Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Leaving David for Good....Galapagos here we come.

For 26 "balboas" (aka dollars) we got an air-conditioned room in the Hotel Iris on the plaza of David, Panama.  Our last splurge before crossing to Galapagos.  We could have paid 18 bucks for no AC but we're using this as our home base today and tomorrow as we get our official zarpe (paperwork for leaving the country) and purchase last minute supplies. 

Right before we left the boat this morning in Boca Chica I found our hidden stash of cash from a couple friends back home.  It is allocated just for buying school supplies for kids we encounter along our journey.  It's perfect timing because the summer break is ending this month and kids are all heading back to school.  We promised Domingo's daughter we'd buy her four-year-old some crayons and construction paper.  This little girl, Daisy, is absolutely adorable.  Her personality makes me laugh.  We were out on a walk with her and her folks.  She found a stick and rode it around and around like it was a horse.  Then she used it to write on the ground.  She's sweet and spunky and energetic and curious.  Not only that, she's been begging her grandma to go to school for the last month.  She can hardly wait.  With some of the cash from you guys, I got extra construction paper, drawing paper, and colors for her classroom.  Also, I bought even more colored pencils for an after-school program in Tonga.  I've been in contact with them and they asked for art supplies.   We won't be there till this September but some stuff is so cheap in Panama, I'm stocking up.  So, save your art supplies for me.  I'll be home for 3 weeks in July (Daphne's having another baby) so I can pick up stuff like beads, yarn, crafty things.

The next day.....

So, we're off to the Galapagos.  We've hired a taxi to bring ourselves and our last items.... THANKS TO RUSS (a.k.a. Independent Sail Repairs) IN THE GORGE for sending Brian a whole quiver of kiteboarding kites.  This time we realized that paying the extortion money to the subcontractor of our express transportation company (the one that lied to us on our last packages) was unnecessary.  We already paid the main company. 
So, with a few more veggies, a fishing net, a spear gun (Brian's new fishing enterprise) we're off. 

Cruising like everybody thinks it looks like...

White sand beaches, plumeria blossoms, and turquoise water- they really do exist! We found them at the Islas Secas anchorage.

Good stuff


This last week was full of good surprises.  We left Bahia Honda and sailed back to the surf camp with our friend, Skip, following behind in Java Moon. We had a few really mellow meals with him.  At one point, he and I went on a hike to find the top of the ridge.  At the beach we talked to some fishermen stretching their legs on land.  They gave us lots of information about the area and offered to give Skip 15 gallons of diesel fuel free of charge.  We chit-chatted a bit and then went on our hike.  When we came back, we talked a bit more and then off to our boats.  Skip dinghied over to their boats, and while waiting for one of the guys to siphon diesel out of their tanks, got a tour of their massive engine and saw a giant hold full of dorado worth a lot of dinero.  A short while after returning to his boat, the fishing boat, named Abraham I, pulled anchor and chugged over straight at Java Moon.  I watched and thought they were going to ram into her.  Oh me of little faith.  Actually, the captain eased Abraham I up next to Java Moon close enough for one of his crew to give Skip the largest front half of a red snapper I've ever seen.  It just barely fit into Skips 5 gallon bucket. 


I didn't know about the fish and so when Abraham I approached Nomad, Skip was yelling at me to get a bucket.  I grabbed our one gallon bucket and as the nose of the fishing boat swung next to our gunwales, I held it up.  The crew member picked up the other half of the red snapper and tried to shove it into my tiny blue bucket.  It wouldn't fit.  I ended up laying the back half of this huge fish crosswise across the top of my bucket. 

When Brian got back from surfing an hour later, he and Skip started butchering.  Skip brought over his vacuum sealer and we packaged fish for an hour and a half.  We ended up with about 25 pounds of delicious meat. 


