Monthly Archives: March 2009

WaaaHoooooo Sailing

You think sailing is slow? Check this out…

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Nancy Dawson

The boat that is pictured in my first post was MY boat…Nancy Dawson, a Kaiser26, hull #24 of only 26 built.

I had always dreamed of owning a sailboat and making a single-handed journey of some sort. I never wanted to circle the globe. I don’t know why, but it just wasn’t one of the things I wanted to do in my life. I had more modest goals. One of them was to circumnavigate the eastern half of the U.S. and I accomplished that in 1974 and ’75.

In ’74 I got my first captain’s job on a Hatteras tri cabin berthed at Burnham Harbor in Chicago. A slug of a motor yacht with a pair of GM 853s. The damned thing couldn’t have done more than 15 knots unless it went over Niagra Falls. This is a photo of what one looks like.


In September we left Burnham Harbor and went the lengths of lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie, down the Hudson River. I dropped the owners of in Stamford, Conn., and then, in Norfolk, VA., my deckhand had to go home. I took the boat all the way down to Bahia Mar Marina inFort Lauderdale by myself. My first single-handed adventure even if it was just “day sailing.”

The next fall I helped a young couple take their Out Island 51 (called by those who know an Out House 51 due to, once again it’s sluggish performance) like this one oi-51 to Fort Lauderdale via the Chicago River, the Illinois and the Mississippi, then across the Gulf of Mexico and eventually to Bahia Mar, and since both voyages started in Burnham Harbor and ended at Bahia Mar I closed that dream out.

At the end of 1988 I was offered the job of caring for and supervising the changing of the keel on an 85′ motor sailer located on the French Riviera in Antibes…

jolie-aire-shogunThe 85 footer is the SMALL sailboat in the picture. Nobody paid any attention to it over there whereas they’d walk to the end of the dock in Fort Lauderdale the “Yachting Capitol of the World.”

While I was over in France, nearly three years as it turned out, for a job that was presented to me as, “how’d you like to go live in France for six months or so?” I met two people who would indirectly lead me to owning that boat.

The first was a young French girl I dated for a few months named Estelle who was the chef on one of the mega-yachts in Antibes. Besides being a fantastic cook she had also been a model and a dive instructor who had spent quite a bit of time in Belize. In addition to things we won’t go into here she showed me all her photos and videos of Belize and said I should go there sometime.

The other was a Howard Hessman impersonator disguised as Bill King who was there in France supervising the building of a 60 foot catamaran for his boss, a wealthy oil billionaire from Texas who had extensive business interests in Belize. Bill showed me all his photos and videos and said I needed to go there some time.

So, I said to myself that when I eventually returned to the States I would take what ever money I had and buy a boat and actually go visit Belize. The only criteria that were essential to do this were: 1) the boat had to be within a very cheap budget that would leave me a cruising kitty, 2) it had to be a sailboat 3) it had to be big enough that I could lie down in it comfortably in order to stay dry when it rained.

Back in the States I went on a search in which I discovered there were a LOT of boats I didn’t want to own. I travelled as far south from Fort Lauderdale as Marathon in the Keys on my search. I went to Tampa and Clearwater on the west coast of the state and as far north as Vero Beach without finding anything that really interested me. And, bright and early every Friday morning, I would be at the local 7/11 to buy the Sailboat Trader the moment it hit the stands.

One day I went to a tiny marina on the Miami River to check out an Herreshoff 28, a fine classic wooden sailboat. I liked the boat, but it needed some repairs to make her capable of making the voyage I had in mind. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the work. I’d had plenty enough boat yard experience to do what needed to be done but I didn’t want to take the time or spend the money necessary to get the boat in shape.

