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Rethinking Cruising Grounds

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.

Las Perlaslas-perlas-mapYou might recognize Contadora where the Shah of Iran spent time after being deposed.

Pearl-island-contadora-arial

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.

guna yalaguna-yala-explorer-privateThe Kuna are the second smallest group of people in the world after the pygmies in Africa, and the women’s distinctive “molas” make them iconic figures of Panama.

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But it’s Bocas that most cruisers gravitate to.

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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:

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Or you can go into Bocas Town if you want to live it up a bit:

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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

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:

pedregal delta

Miles and miles of sheltered water in the delta and then to the east comes Boca Chica and Boca Brava.

boca chica

And there are lots of boats here which was a surprise to me…

boca chica boats

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.

Isla Palenque-Orgullo en Boca Chica-Panama-Real Estate

If anything does come of the boating bug this is probably where I’ll end up. Close to David.

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As Close To Free As It Gets

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.

Today's bargains

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.

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Too Much Work

I recently learned that a friend of a friend had a Westerly Centaur sailboat over in Bocas del Toro for sale for a very low price. The boat had been salvaged after breaking adrift and winding up in a group of mangroves. The friend’s friend’s daughter had been working on restoring it but had pretty much lost interest in the project so it was possible that the boat might be available.

I did some research on the boat and found that it was very popular and had an excellent reputation. Several had made trans-Atlantic crossings and at least one had done a circumnavigation. I was, of course, interested, and had some email correspondence with Scott about the boat. He wrote: “Be aware it’s a fixer-upper. At one point (before my time with it) the hull was sanded out to be painted, but it never was painted leaving the hull in a camouflage mix of gel-coat, old paint and primers, but physically in pretty good condition,,,, as is the deck. The cockpit seats are shot but wouldn’t require much to replace. It was rigged for an outboard engine.

“There’s only one and a half real problems with the boat… The “one” is the rudder. It was originally mounted in an unbalanced configuration at the back of the “third” keel. It got busted off when the boat went ashore in the mangroves,,, I do have the rudder though. It could be remounted,,, but personally I was thinking of a new rudder arrangement, further aft in a balanced rudder configuration.”
Well, Bocas is a wonderfully beautiful area of Panama, and my friend, the late, great (and I MEAN that) Frank Hilson had said, “I can see you in Bocas.” So I thought I’d go have a look. It would be nice to have a boat again. A “home” and living “on the hook” (at anchor) is as cheap as it gets. And a “fixer upper” at a reasonable price can’t be too bad, can it? I mean, I spent many years of my life repairing and restoring boats, so there’s nothing that would be beyond my capabilities to fix. Besides, it would be nice to get away for a couple of day’s vacation.
I thought there were a couple of good omens as I started off for Bocas Wednesday morning. The bus for David was just getting to the bus stop at the same time I arrived so there was no wait. Then, at the terminal the bus for Bocas was just backing out of its slot when I showed up. It stopped and let me on. I didn’t even have time to buy a bottle of water at one of the kioskos.
In Almirante I bought my ticket for the water taxi that is the only way to get out to Isla Colón where Bocas town is situated. The boat was loading and I was off. My connections the whole way were spot on time.
The next day I bumped into Scott while I was on my way to his wife’s restaurant. We chatted as we walked along, actually I walked, he was on a bike which is the main method of transportation on the island. Scott and Francesca live on Careñero which is an island a couple of hundred yards away from Isla Colón. We were over there in a couple of minutes aboard their panga.
I climbed up onto the dock which is the back porch of their house and looked down and saw the boat. I said, “Scott, I appreciate your time and all, but I can tell you, instantly, that this will just be more work than I want to get involved in.” The boat being offered at $2,500 could easily end up costing four times as much when it was all said and done.
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But that’s okay. And riding back to the mainland I was wondering if I really DID want to live over there, after all. Riding back and forth for half an hour on the water taxi to get to a bus, and then a nearly four hour ride to get over the Continental Divide to David. Did I REALLY want to be in that situation? Not a definite NO, but certainly not an enthusiastic YES, either.
It wasn’t a complete waste. I had a nice mini-vacation and got quite a few pictures including this great sculpture of a man fishing, made out of door hinges:
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Soccer Mom, Bocas del Toro Style

soccer mom

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August 9, 2014 · 8:02 am

Forced To Do It

I bought a “smart phone” yesterday. Ugh!

One of the indispensable pieces of equipment in my life has been my iPod. I use it to listen to books I’ve downloaded from Audible.com. I listen at the bus stop and I listen when I’m riding on the bus, too.

