Skip to content

September 6, 2023: Off to Panama! Sorry for not updating after (or during) our Alaska trip, but I’ll try and get to it soon! We will have to spend the night in Panama City this time, before heading to Bocas del Toro on Thursday the 7th. We scored the JW Marriott, a 5 star, on Hotwire for $130 a night! I wanted to do the Weston that’s down the beach (also a 5 star), but Jan, as usual, won out. The JW is an insane looking building. I think that’s why!

August 2, 2023: Vancouver, BC. We are boarding Norwegian Spirit today, headed to Anchorage (Seward) to see Jan’s family. Vancouver is gorgeous. However, it’s warm today. Low 70s for the high. Water temperature is in the mid 50s. And yes, it’s expensive. At least the Loony is only worth $0.76.
We didn’t get a balcony upgrade on Norwegian. We got an “Ocean View”, which is a tiny porthole, down on deck 4, which is the lowest passenger deck. Where the ship’s hospital and morgue are. At least our neighbors will be quiet. And, the drinks are free!

We are turning our InReach back on, so you can follow us (button above”.


Jan’s brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and niece-in-law (is that a word?) live outside of Anchorage. Her nephew is an Alaskan State Trooper, and they have 2 sons, one that is just a few weeks old. We haven’t seen any of them since before Covid. So… what the heck. It’s 104 today in San Antonio (Texas), and it sure feels like it’s that hot in Panama. Let’s go cool off.

Checking ticket prices, they were $1300 RT per person. That sounds a bit unreasonable, so… Let’s go by ship! We are flying to Seattle on Southwest (Jan has a companion pass, and I fly on points), and we’ll spend a couple of days in Vancouver, then head north on a cruise ship. We did Princess a few years ago on the same trip. Had a good time, but Princess isn’t my favorite cruise line. Yes, let’s get this straight now: We live on our boat 1/2 the year, and “cruisers” (sailors who live onboard) despise cruise ships. But it’s like jet skis. We hate them too. Unless I’m riding on one – then they are a BLAST. Bill has gone from despising cruise ships, to moderate enjoyment. Jan just doesn’t care – she’s all about having fun wherever she is. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they certainly can make for a fun, relaxing vacation. Anyway.

We are heading north on Norwegian, and south after 9 days in Anchorage, on Royal Caribbean. RC has been Bill’s personal favorite. NCL, not so much. Bill’s philosophy is that getting fat on crappy food just makes no sense. We do like Norwegian’s “Free at sea”, where you, allegedly, get free drinks, that still cost you $25 a day per person. Here’s where things sit, so far:


SHIPS: Norwegian Spirt vs Radiance of the Seas.  Radiance is the newer ship, but Spirt has the most recent refit (2020 vs 2016).  Spirit has just over 2000 passengers, and Raidiance 2500.  Vacations to Go rates Spirit 4 stars, and Radiance 4.5 stars.   The Itinerary is virtually the same, except that we swap Ketchikan for Sitka going south.

CABINS: We booked “guaranteed” inside cabins on both ships.  We are on a budget for this.  We had plenty of trip selections on NCL, and only 1 that matched up at all on RC.  Our guess is that RC has only Radiance of the Seas up there doing the one way trips, and NCL has both Spirit (which we are on) and Jewel.  NCL has a whole lot of cabins to sell.  This seems to be apparent when comparing upgrades, as NCL’s Upgrade Advantage has upgrades that are about ½ that of “Royal Up”.  $500 on NCL gives one an “Excellent” chance for a balcony upgrade, and that $500 on RC only gets you to “Weak”.  It would take $1000pp to get to “Excellent” on RC.   We will likely lob some nominal offers in on upgrades – but we will make it fair.  Same offers on both ships.   As booked here’s where we sit:  NCL: $1475   RC:  $1438 

*********7.13:  Our upgrade On RCL to “Spacious Ocean View” for $515 was accepted.  It was a “weak” bid.  Genuinely surprised. 

DRINKS:  We opted in for “Free at Sea” on NCL.  So, we have the drink package. This is where things get ugly for RC.  Those virtually the same costs above include free drinks and 1 specialty restaurant and gratuity for them, in that base price.  On RC, their beverage package adds $1189!  Wow.  That’s 82% of our base cruise cost. We will probably forego the drink package on RC, and just go for the for the soda package, which is $165. 

DINNER/MEALS:  With our “Free at Sea” on NCL, we get one specialty restaurant dinner.  You would think then, that NCL wins this one.  They don’t.  On our last cruise in September of 22, the food was so horrible on NCL, we decided then that we would buy dinner upgrades for the whole cruise, next time. I’m not sure we will do that, but right now we are looking at 5 nights on NC ($434) and 3 nights on RCL ($166).  We will see if RCL sweetens their offer.

