Tag Archives: adventure

Yucky Weather

It’s days like this that make me wish I was living in a van down by the river instead of on a 22-foot sailboat anchored in Bradenton Beach, FL.

It’s completely overcast now that the dense morning fog has lifted. The wind’s strong out of the south gusting to 25 mph. The boat is bouncing around in the two to three foot whitecaps we get here when the wind’s whipping across the 15 mile fetch of Sarasota Bay. It’s not real cold. Mid 50s. Rain is forecast for later in the day.

When the conditions are like this one becomes boat-bound. Could get off if it was an emergency, but since it’s not then one stays put. In a van you can at least chug on down to the store or a mall. People in vans and RVs don’t have to worry about their anchors dragging and running aground or into the rocks to leeward. And they don’t have to worry that another van or RV is going to break loose from its mooring and run into THEM!

But I have plenty of food for several days and good books to read so it could be a lot worse. At least it’s not snowing!

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Keeping In Touch

I’ve learned quite a bit in the last couple of days…

As I mentioned in a previous post I’m going to be wrapping this blog up and moving on to one subtitled “And Old Man And A Small Boat.”

I knew I’d need a telephone and I was planning on buying one of those pre-paid burner phones you can pick up almost anywhere.

I knew I wouldn’t have the convenience of constant internet availability like I do here with a cable hookup. I wasn’t looking forward to having access only at places like McDooDoo’s or Starbucks, and most marinas that offer WiFi are password protected so you generally can’t piggy back on their signal, and I’m planning on spending most of my time on the hook, anyway.

I posted my problem on a couple of Facebook groups for cruising and live aboard boaters that I belong to. The responses I got showed me solutions that were more simple than I imagined.

First of all, the Samsun sorta smartphone I own is not “locked,” and all I need to do is do to any of umpteen gazillion stores and buy a damned new chip and enroll in a pre-paid program from a myriad of providers. Easy peazy

I also looked at a number of mobile “hot spot” programs. They are not un-similar to the what I was doing here in Panama with Claro before Cable Onda wired me up and gave me high-speed internet for a few pennies less than $40/month. The first thing I had was a USB modem. Like a thumb drive and I had unlimited data for about $40/month. It wasn’t fast and you couldn’t use if for streaming video, but it got you onto the social networks, you could read news and send emails, that sort of thing. It looked like this.

 

When I had to move out of the house I’d been living in for four years I found a place at what’s called La Barriada. That means little more than “neighborhood,” but has a nice ring to it than “barrio.” The street the house I was renting hadn’t been wired up to Cable Onda yet, so I went back down to Claro to see what they had. I wasn’t too please with having to go back to  the slower way of accessing the net, but I needed to be there. They no longer offered the USB modems but had gone to a small remote router which is called a “hotspot” device in the States. But they no longer provided unlimited access. You bought so much data, and when you used it all up it shut you off until you bought more.

It looks like this…

You could rent the thing but I opted to buy it. I think it was about $50 or so, with a year contract. It worked fine, but within a month Cable Onda wired my street and I signed up with them again. I then wen to the Claro main office, turned in my paper work and told them I was returning to the States. They voided the contract since it had been less than a month and I was done with them. I don’t remember even having to pay a penalty for canceling. But since I’d bought the router I kept it.

Now that’s a good thing. Looking at the pre-paid hotspot vendors in the U.S. it looked like I’d have to pay about a hundred bucks to get one of their hotspot devices and, like Claro, you had to buy some time. I have no idea how much I’ll be using, but I’ll start out with one program, see how it goes and if I have to I’ll either buy a large package or cut down on how much I use it.

But then one of the group members said I could buy a chip for this, too, and sue enough for less than $20 I’ll be back in business. The hotspots work anywhere there’s cell coverage, and since I’m going to be running along the coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico, and not offshore, there will be few places it won’t work. This is ATT’s coverage map as an example…

 

 

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Counting Down…

Yesterday, April 4, I bought my airline ticket to the States. The countdown begins on the time I have left here in Panamá…Twenty days.

