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s/v Always & All Ways
Water Games
Mark
01/31/2013, Isla Debora, Tierra Oscura, Panama

Yesterday we enjoyed just about every kind of water there was to enjoy. The day started out cloudy with intermittent rain - good for our water tanks. Deb had been wanting me to paint (Watercolor) with her for some time so we decided that today was a good choice. At first we each worked on our own paintings and then I helped her with techniques she had not been shown in the watercolor workshops she had been attending at the Calypso Canteena. By then it was noon and after a quick lunch, we dinghied over to Cynde's hose. Deb was going to play Majong, a regular Wednesday affair that she had missed for some time, but first we went to see George & Juanita's building and potting shed. They bought the land right next to Cynde and are planning on building there. At this point, George has built a shed with a covered area for him to have protection from both sun and rain while working and a potting shed with just shade cloth for a roof to let filtered light in on the new plants. It also has benches for working on and even a built in screen for screening soil. Very nice. After the tour, Deb played Majong and I returned to Always. Dinghy is running fine and I always love planing across a totally flat bay leaving a wake that stretches from shore to shore. By now the sun was out and it was a beautiful afternoon. I traded the dinghy for the kayak and headed back out on the water. I paddled over to my brother's island, went ashore and took several pictures for him. (Dave, I'll send them when I have REAL internet.) Several palms that we planted are growing really well and helping build more dry land. The lime tree is really big and healthy, but no limes - not in season. As I was paddling back towards our island, a spotted eagle ray jumped out of the water ahead of me, flipped, and splashed back down. From the perspective of sitting in the kayak, I could clearly see that he had jumped much higher than my head was at the time! Next a dolphin surfaced just in front of me. I stopped paddling and drifted, but although the water was very clear, I never saw him again. e must have been fishing deeper down and just came up for a quick breath. By the time I got back to the dock, I was hot and sweaty, so I went for a swim. The water was very clear and there were millions of tiny bait fish all around that separated as I approached and then closed in again behind me. After cooling off a bit, I got my sun glasses, hat, a beer, and the floatie and lounged floating behind the boat with my ankle tied off to prevent floating away. I had just taken a shower to wash off the salt when Deb called on the radio to say, "Come get me." Drinks in the cockpit and then baked stuffed lobster (also eaten in the cockpit) were followed by a really nice rain shower. It held off until we were done eating and then was just heavy enough to be pleasant to stand in and cool off and rinse off. It stopped in time to open the hatch in our berth for sleeping. Today we leave our island for a bit. We will motor/sail (and see how the new props do!!) over to Dolphin Bay and visit friends George & Sue and also Allen. It has been great being on the island. We both love our house at Discovery Bay, but being here the last few days has reminded me of how much I love the water and how we don't really get that at DB. I think maybe we will stick with our original plan and build down here some day, but until then it sure is nice to be able to bring the boat down and have an instant house on our island!

Island Life
Mark
01/28/2013, Isla Debora, Tierra Oscura, Panama

This morning I changed the fuel filters for both engines. That completes the routine maintenance for now. After finishing that, I got Deb to help me launch the kayak (poor thing hasn't been used in a year - just sitting on the forward deck being carried around. She wasn't ready to go yet, so i paddled around our corner of Laguna Pallos. I met several indigenous people paddling their cayugas and felt a kinship as we both moved our skinny little crafts silently through the water. One mother and son were obviously headed for the school (which is closed for vacation) because they had many 5 gallon buckets to fill with water.. Although most native houses are still thatch, each village had a government built concrete school building with a tin roof. In most of the little villages around here Gringos have helps the locals install water catchment on the schools and it becomes a water source for the whole community. I paddled around several mangrove islands and into shallow backwaters just enjoying the solitude. The water was amazingly clear and I could see tons of bait fish, but very few larger fish. I think the locals keep the population of edible size fish right above the non-existent level.. By the time I got back to our island, my arms knew that I was using different muscles, but Deb was ready to go out, so we did. First we paddled along the sore of our island and saw from above the water the areas we had seen below it the other day. Then we headed over to Dave's island (my brother has the island next to us.) and circumnavigated it. We discovered a beautiful shallow 'beach' on the North side of his island. It would take little work to build a dock out far enough to be a great swimming spot, or maybe you could get beach sand to fill in the area next to the land - they still do that down here. After our paddle, we took the dinghy over to see Ken & Vonnie's place. They have a Deltek (US 'kit' house like Cynde's) that is built on one of their five hills. The views were great and the land is maintained in a beautiful fashion. They have a full time caretaker who lives on the property and maintains it. They border on the little village with the school abutting their land. I was curious about their relationship with the village, but they said it was great - just like and small town in New England, the village has all types and once they found out that Ken & Vonnie were not "rich Gringos" to take advantage of, but were nice people who were willing to be part of the community (if a somewhat distant part) and help as appropriate, relations have been warm and rewarding. We wpent most of the afternoon enjoying a delicious lunch and just sitting around chatting. That evening we had our first dinner on the boat! We've been such the socialites. I made a Caesar salad and grill filet mignon on the barbecue. A little red wine (in crystal glasses of course) on our newly refinished cockpit table and it was a wonderful evening. Tomorrow morning I am going over to Mick & Lizza's house to see the power cat that he is building.

