Monday, 8 July 2019...Shelter Bay Marina, Colón, Panama...Good Morning, Crocodile And After while, Crocodile...

The crew was just waking up and eating some breakfast when a neighbor on the dock stopped by to tell us the local crocodile was laying with its mouth open by the edge of the water on the thick green grass. It was surrounded by 8 rather large vultures who were keeping a respectful distance. Earlier, the crocodile had been seen pushing a capybara (a huge rodent that looks like a huge guinea pig) body in the water. The crocodile had obviously gone hunting in the near-by jungle. We all went out on the dock and sure enough, we could easily see the crocodile over there on the grass. Next, we walked over to the next dock and got a closer look.

Later, Dito went to get a marina cart and we all headed for the sail loft. I had never been in there, so I wanted to see it. The couple who do sail repair are from Great Britain. They live aboard their sailboat in the marina. They told us that this is supposed to be their “off season”, but it seems like almost every boat that arrives here needs some repair done to at least one of their sails. They are capable of doing all kinds of canvas work, too, but said they do not have time to do anything but repair sails.

The sail loft building is very old, but large enough for very large sails to be unfolded or unrolled. The open doors, and windows, and high ceilings allow any ocean breeze that is out there to flow through aided by a multitude of large fans. It was quite pleasant in there. One photo shows Dito, Sarah, Z, and J talking to a man who is running a specialized sewing machine that uses multiple tough threads to sew the several layers of fabric that make up a sail. In the other photo, the dock cart is holding our repaired sail in the blue bag with the white stripe. You can see part of the rows of sails on the floor that people have left there to be repaired. It certainly does look like it has to be a full time job to get all that work done!

Later in the day, “the word” made its way down the dock that the crocodile was on the move again. This time the crocodile was swimming from the far end of the next dock over toward the far end of our dock while actually pushing the bloated body of a capybara. The consensus is the crocodile had 2 capybara stashed in two different places as of last night. It ate one and is now trying to keep the other one from the vultures. I am going to leave the story there, because I really do not know. I do know I find it fascinating to be in a place that is so close to the rainforest jungle that having these animals around is just part of the local marina experience!

Sunday, 7 July 2019...Shelter Bay Marina, Colón, Panama...Sunday Is Cruisers’ BBQ Night...

It was so good to get up this morning and see our new furler system stranding tall on the forestay. We are so happy to have that new system and grateful that all of the pieces we needed were in the packages we received. Being able to do a good job depends on having the right parts and tools to do that job!

Because it is Sunday, the sail loft is not open, so we cannot pick up our sail from them until tomorrow. Dave and Dito decided to look at solving the problem of the escape hatch. In order to see the problem from both side...literally, the top in the salon and the bottom under the boat...Dito was going to lay in the dinghy and go under the boat. It turned out that that dinghy was too bit to fit easily the boat. Dito inflated his paddle board and laid on his back on it. Using his hands, he could move himself under the boat and under the hatch. They had been working for maybe 30 minutes when the people on the next dock over started yelling that the crocodile was in the water over their way, and possibly moving our way. They could see into the culvert near their dock and spotted a dead capybara where the crocodile had “stored” it. Thank goodness the crocodile did not come near our boat.

It was time to think about what to make for the marina BBQ this evening. I had success with the cake I made last week, so I thought about making another kind of cake for tonight. I also wanted to make some bar cookies to share with the three guys who live on our dock and came out to help maneuver the 50’+ roller furler and rigging that had to be moved from the dock to the bow of EXIT ONLY. We sure appreciated their help. Sarah was planning to make a Scandinavian bread to take to the BBQ, so I wanted to finish my baking so she could get into the galley.

