Monthly Archives: January 2012

Dry Season In Panama

Well, January is just about over and we’re definitely in the middle of the dry season. So far this month we probably haven’t even had an inch of rain. One afternoon it rained very gently for about an hour and that’s it.

You may remember this video I shot a couple of months ago when we were getting a lot of rain every day…

<object width=”560″ height=”315″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/2Mqa-x82CMs?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param></object>

Well, here’s the same stretch of river this morning…

<object width=”560″ height=”315″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/PLCQonrYN0U?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param></object>

1 Comment

Filed under adventure, Expatriate Living, Living Abroad, Living in Panama, panama, Retire in Panama, Retirement, Retirement Abroad

The Liveaboard Simulator redux

Recently I came across a blog about a young couple who bought a boat to live on and sail around the world. They’re living on it, the” sail around the world” part is yet to be started. I’ve wasted hours of my time when I should have been working on my new book reading their blog http://ventureminimalists.wordpress.com/ but it’s certainly been entertaining. And reading about their struggles with the new life of living aboard a boat I’m sure they would have been better prepared had they read my June 2009 post “The Liveaboard Simulator.” Hey, t.v. networks have re-runs…why shouldn’t I?

Just for fun, park your cars in the lot of the convenience store at least 2 blocks from your house. (Make believe the sidewalk is a floating dock between your car and the house.

Move yourself and your family (If applicable) into 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Measure the DECK space INSIDE your boat. Make sure the occupied house has no more space, or closet space, or drawer space.

Boats don’t have room for “beds”, as such. Fold your Sealy Posturepedic up against a wall, it won’t fit on a boat. Go to a hobby fabric store and buy a foam pad 5′ 10″ long and 4′ wide AND NO MORE THAN 3″ THICK. Cut it into a triangle so the little end is only 12″ wide. This simulates the foam pad in the V-berth up in the pointy bow of the sailboat. Bring in the kitchen table from the kitchen you’re not allowed to use. Put the pad UNDER the table, on the floor, so you can simulate the 3′ of headroom over the pad.
Block off both long sides of the pad, and the pointy end so you have to climb aboard the V-berth from the wide end where your pillows will be. The hull blocks off the sides of a V-berth and you have to climb up over the end of it through a narrow opening (hatch to main cabin) on a boat. You’ll climb over your mate’s head to go to the potty in the night. No fun for either party. Test her mettle and resolve by getting up this way right after you go to bed at night. There are lots of things to do on a boat and you’ll forget at least one of them, thinking about it laying in bed, like “Did I remember to tie off the dingy better?” or “Is that spring line (at the dock) or anchor line (anchored out) as tight as it should be?” Boaters who don’t worry about things like this laying in bed are soon aground or on fire or the laughing stock of an anchorage…. You need to find out how much climbing over her she will tolerate BEFORE you’re stuck with a big boat and big marina bills and she refuses to sleep aboard it any more…..

Bring a Coleman stove into the bathroom and set it next to the bathroom sink. Your boat’s sink is smaller, but we’ll let you use the bathroom sink, anyways. Do all your cooking in the bathroom, WITHOUT using the bathroom power vent. If you have a boat vent, it’ll be a useless 12v one that doesn’t draw near the air your bathroom power vent draws to take away cooking odors. Leave the hall door open to simulate the open hatch. Take all the screens off your 2 bedroom’s windows. Leave the windows open to let in the bugs that will invade your boat at dusk, and the flies attracted to the cooking.

Borrow a 25 gallon drum mounted on a trailer. Flush your toilets into the drums. Trailer the drums to the convenience store to dump them when they get full. Turn off your sewer, you won’t have one. This will simulate going to the “pump out station” every time the tiny drum is full. 25 gallons is actually LARGER than most holding tanks.They’re more like 15 gallons on small sailboats under 40′ because they were added to the boat after the law changed requiring them and there
was no place to put it or a bigger one. They fill up really fast if you liveaboard!

Unless your boat is large enough to have a big “head” with full bath, make believe your showers/bathtubs don’t work. Make a deal with someone next door to the convenience store to use THEIR bathroom for bathing at the OTHER end of the DOCK. (Marina rest room) If you use this rest room to potty, while you’re there, make believe it has no paper towels or toilet paper. Bring your own. Bring your own soap and anything else you’d like to use there, too.

