18 March 2023

A New Kind of Adventure

Bocas de Tomatlan, the beginning of an awesome hike along the wilder south shore of Bahia de Banderas

Peter and I have spent the time since New Years in Bahia de Banderas hosting a couple of day sails, enjoying Tom and Fer’s company, hanging out with a sister ship, Serenity, hiking wonderful coastal trails, and attending numerous seminars put on by the Marina for those making the “puddle jump” across the Pacific. And organizing Milly and ourselves for our next adventure of a totally different kind

Tom and Fer were regular guests on Milly. Others often joined, coincidentally many from our Canadian summer home on Stony Lake. 

We had been invited to crew for our dear friends, John and Gill, on their monohull, “Mehalah” on the first leg of their transPacific crossing from Panamá City to the Galapagos. They had made the suggestion in the fall and we had leapt at the opportunity.  We knew we would enjoy their company as they had line handled for us on our Panama Canal transit. Crewing with them to Galapagos meant that when we cross the Pacific we can leave from Mexico, taking 1000NM off the passage. The disappointment  about leaving from Mexico would mean missing the Galapagos since, counterintuitively, it is east of Bahia de Banderas.  So leaving Milly at dock and making the passage on Mehalah to the islands was a great solution. 

Always magnificent coastal views on our hikes along the bay and beyond 

It also meant that we could avoid the many bureaucratic demands and enormous expense required to take a private yacht to the archipelago. Certifications of a professional bottom cleaning and a fumigation to make sure that foreign insects, barnacles and algae are not introduced.  Hiring an agent is required for all immigration requirements including banking and credit information. Particular foods, all plants etc are prohibited. In other words, we would not have to jump through these numerous hoops or manage the limitations on Milly. Instead, we could be in the luxurious position of just enjoying the passage as working crew. It was an easy and immediate decision to accept the invitation. 

The tentative date of departure was a moving target. John and Gill had boat fixes and visa puzzles to work out. By the end of January, they felt confident enough to set a date.  We were required to report for duty on February 17th, for departure from Panama City on February 20th,still dependent on weather window and boat readiness.

It was time to solidify our plans.  Since we were going to be in South America and would likely not travel as far south in Milly again, we thought we would do some land travel.  Initially, we set our sights on Peru but when the internal political stability imploded, stranding tourists, we decided to stick with Ecuador.

And we now have a pet on Milly named Alejandro - based on no evidence, we think he’s a he.  He’s a bug catcher and comes out only at night.  His gripping toes are amazing. 

So the plan is:
A brief visit to Panama City which we had missed last year
Passage to Galapagos on the good ship Mehalah, Captain Gill and Deckman John
Ten to fourteen days exploring the Galapagos 
Six days in Quito to acclimatize to high altitude (after living at sea level for the past eight years, this seems prudent)
Four day hiking tour in the Andes
Five days in Amazon Basin lodge 
Home to Milly in Mexico

Apart from living in Buenos Aires waiting for Milly’s splash, this will be our longest tour away from home. Although we’ve travelled from Turkey to the west coast of Mexico, we have done it from our home.  This trip will be six weeks in hotels, hostels, lodges, haciendas and boat.  And the greatest challenge is sure to be limiting luggage to one carry-on each!

16 September 2022

The Panama Canal

Milly in the last Agua Clara Locks of Day One.  Sent to us by friends who were watching our progress.

We were ready - kinda, sorta.  On the positive side our dear friends, Gill and John, had arrived and were busy visiting with the growler monkeys and helping us with last minute tasks.  The pantry was full of fresh produce for our week after the transit.  Yoga mats were lashed around our solar panels to protect from flying monkey fists.  And then on the not-so-ready side, one engine was still leaking coolant after many attempts to fix.  Both toilets were leaking.  This was a secret hidden by a towel around the base of each - a prerequisite to crossing was a "working toilet".  To be fair, both were working, just leaking, one fast (the advisor was not invited to use this one) and one slowly.

The traffic as we loitered waiting for our Day One advisor to board.  Just a little busy.  Most boats on the at sea were at anchor waiting their turn.  According to our second advisor, who was a lot chattier than our first, the ships get a date when they apply and pay for their transit.  They try to arrive on time so don't have to wait around at great additional cost to their company. On the other hand, if they are late, they forfeit their place in line and their costly crossing fee. So timing is everything - tough in a sailboat but doable in a ship.

