We went to bed last night thinking we were prepared to leave the marina tomorrow morning. We woke up this morning thinking yes, we are prepared to leave, but... We were not in a hurry to leave when we saw the heavy storm clouds overhead with the lightening and heard the booming thunder. This was not the kind of weather we would call a “weather window”. Now what? We immediately decided to wait until the weather cleared...whenever that was going to happen.
The morning passed with all of us doing whatever we usually do, then we had lunch. It had stopped raining, but the sky was still overcast. About 1440 we looked up at some blue spots of sky and a bit of sunshine trying to peek through the thinning clouds. Dave said, “I think we should go for it” and just like that we were in “go mode”.
With the help of some friends gathered on the dock to wish us well, at 1500/3]00 p.m. the lines were removed from the cleats and tossed on board, we pulled away from the dock, and headed out the entrance to the marina.
The next 2 days plus 6 hours was the kind of passage we always hope for...steady light winds, small waves, and no storms or rain. We did have a moment of drama when we ran over a log just after dark the first night out. Dave and I were sitting by the port helm (steering wheel) talking when we heard Thump...Thump...Thump. Looking quickly behind us, we could just make out the log floating in the water behind the boat. It has passed between the two hulls. Dito went up with a headlamp on his head to check to see if he could see any damage. We started the port engine to make sure the prop was not damaged. Everything was fine.
We did carry some passengers that were not on the crew list. We had two different birds come sit on the lifelines to take a rest. A large butterfly rode along for awhile behind the open door that protected it from the wind. Then, a baby gecko showed up! We had seen two larger geckos in the salon at two different times while in Panama and we carefully caught them and transferred them to land. I think the next generation went to sea!
We ended up arriving off Cartegena as the sun was setting. Normally, we do not like going into ports or unknown anchoring areas at night, but this harbor is huge and well-marked. We went for it! Dave was at the helm and could watch the harbor charts on his miniSamsung tablet His right-hand-man, Dito, was sitting in a chair he put on the foredeck and he was seeing the same harbor charts on the miniIpad he was holding in his hand. I was at the navigation desk manning the VHF radio. Sarah was in the cockpit, ready to move to another area of the boat if there was a problem.
We joined the other boats that are anchored out in the Cartagena Harbor. Is always a special moment when the anchor goes down and digs in. With a big sigh of relief and a feeling of gratefulness that we arrivded safe and sound, everyone was ready to stop for awhile.
We woke up this morning with the idea that if the weather was looking good, we would leave. Everyone was awake and ready to go but we could immediately see the weather was not going to cooperate.
It had been raining off and on all night, and the sky was looking very threatening. It was easy to vote not to leave yet. It was unanimous. We will try again tomorrow.
We went ahead and had a marina-based day. We had school in the morning and lunch on the boat.
The weather cleared up a little in the afternoon, so Sarah took Z and J to the pool one more time. Their swimming has really improved while we have had access to the swimming pool. They have had a lot of time to practice their strokes. They have learned to use their diving masks and fins. They still do not like using snorkels, so they free dive instead. Of course, that has helped them increase how long they can hold their breath.
We are quite familiar with the “hurry up and wait” part of sailing. We know how it goes. The best thing you can do is get ready and when the wind and weather is “right”, you go
Speaking of the “last time to ...”, Tonight will be the last time we can order the restaurant’s Wednesday Night Special Pizzas for awhile. We all love pizza. We do not all agree on the taste of all pizzas or what toppings are best on pizza, but we always order enough pizzas with different toppings, so everyone has at least one they like.
If Pizza Night is the biggest thing happening, then that tells you there is really not much new and different to tell about today. All day we were focused on leaving and everything that happened today was about leaving.
We have food,..fuel...water...engine maintenance is done, jerry cans are filled with extra fuel, gasoline, and water. We are ticking items off the list...jerry jugs are tied down to the deck, snacks have been organized for night watches, chocolate chip cookies were made and packed away for later, we have looked at the weather forecast, Dito has been up the mast and checked out all the gear at the top of the mast, so the”To Do” List is getting very short.
We made one more quick trip on the shuttle bus this afternoon. Yes, it was raining, again, so it seemed like a good idea to go to town in the rain instead of staying on the boat in the rain. The new bridge made quite a dramatic backdrop with the storm clouds in the background.
