Saturday, December 03, 2011

Cartagena, Columbia, Sept – Dec 2011

We returned to Cartagena with the goal in mind of having Lens Replacements Eye Surgery.  We have been hearing from many of our cruising friends of the excellent medical care and results in this field here in Columbia.

Kaija always had perfect vision that is until our Atlantic crossing in ’92 where she wore a Scopolamine (motion sickness) patch.  She discovered on the second day that her short term vision had been affected.  It never recovered and so she has worn glasses for reading and other close up work since that time.

On the other hand, I have worn glasses since grade school.  Problems with astigmatism and short sightedness have required me to either wear glasses or contacts for all of my adult life. 

For both of us, wearing glasses on the boat has been a hassle.  And so, we elected to remedy that situation.  We were recommended to a couple of fine eye surgeons and elected to use the services of Dr. Javier Vasquez Ramirez in part because he speaks English good enough to understand our questions and answer them in a thoughtful and thorough manner.

There are two main manufacturers of multi focal Intraocular Lens.  Abbot Labs of California produces the Tecnis Lens and Alcon Inc. makes the ReSTOR TORIC product.

Dr. Javier recommended the Tecnis lens for Kaija.  In my case, (dealing with astigmatism) he recommended one of each.  I found with my first eye (the Tecnis lens) that while my distance vision was greatly improved I was seeing ‘halos’ around bright lights at night altho I am advised that this will correct itself over time.  For my second eye, the ReStoric lens provided even clearer vision without the halos and there is a ‘built-in’ corrective feature for my astigmatism.

                                     Kaija & Dr. Javier

The procedure of the eye surgery is very simple.  It requires having your eyes measured (painless), applying drops for three days prior to surgery (painless) and then the 15 minute eye surgery (painless).   The entire process was painless and the results virtually immediate.  The morning after surgery the bandage is removed…and VOILA…you are seeing.  It is recommended to have one eye the first week and the second the next and so there is a period of adjustment for the new stereo vision to settle in.  Also, it is necessary to continue with eye drops for a few days after surgery.  Other than not being able to go swimming for a week following surgery, there were no other restrictions to any of our normal daily activities.

We are thrilled with the results and feel that we found an excellent surgeon and caregiver as well made a new friend in Dr. Javier and his beautiful wife Ingrid who is an excellent Dr. of Dermatology.  Together, they are a very handsome couple and big warm hearts and made this whole experience one we will long remember as we carry on our journey enjoying our new improved vision.

                                  Javier with Kaija & Ingrid

During our visit here, we had opportunity to visit some of the tourist attractions we had not previously seen including the Grande San Filipe Forte,

          Forte San Filipe, Cartagena Columbia - Kaija in Insert

We spent many fun hours meandering thru the Old City with its many shops, vendors and unique sights including some very interesting architecture and door knockers. 

                         Cartagena Old Town sites incl Famous Fat Lady                                                                        and door knockers

During our visit Cartagena celebrated it’s Bi-Centenial celebrations.  The marching bands and tradition costumes were a delight.

Cartagena celebrates it's Bi-Centenario

We enjoyed renewing acquaintances with old friends and making new friends here in the anchorage.  We also had time to spend in the Bay of Chalon which is a beautiful anchorage approx 20 miles south of Cartagena and spent time with Rob and Carmen M/v Manatee and their beautiful home on the hillside called Crow’s-nest with a 360 degree million dollar view overlooking the ocean.

Bay of Chalon with Carmen and Rob from their Casa Crow'sNest

One of the cruiser favorites is the Wednesday night social held at the Restaurant Pacho & Gillo Pizzeria hosted by Sandro.  His beautiful wife and daughter make everyone welcome and the food is great.  This year they also hosted a Columbian Style American Thanksgiving turkey dinner will all the trimmings.  What a Treat!

Sandro and family, Owners of Pacho and Gillos Pizzeria

While here in Cartagena we took the opportunity to have some additional renovations completed by the famous wood worker Tutti who is a magician with his chisel and saw.  We also needed our transmission overhauled and were lucky enough to find Elvis, King of the Cartagena Mechanics.  Both of these gentlemen were honest and quick about getting the job done.  Muchos Appreciado Amigos.