Slow Lane
Mark
01/28/2013, Isla Debora, Tierra Oscura, Panama

Yesterday was a wonderful slow day. We got up and had a leisurely breakfast after an early morning walk about our island. Then I hung up our shade curtains. We had taken them down to wash and putting them back up involved loosening and lifting all the solar panels to wrap the line around the support posts, so it took a while. Byl noon, Ken & Vonnie picked us up and we all went to Rana Azul. This time is was packed - probably 60-70 people nearly all of whom we knew. We had a great time. By 3:00 they dropped us off back at the boat. It was sunny and warm so we went for a swim. Then Deb did some needle work while I inflated our 'floaties' and drifted behind the boat on one. Soon she was warm enough that she joined me. It was great just floating in the quiet water and cooling off. We had "breakfast for dinner" - bacon and pancakes on our newly refinished cockpit table. (I had routed out the deteriorating formica central circle and replaced it with a marquetry compass rose and then totally refinished the table just before we left.) Later we watched a movie and then went to bed - a nice SLOW day.

Hookah for work and play
Mark
01/25/2013, Isla Debora, Tierra Oscura, Panama

Well, today, I took a deep breath and tackled installing the new props. Tied to our dock, the water was about 7' on the shallow side - just perfect for working, the prop was about shoulder level. On the deep side it was way above my head, so I figured I'd do the shallow side first and then turn the boat around to do the other side. First I had to assemble the hookah. It hadn't been used since July, but fired right up and ran flawlessly - I do love that thing! Once that was ready to go,we rigged a diaper out of a sheet with knots in each corner and a line from the knot up to an attachment point on the boat. We arranged it so that it covered both the saildrive and the rudder which kept it in place and made sure anything I dropped would land in the diaper! I prepped the prop, removing the screws and set screws and covering them all with Locktite to let it dry. (The rep from Kiwi Props says you can let Locktite dry on the threads and then take them under water and when you tighten it down the pressure reactivates the Locktite - cool.) But first I had to remove the old prop. I had had Roberto scrape the hull and appendages only a few weeks ago so it was not badly encrusted, but I had to dig barnacles out of the socket for the Allen wrench. I got it in though and on about the third try, it moved. Working under water is quite different and you cannot brace yourself the same ways. I found it most successful to brace my shoulder against the saildrive (I had on a dive skin) and my feet usually floated off the bottom. I had on my normal weight belt for the hookah with an extra 2#. That definitely made me negative, but walking on the bottom was sort of like moon walking. Once the safety screw was out, the cone unscrewed more easily and the prop pulled right off. Not bad, whole thing apart in 15'. I greased up the new prop and slid it into place. Fearful of dropping anything, I had Deb stay on the swim steps and hand me down pieces one at a time. First the main nut which is a cylinder about 1" diameter and 2" long that threads on the saildrive shaft and is tightened with a 1/2" ratchet that fits directly into a square on its face. That went fine and tightened down nicely. Then there were two small set screws that screw through the prop housing into a groove in the main nut to prevent it from backing out. Very carefully I took one set screw between thumb and finger and swam down to the prop. Carefully I fit it onto the Allen wrench that I had placed in the diaper at the beginning. Wiggle it into position and tighten it down - only about a 1/4 turn at a time as the wrench hit the prop. I didn't drop it! Then the next one, same drill. Also successful. Finally the safety screw that went into the square recess in the main nut and threaded into internal threads on the shaft. It was larger and not so scary, but I was still glad when it was tightened securely. The whole thing went well enough and standing on the bottom was useless enough that I decided to try the starboard prop where it was - in 8' of water. We moved the diaper and repeated the whole process. Having my feet not hit bottom was not a big deal, but if I had removed the extra weight, I would have had an easier time holding my self at the saildrive. Oh well, it went fine and the whole job was done and picked up by lunch time. All the tools got a spary off and a soak in fresh water, then a good dose of WD40. Hopefully that will protect them from too much rusting. After lunch Deb & I decided that since the hookah was up and running, we should use it, so we circumnavigated our island underwater. It had been a couple years since I had done it with just a snorkel and changes were very evident. There was a brown filmy stuff on much of the turtle grass that seemed to be killing it. Not good for the turtle grass and things that depend on it, but the result for us was white sandy areas being exposed - pretty nice. There were tons of starfish - the usual red/orange/yellow/brown ones that are ubiquitous in the Caribbean, some small red ones with skinny legs that are also quite common, and then we saw not one but two 9 legged starfish. The central body was about 1 1/2" and each leg was about 4" making it 8-10" overall. Its underside looked like a normal starfish. Never seen anything like it before. One small area just West of our dock had quite a few of the stinging jellies, but the rest was clear of them. We had a great time. It is so nice to be at a place where you can just jump in the water and swim. About 4:00, we took dinghy over to friends Brent and Jan's house for drinks and dinner. They had other friends (also gringos) from Saudi Arabia there who were interesting. Another great night in the boat and tomorrow we will go back to Rana Azul for dinner when we expect a much bigger crowd of friends. Probably make plans for visiting some of them during the coming week.

Sailing again
Mark
01/25/2013, Isla Debora, Tierra Oscura, Panama

Well, it is only for a short while and only locally, but we are back on the boat and it feels good. We left Discovery Bay yesterday and had a delightful sail across Bahia Almirante to Dolphin Bay where we anchored in front of our friends Will & Sandy's home. We went ashore for dinner with them and Chris, another friend and neighbor of Will & Sandy. We had a great time and then a wonderful night at anchor. This morning we sailed across Laguna Pallos to our island where we tied to the dock. Deb continued cleaning the boat while I changed the oil and filters in both engines. Friends Ken & Vonnie picked us up and we all went to Rana Azul for "pizza in the jungle". We plan to spend the next several days just sailing around the archipelago seeing friends and hanging out. Tomorrow I hope to put the new feathering props on the boat. I will use the hookah to work under water and hang a "diaper" under the hull to catch anything I drop. The depth should be just about right to stand and work on the saildrive. Tonight we are just enjoying a quiet night on our yacht tied up to our Caribbean island. Life certainly is hard!

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