The shopping area we go to in Colon, Cuatro Altos, is mostly covered, so even when it is raining, there are lots of places you can walk around and still keep dry. Somehow, the croissant con queso from the panadaria tasted really good today. Maybe it was because we know we will not be eating them for awhile after today!
We had done some laundry by hand yesterday and hung it up to dry. Long story short...it rained and the laundry did not dry. Maybe it even got wetter.
This morning we took down the wet laundry from the lifelines and stripped the sheets off the bunks. We decided to take everything to the laundry and get it washed and dried in the machines. We stuffed everything, wet and dry alike, into two big bags and carried the bags to the marina laundry. There, we saw the sign...Closed Today.
Back at the boat with the wet and dry laundry, we now had more wet stuff. We filled buckets with water from the dock and did all the laundry by hand. We filled all the lifelines with wet laundry, then had to tie up more lines which we wound around the rigging so we would be able to hang everything in the wind. The sun smiled down on us and the laundry monster was put to rest after we were able to get everything dried, folded, and put away.
In the evening we invited Amanda, a friend we met at the marina, to go to supper at the marina restaurant with our family. Amanda is trying to improve her English and I am trying to improve my Spanish, so we have some interesting multilingual conversations!Today was her birthday. She and her husband, Alberto, are from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They are the crew on a motorboat docked here at the marina. The owners fly in, use the boat, return to the marina, and fly out.
Alberto had to fly to Mexico on boat business two days ago and will not return until after Amanda’s birthday. We decided to celebrate with her. Of course we are acquainted with almost everyone who was in the small restaurant and everyone who walked by the table, so we had fun telling them it was Amanda’s birthday and watching them wish her Happy Birthday, too.
Our friends across the dock from us have a life raft that is over 10 years old and cannot be recertified. They decided to open it and see what happens. They asked us if we wanted to watch, so all six of us went over to the grassy area where they opened it. Of course we had our video camera and photo camera with us.
I managed to get one photo of the actual opening of the life raft in the air. Z and J pulled the two ropes that activate the compressed air canister that inflates the tubes of the raft. It happens so fast...and the raft went flying through the air! We realized after it was all over that it was a fortunate thing that no one got hit by the flying “air ship”! The liferaft could easily knock an adult over, let alone a kid.
This particular life raft was made in Shanghai, China, and certified for their sailboat in France 10 years ago. They have already purchased a new life raft to replace the old one.
In the afternoon, we rode the shuttle bus into the grocery store. Now that we are planning to leave, we buy some provisions, put them away on the boat, then see how much space is left...repeat...until their is no more storage space for food. Z and J came along to help, using the mini-trolleys provided by the store.
The marina continues to be a popular weekend destination. Now that the new bridge is open, more and more local area people are finding their way to Shelter Bay Marina. They have had to enlarge the parking areas to accommodate all the cars. Some folks come to eat at the restaurant. Some come to swim in the pool. Some come to go walking in and around the rainforest.
We always enjoy the Sunday evening gatherings around the outdoor grill. I have written about the cakes I have been baking each week as my contribution to the table where everyone puts something to share.
Last Tuesday, one of the teenagers living on a boat in the marina told me her birthday was going to be on Thursday in two days. She asked if I thought I could put candles on the cake I would make for next Sunday night (tonight). I told her I reckoned I could find 15 candles to put on the cake. I did manage to come up with 15 candles and even found large number 1 and number 5 candles in the grocery store.
We knew her family was having a celebration with cake and everything for her on Thursday, her real birthday. Why not celebrate again and make her happy? Dito brought his guitar to the gathering this evening, so we had accompanying music while we all sang “Happy Birthday to Emma...”. It was fun and she got a kick out of it.
After the birthday song, Dito played some singalongs. Some of the other cruisers went to get musical instruments from their boats, so they could play along, too. One enterprising person had maracas, rhythm sticks, and a triangle that got passed around so anyone who wanted to participate had the opportunity.
We are starting to count down a lot of “last time we will (fill in the blank) for awhile. This is probably our last weekend at Shelter Bay for awhile. This will be our last Sunday night BBQ for awhile. There are only a few more chances to go to town on the shuttle bus before we leave. There are only a few more empty spaces on the boat to store things we are going to want later. The kids can swim in the pool a few more times.
We are all aware moving on will be a big change of pace, but we are ready to do something different. In our past travels on our boat, we have not spent much time in marinas. Instead we have anchored out most of the time. We have used our time at Shelter Bay Marina to do some boat jobs, make some adjustments inside the boat after our “shakedown” through the Bahamas, to get ourselves and the boat ready to spend extended time out of the hurricane zone waiting for hurricane season to be over, and preparing to go from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal toward the end of the year.