Elvis the King of Mechanics and Magician Woodworker Tutti

Our final dinner at the wonderful de Oliva was with Drs Javier and Ingrid, Lauren (daughter of our good friends John and Jeri Mv Peking) and Kenny and wife Jesse Sv Makai

Ingrid with Kaija & Lauren

Jessie, Kaija & Kenny

We are leaving manyana for the San Blas where we will hook up with good friends on that side of Panama for Christmas.  Then, Good Lord Willing thru the ‘ditch’ (Panama Canal) in January and finally the South Pacific…HERE WE COME!

And so as we enter the Holiday Season, to all of you, we send our Best Wishes for a Wonderful Christmas filled with Joy and Happiness and abundant time spent with those you love and a New Year filled with Good Health, Good friends and Good Times.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

San Blas Islands July 31 – August 31 2011 In Loving Memory of our Beloved 'Doc' (Jan 7 2001 to July 31 2011)

In Loving Memory of our Beloved 'Doc'

 Bentley (Doc) Leno
(Jan 7 2001 to July 31 2011)

We knew this day would come, but knowing made it no easier and early on the morning of July 31st our beloved ‘Doc’, lying in our arms, crossed quietly to the Rainbow Bridge.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this expression we heard it first when someone was kind enough to send along this beautiful prose penned by Author Unknown but whose sentiments so richly struck a chord in our hearts.  I am reprinting it here with the hopes that others in our position of loss may find comfort in these words

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. 
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. 

There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. 
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....


Author unknown...

Kaija and I are so thankful to our many friends whose kind words reflect their love for our little ‘Doc’.  They remind us that Doc had such a big heart seemingly filled with love for all he met and a willingness to always take part and be a part of whatever venture came our way.  There is no doubt in our minds, that entering into the Cruising Lifestyle seven years ago required by far the biggest adjustment for Doc.  But he was always happy on the boat and could find positions where he seemed to be totally relaxed, whether sleeping,

Doc just ‘a Chillin’

Learning to live afloat and spend as much time in the water meant learning to swim and be comfortable wearing his lifejacket.  It wasn’t long before he learned to swim to and from shore, sometimes pulling the dinghy behind him.

Doc in his Lifejacket


or just ‘keepin an eye’ on the world around him.

Doc enjoying a Sunset

It also included visiting strange new lands and always being needing to be on his best gentle behavior, whether walking thru small villages full of goats, sheep, chickens, pack dogs nipping at his heals meeting new cruising friends along the way or visiting well know tourist spots like this stop in St. Augustine Florida

 Doc enjoying a Sightseeing ride in St. Augustine Florida 2005

Doc began his life with us at the age of 1 ½ years being a rescue dog from the West Vancouver SPCA.  He has lived his previous life locked in a box and mistreated and in fact his name was Box.  We changed his name to Bentley and called him Doc partly because it sounded close to Box and partly in honor of a Dr. friend who discovered him.  He was quite a handful in the beginning, not understanding much about socializing, but that soon changed and with the help of a good trainer, he soon came to be the gentle and loving puppy we knew was always inside that tough exterior.  He just needed some lovin and the confidence and assurance that he had a home and would be fed and cared for. 

For those of you who have a heart for Dogs in need please visit the website home of our good friend Kathy of  Animal Relief Foundation Aruba.   Kathy arranges adoptions for the stray puppies and dogs of Aruba and after making sure they are healthy and ready for travel arranges flights out of Aruba to good homes in the USA, Canada as well as other countries by request.

It wasn’t long after we got Doc that during a morning walk we met the owner and Editor of the editor of Modern Dog magazine, Ms. Connie Wilson.  She asked if we would be interested in having Doc do some ‘posing’ for a photo shoot with some strikingly beautiful models for an upcoming edition of her magazine.  

