This is absolutely one of the most amazing things you will ever see in your life…
This is absolutely one of the most amazing things you will ever see in your life…
Jeffrey M. Deuel shares one of his “pesky psychotic episodes.
“I have smelled death and stared it in the face as the last glimmer of consciousness faded from the eyes of a man whose head I held in my hands. My greatest fear in life is not death, but waking up some morning ordinary and predictable.”
I’ve suggested this early on, but there are some great inspirational ideas for houseboats and shanty boats to be found in the tiny house movement. There are a few tiny houses that could probably be successfully mounted on a scow hull or a pontoon base, but generally the way builders have creatively made use of the space available is what I find great.
For the past couple of days I’ve been browsing through this site: http://tinyhouseswoon.com/
I found it through another fantastic blog: http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/
A word of advice…be careful when you click on either site because it’s easy to get lost for hours in them.
I was talking to my good friend, Stefan, the other night on Skype. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He’s not at all supportive about me building a boat to live on down here. “Why don’t you come back up here and we’ll find you a sailboat you can live on,” he said. “They’ve changed the rules about living aboard at special anchorages, and people are doing it all over.”
Well, the only problem is that land dwellers have been battling people living at anchor in Florida for as long as I can remember, and I first lived in Florida back in 1961! It will never end. Here’s a recent (July 30, 2014) article about local politicians trying to come up with creative ways to prohibit people from enjoying life on the water without paying through the nose to do so for the privilege. As if owning a boat isn’t paying through the nose enough already. http://www.waterwayguide.com/waterway-updates/news/GEN/4103/Get-ready-for-new-anchoring-regulations-in-Florida
One of my favorite lines in the story is from Senator Christopher Smith of Broward County who supports outlawing anyone from anchoring closer than 100 yards of a land residence, and in fact contends that even THAT is too close, said: “There are boats sitting outside of people’s houses…boats within 100 yards, looking into people’s houses, discharging waste, doing all kinds of things in that city’s water.”
Boaters have long been hammered that they are polluting the pristine waters of the United States. In Fort Lauderdale this has been decried for years, especially around what are known as the Las Olas Isles where there are a lot of liveaboards, albeit at docks in the area. For the past few decades the area’s water has always had a high coliform bacteria count and it has been blamed on boaters pooping in their boats and releasing it into the wild. But there is incontrovertible evidence that the coliform count is high because of deteriorated sewage infrastructure of the land dwellings sitting on man-made “islands” that were created from dredged material nearly a century ago (1917).
Decades ago it was mandated that boats with toilet facilities install “holding tanks” or other devices that would keep brown floaters from being discharged into the water. “Pump out facilities” were built so that boats could pull up, pay a fee, and have their noxious effluvia whisked away. I know that around Fort Lauderdale there is at least one floating “honey wagon” that cruises around providing a similar service dock-side. Boat owners who wish to dump their stuff over the side CAN if they sail five or so miles offshore and do it there.
One thing Florida is famous for is its beaches and tourists flock to them from all over the world. But several times every year people are prohibited from swimming in the ocean in southeast Florida because pipes that pump coastal city’s waste offshore rupture spilling millions of gallons of untreated and semi-treated human waste into the water.
What I have always found foolish is trying to blame a handful of boaters for what is, like in the Las Olas Isles area, a land-based problem, but since there are more land-dwellers than live-aboard boaters the boaters become an easy target.
My response to this is to link myself with blue whales and dolphins (porpoise). The blue whale is the largest creature on the face of the earth and it lives in the ocean. It is so big that a young child could swim through its arteries…
Now, it’s an incontrovertible fact that blue whales eat. And anything that eats, shits. And how huge do you think a single blue whale’s turd might be? I have no idea, either, but I can tell you this, almost without fear of contradiction, so far in my 72 years I have not pooped enough to equal a single blue whale’s turd! And there are thousands of blue whales around the world and each one of them is taking a daily dump in the ocean as are the tens of thousands of dolphins everywhere. And lets not forget about seals and walruses, either. They’re dumping their doo in the water constantly and then people get all bent out of shape because of my single, insignificant contribution? There’s something terribly wrong with that whole way of thinking as far as I’m concerned.
I don’t know what number it is. Over the years there have been so many crazy boat ideas I’ve lost track. There was the R.V. camper shell on pontoons back in the late 60s. I briefly toyed with converting an oil well jack-up service barge after seeing one out at Breton Island when I worked there. I don’t know how many scow hulls and pontoon hulls I bought plans for. I still have some of them in the back room here. As you know I recently went over to Bocas del Toro to look at possibly buying a Westerly Centaur fixer upper. It was too much fixer and not enough upper so that hit the trash bin of bad ideas. This one, whatever its number might be, just might work.
So what’s the new idea? Well, as my readers know I’ve thought about how much work is involved in producing a hull that would support my shanty boat idea. I thought about how difficult it would be to build a scow hull upside down and turn it over and toyed with the idea of building pontoons in modules. All pie in the sky stuff, that’s for sure.