We have been having some big thunderstorms come through in the past few days. Today, we had a spectacular roll cloud come literally “rolling” by, bringing the usual lightning and thunder to “announce” the rain is coming soon!
The marina has a suitable name, because it is literally sheltered from every direction. Everyone keeps saying August is rainy, but wait until November comes with more rain. We have decided we will just make our plans, watch the weather, and go where we want to go when we can. If the weather is really rainy, we will deal with it then and make changes in our plans if we need to do that.
Life itself is not a predictable sequence of events. Living on a boat just adds to the drama! We have chosen to do this, knowing we have to literally “go with the flow”. So, we have made our choices and our agreement with Panama...rain or shine, we will make it work!
We woke this morning to a sunny day with blue skies all around. Z and J were happy to be back at the boat and eager to see who was still in the marina. They also wanted to go to the swimming pool and swim.
Sarah, Z, J, and I were up on the foredeck of the boat talking about something when Sarah dropped her sunglasses. The sunglasses skidded along the slanted deck and right off the side of the boat. The went into the water just past the end of the short dock along side the boat.
Sarah called to Dito inside the boat immediately. He came out to see what was going on. All of us had seen the sunglasses go into the water, so we had a good idea where they had fallen. The water at the end of the dock is about ten feet deep. We kept saying, “Right there. Right there.” Dito kept standing there and looking down at the water. He did not want to go into the water! He kept thinking about the crocodile that lives on the marina grounds and swims around the docks. Now, we do not see the crocodile very often, but we all have seen him swimming by our boat and we do know he does live here.
Dito did jump into the water and did a few dives to see if he could see the sunglasses. The bottom is silty in the marina, so the water is not particularly clear. Finally, Dito said he would look a couple more times, then he was getting out of the water. He dove down...and came up with the glasses! He was out of the water in no time! Sarah immediately grabbed the GoPro and started interviewing him about his brave adventure.
I took Z and J into Colon on the afternoon shuttle bus. We did three small errands at different stores, then I took them to Dairy Queen for a “welcome back” Blizzard. We try to never miss a chance to eat ice cream!
Late last night, Dito sent a text to tell us Sarah, Z, and J arrived safe and sound last night. They are at the hotel and plan to make a couple of stops in Panama City tomorrow morning while they are there.
At the marina Dave and I spent the morning doing odds and ends on the boat. We decided since just the two of us were here for lunch, we would eat at the marina restaurant. Having been at the marina for awhile and because the restaurant is small, we always end up eating near people we know. Some of our best conversations have been while eating a meal at one table and talking to the people at the next table, just a few feet away.
Dito, Sarah, Z, and J arrived at the marina around 1320/1:20 p.m. today. They were happy to be back and we were glad they were back, too. They had a good visit to the States. Sarah even got to do some shift work while she was there. They spent time with Sarah’s parents and saw some of their friends. The girls said their friends wanted to know if they had seen sharks.
We all had put in an order or two for some things from Amazon. Some of the things were for the boat and some were personal items. It was like Christmas getting to see what we had ordered. Then, there was that giant bag of M & M’s Sarah picked up as a special surprise. We can find M & M’s outside the States, but they are sold in very tiny packages.
The Bear Report: Bear was sitting on the salon table waiting to greet the girls when they returned to the boat from Panama City today. He was very happy that they are back on the boat!
This was the day Dito and I went to Colon on the afternoon bus. I had a specialized list of groceries...heavy items! Dito stayed on the bus and went farther into town to rent a car. He came back to the grocery store where I was shopping and helped me load a few heavy groceries into the car. Having our own wheels meant we had time to go in to Dairy Queen and order a Blizzard before we went back to the marina.
Dito rented a car so he can drive to Panama City tomorrow to meet Sarah, Z, and J at the airport when they arrive. They are arriving at 0100/1:00 a.m. Thursday morning. This means David can go to the hotel where they have reserved a room for Wednesday night. He can park the rental car there, go to the room, then shortly after midnight he will ride the hotel shuttle bus out to the airport to meet Sarah, Z, and J.
Back at the boat it was raining so hard that we left the groceries in the car until it stopped raining. Later in the evening, I made cupcakes...chocolate cupcakes for Z and put cherry icing with a cherry on top for J.
