Nutty Idea # ???

Lately my idea of building a shanty “boat” has shifted to building a shanty “raft.” As a Canadian member of my Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/427634977405622/ calls them, “Float Shacks.”  One of the main reasons for this recent focus is the building process would be a lot easier. I have also been thinking about how to keep the costs down and one way would be by using recyclable materials.

One of the very few things that disappoint me about Panama, and there are really only two, is that so many people treat this beautiful country as a trash can. Sometimes you can almost imagine dad telling the family, “Okay, everybody in the car. We’re going to drive around for a while and throw shit out the windows.” (The other thing I don’t like is the loud music all over the place. It doesn’t have to be GOOD music but it does have to be LOUD!) I got into it with a woman one time on the bus. When she finished drinking her soda she opened the window and tossed the empty out onto the Interamerican Highway. I admonished her in my horrible Spanish and a couple of nearby Panamanian riders backed me up. One of the most egregious things I’ve seen, and this is the absolute truth, one trash day the garbage truck was stopped outside my gate. One of the workers was drinking from a two liter bottle of water. When he polished it off, what do you think he did? Did he throw the empty into the truck? Of course not, the idiot threw it into the grass. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Anyway, I’m thinking about the possibility of using plastic bottles as flotation. I like the idea of 55-gal plastic drums, and I need to investigate that further. The only place I asked for pricing wanted $35/each for used barrels. In one plan good plan I saw online I’d need 14 of them which is $490! But I see a hardware company distribution yard when I take the bus into David (Dah VEED) and they always seem to have a lot of those drums. The reason it might not be able to get them cheaply here unlike in the States is that water service is often sporadic here and outages are a way of life, so many, many houses have these barrels as a reserve water supply.

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And the framing required to make something like this is made out of 2X6 and 2X10 lumber and lag bolts and it’s HEAVY. Here’s an example of what I mean…

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But as far as using bottles I saw this on my last trip over to Bocas del Toro in July… It wasn’t very big, but it’s all a matter of just working things out, right?

bocas bottles 2

 

There are LOTS of discarded bottles lying around down here. One thought that crossed my mind would be to approach the schools in the area and tell the kids that I’d pay them, say, 5 cents for each two liter bottle that was clean, no label and a cap. That doesn’t seem like much to gringos like us (I use the word “gringo” all the time and I use it to mean anyone here whose native language isn‘t Spanish.), but you have to realize what it is to the local people, especially the indigenous kids who live around here. The owner of the house I rent wants to have it painted and one guy that came to bid the job said he works for $15 A DAY!!! So picking up 300 bottles other people have thrown away would be a fortune to a bunch of young indian kids. But down here it’s what’s called “Summer” and school doesn’t start until March 2nd, so I need to wait a few weeks before I can make my pitch.

I could also get some free radio publicity. A nearby neighbor, and friend, is a reporter for one of the local radio stations. We’ve often talked about how awful the mind set of people is who throw trash around. I’d be willing to bet if I approached him with my idea of using discarded bottles I’d be able to get some free air-time. After all, when the town I live in, Boqueron, had their feast day celebration for their patron saint last October, they put out a small magazine and half of one page was devoted to the only gringo that lives in their pueblo…ME!

But this morning, over my morning cup of locally-grown coffee, I stumbled across THIS and I think this could be the deal. Milk crates filled with 2-liter bottles. As you can see in the video it’s sagging where the guy is sitting but that’s because the thing is held together with plastic wire ties. Certainly not designed for strength and durability. A couple of ways of overcoming that that instantly pop to mind would be to somehow through-bolt the crates together, or build a simple 2X4 frame around the top and bottom edges to keep it rigid. Another possibility might be to screw 1/4″ plywood with fiberglass sheathing to the outside, or perhaps just paint it. I’m not building a yacht here, and I’m nearly 73 years old with COPD and three stents in my arteries. How many years do I have to figure on being on the thing, anyway? There are 9 bottles per crate, so I need to go measure a crate and see how many I’ll need to put together something around 10’X24′ . I might have to double up on the crates to get enough clearance for the deck above water.