A year or so back my original iPod developed problems and I could no longer download anything to it so I went out and bought an iPod Nano. Earlier this week it, too, developed a problem. Something to do with the battery. Couldn’t reset the thing, either. The only way I could get it to work was when it was plugged into power. Letting it sit plugged in wouldn’t give it a charge.

On line it said I could get it fixed at an Apple Store. There’s one in Panama City, but that would require sitting on a bus for 14 hours (round trip) and a couple of night’s hotel stay to get it fixed, however much THAT might cost. It’s stuff like this that have made us a disposable society. It’s cheaper in the long run to just buy new.

So why not just buy a new iPod and save some money? Well, the one thing is the built-in camera. It’s not nearly as good as my regular camera, but that’s heavy, bulky, and generally stays at home unless I really want it. It’s also hard to get good candid photos with it because its size attracts attention, and there’s a photo essay I’ve been trying to get the pics for. I’ll give you a preview…

The Nöbe women wear a distinctive dress but I’ve noticed that their footwear is extremely varied: from rubber boots and flip flops to high heals and everything in between. I’ve captured a few samples but it will be much easier with a smart phone camera because it will simply look as though I’m texting, which is the national pass time of much of Panama.

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I’ll be making another 4-hour passage over to Bocas del Toro in the next couple of weeks and I wouldn’t be able to do it without listening to my books. Right now I’m into Fortune Cookie by Bryce Courteney and narrated by the wonderful Humphrey Bower.

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A Rerun Of A Post, July 25, 2012

Today is the 10th Annual Gary Philbrick Memorial Scholarship Tournament. Back in 2012 I wrote this and I don’t know how I could improve on it…

My Heart Is On Cape Cod Today…

Today is the 8th Annual Gary Philbrick Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament being held at the Olde Barnstable Fairgrounds Golf Course in Marston Mills on Cape Cod. It’s going to be a good day for a golf tournament. The forecast is for a sunny but windy day with a high of around 77°F.

Gary Philbrick was the pro at the course from the day it opened until his life was cut short at the age of 55 after losing his battle with cancer in 2005. He was also my brother and I miss him.

Gary was the middle brother of a brood of seven boys. He was one of those rare people for whom it would be difficult to find someone who would have anything bad to say about him. He was really a “people person.”

Gary loved sports from an early age and he was good at them. He was an All-Star Little League catcher and excelled at tennis in high school but his real love was golf.

He went to a small college in Ohio for part of a semester when he got out of high school. As he told it, he and some friends went out one night and really tied one on. He said, “it was the weirdest thing. I blacked out, and when I woke up I was in a rubber room and dad was looking at me through a tiny window. I thought it was some kind of a dream but it was all too real. I’d been expelled and on the whole ride from Ohio to Orleans dad didn’t say a single word. It was a very long ride. For the next couple of weeks every time I’d come down for breakfast, mom would burst into tears. After a couple of weeks they sat me down at the kitchen table and said, ‘well, now that you’ve ruined your life and embarrassed us so we can never face our friends again, what to you intend on doing?’”

“I’m going to play golf,” I said.

“‘Don’t get smart with us, young man,’ they said. ‘We’re not talking about what you want to do today, we’re talking about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.’

“Play golf,” was his answer and that’s what he did.

He apprenticed at a country club in Connecticut in the summers and came down to Florida in the winters in the late ’60s to attend the PGA school. He and I also caddied together in several of the LPGA tournaments back then. Let me tell you, those ladies bags are heavy.

When he received his PGA club pro membership he returned to the Cape and was the pro at the Dunphy’s Resort Hotel and golf course in Hyannis where he reigned for a decade or so before taking over the Cranberry Valley course in Yarmouth for several years. He then became the first pro at the Olde Barnstable Fairgrounds course.

He was the Vice President of the New England Professional Golfers Association from 1992-96, President of the Cape Cod Chapter of the N.E.P.G.A. in 1984, ’85 and ’87. He was the director of the Doreen Grace Fund Golf Tournament for the Foundation of Brain Injury Research 1985-94. and on the Board of the Cape Cod Golf Association. He received several awards including Golf Professional of the Year in 1993 and 1996 and the National Golf Founders Achievement Award in 1993, ’94 and ’95. In 2002 he was awarded the prestigious Bill Strausbaugh Club Relations Award by the New England Section, PGA, “For Untiring and Distinguished Service to Golf Facilties and to Fellow PGA Members in the Field of Employment and Club Relations.”

He met, and married a young nurse who worked at the Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Dianne Ruest.