The good news was the kids told us on the phone that they were looking forward to coming back to the boat! We are looking forward to having the crew back together again, too!
The Bear Report: Bear helped make cupcakes. He knows how much Z likes everything “chocolate” and J likes cherries (especially maraschino cherries). He used chocolate frosting and added cherries.
Another rainy day, so rather than sitting in the boat at the dock in the rain, I decided I would go on the afternoon shuttle and ride it in the rain.
This was the first time I had been on the bridge when the first half of the bridge was absolutely dry, then the other half of the bridge was wet with the rain pouring down. I took some pictures out of the front window of the shuttle bus. I think the pictures have a very “modern” look with the supports of the suspension bridge showing up through the rain.
It was pouring rain in Colon, too, of course, but I wore my rain jacket and went immediately to one of my favorite places in Cuatro Altos...the Colombian Panaderia. I have mentioned this shop several times already. It is very close to the El Rey grocery store where we buy most of our groceries. I have been to the panaderia enough times that the lady behind the counter is already pulling out a croissant con queso blanco (with white cheese) and a Coca Cola Ligero (Diet Coke) before I can say all of the words.
After enjoying my afternoon snack, I went into the grocery store and bought a few things that I could carry easily to the bus stop by myself. If I get the groceries wet in the rain, it takes a lot of extra time back at the boat to dry off each grocery item before I can put it away. I would rather wait for a dry day to do more shopping.
Bear Report: Bear knows the girls are returning to the boat in two days, so he is getting ready to greet them. Today, he was making a sign to put with the cupcakes he is planning to make tomorrow.
I rode the morning bus into Colon today. Instead of getting off at the Cuatro Altos stop as usual, I stayed on the bus and rode on to the drop-off spot in downtown Colon where the Fruit and Vegetable Market is located.
I had heard people talk about going to the market, but had never gone there. The first thing I saw was the blue tarps covering the vendors outside on the sidewalk to protect then when it rains (and it has been raining a lot!). The fruits and vegetables were on tables that covered the sidewalk to the edge of the street.
The Mercado Central building is not large, but it is bright and clean inside. The space is divided in half with fruits and vegetables on one side and meats, poultry, and fish on the other side.
All of the fruits and vegetables that are sold in the grocery stores here have been stored in cold lockers. We do not keep every fruit and vegetable chilled on the boat. If we can buy produce that has not been cooled in storage, the produce tends to last longer at ambient air temperature.
The Bear Report: Today Bear was cleaning under the steps from the salon down to the port hull where the galley is located. He is quite small, so he was able to get in the small space behind the steps and wipe the area down.
Another Sunday and another cake! This week I made a cherry chip cake with cherry pie filling. I came across this simple recipe that was new to me. I will pass it along in case someone reading this has not seen the recipe for this cake...mix any flavor of cake mix with any flavor of pie filling plus 3 eggs. That is it. Gently stir the three ingredients together by hand so the fruit in the pie filling stays whole. Bake in a greased 9” x 13” pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I have used a glaze poured on the cake while it was hot. I have also let the cake cool completely, then spread icing on top of the cake. I have used lemon cake mix and blueberry pie filling...chocolate cake mix and cherry pie filling...cherry chip cake mix and cherry pie filling. Lemon cake mix with strawberry pie filling might be good. I think a spice cake mix with apple pie filling sounds good, but I have not tried it yet. Maybe I will try that next Sunday!
We have had three days in a row with blue skies, light breezes, and no rain. It has been hot, too, but with the fans going, the boat is tolerable. After all of the rainy days we had recently, the throw rugs in the salon were feeling damp. A few hours in the warm sunshine sounded like a good idea. Dave took the rugs to the dock and shook them all out for me. I took them back aboard the boat and spread them out on the trampolines and the foredeck (front of the boat). After they were out there in the sunshine for about 2 hours, I went out and turned them over.
While the rugs were outside “sunning”, I swept the salon and galley floors, then wiped them down. After 2 hours or so, I brought the dry rugs back inside and spread them out where they belong. I could actually smell the freshness from the sunshine!
Sarah and the girls will be back on the boat in four days. My goal is to be done cleaning in the port hull cabins, the galley, and the salon before they arrive.
Last night when Dave and I were eating dinner at the marina restaurant, a man came to our table and asked how we liked our food. Turns out he is one of the group of owners of the hotel and restaurant here at the marina.