If your boat HAS a shower in its little head, we’ll let you use the shower end of the bathtub, but only as much tub as the boat has FREE shower space for standing to shower. As the boat’s shower drains into a little pan in the bilge, be sure to leave the soapy shower water in the bottom of the tub for a few days before draining it. Boat shower sumps always smell like spent soap growing exotic living organisms science hasn’t actually discovered or named, yet. Make sure your simulated V-berth is
less than 3′ from this soapy water for sleeping. The shower sump is under the passageway to the V-berth next to your pillows.

Run you whole house through a 20 amp breaker to simulate available dock power at the marina. If you’re thinking of anchoring out, turn off the main breaker and “make do” with a boat battery and flashlights. Don’t forget you have to heat your house on this 20A supply and try to keep the water from freezing in winter.

Turn off the water main valve in front of your house. Run a hose from your neighbor’s lawn spigot over to your lawn spigot and get all your water from there. Try to keep the hose from freezing all winter.

As your boat won’t have a laundry, disconnect yours. Go to a boat supply place, like West Marine, and buy you a dock cart. Haul ALL your supplies, laundry, garbage, etc. between the car at the convenience store and house in this cart. Once a week, haul your outboard motor to the car, leave it a day then haul it back to the house, in the cart, to simulate “boat problems” that require “boat parts” to be removed/replaced on your “dock”. If ANYTHING ever comes out of that cart between the convenience store and the house, put it in your garage and forget about it. (Simulates losing it over the side of the dock, where it sank in 23′ of water and was dragged off by the current.)

Each morning, about 5AM, have someone you don’t know run a weedeater back and forth under your bedroom windows to simulate the fishermen leaving the marina to go fishing. Have him slam trunk lids, doors, blow car horns and bang some heavy pans together from 4AM to 5AM before lighting off the weedeater. (Simulates loading boats with booze and fishing gear and gas cans.) Once a week, have him bang the running weedeater into your bedroom wall to simulate the idiot who
drove his boat into the one you’re sleeping in because he was half asleep leaving the dock. Put a rope over a big hook in the ceiling over your coffee table “bed”. Hook one end of the rope to the coffee table siderail and the other end out where he can pull on it. As soon as he shuts off the weedeater, have him pull hard 9 times on the rope to tilt your bed at least 30 degrees. (Simulates the wakes of the fishermen blasting off trying to beat each other to the fishing.) Anytime there is a storm in your area, have someone constantly pull on the rope. It’s rough riding storms in the marina! If your boat is a sailboat, install a big wire from the top of the tallest tree to your electrical ground in the house to simulate mast lightning strikes in the marina, or to give you the thought of potential lightning strikes.

Each time you “go out”, or think of going boating away from your marina, disconnect the neighbor’s water hose, your electric wires, all the umbilicals your new boat will use to make life more bearable in the marina.

Use bottled drinking water for 2 days for everything. Get one of those 5 gallon jugs with the airpump on top from a bottled water company. This is your boat’s “at sea” water system simulator. You’ll learn to conserve water this way. Of course, not having the marina’s AC power supply, you’ll be lighting and all from a car battery, your only source of power. If you own or can borrow a generator, feel free to leave it running to provide AC power up to the limit of the generator. If you’re thinking about a 30′ sailboat, you won’t have room for a generator so don’t use it.

Any extra family members must be sleeping on the settees in the maincabin or in the quarter berth under the cockpit….unless you intend to get a boat over 40-something feet with an aft cabin. Smaller boats have quarter berths. Cut a pad out of the same pad material that is no more than 2′ wide by 6′ long. Get a cardboard box from an appliance store that a SMALL refridgerator came in. Put the pad in the box, cut to fit, and make sure only one end of the box is open. The box can be no more than 2 feet above the pad. Quarter berths are really tight. Make them sleep in there, with little or no air circulation. That’s what sleeping in a quarterberth is all about.

Of course, to simulate sleeping anchored out for the weekend, no heat or air conditioning will be used and all windows will be open without screens so the bugs can get in.

