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s/v Always & All Ways
Rio Chagres.
Mark
02/02/2010, Half way up Rio Chagres

Tuesday, 2 February. Yesterday afternoon the wind filled in from the NE @ 15 kts. - just as Bernard, who has made this trip many times, predicted; but NOT what the weather charts predicted. We had a great sail. About 8:00 PM, we reefed down the main and gennie, not because it was too windy, but because we were going too fast and would arrive before dawn. We reefed until we were making 3-4 kts very comfortably. This gave Deb & Cindy a good chance to sleep before their watch. (Ron & I took 8:00PM-midnight, Deb & Cindy stood midnight – 4:00 AM, and Ron & I did 4:00-8:00.) When I came back on duty @ 4:00, we let out just a bit more gennie and kept adjusting speed so that we arrived @ 8:00. Everything worked perfectly and we arrived with enough light to navigate the tricky entrance to Rio Chagres. Once inside, we motored slowly up the river for nearly 6 nm. - all the way to the Gatun dam which cut off the river to make Gatun Lake which feeds the Panama Canal locks on the Caribbean side. It was REALLY beautiful! Dense tropical jungle on both sides. Parrots and oropendula. Howler monkeys. We came back half way and anchored in a bend right next to a tributary. After a nap we will kayak up the tributary to explore. Tomorrow, Porto Belo.

02/03/2010 | Richard
I am envious on so many levels. I'm following your adventure with Eric Bauhaus's "The Panama Cruising Guide" and Google Earth and look forward to your updates.
To the San Blas
Mark
02/01/2010, On the Gulfo de Mosquitos, Panama

Friday, 29 January. Getting ready. Yesterday we locked up the house after loading everything on the boat (WAY too many trips up and down the path to the dock!) and sailed over to Ron & Cindy's house. We stopped at our island where we tied up to the dock while I swapped the anchor chain end for end as it was starting to rust a little. We also saw Smauel and paid him for February and March. We learned that Rollando, the gentleman who built our dock, had died that week – probably from alcholism. Today we took Ron & Cindy's boat to Almarante to finish provisioning. It was amazing how much better the selection was, how much cheaper it was, and how much friendlier everyone was. When we return, I think we may make a pilgrimage to Almarante at least every few weeks to stock up. It would be worth the cost of a water taxi. (We cannot take our big boat there without getting a Zarpe and going through lots of hassle.) This evening after getting all the food vacuum sealed and in the big freezers for the night, we went to Rana Azul for dinner. Nearly everyone there had been to the San Blas (Joseph & Maria spent 3 years there!) and had lots of suggestions for us and wished us well. Deb & I slept on the boat tied up to Ron & Cindy's dock.

Saturday, 30 January. We're off. Cindy made blueberry pancakes for breakfast and then we loaded everything they needed ont ot the boat and cast off by 11:00. Beautiful day, but no wind, so we motored out to the Zapatilla's to anchor for the night. Swam in the beautiful water. A great way to start our voyage.

Sunday, 31 January. Escudo de Veraguas. We left Zapatilla #1 by 9:00 and headed 30 nm. For Veraguas. Wind was up and down so we sailed with full sail at first, then main and spinnaker, then just spinnaker, then motored. Arrived at Veragua about 3:00 and anchored on West end of island. It was a bit uncomfortable as it was really a lee shore, but we were protected from the waves and swell by reef and the wind was under 5 kts. and predicted to stay that way. The anchor dug in well in soft sand and we anchored far enough off the beech that we felt safe. Once we were secure, we took dink to shore. Almost swamped going in through the surf, but made it. The beech was beautiful sand with lots of driftwood, but no shells. Back at the boat we had cocktails then dinner and an early bed as everyone was tired from the day at sea.

Monday, 1 February. Blue water. Rainy in the morning so we delayed leaving until 10:00, but the trip should only be about 24 hours so that puts us at Rio Chagres at a good time. With the clouds and intermittent rain, we had good winds, but from the SW instead of the predicted NW. When the sun came out at noon, the wind went away. Same routine as yesterday – full sail, just gennie, just spinnaker, motor. This is Ron & Cindy's first blue water experience and they will stand watch with Deb & me. Should be a fun 24 hours.

