Thursday, February 28, 2013

What's our draft again?

So it was interesting.   I had just told our guests to leave because they weighed too much.  I wondered, with my inside voice, how I would react should some hostess of mine make such a comment, but for the moment, I wanted all 6 of them to vacate the decks and go home to their own boats.   Lest you come to the wrong conclusion that I was an absolute bitch, there were circumstances which led up to the moment.   Namely, tides.

Here in Panama, to know at what point you are in the tide clock, and what your high, and most importantly, your low, point is, is fairly critical.  Many people coming through the canal from the Caribbean side to the Pacific, have to adjust their thinking straightaway, as the tides on that side are fairly benign.  We thought we had it right, figuring in the 6-8’ mark, but nope, we didn’t.  I blame it on the men.  They are always overestimating size (yes, THAT’S what I’m referring to) so in this instance I figured that if they were all anticipating an average 7 foot tide, then we were safe at allocating 6 feet, or even less.  Of course in this one instance I was proved wrong (first time this year).  

Along with 3 other boats; Rio Nimpkish, Gosling and Iris, Ron and I, with our friends Sam and Nancy Cockrell aboard, had planned a mini expedition up the Rio Sabana, located in the Darien Province.  This region of Panama, to the southeast and bordering Columbia, is known to be the wildest and least explored of the country.  Indigenous peoples are still living within the untouched jungle, as they have done for centuries, and over 900 bird species have been recorded there.  Seven major rivers, and untold tributaries and estuaries spread out from the Gulf of San Miguel, some 70 miles southeast of Panama City, and offer an opportunity to get off the beaten track.  Several days earlier, we had explored the Rio Sucio (Dirty River) and were now in search of a village that was known to produce beautiful native baskets, some commanding pretty impressive prices in the tourist stores in the city.  In an artisan’s shop in La Palma, the Darien’s provincial seat, we had been told that the baskets she was selling were from a pueblo called Boca de Lara, or Puerto Lara, so we thought it might be fun to go to the source.  

Isn't the orange part land?!
Meandering up the river, we spotted crocodiles, Toucans, some sort of Parrot, and heard lots of Howler Monkeys.  We really wanted to see a Harpy Eagle, the purported largest of the raptors (up for debate) but as they don’t make any noise when away from the nest, we weren’t hopeful.   Although initially quite wide, after 15 miles the river narrowed down to a few boat lengths across, and after passing a few thin spots, we decided to anchor in 8 feet of water (Sundancer draws 5.5 feet). 

Exploring with friends

But still no mosquitoes!
The village was just around the next bend, according to the kids that came out in their cayucas to greet us. Everyone tumbled into their dinghies for the 5 minute journey to Puerto Lara, and the awaiting baskets.  

Marketplace, Darien-style

Great quality

Unique Designs

Is that thing alive?!
Hard at work
Only Harpy we saw, but it's now onboard

Living on the banks of the Rio Sabana

So….back to my rude behavior.  After our successful venture into town, appies and cocktails were offered aboard Sundancer.  Things were going swimmingly, until……they weren’t.  We needed to raise the waterline, and without horses aboard, people were thrown off. 

Everyone OFF

Apparently, we were actually the boat with the least amount of issues.  Two of the others got back home, to discover up to a 30 degree heel.  Sailing is FUN!!!

At one point, I saw the depth gauge read -1.1 feet, but I didn’t have the heart to take another picture.   It was determined that the next low tide was going to be another foot lower, so we needed to make a break for it, once the tide switched enough for everyone to start floating again.  Unfortunately, that meant a midnight-thirty departure.  Good thing we dropped breadcrumbs on our way in, as someone had neglected to turn the street lights on. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fun and Games

One of the benefits of bypassing the “if it’s Tuesday, it must be Nicaragua” routine, is that those cruiser’s that take their time, can become a part of a vibrant local social scene.   We’ve been in some fairly rural and unsophisticated communities, and even countries, but Panama is proving to be pretty entertaining.  Of course, it’s reputation of being the most “enlightened” of the Central American cities is aided by a pretty good economy (thank you Panama Canal, and foreign investment), and a burgeoning restoration effort of some of its oldest colonial neighborhoods (Casco Viejo).  

