneventful, but Panama itself is a trip! Setting aside the city of Colon(really dangerous and scary), the approach to the Canal is intense by boating standards.  They actually have a traffic control that directs you via radio, a lot like ATC when flying.  There are tankers and cargo ships in every direction as far as the eye can see.

The crew on Leg 4 was really in sync.  Everyone helped and got along. Thanks to Sue for the great meals(I still don’t know what happened to all the chocolate ship cookies)  Super thanks to Ryan and Sailing Master Liam for carrying the bulk of overnight watches.

We actually made it all the way through Mutiny on the Bounty, with enthusiasm!

Bunks got a little soaked from the green water over the bows on Wednesday and Thursday(ridiculously leaky hatches), and other typical problems, fuel filters, etc.  Otherwise, no major failures.

Reliant is now safely slipped just inside the canal zone at Shelter Bay Marina.

Leg 4 Complete!

(4.5) The San Blas! – COMPLETE

LEG 4.5

The San Blas! Awesome!

I’d heard mixed reviews about the San Blas Islands.  If you’ve read about them, you know they are made up of hundreds of small islands scattered near the main land, many of which are inhabited by a group of native indians, semi-autonomous from Panama.

Whatever you’ve heard about them, take my word for it, they are a cruising paradise!  Granted the weather in Panama can be oppressive, and no doubt we were lucky on weather, but the water is amazing, there is great snorkeling everywhere, and if you are wiling to go just a few miles out of your way you can get away from the crowds….wait, there really weren’t crowds.  At least not like the BVI or Catalina.

Waters are shallow, anchoring is easy, and there is a reef that protects most of it.  For our trip the temps were in the 70s at night, and 80s  in the day.  Not many bugs, and fortunately the big squalls missed us.

Highlights of the trip were finding the Coronado atoll and islands on our way down to the San Blas, finding our sand spit island(I’ll post pics), and stopping in the village of Portebello on our way back to Cristobal.

Portebello was the original harbor and land route across the isthmus of Panama before there was a canal.  Spanish fortifications dating back to the 16th century are still intact.  It’s a deep natural, all weather harbor, and a lot of cruisers anchor there.  Dinner and drinks ashore turned into a big party on the big R.  The last thing the captain remembers is jumping off the fly bridge top…but clearly I’m still alive.(shout out to the Belize crews, we figured out how to turn on the underwater lights)

It was also my first time experiencing a Halocline!  The rain waters from the day had brought a thin layer of 65-70 degree fresh water down from the mountains, that sat on top of the 85 degree salt water.  Very cool!

Crew was totally awesome, and between the great help on board and the first opportunity to actually relax and go nowhere, we had a full blown vacation.  Liz by far has the most Caribbean sailing experience of any of us, and I think she approved.  No one wanted to go home.

Cleanup and canal prep in Cristobal went according to plan.  A couple of issues that arose in port over the last month were resolved.  The new auto-pilot install was completed, engines serviced, radios replaced, and the balance of rigging issues that piled up over the summer were addressed.  All in all, Reliant is ready to take on the Pacific.

Thanks to Sue and Liz for getting us ready to depart, and Aimee and Charlotte for cleanup when we got back.  Big thanks to Nick for all the help on the squawk list.

All paperwork and inspections for canal transit are complete(more info to come).

Reliant is safe in Shelter Bay Marina.  Pete and Elaina on board in port, Panamanian Crocodiles on guard patrol.

Leg 4.5 Complete!

(5) The Canal Transit! – COMPLETE


The Canal Transit!– COMPLETE!

What a great trip!  Islands of Pacific Panama, Costa Rica, the Canal, and it was just great to be in the Pacific.  I had forgotten what Pacific sunsets were like on the water.  It felt like home.

The islands on the Pacific side are under rated for sure.  They are truly tropical paradises, and relatively untouched.  The cooler water temps makes the air temp much milder compared to the Carribean side.

Costa Rica is as beautiful as everyone says.  The ex-pats in Golfito are an interesting bunch of people, and I’ll regret not getting to spend more time there.