While I was gathering things together for baking, I was also checking out our supplies in the pantry and seeing what needed to be refilled. Yesterday we bought white sugar, brown sugar, icing sugar, and flour. All of these things needed to be put away. To make each of these items easier to access when we are sailing, we take the time to pre-measure 1 cup quantities of each of these items into labeled sandwich bags and store them in plastic containers in the for sugar, one for flour, one for brown sugar, etc. For example, if we need 2 cups of flour for baking, we grab 2 bags from the flour container. Bagging these ingredients takes very little time. The result of the effort is we do not have to be trying to measure from a big container of flour, etc., when we are making bread or cookies while we are sailing. Baking can be done more quickly and with less mess.

To end on a sweet note, I put in a photo of grilled platanos/plantains...the delicious dish that I talked about last Sunday. Platanos are cooking bananas...they are not eaten raw. With the peel left on, the platanos were laid on the grill and turned periodically until finally the skin burst open. The man opened the slit the length of the fruit, and cut the cooked platanos in 3/4” to 1” slices on a plate. He poured La Lechera (commercial name) sweetened condensed milk over the platanos, then sprinkled cinnamon over everything. Absolutely delicious!

Saturday, 6 July 2019...Shelter Bay Marina, Colón, Panama...Happy Birthday To Dave!...

Today is Dave’s birthday and he celebrated this morning by working with Dito and Steve, the rigger, on our new furler system on the forestay. A “rigger” works on rigging and anything associated with rigging. “Rigging” includes all of the metal wires that hold up the mast.

Sarah, Z, J, and I celebrated this morning by riding the morning coaster bus into Colón. Alright, I will admit we went into town so we would be out of the way of the work that was going on. By the time Dave gets all of the tools that he needs out of the storage areas and spreads them out, ready to use, the salon and cockpit are full of tools. Going grocery shopping seemed like a really good idea for everyone’s sake. Our trip into town included riding the vehicle ferry across the Canal. Our coaster was right at the front of the line, so we got a nice photo of it on the ferry. There is Sarah, Z, J, and a friend from the marina by the front of the coaster.

I have mentioned before that “going to get groceries” has taken on a new meaning now that we are docked at Shelter Bay Marina. We are very grateful for their free shuttle bus that brings marina workers to work from Colón and takes people on boats at the marina back into Colón to buy groceries and other things they are looking for.

Today, the first thing we did after entering the grocery store was head to the deli back in the far right corner of the store. There are many pastries and foods available in individual servings plus individual servings of savory foods, fruit drinks, and, of course, coffee. The people in line around me seemed to be ordering their coffee with sugar and tinned evaporated milk in it. You choose what you want, then get in line to pay for it. Once you have paid, there are three tall tables near-by where you can stand and eat what you have purchased. We ate a snack hanging out there with the locals!

Back at the marina, lots of things were happening. First, EXIT ONLY had been moved out of her slip at the dock and put on the “T” at the end of the dock. They did this so they could have better access to the foredeck from the dock and, also, they could lay out and assemble the pieces of the new furler system (about 50 feet long) right there on the dock. The guys worked a long hard day, but by mid afternoon the new furler was in place and everything had fit together like it was supposed to. That is always a good thing! All that is left to do is go to the sail loft at the marina, pick up our sail, then, put it on the track and roll it up. They will save that job for another day.

Friday, 5 July 2019...Shelter Bay Marina, Colón, Panama...How To Open A Coconut...

Z and J are fascinated with finding coconuts on the marina grounds. They want to open them and drink the water (from younger green coconuts) or milk (from older brown coconuts) from them. The problem is that most of the work going into opening a coconut borders on the edge of “this could be dangerous” territory.

The South African lady who is our boat neighbor on the dock had 2-3 coconuts with her when the kids saw her a few days ago. They were talking to her about the coconuts, then came onto EXIT ONLY asking if one of the adults aboard would help them open a coconut. Zoe asked Chris, our South African boat neighbor, how to open a coconut. Chris offered to show Z and J how she opens a coconut. I tagged along to take photos.

