Friday, July 28, 2006

Casualties

1.) My waterproof camera is not so waterproof. It quit working, but I think it could resurrect if I could just dry it out. It's hard to dry it out when you live on a boat in the tropics during the rainy season. Colin dunked his digital camera and it's dead too. Fortunately we both have back up digitals.

2.) The red kayak wondered off in Benao. I'm sure the new owners are treating her well. She was a good vessel and served us stupendously through many landings and launchings. She hauled provisions and trash, shot the rapids with ease and once I even set the stern anchor off her rounded big bottom. She was my "go to gal" for the 2 months when I didn't have an outboard (remember those Philistine days?) She'll be missed. Maybe the $100 reward will generate an email but I doubt it.

3.) Colin lost another year. Today is his birthday. The real loss here is that I have only a few more days with my friend. I've raved about him for years and I'm fortunate I was able to have his company for the months that I did. Hopefully, when his bank account is refilled and his adventure flame is rekindled he'll jump back on board, until then, he'll be missed.

We are in transit between the Perlas islands and Balboa (Panama City), however we are going to make landfall in about 2 hours at one final island close to the mainland called Tobago because we heard there was a good Chinese restaurant there and Colin deserves to be given a break from the galley on his special day (besides, the provisions have been reduced to mangoes, potatoes, and a final bottle of bad red wine). We can already see the skyscrapers of the mainland in the distance. After so long in the islands hopping from crystal clear anchorage to pristine jungle settings I imagine it might be a wee shocker to enter a major population center again, so we have postponed it for one more day. I have to admit, I am looking forward to ice cream and a movie theater.

I’ve been dreaming of new batteries since my heady days back in the Dirty P. Seems so long ago and now they are only 15 miles away. I started this trip with 380 amp hours. For the last 4 months I’ve lived on 40. The lesson might be as simple as this; what we think we’ve lost, we may have never needed.

Casualties? I wonder.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Radar - AKA: The Palindrome Log Entry '06

Radar (1st Palindrome) - My new favorite gadget. Once we rounded Punta Mala & entered the gulf of Panama we were never out of sight of at least 9 ships. Ship? It seems there should be another word for vessels this large. This is the canal zone. They stand in line for 2 weeks to get through the locks. Once they do, they waste no time. They're moving at speeds that approach 25 knots. Trust me - that's fast! The word "freighter" still sounds too small. The bow and stern lights were so far apart I was sure that I was looking at 2 different boats. Nope. Thank you radar for telling me how far away those behemoths were and what direction they were bearing down upon. It got a little scary at 3 in the morning and I now love radar.

Madam, I'm Adam (2nd Palindrome) - Once we dropped the hook at Isla San Jose it was as if we'd found Eden and we were the only people on the planet again. We watched the electrical storm light up the sky for at least 2 hours. At 1am I had to pull the sun shade because the flashes were so bright and often. Not a full 2 seconds went by without the sky lighting up. I've never seen anything like that. No thunder though. Really strange. The coming of the apocalypse?

A man, a plan, a canal, Panama (3rd Palindrome. Courtesy of Mike Ryder: The King of Irvine) - I love this country. We sailed with a whale escort for about a half hour. He was never more than 30 feet away. Ask me for the pictures when you come to visit. The exhale sounds like a trumpet miss, and makes you kink your neck to see the massive thing slide by right next to you. Tiny dorsal fin though. I wonder if he got hazed for that little thing.

I could stay here a long time,

Bob (Final Palindrome)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Surf & Mozzies

Benao Bay will be on surf maps some day, but fortunately for me it isn't yet. I have been pruned the last 2 days cuz I just can't get out of the water long enough to dry out. There's a little cantina that serves, what else - rice and fried fish, right on the beach with nothing else but perfect "A frames" up and down this beach break. It works best at middle tide, which is fast approaching so this isn't going to be a long email.

Last night I stayed too long and the sun dropped on me. Colin was already back on the boat and I wasn't looking forward to the very long paddle with exhausted arms. As we stood on the beach reliving our victories in the water the local surfers all thought I was crazy for paddling back after dark with all the sharks in the water. "Sharks? That's a joke right?"

They assured me it wasn't. The mozzies made up my mind for me as I stood at the waterline just knowing that "death by eaten alive" was out there awaiting me. Barraveigh was about 1/4 mile away. That's a long time in the water. I'm being eaten alive standing here anyway so to hell with it, I'm going.

I made it past the breakers to the calm water, every stroke a giant splash of green bio luminescence that must have been the aquatic equivalent of clapping cymbals together. Every shark must now be snickering. God I hope it takes me fast. Will it be an arm or a leg? Maybe he'll clamp on to my side and they'll be able to tell the size of the beast from the teeth marks in the board. There! - those are my stern lights, I'm close. Oh man, don't bite me now. Don't bite me now. Feet on ladder and I'm in!

Colin counted 40 mosquito bites, zero shark bites.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

07 11.202 by 080 46.339

This is the extent of my southern reach. I've just made the gradual turn northward as Colin and I motorsail around the Peninsula De Azuero, enroute to Panama City (Balboa is the port). We'll be there in less than 2 weeks. First we need to stop at a few more surf spots and then hit the Perlas islands in the Gulf of Panama.

We spent a night at Isla Cebaco after dropping Suzi off in Santa Catalina (miss you heaps snoozie). Then 2 nights anchored off Punta Naranjo which the cruiser guide guaranteed was a "swell less anchorage". Horse pucky. Very rolly but the kayaking around the rocks was the best we've had. We went through a waterfall into a cave were we beached the kayaks and giggled about how cool this was, and how maybe no one else in the history of the world had ever stood inside this cave behind this waterfall (I play that headgame on myself all the time). Then we giggled harder when we thought about our escape and how one large errant wave would fill this cavern and kill us quickly. Next was "shooting the rapids". I was in the long blue kayak, which is usually a disaster in tight corners, but I got lucky with the timing, and the speed of it's longer waterline pulled me through where Colin ate it, and then ate it again. No injuries except a bruised pride and a lost pair of sunglasses.