WiFI:  NCL comes with 100 minutes.  We really don’t need WiFi at this point, other than to pick up email. We have Verizon which works in each of the ports. RC appears to have Starlink onboard.  We are very familiar with it, as we sailed our boat from Texas to Panama this spring, and used Starlink the whole way. It’s pretty awesome, we got 200MB download speeds. But it’s $18 a day on RC.   

Latest Adventures on Merlin

June 2X, 2023: Yup, I haven’t updated this in a month. We are back in Texas for a couple of months. Merlin is safe and sound in Bocas Marina, and the staff there is looking after her/him (jeez – our boat has pronoun issues?). We will be back, probably in early September. Bocas is fabulous. Here are some pics.

In August, we are going to do the unthinkable. We are getting on a cruise ship. Hold on, hold on. Here’s the plan: Jan’s brother, sister-in-law, nephew and his family are all in Alaska. Her brother and wife retired there a few years ago. They chose Alaska because they were moving from Southern California, and wanted a place a bit… Well, you know. As well, their only child, Jan’s nephew is an Alaska State Trooper. They have 2 boys, one just arrived a couple of days ago. So, we are going to visit. Here’s the problem. Tickets to Anchorage were $1300 each. So, we are flying to Seattle (Jan has a Companion Pass on Southwest), hopping over to Vancouver, and getting onboard a Norwegian cruise ship to Anchorage. We will spend 9 days there, then hop on Royal Caribbean for the reverse trip. Crazy? Yeah. We will start a “Norwegian vs Royal Caribbean” blog here in a bit.

Monday May 22, 2023: Quick update, arrived a few hours ago to Bocas del Toro, Panama. Lovely place. Got thru Customs and Immigration, back to the boat, put Merlin into a slip, headed out to a floating bar for someone’s birthday, that we just met. Hooked up with Ken and Carrie Sharp, they are being so sweet as to dinghy us over.
Passage was trying. I’ll elaborate later. But delighted we are here. This place is sooooooo inviting. 3rd world is h, but inviting. Until later.

Friday May 19, 2023. Quick update. Garmin has us going north. Clearly, from the track, we are not. We are just west of Southwest Cay, on Serrano Bank. Headed south. Partly cloudy skies, winds 12-15 knots, seas 5-6 feet. Lumpy.

Tuesday May 16, 2023. WHOA!!! It’s been a while. We’ve been enjoying Grand Cayman with Rick and Diana, and now it’s time to move on. We were nudged a bit by our $928 electric bill in the marina. Is AC really worth it? Jan says yes…. Diana flew home yesterday, and we leave in the morning for Panama. Predict Wind says 4 days, so we are going to plan for 5. Weather looks good. For those following us, we are planning a route that will take us slightly SSE, towards Beacon Cay, on the Sarranilla Bank. Then to Bocas del Toro. This is to try and keep the “fishermen” well to the west. It also puts us into the shipping lanes. We are more comfortable dodging super tankers than “fishermen”. It’s likely that during some of this passage, we will “go dark”, with no AIS, and no masthead running lights. Just so you know. We WILL try and be good about Garmin InReach, and make sure it’s working.
Elon has finally figured out that we are using his “RV” product in the middle of the ocean. So they charge us $2/GB when we are out of sight of land. Damn. Still, feel free to text, email, or call!
Here’s our route:

Sunday April 30, 2023. Just hanging around on Grand Cayman, doing boat projects, enjoying the place. Got heat exchanger, turbo charger and exhaust elbow back on the engine. This included drilling out a broken bolt on the heat exchanger. Oh boy! Pulled our forward AC unit that sat on a failing plywood floor, replaced it with a better floor, rerouted the condensation drain. Hopefully this will fix a problem that has been plaguing us since we bought the boat. We will also order and then install a Venturi suction drain for it when we get back to the US to bring it down. It will actually drain the condensate using the seawater cooling lines. Better than draining into the bilge. Still have a bolt to finish drilling out on our prop shaft coupler, cleaning of condensation lines on the aft AC, fridge and freezer to do, along with a VHF antenna replacement 70 feet up the mast.

We have friends, Rick and Diana, joining us in a bit over a week. Rick has offered to make the leg to Panama with us. Depending on weather and stops, it’s 4-5 days. All for now.

Tuesday April 18, 2023. Holy carp, it’s been a week. We are enjoying Grand Caymam, and catching up on some “deferred maintenance “ on the boat. We rented a car for 3 days, did some shopping, bought some materials for a couple of projects, toured the island, and got some snorkeling in.