By far the most onerous job for me was the consideration and preparation of "three hot meals", another stated prerequisite for the transit.  Milly does not have a working oven.  The propane oven has always been a bother to start and use without the propane sensor sounding.  I have not used it in several years.  And the microwave/convection oven crashed when I used the microwave immediately following convection use when the oven was hot.  Not sure if it should've happened but something inside blew and it never worked again.  For the past year, I have been experimenting with a solar oven (more on that in another post).  It works beautifully but with four line handlers and multiple lines being thrown on board from above, the solar oven was a liability.  So I had to have as much of the three meals prepared as possible with last minute cooking/heating as soon as my line handler job allowed. 

Menu:  Day One dinner at the top in Lake Gatun - One-Pot Puttanesca.  A dessert of some kind - can't remember exactly what                                                                                                                                 Day Two breakfast - fresh fruit, yogurt and granola, hard-boiled eggs (to be faked as hot meal contribution), muffins, sweet breads                                                                                                               Day Two lunch prior to locks going down - Vegetarian or Beef Burritos with slaw                                                                          Snacks available in big bowl throughout - assorted granola bars, oranges, bananas                                           Individual sealed bottled water available throughout - this, too, was a prerequisite for the advisor.  "Sealed" was stipulated.

Cast of Characters


...and Gill.  Taken just after the rain stopped and they are still sodden but, as always, in excellent spirits.  It was a wet, wet day - unusual in Panama where it rains hard for minutes and passes by.  This was a first for us with several hours of chilly drizzle.  JnG had just taken there jackets off and noted the weather reminded them of their English home.

Professional line handler, Santiago.  He was well over 6 ft and slept overnight with feet hanging off the settee in the saloon.  Charming and always smiling.

Line handler and chief cook getting pumped.

Our captain, nicknamed Pedro of Panama by the second advisor, intent on the job.

Our "professional line handler", Santiago, a charming, strapping, young nursing student arrived mid morning with four lines and eight large red fenders.  The serious lines were 140 feet long and over 1" diameter - nothing flimsy about them.  Our agent notified us of a slight delay in departure but we finally got the green light to leave the dock for the anchorage in Limon Bahia at the north end of the canal. (Intuitively, you might think that the canal runs east-west.  But, no, it runs north-south and even more strangely, the length of the country of Panama lies east-west.)

The long, sturdy lines.  One at each of the four cleats.  Ready!

Eight large ball fenders, four on each side.

Santiago walks Gill and I through the first step of preparing the line.  A large hoop is tied with trusty bowline at one end of the line.  The rest lies coiled carefully on deck quite far from the cleat so it won't get tangled with line handler's efforts.

After an hour of floating about in a constant rain - the agent had told us not to anchor - our advisor for the first day came aboard.  Peter, as captain, drives Milly under the guidance of the advisor who passes an exam and is licensed by the government to take private yachts under 65 feet through the canal.  Bigger vessels require at least one pilot who has further training. The monster ships require several.  The advisor arrived by pilot boat, we waited for the ship that was sharing the lock with us, rather we were sharing with him, to pass and get into the lock and then it was our turn.  Going up the locks, private yachts lie to the stern of the boss ships.  Going down the locks, Milly lay ahead of the ships.

The first advisor, delivered by pilot boat, arrives which begins our adventure in earnest.

Under the long and elegant Atlantic Bridge, built to allow traffic into Colon on the east side of the canal.  We took it to go grocery shopping in Colon from the marina on the west side.  A beautiful bridge but remarkably little used.  

During the height of the season when private yachts are crossing the canal to then cross the Pacific, most often three boats are rafted together with the longest and most powerful, wrt engine horse power, in the middle driving the two boats lashed to them on either side.  Most often this middle boat is a catamaran as they are more maneuverable with two engines.  Several boats we knew had this position - good, because the middle boat wouldn't be rammed into the lock wall and bad, because of the difficulty steering with two boats tied on and the added responsibility.  April 4th, our transit date, was at the tail end of the high season.  We were lucky to be on our own with plenty of room between us and the awful wall...if all went according to plan.

Peter sharing his seat with the advisor waiting to get into the first lock.  The current was strong and pushing the boat very close to the very large channel markers.  But all was well.  The advisor was rather serious and been on the job less than a year.  The advisor does just that - advises but is not allowed to take the helm.  

The red hulled tanker, "Style", 184.32 m long and 27.45 m wide, looks shrimpy compared to the mega cargo ship leaving.  

Style was our leader with whom we shared the first set of locks along with a tug boat, Brujo.   