We sat there and told him our coconut shrimp and fajitas were “deliciosos”. He asked if this was our first time in Panama and Dave told him we had lived in Balboa (on the Atlantic side) in 1974-75 when he was an intern at Gorgas Hospital and I was a teacher at Diablo Heights in the Canal Zone. I told him we had learned to sail at the Atlantic entrance to the Canal by the Balboa Yacht Club. He told us he had a friend who was sailing over there by the Balboa Yacht Club at the same time we were there. He told us his friend’s name and asked if we knew him. We remembered his name and his wife’s name immediately and Dave remembered specifically what kind of sailboat they owned. We all used to attend functions at the yacht club together. Then the man went on to tell us his friend is also his business partner.
I gave the man one of our boat cards with our name, the boat name, and our e-mail address on it and asked if he would pass it on to his friend. He took out his phone and took a photo of the card. Next, he took a photo of Dave and I at the table. Then he let Dave hold his phone so he could do a voice text. He said his friend comes over to Shelter Bay sometimes from Panama City. It will be interesting to see if his friend comes over while we are here and we get to see him again after all these years.
I finished making a master list of all the storage areas where we have food on the boat this morning. This was a lot of work, but something that needs to be done every 2-3 months. If we do not keep the older food available to eat first, too much of the food goes out of date or goes bad due to the heat and humidity.
In the afternoon, I tackled the bookshelves under the navigation table. There are only 2 shelves and a narrow space, so there are not a lot of books. Sounds like this area could be organized in no time. The trick to working in this area is taking the seat off the pedestal at the desk so I can fit in between the pedestal and the wall to reach back to the shelves. By the time I pulled all of the books out, organized them according to subject area, then put them back on the shelf, I reckon I had gotten up and down a hundred times (maybe not, but it felt like it!). This is where we keep books that pertain to keeping the boat moving...diesel engine manuals, how to tie knots, electricity and voltage on a boat, using ham radio on a boat, using single side band radio on a boat, sail repair, etc. We also have some cruising guide books about places we are going as well as Lonely Planet guidebooks about land travel in those places.
The Bear Report: As you can see, Bear insisted since he was much smaller than me, so it would be easier for him to crawl back to those shelves and help put the books away! He did try to help, but most of the books weigh more than he does!
Dito was up and off the boat at 0730/7:30 a.m. this morning. The shuttle bus left at 0745/7:45 a.m. He rode the bus into Colon and the driver dropped him off downtown where he could easily catch a taxi to go to his 1000/10:00 a.m dentist appointment. He has been needing to get some dental work done and the people at the marina were happy to recommend one of the dental groups in town as well as one of the specific dentists who is part of the group.
Dito ended up seeing the dentist at his appointed time. He ended up having fillings put in several teeth. He said the lady was very professional and he felt his confidence in her growing as she worked. He was relieved when it was all done, and relieved that the bill was a fraction of what the work would have cost in the States.
Once the dental business was taken care of, he took a taxi back to the Cuatro Altos shopping area (where the main shuttle bus stop and pick-up point is located). The morning bus had already returned to the marina, so he could pay to return to the marina in a taxi, or wait for the free shuttle bus that would return to the marina at 1500/3:00 p.m. He decided to wait for the free ride back. In the meantime...the dentist had told him he could eat whatever he wanted to eat, but something soft would be best. Okay...soft food...and maybe something cool and soothing...what could that be? There just happens to be a Dairy Queen at Cuatro Altos, so that is where he headed.
Meanwhile, back at the marina, I finished my morning job of checking out the provisions that are stored under the floor of the port aft (left hull, rear) cabin of the boat. This storage is considered “long storage” because things are not easily accessible. I have to move all of my shoes to be able to lift up the top of the storage area. I got down on my knees and lifted the top, then pulled out all the food that is stored in there. Everything is double-wrapped in ziplock bags, because this area tends to hold a tiny bit of water when it rains. The plastic bags keep everything dry. This is where we keep extra packages of flour, sugars (white, brown, powdered), and extra condiments (mustard, Dijon, catsup, mayonnaise, tartar sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and seafood sauce, etc.). Everything is still dry and usable, because we double-wrapped it so carefully.
Dave and I had another nice dinner at the marina restaurant tonight. The fajitas had a delicious grilled flavor and were especially good tonight. We think the secret ingredient is the jalapeño slices!!!