The canal transit was, however, the highlight of Leg 5.  So I’ll detail our transit experience.

The Canal is 48 miles long, and it took exactly 24 hours, including the 9 hours of anchoring overnight on Gatun Lake.  There are three sets of locks on each side of the canal, connecting either ocean with Gatun Lake, a huge man made lake that makes up the bulk of the ‘canal’.  We departed our holding anchorage at around 5pm on Friday with our Transit Advisor, a Canal employee that comes on board to direct you and coordinate with canal controllers. After a series of holds for passing ships, we entered the first lock at sunset.

Up-locking is the most complicated part of the transit.  To keep from being pushed against the concrete walls, we ‘center chambered’, which means we had dock lines running to the walls on either side, and stayed in the middle of the lock.

Holding the boat in place is very difficult, because the inrush of water from the bottom of the lock creates strong currents that change direction as the water rises, and each lock raises you around 30′.  The process is a coordination between the crew on deck taking in slack on the dock lines while the skipper holds the boat in place with the engines.

By coincidence, the only other small boat transiting Friday was another Lagoon Catamaran, a model 400, which is the 40′ version of Reliant.  It must have looked like the big R had a mini-me from the top of the locks.  That boat tied to us on our Starboard side, and each crew worked dock lines on their side of the lock to keep both boats in place as one unit.

Ahead of us in the lock was ‘Tequila Sunrise’, a 560′ bulk carrier(when uplocking, they put smaller boats behind the big transports).  We stayed with the other Lagoon and the big transport through all three locks.

We cleared the last Atlantic lock around 9pm, and after a fresh water swim we spent the night anchored in the jungle, with howler monkeys screaming all around.  We started again at 6am when the next Transit Advisor came aboard.

The lake itself is beautiful, and according to the Transit Advisor, full of Peacock Bass.  Along the shorelines it looks a lot like man made lakes in the states.  The only section that really looks like a ‘canal’ is the Gallard Cut, which is the final 8 miles before reaching the Pacific side.  The lake passage was relaxing and uneventful and we reached the Pacific locks by 3pm.

Down locking is a milder experience compared to up locking because there are no significant currents, and sometimes the only way you know you are descending is by watching the water level drop against the lock walls.  Otherwise it is the same process in reverse, three sets of locks, entering and maneuvering with a large transport ship behind(they put little boats in front when down locking), and whatever other small boats are going through with you.

We cleared the last lock a little after 5pm, and after dropping off Ricardo the Transit Advisor, we moored at Balboa Yacht Club.

Sunday night was spent partying with locals at Taboga Island, which is about 15 miles from Panama City.  The crew of the Reliant risked life and limb to swim ashore for emergency provisions(I believe land lubbers sometimes call this a ‘beer run’)  Jeff gets an honorable mention for discovering the ‘BEAVER STROKE’.  This is a little like a back stroke, except you put your paws up like a beaver and carry the beer on your chest.  If only I had a picture…

Monday morning we dropped Nate, Gary, and Stephanie off in Panama City, and the Reliant continued on to Costa Rica, passing through the many islands on the Pacific side of Panama.  We passed so many small  island groups I can’t mention them all, but one of note was Coiba Island.  We did not go ashore, but Coiba is the largest Central American Island, and a marine preserve.

We did stop at Isla Montuosa on our way up the coast.  The island was completely uninhabited, except for the remnants of an old fishing camp.  White sand beaches, Palm Trees, and real jungle in the interior.  We were able to secure coconuts for desert, and we did find a fresh water stream.

Passage to Costa Rica from Panama City took about 48 hours, including our stop.  The new autopilot worked!  The only event was another fishing net we picked up on the starboard prop.  I was able to clear it while underway.  Oh, and lot’s of dolphins, a couple of sea turtles, and we think a pilot whale.

No sloths sighted in either country…so my search continues.

Reliant is currently moored at Banana Bay Marina, Golfito, Costa Rica.

Leg Complete!