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December 8, 2012
Dear Friends and Family,
It has been awhile since I wrote and so this is likely to be a long message. Many interesting things have happened since we pulled away from the dock at Red Frog.
We anchored near Bocas town and got in early enough to catch the truck coming in from David with our replacement microwave. We were a bit worried because we were told it was different than the one we had before but fit our measurement requirements. We met the truck and waited with the other eager boaters and locals who were anticipating their shipments as well. You can see poinsettias that were ordered as well as new anchor chain, spare tires, food, etc.
We got the microwave back and as we suspected, it was too large for the space. Now what? Well, we found a spot near our navigation station next to the door of the refrigerator. It was about the only other place it would fit. We had to relocate the computer’s printer and we put it in the spot where the microwave fit, so that will work. At least the micro wave works now.
We enjoyed our anchorage at first but should have probably chosen the one on the other side of town. This one was away from the ferries and had better holding but it also was in the middle of the late night very LOUD music which went on until about 3 a.m. It also had some strange current situations which meant that boats were going every which way and there was some concern about proximity. We were there only two nights though. We anchored there to be closer to our friends in their marina. We met John and Sharon in Panama City and I mentioned them in another log. We went out to dinner with them one night and I ordered Lion Fish fillets.
Very firm meat and very nice. I took a picture of the plate because the rice was presented as a star fish. There was also a very unusual flower on the table. It was waxy feeling and I don’t know what it was.
We hosted Sharon and John at our boat the next night. Linsey used her days near town to do her last visiting with friends she has made. She may be considering heading back there and has some job possibilities.
One of the things we did to get ready to leave was to get gasoline. It is hard to get in the San Blas so we filled everything up we had. To get gasoline though you had to go to this place where a woman siphoned gas, using her mouth to start the suction! She filled large or small containers and then transferred them to your tanks. What a process!
We have our way of doing things and we figure that it should always be that way but in so many parts of the world, things are very different. Here, there are few regulations for safety at all. You will see more examples of this as you read.
We took off on Monday morning for a half day sail to the island of Escudo de Veraguas. It is populated by a small village of fishermen. It is a beautiful island with unusual coast line. We went snorkeling along the shore but not in coral so not much to see. It was perfect water temperature though and I am looking forward to that. Most of the snorkeling we do around the Caribbean seems to be colder water. I think I am going to love it as I won’t have to get in to a wet suit to stay warm. Now I just have to worry about sun burn! You can check our position report at:
to get a satellite view of this beautiful island and a picture of the anchorage where we are currently in Portobello.
We left the next day for Portobello on an overnight passage. We told our daughter Lisa where we were and she asked if they had “good mushroom here?” I am glad I raised a clever daughter! Portobello is probably the last major village before the San Blas and consequently the last place to take on additional provisions. Unfortunately, Bocas would have been a better option but we were able to get some general things here.
There is a fort system here that is quite extensive. It is on both sides of the large harbor which right now is pretty full of boats, maybe about 30. The area is open for anyone to walk around. We have our own personal photographer on board so we both get to be in the pictures for now. Here we are at one of the guard stations and also along the wall of cannons. You can see the view of the harbor from the fort.
This town also has a large church which is famous for the Black Christ. The statue of the Black Christ, is black because it is carved out of dark wood. Many people come to this little town because of the miracles that have happened after prayer here.
Though this town seems pretty poor at the moment, most of the gold in South and Central America passed through here on the way back to Spain. Sometimes it went to England with the very active and successful pirate, Henry Morgan. Columbus was also was here in 1502.
We went to lunch at a famous place here. It is called Captain Jack’s. He has a very interesting background. He worked his way up as a chemist until he was a vice president of a large chemical company. He retired and sailed around the world looking for a place to settle and he picked Portobello. Of course he is not really retired because he owns a restaurant and youth hostel where you can get laundry done. He also runs a boat that takes back packers to see the San Blas and has a place in Colombia as well. We had a nice lunch there. What was most interesting though were the tables in the place. They were made of one thick piece of wood. The color was beautiful and the sides were the raw edges of the tree. The benches were of the same wood. Jack called it Roosevelt trees. Teddy Roosevelt was President when the Canal was finished. When the lake that is in the middle of the canal was flooded, all the trees were covered with water. That is almost 100 years ago. They are just now harvesting these trees that have been under water for almost a century. The wood is very hard and they are not rotted. I would love to have furniture out of them as the grain is beautiful. Jack could not remember the actual name of the tree.
While we were there, we met a group who were from a boat in the harbor. The boat is called the Picton Castle.
It started in Europe and has crossed the Atlantic. They made a stop in Grenada and then straight here. They will be going through the canal soon and then on to Hawaii and the South Pacific. There is regular crew but they also have people who pay to go as crew and they learn to do all sorts of things on this square rigger, including climbing to the top of the mast to release the sails. People come and go along the way but they are almost full at the moment. They each have a bunk but little privacy! It was a mixed lot with age and gender and nationality, though they said everyone spoke English. What an adventure! Of course I prefer the comforts of Catalyst!