The Bear Report: Bear was right in the middle of the action today...the storage area under the floor of the port aft cabin. He did not get down in there until I wiped up the small area that was wet, then he jumped right in! He was happy to see we have plenty of honey...his favorite condiment!
Today we had another shopping adventure in Colon. A lady from New Zealand and I were talking about some specific grocery items we had not found yet in Colon. The usual store near the shuttle bus stop has a lot of items, but it does not have Thai sweet chili sauce or sprinkles for cupcakes. The bus driver suggested another grocery store in another part of town. My friend and I decided to go for it and go to the recommended store. The driver let us off downtown in Colon and we caught a taxi to the Super 99 at Colon Dos Mil.
This store had Thai chili sauce and sprinkles and instant pudding! It had some of the same goods as the other grocery store, plus more variety and more products from the States. The prices were the same or a tad lower than the other store. It was all good! We enjoyed looking at everything as we chose a few of the items to carry home. The key word there is “carry”, because we had to carry everything we bought in this store everywhere else we went. I tried to choose small, light items to put in my backpack.
We finished shopping at Super 99, then caught a taxi back to the Cuatro Altos area. We went our separate ways for the next hour. She went to do more shopping and I headed for the panaderia for a cheese croissant and cold drink...my reward! I like to sit on the benches out in the walkway, enjoy my snack, and watch the people go by.
Then is was time to get back to the bus in time for the ride to the marina. Once there, Bear and I took the groceries to the boat in a dock cart!
Finally finished going through the stored food in the port hull, so now I am going through a couple of storage places in the starboard hull. Almost done...We keep the foods we use the most in the pantry in the galley. The next level of storage is in the starboard hull on the other side of the boat. The deepest storage is under the floor in the port aft cabin. I have gotten down on my hands and knees to put things in there, but I also decided not to do that again! There are younger, more agile folks in the crew who can do that job much more easily than me.
We found a stowaway on board today. He or she was sunning in the salon. We decided a lizard might not like a life at sea, so we caught it and took it up to the grass area near the rainforest. I am not sure how safe that will be for the lizard, but we certainly hope it will be alright and enjoy a land-based life.
I put up one of my favorite “reflection” photos today just because I like it and wanted to share it sometime. Today is the day!
Dave and Dito are using this time while Sarah and the girls are gone to work online. Dave is working on his multitude of web sites. He is revamping some of the web sites. He needs to have uninterrupted internet to get his online projects done. Dito is working on writing two books...one is non-fiction about creativity and the other is a fictional adventure story. They spend a lot of time up in the air conditioned Cruiser’s Lounge. The air conditioning is sometimes so cold, they have to wear a jacket!
The Bear Report: Bear helped me clean out the dry storage in the old freezer unit. We do not use it as a freezer, so he did not get cold!
I spent more time in the pantry this morning. I was making a grocery list of what was missing and I am happy to say that list is not very long these days.
After lunch I took the shuttle bus into town to take a break and pick up a few groceries at the same time. My first stop in the Cuatro Altos shopping area was Madison Department Store. I had fun looking around. Then I went 5 minutes down the sidewalk to El Costo Department Store. The turquoise blue jewelry caught my eye! Some of those earrings were huge! I saw this shirt at the store. I did not buy it, but had to take a picture of it.
I heard an amazing story on the bus today from a lady on a sailboat that arrived recently in the marina. This boat with a crew of three was anchored in Portobelo, Panama. There is a small island near the anchorage that has a beautiful white sand beach. There are also spider monkeys living on the small island.
The two ladies from the crew took the dinghy over to the island and were sunning on the beach. They heard and saw a monkey or two, but that was it...at first. The lady on the bus said one spider monkey came onto the beach and suddenly jumped on top of her head! She screamed and jumped up and the monkey fell off...scratching her forehead and shoulder and arm. Six more monkeys heard the ruckus and came to see what was happening. The two women ran toward the dinghy floating in the shallow water. The monkeys followed them, but stopped at the water’s edge.
The lady who was injured went to the basic clinic in the village of Portobelo and they were able to clean the wounds and bandage them. The clinic personnel advised them to go the hospital in Colon and have the wounds assessed. They did sail to Shelter Bay Marina and she went to the doctor yesterday. A doctor looked at her wounds and did blood tests that turned out to be negative for rabies. Oh, my!