Line Handling 101

These two guys began the operation by throwing down a light line with monkey fist (see below) at the bitter end. They are now sauntering in a relaxed fashion, jogging up several flights of stairs to our place in the lock.  Once they get there, they motion for the handler to let go and they haul their line with monkey fist attached to our blue line up, putting the loop on the end of the blue line around a bollard.  Behind them is a "mule" which runs on tracks and hauls the big, heavy ships into place.

Monkey Knot Jute Weighted Floor Stop
This is a monkey fist.  It is about the size of a baseball.  The guys on land have a special wind up, holding the line attached to the fist about 1 m or so above it.  They swing it around a few times and then let it rip.  It sails through the air and lands with pretty good accuracy on the bow of the boat to avoid solar panels which could be damaged by the force of landing.                          

The two stern handlers, myself and Santiago, grab the first throws and hustle to the stern begin careful to feed the line outside lifelines and shroud.  We then the monkey fist line to the blue line loop with a bowline.  The guys then walk forward to our place in the lock while the handlers hold the monkey fist end above our heads so it doesn't dip in the water or scrape along the uneven and rough side of the lock

The mighty doors of our first lock.  Once the blue line loop is around the bollard at the dockside end, the advisor motions/whistles for us to haul our end of the line taut and cleat it.

As the water comes into the lock and we rise, the line slackens and we have to haul it in to keep it taut.  Sounds easy but it's more challenging than it looks.

Hauling like crazy.

With a little more heft.  The water is turbulent and buffeting Milly around, pushing us to the port side.  John and I on the starboard side were doing our darnedest to keep us centred in the lock with the help of Peter on the motors.

Lots of current from the rush of water entering the lock at a surprisingly fast pace. Peter had to keep the motor on the entire time to control the position of the boat as much as possible.  Nonetheless, we managed and all felt pretty proficient until the last lock when....

...our advisor told the guys up top to place our port forward line across Brujo's port stern line.  The guys on the tug were paying no attention but as the water rose and we pulled our lines in, we came dangerously close to the tug.  Lots of yelling, Peter in reverse to keep Milly's bow off the boat, line handlers hauling. Finally, the lock was full and we were inches away from the unforgiving steel hull of the tug.

The Canal is 65 km long with three locks going up a total of 26 meters to Gatun Lake and three locks going down to the Pacific Ocean.  We were on the typical yacht schedule, leaving dock mid afternoon, going up the three locks, spending the night at a mooring ball in Gatun Lake with the crocodiles.  The second day is a long but interesting motor through the lake (about 23 km) and Guillard Cut which was the most challenging of the build cutting through 13 km of the Continental Divide ending at the Pedro Miguel locks  in which the vessel descends 9 meters to Miraflores Lake.  Onward to the final two-step Miraflores Locks going 16 meters down to the Pacific Ocean!  

We motored into Lake Gatun, directed to an enormous mooring ball.  So enormous that robust Santiago leapt onto it and tied us up.  Our large ball fenders, puny in comparison to this monster which was the height of our entire topside.  We weren't going to budge through the night.  After a hot meal, we all slept soundly.

Surrounded by ships on placid Lake Gatun.  Swimming tempting but not allowed.  Crocodiles in the lake are sometimes hungry.  Enough to keeping even the most intrepid on the boat.

A peaceful motor along the Lake Gatun marked channel and guided by our second chatty advisor.  

The Centennial Bridge crossing the Gaillard Cut.  The canal has only been shut down for one day since it opened in 1914 when there was a landslide in part of the cut, impacting the depth of the canal.

The maximum width of ship, called a Panamax, able to go through the original canal that we were going through is determined by the dimensions of the lock chamber 33.5m wide by 304m useable length.  The Panamax must be no wider than 32.31m which leaves a measly 0.6m on either side - a very tight squeeze. In 2016 a second set of locks opened for the ships called NeoPanamax up to 51.25m wide.  Massive!

A NeoPanamax

Our lock buddy on the way down to sea level through three locks.  Apparently, if the ships are coming into the lock too fast or lose control, a chain in raised from the floor of the lock to stop them before they hit the gate, potentially causing damage and resulting uncontrolled flood of water.  I'm unsure where this chain is located but I'm sure Milly would have been either mushed by the errant ship first and/or hit by the chain.  Luckily, there was no such problem.

Going down the locks is easier for the line handler.  The monkey fist is pitched from the wall when the boat is at the same height as the pitcher.  As Milly goes down into the lock, the handler lets the line slide through the cleat bit by bit.  No hauling, little braun.  

