to argh is pirate

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April 8, 2015 · 9:42 pm

Pitter Patter

I have always liked the rain. That’s probably a good thing living here in Panama where there is a distinct “rainy” season.

As a kid from the first grade until the seventh, we used to evacuate the suburbs around Boston and head to Nickerson State Park from the day school let out until the day after Labor Day.

DSCN0020 copy

My mom and dad slept in a small travel trailer…

Trailer @ Nickerson copy

My brothers, David and Gary, and I slept in an Army Surplus wall tent like this one…


I loved it when it rained. The sound of the rain drops on the canvas roof of the tent was like music to me. It lulled me to sleep many a night or put me back to sleep on a morning with the pitter patter of the rain.

When I was a teenager we had two sailboats that we kept at Quonset Pond in South Orleans. One was a Sunfish-type sailboard that I used to take and creep into tiny out of the way spots along the shores of Pleasant Bay. I learned where a lot of the sea birds nested which came in handy years later when I owned Nauset Tours, a beach taxi business. The other boat was an O’Day Daysailer that was kept on a mooring ball. It was fitted out with a canvas boom tent. This is a piece of canvas fastened to the mast at the forward end and draped over the boom all the way to the stern to keep rainwater out of what was, essentially an open boat with a small cuddy cabin. There were times when it was raining and I’d been let off work at the restaurant at the beach when I’d drive down to Quonset Pond, row out to the Daysailer and take a nap falling asleep to the sound of the rain on the canvas of the boom tent and the slap lapping of the pond’s wavelets against the hull.

I loved it when it rained when I was living on my beloved Kaiser26, Nancy Dawson. Sleeping in the port section of the vee berth forward the deck was only a couple of feet over my head so naturally the sound of the rain was close. It would be hot, even at night, in Fort Lauderdale in August and September. Before going to bed I’d set up a box fan in the main hatch blowing OUT and open the forward hatch which was over the vee berths. The box fan would pull the air into the boat through the forward hatch and expel it out into the cockpit. By morning it would be so cool (relatively) that I’d have pulled a blanket over myself to stay comfortable. And when showers passed overhead at night I’d feel the raindrops that made it through the open hatch to pelt me on my shoulders. It was just enough to let me know what was happening and I’d without getting up I’d reach up with one arm and let the hatch fall into the down position and the sound of the rain would have me back in dreamland in seconds.

It’s been years since I’ve been lulled by the sound of rain overhead. Oh, there were some times when I was house-sitting in Potrerillos Arriba when I’d slip outside and lay down in a hammock on the broad patio out back (patio, by the way is what the Panamanians call your entire yard around the house, and free-range chickens are referred to as pollo al patio.) but as nice as that was, it wasn’t the same thing.

The next to last time I heard that wonderful roof music was my last visit a year ago over to Bocas del Toro to look at a boat that might be for sale. On each of my trips over to the other side of the Continental Divide I’ve stayed at a small hotel just outside of the craziness of “downtown” Bocas Town, Dos Palmas. It’s built out over the water and the place has a tin roof. I remember being pleasantly awoken a couple of times in the middle of the night to the sound of rain on the roof. Contentment.

Almost all the houses here in Panama have tin roofs, and I’m talking NEARLY ALL, not just cheap, shoddily constructed places like that which I just moved into. The ceiling is a standard 2’X2’ drop ceiling and there’s nothing between it and the tin roofing. So, like right now as I sit here typing this and the tantalizing aromas of chicken curry waft around it’s pouring down rain and I’m loving every drop that hits the roof.


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Well — THIS SUCKS!!!

I live online. It’s my connection with the world outside mi barrio de español. Since I’m moving I had to make sure I would  be able to get online. Last week I went down to the Cable (Cah Blay) Onda offices in downtown David to check whether or not I could get their service at my new house.

“Oh, yes,” the girl said, “we have service at Brisas de Boquerón.” Great, but I didn’t want them to cut the service off immediately and leave me in the cold since I haven’t quite moved into the new place yet. Poco a poco it’s getting done. Well, today I went down to Cable Onda to set up installation at the new house. Guess what? Well, here, this map will show you what I mean…

Service ends

You’ll probably have to click on the pic to enlarge it, so I’ll explain what it shows. See those yellow stick pins in the upper portion of the photo? That’s where my house is. The two yellow stick pins are where THE FUCKING SERVICE ENDS RIGHT NOW!!! That’s right, there’s no cable yet on the street where I live, and they have no idea when it might be strung. That really, REALLY SUCKS!