Where would I get the crates? You won’t find those along the side of the road. Not a problem. Chiriqui province is the bread basket of Panama, and on the short trip over to Bugaba, to the west of Boqueron, there are THREE dairies: Estrella, Nevada and La Chiricana. I’ll have to stop in and see if I can buy a bunch from them. I bet if I explain what I plan to do they’ll go along with it.

Anyway, this is the thing that’s got my willie tingling this morning.

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Meds in Panama

One of the things that suck about getting older is the medications you have to take. I take a mess of them which is one of the reasons I’m a strong advocate of going out and accomplishing your dreams while you’re still young and healthy.

I went to the pharmacy this week, and this is what it cost here in Panama. I don’t know what it would be in the States, but I have a feeling I’d have to take out a loan to finance the order.

To keep my blood pressure in check, and it’s absolutely perfect these days, I take two meds. One is Zestril (10mg). This is also known as Lisonopril. One caja (box) contains a two-month supply. The list price here in Panama is $58.80, so that’s $24.40/month. Then I also take Cardiotal (Atenolol) 100mg. It’s cheap with a list price of $16.80 or $8.40/month. And since I carry three stents in my arteries I take Clopidogrel which is generic Plavix which sets me back $22.25/month.

Actually none of the meds are really a two month supply. The Zestril has 56 tablets to a box and the Cardiotal has 48. The Clopidogrel comes in 24 pills to a box. It’s all sort of like how companies package 10 hot dogs in a package and the bread people sell you 8 rolls.

Now, since I have COPD I take a couple of other meds for which, unfortunately, I can find no generic equivalent and they’re expensive. Both of them are powders that are inhaled with little plastic doo dads. One is Spiriva and it sets me back $59.69 for 20 tiny little capsules. The other is called Onbrize and it costs $83.70 for 30 caps which is the closest to a month’s supply I get.

So, adding it all together, though I didn’t buy the Clopidogrel this last visit because I still had a month supply on the shelf, the bill came to $218.99! BUT WAIT!!! If you’re a “Jubilado” (old fart, I like to say) you receive a 20% discount on meds so they lopped of $43.80 and I ended up paying $175.19. That happens to be how much I pay to rent my fully-furnished, air-conditioned house.

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Dream Material

I have said before that the “Tiny House” movement has some great ideas that could easily be adapted to shanty boats. Today while looking for something else, I stumbled on this site which is certainly grist for the mill and should keep some of you dreamers from falling asleep.

The site is: http://cabinporn.com Go to the archive to find several years worth of thumbnails that are definitely inspirational. Some have already made it to the water.

How about this wonderful floating raft cabin built by Stephen Burgess on his family pond in Freshwater, California.  Contributed by Rebekah Burgess Abramovic.

Raft Cabin built by Stephen Burgess on his family pond in Freshwater, California.  Contributed by Rebekah Burgess Abramovic.

 

Tell me this one isn’t cool as all get out…

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I wouldn’t be surprised to find this way up in the Atchafalaya Basin somewhere…

 

Atchafalaya

Rustic river shack in Lychen, Germany.  Contributed by Jessica Prescott.

rustic german shack

Floating cabin on the Albion River, California.

More floating cabins on the Albion River, California.#1

 

Another floating cabin on the Albion River, California.

More floating cabins on the Albion River, California.#2

Enjoy your dreams…make them come true, though.

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What Day Is It Today?

good morning

What’s it’s going to be like for Mardi Gras today? Degrees in Fahrenheit, current conditions at 7:30 Eastern Time and expected highs.

New Orleans – 36 (feels like 27) High 51
Rio de Janeiro – 84 (feels like 92) High 89
Las Tablas, Panama – 79 (feels like 83) High 90
Bocas del Toro, Panama – 73 (feels like 73) High 89
Dolega, Panama – 73 (feels like 73) High 90
Boquerón (my house) – 73 (feels like 73) High 89

The reason I listed Las Tablas is because it’s where the biggest, most elaborate Carnival celebrations in Panama are held. They rival New Orleans and Rio.

