SMEEEEEEEE!!

2/1/2020, 11:20 PM
9°22’06.3″N ; 79°57’04.5″W

A few days ago we sailed from the San Blas into Shelter Bay overnight. It was a fun sail, because we were flanked by 3 of the other World ARC fleet boats, so there were people with us all night. But it wasn’t a fun sail, because the counter current and lack of wind meant we had to run the motor. For the most part (other than a first mate encounter with a boat that didn’t have AIS or radio, which she maneuvered expertly and adjusted back to course), it was uneventful. Or at least it was uneventful until we approached mainland Panama near the canal, and the AIS looked like this:

Luckily, that wasn’t my shift 😉. But it was fun to come in, see the locks of the canal, and start to think about our journey through in just a few days.

Since we’ve been here, there’s been boat cleaning and laundry doing and satellite phone troubleshooting, etc. It’s a good time to get things done because there’s not much to see in Shelter Bay. Shelter Bay is an old US military base that is still military protected, so they boast that they’re the “safest marina in the Caribbean”. But we’re just outside is the city of Colón, which is very dangerous for tourists (and the people who live there), so we haven’t ventured out much.

On the first night, we did go into Colón to the most amazing Lebanese restaurant I’ve ever been to with some of our boat friends (from boats Remedy, Amari, and Jan), but it was a taxi from front door to front door type of situation. Following good food with some of our favorite friends on the trip, we went back to Jan for a beer and got to tour one of the most beautiful sailboats I’ve ever been on (Jan). She’s a 45-foot and custom-made mono-haul and she “certainly is yar”.

The Admiral and I also went to Colón for the grocery store to begin provisioning for the Pacific. Weighed down with groceries, we waited for a bus for 2 hours, squished in with every seat full and our groceries on our lap, and then the bus promptly broke down before we got to the bridge over the locks to get back to the marina. They sent more cars for us, and with some sitting on laps we came back. But every chore is an adventure when you’re sailing internationally, and this one might have been worth it for the stories we heard from a South African couple about their adventures there and a stint where they were chased by (and able to out-run) pirates. We’ll do more provisioning on the other side of the Canal, where the stores are more cosmopolitan and therefore have what we need for recipes, etc.- but we but decided to spend some time cooking while in a less exciting marina like Shelter Bay, rather than while we had the opportunity to explore Panama City and Las Perlas on the other side of the Canal.

So what have we been doing for fun while we’ve been here? The full World ARC fleet is docked in Shelter Bay, so we’ve had lots of happy hours, pool time/parties, etc. The first mate accidentally invited about 20 people to Amazing Grace the other night for rum, which turned into a party of guitar playing, singing, and dancing that had to be shut down (whoops). Luckily, a Remedy (a friend’s boat) was “on the hard”, which means it has been hauled out of the water for repairs, so Captain Dave and Admiral Anne were relieved when the party was promptly relocated and continued on a much bigger boat (catamaran). The party crew (led by the 3 American boats but joined by many others) danced on the trampoline and shared stories until late into the night. Even Captain Dave was dancing on the trampoline by the end the night. It was a 10/10 good time.

Outside of our nightly shenanigans, I spent some time exploring around the marina with a new friend. We hiked and saw monkeys and lots of cool insects and butterflies and explored abandoned army buildings that have now been graffitied by the locals.

Then we went on a crocodile hunt. I decided he was the best person to hunt crocodiles with, because he has almost the right accent (Kiwi). Unfortunately, this ignorant American needs to sail around the world because I was completely unaware that New Zealand doesn’t have any predators (including crocodiles). Fun fact, that’s the reason the Kiwi bird adapted to lose its ability to fly. Still, he’s spent a lot more time in Australia than me (insert shoulder shrug here), so I digress.

Now when I say crocodile hunting, I of course mean walking around the tall grasses at the edge of the water to try to see one (we’re not in the business of poaching). Apparently, there is at least one crocodile here in the marina, and pretty much everyone here has seen him except me. Their size estimations vary at 18 feet (+/- 5 feet), depending on who you talk to. At least twice, I’ve seen people standing and pointing into the water and RAN to reach them, but the croc was gone by the time I got there. On our hunt, we didn’t have better luck. We found crocodile tracks, and crocodile poop, but no crocodiles. I AM STARTING TO THINK THAT THESE PEOPLE ARE PLAYING A GIANT PRANK ON ME.