When I moved into the house here in Boquerón the barrio wasn’t wired for cable t.v. or internet. So what I used was a USB modem from the cellular company, Claro. It plugged into a USB port on the computer and, while slow, it was good enough to get most of the sites I use, like this one. It looked like this and it cost me $40/month for unlimited access.


It was okay, but when Cable Onda came around and offered faster internet speeds for the same price, I took them up on the offer, and by and large have been happy with the service. I say by and large because in the last month there have been several times when there was ZERO access, generally after a major thunderstorm moved through the area, and the outages were up to 20-hours long.

Well, after finding out I couldn’t be hooked up at the new house I immediately went to Claro and got their WiFi router service. Same price as I’ve been paying, but slower speeds but it’s better than nothing. And the reason I got the router was so I could download my free Kindle books to my tablet. Originally if I wanted to download books I’d ordered I either had to go up to the InfoPlaza at the town hall or use the country’s free WiFi system at the bus terminal. Not critical, but kind of a pain in the ass having to go to those places. The Claro router looks like this:


The router costs $80 if you go pre-paid which is what I used to do with the USB modem. HOWEVER, if you get a contract then the router is FREE with the plan I’ve chosen. And I was able to get on a contract. The agent, a young man named Kevin who spoke excellent English (our whole transaction which took well over an hour was conducted in a melangé of English and Spanish simply because I feel uncomfortable talking to Panamanians in English) asked me if I had credit here in Panama, a requisite to getting a contract. I said I’d never bought anything on credit here so I doubted I’d qualify. “Wait a minute,” he said, “how long have you had Cable Onda?” I told him about two years or so and he went to his computer and, sure enough, because I’ve been such a good customer with them I qualified to get a contract with Claro!  The contract is 18 months, but I can quit at any time with 30 days notice but there is a penalty and that’s that I’d have to pay the full price of the router.

The thing’s working fine. I’m giving it a test run right now writing this post. Well. that’s it. I’ll still be able to get online even if it isn’t the way I’d hoped it would be, but, as we used to say in Antibes, “c’est la vie.”


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If I Can’t Have A Shantyboat

Then I want to live HERE …


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The Ultimate In Cool

I’ve got a big post coming up about hammocks in the works. My hiking brother, Jeff, calls them “Bear Piñatas.” But if you’re a boat nut like me they don’t get much cooler than this…boat

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Some might say I’m a bit strange, and I won’t argue the point. Some might say I live a minimalist lifestyle and I’m not so sure that’s entirely true but there are hints of it.

Almost all of us gringos grew up with hot water for bathing. Hardly any Panamanians did. In fact, there is a belief among many Panamanians that hot showers and baths are actually bad for one’s health. In fact, I had a neighbor lady tell me just that within the last week!

Over the years I’ve had situations where hot water wasn’t available at the turn of the tap. When I lived on my shanty boat in New Orleans I didn’t have hot water. When I wanted hot water to shave I had to put a pot on the stove and warm the water up. No big deal. I worked at a boat yard and did a lot of paint “prep” which consisted of spending eight hours a day with an electric sander in my hand making dust, much of which covered me by quitting time. Back at the boat I had a shower head rigged to a hose supported on a 2X4. New Orleans has a pretty hot climate most of the year, and the water in PVC piping that serviced my dock was rarely cold. Tepid to warm would be the best words to describe the water temperature so it was pleasant. In the three or four winter months I had a good friend who lived on my route home from the yard and he kindly allowed me to shower at his place. So things worked out pretty well.

The next time my living conditions didn’t have hot water on demand was when I bought my much-missed Nancy Dawson, a Kaiser 26 sailboat. I took off on her for nine months and single-handed to Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala It was always hot there so when I was in the salt water areas I’d dive off the side of the boat, climb up in the dinghy and lather up with Joy dishwashing soap (the only thing that produces lather in salt water) and then I’d rinse off with fresh water. That’s necessary because salt from the sea drying on your body will eventually give you a rash. When I returned to the States I lived for close to two years in a boat yard and then at a marina for another four years or so, and each place had shower rooms so hot water was not a problem.