Rain
Mark
01/27/2010, In our new house! Discovery Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Wednesday, 27 January. OK, so I've got a big mouth. Since I wrote the previous post, it has not rained at all. Fourteen days without a drop of rain. Yes, that happens in the dry season, but not that often. Of course, we would be celebrating the dry season's arrival, but for one thing: The day after I wrote about the rain, a piece of 2x4 that I cut on the bodega step bounced, hit the feed from the water tank and cracked it. Turns out they used thin wall PVC instead of schedule 40. To fix it, I had to drain the tank (1250 gallons), run into town (in dinghy) and buy a new shut off valve and a couple unions, and then glue it all back together. Not a big job, and accomplished in a few hours after letting the tank drain overnight and hoping it wouldn't rain so that the tank would really be dry. Well, I got it all done. To test my connections, I had opened valves to both tanks and let the water start to equalize thereby putting pressure on the new joints. No leaks, but now I had ~2/3 tank in one and 1/3 in the other. I switched to the fuller tank for water, and waited for the rain to refill the second tank. It didn't. No rain. By last night we were down to about ¼ in the active tank and still the 1/3 in the reserve. We are leaving for the San Blas Saturday, so I figure we will make it even doing a couple loads of wash before we leave. But if we were staying...... Actually we are lucky because we can always go down to the boat and use the water there. As long as the watermaker works, we have a limitless supply; but it does make you aware, on more time, of the reality of living entirely on your own. Today we need to go in to Bocas to start getting provisions and top up the fuel. (This means several trips from anchored boat to fuel dock in dinghy with jerry cans as the dock will not accommodate the big boat.) So, of course, this morning it is raining. The water tanks are happy, but it looks like we will get wet traveling in to town. Oh well, fair trade.

01/28/2010 | Richard
Any chance you could do a post with some photos of your rain-collection system? This is something I am very interested in. I noticed that quite a few of the homes, including the hotel I stayed in at Bocas Town (Tres Palmas) had collection systems and more were in the process of putting them in.
RAIN
Mark
01/12/2010, In our new house! Discovery Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Tuesday, 12 January. It rained yesterday. No, it RAINED yesterday. No, it REALLY RAINED yesterday. Those of you who don't live in a Tropical environment don't even know what RAIN is! At times the rain was so loud it was all we could hear. Playing the stereo was futile – you couldn't begin to hear it even in the same room. Talking to each other was even difficult if we were more than a couple feet apart. In the jungle, not far from our house, a huge tree fell as the rains softened the soil around its roots and the wind howled. It made a “CRASH” that we felt as well as heard. Outside, a bucket with 8” high sides was overflowing; that's more than 8” of rain in less than 24 hours. It RAINED! Today it is still raining, but less. With an umbrella, I walked down to the boat to post this. Yesterday that would have been impossible. Of course, this is supposed to be the beginning of the dry season, but somehow this year things just aren't following the usual pattern. We have had beautiful, sunny days, but it has rained almost every day – usually at night which is great – but certainly not typical for this time of year. We are planning to sail to the San Blas islands in a few weeks with friends of ours. The good news about the weather is that without the usual dry season weather pattern, the San Blas are not seeing the 20-25 knot “Christmas” trades winds, they are getting only 10-15 which is perfect sailing. I guess we will just wait and see.

01/17/2010 | Richard
What a delight stumbling across your blog. I will soon be retiring to Bocas myself having received my Pensionado in March. Unfortunately it's 1 a.m. so and skimming your blog makes me look forward to the morning when I can delve into it in depth.
New Year's Letter 2010
Mark
01/06/2010, In our new house! Discovery Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama

New Year's Letter 2010 Years past, I would write a New Year's Letter and every year the kids had a fit at what things I chose to include about them. I haven't done that for quite a while, so I thought this year might be a good one to revive the project, especially as so much has happened for us this year. First, Deb & me. New Year's Eve 2008/9 saw Deb & I celebrating with our close friends Jack & Ellen Jackson as we have done for many years. By January 3, we had packed up a U-Haul truck with all the things we needed to take to the boat and headed South. We had never driven the East Coast South of DC, so it was interesting. We stopped to see our daughter, Shary, then in Veterinary School @ U. Penn. and Marolyn, Deb's Mom, along the way. We arrived at Dottie & Larry Thompson's house, where Always & All Ways was moored, in only 7 days. Dottie had offered us the use of their dock, AND their house, AND their car after meeting us for only a couple days in Bocas del Toro where they were living on their boat, Changes in Attitude. We hadn't even met Larry! The arrangement turned out to be perfect. We clicked with the Thompsons immediately and became good friends overnight. The only problem was, we were having so much fun, it was hard to leave. We made one trip up to Venice to see some of Deb's family including Ron & Sharon, Jimmy & Jill, and Daryl. Finally, in April 1 we set sail South and wander down the West coast of Florida, through the Keys and back up the East coast to Ft. Lauderdale. There we left our boat, which was by now our home, on Camsy's dock and flew back to NH to open up the house and put it on the market For Sale. Camsy is a retired boater who rents her dock by the month to transients like us and turned out to be a gem. Not only did she take us to the airport, when we returned, she took us shopping to provision. In NE, we got to see all our families including celebrating my Dad's 87th and my 60th birthdays. On the way back, we stopped in Philly for Shary's graduation - there are now two "Dr. Parkers". Upon return to Ft. Lauderdale, we crossed the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas and after a couple weeks were joined by Dottie & Larry who flew over to meet us. Together we wandered down the island chain visiting some of Dottie & Larry's favorite places and seeing some out of the way places that even they had never visited. Eventually, we left Great Inagua and sailed to Jamaica where we pciked up David, my brother, & Lisa, his fiance. The six of us sailed to Panama, arriving July 1. Since then, we have been moving our home between the anchorage in Bocas del Toro, the dock or anchorage at Discovery Bay, and out island (with its new dock) in Tierra Oscura. Most of the time has been spent working on the house getting it ready to move into. We made trips back to NE in October to close up the house (It has NOT sold) and again in December for Sam & Andy's wedding. Both times we got to see family again and in December had an early Christmas with Deb's family in VT, our kids in NH, and my family in ME. Finally, on December 24th, we moved into our nearly complete house and have been making it a home. We celebrated our own Christmas with a decorated pigmy date palm and New Year's in what is now our HOME. It was strange not to be celebrating with Jack & Ellen, but nice to have a new land based home. And now for the kids: Lucas , 31, has been general manager of "5 Wits!" a company that runs a multimedia experience in Boston that I have never been able to describe adequately - you just have to go there. This year he successfully negotiated a contract with the Kraft family to move Tomb to Patriot's Place in Foxboro and open a second show, Espionage, at the same site. That will take about 120% of his time for the first half of 2010, but we hope maybe he can come visit in Panama after the shows open this summer. Lucas now has a "real" apartment (as opposed to a bachelor crash pad) for the first time, living with his girlfriend Leah. Luc says living with Leah (she is in nursing school and pulling a 4.0) is easier than he thought it would be, but Leah finds it a bit harder than expected. They are doing well, however, and even have an extra bedroom and have graciously let us stay with the each time we flew in or out of Logan. Last time Lucas even cooked a fantastic lamb shank dinner for us all. Is Peter Pan really growing up??! Curry , 29 (don't even mention 30!), is working as a pediatric nurse at Dartmouth Hitchcock. She decided to move back "home" (where she spent the first 13 years of her life) in large part to be near her grandmother, Mim, who was ill and finally past away in July. Curry took her week of vacation time to be with Mim and help her pass from this life as peacefully as possible. I remember doing the same with my grandmother when I was in medical school. It is a wonderful experience you never forget. Well done Curry! Curry's boyfriend, Dan, is an accountant with a big firm in Burlington, VT, and they are talking about her moving to VT, or possibly his moving to NH (his firm has a branch in Hanover). Shary , 29, after graduating with a DVM from U Penn (see above), is now immersed in her internship at Tri- County rescue. She is the first intern they have ever taken and is essentially designing her own program as she goes. It sounds like a typical internship - tons of work, but great learning. After the internship, she is looking at working in some type of rescue/wild animal position and is exploring a couple back in NE. Shary finally had to buy a new car for her birthday in October. She, like her father, drove the old one until it was nearly dead and the dealership took it in trade more out of pity than any intrinsic value. Kim , soon to be 27, is our only married child. She and her husband, Zac, live on a cute little cottage on a lake in Ringe, NH. It was originally a guest house for the main home (now also rented). It is somewhat cramped, but the magic of living by the water is undeniable. (We spent many years living on the shores of Mascoma lake in Enfield when she was young.) Kim continues to work at Trends of Fashion in Antrim where she has a devout clientele. Zac does landscaping in the summer and is plowing driveways for the winter - not a job I envy, getting up at all hours and working in the cold. Somehow, I find the climate in Panama much more to my liking these days. It's been quite a year. Living on the boat was much easier than imagined, and now, living in the rain forest is absolutely magical. Like in Naples, it is hard to think of leaving; but we are already making plans to sail down to the San Blas islands with Ron & Cindy Nystrom, new friends we have met here in Panama. For now we will stick to our very loose schedule of spending hurricane season in the house and sailing the rest of the year. Happy New Year to all our friends and relatives wherever you are!

01/09/2010 | SeaOrphan1
Better than in years past, i'll give you that! I'll let Leah know she made the family newsletter! Love you guys.

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