We went in to Colon, which is the town on the Atlantic side of the canal zone. We had passed the entrance to the canal about dawn on our overnight passage from our island stop. You could see the lights of the canal along with those of all the large ships anchored, waiting for their turn to transit. The bus ride though was a little over an hour. We took the normal bus, not a luxury one. They are old school buses and who knows what condition they are in. The brightly colored outside is not indication of anything nice on the inside!
The one we took to Colon had very loud brakes and the floor vibrated under us uncomfortably every time. We got seats when we got on but the bus filled to standing in the isles. We thought it got crowded until we got on the one coming back!
We stopped at only one market because we couldn’t do all the walking and carry our supplies. I still couldn’t find some things I had hoped for. They were doing a lot of stocking and it was very crowded. We saw decorations up for Christmas and they were selling live trees. Christmas music was playing as we explored the store. It was the first large market Linsey had been to since she began her travels so it was a shock for her. The markets locally in the small towns are more the size of a 7/11.
We left the market with 3 very full cooler bags, two back packs and one other bag. Most of what we got was stuff in cans so it was heavy. We walked about a block to the bus stop and waited about 10 minutes for our bus. When we got on, there were no seats and we stood toward the front of the bus in the isle. Of course we had all these bags as well so they took up room on the floor. At the next stop, about 15 extra people got on our bus that I thought was already full. I was just by the driver and Rob had left one of the freezer bags on the flood next to him. A lady sitting in the front seat took my back pack and bag and held the bag and put the pack by her feet. Later, one more person joined the two on the seat but they kept my bags for me. Linsey found a seat as a third party and crammed her cooler bag and back pack in as well. She, along with others along the isle who had three in a seat, only had support of one cheek and feet were in the isle which also held people standing! Rob ended up way in the back in the isle with one freezer bag. At one point, I counted 7 people just in the steps of the bus. They traveled with the door open and at least 2 guys were hanging out half way. I had only the front pole to hold on to and as we stopped and let people off and added more (mostly the later) I would find that there was not actually room for my feet. I could put one foot down but maybe only the toes of the second. The bumping and stopping meant that I had to hug my pole for balance. The driver was sitting forward in his seat and I was leaning toward the back of his seat, often using that to balance myself.
This went on for over an hour. Now you may think this was a bad experience but it is one of those that really make a trip more interesting. Seeing everyone cooperate, holding bags for a stranger, making room in an already crowded seat, crawling through people to get off, not complaining when a bus made for about 40 has close to 75 on board and taking things as a matter of course. People were even sleeping. The cost is $1.40 for our part of the trip so it appeals to people on a limited income. What I felt, was a sense of community and solidarity with these people and I didn’t feel left out of that because I am obviously not one of them. Linsey said she felt the same thing. It was ultimately very satisfying, though we are happy that it is not part of our day to day life.
We had thought to leave today but are choosing to stay to take advantage of internet one more day. We will leave very early tomorrow for Porvenir, which will mark our entrance to the San Blas. There is one problem that we are now trying to deal with. We lost the use of our depth sounder before arriving here. That is a little frustrating and Rob is working on some ways we may be able to resolve the problem, hopefully without having to take the boat out of the water. In the mean time, Linsey is sitting on the back step with a hand held electronic sounder and Rob is on the bow with a lead weight at the end of a string so that we can at least know how deep our anchorage is so we know how much scope to let out. Once in the San Blas, the charts will help and we can spot reefs. Anchorages are generally deep and with help from other boaters, we hope to limp along but it is not ideal.
Speaking of Linsey, she is a big help. Here is a shot of her working.
Woops! I guess not that shot! Here is another one of her in the galley and she is a good and creative cook though I am still doing most of the cooking by choice.
She is working on my arm each day and I have even gotten a shoulder massage. She is helping me with exercises for specific pain and posture situations and when we can go ashore each day to a beach, we will start doing yoga. I don’t know how long she will stay with us. I guess it will depend on what opportunities will come her way. We have been enjoying her. She is such a bubbly and personable woman, interesting and fun to be with along with the helpfulness. By the way. I must make a correction. Rob misread her passport. She was born in an English town that looks like Sweden so she was not born there but is British and Australian in her upbringing. Also, some of you have written back, spelling her name with a ‘d’ it but it is spelled Linsey.
Sorry this is so long. I will try not to let so many things accumulate in future but I also don’t have an idea about internet access. If you write to us and we don’t answer quickly, that is why. You can use the firstname.lastname@example.org for now but if you have already corresponded to us via our winlink address, you can use that one for plain text.
We are being woken up each morning by the howler monkey’s which sound much like wild cats in the jungle but soon we will wake up to the knocking on the boat of the mola sellers. No more late sleep ins!
Sue, Rob and Linsey