-Kristen Pankratz
First mate, Amazing Grace

TLDR: This is your first mate, standing by on the bow of the boat with the binoculars… throwing scraps of meat into the water…

MY NEW FAVORITE PLACE: EXTENDED EDITION

1/28/2020, 3:24 PM
9°35’08.8″N ; 78°52’54.5″W

What’s great about the San Blas islands is that there so many that are slightly different but equally breathtaking to explore. We could absolutely fill 2 weeks and enjoy every moment of it, and I absolutely hope to return one day with more time. The last few days have been full of more of my favorite things, which began on our very first day here (see previous post). Our norm is now quick sails between islands, snorkeling, relaxing on the beach, swimming, exploring islands, eating lobsters, and drinking beer (rinse, and repeat).

One of our snorkeling expeditions took us to a cargo shipwreck on Dog Island. The story is of a skipper who was taking on water at a rate too high to bail out. Rather than abandoning his precious cargo, he beached his boat and saved what he could. We get the urgency, of course, because the cargo was Caribbean rum.

Beached boat in Chichime.

Surprisingly, that wasn’t the only beached boat we’ve seen out here. For the most part, the water in the San Blas is deep until you get very close to shore, but the coral reefs are shallow. At today’s anchorage there are 2 vessels who floated too close to the reef and had to be abandoned.

This new norm is one that I feel like I could keep up forever. We’re living on island time and loving every moment. But sadly, we leave the San Blas at sunset for an overnight sail to Shelter Bay, where we’ll prepare for our passage through the Canal.

-Kristen Pankratz
First Mate, Amazing Grace

TLDR: Today the skipper explained to us that the main goal of sailing, is keeping the boat in deep enough water that it continue to move 😉 .

CHEESEBURGER IN PARADISE

1/26/2020, 10:20 PM
9°5838N ; -78°6766W

I FOUND MY NEW FAVORITE PLACE.

Yes, our passage to the San Blas was boring and slow (little to no wind, strong counter current, we had to motor-sail).

Yes, it took a day longer than we originally thought it would.

Yes, my birthday was mostly spent getting ready to leave and then on this kind of boring (but always gorgeous) passage.

But now we’ve been in the San Blas islands of Panama for a day and it could not have been more worth it. Tonight, we sat on the deck in paradise and grilled cheeseburgers and drank gin and tonics to the most beautiful sunset in one of the most gorgeous anchorages I’ve ever seen.

We are surrounded by crystal-clear waters, white sand beaches, and coral reefs in this remote anchorage. The view is made even better by view of the purple Panamanian mountains on the horizon. While some Panamanian tourists come during the day on boat trips from the mainland, it’s mostly small cruisers like us anchored around to explore this area, which is completely unpopulated except a few small shacks of the indigenous people. According to our guide book, all the resources on these islands are owned, although they look to be unclaimed. Every single coconut belongs to someone (and after bargaining with a local in a dug-out canoe, this one belongs to ME).

Put a lime (and some rum) in the coconut and shake it all up!

The day started with a captain, first mate snorkel of the reef, where we saw a large sing ray, conch shells, many colorful fish, and beautiful coral. It took us a couple tries to find the right spot, but once we did there was lots to explore on the drop off. I LOVE to snorkel, and see this whole world of beings that exist so separate from us. Fish of all colors and shapes and sizes living together and interacting.

When we got back to the boat, Admiral Anne and Dave had bought live lobsters (caught that morning) from the locals- who came around in dug-out canoes to sell to you at $4-$5 per lobster. Naturally, we had lobster (expertly cooked by Dave), mango, and beer for lunch. THE BEST LUNCH EVER IN MY FAVORITE PLACE EVER. Then came more snorkeling with the Admiral and a swim workout to explore a nearby beach.