Someone told us later that people around Portobelo know about that small island. It is common knowledge that tour operators take tourists there in small boats. The guides carry food and feed the monkeys. The monkeys expect everyone who comes to “their” island to bring them food. Evidently, these people had not heard that part of the story. I am glad that lady was not more seriously injured and will be alright.
The Bear Report: Bear helped me put away the eating utensils after I washed and dried them today. J usually does this job, so Bear stepped in to help me while she is gone.
I made my third day trip to Panama City today. The driver usually hires a car once a week and takes paying passengers along for a day in the city.
We left at 0800/8:00 a.m. and were in town shopping by 0930/9:30 a.m. Our first stop was a workshop that sells parts and repairs marine engines. The other people riding in the car were looking for parts for their engine. Our second stop was Price Smart. I have mentioned before that it reminds us of Costco, because they sell some Kirkland Products. The third stop was at Discovery Center. That is the huge store that seems to have one or more of everything. What amazes me the most is I can ask the employees (in Spanish) where something is located, and they can show me the item!
Our fourth, and last, stop was a grocery store called Riba Smith. This is the one that has so many products from the U.S.A. I do not mind buying “local”, but finding some of our favorite things on the shelves is like seeing an old friend.
I was happy to have the opportunity to be able to stock up on larger sizes of things we use a lot of...like cereal, crackers, and nuts. Cereal is the main food for breakfast each day, so 4-5 people eating 24-30 bowls of cereal each week is sometimes hard to keep up with.
By the time we headed back to Colon and then the marina, it was raining very hard. The roads were filling with water because the ground was saturated and there was no place for the runoff water to go. Everyone had to drive through large puddles in the road and water was splashing up and over all of the cars.
The Bear Report: Since I went into Panama City today, bear took the day off and rested.
This little corner of the world has been “discovered” since the new bridge opened. Every Saturday and Sunday since 02 August (the day the bridge opened) have brought lots of day-trippers out to Shelter Bay Marina.
The small restaurant is adding staff and tables so more people can enjoy food overlooking the marina. Day-trippers are paying to use the pool for the day, so a totally different crowd of people is using the pool and surrounding area. The people at the docks who live on their boats have become an attraction themselves. Day-trippers are walking the docks and climbing on unattended boats to have their photo taken. We are all a little surprised at the difference the bridge has made!
The marina is working hard to keep up with the new situation. They have put up signs to tell day-trippers to stay off the private docks. The Mini-Mart has added more cold drinks and ice cream choices. There are more snacks available for sale. Today, I saw they were selling a variety of freshly made sandwiches plus chips and a drink there, too. (The orders are taken at the Mini Mart, then prepared and delivered from the restaurant kitchen.)
The weekly BBQ happened again tonight. The people who come always have a good time meeting new folks and visiting with old friends. I love seeing what people bring to share. We have eaten some new and interesting foods from around the world.
The Bear Report: Bear helped make the cake to share at the BBQ this evening. This week, we mixed chocolate cake mix with cherry pie filling. Everyone really liked the cake!
I have been talking about checking out our food storage onboard the boat. I have been doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but now it is time to get serious and get the job done. Dave and Dito like to go up to the air conditioned Cruisers Lounge to work on their computers when it gets hot. That means I can put the fan directly on me and spread out the tins and bottles, etc. It is a perfect time to unload a pantry shelf or storage area when I am the only one on the boat. I can temporarily put things all over every flat surface within reach without bothering other people.
I have already started, so my grocery list is starting to grow. I decided to go to the grocery store in Colon this morning so I could start topping up some of the food containers...a little more honey, condiments , powdered milk, etc. My plan is to do groceries a little at a time, so I do not have to carry too much to the bus, then again from the bus to the boat. If I do buy heavy items like flour, sugar, and long life milk boxes, there are young guys who pack the groceries who will help take the groceries to the bus from the grocery store for a reasonable tip.
The Bear Report: Bear was willing to skip his nap today so he could help me get groceries. He cannot carry groceries, so I had to carry him and the groceries!
Dave and David had another sunny day for working on finishing up the furler/anchor job. They had put a lot of time into planning their work step-by-step. They followed the plan and the replacement link leads fit perfectly. This morning they made some of the final adjustments.
Once they knew the job was done, Dave grabbed the video camera and started interviewing Dito about the work they had done. Dito was very happy to talk about the new furler, the link leads, and the problem solving that led to a successful end to this project!
The Bear Report: Bear was happy to volunteer to help with the work. He picked up a Leatherman and started using the pliers!