It”s also a countdown on how much longer THIS blog will continue. It’s mainly been about my life as an expatriate. (I hate it when people call it expatriot! That implies that a person was once patriotic but no longer is. The key part of the word is patriate,  from the Latin Patria,  or homeland).

When I return to the states I’ll be moving onto a small sailboat…

and, hopefully, making my way along the entire littoral of the Gulf of Mexico from Fort Myers, Florida to Brownsville, Texas.

Starting a new chapter in my life means I need to start a new blog to document it. I’ll provide a link later, but it’s going to be called Another Good Adventure.”

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The Die Is Cast…

Went into David (dah VEED) this morning and bought my ticket to the States. Leaving Monday, April 24th from Tocumen Airport (PTY) in Panamá City. Departure at 11:45 a.m. Arriving at Ft. Lauderdale at 3:48 p.m. EDT.

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Butterflies

Sent off a wire transfer of funds to my friend in Ft, Lauderdale  to buy the MacGregor sailboat in Miami.

Also sent a bit extra to pay for marina space for the rest of April rather than have it “on the hook” until I get up there….

And about THAT!

Went on line to see what it’s going to cost to get up to Ft. Lauderdale.

Spirit Airlines is supposed to be the cheapest, but they want $199 for a one way ticket from PTY (Tocumen). And then they CHARGE for every bag INCLUDING carry ons. Adding it up it came to $306 for what I plan on taking with me. PLUS, the flight doesn’t leave Panama until TWO IN THE MORNING!!! That’s A.M. folks. PLUS their seats don’t recline!

So, I went online again and looked at what it would cost to fly COPA which also flies into Ft. Lauderdale. Their price was $299. $7 cheaper than Spirit AND no charge for carry ons or the first two checked bags, AND their seats recline. Their flight leaves at 11:45 IN THE MORNING for the three hour flight!

Supposedly if you have “Jubilado” status   (Jubilado roughly translates as “old fart”) you’re eligible for a discount on travel. I went on line and found a travel agent, Jose Palm, in David. Talked to him and explained what I was looking for and asked if there was a “Jubilado” discount.. It does, and he quoted me a ticket price of $241.14. I’m going to go to his office tomorrow morning.

Will be returning to the States either April 19th or the 26th. Don’t know which. Need to get rid of some stuff here like my bicycle and clothes washer, etc. What I’ll do is take the midnight bus from David to Panama. It gets in to Panama around 4:30 or 5. Take a cab out to Tocumen and wing my way back to Trumplandia….also known as “Murika”

So I’ve had butterflies in my stomach all day long. I’ve been talking about repatriating to the States for over a year. I’d hoped to be there last July, but the dentures delayed that, and then it moved from summer into fall and then into winter and I WASN’T going to go back up there in the winter even if it was to Ft. Lauderdale. Hell, back in ’76 when I was helping bring a big sailboat up from Key West it EFFIN’ SNOWED!!! Now the reality of picking up sticks and actually doing this thing has me a bit on edge. As they say, Talk’s Cheap. I think, well, I haven’t paid for the ticket yet and I suppose I could tell Stef not to pay Fernando and then the six yapping dogs at the house 30-feet away start going nuts and I try and picture how tranquil it will be anchored up at some small island off the coast of Florida or the barrier islands of the panhandle and I know I’m doing the right thing.

 

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New Boat?

Okay, this is the boat my friend went to look at in Miami this morning.

It’s a MacGregor 25 with a pop top and a swing keel. When the pop top is raised there’s 6-foot headroom in the after part of the cabin. The swing keel raises and lowers. With the keel down the boat draws nearly five and a half feet. With the keel fully raised it needs less than two feet of water to float, perfect for the shallows of the Gulf Intracoastal waterway and the Florida Keys. The boat can be taken right up to the beach.

This is what a pop top does

There are canvas attachments that enclose the pop top when it’s up but I don’t think this boat has one. I was thinking that a modification could be made with thin plywood and plexiglass, though. And the boat also has a Bimini top…

Cosmetically it needs work as you can see, but it’s nothing that bothers me. Four or five short days and all that blue non-skid can be made right. I’d paint it a sand/beige using a one-part polyurethane paint. I used Interlux Brightside in the cockpit of my Kaiser 26 and it held up remarkably well. Very resistant to abrasion and it retained most of its gloss over six years. Of course when painting the topsides you want to use a non-gloss paint to cut down on reflection.