Another surprise awaited Brian at the surf camp.  He went over last Monday to ask some questions about where to buy gasoline, etc.  Who should come around the corner, but Lars Bergstrom!  Lars is one of Brian's windsurfing buddies from the Hood River area.  Brian surfed with Lars a few times and then on Thursday, Lars came along on a short sailing afternoon.  He even did a little bit of conning for us, up our mast.  It was fun getting to know him and enjoy his excitement about our trip. 


Sunday, March 22, 2009

New Friends and Old

Two days ago we pulled into Bahia Honda, Panama. We'd spent 2 nights near surf spots and 2 other nights at a remote island snorkeling and working on the mast. As we pulled into Bahia Honda, which I think is one of the most beautiful places we've been, we spotted two boats we recognized from the week before in the Pedregal Marina. As we anchored, we waved as they putted over in their dinghy. New friends from the sailboats King's Way and 401(k) wanted us to come to dinner. As they were chatting with us, an older man in a local cayuca (log canoe) rowed over from shore to greet us. Domingo is a 70 year old who lives and farms fruit on the stretch of seemingly deserted land at the north of the bay. He welcomed us, asked us questions, made an appointment to show us the town on the island in the middle of the bay in the morning, and told us his grown son would come out later to say hi. This was the beginning of fruit deliveries to our boat.

Over the last few days we've received 4 pineapples, about 10 oranges, a papaya, 2 noni (don't know how to prepare those!), a few grapefruit, green plantains, and some pipas (green coconuts to drink the water out of) last night while we were walking around with Domingo's daughter's family. This is all wonderful except that every time they bring fruit, they ask if we have one thing or the other for them. We've been asked for everything from sunblock, gasoline, batteries, acetaminophen, and a bikini for Olivia, Domingo's daughter-in-law. I like the trading concept but I was starting to feel like they viewed us as their personal tienda. Then last night, we bumped into Rosalin (Domingo's daughter), Edwin, and Daisy, their 4-year old daughter, on the beach. We wanted to take a walk and didn't know any trails. They showed us around the finca (plantation) which looks more like jungle with fruit trees scattered randomly throughout. They showed us Domingo's old house, beautiful 10-foot nests hanging from a palm tree, and tried to find howler monkey's to show us. The whole time they asked us questions and told us about their home. They didn't once ask for anything. It allowed me to relax and enjoy getting to know them. At the end of the evening, we met up with Domingo and he gave us 3 small pompano-type fish for our dinner.

Then, this morning, we saw a double masted sailboat anchored across the bay. It had come in during the night. We watched (it's always a treat to meet fellow cruisers- there aren't so many of us down here) it pull anchor and motor over to our part of the bay. As it approached, Brian said, that looks like Java Moon. "No, it couldn't be. He's in Mexico still isn't he?" I said. "It sure does look like him." Well, as it got closer, we saw, IT WAS our friend, Skip Hess on Java Moon. We met Skip last year in La Paz, Mexico. We spent a lot of time together there. HOW COOL to meet up with a familiar friendly face. Since he's a single hander he's pretty happy to meet up with people he knows as well. In fact, he's been helping Brian all afternoon pulling old wires on the mast. We decided to spend an extra night here so we can have dinner with him. Tomorrow morning we'll head up to the Morro Negrito surf camp again. There's another swell coming.

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shower time

One of my last purchases before leaving David a week ago was a one gallon insecticide pump sprayer. No, we don't have more cockroaches, just a few ants. We're using the sprayer as our shower system. When we use the shower inside the boat, it's hard to regulate how much water we've used. With this setup, we fill up our one gallon and limit our showering to ½ gallon each per day. Surprisingly, we often don't use our full limit.
We sit or stand on the back deck, pump up our shower and spray off. It's nice to shower outside in the evening with the breeze and under the stars!

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Saturday, March 14, 2009


Currently I'm overwhelmed by the pointlessness of my life's outcomes. This is nothing new. I enter these periods of time more and more familiarly. They come once or twice a year. Like items in a chain grocery store of a strange city, the questions are familiar but in different places. I walk the aisles of the my meaninglessness removing past successes and failures to re-examine them. I hold them up against the success and failures of others. I hold them against my expectations and the expectations of others. No matter how I inspect my past deeds or current actions. My cosmic tally sheet stays empty.