To top it all off, Captain Dave arranged a happy hour on the beach with a handful of other World ARC boats. We drank and snacked and swapped stories of the passage and our exploration of the islands so far. It was a perfect day in MY NEW FAVORITE PLACE.

-Kristen Pankratz
First mate, Amazing Grace

TLDR: Move the San Blas islands to the top of your bucket list.

SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST COFFEE

1/21/2020, 11:08 AM
11.2410° N; 74.2161° W

The last few days in Colombia have been busy in all the best ways. We explored the town, learned the history, met the locals, hiked, and ate, ate, ate.

Our first tour in Santa Marta was without a doubt the worst tour I’ve ever been on in my entire life. We went to see Simon Bolivar’s house on a mission to learn the history of the revolution and his role, followed by a tour of the historic sites around town. Unfortunately, our misogynistic tour guide spent most of his time talking about his wives and the wives of other leaders and didn’t mention much of historical relevance. Thank god for Google and the wonderful people who accompanied us on our other adventures around Santa Marta.

Once we ditched that guy, we had free time over the next couple days to check out the cathedral, walk the streets, shop, run on the beaches, swim in the bay, and eat the local food. Street vendors offered us the opportunity to taste the local cuisine the way the locals do. We ate everything from empanadas, tamales, and arepas to lulo, carambola, and (of course) more mangos. We had kabobs and chorizo and plantains and yucca and ceviche and so much more. I’m making it my mission to eat, as well as sail, my way around the world, and Colombia was an exquisite place to start.

For the first few days the winds harrowed through Santa Marta at about 40 knots. Just walking around the docks was a battle to stay upright. One night we ate dinner in a mango tree at a wonderful little spot called Sense’s. The wind blew so hard that tiny mangos rained down on us all night! Luckily, the food and the company of our fellow sailors were worth it. Plus, my first mint lemonade of the trip (my favorite treat in Dallas as well) and a delicious steak.

My favorite day was an incredible hike through the rainforest to four remote beaches in Tayrona National Park. We saw monkeys, birds, llanos, and so many butterflies. Actually, I’ve never seen butterflies like we’ve seen in Colombia. These things flutter EVERYWHERE- through the city, in parks, on the beach- and in all different sizes and colors. How can that not make you smile?

We learned that Colombia is the most bio-diverse country per square kilometer in the world (yes, kilometers, we’re international now), and second only to Brazil in totality (Brazil is 7 times the size of Colombia). It also has more species of butterflies than any other nation other than Peru. Because of the biodiversity, there is so much to look at and our surroundings on our hike were ever changing. We saw lush plant life and gorgeous vistas, interacted with the indigenous tribe that still lives in the park, and swam in the crystal-clear waters. As we took in the view, we realized the park is on a peninsula that we sailed around on our voyage from St. Lucia. We’re bummed that we sailed around the peninsula at night and missed the view of the mountainous rainforest from the sea.

Another day we went on a coffee, cocoa, and waterfall tour with two other boats from the rally. It was a shorter hike, but we saw a toucan! Toucan Sam made me believe these birds were a lot bigger, but this little guy put on a show for us and I love him!

We learned about the three different types of coffee beans that are grown in Colombia, the drying and roasting process, and tasted coffee and coffee products. We swam in a waterfall and climbed up to the a pool between falls. Standing under the falls the water was HEAVY and LOUD, but so refreshing. We learned about the bamboo in the area and how it’s a great resource for building because it’s 5X as flexible and 2X as strong as steal and grows up to 15 CM per day. We ate a delicious Colombian lunch. Then came the grand finale… CHOCOLATE. We tasted the beans at every step of the process, starting with a sweet fruit and then being ground down to bitter, dark chocolate and mixed with sugar cane. We drank the most delicious chocolate drink, which has been passed down for generations among those who live in Minca. We learned about the powers the indigenous tribes believe the chocolate to have, opening their third eye (not necessary for women because it’s already open- a woman’s intuition), and heightening their senses. I never wanted to leave. The chocolate was that good.

After two days of long hikes, it was time for a long sundowner with the other boats in the marina. We continue to meet new people with the most amazing stories and can’t wait to get to know them better.

