Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Hebrew Toupe

It’s Tuesday and that means left over pizza. On Monday nights everyone gathers at Flamenco for their 2 for 1 deal and to discuss where to buy chain, get canvass stitched, and who’s the best electrical guy to hire, as well as all the other repair topics we chatter about constantly. It seems to me we wage a weekly battle to keep our boats between 60 - 80% of their health. 100% just isn’t practical in these conditions. 80 is the new 100. 

This place is really filling up. Everyday 2 or 3 days more boats come down the Pacific coast and 2 or 3 more cross the Canal from the Caribbean side to prep here in Panama City for their Pacific crossing. I’ll be leaving in 2 weeks, but not to sail anywhere. I’m parking Barraveigh on a mooring ball at the Balboa Yacht Club and flying home. Can’t wait! After a couple days in Miami with Terry and Kelly I’ll be in Sandy Eggo on Nov 17th. It’ll be nice to wear a jacket and shoes again. I’ll be away from Panama for 2 months and in that time I’m taking a side trip to London to visit Suzi. I’ll be back in Panama Jan 15th and she’ll be joining me along with Geoff Nelson for the passage on Feb 5th to Ecuador. 

On April fools day I’m going to shave my head (easier for hygiene on long passages plus I’m sick of this straw), and with Suzi, leave for the Galapagos, and then the big hop over the Pacific to the Marquesas chain in French Polynesia. 

 And now for the randoms: Panamanians point with their lips. It’s true, they tilt their heads back, and pucker in the direction of what they want you to look at. When I ran aground on a sandbar in the company of at least 20 other sailboats not one of them came to my aid. Only Clyde on a 100 foot mega power yacht helped me. He later said, “Your mistake was in yelling for help. If you wanted sailing cruisers to come to your service you should have yelled ‘free beer’ or ‘half price’ or ‘2 for 1’”. He has a point. His other illuminating quote was this, “Maybe the lifestyle of the cruising sailor isn’t one dedicated to self sufficiency so much as it is a commitment to total inconvenience.” 

I like that one but have to temper it with the fact that he is viewing us from the fly bridge of a 100 foot catamaran (40 feet wide) with 2 elevators, 4 freezers, a formal dining room and Direct TV. He sailed from San Diego to Cabo with his Geo Tracker lashed to his bow. He and his Swedish wife are my all time favs and I’ll be transiting the Canal with them on the 8th. I’ve spent at lot of hours on that boat with Clyde fixing my broken everything in his full size machine shop. 

There is a little van that arrives every morning at 08:00 and the man sells empanadas and chichas for 25 cents a piece. He wears a yarmulke and I finally got up the nerve to ask him if he was Jewish. “No senor, I only wear because of this.” And then he took off his yarmulke to reveal a bald spot that was perfectly hidden. I now refer to it as his Hebrew Toupe. 

When eating a meat dish in Panama, it’s important to have a lot of napkins because the food goes into ones mouth and then right into the napkin which is then hidden so as not to embarrass the cook. I guess they are too poor to throw away fat and gristle. Freakin awful. 

I buy 6 green bananas cuz that’s the smallest bunch you can buy. The next day they are ripe and I eat 3 of them. The day after, the remaining 3 get thrown away cuz they are rotten and full of fruit flies. Total cost, 30 cents. 

I don’t like those black nights when the squalls pass through. I appreciate the moon. If I have some visibility it’s not nearly as spooky. 

I’ve been out of US waters for 11 months.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The wind is howling here and I've been bouncing around at anchor like a pinball. Last night a can of unopened soda that I had left in the cup holder in the cockpit bounced out, struck the floor, and then fell through my open hatch at 02:20 and landed on my chest. I thought someone had fired a tear gas canister into my bunk. It scared the shit out of me. Fizzy soda water squirted everywhere. Took me a couple minutes to figure out what happened. I had to laugh at that one but you should have seen the mess. So - I spent an hour cleaning it all up and then couldn't get back to sleep.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Cold Drinks & Clean Sheets

"I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down." - Tubthumping / Chumbawamba

I asked for a 3 month extension on my visa. They gave me 2. Everyone gets 3. Why do I get 2? O how I hate the bureaucracy. Now I have to go through this whole process again. I had my exit timed to miss it. Damnit!

