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Anthem Adrift
Prevailing Winds
03/20/2010, La Playita de Amador, Panama

March 20

Aussie couple who, along with me, helped Whoosh transit the canal finally made it themselves three days late enjoying the uncertainty of an advisor and pilot strike/sickout, but they were lucky. Last work stoppage, awhile ago, apparently lasted two months and this time no one was told what to expect. Reportedly, twenty two agitated boat crews will, tomorrow, be flooding through into the Pacific and our little anchorage. Anticipate Monday cruiser's net will be alive with pleasant things to say about Panama.

And speaking of a well oiled bureaucratic machine, here is an edited story Jack T. sent along from a friend:

John and his wife had lived in Panama for 10 years and spoke excellent (colloquial) Spanish. He bought, from a guy in the Canal Zone just to haul his boat, a 10 year old Oldsmobile which now had to be registered in Panama and import duty paid.

John decided that he'd lived in Panama long enough and spoke the language well enough to import and register this automobile himself, so he took a Thursday off from work and headed down to the customs office.

By mid-afternoon he had accumulated a stack of paper about 2" thick. Keep in mind the purpose of this exercise was give the Government of Panama $2,000 (the duty on imported American cars was 125%). He and a guide he picked up to show him from office to office finally got to the last one before being allowed to pay at the National Bank. This small office had two guys at a single desk. John was directed to give his paper work stack to the first guy who put the stack in his in-box and said to come back tomorrow, adding that tomorrow was a half-day holiday and it was Friday, so come back on Monday. Noticing John's state of agitation, the guide pleaded with the two guys that John was a good Gringo, spoke the language and all and can't we expedite this process? So the first guy said to John, "Para usted servicio especial." He flipped down into the stack of paper until he found one he liked, stamped that page and passed it to the second guy who added his initial and handed the stack back to John. By now it was too late to pay, so he had to take off at an inconvenient time next day, because the bank was only open for 2 hours as it was a half-day holiday.

Panama in a nutshell.

Jack

There I Was, Again
03/19/2010, La Playita de Amador, Panama

Aeropuerto Albrook

March 19

Hello from Playita... Huh? WTF happened to Bocas? Here's the deal. Air Panama agent requested passport because Non-nationals now need one to travel in-country. Oh? Fine. Clearing out to Galapagos almost three weeks ago before transiting the Canal will probably just... um, er, hmmmm. "Sorry, Senora, forgot it on vela (sailboat)." Have been laying low (lying low... lying?) under the radar here in La Playita for extended period awaiting parts. Notwithstanding necessity for delay, am guessing that notoriously humorless immigration hombres (they have guns, right?) would have viewed my continued presence with some asperity. Best outcome, had departure stamp come to light, would have them insisting on clearance back in with only a scowl (plus a pile of dinero) and still resulted in no flight. Hey Guy, keep your place until the next circuit, OK?

Took opportunity to buy a few items at hardware and grocery then perform the odd boat project. Additional time allows discovery of new and more fascinating boat work.

Spectre of pizza deficiency unlikely to loom for some time as Pizza Al Leno is singular nearby location allowing simultaneous eating and interneting. Food's good, cheap and accompaniable (not a real word) by cerveza(s).

O dark 45 alarm this morning calls for early night.

Jack

Up for Some Down Time
03/18/2010, La Playita de Amador, Panama

March 18

Previously mentioned that a familiarity with Spanish would oil the wheels in Panama. True, but some of difficulty is that cruisers pass through to or from the Caribbean during a short season and aren't usually here. We are often just a demanding pain in the buttocks and not the center of their economic universe. Huh. And yet, except for the slovenly dress, irritating habits and disinclination to spend money, such a friendly rabble.

Finished (in the broad sense) organizing (broader, still) the saloon, topped off diesel and gas, charged batteries, made water, washed clothes, paid bills and attempted to straighten out confused financial data, managing to compress 2 hours work into 12. There was no slack in the schedule. Behold, the seductive lifestyle of a cruiser.

Jack

Going Green
03/17/2010, La Playita de Amador, Panama

March 17

No dim sum and no Mega Depot, but everywhere else. Filled in a few gaps at Riba Smith (US style grocery that allowed critical exchange of accidentally purchased creamy peanut butter for crunchy - dodged a bullet with that one!) while Whooshes got a skosh more. Freight forwarder from US inhabits same vicinity, so took possession of last big chunk of necessary gear. Now awaiting a few smaller chunks arriving Tuesday. Plan to blow this pop stand Wednesday for easier water in Las Perlas to clean bottom (no snickering) and confirm all particulars for eight day passage to the equator.