The last lock, the Miraflores.  The Pacific Ocean in view after just a short motor into the shipping harbours of Panama City.  

One hundred and fifty meters to the lock door and the Pacific Ocean and 900 meters to the lock doors behind us.  Incredible engineering feat!

Milly live as she enters the channel to the final lock.  When we left the lock and entered the Pacific, we were welcomed by a crocodile swimming across our bow. 

The Panama Canal is a major milestone in a circumnavigators agenda.  Milly is now in the Pacific, our second ocean.  Most go directly west, stopping in the Galapagos.  We are taking the less traveled passage north to Mexico.  But first a bit of exploring in the Las Perlas archipelago.

26 June 2022

Dancing The Panama Canal Prep

On our return from our trip to Toronto, there was no time for monkeying around with these  capuchins.  Every moment was full of prep work.

We have transited the Corinth Canal where all that is necessary is arriving at an anchorage, radioing an intention to transit and waiting for the go ahead to get in line.  No locks, no advance notice, no bother.  Just motoring under bridges and through human-made gorge that looked a little rough around the edges.

The Panama Canal is in another league altogether.  Most boats transiting are on their way to French Polynesia, an ocean crossing of 20-35 days.  While hanging out at Shelter Bay Marina, we had seen crew buying bags full of oranges and another boat with at least 30 jars - no kidding - of peanut butter.  Although we didn’t have to provision for an ocean crossing, there was lots to organize and prepare.

While in Toronto, we ordered boat parts to be shipped to Shelter Bay, hopefully there upon our arrival.  This included two new propeller shafts.  We asked Antares boatbuilder for the length on hull number 48, Milly.  After seven years, they responded within a few hours, offered to make the order for us and gave us a discount on the shafts purchase and on shipping to Florida.  Incredible service!!  I doubt any boat builder would offer the same.

Upon returning to Shelter Bay after five weeks in Toronto, we leapt into preparatory action.

We had left both engines mid work and nonfunctioning.  Billy, the almost blind but knowledgeable boatyard mechanic and character, was on standby to make new gaskets to stop a leak in both engines.

Our generator, also nonfunctioning, was missing a part which we were bringing with us from Toronto.

Our guest toilet was leaking around the base.  Peter had some ideas about a gasket/o-ring replacement.

We had rebuilt both our water makers and installed a new booster pump but had yet to try them out.  The water was too dirty.  We were saving this for the Pacific.  But if they didn’t work, our journey to Mexico would be delayed, perhaps to the beginning of next season.  Bad news if we wanted, which we do, to make it to Bay of Banderas for Christmas with our family.

And both shafts needed to be installed which required that poor Milly go on the hard yet again.  This would be her third time in five months.  In the past we went at least a year, often two or three before hauling.

From Toronto we had contacted a canal agent.  The agent does all the bureaucratic footwork for the captain of the transiting boat.  You can do it on your own but it requires renting a car, visiting a few offices at different locations, completing forms and trying to clarify in Spanish.  We elected to pay the fee for an agent.  We had enough to do!  We requested that our boat inspection take place two days after our return.  

A uniformed guy arrived, friendly but oh so official.  He recorded a lot of info - how fast the boat could go under engine, (dependent on barnacles and current so purely an estimate) how much fuel we had, our fuel consumption per hour etc.  An “advisor” would accompany us, a different advisor for each day of the transit.  He stressed that we needed to feed him a hot meal - not just a bag of chips - each day.  Meals would include dinner on the first day and breakfast and lunch on the second.  At least that was the most likely scenario.  We would know the day of transit but not the timing until the day of transit.  It could be a one day affair, leaving the marina at 2 or 3 in the morning and ending at 7 or 8 pm on the other side.  The more likely and more common transit was leaving in the late afternoon, crossing through the three locks going up, mooring in Lake Gatun overnight and finishing the next day with three locks going down to the Pacific.   Whatever, we(I) needed to serve at least two hot meals.  And the inspector stipulated that we needed a working toilet with toilet paper, soap and a towel.  (It amazed me that he had to stipulate that a meal was not chips and toilet paper was essential.  Obviously there was a need to stipulate?  If it was stipulated, it meant that they had encountered problems along these lines?). We were required to have four line handlers who could tie a quick bowline plus the captain.  The advisor would do just that, advise.  But the ultimate decision was the captains.  The inspection ended with a compulsory short blast of our air horn, another requirement.