In the mornings, everybody gets up and goes out on the patio to enjoy the sunrise. Then, one person at a time goes back inside to dress, shave, clean themselves in the tiny cabin unless you’re a family of nudists who don’t mind looking at each other in the buff. You can’t get dressed in the stinky little head with the door closed on a sailboat. Hell, there’s barely room to bend over so you can sit on the commode. So, everyone will dress in the main cabin….one at a time.

Boat tables are 2′ x 4′ and mounted next to the settee. There’s no room for chairs in a boat. So, eat off a 2X4′ space on that kitchen table you slept under while sitting on a couch (settee simulator). You can also go out with breakfast and sit on the patio (cockpit), if you like.

Ok, breakfast is over. Crank up the lawnmower under the window for 2 hours. It’s time to recharge the batteries from last night’s usage and to freeze the coldplate in the boat’s icebox which runs off a compressor on the engine. Get everybody to clean up your little hovel. Don’t forget to make the beds from ONE END ONLY. You can’t get to the other 3 sides of a boat bed pad.

All hands go outside and washdown the first fiberglass UPS truck that passes by. That’s about how big the deck is on your 35′ sailboat that needs to have the ocean cleaned off it daily or it’ll turn the white fiberglass all brown like the UPS truck. Now, doesn’t the UPS truck look nice like your main deck?

Ok, we’re going to need some food, do the laundry, buy some boat parts that failed because the manufacturer’s bean counters got cheap and used plastics and the wife wants to “eat out, I’m fed up with cooking on the Coleman stove” today. Let’s make believe we’re not at home, but in some exotic port like Ft Lauderdale, today….on our cruise to Key West……Before “going ashore”, plan on buying all the food you’ll want to eat that will:

A – Fit into the Coleman Cooler on the floor
B – You can cook on the Coleman stove without an oven or all those
fancy kitchen tools you don’t have on the boat
C – And will last you for 10 days, in case the wind drops and it takes more time than we planned at sea.
Plan meals carefully in a boat. We can’t buy more than we can STORE, either!

You haven’t washed clothes since you left home and everything is dirty. Even if it’s not, pretend it is for the boater-away-from-home simulator. Put all the clothes in your simulated boat in a huge dufflebag so we can take it to the LAUNDRY! Manny’s Marina HAS a laundromat, but the hot water heater is busted (for the last 8 months) and Manny has “parts on order” for it…..saving Manny $$$$ on the electric bill! Don’t forget to carry the big dufflebag with us on our
“excursion”. God that bag stinks, doesn’t it?….PU!

Of course, we came here by BOAT, so we don’t have a car. Some nice marinas have a shuttle bus, but they’re not a taxi. The shuttle bus will only go to West Marine or the tourist traps, so we’ll be either taking the city bus, if there is one or taxi cabs or shopping at the marina store which has almost nothing to buy at enormous prices.

Walk to the 7-11 store, where you have your car stored, but ignore the car. Make believe it isn’t there. No one drove it to Ft Lauderdale for you. Use the payphone at the 7-11 and call a cab. Don’t give the cab driver ANY instructions because in Ft Lauderdale you haven’t the foggiest idea where West Marine is located or how to get there, unlike at home.
We’ll go to West Marine, first, because if we don’t the “head” back on the boat won’t be working for a week because little Suzy broke a valve in it trying to flush some paper towels. This is your MOST important project, today….that valve in the toilet!! After the cab drivers drives around for an hour looking for West Marine and asking his dispatcher how to get there. Don’t forget to UNLOAD your stuff from the cab, including the dirty clothes in the dufflebag then go into West Marine and give the clerk a $100 bill, simulating the cost of toilet parts. Lexus parts are cheaper than toilet parts at West Marine. See for yourself! The valve she broke, the seals that will have to be replaced on the way into the valve will come to $100 easy. Tell the clerk you’re using my liveaboard simulator and to take his girlfriend out to dinner on your $100 greenback. If you DO buy the boat, this’ll come in handy when you DO need boat parts because he’ll remember you for the great time his girlfriend gave him on your $100 tip. Hard-to-find boat parts will arrive in DAYS, not months like the rest of us. It’s just a good political move while in simulation mode.