It was a long day and gave me a better appreciation of a models life, basically, hurry up and wait, as cameras and lights needed constant adjusting as did the set, clothing changes, different models, and Doc took it all in stride, enjoying Pizza and all the attention he could ask for.  That was truly a fun day and beginning of so many terrific adventures with ‘Doc’.  


Pictures courtesy of Modern Dog Magazine Summer 2003

Over the years thousands of photos have been taken of Doc by us, tourists and tour boats passing by, and our friends and just strangers we would meet who enjoyed his unique form of meet and greet friendship.  From that very first shoot, he new how to 'ham it up for the cam'.

His latest modeling can be viewed on the Tilley Endurables clothing website under the caption ‘Smart Looking Sailor’,

 Doc enjoying his Tilley Hat (San Blas 2011)

  here is a line of the email received from the nice folks at Tilley

…”Thanks for the photo of your dog and his Hat - it's on, in the "true Tilley tales" section, for the world to enjoy.  Maybe you'll start a trend!”…

That was our little Doc, a trendsetter who made friends easily and allowed Kaija & me to meet many along the way that we might otherwise have not, both locals and cruisers alike who took a quick liking to Doc.

 Doc and Friends in Belize 2005

Doc had many admirers, human and all manner of creature from the animal kingdom, and most every girl, regardless of species including human, who met him lavished him with hugs and kisses.  However, during his lifetime we believe he had two real ‘heartthrob loves’.  One was a dolphin named Honey resident at Josh’s Cay, Bay Islands,

 Doc’s Special Friend Honey (Josh’s Cay, Bay Islands, Honduras  2009

Doc could swim for hours with Honey and one more than one occasion was known to tag along with her on her daily swim from Josh’s Cay to El Bite, a distance of some 3 miles. 

The other an unnamed she goat living on Isle de Saints, Guadeloupe.  And when he met this little she goat on Isle de Saints, he would sit and stare at her thru her fence and make these little soft moaning sounds. . .need I say more.  He just wanted to spend time with her. 

Doc and his Wee Special Goat Friend, Isle De Saints, Guadaloupe 2010

Doc liked kittens and puppies, animals young and old, big and small, pigs, goats and cows.  He like chasing Bulls and being chased by them.  He really enjoyed horses and dolphins.  It didn’t matter their breed or size, he loved them all!  Two of his most special moments that I was lucky enough to share with him were meeting a new born foal (pony) not much bigger than he was while the mother Mare skittishly watched.  They came nose to nose while the little foal stood shakily on his wobbly legs and Doc just seemed to enjoy his company.  This meeting took place in Luperon Dominican Republic.  And one of the truly unforgettable moments Doc and I shared was during our walk thru the jungle of Panama and coming round a bend and coming face to face with a wild Black Panther.  This beautiful creature stood no more than 50 paces away, Doc and I froze, Doc sat quietly, the Panther stood and stared, with it’s long black tail waving in the breeze, then turned and a quick as a blink, was gone into the undergrowth…it was a majical moment.  Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me for either of those two special events but the memory will live clearly in my mind’s eye until my dying days. 

However, Doc was indeed a Rottweiler, and when he was back on the boat we was a serious guard dog, which allowed Kaija & me the comfort of the 7 years of hassle free cruising, with our companionway unlocked and our hatches open never being concerned with strangers boarding our boat while we slept.  Thanks little buddy. 

‘Doc’ keepin an eye

We could leave our boat to go ashore and be fairly certain that no stranger would attempt access while we were away.  There were those rare occasions however, when Doc decided in his own mind that he had stood guard long enough, and that perhaps dad and mom just forgot to take him along, and he would venture out on his own,  which meant ‘jumping ship’, literally, diving in the water off the boat and swimming ashore to find us.  This most recently occurred in Cartagena, when Kaija & I were ashore enjoying a lovely dinner at a very fine restaurant when a fellow cruiser came in to let us know that Doc had swum ashore, in the dark, thru the shipping channel, to the dock, climbed ashore, and was sitting waiting calmly for us to return to the Yacht Club.  This behavior was not always met with enthusiasm on our part, as Doc’s ‘job’ was to remain on the boat and be ‘en-guarde’, so I would take him back in the dinghy, put him back on-deck and tether him to remind him of his obligation.  It was never easy to stay angry with Doc for any length of time for these minor indiscretions.  He would look up at your with his big brown eyes, often with enough moistness in them to convince you he was truly sorry for disappointing you and he would try harder next time.

