Tag Archives: Retirement

Staying Aboard

I often write about how I’m confined on my boat anchored here at the lower end of Anna Maria Island, Florida, because high winds prevent me from being able to paddle my dinghy the 130 yards to the boat ramp dock…

But then there are beautiful days like today. There’s a pretty blue sky filled with puffy white clouds and hardly a breath of air. I’m not leaving the boat simply because there’s no reason to. I have food, water and there’s a plague still raging on the land. I’m content being where I am…So I’ll just sit here picking at my ukulele from time to time and arguing with people I don’t know about politics on Facebook.

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Anchor Work

It’s nice to sit down to lunch and bask in the feeling that you actually got something important taken care of in the morning other than arguing politics with people you don’t know on Facebook.

When I’m going to be sedentary, like I have been over the winter anchored here at the lower end of Anna Maria Island, Florida, I like to employ two anchors. I set my 25 lb Manson Boss anchor and its 25 feet of 5/16” chain and ½” nylon rode out to take the weather coming from the south. The 25 lb Danforth with its 25 feet of 1/4” chain and ⅜” nylon rode was deployed to the north to handle weather from that direction.

It all worked as it was supposed to through the winter months, but for the past month or two I’ve noticed that the Danforth’s line has been more or less lying parallel to the Manson’s line. But when I’d pull on it from the bow it appeared as if the two were at a decent angle to provide good holding from storms coming in from the north or south. In addition to the wind blowing the boat in one direction of another the tidal currents flood twice a day towards the north and twice a day ebb to the south. Whichever direction the boat is facing depends on which of the two, current or wind, is strongest at the time. So over the course of a day the boat can swing around to all points of the compass. This can cause the lines to twist around one another even if care is taken to keep unwrapping them every day or so.

For a time this morning it seemed I might be forced to move MY boat because a fleet of semi-derelicts was drifting down towards me and the owner of the mess wasn’t around and calls to his phone went to voicemail. So I scooted up to the bow and started hauling in on the Danforth’s ⅜” line. The Danforth is my secondary anchor. It wasn’t easy. When I got to the chain it seemed as if the anchor was snagged on something below. It wasn’t, but over months of being pushed and pulled in one direction and another the chain had been dragged around and become fouled on the stock and flukes. It was one large ball of galvanized metal weighing around 50 pounds. The flukes of the anchor were NOT dug into the sand and undoubtedly it was simply the sheer weight of the anchor and chain that were providing any holding power. For the uninitiated these are the parts of a Danforth anchor…

 

A younger person in better health might not have been too fazed at this. But I’ll be 78 in just over a month and I have serious issues with COPD. This was going to be a challenge. One thing I HAVE LEARNED with age is to not simply plunge into something like this. So I sat there looking at this galvanized lump swinging just above the water and thought about every step I needed to take to achieve my goal. . . I cut the nylon line where it was attached to the chain through a clevis. I led the bitter end of the rode behind the pulpit railings so I could raise the anchor up on to the deck more close to amidship and left the bitter end dangling over the side.

In the dinghy I pulled myself hand over hand to where the end of the line was hanging over the side. I tied it through the clevis at the head of the stock and then went back aboard. At the bow again I let the chain that was gathered on deck fall into the water and, after a mighty heave to bring the big anchor on board, I retrieved all of the chain. It’s done it’s job. After nearly three years being submerged in salt water some of the links are perhaps only half their thickness.Time to bring it to shore. 

I put an anchor bend on the clevis and for now will keep the big Danforth on deck ready to be deployed in an emergency. The Manson Boss anchors have a good record for resetting themselves if pulled out of position. But I’m anchored in good sand and mud where I am. It’s shallow, too. Often at real low tides I’ve been aground without even knowing it until I looked over the side. I’m still good here even with one anchor on the bottom.

 

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A Journey Begun

Three years ago, today, May, 3, 2017, I set out from Ft. Lauderdale, FL., on my little Venture22 sailboat and eventually ended up anchored at the southern end of Anna Maria Island over on the Gulf side of the peninsula.

first day

 

The original destination was to be Breton Island, Louisiana, where I’d worked running a crew boat in the Kerr-McGee oil production field back in ’77/’78. I actually LIVED on the island for nearly a year…working 7 days on and 7 days at home.

Back then the island was about a half mile long and, perhaps, a quarter mile wide at its widest. But over the intervening years hurricanes had reduced it to a sand spit a couple of hundred yards long. I wanted to see it.

breton

I made it as far as Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle of the state.That’s where, 18 miles off the coast, on July 6, 2017, a Coast Guard-dispatched boat took me aboard their boat and dropped me off at the dock in Panacea, Florida where an ambulance was waiting to take me to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital suffering from total kidney shutdown due to severe dehydration. I spent 17 days at TMH and Health South, a rehab facility, until I’d regained enough strength before returning to the boat to continue my voyage. I decided to head south.

rescued

I made it to Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria Island where I’ve been ever since with one excursion, last year, to Cayo Costa to the south. About a 200 mile round trip.

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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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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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Two Panama Bus Stories

Why Panama Is Saner Than The U.S.

This morning I boarded the bus to go pay my February electric bill ($15.73 by the way). These aren’t “chicken buses,” either. They’re nice, air-conditioned 32-seat Toyota Coaster, like this:

I happened to get the last empty seat.

Across the aisle from me was a very attractive 20-something yacking away with her seat mate while unselfconsciously breast feeding her young infant. NO ONE was upset by this or paying the least attention.  Unlike in the States where you get headlines like: “Video of Man Harassing Breast-feeding Mother at Target Goes Viral…”  or: “Breastfeeding Mom Claims An Officer Threatened To Arrest Her…”

How to deal with uptight America…

breast feed

There Are Assholes In Every Country

After going over to Bugaba to pay my light bill and pick up a couple of things I’d forgotten in yesterday’s marketing foray, I hoped on a bus from Frontera to get home. As we were getting close to El Cruce, where I get off to take another bus three kilometers up the hill to my house I gave the guy at the door a one Balboa coin… (These were originally called “Martinellis” after President Ricardo Martinelli who introduced the coins. He is now on the run and living in Miami due to corruption charges against him. Several of his cabinet members are sitting in prison as I write this, awaiting trial. Most people no longer call the coins “Martinellis” but instead refer to them as “Fugitivos.” You don’t even need to speak Spanish to figure out what THAT means.)

The “Pavo” it literally means “turkey” but that’s what the guys manning the door and taking care of the fares are called, gave me 35¢ in change. I said, “The fare is 50¢.”

“¿Que?” (What?)

English translation: “The fare from Bugaba to El Cruce with the jubilado discount is 50¢, not 65¢”

“Mumble, mumble, ¡Americano!” as he swapped out the dime with a quarter.

By now people around me were looking at us and I said, “Yes, I’m a gringo, but I’m also a resident in Panama. Would you like to see my cédula?” (A cédula is the national identification card all Panamanians an permanent resident aliens are issued.)

He declined, but as I was passing him as I got off the bus he muttered the word “Gringo.”

I said, “Hasta luego, pendejo.” (Pendejo literally means pubic hair but it’s the Spanish equivalent of “asshole.”

I’ve been in the country for over seven years and he’s only the fourth Panamanian in all that time I don’t like.

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