The cushions are all in good shape which is rare for these older boats. The outboard motor needs to be tuned up. One of the major problems is that non-boaters shut the things off and the gasoline sits in the carburetors and evaporates leaving gummy residue. What needs to be done if the boat isn’t going to be used for a while is to disconnect the fuel and let all the fuel burn out leaving the carb dry. Also when outboards, or any boat that uses circulating water to cool the engine,  sit for a long time the rubber impellers that pump the cooling water deform so they need to be replaced.

None of that is a problem. Stef is a first-class mechanic and when we had out repair business in Fort Lauderdale years ago I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we did this kind of work.

As the French author, Blaise Pascal, famously said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

Here’s how I found out what kind of a mechanic Stef was. When I got back from France and cruising down to Guatemala back in ’92 I was at loose ends and needed some kind of work. Stef had a ski boat on a trailer in his car port and I said, “Why don’t we paint that up and sell it?” He said that the engine, a Ford V8, wasn’t working. A minute later he said, “Listen, come back around 8 in the morning and we’ll get this thing together.”

When I showed up he had a hydraulic motor lifter

and an engine stand.

That’s something you bolt the engine block to and you can move the engine around to reach all parts of it without having to bend over. It took us less than an hour to get the engine out of the boat and onto the stand. Then Stef started disassembling the motor and throwing parts into a couple of 5-gallon buckets. All I could think of was that he was a fucking mad man. The only thing he did that seemed at all normal was he placed the pistons carefully on a work bench in the order that they came out of the block. When everything was off the engine he said, “I’m going to go to ‘Engine Rebuilder’s Warehouse’ and get what we need. While I’m gone you take all those bolts that are in that bucket and clean them up with this wire wheel on the electric motor.”

When he returned he showed me how to hone the cylinders with a special tool on a drill motor

 

and while I was doing that he laid the bolts out on the work bench according to size. With that done he started putting the engine together. New bearings and guides and all that good stuff. We broke for a quick lunch and then finished up. The ONLY time he consulted a manual was when he was looking at the torque specs for the piston ends and the head bolts. The engine was back in the boat in a flash, and at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon he turned the key and BRRRRRRROOOOOM, the damned thing started right up. TO ME that was like MAGIC!!! Over the next several years we probably rebuilt a couple of dozen engines. With a manual at hand I wouldn’t be afraid to tackle a rebuild on my own. I later found out that he used to have a xmall chain of engine rebuilding shops in New York for VW engines. The deal was, get it in by 8 in the morning and you could drive home with a rebuilt engine after five in the afternoon.

So, anyway, there’s a nearby marina where we can store the boat for $300/month (that’s TWO MONTHS apartment rent here in Boquerón). Stef says the engine is practically brand new, it’s just been sitting. He can take it up to his warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale and do the tune up there.

The asking price is $1,300 for the boat and $1,300 for the motor. Stef told him that was a bit too much for condition of things and Fernando agreed. The way Stef left it was he was going to send me the pictures and see what I wanted to do. As I told him, there’s nothing I can’t take care of. Sure, the life line stanchions were removed, but they’re on board and it’s only a matter of drilling 16 holes to get them reattached. Certainly no biggie there.

There will be a lot of things that I’ll need to buy to make the boat what I’d really like it to be, but it doesn’t have to all be done at once. That’s one thing a lot of people never understand. They aren’t comfortable with the “that’s good enough philosophy.” For them everything has to be exactly “just so” before they feel they can cast the lines of the dock. That’s why so few people actually GO SOMEPLACE on their boats. And, too, a lot of the stuff I’ll need, like the paint, etc., I can get wholesale through Stef’s account at Lewis Marine, one of the largest marine supply companies in the country. They ship worldwide, so things won’t be as bad as they might be for some people of limited means.