Inspection done.  We requested a transit two weeks hence.  No problem.  We were outside of the 8-10 day waiting period.  Our transit was set for April 4, 2022.  Now to get in working order.

Billy made a new thicker gasket for our rebuilt fresh water pumps on both engines.  His eye-sight was so poor that he had to feel the head of the screw to find the correct angle for the flat head screwdriver.  Peter, who had learned enough from watching the first re-install, elected to put both engines back together.  But they still leaked!  Yet another even thicker gasket.  Peter was now a pro at both taking apart and rebuilding.  On the final try, the starboard engine was patent, the port still dripping.  Argh.  We might have to live with it.  

The genset: Peter installed the new heat sensor without ado.  But on topping up the coolant, it leaked straight through the system and into the bilge.  Another gasket needed!  And no supplier in Panama.  A bother but not imperative to cross or to passage north.

After numerous attempts at making new o-rings, finding replacement o-rings and various other permutations, the guest toilet was still leaking.  And then the main toilet started.  Another o-ring and still leaking.  Now both toilets were leaking and a working toilet was a prerequisite for the crossing as made clear during our inspection.  Well, they were leaks but, at least in the main head, more like a seep that could be ignored if a cloth was draped around the base.  The guest cabin was a leak.  We would direct the line handler and the advisor to the main head leaving our poor guests to deal with the guest toilet.

Our two line handlers and dear friends, Gill and John, who we had hiked, laughed, ate and played dominoes with us during our Carriacou lockdown, were having their own boat problems in Aruba which needed to be attended to before they could either sail to Panama or leave the boat to fly to join us.  About a week before, they had hauled out the boat and were successful in fixing the problem.  They were able to commit to the job and were flying to meet us.  True and great friends!

Milly on the hard again, four months after the last time.

Finally, with both engines running (and the port engine leaking) we were ready for the newly shipped shafts to be installed.  Our haul out was scheduled for one week prior to our crossing.  On the morning of the deed we waited for the call to go to the slip.  We waited and waited.  I was not so patient and called.  I was told that the lift was broken and we would be delayed at least a day.  The mechanics who were waiting to do the job went home - a 90 minute drive away.

Next day, I called again and we were given a mid morning time.  Lift out was a success although Milly’s bottom after 3 months in the water was speckled with thousands of barnacles.  I went to get the new shafts which had arrived I had been told.  This time in the office, they had no record of arrival although the tracking number that I luckily still had at hand, showed they had arrived two weeks before.  Again, they were found, without any identifying name, crate battered and bruised but intact.  We were in business.

The strut with shaft removed.  It had been carefully covered in special antifouling only 4 months before but was covered with barnacles and algae.  This picture was post power wash and and sanding!

With great effort and many Spanish expletives, the mechanics removed the old shafts.  BUT the new ones were two inches longer than the old even though Antares and our manual had the longer size recorded.  Our presbyopic mechanic offered to drive Peter and the shafts to his friend who could cut them.  With nothing to lose the shafts were tied to the mechanics dented car, Peter climbed in and off they went.  The shop, a shack at the side of the road, was well equipped with a father son operation who knew what they were doing.  Two inches off, back to the boat, the mechanic regaling Peter with pro-Trump, misogynist rhetoric to which Peter diplomatically refused to engage. Too late for the mechanics to install.  They promised to be back first thing on Friday so we could put antifoul on the shaft, give it 24 hours to dry and have Milly in the water before the lift guys stopped work for the weekend on Saturday at noon.  

Old short prop in the middle of the gleaming new shafts.  We considered installing the new as they were but with the mechanical wisdom of the many who came by to check it out was that even two inches may make the shaft warp and wabble.  

Again, we squeezed it in.  All complete.  Lift guys waiting by the boat to get our ok for a good hour.  Milly again put in the water.  Leak check - all clear.  We drove Milly out into the bay and - drip, drip, drip - shit, the port shaft was leaking at slow speed.  At high speed just before Peter turned off the motor, the drip slowed.  Called the yard guy who said the mechanic would come by Monday morning.  We were scheduled for our transit Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, our guests were due to arrive in just a couple of hours.  Tied to dock.  Cleaned, cooked dinner and there they were!  So great to see them.  And so great that they understood our craziness and could help with outstanding chores, like emptying gerry cans of diesel into our tanks - a messy job.  

Day of transit - the sweet mechanic arrived and was puzzled that our bilge was dry - I had dried it.  He had expected water to be pouring in.  In broken Spanish and hand signals I mimed what I had seen.  He pooh-poohed the “leak”, and with some derision, drove back home.