Doc  ‘En-Guarde’

Doc was so very easy to love and always seemed to be happy.  But there is no doubt in our minds that he was the happiest when he was running up and down some isolated beach, chasing and playing toss with a coconut, any coconut would do.  He loved being in the water, swimming was his forte, and there was seldom a time when he couldn’t beat you in a race around the boat.   He would happily don his lifejacket to join us out on the reef paddling along beside Kaija and me as we would snorkel, sometimes for hours.  And when he encountered dolphins, he was in another world.  He loved dolphins.  He could sense them long before the rest of us could and he would make this special sound that attracted them to him.  

‘Doc’ and his Dolphin buddies

But mostly, he just seemed happy to be with us, no matter what the occasion, and that was the best part of all.  What a joy to share our life with him!

'Doc &  Dad'  on the Kayak

Doc enjoying a ride in the dingy…a favorite pastime!

 Takin a break along the trail

Doc Enjoyin a swim with Mom

Lickin his lips
Waitin for a yummy treat from mom at the galley hatch

Fun on the beach with Byron & Denise s/v South of Reality, Kaija & Columbian navy friends in Albaqurque Cays, Columbia

 ‘Doc’ ridin the canon

Jane, Kaija & Doc Sailing San Blas

Doc with Angels Kathy & Maureen of Arf-Aruba

 ‘Doc’ strongly considering a big upgrade to 80’ of  Real Luxury with Lani & Mads aboard M/v Dauntless in Puerto Advantura,  Mexico

 Doc with Wendy of Dive Aruba

Gary & Doc with friends Terry & Barb Sv Wind Whisperer and Local Guide Renaldo Garcia 5 Bays Columbia

Kaija and Doc with his ‘Tilley’

For those of you who are lucky enough to have a pet that fills your heart with such gladness as our little ‘Doc’ did for us, count your blessings for all of the days and hours you share with these little wonders of God’s creation.

Happy Times with ‘Doc’

Kaija and I continue on with our life on KaijaSong, saddened for our loss, taking comfort in the knowledge that our beloved little ‘Doc’ sails on with the angels, unfettered and pain free, and is now waiting for that day, when we will cross the Rainbow Bridge together, re-united for eternity.

 “Doc” a Truly Special Friend

There is not a day goes by that we do not think about or speak of our little boy 'Doc'.  He still brings us such joy at all the funny things he did to brighten our day and lighten our load.  

Our good friend and Master Mola Maker, Lisa of Kuna Yala made a beautiful Mola for Doc and we treasure it as we treasure the wonderful memories we have of this kind and gentle spirit.

We are truly and richly Blessed!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Linton Panama N09,36 W79,35 April 18 - Present

The good news for us after losing our company and buddy boating friends is that our good friends John and Jeri Mv Peking arrived from Cartagena.  

MV Peking, John and Jeri

 It was a fun reunion as we got caught up on the news in their world.  Unfortunately for us, Doc’s health was failing so we decided that we needed help to regain control of his symptoms and so we headed west to Colon to meet up with our friend and Vet Dr. Sandy Sv Littlebit.  She quickly reviewed the medicine protocol and made some slight adjustments that seemed to make a world of difference for Doc.

Dr Sandy, S/v Littlebit
 We have been in Linton now for the past couple of months and Kaija has found a ladies group that enjoys domino’s on Thursday.  There is also ping-pong and a social on Sunday’s at a local Ex-pat name Bennie.  She is quite an amazing lady having foster homed three sloths, Thunder & Lightning of the two toed variety and Digger who is a three toed sloth.   
"Lightning" & Bennie

  Never having had the opportunity to get close and personal with a sloth it was great fun to meet these very gentle quiet mammals. 

