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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Expensive Trip to David (dahVEED) but with some good news

Over the last month, month and a half I’ve been having some serious breathing problems. I’ve been THIS CLOSE (-) to trying to get a cab to take me into the emergency room at Hospital Chiriqui, but that’s questionable at 3 a.m. But I’d do my deep breathing exercises and take a couple of hits off my inhaler and thing would eventually settle down.
 
But it made me wonder if there was anything else that could be done to alleviate the problem. Supplemental oxygen perhaps?
 
After a rough start to Monday morning I went into the hospital and set up an appointment to see Dr. Rodriguez who I’d seen before. I could have seen him yesterday if I hung around for four hours or so but decided to wait until this morning (Tuesday).
 
The appointment was for 10 a.m. The doctor showed up at !!:15. I was second on the list. I went through their routine quickie physical. My blood pressure was normal. ( I take lisinopril and Atenolol and it works fine.) One good note was that the last time I was there I weighted in at a hefty 173 lbs. A lot for me. Today I logged in at 155!
 
I was shocked when to doctor said it had been three years since I’d seen him. I would have guessed a year and a half, TOPS. I asked him about supplemental oxygen and he said that the little gizmo they put on your finger to read your heartbeat also registers blood/oxygen levels and mine supposedly is normal. He had the girl bring in another one and it read the same.
 
Okay, so supplemental oxygen isn’t needed.
 
Next I went in to breathe into a doo dad that measures lung capacity and some other stuff. Went through that and then was given three shots from some kind inhaler. After 20 minutes I went back and did the whole thing again.
 
Here’s where the good news comes in. The first time I did the tests three years ago the results were that my lung capacity was only 34% of normal. The doc said, today, that people with lungs like mine are usually dead by now.
 
The new results show a lung capacity of 48.69%. Certainly not great, but a 15% improvement over three years and shows response to treatment. I have to admit I’ve been slacking off on the meds a bit over the last few months. Since COPD, the initial diagnosis, is irreversible the diagnosis has been changed to “Chronic Bronchitis.” That’s nice even if it doesn’t make the breathing any easier. He wrote me a couple of new prescriptions. I’m continuing the Spiriva and adding addint Simbicort.
There was no reason given for the increase in phlegm, but it could possibly be the result of slacking off on the meds recently.
 
The visit, including the breathing tests clocked in at $110. Through my Hospital Chiriqui health plan I’ll get reimbursed 75% but, of course like all healthcare here it’s pay up front.
 
So I hied myself down to the pharmacy at the Romero supermarket. The Spririva costs $90.22 and the Simbicort is $83.15. However, with Panama’s generous discounts for seniors they knocked $34.67 off the $173.37 tab and I ended up paying $138.70.
 
So, I shelled out $248.70 today.
 
Oh, well!

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Exciting Week in Boquerón

It’s been an exciting week in what is normally a sleepy little town in western Chiriquí.

It started off on Monday with a visit to town by the President of the Republic, Juan Carlos Varela. It was to acknowledge a program that provides decent housing to the poor throughout the country. It’s called Techos de Esperanza (Roofs of Hope). It’s sort of Panama’s version of  Habitat for Humanity. As I’ve said elsewhere in this blog, there are a lot of people living in what we in the States would consider to be “shacks.” Dirt-floor structures, split bamboo sides and rusty tin roofing.

besikohomemom

besikohometarproof

teteobrama

It has been raining here in Panama for days on end which is extremely unusual, but it’s because of Tropical Storm Oscar off a tiny bit north of us in the western Caribbean. Interestingly, the rain stopped while Varela was in the covered basketball courts in the town park less than a 100 yards from my front door.

varela-speech

I heard a lot of noise next door. A ton of people milling around. I went out on the front porch to see what it was all about, and there was Varela sitting at my neighbor’s table enjoying a bite to eat before heading into David (dah VEED).

varela-dinner

As soon as he finished and shook hands all around he got in his car and headed down the hill and it started to rain. I tried to get him to come back so I could bring the clothes that have been hanging out on the back porch for nearly a week trying could finally be brought inside. They’re still out there.

There was a short break in the weather Tuesday morning so I made a mad dash into the city to do some grocery shopping and pay a couple of bills. I didn’t pay the electric bill last month since it was never delivered, but I got an e-bill this month. Had to go pay arrears. Two month’s electric bill came to $31.39. Eat your hearts out gringos of the Great White North.

When I got home, around 3:00 in the afternoon I saw this sign that had just been put up while I was absent…

bikes

For those of you who are monoglots (great word, eh?) It’s announcing the sixth stage of Panama’s equivalent of theTour de France coming up on Wednesday.  (Doesn’t everyone spell Wednesday out in their heads as they write it down?) Oh, yeah, and I was only in the house for about ten minutes before it started pouring again.

