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Cruising with Vida Dulce
Among Friends
Susan / mostly sunny, 90 degrees F
05/08/2012, Panama City, Panama

Miss Goodnight is here, as is Nautibear, Gris Gris, Chataqua, Takes Me Away, Blow Me Away, and Kokopelli will be here in a week or so. It's like a play date for Vida Dulce while we're away. After getting her settled we take a taxi to Panama City. Our hotel has in-room wifi so for the first time in months Jerry & I can use the internet simultaneously; such a treat!

Preparing Vida Dulce
Susan / mostly cloudy, rain showers, 88 degrees F
05/06/2012, Portobello, Panama

We've been hard at work getting Vida Dulce ready for her solo stay while we return to the States for Ellie's college graduation and visits with friends and family. We made the passage to Portobello yesterday, motor-sailing in light winds. Seas were only 1-2 feet but confused so the trip was less comfortable than we'd expect in such light conditions. The bonus was the weather, after several days of heavy rain we woke to light blue skies absent of angry clouds and it stayed that way most of the day! Here in Portobello we'll finish up our checklists, which includes going through all lockers and storage area to inventory and inspect items, and to remove everything that has gotten unrecoverable stained, damaged, has stuck zippers or we just don't need on the boat. We haul four large trash bags to the city dump, take a large bag of books to Captain Jack's for the book exchange, and leave several items for local use. I'd say Vida Dulce is lighter now but with completely full diesel and water tanks, she's probably heavier. By the time we're done, all preventative maintenance will be complete, and she'll be clean and organized with mold / mildew preventative measures in place. Not much time left.... back to work!

Back In Propane!
Susan / mostly sunny, calm, 90 degrees F
04/29/2012, Eastern Holandes Cays / Swimming Pool, Kuna Yala, Panama

At yesterday's potluck we're told about a full 20 lb bottle of propane on s/v Melody. Mark's wife is here (he had a massive fatal heart attack a few weeks ago) liquidating as much of the stuff as she can on the boats he kept here; apparently he used them as floating storage units. They'll be a "fire sale" tomorrow but when she learns we are completely out of propane she lets us pick up the 20 lb bottle last night after the party. This morning Mike & Gloria, s/v Respite, lend us their propane transfer apparatus and by 3pm we have one 10 lb tank available to use and the other is nearly full. Which is great on a number of levels, one of which is we have nine days including today, before we drop off Vida Dulce and about that amount of fresh & frozen food to eat. I've kept a running inventory of all food supplies this past month and made flexible weekly menu plans to make sure the fresh items are used optimally and in a variety of dishes. Having a working stove & oven is critical to that plan so all is once again good on Vida Dulce. I must say I'm looking forward to being able to easily buy a variety of fresh foods, and ready-to-eat ones if needed!

Rice-maker To The Rescue
Susan / mostly cloudy, 88 degrees F
04/28/2012, Eastern Holandes Cays / Swimming Pool, Kuna Yala, Panama

Several months ago, friends visiting Vida Dulce from the States made disparaging comments about my rice-maker. "I don't see how difficult it is to put water and rice in a pan and boil it for 20 minutes", she said. That may be but I like my rice-maker. I use it to prepare a variety of rice dishes as an extension of my 3-burner, but too small to use 3 pans simultaneously, propane stovetop. I love that it sits on the counter and when the dish is ready for its final phase of cooking I can close the lid and not worry about whether it will turn out perfect. It's fuzzy logic automatically switches the cooker to keep warm at the right time.

Last evening it came to the rescue when we discovered, much to our dismay, that we are completely out of propane. All tanks, even the used one we just purchased from another cruiser who said it was three-quarters full and it did feel heavy enough for that to be possible, are completely empty. No stove, no oven, no bbq. Three kitchen appliances will have to keep us fed until we can fill up a tank; a tea kettle for heating water, a waffle-maker and the rice-maker. I was planning to prepare a casserole for today's cruiser potluck but Thai Curry Rice is a yummy stand-in that's quickly gone.

Cruisers Do Love A Potluck
Susan / mostly cloudy, showers, 86 degrees F
04/27/2012, Eastern Holandes Cays / Swimming Pool, Kuna Yala, Panama

This morning on the Panama Connection Net one of the cruisers here in the Swimming Pool mentioned they were working with the Kuna on BBQ Island to gain approval for a potluck on Saturday (tomorrow) evening. In years past, Monday was potluck day on BBQ Island; it's an institution, or rather was, up until this year when a Kuna family moved to this formerly unoccupied island and starting charging people to visit the island for any and all reasons. The Swimming Pool quickly became a deserted anchorage, especially with the weather we've had this season. That Kuna family has left, replaced by three middle (meaning more than 40) aged men who are accommodating if they are invited to fill their bowls with the food we all bring. At the time of this morning's announcement there were six occupied boats in the shallow Swimming Pool anchorage. By noon there are fourteen in the anchorage, four anchored in deeper water, and more on the horizon heading this way. The anchor dance is at times scary, at times hilarious, as the light winds clocking around changes everyone's relative position.

Word travels in the Kuna community that boats are arriving in droves; we're visited by a veggie boat with very little good to sell, several Kuna fisherman trying to sell lobster even though the season is closed to allow for future lobster catches, and of course Kuna women selling leg wraps and molas. The local Kuna elder is kept busy paddling his ulu to gather his $10 monthly fee to visit the anchorage. By nightfall the anchorage is full with 30 boats in the area.

One of the special things about this anchorage is the many snorkeling spots, many on reef walls, all with interesting and beautiful reef creatures. Jerry & I join a group going to the area called the waterfall in the late afternoon. It's a challenging snorkel yet worth the effort. The waterfall is the sea rushing over a long tall section of the outer reef. As the water rushes over it, it looks just like a waterfall, and as it hits you, all you see is bubbles as you fight to stay in place between the reefs. Quite the rush. On the way there and back, we wind between reef sections, see lots of fish and reef dwelling creatures. Most of the group sees a reef shark; a sight I'm glad to have missed.

Last Swimming Pool Visit Until July
Susan overcast, squalls in the area, 84 degrees F
04/26/2012, Eastern Holandes Cays / Swimming Pool, Kuna Yala, Panama

The sea swell shifted last night causing all boats in this Central Holandes anchorage to rock back and forth in an uncomfortable way; even the catamarans. Our small social group weighs anchor at 8:30am and splits up, most of us head to the Eastern Holandes Cays, just a short distance away, and one goes to Provinir to renew her cruising permit. The other two stop in the Hot Tub, we continue a bit farther and head into the Swimming Pool where we find calm wind and seas. Aahhhh, that's better! We're happy with our choice especially when the other two report having noseeum issues in the Hot Tub. We'll be here only a few days before needing to start West to make our way to where we'll leave Vida Dulce for a couple of months. Just enough time to catch up with Mike & Gloria, s/v Respite, and Ken & Marilyn, s/v Dream Ketch'r, and to complete some of our boat projects.

06/12/2012 | Mike
I own a TOCK like Ken and Marilyn's. There's only a few of us left! I'd like to communicate with them. Coud you pass my email address to them? Mikeblecher@gmail.com. I am in Los Angeles, and I used to follow their. Log but I have now lost track of them.

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