First we went over to the area where there is a work table with a vice attached to it. This is the cruiser’s work area where they can bring their own tools and do a project that is too big to do on their boat. Chris picked up a flat piece of metal and placed the corner of the metal so it was sticking up from the vice, then tightened down. She showed us the 3 indentions on the hull of the coconut separating 3 fatter areas. She stuck one of the “fatter” areas on the metal corner and pulled hard to get the outer husk to tear off the smaller coconut inside. When the first area came loose, she turned the husk and repeated the hard pull on the second “fatter” area, then repeated the same movement on the third “fatter” area. It took a few pulls, but the outer husk was eventually loosened from the nut itself.

We came back to the dock between our boat and their boat and waited while Chris got her tools for opening the coconut. She had a machete and used the thicker side/back of the blade to tap around the middle of the hard brown coconut. After a few good taps, the nut broke into two pieces. The white meat on the inside of the brown shell was beautiful! I took the two open halves to the table in our cockpit and went after the white coconut meat with a small sharp paring knife. I got a few small pieces to break away from the shell. Dave took over and finished the job.

Now we had small pieces of white coconut meat with a thin brown piece of the hull on them. Using the paring knife, I was able to trim the brown areas off the white coconut meat. Then I made thin slices out of the pieces. After finishing that job, I rinsed the white coconut meat and drained the water. I placed the dish of coconut on the table. Sarah made vegetable curry for lunch today, so we ate some of the freshly acquired coconut on top of our curry. Perfect!

When Chris offered us some fresh coconut a couple of days ago, she had added the tiniest bit of soy sauce to the coconut and stirred it together. That was also a very unique flavor. Nice!We had never tasted anything like that before. It is very interesting to me to talk to these sailing ladies who have creatively produced meals in a wide variety of places using ingredients they may or may not have been familiar with. Chris said when they cruised in the Chagos Archipelago for six months one time, there were no stores where they could purchase food, so they provisioned their boats before hand and used what they had when they got there. All cruisers have done the same to some extent, but I have never done it for 6 months!

Thursday, 4 July 2019...Shelter Bay Marina, Colón, Panama...Just Another Day In Panama...

We woke up in the middle of the night last night and a steady cool wind was blowing from the north here in the marina. We are tied to the dock so our cockpit is to the north, which means the two cabins in the bow (toward the south) are not getting as much benefit from the northern breezes.

Being in a marina, your boat is stationary and may or may not get good ventilation as the breezes move through the boat. Being anchored out, the boat moves constantly and sets with the bow to the predominant wind direction. The forward cabins are always cooler than the aft cabins at anchor. It was very enjoyable today to have a sunny day with 18-20 knots of wind keeping us cooler all day and keeping the humidity down a little. All in all, we really appreciated the weather today.

We did school this morning and at the end Sarah showed Z and J a video about the history behind the Fourth of July and why it is celebrated in the States. We will not have any fireworks here tonight, but Sarah did have glow-in-the-dark bracelets for the girls and they were very happy to put those on after it got dark. Of course today was not a holiday in Panama, but they did acknowledge the U.S.A. Holiday by offering some typical foods in the restaurant that people in the States often have as they grill or have picnics on this holiday. There are actually only a few people from the States here in the marina. There are people from many European countries...Sweden, Norway, Gibraltar, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, plus New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada...all of them here to go through the Panama Canal.

We were eating our lunch on the boat, when a Fed Ex delivery man was suddenly standing on the dock by the stern of the boat. He had two packages for EXIT ONLY! Our new furler had arrived from South Florida! Dave and Dito could hardly wait to open the rectangle box to see if everything they had asked for was in there. A quick look through all the bits and pieces made them very happy. They think they have everything they need to put up the new furler system. They did not open the long round box, because they already know the aluminum extrusions (aluminum tubes that go over the headstay and allow the sail to slide up and is the actual roller the sail rolls around when we furl the sail) are inside that box. I think the plan is to put the new furler system on the boat Saturday morning. Good things are happening!