Around 8 a.m. the teams started arriving and getting ready for the race…

getting-ready

The finish line set up near the town hall…

finish-line-set-up

Policeman directing traffic away from the finish area and doing it in the rain….

directing-traffic-in-rain

The leaders sprint to the finish about three and a half hours after the start…And it’s ALL uphill from El Cruce three kilometers away at the InterAmericana Highway…

sprint-to-the-finish

About five minutes later the pelotón showed up to finish…

peleton

As far as I know nothing else is happening of any note this week. Next Monday, though, celebrates Panama’s SECOND Independence Day but I believe all the parades and hoopla are taking place elsewhere.

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A RANT!!!

I LOVE Panama, and, in general, I love the Panamanian people. BUT sometimes it’s REALLY hard to do. In fact, sometimes it’s IMPOSSIBLE.

Take this past week, for instance. This was the 249th anniversary of the founding of the little town of Boquerón, and they were making a huge deal out of it.

The festivities started off on Wednesday. Around noon the first of the parade started by my house. Several of my neighbors from the old house came by with stools to sit on my porch and watch. It was the best parade they’ve had here in Boquerón in the five plus years I’ve lived here. This time there were a lot of floats and this time a lot of thought, care and originality was evidenced in them.

The first actual band that came by and even stopped in front of my house was from Colegio Daniel Octavio Crespo in nearby Concepcion. Most of what passes for marching music here in Panama are simply drums and once in a great while there will be a glockenspiel. It seems that Panamanians love pounding on things with sticks. But here we had an actual BAND complete with clarinets, saxophones and one lonely flute.

I used to play flute when I was in high school. Me and my four brothers were REQUIRED to take music lessons. About 6 years ago I bought a flute down here in David (dah VEED) but as my COPD developed I lost interest in trying to use an instrument I had to blow into and it has remained unused for the last three or four years. I put it up for sale at about half the price I paid for it on a local buy/sell Facebook site and got absolutely ZERO responses even after it had been posted and bumped up several times.

Looking at that lone flute in the Crespo band gave me an idea. I went inside and grabbed the flute and then went to the band’s director and gave it to him and told him to make sure some kid who couldn’t afford to buy an instrument for themselves got it. His thanks were profuse and he had his assistant take a photo of us and the flute together. Who knows, I might have changed some kids whole life by giving that flute away.

That night at the covered basketball court about 100 yards from my house the very popular Manuel “Nenito” Vargas and Las Plumas Negros (The Black Feathers) was playing. I went up and watched for about an hour and then returned home, stuck some plugs in my ears and went to sleep.

Thursday was sort of a rest-up day to prepare for the weekend. Now here’s where it gets bad. After a night time parade filled with drum and bugle bands some asshole with a van full of speakers opened the van’s back doors and started playing music with such volume and with such wide open bass that everything in my house shook and vibrated. The ear plugs helped only a tiny bit but there’s nothing you can do about the bass. This FUCKING LASTED UNTIL 3:30 IN THE MORNING!!! And it isn’t even really music. There’s NO MELODY involved. No one can dance to this shit! It is, pure and simple, JUST NOISE and it seems that the majority of Panamanians LOVE IT!

If you want to be a mindless, uncaring, self-centered piece of shit, I say, go park you van in front of YOUR HOUSE and play like that.

Then comes Saturday night. Some idiotic twatwaffle with a car full of speakers parked on the same corner and started the same shit again. But then it got EVEN WORSE. Directly across the street came THREE CARS AND A VAN loaded with speakers and each one seemed to be in competition as to who could be the most obnoxious asshole in the bunch. Literally everything in my house was vibrating.

I couldn’t stand it and so I threw my iPad and my telephone that holds my audio books into my knapsack and locked the house. A cab passed by in less than a minute and took me down to El Cruce where I caught a bus into the city less than five minutes later and went to my harbor of refuge over the years, Bambu Hostel where I was able to get a bed for $11 for the night. This is where I slept.

jungle house

I woke up at 6:30, which is actually about an hour and a half later than I normally get up. Walked the couple of blocks to the bus stop and hopped on the bus that dropped me off, literally, at my doorstep.

A nearby neighbor stopped by on his way to the little tienda and told me the stupid assholes didn’t stop the noise until FIVE FUCKING THIRTY this morning!!! It was worth the 50 cents for the ride to El Cruce, the $11 for the bed, the buck for the frosty bottle of Balboa and the $1.20 round trip bus ride. Plus instead of being blasted by the morons with their car loads of speakers, I spent a couple of hours talking to a couple from France and an American who has lived in Sweden for the last 15 years and who, with his girlfriend has been riding their bicycles from Mexico City and are on their way to Panama as I’m writing this.

Some Panamanians will ask if the loud music like these assholes play and everyone else endures doesn’t happen in the United States. The answer is, NO IT DOESN’T! And there are reasons for it. There are noise laws everywhere in the States and the police will come and shut things down if there are complaints. Nothing like that happens here. All of this went on within ONE BLOCK of the police station.

Another reason it doesn’t happen is because if it’s NOT shut down some pissed of person with a FUCKING GUN will come out and shoot up the speakers and then will shoot the assholes who are responsible. That’s the ONLY TIME I condone gun violence.

Anyway, the festival is over. The food stalls that surrounded the town park are being dismantled and tonight should be back to normal…At least I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will…

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