I thought about trying to find an old hull and putting a house on it, hopefully better than this, but you get the idea:
So where to go from here?
I looked at the boats on craigslist, panama and what few were offered were WAY out of my range. For instance:
“Quest Four Winns de 26 pies, 10 pies de ancho
Excelente condiciones, vivero, 2 fish box
Baño, servicio, lavamanos, camarote,
GPS Garmin a colore con fish finder y ecosonda,
Radio de comunicaciones i-com, wash down,
Twin Yamaha 250 hp 520 horas
Tanque de 200 galones 2 bombas de achique
Trailer de aluminio.
And they’re only asking $55,000.
Then I was looking at a site called “encuentra 24.” Their listings for “Yates and Veleros” (Power yachts and sailboats) had things like this 38 foot Donzi, a steal at only $95,000:
Or this 35′ sportfish for a mere $300,000.
Things were looking bleak. Then, for some unknown reason I clicked on their section labeled “Botes, Jet Ski.” The LAST thing I ever wanted was a jet ski. I hate the damned things and I despise the people who have them. But in there I found this:
Ventas de lanchas nuevas (New Boat Sales) Pangas de pesca y turismo
Precio de Venta: $3,500.00.
For those of you who don’t know what a ‘Panga’ is, they’re ubiquitous working craft throughout Mexico, Central America and parts of Africa and Asia. They look like this:
There was a price list: lanchas de 18×5.5×3 -2,300.00, lancha de 20×5.5×3- 2,700.00, lancha de 23×5.5×3-3,100.00, lancha de mas capacidad 23×6.5×5- 3,500.00, lancha de 25×6.5×5- 3,800.00, lancha de 28×6.5×5- 4,500.00, lancha de 30×6.5×5-7,500.00.
I’d done some rough number crunching when I was into the idea of building the scow and figured that just for the scow hull itself it would cost me roughly $2,300. And then, of course, I’d have to build the damned thing myself! So paying an extra grand to get a good fiberglass hull built by someone else didn’t seem to be such a bad idea.
Hmmmmm. And the ad said that he was located in David, though I suspected Pedregal was more likely.
I hadn’t given too much though to the panga hulls for a long time. I remember on my first visit to Bocas del Toro back in ’09 standing in the lee of a restaurant and looking at a panga that was all kitted out against the rain and thinking, “I could put a cabin on that and be comfortable.” The problem is, as you can see above, the things are NARROW! The beam of my Nancy Dawson was 7’10” but on reflection I lived for nearly six years in a very tiny space. The overall length on deck was 26′ but the cockpit behind the cabin was a good eight and a half or nine feet, cutting the interior living space down to about 18 feet, and remember, forward of the beam it narrowed down considerably towards the stem. In an earlier blog entry I’d figured out that I’d been living in about 52 square feet of floor space! And yet I was comfortable, never the less.
My plans for a scow or pontoon boat called for about 24X8 with a cabin of about 16X8 or 128 square feet. More than double what I had on Nancy Dawson. If you look at sites like Tiny House Blog and similar you’ll see a lot of these minimalist shelters running around the 100 to 125 square foot range. And costing $30 grand and more, too!
But you have to realize that we’re not just talking about square footage, here. We’re talking about VOLUME when considering living space…length, width and HEIGHT! To keep windage down I would have built the house to give about 6’6″ headroom, so the volume would be 832 cubic feet.
Now, using the same calculations on a panga with a 16′ cabin and 6’6″ headroom you come up with 676 cubic feet. One hundred fifty cubic feet less. Sigh.
How big a handicap is that six and a half foot beam? Depends on how you look at it, I guess. Over in England, Scotland and Wales, they have what are known as “Narrowboats.” These were originally designed as cargo carriers on the extensive canal system that preceded the railroads. These boats have a maximum beam of just seven feet! That’s so they can make their way through the locks on the canals.
I did a lot of rummaging around online in recent days about these boats. The government estimates there are some 25,000 people who live on narrow boats in the country and then there are the weekenders and vacationers on top of that. While most of the boats a quite long, 40 t0 70 feet, there are quite a few smaller boats as well, many of them just 23 feet:
This is the interior of a Springer 23. Quite cozy:
Wednesday I called the panga builder’s phone number and talked to him, sort of. Talking to someone in a foreign language on the telephone is incredibly difficult. I hated cringed when I had to do it in France and it’s only slightly better here, but I did confirm my suspicion that Sr. Bernal’s operation was in Pedregal.
So, Thursday morning, inspired by what I’d seen on the internet regarding narrowboats I took the 60¢ bus ride to the bus terminal in David, walked three blocks and got on the bus to Pedregal which costs 35¢. I got off 25 minutes later when I saw what looked to be a boat construction site down a side street which would be near one of the rivers in the area. I asked the first person I met if they knew Sr. Bernal who built pangas. They said they didn’t know that name, but a couple of blocks away there was a house that had several pangas in the adjoining yard and perhaps that’s the place I wanted.