Continued attempting to rationalize boat interior. Each iteration helps one thing and discombobulates another, but progress, like that other stuff, happens. Mooched some plywood from a French boat to restrain under-dinette storage items without putting too many nail holes in the furniture. Saloon appears nearly habitable with even room in quarter berth for the odd nap.

On the VHF cruisers net this St. Patrick's Day after someone asked about locating a traditional meal (specifically mentioning Americans who can be more Irish, today, than leprechauns) Dickie, a self-described "proper English gentleman", came on with idea that someone could call The Balboa Yacht Club to organize some corned beef and cabbage. When net control suggested that might be a good job for him, he declined incredulously, with irreducible logic and in very proper tones: "but I'm English".

Jack

Weather or Not
03/16/2010, La Playita de Amador, Panama

Provision Arrestor

March 16

With addition of a couple slabs of wood, strategically placed, to inhibit irrational exuberance of refreshment crates, cartons and cases, boat is within striking distance of navigating vast chunks of ocean. By way of a little recreational kvetching, will be heartily glad to do just that and bid adios to Panama. It's been interesting, occasionally beautiful and certainly symbolizes a milestone, but has also represented more work than fun. Itchy feet require new horizons with greener pastures and... well, there's a metaphor in there somewhere. As an aside, if you plan to come this way, learning Spanish would be a fine use of time.

Besides applying organizational skills to secrete items where they will never again be recovered, have attempted to find and catalog weather and navigational resources available via HF radio just in case being surprised loses it's charm. However intriguing, an unexpected and protracted calm, for example, seems rather remote while attached to the bottom near a city, but, somehow, lurking somewhere deep in the sub-conscious, resides the idea that it wouldn't be half the fun one might presume. Avoiding murder of an albatross, while poetic, might be insufficient.

Redux of last Wednesday's escapade with dim sum, hardware, chandlery and groceries (where minimum purchases are this time contemplated) plus possible pass by PakYa Panama shipper to take possession of wind instrument spare will occupy tomorrow. Previously conveyed plan for next ten days is still in play. Hope 'play' isn't just a figure of speech. The play's the thing, but what was the 'thing'? Involved murder, but not of a gooney bird.

Jack

Venture to Persist?
03/15/2010, La Playita de Amador, Panama

March 15

Crews flying the Pacific referred to Japan as the land of no plan "B". No problem here as we ran out of letters while down-locking. Advisors were conferring, debating and communicating on their UHF radios as plans changed literally by the minute. Three ship, two ship, center lock, tied to a tug. We twice attached to lock walls awaiting a ship and its tug, onto which, as it then moved ahead, we tied one side then the other. Fortunately, crew on other boat was less lackadaisical than day before.

Upon arrival at La Playita, Whoosh made a pass by Anthem to which, with cat-like grace, I leapt to re-discover the apparent after-effects of a tornado in her saloon. After contemplating that catastrophe for awhile and attempting to reconfigure Airmail from failed transmission attempt with Jack T's SSB, retired to his boat to retrieve stuff, swill rum and fail miserably, but with great pleasure, to reconcile my political philosophy with his experienced reality.

Tuesday will end in success with disappearance of all provisions, awash below decks, into, under or behind some form of restraint from which it can eventually be recovered in much the same condition as last seen. Initial assessment of likelihood is discouraging, but will, to quote Chief Dan George in "The Outlaw Josie Wales", "endeavor to persevere".

Jack

There I Was
03/15/2010, Gatun Lake, Panama

Approaching Gatun Locks

March 14

Typically, 1300 schedule to receive advisor was slid back to 1545, so Whoosh departed Shelter Bay for 'flats' waiting area at 1400. Advisor showed at 1630, but then events progressed apace. Arrived in Gatun Lake just at dark after something of a goat rope that looked more like Keystone Cops than a well oiled machine, but everyone spent the night content in the knowledge that all were safe and undamaged. More to follow, probably, whenever feasible.

Jack T has been explaining many services of Ham winlink system (which I've squandered strictly on abusing friends and the unsuspecting with bloggage) including a multitude of available surface condition data. It might be supposed, at first blush, that having wind, wave and cyclone forecasts could be handy, but where's the adventure, the challenge, the joie de vivre from being surprised every day? Did Magellan have this stuff? Did he get killed before completing his circumnavigation? Oh wait, that was a bad thing. Well, it wasn't weather related. His boat and some of the crew got back, so there.