On Friday, we got a tour of the Cayman Department of Environmental Health. We met Tim, the Deputy Director, at the marina. He and Bill hit it off right away, discussing “marine biology”, and some of the projects and problems that the Caymans (and most of the Caribbean) are dealing with. Tim has a pet project he’s starting, where they are inducing local stony coral into reproduction four times a year (normally they reproduce 2 times per year). They are also working on developing more disease resistant varieties of their encrusting SPS (small polyp stony) corals. They have lost most of their branching “stick” corals, Acropolis species such as stag horn and elk horn. Acros are very fast growing corals (they will double every 30-45 days, under optimal conditions), but they are often the first to die off when conditions deteriorate. Anyway, it’s been cool to see what they are up to.

The last photo defines “cruising” as “boat repairs in exotic places”. In this case, in order to get to the heat exchanger (it uses seawater to cool a “radiator” that has fresh water and coolant in it), one must first remove the turbocharger. I get it. Yanmar makes great reliable engines. But in order to make them fit into tiny places, they are insanely difficult to work on, with zero clearance to get at nuts and bolts. Bilge-loss (parts dropped into the bottom of the boat) is huge. And in the case of the turbo, there is a special order to things. Very difficult to remove, but even harder to put back in.

Monday April 10, 2023. Arrived George Town, Grand Cayman this morning. Easy trip, no wind, so we motored. Cleared customs and immigration, paid a $90 fee because today is a holiday, and headed to George Town Yacht Club, on the other (sound) side of the island. Had a nice swim in the pool. A quick shower, then off to dinner.

HAPPY EASTER! It’s a beautiful day here, just a few miles south of Cuba, we are halfway to Grand Cayman. Unlike our Gulf crossing, the weather and seas have been great. A little wind might help too, as this has been an “Iron Genoa” passage, by motor. Fortunately most sailboats are very efficient thru the water. We caught a very nice 1-2 knot eddy current last night that helped us along. Right now we are seeing arrival sometime in the middle

of the day on Monday. Knock on wood. With some luck, Customs and Immigration will let us clear in at the marina. Coming from Mexico, that might not happen though. Here’s a pick of the Caribbean Sea at its quietist.

Saturday April 8, 2023. Left this morning about 9:20. Great weather, seas a little lumpy, but seem to be settling down. 290 miles to go.

Good Friday, April 7 2023. We are leaving Isla Mujeres in the morning. Still one of our favorite places, and we will surely be back regularly. But holy crap, note to self, don’t come here or anywhere else in Mexico during Holy Week!

We are headed to Grand Cayman, weather looks good, mostly flat seas. Just the 2 of us, as Patrick needed to get home. He SAID he had a good time and wasn’t happy to leave. But…. Should take us 2-1/2 to 3 days. About 350 miles total. If we drop off the face of the earth again, someone please call or text us! Our Garmin InReach has a habit of shutting off on its own. We have had internet service the whole time. Phone calls too. Here’s our route. Well, sort of. We will be a bit north of that, to take advantage of a current eddy. An arc towards Cuba. But not Cuba. We aren’t allowed to go there.

Saturday April 1. Sorry for the late update. We hit the reef and sank coming into Isla Mujeres. April Fools!

We arrived yesterday morning about 8 am, after taking our time the night before, so we could cross the bar north of IM during daylight. Turns out it was no big deal, at all. Had 15 feet of water (we draw 6+). Arrived into Enrique’s Marina aka (Isla Mujeres Yacht Club) and parked on the T head at the end of the pier. Clearing in is a bureaucratic process. Thankfully we elected to let Dorita do it for us. Well spent $150. It was well after 3 before we were set free, so we went up to the bar and had the first beers since before we left. They tasted fantastic!
Because we are “in town”, we got a first hand view of the “invasion” that takes place every day in IM. The tourists coming from Cancun on board 40-60’ catamarans. Holy crap! Thousands of them!
We cleaned up, then went to Jax for obligatory martinis, then to Hildago Street where we found a fabulous sushi and Asian restaurant, Asian Caribe. Then to bed early, since none of us had had a lot of sleep. All for now.

Wednesday 5pm. 170 miles to go. Weather looks pretty good. Sorry for the quick cut and paste job. I’m on watch.

We left Saturday morning March 25 at 9 am!

Our other Travel Adventures

French Polynesia, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Grenada, Mexico, Iceland, Norway, England, Scotland, Hawaii… Just a few of the places we’ve been in the last couple of years. Stay tuned!


When the one above is done, we’ll list these out for ya. Give us some time.

Featured In





Featured Article

Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Best small towns to visit in Germany

Introduction Readymade godard brooklyn, kogi shoreditch hashtag hella shaman kitsch man bun pinteres…

Let’s work together on your next Travel project

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.