Well, Hello Folks ...
Well hello folks, after 5 months, we are back - apologies, and all that - for the long silence, dunno what happened, but here I am back with the news. Mr. Philip Lowe phoned me up at 20 minutes to three last night (6.40 pm Hobart time) to tell me people were saying that we are "in the shit", that our boat is not seaworthy, rumours ... ... ... well, it's not so - we are in a great boat, and today we proved it, she sailed beautifully, nice and level, not on her ear, and fast, scooting along at 6 or 7 knots in a 10 to 12 knot breeze. And we have found a Monitor wind-vane self-steering vane, for sale, off a cruising boat called Iwa, which we will buy to steer us though the long passages of the South Pacific. Meantime she steered herself by autopilot, while we sipped ice tea and read, or just stared out - watching the boat scooting along under main, mizzen, genoa and staysail.
So many people we have met over here, and such friendly helpful folks, cruising couples and single-handers, people who pay money, to become "Jubilados" (pronounced "Hoo-bil-ah-doss" basically old folks), who want to stay and live here in Panama, some passing through, and us, who are unique in that we didn't sail here, we flew here and bought a boat here. So they don't regard us as cruisers, but as beginners, they don't realize we spent ten years sailing Antares in the blustery 42 degrees south latitudes, 30 or 40 or sometimes 50 knot winds, which are common in Tasmania.
Maybe around fifty yachts anchored here in La Playita, some from the US, some have come though the canal, others are getting ready to go through, with tyres hanging on the sides, to protect them from bangs and bounces in the locks, worse going up than going down, I've been through a couple of times as line-handler, it's fun but the taxi ride or bus trip back from Colon is hell (as is Colon itself), and the canal itself is almost devoid of human life, and I didn't see any crocs or monkeys either - just jungle and the left-overs from the US occupation.
So much has happened but how to tell it? Movie nights, where the sound is so bad on English-speaking movies you are grateful if there are English subtitles and the room is so cold you have to hug yourself (sauna-hot in the next room or anywhere else) and Thursday Jam Sessions at the Balboa Yacht Club, where alternately the audience loves you or doesn't give a fuck; trying to get on and off your boat with a dozen bags of groceries, launchas that don't come or launcha-drivers that are so kind you want to weep, tipping people who earn a typical $300 a month, the taxi drivers who are greedy or unaware how cheap a $2 ride is. Drinking cold beer at lunchtime every day. Man, it's HOT! Just having a mild thought will cause you to break out in a sweat.
Albrook Mall is a feast of retail therapy, with an indoor air-conditioned super-clean, latest-style glossy/stunning/must-have/glam/useful/useless, more-employees-than-customers, don't-need-it, can't-afford-it, am-I-insane?/no-one looks at you, chicitas with Jay-Lo bodies by the mile, I don't care if I buy, don't care if I don't, madness upon madness, until you sit in a Subway, having a Subway, watching people not know which way the door opens, in or out.
And life on the water. Being bounced and rolled by the swell in these open roadsteads at Amador causeway, and by workboats ferries and the wakes of ships. Dinner on board other boats, parties, or drinks at dusk. Advice. Yards of advice. Even MILES of advice. People stopping by in their inflatable dinghies for a chat or to give you something. Waving to everybody including the Panamanian crews on the workboats. Hearing the stories of the cruisers, what went wrong when and where, disasters, every fairy story starts with "Once upon a time" and every sailor's story begins with "There I was -" (That one from Terry - a Newfie from Newfoundland, on Oh Baby, loading twelve slabs of beer on the dock for his trip to Mexico). So many things. Hamburger night - Mondays at the Balboa Yacht Club with book swap. Trips to the city on the "collectivo" bus, anywhere for 25 cents. Trips deeper into the seething ferment of traffic in Panama City by the ex-school buses from the US, called "Diablo Rojos" or red devils, driven like hotted-up jalopoies by young men drivers on speed. Taxis - always having a cracked windscreen and doorhandles that don't work. You see a taxidriver repairing his taxi in a parking lot. Me playing net control every Thursday morning on VHF for the local cruisers' net (GOOD MORNING PANAMA CRUISERS!! - like Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam). And not long after, I start doing the Panama Pacific net once a week, on SSB (single sideband radio, long range) contacting boats in southern Mexico to Ecuador. Getting water, by the 5 gallon jerrycan (or "jug" or "jerryjug") getting diesel fuel the same way, organized runs to town, hiring a truck, five or six yachts jugs, to get diesel, and the price is fine, USD$1.90, but the measure is skewed, you get seven and a half gallons and they charge you for ten. Putting this in your inflatable dinghy, propelling it by outboard motor to the dock, where they expect USD$5.25 a time, whenever you land at the dock. And so on. Getting propane gas, to run your gas stove, in your galley. You get together with five or six other boats, and hire a taxi ($30) and drive half way to Colon, on the Atlantic side of the peninsula ... ...