Dolega is there because it’s the closest town that goes whacko over the Carnival Weekend. It would be a two-bus ride to get there and take a bit over an hour, but it’s just too nutso.

In Las Tablas – 

Las Tablas in the day time – 

In nearby Dolega. The spraying of water here and at many of the Panamanian Carnival celebrations is because it’s HOT under the broiling sun when you’re just 8 degrees north of the equator…

It’s a bit different over in Bocas del Toro where the Antillian culture is stronger than the Latin. 

There’s a line in this song that says “throw the baby out the window” but it doesn’t mean a REAL baby.

There is a Mardi Gras tradition of having King Cake Parties during Mardi Gras Season (most people don’t realize how long that actually is. It begins on Epiphany, the 12th night after Christmas and continues until today, Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.) Hidden in the King Cake is a tiny plastic baby doll, and traditionally the person who gets the baby is supposed to throw the next party. So, some people who get the baby and don’t want to throw a party have been known to surreptitiously palm the baby out of their mouths and throw it out a window. Some, more desperate have been known to actually SWALLOW it.

Everyone loves the Mardi Gras Indians in New Orleans.

But for most of you suckers it’s just another TUESDAY!!!

 

 

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Exercise

I have to admit that until very recently I’ve avoided exercise as much as possible. I’ve lived for nearly three-quarters of a century firmly ascribing to  the belief that one should never run when they can amble, they shouldn’t amble when they can ride. A person should never stand when they can sit and they shouldn’t sit when they can lie down, preferably in the shade of a tree somewhere with a good book.

But a few months ago I was diagnosed with COPD. After some basic tests it was determined that my lungs are only operating at 34% of normal. That’s really not a big surprise considering that for more than half a century I infused my lungs with lots and lots of licit and illicit substances. I stopped smoking a bit over a year ago.

For a long time I’ve known I had emphysema. One doesn’t have to go to med school to figure that out when simple chores leave you gasping for breath. I have pollen allergies and a few months ago something around here in Boquerón was flowering and really giving me a hard time. So I went to the pulmonary doctor at Hospital Chiriquí. One of the things he insisted that I do was to get in shape. “Well,” I thought, I AM in shape. Round is a shape, isn’t it?”

One of the things he insisted that I do was to walk at least a half hour a day. Well, I tried it, but it didn’t work out well. My hips are pretty arthritic. The walk from my house to the end of the street to get the bus is only 211 yards. That’s two football fields and an end zone laid end to end. By the time I get to the caseta I’m in serious need of some heavy-duty pain killers. No kidding. But while a few months ago I was also winded to the point that I needed five minutes or so to return to normal now, with the prescriptions I take, I don’t feel like that anymore.

But I did take the doctor’s orders to heart. I went out and bought a bike because the motion of riding a bike is different than how you use your legs when walking.

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Regular readers may remember that this is the same place I took the picture of the motorcycle a few years ago.

I have to admit that I don’t ride every day. I should, but it’s really a pain in the ass and I go in to David a couple of times a week, and a trip into the city takes up three or four hours at least. Not only that, in order to go for a ride I have to “suit up.” Normally when I get up in the morning a put on a pair of shorts and walk around in flip flops. Period! That’s it! To go riding I have to put on socks, shoes, pants and a shirt.

Until a few days ago I’d been riding from my house up to the Town Hall (El Palacio Municipal).

House to town hall marked

It’s three quarters of a mile and ALL uphill. The difference in the altitude between the house and El Palacio is 77 feet. That’s the equivalent of nearly an eight-story building. I’d have to stop four or five times to catch my breath, but at least my hips didn’t hurt though my thighs felt the burn. I did, though, enjoy the glide back to the house.

Saturday I discovered something a bit easier with more level ground. And one of the bonuses is that there’s no traffic to contend with.