We hacked open a couple coconuts and paddled back to the boat to eat the hockey puck muffins Colin baked. At least he tried.

Everything about Panama is better than Costa Rica except the beer. The prices and the rain are about half of what they are in CR. The coastline is much more interesting with less people. The water is clearer and the sea life more abundant (saw my first whale since Mx yesterday). And, get this - all my clothes are suddenly clean and no longer need ironing! Isn't this place great! Nah, my clothes are filthy but you can't blame Panama for that. I'm a messy eater and I play hard.

Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup in Pixvae

To watch the World Cup in a Latin country is something special. To watch it in a third world Latin country in REALLY something special. We watched the first half yesterday in a school and the second half under a tin roof while the generator rattled in the shed next door. The kids sat on coconuts and the rest of us on plank benches. Everyone took turns walking to the bar and buying the big whale beers to share. This was some family’s backyard. It's against the law to drink in the school building so backyard TV's with generators allowed imbibing while watching. It was a rich experience.

Here's how the Hispanics pick a team to support:
1.) Their own country
2.) The next closest country
3.) Any country that speaks Spanish
4.) Any country that speaks Portuguese.

After that they don't much care.

Pixvae is a great example of unspoiled Central America and how poor yet happy a people can be. Tourism doesn't exist here. The islands get all the top billing so the crowds skip this little pueblo. There are no restaurants. You just mention that you're hungry and soon someone finds someone who is willing to cook for you for a couple bucks. You get a couple starches and there is always fish but rarely carne, and of course it's all fried. The real treat is being invited into their house to eat at their table. There aren't any real shops to buy provisions from but someone always knows someone who sells canned goods and maybe drinks out of their house.

The beach and bay are gorgeous from a distance but once upon it the plastic pollution is overwhelming. They just can't stop littering or showing cruelty towards animals. It's really hard to muster sympathy when you see that on a daily basis, and from people who have otherwise proved themselves to be proud and loving.

These island chains just keep getting better. Parida was amazing. The Secas are an underwater dream (we touched bottom and had a bit of excitement at 3 in the morning as we ditched the anchor to head for deep water. We returned later in the light of day and retrieved it). Isla Brincanco in the Contreras group had the clearest water I've yet seen on this trip and 7 waterfalls. Colin paddled through one into a cave that was behind it. I chickened out. We are now underway for Bahia Honda which has an island smack in the middle with 3 cantinas, should be another fun night. After that it's Coiba. Look it up. So far, Panama is shaping up to be my fav.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Happy 4th

I spent the day on a sailboat with an English citizen. We got along quite well until I tossed her tea into the bay (Great idea Mom!).

2 nights ago twin shrimp boats anchored in this bay and commenced to having a fiesta like only hard working third world fishermen can. The sounds of rejoicing and the hope for shrimp were overpowering. We tumbled into the dinghy with a bottle of white wine and dinghied over. Within minutes we had 3 gallons of shrimp and were headed back to Barraveigh. Fortunately we saved a cold bottle for ourselves and gobbled buttery garlic shrimp until our stomachs were about to pop.

At around 2pm on consecutive days we've watched the squall line march towards us at astounding speeds. Once spotted you have about 10 minutes to prep the ship for the 25 knot winds that threaten to take your wardrobe to sea. The rain comes down in sheets and visibility drops to about 20 feet. The lightning crackles so close and seems to last so long that all becomes perfectly visible again, if only for flashes. We got some good video of this. Glad to be at anchor with a 45 lb CQR and plenty of chain on the bottom. Not so glad to have a 60+ foot mast that seems to me to be the areas best lightning rod.

We are leaving today for the Secas. These are a group of islands that are supposed to be a surfer's dream. I'll let you know. After that it's Isla Coiba - more of the same.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Panama!

We crossed the border as we rounded Burica point at 1:30 in the morning. Colin was asleep in the vee berth and the engine was running, so he never knew that I cranked Van Halen's Panama as loud as I could. First new country in 3 months. I've been here now for 5 days and I have a few impressions:

1.) The Ticos are flat out thieves and the Panamaniacs are first rate swindlers. They feel entitled to your money. They will never give change unless you demand it, not ask, demand. Entering their country was nothing short of a con. 5 offices, endless back and forth paperwork designed to break you down so they can slap you with another erroneous charge. I paid for a quarantine inspection that never happened, a buoy that doesn't exist, an after hour charge (it was 9 in the morning), 2 zarpes, a cruising permit and the privilege of anchoring (anchoring has always been free) in their filthy water. Then an additional $10 for land access. Such a sham.

The people are great though.

2.) They use American money. Fun to handle the old green bills.

3.) They are 1 hour off Costa Rica so that makes them the same as East Coast time. It's like going on daylight savings when you cross the border. The sun now sets at 7. That's a plus.

4.) Everything is much cheaper. Breakfast for 2 is $2.50, beers and cocktails in a bar are 50 cents, diesel is 60 cents a gallon less than CR.

I met Suzi 2 days ago in David and we set sail this morning for Isla Parida. Check it out on Google Earth. Looks amazing. We just landed a big eye tuna with enough meat to feed 6 hungry people, watched the dolphins swim off the bow and am now enjoying the new music she brought.

Today is another mile marker. It's July 1st and it was 1 year ago that I moved out of 802 Dover Court and into Barraveigh. I've officially been a liveaboard for 1 year now.

Greece

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