Yesterday was an interesting day. Here in Panama, there is a SSB net called the Pan Pacific net that runs daily, keeping tabs on transiting yachts, and others that wish to stay connected. We check in when we are underway, but are more sporadic and complacent when at anchor at our destination. We therefore were somewhat startled when we heard our boat name mentioned in association with a Coast Guard alert having been issued, and then rescinded. ?!?!? Not knowing that anything was amiss (we looked at each other and asked if we were both okay) we jumped on the radio to inform the notifying boat that yes, all was well and we were calmly and happily having our morning coffee at Isla Espiritu Santo, Panama.
Remember when you were a teenager and were blissfully charging around at night, getting into all sorts of mischief, but knowing that all was well and you were out living life? Back then, the impeding loom of adulthood was crooking its boney finger at you, and you were eager to skip towards it with your increased freedom. Meanwhile, back home your mum and dad were pacing the floor, surely knowing that a call from the hospital/police/friends’ parents was imminent.
Just because you grow old, doesn’t mean that you grow up.
Ron and I knew we were fine, but others didn’t. We had left Ecuador on December 12th, bound for Panama and the Las Perlas Islands. We made record time, enjoying a blissful 3 days of solid sailing, before we had to turn the engine on to get into the Bay of Panama. Dropping the hook at the southern end of the Las Perlas at Punto Cocos, we settled into enjoying the wonderful clear and clean waters of this island group after having been based in the murky river of the Rio Chone, outside of Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador for the last 6 months. Seven days flew by. We heard on the radio that there were going to be a few boats rendezvousing 20 miles north, so up came the hook and we headed for Espiritu Santo.
Making a long story not-so-short, a plan was hatched to head to the Rio Sambu, Darien, in the Gulfo de San Miguel, and spend the New Year’s holiday up at a village called La Chunga, which we did, along with 5 other boats. Another week went by, and once we returned to our starting point of Espiritu Santo, we managed to whittle away another few days. And then the CG alert…..
My folks are nearing their 80’s and I was not going to be responsible for a shortening of their remaining years on earth through worry. Ron and I upped the hook, and headed north to Isla Contadora, where we knew there was internet. Getting onto Skype, Facebook, and retrieving our emails was enlightening. We got in touch, posted updates, and read worried words of concern from friends far and wide. More than anything, I was grateful that people were worried about us, as it would have been horrifying if no one cared.
A word about “the system”. In true teenager style, Ron and I are complacent about emergency procedures. A bit ostrich-like, I reckon that if I don’t think about and make contingency plans, nothing bad will happen. Our ditchbag used to have water in it, but we drank it all. It used to have granola bars, but they melted away in the heat and humidity and haven’t been replaced. We have a mirror in there, obviously for me to do my hair and makeup while in the life raft. I think there is a copy of our passports, but I’m not really sure. Our life raft was certified……four years ago, not annually as is recommended. What we HAVE done tho, is to leave a description of the boat, the official call signs and numbers and a procedure for those on land on what to do in the event of an emergency (like not hearing from us for a while). And “the system” came through. My sister called the Coast Guard, an alert went out via a man in the Caribbean that monitors these things (thanks Glen Tuttle) and a message came to us via a sailboat that had heard of this alert. It went through the channels, and based in our little hidden away anchorage in remote Panama, we got the message that we were missing in action, and you now know….”the rest of the story.”
There was an interesting, and a bit testy, exchange between a few people on my announcing on Facebook that we were unmissing. There is a fine line between living our cruising lifestyles, and being responsible (and respectful) of the feelings of those people back home. While we are out here, we KNOW that our sailboat will protect us, we try to make decisions that will not end in disaster, and we gratefully enjoy every moment that has us shunning our past “traditional” routines and responsibilities. But ultimately we need to remember that just because we’ve made these choices, those we’ve left behind haven’t, and we need to be ever mindful of their feelings too. Will we leave this lifestyle? An emphatic and resounding no. Will we attempt to prevent this from happening again? Of course. The older I get, the more that communication continues to be the most important strategy for resolution of conflict, either in a lifestyle, a relationship, or a diplomatic alliance.
To those of you that cared enough to care, we both thank you from the depths of our being.