Wednesday, 3 July 2019...Shelter Bay Marina, Colón, Panama...Is That Laundry Dry Yet?...

I know, I know...all I seem to be talking about is rain and all I seem to be taking photos of is the gloomy low clouds hanging around us like black out curtains. We actually did get a peek at the sun in the morning, but only a quick peek.

Dave and Dito were working on their computers up in the Cruiser’s Lounge today. I think they like to go there because it is usually relatively quiet, plus there is air conditioning. They come down from their upstairs hideaway for lunch and supper! Dave is updating many of his web sites while he has reliable WiFi. He is working off his own hot spot called MoviStar. The rest of us have individual accounts with the marina for our WiFi and we pay for it by the week. The marina WiFi is reliable, but every time we stop using it for any time at all, we have to keep signing back in.

There are some really interesting photos hanging on the wall in the Cruiser’s Lounge of the building of the Panama Canal. The actual Canal is 80 km./50 mi. from one end to the other. The French had an agreement with Colombia (Panama was part of their territory at the time) they beggan digging in 1880. The French stopped working on the canal in 1889 because malaria, yellow fever, and other tropical diseases had killed over 20,000 workers. In 1901 the United States was talking to Colombia about an agreement to build the Canal. Colombia wanted more and more concessions, so in 1902 the United States started dealing directly with the Panama region of Colombia. As a result of those negotiations, Panama declared its independence from Colombia in 1903 with the assurance from the United States that they would recognize Panamanian sovereignty immediately. The United States was granted a 10 mile wide area called “The Canal Zone” to use for administering and overseeing the construction of the Canal. This area also included housing for workers. The project was finished in 1914.

We were really spoiled in the Bahamas with the WiFi system there that gave us a hotspot anywhere near a Batelco tower (which were located almost everywhere in the islands). Almost everyone in the Bahamas has good mobile phone service available these days. In Panama, different areas of the country use different systems. MoviStar works here, but when we move to another area, we will have to pay to access another system.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019...Shelter Bay Marina, Colón, Panama...A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That...

We began the day with a clear sky and almost no wind. We are well aware it is rainy season, but hope springs eternal that maybe today it will not rain so much.

After doing some short school, we decided to hand wash some laundry, because we only had a fairly small amount of dirty clothes. Sarah did their laundry first, so I waited until she finished washing, rinsing, and hanging up the laundry on our foldable rack and the lifelines. I went out into the cockpit to do our laundry and guess what!?! Sarah had done everybody’s laundry and it was all washed, rinsed, and hanging up! I was very grateful for that! We put the foldable rack at the back of the cockpit, so those items have not been affected by the frequent threats of rain and sprinkles. I took a photo of our dilemma...Will it rain or not rain on the laundry...that is the question! It is now several hours later and I can say that it sprinkled several times, but did not break out into a downpour. Most of the clothes actually did get mostly dry. We have a few things hanging inside the boat now to dry the last little bit.

I took the photo of just me on the boat, because that is something that hardly every happens! It is very quiet on the boat when it does happen. Dito, Sarah, Z, and J took the afternoon coaster bus into Colón. Dave is at the Cruiser’s Lounge working on his websites and enjoying the air conditioning.

Back at the boat, I took advantage of being “home alone” to organize some odds and ends of papers I had been putting in one plastic bag. Several of the papers had important addresses or phone numbers on them, some had recipes someone had shared with me, some had cruising information like what islands someone liked the best in Guna Yala/San Blas, etc. I do have a proper booklet where I keep those miscellaneous bits of advice I know I will be using somewhere down the way. Being by myself meant I could spread all my scraps of paper out on the whole table and organize them. Now...they need to be put in that book!