Call another cab from West Marine’s phone, saving 50c on payphone charges. Load the cab with all your stuff, toilet parts, DIRTY CLOTHES then tell the cabbie to take you to the laundromat so we can wash the stinky clothes in the trunk. The luxury marina’s laundry in Ft Lauderdale has a broken hot water heater. They’re working on it, the girl at the store counter, said, yesterday. Mentioning the $12/ft you paid to park the boat at their dock won’t get the laundry working before we leave for Key West. Do your laundry in the laundromat the cabbie found for you. Just because noone speaks English in this
neighborhood, don’t worry. You’ll be fine this time of day near noon.

Call another cab to take us out of here to a supermarket. When you get there, resist the temptation to “load up” because your boat has limited storage and very limited refridgeration space (remember? Coleman Cooler).

Buy from the list we made early this morning. Another package of cookies is OK. Leave one of the kids guarding the pile of clean laundry just inside the supermarket’s front door….We learned our lesson and DIDN’T forget and leave it in the cab, again!

Call another cab to take us back to the marina, loaded up with clean clothes and food and all-important boat parts. Isn’t Ft Lauderdale beautiful from a cab? It’s too late to go exploring, today. Maybe tomorrow…. Don’t forget to tell the cab to go to the 7-11 (marina parking lot)….not your front door….cabs don’t float well.

Ok, haul all the stuff in the dock cart from the 7-11 store the two blocks to the “boat” bedroom. Wait 20 minutes before starting out for the house. This simulates waiting for someone to bring back a marina-owned dock cart from down the docks…..They always leave them outside their boats, until the marina “crew” get fed up with newbies like us asking why there aren’t any carts and go down the docks to retrieve them.

Put all the stuff away, food and clothes, in the tiny drawer space provided. Have a beer on the patio (cockpit) and watch the sunset. THIS is living!

Now, disassemble the toilet in your bathroom, take out the wax ring under it and put it back. Reassemble the toilet. This completes the simulation of putting the new valve in the “head” on the boat. Uh, uh, NO POWER VENT! GET YOUR HAND OFF THAT SWITCH! The whole “boat” smells like the inside of the holding tank for hours after fixing the toilet in a real boat, too! Spray some Lysol if you got it….

After getting up, tomorrow morning, from your “V-Berth”, take the whole family out to breakfast by WALKING to the nearest restaurant, then take a cab to any local park or attraction you like. We’re off today to see the sights of Ft Lauderdale…..before heading out to sea, again, to Key West. Take a cab back home after dinner out and go to bed, exhausted, on your little foam pad under the table…..

Get up this morning and disconnect all hoses, electrical wires, etc. Get ready for “sea”. Crank up the lawn mower under the open bedroom window for 4 hours while we motor out to find some wind. ONE responsible adult MUST be sitting on the hot patio all day, in shifts, “on watch” looking out for other boats, ships, etc. If you have a riding lawn mower, let the person “on watch” drive it around the yard all day to simulate driving the boat down the ICW in heavy traffic. About 2PM, turn off the engine and just have them sit on the mower “steering” it on the patio. We’re under sail, now. Every hour or so, take everyone out in the yard with a big rope and have a tug-of-war to simulate the work involved with setting sail, changing sail, trimming sail. Make sure everyone gets all sweaty in the heat. Sailors working on sailboats are always all sweaty or we’re not going anywhere fast! Do this all day, today, all night, tonight, all day, tomorrow, all night tomorrow night and all day the following day until 5PM when you “arrive” at the next port you’re going to. Make sure no one in the family leaves the confines of the little bedroom or the patio during our “trip”. Make sure everyone conserves water, battery power, etc., things you’ll want to conserve while being at sea on a trip somewhere. Everyone can go up to the 7-11 for an icecream as soon as we get the “boat” docked on day 3, the first time anyone has left the confines of the bedroom/patio in 3 days.

Question – Was anyone suicidal during our simulated voyage? Keep an eye out for anyone with a problem being cooped up with other family members. If anyone is attacked, any major fights break out, any threats to throw the captain to the fish…..forget all about boats and buy a motorhome, instead.

1 Comment

Filed under adventure, boats, sailboats, sailing

Everyone Has A Dream – You Need To Live Yours NOW!

