Ready... Set...Let's Cross!
23 March 2012 | Pamana City, Panama
Lisa waves goodbye to Panama!
March 18, 2012
Ready…Set…Let’s Cross The Pacific!
We have a REALLY big announcement! Are you sitting down? Are you excited? Can you hardly stand the anticipation any longer? WE have decided to cross the Pacific!!! Now to you non boaters, that means sailing the longest ocean passage in the world. It means we need to be confident that we can handle anything that is thrown our way because a rescue, if needed, won’t be available. We need to be physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to be alone for approximately 23 days at sea. And to our fellow boaters…well, you know what it means in terms of preparation on the boat…and I won’t bore you with the details of how much fuel we’re putting on or my grocery list, etc…etc…We have matured enough as sailors that as long as our vessel stays afloat, we’ll survive. We won’t die if we don’t have a certain food item or run out of something. We won’t die if our water maker stops working because we will always make sure to have enough in reserve. And on and on and on, I think you get my point. It’s kind of like having a baby, you can’t totally wait for the right moment, because there will ALWAYS be something. But the one thing I know for sure is that we are not getting any younger and this is not an easy lifestyle and is definitely a young man’s sport. We just plain old need to get the show on the road.
Panama has changed us, and not necessarily for the better. It is clearly evident that cruisers are not very welcome here. There really is no place for us, and like I said in my earlier post, most cruisers cannot afford a $3000/month slip in a marina. Actually I don’t mean there isn’t any room here because there is plenty in the anchorages, however being able to land your dinghy somewhere to get to shore has become very complicated. On one side of the causeway in the Las Brisas anchorage the dinghy dock has sunk. Therefore you tie up to something that is still floating there offshore and then step, one person at a time, into a tippy plastic dinghy and pull yourself to shore with a rope. Sounds like fun with 15 bags of groceries and 20 lbs of laundry, doesn’t it?! On the other side in the La Playita anchorage, as with most things in life a few people have spoiled it for all of us. Originally the cost to tie your dinghy up to the marina dock was $35/week. Well, in “true cruiser fashion” a few people were too cheap to pay and have now spoiled it for all of us due to the implementation of a locked gate, increased prices, and the need to wear a silly paper wristband all the time. I can’t say I blame the marina at all, however if they had initially enforced their rules it wouldn’t have gotten so out of hand. People stealing fresh water from the dock hose hasn’t helped the cause as well. Four months ago, when we had our passport stamped at immigration, the cost was ten dollars each passport. Now suddenly it is one hundred and ten per passport. Wow, that’s quite an increase. So, the thought of going through the canal, which is very expensive and suddenly the country has implemented new rules that started March 1 here as well which are not very favorable for us small boaters (like you have to be able to maintain 8 knots and make it through all the locks in one day or you are charged extra), getting beat up with wind and waves in the Caribbean (this year has been particularly boisterous), spending almost a year in Colombia (during another rainy season), then coming back through the canal to Panama City (ewww) next spring and preparing to cross the Pacific is just more than we can bare. We are tired of the black ash falling from the sky all over the boat everyday from distant crop burning. We want out, and we want out now. We are SO ready for a different culture, language, food, topography. And, we want to stay close to our good friends Cristina and Carl on Bamboleiro, whom have just taken off to the Galapagos Islands, and our new friends Mark, Sonia, and Oscar (age 11) on Xanadu who happen to be from my birth country, South Africa. Ben, Larry, and I love them all, what can we say. It just wouldn’t be as much fun if we weren’t able to explore the Polynesian islands with them. There you have it…in a nutshell. Once again, the reason I write a lot of this is because I feel it is important for fellow boaters to be aware of the little nuances that go with a certain area. No cruising guide will tell you these things.
Our goal is to leave in two weeks. We are awaiting a shipment of some much needed items, (like hair color for me!) the most important being a satellite phone. Nowadays with a sat phone we will have access to current weather reports and be able to communicate via the internet, as well as of course be able to make an emergency phone call if needed.
In the midst of making this big decision and having a thousand things to do, Larry has come down with some sort of a cold/flu virus thingy that has really kicked his tush. After several difficult phone calls trying to make a doctor’s appointment on day 8 of his illness (which is always scary in a foreign country and which means because I can’t speak Spanish fast enough the operator/receptionist simply hangs up on me) then finally being passed off to a very gruff man (who actually turned out to be the doctor) we finally made our way via taxi to a medical clinic downtown. After walking up six flights of stairs (mind you the second floor is really just considered the first floor here) because the elevator was out, we stepped into a very small, plain office. The receptionist/medical assistant was taking a patient’s blood pressure with some difficulty. She had the pediatric part of the stethoscope on the man’s arm, and one side of her stethoscope had come detached from the part that went in her ear. Finally after Larry could watch no longer her stood up, fixed her instrument and told her that might help. I took one look at him and said, “We don’t have to stay, I can find you another doctor.” Well, we stayed, and were very we glad we did. The doc, Dr. Antonio Suescum, turned out to be very thorough and a VERY interesting man. He is retired now, but said he can’t just sit at home and do nothing, therefore he continues to see a few patients. He thought we were absolutely nuts to be traveling on a boat. His son is currently in Florida preparing a vessel to do the exact thing we are! He is responsible for starting the first paramedic program in all of Latin America. AND, he wrote the original algorithms that are still used to this day around the world in emergency cardiac medicine. Oh, and yes, Larry is gonna live – just a nasty virus.
I would like to close this post with a poem Ben and I studied yesterday from my new favorite poet, Langston Hughes. The title is the Long Trip, and it sums up perfectly what we are soon to be taking on.
The sea is a wilderness of waves,
A desert of water.
We dip and dive,
Rise and roll,
Hide and are hidden
On the sea.
The sea is a desert of waves,
A wilderness of water.