Marked Circle

Going from the house to the main road is slightly uphill for the first third of the street. Then, hanging a left it’s a nice coast down to where I make a right hand turn. From there to the next turn is all slightly uphill as is the short leg. Half of the long leg back to the main road is uphill. Each lap is a quarter of a mile. I can do two laps before I have to stop to catch my breath. Four laps and back to the house is a mile and a quarter with little breathers in there while gliding. Today I did just under two miles before going home. It’s the dry season which means it’s really hot when you’re in direct sunshine. When I get so I can do five or six laps without having to stop for a breather, I’ll tackle the ride up to El Palacio again.

 

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Here’s what I’ve been working on…

When people start a blog they go at it with great vigor, posting daily. Usually they taper off after a while and then they post every now and then. I’m a good, or perhaps poor, example of that kind of blogger. But that doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I am, it’s just not for the blog.

So, what is it I’ve been doing lately? I’ve been re-writing a century-old tale of the sea written by a master, Harry Collingwood. Harry Collingwood is the pen name of William Joseph Cosens Lancaster (1851-1922), the son of a Royal Navy captain and educated at the Naval College, Greenwich. He was at sea from the age of 15 but had to abandon his Royal Navy career because of severe myopia. Between 1886 and 1913, whilst working as a marine engineer specializing in harbor design, he wrote 23 nautically based novels as “Harry Collingwood” which honoured his hero Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, Nelson’s second in command at Trafalgar. (Source: Historical Naval Fiction).

Collingwoods STORIES are excellent, but the style is old and turgid compared to today’s standards. I think it’s a shame that such good stories are left to wither and die of old age. I find stories like “The Log of a Privateersman” at Project Gutenberg. The copyright has long since expired, and this story is over 100 years old. There are a lot of people who download Public Domain books, slap a preface on them while leaving the old text intact, and then offer them for sale online for as much as they possibly can.

What I do is try and make the book read as though it was written in the 21st century, not the 19th. There is hardly a paragraph that I’ve left intact. And it’s not a fast, slash and burn edit, either. This book, which I’m now going through for the final edit, is well over 400 pages long. Collingwood, while writing vividly about action at sea, rarely gets into descriptions of the characters in his books. Almost never. I try to overcome that deficiency.

What follows are the first couple of paragraphs from the book…Collingwood’s original text and my rewrite.

CHAPTER ONE.

THE CAPTURE OF THE WEYMOUTH–AND WHAT IT LED TO.