Everyone has a dream. Some want to sail around the world. Others might want to pack up and live off the land in some wilderness area. Back to the earth. Buy an RV and see the USA. Who knows? But everyone has a dream yet most of them are never fulfilled. Why? Well Sterling Hayden pretty much nailed it in his book Wanderer when he wrote:

“‘I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it,’ [so many people say]. What (they) can’t afford is not to go.  They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of ‘security.’  And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine–and before we know it our lives are gone.

“What does a man need–really need?  A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in–and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment.  That’s all–in the material sense. And we know it.  But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.

“The years thunder by.  The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience.  Before we know it the tomb is sealed.”

Before you go any further with this post stop and reread that quote again and thing about how it applies to you and those around you. That quote had such an impact on me it changed my entire life. The power of words can do that to a person.

When I read that quote I wrote it down in my journal and in one form or another I’ve carried it around with me for the past forty one years. It was in 1971. I was working as the assistant public relations director of the largest non-profit hospital in the second most populace county in the State of Florida at the time. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my job. I did. Sorta. But the whole time I was doing it, and being impaled on my own free lance writing magazine articles, I was reading all the boating magazines and dreaming about being on a boat and sailing off to distant shores. And it hit me that 1) I was never going to have enough money to buy the boat I wanted to accomplish that dream. 2) I wasn’t willing to do what it took to make the kind of money it would take to accomplish that dream and 3) If you ARE willing to do what it takes to make that kind of money then you don’t have the time to be out sailing around in the first place until you’re probably too old to do it.

Everyone’s dream in their teens and early twenties or thirties has a young person pulling it off. Not someone who’s carrying around three stents in their arteries, taking pills twice a day to keep their blood pressure in check and whose fingers are gnarled from arthritis.

At about the same time as I read Wanderer I also read Viking’s Wake by Richard MacCullagh that contained a life-changing quote:

“And the bright horizon calls!  Many a thing will keep till the world’s work is done, and youth is only a memory.  When the old enchanter came to my door laden with dreams, I reached out with both hands.  For I knew that he would not be lured with the gold that I might later offer, when age had come upon me.”

I scaled my dreams way down from flashy boats that graced the pages of the yachting publications way down to one where I’d get a set of pontoons, perch a pickup camper insert on it and take off on the Intracoastal Waterway and perhaps do what is known as “The Great Loop” a water route that circles the eastern half of the United States.  But the reality of the situation was that I didn’t even have enough money to accomplish that. So when my wife and I parted company in the Great $16.25 Divorce (http://oldsalt1942.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/) I quit my job, got a job as a deckhand on a dinner cruise boat which led me to obtaining a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton license and living out many of my dreams including doing the “Great Loop” in 1974/75, a dozen trips up and down the Intracoastal Waterway, living on the French Riviera and the Costa del Sol for three years and sailing across the Atlantic Ocean on other people’s boats and getting paid to do it, too. I eventually bought my own small sailboat and did a single-handed trip (another dream) from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala and back.

Recently I found some YouTube videos by someone who calls himself “Skipperfound.”He’s a guy who’s living his dreams. He sort of adapted my pontoon and camper shell idea with plans for taking the boat from Ludington, Michigan down to the Florida Keys. He has over 124 YouTube videos of this trip and other adventures: the conversion of a bus (he sold the boat in Panama City, Florida) and his travels in it, and building a tiny house. This video shows the early stages of the construction of the boat.

<object width=”560″ height=”315″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/rLQUV8bWHkA?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param></object>

Naturally when someone is doing something as offbeat as Skipperfound it attracts attention. Sometimes people doing the out of the ordinary get interviewed by newspapers along the way. Here he is explaining his reasons for doing what he does. I don’t know if he ever read Sterling Hayden of Richard MacCullagh or not, but he’s sure taken their advise to heart.

<object width=”560″ height=”315″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/o2Dh8ntaDt4?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param></object>

Finally thereis a quote from John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany:

“If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”

 

2 Comments

Filed under adventure, boats, cruising, homemade boats, Houseboat, Shanty boat, Shantyboat Living, Small boat cruising

Sorry – Sometimes I Just Can’t Help Myself

A man and his wife are awakened one morning at 3:00 a.m by a loud pounding on their door.