Stef’s going to call Fernando tomorrow and offer him $2,500 for the whole shebang. He’ll probably take it. I told Stef that if he balks go for $2,700 which is $500 off the asking price. I can certainly live with that. I’ve talked with Fernando via Skype and Stef, of course, in person, and Fernando is an anxious seller. He’s had the boat up for quite some time though he stopped advertising it a while back.

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…By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet….

It would be impossible to try and remember the names of all the boats I’ve run. The first boat I had was an 8-foot pram my dad built in the basement of our house in Watertown, Mass., when I was about 8 years old. Every summer until I was 12 we spent the entire summer at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, Mass., way out at the forearm of Cape Cod, and I spent as much time as I could in that boat. Franny Cullum was a couple of camp sites away and he had a 10-foot plywood skiff. We shared our adventures which consisted primarily of catching yellow perch and diving after sun turtles in Flax pond with Tony Taylor who, our moms figured out, were born about an hour or so apart on either coast of the U.S.

That pram didn’t have a name. It was simply “The Boat.”

The first boat I worked on was a 125-foot dinner cruise boat in Fort Lauderdale named “Le Bateau” and supposedly patterned after Les Bateaux Mouche that ply the Seine in Paris.

While I wasn’t the captain of this boat I DID get to sail on it for the first and second Fort Lauderdale to Key West Races in the middle ‘70s., It was  the “Rainbow,” a 65-foot, semi-custom Choey Lee ketch, owned by Charles Scripps who, at the time, owned UPI and Scripps-Howard newspapers, radio and television stations. That boat played an important role in my early development as a professional seaman as well as wrapping up that part of my life 16 years later. Interestingly enough, back then Mr. Scripps owned the “Hollywood Sun-Tattler” newspaper in Hollywood, Florida. A few years before sailing on “Rainbow” I was offered a position as a general assignment reporter on the paper but turned it down to go work as the assistant public relations director at Holy Cross Hospital, the largest private hospital in Broward County.

The biggest boat in the photo is “Rainbow” tied up in Key West after the very first Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race…

rainbow-key-west-1975-copy

My very first captain’s job was on a 43-foot Hatteras Tri-cabin in Chicago back in 1974. It was named “Kadico” which was short for Kadison Company. The owner of the boat and company, which made chemical food products, was Sylvan Kadison. He and his wife were HORRIBLE people. I couldn’t stand either one of them, but the job held out the promise of taking the boat from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale at the end of the summer season. Fortunately the owners were only on the boat from Chicago to Mackinaw Island and then for the Erie Canal portion of the trip. They were on board from Buffalo, New York to Stamford, Conn., where one of their daughters lived. My deck hand had to bail out in Norfolk, Virginia and I did the entire Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from there to Fort Lauderdale ALONE! The boat was an absolute SLUG. Probably only did about 12 knots wide open with it’s GM 653s.

This is what a 43-foot Hatteras Tri-cabin  looks like…

tri-cabin

While that was my first “command” I didn’t get my U.S. Coast Guard license until June of 1975 and then I ran the 75-foot, double-decked 300-passenger sightseeing boat “Marlyn” doing half-hour harbor cruises in Chicago for two summers. Talk about a boring job! It was SO BAD that I made a tape recording of the cruise lecture. We’d leave the dock and then I’d hit the “Play” button on the tape deck….”Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls….” Yuck!

The Marlyn

marlyn-copy

In early ’77 I moved to New Orleans and after working for a short while on a 176-foot oil rig supply boat as an ordinary seaman I got a job as captain of a 47-foot inland crewboat operating in the Kerr-McGee oil and gas production field in Breton Sound. The first boat I ran out there was called the “Capt. Shane.” It was a deep vee Breax Craft aluminum boat with a pair of 871s. There were two other Crewboats Incorporated boats there with me: “Lake Runner” and “Wave Runner.” They flattened out underwater unlike the Shane and outran my boat like crazy. BUT I learned a lot running the Capt. Shane, especially during the winter when it was necessary to put men on and off of high-pressure gas wells in 8 to 10 foot seas. During good weather all the guys wanted to get on the Runners because they were faster, but when the weather turned to shit they fought to get on the Shane because it had a better ride in rough seas.  I ran several other boats for Crewboats, Inc., but can’t remember their names. Oddly enough, in 2005 while my family was gathered at a restaurant at the marina in Venice, Florida inlet prior to scattering some of my dad’s ashes in the Gulf a green and white, 47-foot crewboat pulled up to the fuel dock. I went to take a look at it and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the name of the boat…It was the “Lake Runner!”  Is that’ Pat Pescay’s boat, I asked the young skipper?” I

“It is,” he replied. “How’d you know that?”