Today there is lots of work to be done. Admiral Anne and I went to the local market for fresh produce, and then the grocery store to get everything else we need to provision. Now the internet is teaching me how to cook a brisket in an instant pot and we’re preparing meals for the next couple of weeks. This afternoon there will be briefings to make sure we’re ready for the next couple legs of our journey, cleaning, getting fuel, doing laundry, and setting up sails, followed by a dinner with the rest of the rally.

Then tomorrow at noon we set sail for the San Blas Islands! We’re looking forward to a short, calm sail and should be anchored in the islands for breakfast on Friday. Maybe I’ll make arepas 😊.

-Kristen Pankratz
First Mate, Amazing Grace

TLDR: If you’re not hiking, you’re not living.

LAND, HO!

1/16/2020, 10:53 AM
11.2410° N; 74.2161° W

After almost 5 days of sailing, we pulled into Marina de Santa Marta this morning just before sunrise. We have a few more bumps and bruises than when we left St. Lucia (Gracie Girl, too), but we fared better than other boats with minimal damage to equipment and dodged many squalls by staying in higher winds to the north.

Days on the boat just kind of tick on by. We search for ocean life, chat, listen to music, sunbathe, read books, and tend to the sails. There are times when sailing is a full crew job as the winds shift or swells come up, and there are times to relax and enjoy the view. Someone is always on the lookout in case of another boat or unmarked obstacle (like a shipping container or log) floating in the water. That doesn’t change at night, when we rotate through shifts to watch the satellite tracker (AIS) and keep an eye on the horizon.

Sailing into the rainbow.
Final sunset between St. Lucia and Colombia.

Last night the ocean had a special treat for us as we sailed through bio effervescent algae for about 4 hours in the middle of the ocean. The specs of light were so bright and distinctive that I thought the water generator had caught on fire and was sparking or a solid 30 seconds.

Unfortunately, the high seas made it hard to spot wildlife on this leg of the journey. Since our dolphins a few days ago, we’ve mostly seen birds and flying fish. These fish are incredible- They REALLY FLY. Like flap their wings and hover over the water for incredible distances fly. One even flew right into my lap tried to share my stew with me! Another smacked Captain Dave in the face during his night watch.

When we finally pulled into the marina this morning, we celebrated with a breakfast beer and went through customs. Amazing Grace and her crew are now officially allowed to harbor in Santa Marta for a few days.  It was a very hairy journey, with more winds and higher waves than any of us have sailed in before. We reefed sails, sailed with only one the jib at times, and adjusted the course as needed to keep everyone safe. We were cautious enough (and small enough at only 45 feet) that we didn’t come close to winning, but we expect to fix that in the next few legs 😉.

Amazing Grace finally at peace in her slip in Santa Marta.

For the next few days you can catch us in Santa Marta exploring and embracing the culture. This morning I went for a swim in the ocean, walked down the beach, and explored the artisan street shops surrounding the marina while the rest of the crew napped (I’m soaring through the day on that Colombian coffee caffeine high). This afternoon we’ll explore Santa Marta with the rest of the World ARC boats, but please send us a note with any suggestions of foods/restaurants/activities we should be sure not to miss!!

Thank you to all of you who were praying for us across our first passage, which should be the most wind/waves we’ll see for a few months. (fingers crossed). We so appreciate your support!

-Kristen Pankratz
First mate, Amazing Grace

TLDR: We did not make the podium in our not race rally. Shame. Shame. Shame.

THIS IS NOT A RACE

1/12/2020, 10:53 AM
14° 17.172N ; 63° 34.46W

Yes, yesterday the World ARC fleet crossed the starting line together at noon. Yes, we’re sharing our coordinates and wind speeds via SSB radio to keep track of the leader board. Yes, boats are assigned handicaps and there are prizes for 1st 2nd and 3rd place. But seriously, insurance agents, THIS IS NOT A RACE, it’s a rally. In other words, man would it be cool if we won.