The husband gets up and goes to the door to find a drunk reeling in the pouring rain asking if he can get a push.

“Not a chance,” the husband replies. “It’s 3 in the morning and it’s pouring rain.” He slams the door in the drunk’s face and returns to bed.

“Who was that?” the wife asks.”

“Just some drunk wanting a push.”

“Did you help him?”

“Are you kidding? It’s 3 in the morning and it’s pouring cats and dogs out there.”

“Well,” the wife says, “you have a very short memory. Remember about three months ago when our car broke down and those two guys stopped and helped us out? You should be ashamed of yourself! God loves drunks, too, you know.”

Grumpily the husband does as he’s told. He gets up, gets dressed and goes out into the cold, pounding rain.

He calls out into the dark. “Hello, are you still there?”

“Yes,” the drunk answers.

“Do you still need a push?”

“Yes, please,” the drunk says.

“Where are you?” the husband asks.

“Over here on the swing,” the drunk replies.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Memory of Belize

For the past couple of weeks there’s been some construction going on at a house a couple of doors up the street towards the main road. They’ve been building a big fence and front wall/gate and doing repairs to the drainage ditch in front of the house. About mid morning, today, a rather large dump truck showed up and left left several cubic yards of dirt in the middle of the road.

Almost immediately three young men started shoveling the dirt into a wheel barrow and spreading it around for re-landscaping. Watching them working away under the hot sun took me back to an afternoon in Caye Caulker, Belize, when I was sailing the reef in my beloved Nancy Dawson on my way down to the Rio Dulce in Guatemala.

Twenty years ago there was still a tradition of working sailboats in Belize. Most of the boats the lobster fishermen used to get to and from the off-lying atolls were powered by sail. A good deal of the non-perishable goods consumed on the inhabited islands north of Belize City were brought there on sailing craft like this one:

<object width=”420″ height=”315″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/gjpBzzpDkvM?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param></object>

I was anchored a little bit off the city dock on the leeward side of the island and getting ready to prepare my lunch. At that time I hadn’t discovered the little house nearby where a woman set up three card tables on her front porch at lunch time and served the most mouth-watering lobster tostadas you could ever imagine. They were a made with a crispy, flat tortilla shell slathered with a coating of refried black beans and then a generous serving of lobster salad topped with lettuce, tomatoes and shredded cheese. They only cost a buck U.S., two dollars Belize. But I digress…and salivate a little at the memory.

Anyway, down in the cabin of my boat I heard a couple of commands being issued in a lilting Belize accent and when I looked up I saw a boat like one of those pictured above piled high with a load of shells gliding towards the dock. The large gaff mainsail came down on the run leaving a tiny handkerchief-sized jib to provide steerage way for the final approach. The boat, about 40 foot long, slipped silently towards the dock. At the last minute the jib was back-winded and with a deft touch of the tiller the boat lay alongside the dock so softly it wouldn’t have cracked an egg between it and the pilings. The docking was a thing of beauty bespeaking years of experience and the accumulation of seamanship lost to most of today’s sailors.

Almost immediately after a couple of lines were run around the pilings the four men in the crew broke out shovels and started to pile the shells up onto the dock. I expected the appearance of a front-end loader to show up at any minute to start moving the growing pile of shell off the dock, but I was mistaken. When the mound on the dock reached some predetermined height one of the men got off the boat with his shovel and started working away at that pile and making another pile behind him while the three remaining on the boat kept toiling away. When the second pile had grown  to another predetermined height a second man joined the first man onshore and started shoveling away at the second pile, making a third pile.

Eventually all the shell was out of the boat and there were a series of shell piles leading away from the dock. All afternoon, and without a break, the men shoveled away creating piles that leapfrogged away from the water’s edge to eventually come to rest at a spot a good fifty yards away. Knowing what I know now, from having ordered dumpsters for my friend’s construction company, I’d say that there was a good 10 cubic yards of shell that had been moved by the four men.