We were ready.  Down to the wire and with two leaking toilets, we were ready to motor to the Pacific!!

28 April 2022

Sweetest and happiest little family!

Baby Leo, born February 21, 2022.
  Our first grandbabe!  

We traveled to Toronto on February 10, leaving Milly at Shelter Bay Marina, on a one-way flight through San Salvador on Aviance, a Columbian airline at an incredibly low price - compared to others and only a 50 minute layover.  For some reason, we thought the travel package would lend itself to a chaotic mess but from arrival at 3 a.m. at Panama City after 1.5 hr taxi ride to our rented/borrowed condo from cruising friends in the Beach, Toronto, it was the smoothest journey we’ve taken by air in ages - no lines, no delays, no hiccups.  Flying over El Salvador was a treat - so beautiful, we look forward to going back by sea.

After worrying that we would miss the birth, we were 10 days early.  Emily was off work so we spent time with her and Stevie during the day and had dinner with Em and Gid.  There was some covid concern - if Gid got covid, he would not be allowed to enter the hospital - so we were all extra careful, essentially in isolation.

On the 21st, Em felt some back pain.  We had dinner with them and went home early, about a 20 minute walk away.  Very early in the morning we received a text from Gid saying they were on their way to the hospital, Em was in full labour.  In triage, an examination showed that the cervix was only 3 cm dilated and they were told to go home.  Gid made it clear that this was not a good option and Emily, who admits she was noisy during contractions, vomitted.  Between the two of them, those in charge agreed that they should stay.  

Leo, the Lion, and Stevie, the Bear.  Soon to be best friends.  But for now Stevie is a little perplexed and left her companion in a hurry just after the pic was taken.

She is curious though and takes every opportunity to have a good sniff.

My post for much of the first few weeks.  Babe in arms, Stevie not to be ignored.  I loved it.

Meanwhile, our job was Stevie-care.  We moved to their house and waited for news.  Gid kept us informed through the long day.  Neither of us admitted our concerns for our darling daughter’s well-being but it was hard not to worry even though I have a firm belief that birth is a natural and healthy process, despite it’s medicalization by western medicine.  The news of Leo’s birth after more than two hours of pushing after 1 a.m. on Monday, February 21, came as a huge relief and tidal wave of joy.  

Our first pic of Leo taken a couple of hours after birth while still in hospital.  Already a charmer!

Uncle Tom was happy to be in Toronto to greet the new family as they came home.  It was excellent timing.

We passed Leo around on the first day.  Uncle to Grandpa to Gigi.  And he never woke up.  Such a good little guy.

Mutual adoration?  Well, I like to think so.

Gid is a wonderful and loving dad who has jumped right in to the full list of baby care items with enthusiasm, gentleness and patience.  

And Emily is an attentive, loving mum, who gives to her baby with all her being. Forever patient and tender.  

The new little family stayed in the hospital for two nights.  We made one trip to the front door with supplies but were not allowed to visit.  We walked Stevie, bought flowers and made soup.  Tom was able to stop by Toronto for 36 hours on his way from training to Mexico and was part of the welcoming party when Leo was brought home.

After the initial little hiccup waiting for breastmilk to fully establish, Leo spent much of his time sleeping and feeding.  Crankiness was limited to a few hours in the evening and if he was held and bounced, he was easily soothed.

Cool mama, practicing for when she will be on her own.  Leo in stroller and Stevie on leash.  They are off to the Beach.

Peter and I spent four additional weeks acting as the support team.  It was a delight!  An amazing and unexpected part of being a grandparent is seeing your own child parent.  Emily and Gid are wonderful, loving and gentle parents and so caring and attentive to the needs of each other.  Such a pleasure to see!  Although it was fun to be there, needless to say, it was a comfort to know as we prepared to head back to Panama that Em and Gid were very capable to cherish and care for their new little bundle.  We would be missed but looked forward with excitement to watching Leo’s growth spurts and milestones, thanks to daily photos/videos.  Come June we’ll be part of Leo’s Stony Lake summer. 

Since coming back to Milly on March 19th, we have add at least daily photos/videos.  Leo didn't like his bath but calmed in the towel looking like King Tut.

Beginning to smile.  And, I have to say, looking a lot like Baby Emily.  So sweet!!

A pea in a pod.

These pictures make us smile and laugh every day.

And we can't wait to get back to Toronto to give him a cuddle.  And babysit!