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November 19, 2011


Dear Friends and Family,

Another rainy day in Panama.  They are the most common days but sunny ones are much appreciated.  We have enjoyed some time in better weather having fun rather than working on the boat so that too has kept us from getting things accomplished.  Little by little, things are coming off the list but it is slow.

I do want to thank those of you who have sent money in to the school in Guatemala.  That is not closed as an option for giving and I am sure that if you were planning to donate, there is still plenty of time to make that happen.  Rob and I are going to be sending some money and if it is easier for you to send us a check, (to our daughter) then we can include the amount of your donation with our check.  I don’t want to push anyone to donate but I do want to make it easier if you are interested.  Let us know if this is something that works better for you.

We did go in to town on Friday for awhile.  There was a local celebration.  There are 5 holidays this month around here.  This one was local but there are 4 national holidays celebrated this month.  What is common is to have the local school bands perform in the world’s slowest parade.  The bands consist of drums and hand held xylophones plus the girls with batons or just marching.  Now I say marching but it takes about 20 to 30 minutes for one band to pass by you.  It is not because they are so large, they just move at a snails pace.  Consequently, this goes on all day long!  They stop and perform in front of the band stand.  You can imagine how boring it is to be doing this as a slow pace for hours just to get down about 5 blocks of street!  Some of the girls are even looking at their cell phones.  The drums are very loud and playing constantly.  Many larger ones are clear.


Each group has their own colors and some are very tropical.  The girls have fancy outfits with matching hats and amazing shoes.  Most of the drummers are guys.  We didn’t see much in cross gender with the drummers and the marchers.

One group had their dancers in hoop skits and masks and they really moved the outfit around.  It was a little spooky and I don’t know if it had any significance or not.  It was more exciting as it showed more movement than just the slow forward pace.

People lined the street and children were dressed in traditional costumes.  They were very cute.  We had seen costumes like this on the adults when we lived here in the 70’s.  They didn’t wear them on the streets but for performing on stage with traditional dance.  They were more elaborate, especially in the head dress and in gold and pearl pins that were attached to the pom poms on front and back of the costume.

There were venders on the street and in booths set up in the park, which was along the parade route.

The celebration brought a lot of the kids in to town and we spotted a large ferry just filled with people packed on.  This was a big car ferry, not the small ones we take back and forth.

We also spent some of that time at a different marina we had not previously visited.  We were visiting a couple that we met at the hostel in Panama.  Sharon and John have a Voyage 43 catamaran.  They won’t be in the San Blas until after the boat is hauled and bottom painted some time in January but we hope to catch up with them later in the season.  They sailed over from San Diego so most of their experience is Pacific side.

On Saturday, Rob and I got up early to take the boat in from here to pick up one of the workers.  They dropped us off in town and were waiting to take a ferry to the mainland.  What would normally be right away, was a wait as there were a lot of the party goers from the night before, heading back to the mainland.  We were on our way to David to do our big provisioning.

I had decided that I would not get concerned about anything that happened on this trip and would leave it to the universe to determine what would serve us best.  Well, the universe kicked in big time to give us a perfect day.  The delay of the ferry got us on a full size comfortable bus for the 4 hour drive over the mountains.  We had taken a large suitcase, in which we put our smaller bag, so that we had room to take some things back with us.  The day was sunny all the way and we enjoyed beautiful views over the mountains.  The landscape changed with the elevation and we saw small outposts along the way.  People waited by the road and got on and off as we progressed.  Because it was a large bus, it was never completely full.  You can see a picture of our bus at the rest stop  where you could get some food or use the bathroom.

This is the same route we took coming from Panama but it was night time then so this was the first opportunity to really enjoy the view.

I did have to close my eyes a little as I was getting a bit car sick with the winding roads and quickly passing scenes with the vegetation close to the bus in many areas.

We were picked up by Tobey when we arrived in David at the bus station.  She and her sister run a business of helping boaters provision.  She will take you shopping or do the shopping as per your order.  Perishables are frozen at her place.  I was able to repackage my meats in smaller quantities at their place and then freeze it.  It is great for me as then when it goes in our freezer, it won’t take our system to freeze everything.  Everything is iced down in coolers and non cold things packed in boxes and shipped over when there is a full large panel truck.  It drives through the night and comes to Bocas del Toro on the car ferry by about 10 a.m.  Our things will arrive on Tuesday (tomorrow).  We will need to hire a boat to off load our things and take us back to our boat at the Marina.  We are praying for no rain tomorrow while we do this but one way or another, we will get things home.  We made the trip there as there are lots of things you can’t buy elsewhere and generally better prices.  Still we had the expense of the bus rides, water taxis, hotel, a couple meals out and the cost of the boat to get things back tomorrow.  We don’t know for sure what the cost of the shopping time and the truck shipment will be.  It is likely the most expensive provisioning we will do but we enjoyed the trip and the chance to pick things out ourselves.  We will relish every morsel!

I have a picture of what we bought, just at PriceSmart.  It filled the back of her truck and half of the back seat.   We had already purchased a microwave and pot and soil for herbs.  I will buy the rooted herbs here in Bocas.  We also made a stop at two grocery stores and had about 4 bags of things from that.  Yes, we may have gone over board but it is typical for what I usually do in advance of a 6 month cruise.  We will be where we cannot easily get supplies of this kind once we are in the San Blas.  We will have lots of treats on board for us and our guests.  Where it is all going once we get it on our boat is anyone’s guess but somehow we manage.  We still have some things that need to be moved outside the boat but we do need to keep the guest room unfilled as it will be used.

I mentioned that we bought a microwave.  A few years back, I suggested that we might want to get a newer one as getting something the right size is difficult in most of the places we find ourselves.  At the time, it looked impossible to get the old one out so we left things alone.  Last week, I mentioned that it was good that we didn’t get a new microwave as this one has lasted for us.  Shortly after that, Rob suggested I cook our rice in the microwave rather than use propane which will be harder to replace in the San Blas.  We are on shore power so that was not an issue.  About 5 minutes in to the cooking, the microwave gave up the ghost and we could not make it work.  I should have kept my mouth shut.  At least this happened when we could find a place to get a new one.  Because the air conditioner was on, Rob thinks the wood was not swollen like it might be in high humidity and we were able to just get the unit out.  What we found was slightly narrower so we are confident that it will fit in the same place.  The Universe takes away, but in this case, the timing and opportunity to replace it was great!

I also was able to get two Turkey’s for our Thanksgiving at the marina with the other boaters.  Turkeys here were about $2.40 a pound and if you wanted them cooked, they were $3.20 a pound.  I was able to get two 20 pounders for about $1.70 per pound which I think is still high but a savings.  What we couldn’t get was fresh or canned cranberries or the fried onion rings for the top of a green bean casserole.  Still, people will bring their favorite meals to share and the marina is buying the turkeys.  There are three of us who are putting this together.  One boater has a free standing roaster than can do the two turkeys and another boater will roast them and make the stuffing and the gravy.

Our biggest issue is where to put the 30 + people who are planning to come.  If it is not raining, no problem but finding an indoor spot that will seat that many is a challenge.  We will hope for good weather!  Either way, we will be thankful for a shared meal with new friends.

As we were returning from our trip to David the next day, I kept flashing back to other trips we have taken over these last years in the Caribbean.  Some of the plants in the higher elevations reminded me of the island of Dominica.  The smaller, more crowded bus we took home was like so many of the local buses we took on other islands or along the mainlands of Central America.

This is likely to be our last year on our boat in the Caribbean and rather than looking ahead to being back as I had feared, I find that this year may end up the most meaningful, knowing it is not likely to be repeated.  I felt very thankful for those feelings and the fact that we have been so blessed to live this dream.  I am excited about the months to come and eager to live out those experiences.

We came home in the roughest conditions between the mainland and Bocas we had experienced.  Even Rob was a bit nervous.  We took the rest of the ride home in the rain, getting wet before returning to the boat.  How thankful we were that it was our return trip to the boat instead of getting wet before a 5 hour bus ride and 4 or 5 hours of shopping.  We had every reason to be thankful.

This is the first Thanksgiving we have been cruising and away from home.  We will be thinking of all of you with your friends and family, perhaps sharing it with new people for the first time.  We hope the memories of specials times shared through the years will make this a special time as well.  We look forward to Thanksgiving at Pelican Bay, in our home waters some time in the future.  But now, it is time to live in the today and we are thankful for your love and friendship.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Rob and Sue

Aboard Catalyst

Red Frog Marina, Panama

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