When the work was over they retired back aboard the boat and reclined in the shade provided by a tarp rigged over the main boom and there they passed the rest of the afternoon drinking bottles of Belikan beer. As the sun set they lit up a fire in a sand-filled box on deck and cooked their supper.

A couple of hours later the land breeze began to pick up. They slipped the lines from the dock, raised the jib and deftly turned the bow off the dock. As soon as they gathered steerage they hoisted the large gaff mainsail to the sounds of some “Punta Rock” from a boom box. As they slid past me and Nancy the fragrance of some of Belize’s finest illicit agricultural produce drifted across the water and they were soon swallowed up in the dark.

<object width=”420″ height=”315″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/qGFzC50RWX0?version=3&amp;hl=en_US&amp;rel=0″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param></object>

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

I Stand Corrected (Though Not Humbly)

Ah, the pitfalls of learning another language. . . In yesterday’s post I incorrectly translated the slogan on the Super Barú supermarket sign. It reads, “Esta mejor que nunca.” I took it to mean “It’s better than nothing.” It actually means, “It’s better than ever.” Of course that makes a lot more sense than what I said but not nearly as funny. “Esta mejor que nada” means “It’s better than nothing.”

One can only hope a literate vandal with a sense of humor sees the sign and sneaks in there some dark night and changes nunca for nada. I’ll keep my eye on the sign and let you know if it happens.

1 Comment

Filed under Expatriate Living, Learning a new language, Living Abroad, Living in Panama, Retire in Panama, Retirement Abroad

Slogan Needs Work

The contents of my freezer looked pretty skimpy this morning when I opened it to take something out to thaw for dinner tonight. Grocery shopping here in Panama is similar to, but not the same as, it is in the States.

I do my major grocery shopping in David since there are only a couple of small “Chinos” here in Boquerón. “Chinos” are convenience stores which, throughout Panama are mostly owned by Chinese. In David there are four supermarkets: El Rey, Romero (which is owned by El Rey), Super 99 (owned by Panama’s president Ricardo Martinelli) and Super Barú. There is also a PriceSmart which is Panama’s answer to Costco. There are a couple of other chain supermarkets in Panama but the ones I’ve mentioned are the ones that are here.

You can’t do all your shopping at any one supermarket. El Rey, which is the biggest here, could stand shoulder to shoulder with almost any supermarket in the United States. In fact, you can buy a lot of the same brand names here in Panama as you can in the States though you’ll pay a little more for brand names you recognize. But sometimes the extra money is well spent. For example, peanut butter. I’m sorry, but nobody anywhere else in the world makes better tasting (to American palates, anyway) peanut butter than Jiff, Skippy and Peter Pan. Nor does anyone make better tomato paste than Contadena or Hunt’s. For the most part I buy more locally made products and do fine with them but some things just can’t be substituted.

Another thing one soon learns about shopping in Panama is this…if you see something you like on the shelves BUY IT NOW! There’s a very real chance it won’t be there when you might want it later on. If there are three of whatever you like, take TWO. I always leave one for someone else.

A lot of Panamanian businesses have a very tenuous grasp of the concept of marketing. Perhaps you’ve bought something several times in a store and now, for some strange reason you can’t find it any more. You might find a manager and ask why you can’t find your favorite item any more. They will often tell you with a straight face, and mean it, “Oh, we don’t carry that any more because it was too hard to keep on the shelves.” Well, GEE ZUS!!! That’s the whole idea of retail marketing. Find an item that people want and then sell the shit out of it. Why is that concept so hard to grasp?

As I said, you can’t get everything you want at any one single supermarket. I get most of my non-perishable items, canned goods, etc., at El Rey. But if I want to get Kikkoman soy sauce I have to go down the block and across the street to Super Barú. They stock it, El Rey doesn’t though you can get Kikkoman Teriyaki Baste and Marinade at Rey. Barú is about half the size of El Rey and there are a few other things they stock that you can’t get at El Rey. After a few months you get to know which store you have to go to to get certain things.

Each of the supermarkets has a produce section, El Rey’s is the largest and most attractive, but if you want really fresh fruits and veggies at prices that aren’t extortionate, you do that kind of shopping at small, roadside stands that specialize in produce.