I also tied up some loose ends in our boat log book. This is the official record of our passages or moving the boat from one place to another. When the boat is moving, we write in the log book every hour reporting latitude, longitude, wind direction and speed, the boat’s course and speed, and a short comment about if we are using sails, engine (we run one at a time usually), or both. On our circumnavigation we did the same thing, of course, but I waited until a log book was full before I made an index of exactly what places were included in that particular log book (we ended up with 14 or 15 log books from our circumnavigation). This time I am making an index page as we go and I am including our nautical mileage as well as a running total of how many nautical miles we have gone since leaving Ft. Pierce, Florida. Now I am caught up to date in the log book.

We have been having a problem with the smaller of the two burners on our propane stove. Both burners on the stove worked immediately when Dave and Dito did the refit in Florida, but it was difficult to raise or lower the heat. The stove worked well enough that we did not worry about it. In Matthew Town, Great Inagua Island, Bahamas, we started having trouble lighting the smaller of the two burners. On passage from there to Colón that burner stopped working, so we were cooking in one pot on one burner during the whole trip.

This morning Dito spent quite awhile using some very small tools to clean some rust off of the burner parts. Later Dave took a look at the burner and brought out more miniature tools to open up all the holes that may have been closed by rust. Whatever they did, we now have two functioning burners that are burning really well and it is easy to adjust the flame. As I am typing this blog entry, Dito is cleaning the burner in the oven, too. I am happy that we did not have to order stove parts from Trinidad or St. Martin (that is where the nearest parts store is located for this brand of stove), happy that we can adjust the flames, and happy that have crossed the stove off the “To Do” list!

Monday, 1 July 2019...Shelter Bay Marina, Colón, Panama...Today Is The 200th Blog Entry In-A-Row That I Have Written...

I have not been counting the number of blogs I have written to watch the number get bigger. In fact, I am the only one who pays any attention to the numbers, because I am the one who uses the numbers to keep track of the days, dates, and which photos go with which blog entry.

All of that to say the blog entries added up one day at a time. That is how most things happen, isn’t it? In the very beginning when we were still working on the refit of the boat, I could not see into the future at all. I could not imagine that the refit would really be finished and we would really make this trip happen. Day by day, the refit was finished and the dream became a reality.

With a plan in place for our “great escape”, health issues became more important than the winds and the waves. Our focus had to change for awhile. Once again, day by day we did what we had to do, but kept the goal of sailing away in our hearts and minds. Finally, THE DAY arrived and on 9 April 2019, we pulled in the dock lines and fenders, stowed them, and have never looked back.

We had a “shake down” cruise to and through the Bahamas that really did shake us up at times. We had a lot of sailing experience, but it had been awhile. We needed to regain our courage and remind the crew of those routine things we do on a boat to keep it moving. Slowly, but by day...the familiarity of the boat, the sea, the wind, and the waves reminded us we had been out there before and we knew what to do.

I have tried to bring anyone who reads this blog along with us. Everyday I am always looking for things that I think would interest others. I try to explain what we are doing and let everyone in on just how much work goes in to keeping this boat moving. I try to share how we feel about the boat...we believe that if we take care of the boat, the boat will take care of us. Thus, we are willing to do whatever we can to make the boat the best it can be. I have tried to add a bit of “nautical jargon” here and there, because those are the actual words we use when we are talking about the boat. I have tried to let y’all in on what our cruising lifestyle is like.

Writing this blog, day by day, has made me pay much closer attention to what is happening moment by moment each day on board EXIT ONLY. I try to share about the boat, the crew, and the lifestyle. I am especially appreciative of friends who have no idea about boats and sailing, but they have shown an interest in learning about it because we are out here. It is nice to know y’all are “with us”! It means a lot to me! Thank you!

PS...What happened on EXIT ONLY today? Sarah and the girls made bread. It is called Boula and is a family recipe Sarah is passing along to her girls. This was the perfect thing to do on this rainy day. The warmth from the oven felt good in the boat and the smell of baking bread was terrific! The taste was amazing! Sarah helped Z braid her loaf and helped J sprinkle cinnamon on her dough and roll it up. Yummy!