I then took a walk down each of the three piers at the marina and at the end of the last dock I spotted a small, pretty red sailboat. It had a beautiful wine-glass transom on which was mounted an outboard motor bracket and a wind vane self-steering system. It was love at first sight. I sat on the dock for about an hour envying whoever owned this lovely little craft. She had a dodger over the main hatch to protect the cabin from rain and spray when the hatch was open. There was a lovely, substantial teak bowsprit with stainless steel railing. There was an anchor windlass up on the bow. The outboard bracket indicated that the inboard motor had probably been removed and, though there was no For Sale sign on the boat the fact that there was no inboard would lower the selling price. I also noted that there were six opening port holes which would be essential for ventilation in a tropical climate. It was exactly the kind of boat I’d been searching in vain for.

Several weeks later the newest edition of Sailboat Trader had an item I was interested in. It was a 26 foot boat and it was for sale at “$6,500…bring a check.” The photo was smudgy and didn’t help as a sales tool. I called the number on the ad and spoke to a broker who told me that where the boat was located wasn’t accessable during the weekend. I told her that I was very interested and that if I found the boat acceptable I didn’t need to find financing. I had the cash available. We agreed that I would follow the rush hour traffic to Miami where I’d meet her at Coconut Grove Marina Monday morning.

When I met her she asked me if I knew such and such a marina on the Miami River. I did, I told her since I’d visited it recently to look at the Herreshoff. We met at the marina, walked to the end of the last small dock and she pointed at that lovely red sloop and said the magic three words…”There She Is.” I hope I was successful in keeping a huge grin off my face when she said that.

I went aboard and found two VHF radios, a single sideband receiver and lots of other things including a set of navigational gear and pencils. The only bad point to the boat was that all the cushions below would need to be replaced. In addition to all the things that I saw a brand new 8 hp oil-injected outboard motor and a brand new 10′ hard-bottom Avon inflatable dinghy were included in the deal. Best of all I was able to seal the deal for an even $6,000!

The boat was a Kaiser26 built in Wilmington, Delaware by John Kaiser. I spoke to Mr. Kaiser for an hour after buying the boat and he told me that he knew of three that had made round-trip transAtlantic passages and one that had made six round trips from New York to Bermuda. In reading the old logs on the boat I discovered that the previous owner, a girl, had double-handed the boat in a round trip from Tampa, Florida to St. Croix in the U. S. Virgin Islands.

The boat was named Little Dipper, but that was about to change. Back when I was living in New Orleans I came across the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea in a musty old book store on Royal Street. One of the entries was the term Nancy Dawson which was the name of the song to which the rum ration was piped in the British Navy for over 200 years. I told myself that if I ever owned a boat worthy of having a name that is what it would be.

So, Little Dipper became Nancy Dawson and I didn’t go through any of that name change BS they talk about to keep bad luck at bay. And from the single-handed trip I made to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala showed that she was happy with the change.

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Back in the USA

Well, my second trip to Panama is over and I’m back home. Or what will be home before I finally move to Panama for good.

This trip back went a lot more smoothly than return in December. Back then the plane had been delayed by winter storms in the States and arrived several hours late in Panama. So late, in fact, that it would have had to discharge all its passengers, cleaned the plane and loaded us on in the space of 45 minutes and take off before the pilot’s logged time expired.

Well, that didn’t happen, of course, so we spent another two hours in line at American’s counter to get room and a $10 food voucher. We were then bussed back into the city where I received a free $225/night room. We left early the next morning and arrived in Miami before noon.

So, I’m back in Fort Lauderdale to the delight of my dog.

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Gamboa Rain Forest

Right in the middle of Panama City is a place called the Gamboa Rain Forest.

As you turn off the main road you go through an archway of bamboo…


There are critters you have to watch out for…


There’s water and beauty all around Gamboa…


But the road’s narrow and you are instructed to blow your horn in the curves so this doesn’t happen…


There’s a huge,expensive, $200+ a night hotel there


with views like this…


Attention to  detail outside is class all the way, like the lighting in the parking lot…


And that detail follows through inside with such mundane things as the stair handrails…


You don’t get the same view down at pool level as this, though…


And how could you pay attention to what’s being said in one of the meeting halls with THIS overhead?