"Children I wanna warn ya, Cuz I've been to California." - Do You Wanna Hold Me / Bow Wow Wow

When asked where I'm from, if I respond with "Estados Unidos", I get a radically different response then when I answer, "California". USA is seen as political. CA is only “fun fun fun”. The Red Hots were so correct when they coined the phrase, "Californication". I think the world views it as a separate entity from the USA. It's been the flavor of the month for 50 years. Let it ride, and please buy the hype.

"I eat more chicken than any man ever seen" - Back Door Man / John Lee Hooker

Sam Shepard wrote in his play, "True West", "I come in through the window, but I go out through the front door." Well, I am a back door man. I can't blend. I just can't. I can't assimilate, and my old credo of, "Look straight and infiltrate", doesn't serve me here. I am the ultimate outsider. I went from the Mayor of Mission Beach with my custom long bike and quiver of boards to the Freak of the Causeway with my folding bike and my quiver of boards (None of the locals or my fellow cruisers surf). You can only be a local in exactly one place. Everywhere else you are an outsider.

"Somehow I stayed thin, while the other guys got fat." - Rush / Big Audio Dynamite

My uncle Bill is a physician and he helped me repeatedly when I severed a tendon sheath in my finger while shucking oysters (it still doesn't work right. I think this is as good as it's going to get). I must now ask how in the world anyone can eat this much fried food and live past 55? This is worse than Glasgow. I might have a slight genetic head start but I've got to believe I'm going to lose if I don't get out of here. I'll be a fat corpse right? Fat and starch. Starch and fat. Pass the salt.

"Everybody hates a tourist. Especially one who thinks it's all such a laugh." - Common People / Pulp

I like the tourists. They speak good English and laugh at sarcasm, which is something I think only English speaking cultures understand. Can you disprove this?

"I wish that I was both young and stupid." - You Could Make a Killing / Aimee Mann

It's impossible to be friends with the natives. Here's why: Relative to us, they have nothing. Ultimately it always ends with them hitting you up for money. That wrecks everything. You can be friendly, but real friends, nah - not when we hold what looks to them as a massive pile of acorns in the middle of their winter. I wish this hadn't been proved to me over and over. Idealistic ignorance is bliss.

"There's a port on a western bay, and it serves a hundred ships a day. Lonely sailors pass the time away, talking about their homes." Brandy / Looking Glass

Cruisers. What a concept. Here's what I've learned: These are some of the best people I've ever met in my life. As good, and in some ways better, than bike shop owners. However, once you dig a little deeper, you find alcoholism, drug abuse, broken romances, violence, bankrupt companies, and hatred towards the countries they served. Every time I spot it in someone else I have to ask myself what others must find in me. I'm a cruiser. Am I the only normal one? Not likely. As Blintz would point out - I'm Peter Pan. I'm Captain-Run-Away. I have to ask myself, "why did my brother and I essentially choose the most isolated lives we could find?" And I'm a very gregarious man! It doesn't make sense, even to me. I constantly scratch my head on that one.

"Johnny, we worry. Won't you come on home." Johnny Come Home / Fine Young Cannibals

My friends on Blue Dolphin finally emailed me. They made it to the Galapagos. Just a slow boat with mechanical issues. It took them 31 days and they averaged 1.25 nautical miles per hour. That's extremely slow. Greg defected and he's not going to continue to the Marquesas. Now they are a slow boat with mechanical issues AND shorthanded. Fun.

It isn't all bad. After rereading this, things sound bleak, and they aren't. Bottom line: I got a new dinghy, I got the little outboard to run (Colin - completely removed the leaking valve. Bypassed it with a new fuel line), the rainy season is ending, I have friends and know how much the non-gouge price is. I can't be beat, cuz I won't quit. That's the bottom line. That, and don't forget, I have cold drinks and clean sheets.

"Thank you disillusionment. Thank you frailty. Thank you consequence. Thank you silence. Thank you clarity." Thank U / Alanis Morissette

Random Clearing House (France, Albania, USA, Colombia)

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