Tentatively planning to visit friend Guy Callahan in Bocas del Toro next weekend, so departure from Panama would occur ensuing Wednesday. This assumes all boat parts arrive prior and nothing breaks and I'm OK and weather is OK and aliens don't initiate a long contemplated plan to remove all planet water to replenish their home world (that's a secret, so mums the word) and... Hey, it's virtually certain. As I have been cleared out of the country for last two weeks, probably ought to bail before various authorities take notice. Wonder how the food is in local prison? Galapagos will probably believe I've been becalmed en route for three weeks, right?

Jack

Do the Continental
03/13/2010, Colon, Panama

Whoosh Crew

March 13

Most everything encased in metal, except drinks, is stored securely. Six 2 liter bottles of Sprite have found themselves in bilge with head hose. A fastidious washing will proceed all partaking therefrom (ought to be a real word, but probably not). Canned drinks will live under dinette with some sort of proper restraint (he said confidently) not yet devised.

Returning to the Caribbean was relatively painless as all modes of transport operated as advertised. Taxi - reasonable without haggling. Bus to Colon - on time. Shelter Bay shopping bus - also on time. Checked to confirm location was still Panama. Inventory of comestibles, recently performed, indicated provisioning close to complete, but a few gaps, e.g. chunky peanut better and Fig Newtons, were filled during planned Rey Supermarket stop.

Patricia made dinner on Whoosh and induced rest of line handling crew, an Aussie couple (egregiously young and attractive), to stay. These guys sailed from UK after living there two years and will continue to Oz on a 27 foot Cascade. So, what were you doing at 30?

"By the time I'd grown up, I naturally supposed that I'd be grown up." - Eve Babitz

Jack

Movers and Shakers
03/12/2010, La Playita de Amador

March 12

Inventory of provisions, requiring evacuation of all food lockers, recommenced this morning with no concept of where it will all ultimately hide. Sole (floor, Cal) under dinette will have to suffice for some. Have visions of tuna cans launching through port-lights in a blow. Just what can go in the bilge where head hoses travel? Thinking of somewhere else for bread and teabags. All is a quandary to be fathomed (a little nautical lingo) in due course. Is a solved problem soluted? Perhaps a rum and coke will provide inspiration.

Jackster in Las Perlas, Inspiration Lady and Bristol Rose may go tomorrow. Can't wait to find a calm anchorage over there as Playita rolls like a drunken sailor. Trick is to get just drunk enough to synchronize.

Will be bussing to Colon (way better than Slouching to Gomorrah) tomorrow noonish to position for second sail across Continental divide. Jack & Patricia will bring their Pearson 424 (two companionway model) to the rockin', rollin' Pacific Sunday/Monday. Don't get those hopes up, but limited bloggage may result.

"The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we have of ourselves with the appalling things that other people think about us." - Quentin Crisp

Sounds quite erudite at first reading until you realize it makes no sense.

Jack

Where and When?
03/11/2010, La Playita de Amador

Mi Ranchito

March 11

Two months in Panama? Not possible. I mean, it was just New Years in Cartagena about, what... couple of weeks... no?... ummmm... Dang!!! Where'd the time go? Expect another 6 days here, at least. Also, wish to admit a minor faux pas. Next destination after Las Perlas will remain predominantly Spanish speaking. It's the one after that with the lilting, mellifluous articulation.

Met good friends at Mi Ranchito to celebrate birthday for Jackie of "Inspiration Lady". Gary & she (married for freaking ever) are the guys who built their boat from scratch over 23 years. Presented her with used novel, lollipop and this limerick:

There once was a lady named Jackie Who married a guy, very wacky. He promised a yacht And that's what she got, But to make her build it was horribly tacky.

They're Canadian and so fun to tweak, but all in all, and despite his lust for Clamato juice (it's a particularly Canadian sickness), delightful folk. In fact, any jingoist tendencies one might be encumbered with will quickly dissipate while cruising. Acquainted with Germans, Dutch, French, Welsh (not really English), South Africans, Scandinavians, etc. Best friends are Canadian, English and Australian. Can't imagine a more interesting group of misfits.

Tentative plan (if you believe this, you might crave a certain bridge in NY): Enjoy helping "Whoosh" through Canal - Sunday and Monday (most likely bit), retrieve parts from PakYa Panama on Tuesday (least likely bit), depart for Las Perlas on Wednesday or Thursday, depart for Galapagos on Monday, 22 March, commune with sea lions (rather stinky beasts I'm told) before April Fool's Day for perhaps 20 days. You will know anon. Galapagos: By all accounts, one of the most interesting spots on the planet. If I know you (or possibly not) and you wish to visit (since Fitz & Angela have demurred) please initiate contact. Unlikely you will be disappointed.

Jack

PS This was way too wordy. Sorry.

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S/V Anthem
Who: Jack Warren, Janice Holmes
Port: Weeki Wachee, FL
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