Kaija with "Digger" and Gary

They love to be held and cuddled and become quite attached to their human protectors.  Thunder resides with Bennie’s housekeeper and is quite protective of her, Lightning lives in Bennie’s bedroom and has his own tree to live in there.  Digger lives in the kitchen sitting by the kitchen window enjoying the beautiful vista of the Linton Bay.  Bennie is a very special lady with a huge heart and giving spirit.  These three sloths are very lucky to have ‘found’ her. 

Kaija has been in Vancouver for the past month visiting family and Doc and I have had a wonderful time just ‘resting’ and being close.   We recognize that there is no cure for Doc’s Lymphoma and each day becomes a little more of a struggle for him as he slowly loses his strength and his battle against this dread disease.  I spend as much time as needed each day caring for Doc giving his meds to hand feeding and taking him for his dinghy ride to shore where he enjoys sitting in the cool shallow water and just resting.  Then getting him back aboard, dried off for his next sleep and a few hours later repeat the process.   He is a wonderful companion and so easy to Love and spend time with.  

Doc & Gary

 Upon Kaija’s return this week, we will head back out to the San Blas Islands for a few months and spend as much time as possible in Snug Harbour at “Doc” Island where he enjoys the shade of the swaying palms, the clear cool water and the soft white sand.


San Blas, Panama, Snug Harbour N 09.19.600 W 078.15.130 to Porvanir N09.33.462 W 078.57.022 Feb 27 – April 17

What can we say about Snug Harbour we haven’t already said?  At the risk of repeating ourselves, it is simply our favorite stop in the San Blas.  Besides being isolated and providing a quiet safe anchorage it is one of the prettiest spots on earth. 

We were somewhat surprised, however, to find 8 boats in ‘our’ anchorage.  When last we visited we were the only boat…so much for progress.  We rested up before heading to Porvanir to pick up our friends and guests Tom and Jane from Vancouver. 

En-route to Porvanir we stopped at the small island of Cambobia.  This was our first time here and just when we thought it was a perfect day we learned that “Murphy” was riding along with us.  We had had a perfect sail from Snug Harbour and when getting ready to transit the channel into Cambobia we turned our engine on and it sounded like someone had thrown a bucket of bolts into it.  We soon discovered we had smoke and sparks flying from the engine alternator and so shut down the engine and sailed into the bay.  We were met by our good friends Aaron and Lyla from Sv Blow Me Away and new friends Jim and Betsy on their beautiful Mv Two By Sea.  We had a fun couple of days with them while I tore off the alternator and readied it for shipping to our friend Roger in Panama City.  Roger is the ex-Manager for the Panama Yacht club or should I say the former Panama Yacht club.  Roger speaks excellent English and lives in Panama City and is a cruisers best friend.

En-route to Porvanir we stopped at the East Lemons and heard our friends John and Marie-Andree on the radio calling us.  They were in the West Lemons, only three miles away,  and had traveled all the way from Cuba to re-united with us after our first fun meeting with them a year ago.  They came by dingy to see us and it was a fun reunion as we planned the next two weeks to buddy boat with them thru the islands.

John and Marie-Andre Sv Sete Mares

Finally the day we had been looking for arrived when our friends Tom and Jane flew into Porvanir.  They are good friends from Vancouver and as it is with good friends it’s like you were never apart.  We were looking forward to spending a couple of weeks with them getting caught up.

Tom & Jane arrive Porvanir San Blas

We immediately departed for ‘the pool’…otherwise known as Eastern Hollandaise…by either name it is a very neat place.  Actually, we anchored just outside the pool in the ‘burbs’, designated so because it is just outside the ‘bar’ of the pool…you have to be there to get all the geopolitical positioning just so, but needless to say it is a fun spot on the outer islands of the San Blas just inside a beautiful stretch of reef that is home to some of the larger variety of ‘take out’ fish…angel, trigger, grouper, snapper, hogfish, shark…the list goes on and on…and it’s not too hard to invite a nice 20 pounder home for dinner…yummy.

We enjoyed a few days here and Tom and Jane used our new two person kayak…action took it on its maiden voyage around the island and had a blast.  