Anyway, I needed to pack in a supply of meat. That’s right, MEAT. Fruits and vegetables are fine as far as they go but I also like a slab of bleeding dead cow meat on my plate now and then. The different markets have differing qualities of dead cow, pig and poultry. The ground beef at El Rey, though, listed as low-fat, is just that. There’s almost no fat at all and it doesn’t make for the tastiest hamburgers. Everywhere in Panama beef is really TOUGH. It’s all grass-fed cattle with no feed-lot grain feeding to fatten them up and it’s the fat in the meat that makes it tender.

I’ve found that PriceSmart has about the best ground beef in the area and they have very good cuts of pork and poultry at very competitive prices though not necessarily lower than at the supermarkets. So that’s where I went today. PriceSmart is on the Inter-American highway a couple of miles outside of David and a couple of hundred yards from the Chiriqui Mall. There’s a road connecting the two about a hundred yards in from the highway. The bus stops at the mall but not at PriceSmart so you have to get off at the mall and walk over to PriceSmart.

At the corner of the road that connects the two complexes there is a billboard promoting the Super Barú market at the mall. It’s a small store compared to the one in David. Maybe a third its size and really small compared to El Rey, Romero or Super 99. I couldn’t believe the slogan on the sign for the Chiriqui Mall Super Barú. It read…

“Esta Mejor Que Nunca!” For those of you who don’t understand Spanish, it means, “It’s Better Than Nothing!”

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think someone needs to rethink that slogan. It sure doesn’t do much to inspire confidence.

2 Comments

Filed under Expatriate Living, Living Abroad, Living in Panama, Retire in Panama, Retirement, Retirement Abroad

Meteor Fizzle in Boquerón

Next to man-made fireworks I like celestial ones, too. Early this morning (Jan 4) there was supposed to be a super meteor shower from 2 a.m. on. The Quadrantids shower was hyped up to have upwards of 80 to 100 “shooting stars” per hour. I set my alarm for 2:30 hoping to see some pyrotechnics to possibly rival what the locals put up on Christmas and New Years Eves.  Well, it was a washout here, if, indeed, anyone could have seen them in Panama to begin with. It was heavily overcast with clouds and only three or four stars were visible through tiny holes in the sky. Oh, well.

I’ve seen one before. Often when I tell people about my single-handed cruise on my beloved “Nancy Dawson” back in 1992 people ask, “Don’t you wish you’d had someone with you?” Well, the answer, for the most part is “Not always, but there were some events it would have been nice to share with someone.”

One of those times was when I was anchored out off the tiny island of Ranguana Caye at the edge of the reef in Belize. It was a lovely, isolated spot and everything a tropical islet is supposed to be. Small, at the edge of a coral barrier reef with a long line of breaking surf off to seaward, and covered with dozens of coconut palms. I was anchored in about 7 feet of crystal clear water on the leeward side of the island. A gentleman I’d met in the small town of Placencia owned the island and was building three tiny cabins that he hoped would earn him his fortune renting them out to dive tourists. He and a couple of helpers would come out during the week to work on the cabins but most of the week I spent there I was by myself.

One night I was lying out in my hammock that I’d strung up between the mast and the fore stay. I had finished off the last of a righteous bud I’d bought a week before from “Dancing Sam the Rasta Man” who had a small house beside the town’s famous “sidewalk.” I reclined there in my hammock miles and miles from the nearest artificial light. There was no moon, even. Just this wonderful canopy of a gajillion stars in the sky above. Marcia Ball, Doctor John and the Neville Brothers drifted up from the boom box in the cabin below.

And then the light show began, as if just for me. It was early August and the earth was moving through the Perseids belt. Shooting stars blazed all across the sky. For the next couple of hours not a minute went by without at least two or three and often dozens of meteor trails shooting across the heavens. And when I’d look over the side of the boat long luminescent trails ran in all directions as medium-sized fish chased little fish and big fish chased the medium-sized ones all intent on a fresh sushi night cap. THAT’S when I wish I’d had someone along to share the moment with.

3 Comments

Filed under adventure, boats, Boqueron Panama, cruising, Microcruising, Minimalist Cruising, sailboats, sailing, Small boat cruising, Small Sailboats, Uncategorized

One More Good Adventure 2011 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 35,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized