May 4, 1012
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Dear Friends and Family,
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We are here in Panama.  We made the trip in shorter time than anticipated.  We should know by now that we are faster than a 5 knot boat.  The first day, we left about 10 a.m. and had a great sail until the wind died about 10 p.m.  We put on the motor and took down the sails.  A couple of hours later, the wind was back so up went the sails.  About 2 hours later, a part on the boom vang broke and so we took down the sails again.  Rob didn’t want to try to fix it at night so by the time he did that the next day, we didn’t have any more wind.  This area close to Bocas del Toro often is windless so not unexpected.  So we had a great sail half of the way.  Seas, for the most part were calm and very calm toward the end.
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Unfortunately, we didn’t get timing right to come in during day light.  We realized this the first evening so when we did a check in with the single side band net the next morning, we asked if anyone had any suggestions about where we could come in safely at night.  Coming in to a strange anchorage at night is not recommended but a fellow cruiser who had been here a lot and was now in Honduras, suggested an option and that night at the afternoon check in, came back with way points, including one to drop the anchor.  It was an easy passage, though both of us stayed alert and were anchored by 3 a.m.  We woke up refreshed.  It is one of the many benefits of being on these SSB cruiser nets.  We have been of help to others as well and the networking is great because everyone is willing to be there for everyone else.  Hearing boat names on the net also makes it easier to meet that person when in the same anchorage.  You feel you already know them.
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The anchorage was by a beach that had a place for day trips.  There were lots of beach chairs and some rustic huts where I am sure they served some food and drinks.  We took the dinghy ashore to check it out.  There were not houses or anything like that, just the beach.  As we were getting ready to leave about 11:30, boats with beach goers started to arrive.
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We pulled up the anchor and made the short 5 mile trip in to a marina in town where we could top off with fuel.  We want to leave the tank full while we are gone so that there is no condensation.  We took a little tour of the marina and then headed out to where we have a reservation at Red Frog marina.  It was tempting to change marinas because the one where we bought the fuel offers such an opportunity to access the activities in town but we are at the marina at Red Frog, about 7 miles from town.  What I like about it here is that we have much more feel for space, not only at the dock in relationship to boats by us but also, we are away from most civilization.
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We opted to take a look around Red Frog tomorrow as we didn’t actually arrive here until about 4 p.m.  I guess there are a couple of beaches within walking distance and a hostel that serves food not too far, though it involves a hike up a hill.  Other than that, there is little here.  They are still working on the bathroom and shower facility as well as the do it yourself laundry.  You can have laundry done here but there will be the option of self serve in about a month.  That won’t help us now.  One of the complaints about this place is they keep promising things and they never actually happen!  The bathrooms were promised 3 years ago.
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We have some other things to discuss of concern with them, but it will wait until tomorrow.  I am hoping we chose to stay here.  They already had a month’s worth of our money to hold our spot so that is a complication if we chose to move to a different place.  Of course, each place has it’s pros and cons but so far, the people we have met here are very nice and we know the dock manager and his wife as they are cruisers we have met a couple of other times in previous years.
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Right now, we are not looking for opportunities to go out because we have to empty our refrigerator.  In the next day or two, we will be trying to determine airline tickets for home so in the next log, I should have an ETA for us back in PGI.  I would guess, some time in the next couple of weeks.
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It is overcast and rainy, as was all yesterday and today.  It is the start of the rainy season but I hope we will have some chance at sunlight.  Of course then, it will get too hot.
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We should be pretty smart when we get back.  We listened to the local VHF radio net and people call in with trivia for boaters to try to answer.  It is kind of fun.  In Guatemala, it was all about what each of the restaurants were serving that day as a special, here, it is more brain teasers.  Each place has it’s own character.
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The manager is going in to town to do some shopping tomorrow so we are tagging along.  They run a 3 hour shopping trip shuttle free from here for the marina guests on M, T, TH, F but we need some fresh produce before Monday.
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We have not officially been checked in to Panama yet but they don’t do it during off hours, weekends or holidays. We got to the marina too late today and Monday is a holiday.  The only option is to buy a permit for one year for the boat, which is renewable.  We plan to come home next year so the permit will be good until May 9, 2013 which is about when we will be turning the bow to home anyway.  By not checking in today, we have gained 4 extra days next year.  We planned it that way.
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I guess Jenny, our 2 year old granddaughter, is asking every day if Grandma and Grandpa are still on the boat.  Soon, her mommy should be able to show her on the calendar how many days until Grandma and Grandpa come home.  Talk about those heart strings being stretched!
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The pictures are taken from the beach where we anchored over night.  The yellow chairs can float in the water.  You can see our boat in the distance.  It looks so far away but really isn’t.
The next picture is the tourist boat brining the beach goers to the beach
and the last picture shows some of the edge of Bocas del Toro.  It is not a beautiful town from the water!
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Fair Winds,
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Rob and Sue
Aboard Catalyst
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