We’ve just been having fun here, and while every once in a while I scare Ron with comments of “I could start a pretty good business here”, or “what do you think of renovating this falling down hunk of history, and selling at a profit?”  Opportunities abound for all of you that are looking for a challenge, with both monetary and emotional benefit. 
For the rest, here’s a brief look at some of the activities we’ve taken part in.

With our partners in crime, the able Admiral and Captain of Knee Deep, Molly and Ben Dolittle respectively, we found ourselves at the International Beer Festival, held downtown in the Atlapa Convention Center.  It was a good thing we thought to bring our radios because the boys kept losing track of each other.  Can you believe that they’ve been able to navigate the last 5000 miles of ocean?

Can you hear me?

Coming in loud and clear
Signal strength is good?

Ya, I gotcha

Don't know why you can't hear me?
You must be close

Being the good pirates that we are, the Bucanero booth was very popular....

And it was downhill from there......

One Saturday, we had excellent front row seats in the La Playita anchorage in Panama City.  Apparently, the organizers thought Sundancer would be an excellent mark to round during their cayuca race.  While not wishing to break our 3 year streak of no exercise, we declined to join in, but we did cheer them on.  


Super Bowl Sunday dawned bright, with runner after runner competing in the Panama leg of the Ironman.  Their course took them along the Amador Causeway, fronting the route into the Canal and within 100 yards of where we were anchored, but our thoughts were instead turning towards GAME DAY, and with any luck we’d have an American cable feed in order to really experience the highlights…..those $1 million commercials.  More fun and frivolity with Knee Deep crew, but Mickey and JP weren’t too impressed with what the 49ers brought to the table. 

Molly was hoping that some of her friends would show up
And then they did!!!!!

The night ended with our group trying to rival the Keystone Cops….”how many idiots can you fit into a taxi?”  We negotiated HARD, got the driver down to $4, and then 5 large adults, and 2 small kids (not including the driver) piled into a car the size of a Toyota Corolla.   
What happens in Panama….....stays in Panama.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Addendum to last post....

So Ben came by a few moments ago, and I overheard Ron describing the mornings' events.  Words like:

reverse vacuum
blocked hoses
back pressure
shit everywhere

I'll let your brain paint the picture.  'Nuf said......

It's all YOU, babe!

I can remember, not so long ago, that I used to rail against "those thieving plumbers".  How dare they think that they can get away with charging $75/hour, and most of them without a university education.  I always clumped those robbers into the same scummy territory that I reserved for insurance companies but I've got it.  I now know.  I have truly been enlightened.

Most of the sailing sites out there in the internet blogosphere focus on photos of pristine beaches, clear blue waters, cultural experiences; sometimes I think to make all those sorry and pathetic souls "left behind" feel less worthy.  To be sure, we DO get to see those islands, those old-world charm towns and villages, and have meaningful cross-cultural exchanges with the locals, times it's different.  Really different. 

Take today as an example.  Or even, the last two days, as once you've had fun, you just want to keep repeating it over and over again.  We had had a perpetual slow leak in our head (toilet, for those non-sailors out there) and while not too terribly gross, it was something that needed to be wiped up from time to time, as a drip or two seemed to escape from.....somewhere.  Ron was tired of it, and so he felt it might be time to throw himself into the chore of "dealing with the head", in whatever shape that was going to take.  To be honest, I helped too, unlike many women on boats that promptly proclaim that as a "blue" job, not one for the fairer sex. 

After an afternoon of cleaning, removing, regreasing, inspecting, replacing, and generally tidying up an oh-so-important and integral part of our lives, we patted ourselves on the back, and proceeded to sit back secure in the knowledge that that horrific job was done again, for another few years.  Yesterday morning, Ron was ready to fully experience his own fantastic handywork, but was not to be.  For some reason, the bowl wouldn't empty.  The macerator, on command, did it's job, but the offending bowl just wouldn't evacuate.  And offending was really the operative adjective. 

We needed to think on it.  With our friends Ben and Molly from Knee Deep, we discussed, evaluated and generally talked around the subject with liberal doses of libations, but it was not until this morning that we plunged in, yet again.  But of course, first, the bowl had to be emptied, THE OLD FASHIONED WAY.   Apparently, this WAS a pink job, but after that I handed the reins to my better 1/2.

You can see how happy he is.  Too bad blogs don't come with all sensory sensations. 

You see why I now appreciate those unsung heroes.  Let's raise a toast to the Plumber.