Tom & Jane Kayaking

We were still in company with John and Marie Andree and their beautiful 65’ Cat Sete Mares.  

The beautiful S/v Sete Mares (laundry day?)
We had the unexpected pleasure of hearing a little girl voice calling from a boat name ‘Guppy’ on the Radio calling for directions thru the reef and anchorage.  I’m not kidding when I say it sounded like a little girl…it was a little girl. Her name is Laura Dekker, and altho her voice sounds like she is about 10 she is actually 15 and sailing single handed around the world.  She is from Holland and you can read up about her travels by going to

Laura is an amazing example of what a young mind and spirit can accomplish. 

Marie-Andre, Tom, Laura Dekker, Gary & Kaija
It was determined that a party was in order to celebrate this young lady’s tremendous achievement and so without much ado, a party was had.  It was a great time with all the cruisers in the pool, the hottub, the burbs, and many of the surrounding anchorages within miles joining in the fun.  Everyone brought a dish and we raised enough money to outfit Laura in a beautiful Mola made right there on the island.  

Cruiser/Kuna Party for Laura Dekker

We left the following day for Nargana which is one of the larger Kuna village towns on the mainland.  It is a good place to provision, buy diesel and gas and even has an airport.  During our visit they had a festival and killed and slaughtered three big bulls to feed the crowds.  

Tom & Jane, John & Marie-Andre
 One of the locals named Fredrico was in charge of killing the bulls.  Fredrico is also the local launderer so it wouldn’t’ take long before he was cleaned up and ready to party.  However, unfortunately for Kaija he was ‘into the cups’ in his blood spattered gear and feeling somewhat amorous and took quite a shine to Kaija who wanted no part of ‘what he was offering in his blood spattered duds.  However, it was all quite innocent and fun to watch his advances being rebuffed by Kaija who couldn’t get away quite fast enough.   

Fredrico & Kaija

The final exciting episode happened during our departure from the Nargana anchorage.  Gary was slightly distracted talking with Jane and Tom and wasn’t paying attention to his ‘track’ leading us safely out of the anchorage and all of a sudden KaijaSong came to a rather sudden stop…atop an outcropping of coral.  Despite best efforts, KS was stuck and our good friends on Sete Mares very carefully nudged up close enough to catch a line and pull us off.  The moral of the story is…even in safe protected waters…PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DRIVING CAPTAIN!... so nothing damaged except the captain’s pride…OUCH!

We stopped next in the West Lemons which was one of my favorite stops.  I say was, because three years ago Doc and I spent 6 weeks here, the only sailboat in the bay and had a wonderful time getting to know a local Kuna who was the island keeper and his two dogs.  His name was Augusto and for those of you who have been following our blog you’ll remember he made some of the best sour dough bread I ever tasted.  Along with his two dogs Kimba and Negrita, Doc and I would join Augusto each morning with a fresh carafe of hot coffee, peanut butter and strawberry preserves (Augusto’s favorite) and he would bring the bread.  He spoke no English, I spoke no Kuna, but we had a great time teaching each other a few essential words.  I tell this sadly now as only shortly before we arrived in the West Lemons Augusto passed away leaving his two sweet pups, Kimba and Negrita as orphans.  Doc and I visited with them daily, keeping them fed and groomed and trying to spread the word amongst the other cruisers of the need to help them.  We will miss Augusto but we look forward to Kimba and Negritta on our return.

Kimba & Negritta

It’s amazing how fast time flies when you are having fun and before we knew it we were saying goodbye to John and Marie-Andree and their beautiful Catamaran as they departed for Colon to provision for the Panama Canal Transit into the South Pacific and beyond.  Then we were sailing back into Porvanir and dropping Tom and Jane off at the airport as they continued the adventure heading to Bocas on the west side of Panama for some surfing and Spanish lessons and into Costa Rica to a Kite Surfing camp….oh the joys of youth…well their not kids..They are high energy.  We sure enjoyed having them aboard and missed them greatly when they left.

Jane & Tom Bakker