In the first year and a half here in Panama I was house sitting at a place for two six-month stints and they had an on-demand hot water heater. The place here in Boqueron also has an on-demand water heater that doesn’t work simply because most of the time the water pressure isn’t high enough to trigger it. Now, I haven’t gotten used to cold water showers, though I have to say the water is never cold as it is in the States, but it’s still cold enough that I don’t find it comfortable most of the time. The exception is on really hot days in the middle of the afternoon then it feels good to get in the shower.

For shaving I do what I did on the shanty boat. Heat water in a pot and use that. I wash dishes in cold water and since most houses in the country don’t have hot water some brilliant people have created a soap that lathers up in cold water.

So, how do I deal with the cold water showers? Well, one way is what I would call a “modified sponge bath.” That is to say I stay out of the main stream of the water and use a soapy face cloth to wash myself. I don’t mind sticking my head in the cold water to wash my hair, though.

But I DO like warm water to shower with. For quite a while I used a “Sun Shower.” One of those four-gallon plastic bags that you lay in the sun for a couple of hours and it heats up the water.


Does a damned good job, too. You can scald yourself if you’re not careful. The problems I had with it was hanging it up in the shower compartment space. Fresh water weighs 8 lbs. a gallon, so hoisting the 32-pound bag was a bit of a pain in the ass. Also, since it’s gravity-fed and the shower head nozzle was only about three feet off the deck I had to squat down to get under the water stream. It wasn’t a lot of fun to use, but I did. The biggest problem  was keeping the inside of the bag clean. Green slime would build up and eventually, even bleach wouldn’t get rid of the crud.

The end result for getting a hot water shower comes in the form of this thing.


It’s designed to spray toxic chemicals on weeds. I’d tried a smaller version years ago on the sailboat. It only held a gallon of water, and the spray nozzle wasn’t worth a damn. I think I tried it two or three times and gave up. But I decided to try again. This one holds 2-1/2 gallons. I did cut the hose and nozzle off of the sun shower and rigged it up to the new setup. A little bit of black spray paint et voilà as we used to say over in Antibes, France.

This certainly does the job though it’s no where near as exhilarating as standing under a REAL hot shower. I set it outside in the sun for a few hours and the water heats up nicely. A few strokes of the pump handle and there’s a decent flow of water. There’s a thing-a-mah-jig by the squeezer on the spray handle that allows for a continuous stream. Since the capacity of the unit is only 2-1/2 gallons you can’t stand under the hot water stream for a long time, but it’s enough to actually provide TWO Navy showers.

A Navy shower is essential for shipboard life where fresh water is limited. What you do is get wet, shut off the water stream, lather up, rinse off. It works. Another feature of the new set up over the Sun Shower is that the neck of the bottle is pretty wide, so if it has been a cloudy day, or I want to take a shower early in the morning all I have to do it put on the big pot of water, heat it up and pour it in to the container with the cooler water and then I’m able to get a comfortable shower.

Like I said, I don’t recommend that people live as I do. Most wouldn’t want to, but I’m adaptable. You have to be, after all, to live for nearly six years on a 26-foot sailboat.