LEGGOOOOOOOOOOOO

The start of the rally was exhilarating. We sailed down the coast of St. Lucia to Castries (the capital) to put on a spectacle for the St. Lucians and thank them for their welcoming hospitality.  It’s no wonder St. Lucia was named after the patron saint of beauty. We admired her rolling hills, lush rainforests, and gorgeous beaches once more from the sea before turning off the coast to head west toward Santa Marta.

Just to keep it interesting, we started the race with a man overboard drill as my favorite baseball cap blew into the water. With cat-like reflexes, Admiral Anne steered us around and we picked up the cargo no problem, crossing our fingers that will be the only man overboard maneuver we’ll have in the next 15 months.

Shortly thereafter, the line holding our whisker pole (in place for down wind sailing to help keep the jib in the optimum position) jammed in a wench. We turned into the wind and struggled with it for 20 minutes or so, but after a few attempts (how many engineers does it take to unjam a wench?), we finally got it set up and headed west.

We sailed through a few squalls with strong, shifting wind and rain. A beautiful full moon guided us through the eerie night in the middle of the ocean, through a mesmerizing washing machine of 8-12 foot swells.

Now we’re out at sea, surfing down waves, enjoying the sunshine, and flirting with sea creatures. This morning a pod of dolphins (complete with a newborn) played around our boat as we were finishing up breakfast. The water is so clear we could see them even when they were under the water. Then they moved on to fight with the birds over schools of fish surrounding our boat, which seems insane when they have the whole ocean to hunt- but far be it from us to tell the dolphins what to do while we trespass in their ocean.

The crew is in good spirits as we immerse ourselves in the voyager lifestyle for the next 15 months!

-Kristen Pankratz
First mate, Amazing Grace

TLDR: We’re thirsty for the podium in our not race rally.

PREPARATION IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS

1/9/2020, 10:50 AM
14°04.5200N, 60°56.9590W

It’s now T-2 days until we set sail to Colombia. And we are NOT READY. But we’re getting there 😊.

In the meantime, our days are filled with seminars about the route, weather, currents and tides, best places to provision, can’t miss places to explore, etc. etc. My novice sailing brain can only follow about 50% of it, but Captain Dave is soaking it all in so he can teach us along the way.

You guys have a lot of questions for us about the route: Why go westward? What about hurricanes and bad weather? Why not spend more time in Indonesia since you’re already over there? Isn’t this dangerous? And to those we can confidently say that for a circum-navigation expedition in under 2 years, this has been well thought out and we’re sure it’s the right trip for us.

Sailing west allows us to pick up the trade winds which allow for better and easier sailing. The schedule was carefully planned (by someone much more knowledgeable than us) to allow us to avoid hurricane and cyclone season all around the world. Yes, that means we’ll rush through some interesting areas, but we can always return on future trips. And we are absolutely, purposely avoiding areas of the world where pirates are prevalent, or the natives aren’t welcoming to foreigners.

Still, this is an adventure and it will be challenging in all the best ways, beginning with our first sail. We expect tail winds averaging about 30-40 knots on our way to Colombia from St. Lucia. That’s A LOT OF WIND- so we’re working hard with our fellow sailors to select the best routes and techniques to get there safely.

We also have a lot of general preparations to do. We replaced the halyard (line/rope that raises the main sail), got all our spare parts repaired if necessary and stowed, organized the cabins and the galley, and are working to get all the electronics and safety equipment working.

The good news: The true mark of a sailor is that they enjoy working on the boat as much as they enjoy sailing it. I guess I can’t quite call myself a sailor yet.

In the craziness, we also remembered to start building community with our fellow boats and take time to enjoy the island. The World ARC put on a couple happy hour events, complete with steel drums, local appetizers, rum punch, and Piton. We enjoyed mingling with the other boats and learning their stories. I don’t see how we could ever be bored with so many people from all walks of life.

St. Lucian steel drums

Now let’s chat everyone’s favorite subject: food. Dinners have been FABULOUS. Admiral Anne searched high and low to find us the best French restaurant on the island, Jacques, where we “cheers”ed to the next 15 months with new friends. Food highlights were a portabella and goat cheese tart and the coconut crème brulee.