Good deeds become infinitesimal in light of the mighty evils in the world. Gigantic errors are invisible in light of their featherlight eternal impact. Accomplishments are as special as an individual grain of sand. There are too many others for mine to mean anything. I usually turn to the book of Ecclesiastes (to everything there is a season....) for wisdom at this point. It's a bit discouraging, "Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless, says the Teacher" Geez!

I read of an old friend's rising success in her chosen line of work and think, "what have I ever done like that?" Then I think, "so?" I wouldn't want to be successful like that. And if I was, I would still feel meaningless. Accolades come and go. Impress people one day and you'll disappoint them the next.

On the other hand, I see my sister and brother-in-law working, working hard to raise my little niece in a home of love and good boundaries and I know that their sacrifices will never make it on a bulletin board, billboard, or book of "Who's Who" but I begin to see a glimmer of what is truly significant. Or I think about my hero, my mother and tears come to my eyes. Her courage in face of many huge life disappointments, her wisdom in face of life's meaningless harshness, her love in face of hurts...these qualities, again, will never be read about except maybe at her retirement party or in personal notes from former students and colleagues. But she is significant. Many many many tallies for good are written with the pen of her loving life on mine.

These reminders are important because I feel like my accomplishments, large or small, on this voyage are insignificant because I'm not really doing anything. I'm on an "extended vacation." What meaning is there in that? I can mend a sail or build a stackpack or bake bread every week but those things are all really for my comfort or the safety of ME. I long for opportunities to be meaningful like my sister, brother-in-law, or Mom (and many many others sacrificing and loving silently). So, I turn my heart to loving my family and friends from a distance. I pray for you. All of you. I also pray for the people that we meet along the way. I also bake a lot of brownies and banana bread to give away. Maybe we'll encounter some tangible things that feel productive and worthy of accolades but in the mean time I'm trying to remember the book of Ecclesiastes because at the end, the Teacher determines there's a lot of injustice a lot of really screwy things in the world and he says,
"Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man." Ecc. 12:13

This still is a hard thing because God has some commands that are really hard and there are so many other things I'd prefer to do (like hold grudges instead of forgiving, feel sorry for myself instead of trusting an invisible being) but that's not what the meaning of my life is, according to the Teacher. The next verse says that God will judge all deeds, good and bad. I guess that leaves me out of a job; Now what will I do instead of measuring my worth? I guess I'll bake more brownies and go snorkeling.....

casting off the docklines

At LONG last.  We untied Nomad from the dock yesterday, drove her about 100 yards away, and anchored.  The engine is running quietly, smoothly and no large clouds of white smoke (like before) so we are pleased with the outcome of our prolonged fuel pump recalibration and all the brand new oil cooler. 

 After anchoring, we took the bus to the State Fair and walked around with a new cruiser acquaintance whose French name I'm not about to try to spell.  It was loud, lots of cotton candy, popcorn, shishkabobs, cowboys, lots of disco bars, lots of rides (which Brian refused to try-too rickety looking),  and trinket shops. 

Tomorrow we leave the land of wi-fi public transportation, and large supermarkets to rejoin the water of crystal-clear snorkeling, surf breaks, isolated jungle anchorages. 

It has been 6 weeks and we've been happy to meet locals, get Nomad all fixed up (I finished the stackpack!!!  Pictures to come).  But now we are even happier to leave.  We plan to spend about 3 weeks in the Panamanian islands ( Isla Gamez, Islas Secas) and some really cool surf spots Brian has heard about. 

From now on, I will not be emailing updates.  Instead, I'll be updating my blog via radio email. If you want to stay tuned, please use the "Subscribe to" button up above.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When it rains it pours.