I found the place with no problem, and sure enough there were five pangas about the right size there. They were what one would expect of a small operation with so-so quality. They certainly weren’t faired out well. I mean they were rather on the “wavy” side and the gel coat was certainly not of standards we might expect in the States. Of course we’d be paying a lot more for a boat in the States too, so you have to take that into consideration. Pangas are built to two purposes, fishing and tourism. Those for the tourism trade are built with several rows of bench seating. The fishing pangas are an “open” plan. Both kinds have a small enclosed compartment in the bow and a couple of feet from the transom which is cut down a bit for the installation of an outboard there is another full-width partition thus creating an “engine area.” All of these boats were set up with seating.
Heavy salsa music blared out of the open door of the house next door but I finally got the attention of someone inside. They said this was not Sr. Bernal’s operation, but the location where the boats were built was only a couple of blocks away.
My original plan, when retiring to Panama, was to build a shanty boat and spend the rest of my days in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Well it didn’t happen as my regular readers know. But for four years the idea has lain semi-dormant in the back of my mind. But why Bocas, specifically. Well, in all of Panama there are really only three places that seem to be written about as cruising areas.
On the Pacific side there’s the Perlas Islands. These islands are generally stopped at by people either about to or have recently made a transit of the Canal.
On the Caribbean side there’s the San Blas Islands, known here in Panama as Guna Yala. It is a semi-autonomous region administered by the Kuna Indians and to visit them you have to get permission from the Chiefs and pay to visit and your stay is limited in length. It’s not a place where you’re welcome to stay forever.
But it’s Bocas that most cruisers gravitate to.
Miles and miles of sheltered water cruising with dozens of islands to tuck up to and anchor behind if you’re looking for some peace and quiet:
Or you can go into Bocas Town if you want to live it up a bit:
But making that ride back to the mainland after choosing not to buy the sailboat I realized I didn’t want to live in Bocas anyway. Too far away from too many things.
So, where does that leave me? Closer to home there’s Pedregal with it’s marina, Customs and Immigration offices and other Maritime offices.
Pedregal is a 35¢ bus ride from downtown David. It’s not a very pretty place, and there is quite a bit of crime here, mostly drug related but it’s certainly not as tranquil as Boquerón. Back in 2009 (has it been that long ago?) when I was doing my exploratory visits to the country I went down to the marina to look around, and dismissed the place out of hand. (Please excuse the misspelling of the town’s name) http://onemoregoodadventure.com/2009/05/14/pedrigal-off-the-list/
So with Bocas off the list I went back to Google Earth and took another peek at Pedregal and saw this:
Miles and miles of sheltered water in the delta and then to the east comes Boca Chica and Boca Brava.
And there are lots of boats here which was a surprise to me…
Lots of big game fishing goes on offshore from Boca Chica with world records being pulled out of the water. And there are plenty of islands to relax around.
If anything does come of the boating bug this is probably where I’ll end up. Close to David.
There’s no doubt about it, Panama is filled with a wonderful variety of fruits and vegetables. My friend Omar, in Panama City, or simply Panamá as it’s called here, has been running a series of posts on his blog about a roadside stand near his house where he and his wife buy a lot of their produce: http://epiac1216.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/a-humble-farmers-stand-in-tumba-muerto/
I urge you to go see the wonderful series about this man’s stand and then browse around in Omar’s blog. Remember, when you’re reading it, that Omar is Panamanian born and English is his second language and one he is passionate about.
Anyway, I’ve written about how people in my neighborhood collect the goodies around our barrio: http://onemoregoodadventure.com/2014/06/10/not-free-but-cheap-food/
Now, these stands are all over the place. They’re along the Inter American Hwy, they’re on the city streets of downtown David, and in several kiosks around the bus terminal. I went to the supermarket El Rey, yesterday, and one of the things I wanted was some tomatoes. The ones there were horrible and I didn’t buy any. Today, at the bus station I bought a bag of pibá still hot from being cooked, and a bag of wonderfully ripe plum tomatoes. They were a buck a bag.
A word about the fan, which I also bought today. Most, but not all, of the buses running from Boquerón into the city are air conditioned. And it gets hot in David, believe me. More so than here where I live, and definitely scorching compared to places like Boquete and Potrerillos Arriba up in the mountains. And even the air conditioned buses often don’t keep the a/c on when they’re waiting for passengers in the terminal. The non a/c buses (actually they have it but the drivers don’t use it to save on fuel costs) are okay while on the move because the windows are opened and you get the breeze. But sitting in the terminal without a/c you need some way to create your own breeze. Many people use a newspaper or something else.
The other day I saw a girl waiting for the bus to come in and she was using a fan. I asked where she’d bought it and she told me about an Indian (India indian) shop not too far from the terminal. I had to go pay my internet bill this morning so I stopped by the Indian shop and bought 3 fans. This one ($1.99) I’ll keep in my knapsack for when it’s needed.