They had three great kids, Ian, Lindsay and Tracy. I’d say they were great kids even if they weren’t my nieces and nephew. They inherited all the best traits of their parents.

Gary was a great father. I don’t know what his parenting techniques were, but I vividly remember an incident from a family reunion years ago. We were at the dinner table. Gary was sitting at the head of the table. I was to his left and Tracy, the youngest, then about five years old, was on his right. Tracy got a little fussy about something. I don’t think anyone else noticed it. I don’t remember what it was she did or said but I do remember that Gary quietly said, simply, “Remember what we talked about.” And that ended it.

He and Dianne loved to dance. They took ballroom classes and one room of their house was cleared of furniture so they could spend evenings dancing together.

If there was any doubt how popular Gary was it was dispelled at his wake. On a bitterly cold February evening hundreds, literally hundreds, of people stood shivering in a line outside the funeral home before they could get inside to pay their respects. And golfers still come to his resting place and leave signed golf balls in a hat beside his marker.

The 2005 Cape Cod Open was dedicated to his memory and each year there’s fierce competition at the Open to win the coveted Gary Philbrick Trophy for low-scoring professional golfer.

The Gary Philbrick Memorial Scholarship was established to assist college students who wish to have a career on the links.

http://www.capecodpga.com/GaryPhilbrick.php#recipients

Gary Philbrick was my brother. I was always proud of him and I miss him very much, especially today.

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Just Passin’ Through

It’s been a long time since I posted a music video. This evening I was watching Orange Is The New Black on Netflix when they featured a song by one of my favorite singers…

 

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Making It Happen

One of the neatest things about having a blog is finding out that people actually read the damned thing and a quite a few of them take the time to write a comment. Recently Michael Bowman commented on my Budget Houseboating blog that he was building a shanty boat for use on the St. John’s River in northern Florida.

Michael has modified Phil Thiel’s “Escargot,” a design I always admired myself.

Escargot

We started exchanging emails and he wrote:

Talisa (Creek Indian word for “Beautiful Waters”) was designed with Plil Thiel’s ‘Escargot’ as the idea. I had to have some standing headroom somewhere and more than 2′ width to sleep. I added a foot to the beam and 18″ to the main cabin’s headroom.  The rest has just been sweat and $$. It has been a WONDERFUL experience and I’m heading towards a charter “business”.

He also included these photos from his idea to the completed boat…

Idea:

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Construction:

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Interior:

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Just a couple of days ago Talisa was “splashed” in the St. John’s and Michael reports that she handles “beautifully.”

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For those of you who are unfamiliar with the St. John’s, at 310 miles, it is the longest river in the State of Florida. Most of it is scenic and much of it is in its natural state. When my mom died, my dad took their two mutts, got on his 26′ Stamas in Venice, FL and disappeared. Six months later we found out he’d voyaged across the state and up into the St. John’s where he mourned the loss of his wife, his companion and his partner.

You can charter Michael’s boat, starting in October, and find out why the St. John’s had the ability to sooth my father’s soul and may just give you some great memories for your life. Contact him at: rajahcat1@gmail.com.

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It’s Been Done

In a recent post (http://onemoregoodadventure.com/2014/06/26/what-this-spot-for-future-developments/) I was ruminating about the possibility of building a scow-hulled shanty boat in modules, transporting them across the Isthmus and assembling them into a single entity rather than trying to build it all in one huge piece. I mean, they build aircraft carriers and huge ocean liners in pieces and put those together, why not something like a home-built shanty?

Well, I was surprised when this turned up in the comments section:

That turning over issue ….we had that too , and I built in ” modules ” too , then glued and bolted the whole mess together .You can see photos here :

https://www.flickr.com/photos/105336095@N04/sets/72157643738718083/

regards , Trish and Harry in OZ

Unfortunately flickr won’t let me save a photo so I can post it here as a teaser, but I’ll tell you straight out, if the idea of having a houseboat/shanty boat intrigues you you REALLY need to click on the flickr link. There are a ton of pics and these people are going to have a great place to relax. This is a pic they sent me of where they intend to use the boat.

oz river

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George (Putting the W into AWOL) Bush Was An IDIOT…

Here’s proof…

Yes, I am unaplogetically liberal, and if you don’t like it, bite me…And don’t forget, you can write comments telling me I’m wrong, but it’s MY BLOG and they’ll never see the light of day. The First Amendment doesn’t apply here. It only means the government won’t put you in jail for what you say. It DOESN’T absolve you of the fate of me telling you you’re a twatwaffle for your beliefs.

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