Getting away from
28 March 2013 | Waisaladup, San Blas, Panama
The Ulus are designed to sail as well as paddle. This couple sailed right between the reef. She was bailing and tending the sails and he used the paddle as a rudder. We later talked with them and they said they sailed here in 5 hours to fish and sell Molas... then back!
We met someone who was on holiday in Panama on the beach the other day and they said, "Oh it must be nice to 'Get away from it all'"
It had me thinking: Although we are "away from it all" physically, we really have our noses pushed right into "it" most of the time.
First, we are three of us on the boat (38' from end to end with 11' 4" at the widest part in the middle). Any issue is right there and has to be dealt with. No room for elephants on the boat.
Next, we are the mechanics. If something breaks or doesn't function, there isn't a service station nearby where we can leave the boat and have a cup of coffee.
And, our safety is our responsibility. OSHA doesn't do spot checks here. No one will give you a ticket if your kid is not tethered to the boat.
And the power company, well, we are the power company. Any outage is our problem alone.
Oh, and did I mention the water company? Us too.
And there are times when "it" gets to us. Or should I say that we let "it" get to us: An Example:
The other day we sailed into this little anchorage surrounded by reefs. As we were preparing to anchor, Lara started the motor and I noted that it sounded funny. We dropped the anchor a little closer to the beach than was suggested in the cruising guide. The anchor dragged a little more than usual when we set the hook�... (Since we bought our Spade anchor, setting the anchor was a noticeable sinking of the bow as the anchor dug in and stopped within a couple feet of where it hit the sand).
Normally I dive on the anchor to make sure it is in sand and dug in. The girls we excited to go to the beach to see some kids who were there�... so "I will dive on it later."
So, at 1 am, I was laying in bed awake�... thinking: if the anchor drags: 1)will the engine start? What was that funny sound when Lara started it earlier? Is the anchor set? Why did it drag that extra little bit? And I remembered that Lara had said that the windlass was sticking so the chain would not run out when we dropped the anchor�... she had to pull it out of the chain locker. The back up anchor�... Its chain and rode I had transformed it into a drogue and had it stored as such in the aft lazaretto for the passage through the "normally windy coast of Colombia"�... it would take some time to deploy the second anchor. I had eyeballed the anchorage and there was no easy way to sail out of here�... Ugh�... I moved to the cockpit and sat on anchor watch until the girls got up at 6:30�...
That day I asked Lara about starting the engine. She had pushed the stop solenoid when turning the key�... which gave us the funny noise. I checked the voltage on the Lithium start battery: 13.4 volts, which is fully charged. I disassembled the windlass gipsy and cleaned the clutch surfaces and reassembled it. Then I transformed the drogue back into an anchor rode and moved it to the anchor locker as a rode for anchor #2. Finally I put waypoints onto the chart to allow us to sail out through the reef (as a last resort if the engine didn't start), but I did not dive on the anchor (hey, it's a Spade).
Well, at 4 am, Isobel woke us because it was raining in the hatch. I heard the wind pipe up as a squall blew in. I moved to the cockpit. As I stood there, the bow was pushed downwind and I called to Lara that we were dragging. The engine started, we pulled the anchor and moved the boat 50 yards west to the marked anchorage. The chain ran out and the Spade dug in and we were fixed in place again�... although shaken (this was the first time the Spade had dragged since we bought it in October of 2011). The girls went back to bed while I kicked myself around the cockpit for not diving on the anchor.
This morning, I dove on the anchor. It was well buried in the sand. Then I swam to where we had previously anchored. I could see where the anchor had disturbed the sea grass�... and it was clear the path it took as it dragged over the slippery leaves�...
Well, no one else to blame. Only my own lapse to deal with. And Lara, being Lara, tried to make me feel better by asking about the anchor as the problem, or the length of the rode�... no, that was a case of operator error. "it" as in my face again�... no getting away from "it."