“Because, believe it or not, I used to run THAT BOAT out at Breton Island!!”

It had been sold and he was delivering it to the Keys where it was going to be used as a dive boat.

This is what those inland crewboats looked like…

crewboat-underway1

Not wanting to spend another winter on the water putting guys on and off of gas and oil wells in nasty weather, I left the crewboats and taught a course in “Nautical Science” for a year at West Jefferson High School.

teaching-certificate-copy

The only job I ever had worse than that was the few weeks I worked as an ordinary seaman in the Great Lakes aboard the self-unloading ship “Consumer’s Power” where I shoveled coal and rock salt for 12 hours a day and roomed with Abdul from Yemen.

The worst job of my life was on this tub…

consumers-power

Teaching wasn’t for me so after the school year was up I took the captain’s job on the “Lady Ann,” a 58-foot (65-foot overall) Hatteras motor yacht with New Orleans Tours. All in all it was a decent job though it should have paid better than it did. The “Lady Ann” was the second biggest yacht out at West End. We used to do cocktail and dinner charters, and the great Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme used to charter us a couple of times a year to throw dinner parties for his suppliers. FANTASTIC cook, but I have to say, the best thing I ever put in my mouth on that boat was Ann Reuther’s crawfish bisque. I also made several trips from New Orleans to Destin, Florida with the boat. The owners loved to have the boat sitting at the dock outside their condominiums there to show off how much money they had.

Second largest yacht at West End Marina…

lady-ann-hatteras-58-copy

When I finally got tired of ferrying drunks around…the paying kind, the owners were NOT into drunken debauchery…I went to work on crewboats again, this time for Ronco Barge and Crewboat Rentals out of New Iberia, Louisiana. That’s where the offices were, but on crew change days I’d drive to Bayou Blue, that’s right, where the song came from, and leave my van there for the week I was out working. We ran to drilling rigs in the bayous of south western Louisiana and up into the  deep cypress of Atchafalaya BasinI ran several boats for them but can only remember the name of one…”Capt. Leonard.” It was a strange craft in that it had TWO RIGHT HAND TURNING ENGINES. Normally twin engine boats have their engine’s rotation turning in opposite directions, but not the “Capt. Leonard.” Backing her down had a learning curve to it.

I worked for Ronco for nearly three years, but the oil exploration business was hitting a rough patch and after having taken two deep pay cuts in order to keep working I just wouldn’t take the third which would have had me working for less than I’d started at three years earlier.

A few years later, after working in a boat yard as a rigger and paint prep dude I left Louisiana. I went to visit family on Cape Cod and landed the job of running and restoring a fine old classic yacht named “Christiana” after the owner’s daughter. She, the boat, not the daughter, was made by Grebe’s yard in Chicago. The aforementioned “Marlyn” used to winter at Grebe’s yard so I was familiar with what fine boats they were. I got the boat in Falmouth, Mass., and took it down to Ft. Lauderdale where I worked on it all winter replacing part of the transom, remounting the swim platform and laying on coat after coat of varnish on the brightwork.

In the spring I managed to take on two Irish girls from the Old Sod, Gerry from Kerry and Anne from Limerick, to take the boat up to Provincetown. It was, hands down, the best trip I ever made, EVER. They were such good girls and surprisingly we had a lot in common. We were each one of seven siblings. Anne was born in June, I was born in July and Gerry was a Leo born in August. Anne was actually an American citizen. Her parents were the Irish Consuls in New Orleans, where I’d lived for 10 years, and Gerry had a brother who lived out in the western suburb of Metairie and she’d stayed with him for a couple of years. When I went to pick them up and bring them to the boat I discovered that they were living in the building next to where my ex wife and I had lived for three years!