The French probably never did a more audacious thing than when, on the

night of October 26th, 1804, a party of forty odd of them left the

lugger _Belle Marie_ hove-to in Weymouth Roads and pulled, with muffled

oars, in three boats, into the harbour; from whence they succeeded in

carrying out to sea the newly-arrived West Indian trader _Weymouth_,

loaded with a full cargo of rum, sugar, and tobacco.  The expedition was

admirably planned, the night chosen being that upon which the new moon

occurred; it was a dismal, rainy, and exceptionally dark night, with a

strong breeze blowing from the south-west; the hour was about two

o’clock a.m.; there was an ebb tide running; and the ship–which had

only arrived late in the afternoon of the previous day–was the outside

vessel in a tier of three; the Frenchman had, therefore, nothing

whatever to do but to cut the craft adrift and allow her to glide,

silent as a ghost, down the harbour with bare poles, under the combined

influence of the strong wind and the ebb tide.  There was not a soul

stirring about the quays at that hour; nobody, therefore, saw the ship

go out; and the two custom-house officers and the watchman–the only

Englishmen aboard her–were fast asleep, and were secured before they

had time or opportunity to raise an alarm.  So neatly, indeed, was the

trick done that the first intimation poor old Peter White–the owner of

the ship and cargo–had of his loss was when, at the first streak of

dawn, he slipped out of bed and went to the window to gloat over the

sight of the safely-arrived ship, moored immediately opposite his house

but on the other side of the harbour, where she had been berthed upon

her arrival on the previous afternoon.  The poor old gentleman could

scarcely credit his eyes when those organs informed him that the berth,

occupied but a few hours previously, was now vacant.  He looked, and

looked, and looked again; and finally he caught sight of the ropes by

which the _Weymouth_ had been moored, dangling in the water from the

bows and quarters of the ships to which she had been made fast.  Then an

inkling of the truth burst upon him, and, hastily donning his clothes,

he rushed downstairs, let himself out of the house, and sped like a

madman down the High Street, across Hope Square, and so on to the Nothe,

in the forlorn hope that the ship, which, with her cargo, represented

the bulk of the savings of a lifetime, might still be in sight.  And to

his inexpressible joy she was; not only so, she was scarcely two miles

off the port, under sail, and heading for the harbour in company with a

British sloop-of-war.  She had been recaptured, and ere the news of her

audacious seizure had reached the ears of more than a few of the

townspeople she was back again in her former berth, and safely moored by

chains to the quay.

It was clear to me, and to the rest of the _Weymouth’s_ crew, when we

mustered that same morning to be paid off, that the incident had

inflicted a terribly severe shock upon Mr White’s nerves.  The poor old

boy looked a good ten years older than when he had boarded us in the

roads on the previous afternoon and had shaken hands with Captain Winter

as he welcomed him home and congratulated him upon having successfully

eluded the enemy’s cruisers and privateers; but there was a fierce

glitter in his eyes and a firm, determined look about his mouth which I,

for one, took as an indication that the fright, severe as it undoubtedly

was, had not quelled the old man’s courage.

It was a miserably rainy night in late October, 1804, when the French lugger Belle Mere hove-to in Weymouth Roads. Silently, three boats were lowered over the side and about forty men, manning muffled oars, snuck into the harbor and boarded the West Indian trader Weymouth loaded with a full cargo of rum, sugar and tobacco that had just arrived the previous afternoon.

The Weymouth was the outside vessel in a tier of three at the dock waiting to be unloaded, so the boarders had nothing more to do when they boarded her then cut her adrift and allow her to glide quietly down the harbor with bare poles influenced by the strong wind and ebb tide.

Because the weather was so foul there wasn’t a soul stirring on the quays at that hour so no one saw the ship leaving. The two customs-house officers and the watchman, the only Englishmen aboard, were fast asleep when the boarding party swarmed over the side of the ship and they were trussed up and gagged before they had a chance to raise an alarm.

The whole operation had been pulled off so smoothly that poor, portly Peter White, the ship’s owner, didn’t know his ship was missing when he got out of bed at the first hint of dawn. He slipped his feet into a pair of slippers and shuffled to his bedroom window to gloat over the sight of his new ship, moored opposite his house on the other side of the harbor. He stared out the window; his mouth opening and closing like a fish’s while his brain tried to process the fact that his pretty ship was missing. He looked, looked again and it finally registered that the ropes that had tethered the Weymouth to the bows and quarters of the ship she’d been tied to the night before were dangling limply into the gray water of Weymouth harbor.

When he finally accepted that his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him he struggled to get into his clothes, hopping first on one foot and then the other as he battled to pull his pants over his heavy, stubby legs and he didn’t bother wasting time trying to don any hose. Huffing and puffing he had little success buttoning his great coat over his massive stomach as he rumbled down High Street, and across Hope Square, scattering fishwives and draymen in his path while leaving a string of oaths distinctly heard above the sound of horse’s hooves and iron-bound wheels rumbling over the cobble stones. Little flecks of white spittle gathered at the corners of his tiny, oddly-shaped mouth as he prayed aloud that the ship, along with her cargo, which represented the bulk of his lifetime savings might, against all hope, still be where she had been when he’d gone to bed the night before. She wasn’t.

Miraculously, though, about two miles off shore, under sail, and headed for the harbor in the company of a British sloop-of-war, was the Weymouth! An hour later she was back in her former berth and made fast to the quay with chains this time, rather than rope.

I had been about 3/4 of the way through this when my old Hewlitt-Packard notebook computer died. I hadn’t been good about backing my work up and lost about 2/3rds of what I’d done. Now I’ve finished the first go-round, backing up to an external drive at the end of each chapter. I’ll run through it once more, adding here, snipping there, and probably around the first of April I’ll put it up for sale.

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