I'm sitting with a laptop, on the boat, it's dark, many lights of yachts and ships and shore-lights, reflections on the water, canal bouys - red and green, and - in spite of being northern winter (freezing in New York and Canada) I have only shorts on and sleep naked, it is so hot! Groceries are cheaper, but of lesser quality, rum is $6 a bottle, beer ("cervesa") oh yes - the Spanish - can you speak it? Enough to get a taxi, and mime the rest? -beer is 47 cents a can can't row ashore or swim ashore it's against the law and you have to leave the country after three months - we went to Golfito, in Costa Rica, where the currency sounds like cohones, and everything is cheap, but most everyone is - how do we say? Poor? Unemployed? But the hardware store is called a Ferreteria, and that must be good. And every other car is a taxi ...
Last Sunday, motored and sailed to Las Perlas Islands, to Isla Contadora, and anchored ther for two nights. Today sailed - and I mean sailed, it was beautiful - back to La Playita, Panama Citu, so as to be in time to take a test - the ham radio test - which Adrienne and I want to take, to allow us to transmit on ham radio frequencies, when we are out ther, in the wide, open seas.
It seems whenever I want to type the word there, I type instead the word ther, check back, you wil;l see it Has happened. Well ... ... ... typograffikal errorz. You Know. Whatever I put in, it eats the words ...
I am tired of typing but I will resme another day, when erruz do not okkurr. Thenk you for yr patincce..............
Hey folks! I have just found out why the inserted type eats up the type in front of it. This was driving me mad last night! For those of you who don't know, here it is: you are typing away, and you notice you typed "ther" where you meant to type "there" so you align the cursor and put in the missing "e" - but then you notice it has replaced the space, so you touch the space key, only to find this has eaten up the letter ahead of it!! Inserting anything consumes the words ahead. Find the INSERT key (above the BACKSPACE key) and play with it, it toggles back and forth between Replace and Insert!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Adrienne is deep into plans to visit old girlfriends and her brother in the USA, and some friends in their eighties. She wants to catch up with three girlfriends from the past, and it is looking more and more like it will work out - Oakland and Bodega Bay, Sonoma County, California, and Ohio. Maybe rent a car and drive to her brother in Columbus Ohio. I will stay here on the boat and get on with mounting the wind-vane, the solar panels, checking the engine completely and finishing installing the chartplotter/GPS/fishfinder gizmo. Sorry to be so specific about everything but everything is specific, down to threads, washers and nuts, seals, leaking refrigeration lines, Etcetera.
She was so happy to sail yesterday, with the boat sailing so well, some of the time sitting in the cockpit in the shade of the bimini or working sails, some of the time she was preparing lunch in our galley, some of the time lying reading, down below; it was a wonderful refreshing voyage to Isla Contadora in the Perlas Islands, only 30 or so nautical miles, clear water sandy bottom, by the nude beach, and yesterday the wind was on the nose so we tacked until it shifted more into the east. Great sail. We have been working on fixing up the boat, so it has been checking things slowly of a list, which has more and more added to it.
We have renamed our ship -------- BLUEBOTTLE----------- with thanks to Spike and the Goons, because it has humour, and Bluebottle, you will remember was always getting into scrapes, getting "deaded" and coming back next week as chipper as ever, an innocent abroad, always coming through, and scathed not. Also we love blue glass, ships in bottles, message in a bottle and so --------- when the local Port Captain said you can't name this vessel Aura because the name is taken (we were attempting to renew our cruising permit and remember we don't speak Spanish and they don't speak English) we both said okay let's change the name! To WHAT?
B L U E B O T T L E !!!!!!!!!
I'll write some more soon, but enough for now. We are off to Albrook Mall, internet café, to do ham tests online, in readiness for the ham test on Saturday. Love to all, Joe and Adrienne XX
PS Photo shows us during a storm on Thanksgiving Day. Our new Rocna anchor held! Anchor winch was not working so we had to ride it out!