The Gelatin Effect
03 June 2008 | Gulf of Mexico Somewhere-Above
Amy- sunny and bright up here! Humid and Warm in Panama,Cool and rainy in MI
There is a saying among cruisers that plans are set in jell-o. We read about it, heard about, during the months and beyond before leaving for our trip. Well, we definitely experienced this theory, hypothesis, quote, whatever you want to call it. My previous post on this blog was about getting ready for the canal transit, and we did that. We were admeasured, got the boat cleaned up and picked up, the larger, shiny cleats put on, plus refinished the exposed deck areas that needed new wood, fiberglass and epoxy. We still had one ingredient to the mix missing, crew to help deliver Sunshine home. We received a call from our friends in Bahia del Sol, they would still like to help us, but need to haul their boat out and take care of some major repairs on it first, which could take about a month or more before they would be done with that. That would put us even more into the hurricane season and we don't want to do that. We also had someone else tell us they could help deliver Sunshine home, but not 'til September. We also found out from some other cruisers here in the anchorage of a cruising couple who have some moorings on Taboga Island, just a few miles from Panama City. They, having only a few moorings, plus being cruisers themselves, would give a more personal touch to watching over Sunshine and came highly recommended by other cruisers. Plus there mooring fee couldn't be beat! The only glitch in this was that they are gone right now on a boat delivery! It was a bit unsettling trying to get questions answered, when would they be back? Is someone watching over their boat and others on their moorings while they are away, those who knew them were sure they would have someone watching things, but noone knew who! Our friends who recommended them tried to help us get in touch with them by phone, email, and single side band. We were able to find out they would be back in about 2 weeks. Great! But that's after our flight out of Panama which had already been booked! What do we do? Finally on Saturday, the 30th, we were told by one of the other cruisers helping us get in touch with them, that they got an email back that they received our email that we were interested in one of their moorings and that they were returning from the boat delivery to Mexico this coming Thursday. Our flights out of Panama City are Tuesday, we would need to take Sunshine over to Isla Taboga Sunday, then catch the ferry from there back to the mainland Monday afternoon. Hopefully between that time we would find the person watching over the boats, and make arrangements for someone to pick us and all our luggage up in their launcha (another Spanish word for small boat), and take us to the ferry dock. We were still a bit unsettled, but we really had no choice at this point and were hedging our bets that this would all work out. Usually for us, we seem to cut everything about as close as possible, nerves unsettled all along the way, and then suddenly everything falls into place. How often could our, what seems like bad luck turned to good luck and apparent divine intervention keep happening?
Sunday came along, which by the way, was Micah's 7th Birthday, we went to shore just over to the causeway and went to the Smithsonian Research Station and spent a little time as a family walking the trails and going into the observation museum. We saw a sloth, learned about the different types of sand and what makes the black, white, pink sand in the different locations of Panama. We got to touch a starfish, sea cucumber, sea urchin. Observe some hawkbill turtles and other marine fish including an angel shark up close in a glassed walled aquarium. In two other aquariums side by side, we observed fish and sea life such as coral from both the Pacific and Carribean waters. There was a kid friendly museum that had puzzles, computer games, microscope to view shells, coral and other sea life in magnified view. Among other things the kids enjoyed. This sounds like a lot, but it really only took less than 2 hours. We wanted to be up and moving around 2. We left there at 1, Jim Micah and Jen headed back to the dinghy dock and the boat, while Bridget and I headed to the artisans market to pick up a couple more souveniers we decided to get, plus we needed to stop at a tienda to get something for dinner. Bridget and I got back right around 2, we got back to the boat and preceded to fix and eat lunch and get ready to haul up the anchor one last time for the next 6 months or so. It's about 2 hours to get over to Taboga and as long as we got there before dark., which with it being quite overcast would be around 6:30, we're good. Here we go, cutting it close again! We were under way at 4 on the dot! Two hours would be 6:00. We also needed to cross the shipping channel again, just as we did upon entering the anchorage 3 weeks earlier. When any vessel needs to cross or enter the channel, you have to radio Marina control for clearance. Well guess what? As luck would have it, we had to wait for 2 ships leaving the canal. That took another 20 minutes or so. But again, someone was looking out for us, shortly after we crossed the channel, our cell phone rang, it was Chuy, the owner of the moorings we were heading to! We got our questioned answered and were much relieved to talk to him and get some things figured out. We arrived at the mooring at 6:15, ate dinner and got ready to "put Sunshine to bed" the next day.