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A View From the Hill

One of the most recognizable landmarks in Panama City is Cerro Ancon…Ancon Hill. It stands 654 feet above the surrounding area and commands great views of the city and canal below. When Henry Morgan sacked the city in 1671 his scouts climbed the hill to scope out the local defences. The hill lay within the old Canal Zone and when Jimmy Carter signed the Canal Over to Panama one of the first things they Panamanians did was to raise an oversized flag on top of the hill that can be seen from many parts of the city.


The views are, indeed, spectacular. Like this one of Casco Viejo


Looking in on the city


The container port and entrance to the Canal


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Pedasi, Panama

Many Panamanians have said that one of THEIR favorite places in the country is the small town of Pedasi on the Azuero peninsula. Since this current trip to Panama was designed not simply to renew my “Cedula”, the official ID card issued to me by Immigration, but to explore the country to see where I might want to settle down, I decided to go spend a couple of days in Pedasi.

I made a reservation at a place called Dim’s Hostal which my guide book said was the BEST place to stay in Pedasi. They weren’t mistaken. Dim’s is a funky place and was a good choice.


Dim’s is right next door to this restaurant…img_0256

Dim’s Front Porch


Dim’s Second Floor


A great place to lounge around and chat with other guests at Dim’s after. . .


a visit to the beach


Life in the Slow Lane…this is morning hour rush hour in Pedasi


Life is good

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Pensionado Benefits in Panama

In a previous post “Why Panama” I didn’t go into depth about what Panama offers to retirees. At the time of my preliminary research Panama only required a person to receive a minimum of $500.00 per month from a pension, either from Social Security or a private fund. It has been raised to $1,000 a month, but still easy enough. My Social Security benefits were just slightly double what the country required. However, when I was doing this research I wasn’t yet receiving my SS benefits. I simply knew how much they would be so I couldn’t jump right in.

If you have the “Pensionado,” also known as a “Jubilado” you are eligible, by law, to the following discounts:

1. Discounts of 50% off the ticket price charged for movies, theaters and Panama sporting events like soccer, boxing, baseball etc. Charitable events would not offer this discount to the Pensionado.
2. 30% Discount for City Buses, Panama Trains and Boats (not cruise boats).
3. 25% on airfare if flight is in country or if ticket purchased with COPA airlines in Panama.
4. Hotels discount 50% from Monday to Thursday and 30% on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
5. 25% discount of food eaten in a sit down inside restaurant.
6. 15% discount in fast food establishments.
7. 15% discount services in hospitals and private clinics.
8. 10% discount in for prescription medicines in pharmacies.
9. Discounts in the following medical services:
o 20% discount fees for medical doctors
o 15% for dentist fees.
o 15% for optometric examinations.
10. Health Insurance shall adjust fees for Pensionados & Jubilados.
11. 20% discount on any professional services utilized in Panama.
12. 20% discount for all prosthetic devices.
13. 50% discount on the price of a Panama passport.
14. 25% discount on your electric bill up to 600KW’s and then the discount is gone if the usage is over this figure.
15. 25% discount to the basic residential phone service charges when the phone (one phone only)is registered in the name of the Pensionado
16. 25% discount on primary residential water bill if the bill is in the name of the Pensionado and the monthly bill does not exceed $30.00
17. A Pensionado can buy a car every two years free of import duty.
18. A Pensionado can bring in $10,000 worth of personal goods one time with no import duty.

In my most recent visit, which is ending tomorrow, I have been getting some of those discounts, and I even received them a couple of times without asking. On this visit when I went to buy my bus ticket for Santiago I received the discount. On my return to Panama City I’ve been staying at the home of an acquaintance who has the Pensionado and he said that the ID I received from Immigration was just as good as his, so we’ve been using them every time we go out to eat. The big advantage to this is that with 25% off already reasonably priced meals one can order “UP” and still get a deal.


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