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Moving —

Well, I knew the day would eventually arrive when I’d HAVE to leave my home of the last four years.
The owners came down for a “vacation” on the 6th of September, and as we had agreed four years ago, when they came down I would go somewhere else. The evening before I left the owner told me that because I would have to pay to stay somewhere they weren’t going to ask me to pay rent for the next THREE MONTHS. That sounded good to me.
While the house has been up for sale for the last couple of years only ONE person has ever come to look at it, and the agent who has had the listing for the last year did NOTHING at all. Never saw or heard from them. But for some unknown reason I had a bad feeling that something was up with the owners.
When I got back to the house after ten days away,I was told they engaged a new agent to market the house and that the agent wants the house empty. Sort of like with Jolie Aire when we got back to the States, but this time I don’t have my own place to move into. At first the owners told me I needed to be out by the 20th of October, but I got it extended a little bit saying that people generally don’t want to start a rental period until the first of a month so now I have until the first of November to find a place.
After being blind-sided with the news I immediately went to my neighbors and told them what was going on and asked them to inquire around about possible rentals in the area. They know I don’t want to leave Boquerón and they’d always told me not to worry, they’d help me find a place to live. But Boquerón is a small town so it might be tough to find a place available though I’ve seen “Se Alquila” (For Rent) signs around from time to time, but those come and go. I put up a notice in a Yahoo Group, Gringos in David, which is actually how I found out about the place I’ve been living. I’ve found a couple of rental ads, all a bit more expensive than here, but not a whole lot. I’ve been paying $175/month plus another $30 for yard maintenance. The places listed are about $250 plus yard.
I’ve got a contingency plan if I can’t find something I like right away. My gringo friends (I don’t have many) Kris and Joel have a neighbor lady who rents out rooms in her house. I’ve met Cedo a couplBoquere of times and we get along, so I’ve asked Kris to talk to her about the possibility of me renting a room for a while while continuing to look for a long-term rental.
The day after the owners of this house left to return to Texas, my neighbor, Genito, came over and said he knew there there was a house for rent and that we should go over and talk to the owner of the house at two that afternoon. The owner of the house in question is Geraldo, and he lives just a couple of blocks away. The house he has for rent is brand new down in what is called Las Brisas de Boquerón (Boquerón Breezes), just a little over a kilometer down the road from where I’ve been living. It’s a recent development built in the last couple of years. The houses are small, only slightly bigger than the one I’ve been living in. The neighboring houses are closer, too, but none of them have forty fighting cocks which is probably a big plus as far as tranquility is concerned.
The place is unfurnished although Geraldo said he had a spare stove that he would install at no extra cost. But everything else I have to buy. I priced out an apartment-sized fridge for $230 in David, though delivery is extra.
Now, the good part is it will actually be cheaper living there. For the last four years I’ve been paying $175/month plus $30 a month to have the yard taken care of. Electricity and water are extra, of course, but they’re cheap. My electric on a BAD month will be close to $30 (that’s right, THIRTY. There’s not a number missing.) Water is nearly nothing. Maybe $40/yr. It’s not metered so I have NO IDEA how they judge the payments which usually run a couple of bucks a month.
The NEW house would be $120/month. That’s ONE HUNDRED TWENTY DOLLARS (BALBOAS) A MONTH! Fifty five LESS than I’ve been paying. I had to ask Geraldo TWICE to be sure I heard right. So with electric payments and water. And the timing works out just right. He’s finishing up painting the inside and I’d be able to start moving things into the house the last week in October but he’d let me have things like a fridge and furniture moved in before the first of November.
I was kind of unsure about whether I want to move there. The place is a quarter of a mile from the main road, double what I have to walk here to get to the bus and some days my hips are screaming when I get to the bus stop and are worse coming home with a heavy load of groceries. So I told Geraldo that I wanted to think things over for a couple of days but I was 95% sure I’d take it. And we left it at that.
The next day Genito came by and said he new of another place for rent that was just a couple of blocks away by the Centro de Salud (health clinic). He knew the woman who owned the house and had her grandson come down to talk to me later that afternoon. He told me the house was renting for $140/month and would be available the first of October. I went up to see it the next day. I wouldn’t let my dog be sick in that place. What a mess. It’s a lot larger than the place at La Barriada but totally unacceptable. For example, the sink in the kitchen doesn’t work and you have to take your dirty dishes OUTSIDE to the laundry sink to wash them.
I said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” in Spanish of course and a couple of hours later went down to Geraldo’s and gave him a deposit for the tacky little house there. Actually, while the house is a bit tacky and tiny the neighbors are probably going to be okay. The guy directly across the street from me is in the Policia Nacional. Two houses down on the right on the same side of the street is owned by a professor at UNACHI (Universidad Autonima de Chiriquí. And a couple of houses away from him, on the other side of the street, is where Geraldo’s sister lives.
Here are a couple of photos and a map…
blog house
La Barriada
my new house_Fotor
Geraldo opening the front door
The back yard
The policeman’s house (with car)
policeman's house


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Still Around

No, I haven’t died.

No, I haven’t given up on blogging.

Nothing noteworthy has been happening.

I get up in the morning, drink a cup, sometimes two, of locally-grown coffee. A couple of times a week I go into DahVEED and do some grocery shopping. I surf the net. I read. I listen to a book from Audible on my smartphone. I go to bed and then do it all over again the next day.

Next month I’ll have stuff to write about. The owner of the house I rent, his wife and her sister are coming down for a couple of weeks from Texas and I’m going to try and go through the process of changing my “carnet,” which looks sort of like a cheaply-laminated high school I.D. card to an E (extranjero) cedula.

That’s it.


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