Monday, I'll spare you the details on all that it takes to get a Sailboat ready for a "long Summer's nap" in a tropical rainy season, but let's just say it's a lot of work. If we didn't get it done by 4 to catch the ferry at 4:30, basically we're screwed. We kept counting the hours all day, are we gonna make it, can we do it? It brought back memories of getting ready to come down to El Salvador to start this journey, the hurried rushed long hours, little sleep. Only this time, it was all us, Jim and I and the kids. No outside help packing, cleaning. The only help we got and we are very greatful for, was from Jim's brother and sister-in-law, helping with researching and booking our tickets in the days before and checking on some questions we had regarding the flight and the van rental from Detroit to home. And for as much time as Dawn ended up spending on that due to glitches with the airlines websites we couldn't have gotten all the work done we needed to without her, mostly since we would have to go to shore to use the internet which would have meant more time away from the boat. We are looking forward to thanking her and Larry in person.
So where are we now and what are our plans? Some have also asked why we are stopping now. I am sitting on the plane from Panama City to Houston. Why are we heading back now? We only planned on being away this first part of the trip for 6 months, and there are other places like Ecuador that doesn't get rain now, but it was the original plan to come back for the summer anyway. We also didn't want to do the long journey ourselves to the Florida Keys without one other crew to help out. Many cruising couples do it alone, but not with young children, or at least, we weren't comfortable doing that. Doing only 3-4 hour watches/ sleeps and trying to take care of the younger children didn't sound like "paradise" to me. It's 3 days nonstop to Isla Providencia, another 3 to Viverrello Cayas, and 3 again to Isla Muerjaras on the tip of the Yucatan. Then again 3 more to the Keys. That's along ways to do all that with the kids too. Not to mention the approaching hurricane season, although early on in the season, it can be a great time as long as you watch the weather in the Atlantic very closely. Our plans? Remember the jell-o, k? This is what we're thinking. While we're home this summer and fall, we'll get a definite crew available that can begin delivering Sunshine home no later than the beginning of March, earlier if they want to take it a bit slower. The Erie canal doesn't open until May 1st, so taking 2 months from Colon, Panama to New York would be doable if cruising straight through only stopping for provisioning, fuel, etc. Sunshine will get home by beginning of June and we're pretty sure we already have a location to keep her in dry storage to do some much needed bottom work and sanding and repainting the inside. She is sound, but has never been hauled out for bottom cleaning, repairs, etc. Only been beached for this, which can be a fine, although minimal job. It will be a lot of work, but this way, something we can take our time doing, and not living on it at the same time. Jim and I have discussed ALL options, and to us, we really want to keep her and take care of her. We've already put so much effort into some of those repairs, we want to finish and see the end result of our work, and be able to then enjoy Sunshine and all the plans we have for her. Will this be the way it plays out? Nobody can know for sure, life takes some amazing turns along the way, doesn't it. And really, anybodies life pretty much is planned in jello, some just more than others. And being out there, dependent on other countries procedures, life styles, the weather, unplanned repairs, planned repairs that take longer than planned, all these things are not any more prevalent then when you're cruising and living on a boat. Many cruisers have told us, simply maintaining a boat while living on it is a lot of work. Trying to refinish a boat while living on it is even more difficult. But we needed to get the process started, there were some repairs that couldn't wait. We knew that coming in to it. I asked Jim a few weeks ago, "if you knew coming in to it, it would turn out this way, would you still have decided for us to do this?" He said yes. With all the great people we've met, places we did get to visit, plus I added staying away from one of the coldest winters Michigan has had in quite awhile! We both agreed, this was not to be missed. And we're not done. Sitting on that ferry yesterday afternoon, going past Sunshine all closed up and lonely was real hard for Jim & I, I couldn't hold back the tears, and even now typing this, my eyes are getting wet. Even Bridget, who is the most excited for us to be returning home, had a hard time watching as we went passed.
There's more to the story... what's the scoop with our house/renters... where are we staying.... So stay tuned, I still plan to update on occasion, but this is already a really long blog and so I'll wait to add other details at another time...stay tuned! We also have a pretty neat photo to post of Jim and I sitting on the back of Sunshine with Panama City skyline in the background, but I am at the library right now without my camera... so you'll have to wait on that!