So, for our entire time here in Pedregal Marina we've felt isolated and frustrated and unconnected to people and lonely. Starting on Sunday, that all changed! One of the nice bus drivers (we take the bus 1 - 4 times a day) asked to come see our boat. So, Edgar and Demaris came to dinner. The next night they took us to a produce stand in their car so I could buy 17 pounds of potatoes, 8 pounds of onions and various other fresh items for our hopefully soon departure. Then we had dinner at their house (patacones, yummmmmmm). That was Monday and much to my surprise, I saw a sailboat pull in to the estuary. A potential cruising friend, yippee. We introduced ourselves to Jean (French guy) and had a nice visit.

Last night was Edgar's birthday so he, Demaris, and Doris and Carlos (Demaris' mom and bro) came over for spagetti, Doris' homemade arroz con pollo, and birthday cake. Fun was had by all. AND our Spanish is getting quite the workout. I'm learning new words every day.

Now, just an hour ago we got an invite to dinner with Jean at about the same time that two more cruising sailboats pulled in to this remote estuary. It's nice to have people to talk to. Our social calendar is brimming over after a long stretch of barrenness.

We're hoping to leave Saturday morning and get out to explore the islands of Panama and it's a bit frustrating to do so just as we're meeting nice people. Alas, hello-goodbye-hello-goodbye is the mantra of life, accelerated for people with the cruising lifestyle.

Monday, March 2, 2009

a favorite photo

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Meadowlark Merlot

Last week was a pretty discouraging week. Nothing seemed to go right. My sewing machine broke as I was trying to sew the stackpack; Brian's back hurt too much to climb the mast; it was darn hot; we were lonely; our lists seemed to be getting longer, not shorter... etc.

So we decided to get one big item off our list. PRICE MART. This is a CostCo with a different name. I'd been once before and had a specific list with amounts and prices of exactly what I wanted. I convinced Brian to come with me and off we went. We were moping around racking up dollars in the shopping cart realizing the place was full of gringos of retirement age or older. They all had I.D. cards around their necks.

One of these gentlemen, Lee Mooneyhan, made a comment about our abundant supply of goods. I explained that we were stocking up for our crossing of the Pacific in our sailboat. We are buying 6 months of food because prices in French Polynesia are exorbitant (8 dollars for one roll of paper towels, 16 bucks for a cabbage, etc.) Lee got interested and started asking questions. We learned that he is on a similar voyage, except it's in a motorhome caravan from the U.S. They have driven all the way to the Panama Canal and are on their way back home. After a wonderful conversation we parted. Twenty minutes later, Lee came back and found us. He had a gift for our trip he wanted to give us. We arranged to meet him outside at his RV after we checked out.

Turns out Lee is a winemaker and partner of a small vineyard in Tennessee. Now we have safely tucked in our cupboard a 2002 Meadowlark Merlot to open at a special occasion some time between here and New Zealand.

Meeting Lee and his wife, Kathy, was super encouraging. We didn't feel so alone on our venture after all.


Well, just when we want to leave extra blockades have arisen.
The items which we are awaiting from the U.S. are in Panama but the shipping company is holding them hostage for fees which we aren't supposed to pay. They claim we are importing goods into Panama. We claim we are a yacht in transit (this is a legal term) and are only replacing existing parts on our boat. We believe we're exempt. Still in process. We'll see what happens.

Also, our beautiful brand new Yamaha outboard is having problems. The bottom of the foot is leaking gear oil. NOT supposed to happen. Actually this same thing happened the first week we bought it and they replaced the whole foot for us. It's frustrating. We thought we were buying a sturdy, unstoppable piece of machinery. Not so confident in our purchase any more.

On the good side, Brian and I took a day trip up to Boquete and received the services of a Korean acupuncturist. Dr. Han listened to our medical concerns and then went straight to work on us. He also used a technique called moxibustion. Some spongey plant material is pinched off and placed next to the point of the needle and then ignited! This is supposed to stimulate the immune system. Here's a link http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/abc/moxibustion.php
Brian's take on the treatment was, "I don't think I'd let him burn me again." It hurt! .. and we have funny marks on us. The treatment seems to have helped the pain in my hands but Brian's sciatic pain is still quite uncomfortable.