Cheers to the next 15 months!!
New favorite cocktail: the BBC ❤

Other dinners included Captain Dave’s steaks on the grill and the most amazing Indian restaurant, which was recommended to us as the “best Indian food on 3 continents”. I don’t know what 3 continents those were, but it was the best Indian food I’ve ever had- and we again enjoyed getting to know fun new friends.
Admiral Anne and I enjoyed the island’s signature cocktail, a BBC (banana, Bailey’s, Coco Lopez). This thing could convince anyone to move here.

Kristen Pankratz
First mate, Amazing Grace

TLDR: Always try the local cocktail.

MONKEYING AROUND

1/6/2020, 9:09 AM
14°04.5200 N; 60°56.9590 W

Since our last post, we’ve spent countless hours packing, organizing, traveling, and preparing for our around the world trip before arriving in beautiful St. Lucia about a day and a half ago. Don’t get me wrong, the preparations aren’t over, and we have a long day of work provisioning, safety inspections, installing sails, etc. ahead of us. But we took a break to prioritize “keeping the crew happy” (the most important thing, according to Captain Dave) and explore this magnificent island.

Upon arrival, our first break was the beginning of rally happy hour with the other World ARC boats. Of course, beers by the boats while meeting new people is right up our alley. We met people on boats from all over the world (heavily Great Britain, Australia/New Zealand, and Scotland/Ireland/Belgium). Our fellow cruisers are interesting, lighthearted, and so kind sailors of varying experience levels (encouraging) and we can’t wait to start this journey with them.

Then our adventure yesterday was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done. We took a bus through St Lucia to the inland rainforest, while our guide told us all about the land, the people, the government, and the economy.
Fun fact: the ratio of women to men in St. Lucia is 7:1 (according to our guide, that’s the land’s greatest attraction- insert eyeroll here).
We went up over 1,500 feet into the rainforest through banana farms, villages and gorgeous views of the blue, blue ocean. Bananas are the nation’s greatest export, and as I write this post I’m sitting on the deck of Amazing Grace enjoying the sweetest, most delicious banana I’ve ever had.

Deep in the rainforest, we swung through the trees on a series of 12 zip-lines, connected by rope bridges and steep stairs. It made the Midland Canopy Walk look like a set of monkey bars. We zipped over gorgeous streams and waterfalls. We saw mango trees and bamboo and all sorts of gorgeous exotic plants- but to my chagrin we never saw the extremely rare St. Lucia Amazon (parrot). In fact, there was a surprising lack of wildlife- maybe due to the loud zip of the lines that went up to 30 MPH. It was exhilarating and breathtaking and, if you ask Admiral Anne, pretty scary!

We 10/10 recommend a trip to St. Lucia to see it. The pictures and videos can’t compare to the real thing, but here’s a look at the fun we had:

-Kristen Pankratz
First mate, Amazing Grace

TLDR: Add zip lining through the rainforest to your bucket list.

A PIRATE’S LIFE FOR ME

Because you’re reading this, you’re probably somewhat familiar with the great Pankratz adventure of 2020. But for those of you who we may not be lucky enough to connect with on a regular basis, I’ll start at the beginning.

It all began with this guy, who you can call Captain Dave, but I get to refer to as dear old dad. For as long as I can remember, he’s been trying to get us to call him Captain (insert eye-roll here), teaching us the physics of the wind on the sails, and telling us about THE DREAM: captaining his own sailboat around the world.

After an exhausting amount of talking, dreaming, and planning, THE DREAM is finally a reality. January 11, 2020 Captain Dave, Admiral Anne, and their first mate/professional poop deck swabber (me) will set sail from St. Lucia for a 15-month trip circum-navigating the world. Amazing Grace will guide us on our journey, literally, as that’s the name of our beloved 45-ft Jeanneau sailboat.

Many of our family and friends will join us for legs of the trip, and we can’t wait to explore this big, brilliant, blue world together. Updates will be shared here regularly, as well as on Instagram @the_seanicroute. We’d love to hear from you as well (because 15-months is a LONG time on a boat with my parents), so please don’t hesitate to check in via phone!

We’re excited, we’re terrified, we’re going to miss you all dearly.

TLDR: I AM MOANA.