Gerry on the left, Anne on the right and Christiana behind us in Hyannis at the end of our delivery…

gerrime-ann-copy

The three of us hit every happy hour from Lauderdale to Hyannis. People would hear their thick brogue accents and would end up inviting us to their homes, take us out to dinner and took up to see the best three-piece rock & roll band I’ve ever seen out on the Isle of Palms near Charleston.

I spent the summer of ’87 in Provincetown learning what it feels like to be a woman walking past a construction site. P’town has ALWAYS been a homosexual haven. When the summer was over I took the boat back down to Fort Lauderdale and spent the winter prepping and painting the hull. Job finished.

I spent a while working around Lauderdale Yacht Basin doing day work and then got a job as mate on the 176-foot “Gallant Lady” a Feadship owned by Southeast Toyota.

The” Gallant Lady”

gallant-lady

I was on her for less than a year. We were doing a Christmas party cruise in ’88 and in Port Everglades I spotted a Woods Hole research ship that was skippered by the first captain I ever worked for, Larry Bearse, on the “Le Bateau.” We got together for a quick beer after I got off work, and this is how serendipity works. Larry was flying out for Boston the next morning at 5 a.m. We had also sailed together on “Rainbow” and he told me that Tommy and Dawn were running a new boat for Mr. Scripps and that it was at the Derektor-Gunnel yard in Dania.

I called them the next day, and the day after that I went to see the 95-foot motor sailer the old man had bought. They invited me to have lunch with them the next say and who should be there but Mr. Scripps. The result of the lunch was that I landed the job as skipper of the custom-built, 85-foot motor sailer “Jolie Aire” he owned  based over in Antibes, France. I’m getting tired of writing this stuff, so suffice it to say I was there for nearly 3 years prior to moving her to Marbella, Spain, in preparation to “cross the POND” which I did in November of ’91.

While I was over in France two people effected what I was to do later on.  One was Estelle, my first French girlfriend, the other was “Cheshire” Bill, and American who was supervising the building of a 65-foot catamaran for his boss in Texas. Both has spent a lot of time in Belize and seeing their photos and videos made me want to go see the place for myself. I was determined that when I got back to the States I’d take whatever money I’d managed to save and buy a sailboat and go there myself. I didn’t much care what the boat might be as long as I could lie down in it and stay dry when it rained. Well, I lucked into A Kaiser 26, hull #24 of only 26 built.

It was named “Little Dipper.” Not bad. Certainly better than the likes of “Bull Ship” or “Blow Job.” But years before, in a dusty little used book store on Royal Street in New Orleans’s French Quarter, I’d found the most fantastic book of nautical lore ever assembled: “The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea”  (The 973-page tome is available in paperback through Amazon). It’s a one-volume encyclopedia of everything you could imagine about, well, Ships and the Sea. One of the entries was for “Nancy Dawson” which, I found out, was the tune to which the rum ration was piped in the British Navy for more than 200 years. I told myself that if I ever owned a boat worthy of the name she would carry that name on her transom.

You have no idea how much I miss my Nancy…

nancy-dawson-copy

When I return to the States I’ll be moving on to a small sailboat to explore coastal Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Brownsville, Texas, hopefully. The boat will, of course, need a name. There are some boat owners who continue a boat’s name and add I, II, III, etc. after it. There are also some owners who simply use the same name, period…Jim Moran’s boats were all named, simply, “Gallant Lady” and when I was working for him he actually had THREE at the same time with the same name! Of course I’ve thought about giving whatever new boat I buy the name “Nancy Dawson,” but after reflection I think I’m going to go with something else.

I’ve lived for nearly eight years in Chrirquí Province, Republic of Panama, and I think I’m going to name the new boat, “La Chiricana.” The women of Chrirquí are probably the prettiest in all of the country. I’d like for the boat to remind me of them.

The next boat will be named “La Chiricana”

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