We have been having so much rain that it made yesterday’s sunny weather a real gift. Dave and Dito were able to do so much of the work that needed to be done on this job yesterday because it did not rain. Today there was some blue sky in the morning and that gave us hope that we might have one more day without rain. Dave said if it did not rain, they would finish the job today...and they did.
Dito went up the mast again. This time he was carrying a Dremel tool with a cutting bit attached to it. His mission was to cut off 6” from the aluminum extrusion at the top of the mast to make room at the bottom for the modified long link leads. Dave and Dito had measured and remeasured the extrusion yesterday. They had done the math, checked it twice, and they were confident when Dito actually started cutting. When the job at the top of the mast was completed, Dito came down to the deck. He and Dave started attaching the long link leads to the bottom of the furler. It was a perfect fit!
Now it was time to attach the sail to the roller furler and roll the sail around the forestay. Everything worked exactly like it was supposed to. The only thing left to do was see if the anchor could move easily up and down past the roller furler drum. The anchor was moved into place on the deck and attached to the anchor chain.
It was getting dark, so they decided to wait to test the anchor going up and down tomorrow morning. Everything went very well today, and they are expecting the anchor to move up ad down without a problem.
The Bear Report: Bear did not go up the mast today, because he was assigned deck work. He got out his Leatherman knife and helped reattach the anchor to the end of the anchor chain.
Dave and I made it on time to ride the shuttle bus into town today. The bus left at 0745/7:45 a.m. and arrived at the Cuatro Altos shopping area 35 minutes later. Most of the shops do not open until 0930/9:30 a.m. or 1000/10:00 a.m. Fortunately, the panadaria was open, so we bought two of their croissants with queso blanco (white cheese) inside. Delicious way to start the day.
The larger grocery store was already open, so I did a bit of shopping while Dave went about 5 minutes away to the optical shop that was just opening. Dito had been fitted with a new pair of glasses last week and was told they would be ready to pick up today. He gave us his paperwork and money to pay them, so there was no problem for Dave to pick them up, He came back to meet me just as I was checking out at the grocery store.
We walked around in the shopping area and found a department store that was open. We were looking for a vinyl tablecloth to cover the cherry wood table in the salon. This store had a large selection and we found what we were looking for. Next, we went to another department store where I had purchased a water jug that fit perfectly in the frig the other day. I realized 2 more of the same size jugs would fit along the side of the frig and we could have 6 liters of cool water available. The jugs we had been using were smaller and wasted space, so these replacements are definitely an improvement.
By now the kiosk where we needed to go to pick up the package of boat parts we have been waiting for, was open. Because of the value of the goods, we had to pay Customs Tax before we could collect the package. The young woman who works there kept apologizing for us having to pay the tax. We told her we knew that would happen when we ordered the parts. She wanted to make sure we understood her company did not get the tax money. She went out of her way to explain everything.
Whew. I always feel like I have to plan these trips to town like I am on a mission. I have to organize where I will go first, second, third, etc. We do not have a lot of time, so we have to keep moving to get everything done. Fortunately, if something does not get done, we can come back!
Back at the boat, the box of boat parts was unpacked and tools were assembled. Plans were made about how to proceed to adjust the furler on the forestay so there will be room to raise and lower the anchor. Dito went up the mast and shortened the extrusion at the top of the roller furler so tomorrow they can install new long link leads (to replace the short link leads) at the bottom. I got a nice photo of Dito coming down the mast as the half moon was coming out. The whole time Dito was up the mast working, Dave was hard at work supervising...from the trampoline!
The Bear Report...Bear always likes to be where the action is. He saw Dito put on his harness and be hauled up the mast and he wanted to do that, too. We helped Bear into his harness and he was ready to go. Unfortunately, he did not have time to go all the way to the top of the mast today, but there is a good chance he will do that tomorrow.
Dito rode the bus into Colon with Sarah and the girls yesterday. Now that the Atlantic Bridge (official name) is open, the drive from the marina takes only half as much time as it did before the bridge opened. The driver announced on the bus that the morning bus times would remain the same because workers from town ride the shuttle to work and they need to keep the old schedule. However, the driver said the afternoon shuttle would leave at 1300/1:00 p.m. instead of 1245/12:45 p.m.
Of course Dito told us about this time change when Dave and I were talking about taking the afternoon shuttle bus today. We had a couple of things we wanted to check out, so we decided to go. I made sure lunch was finished, dishes were washed, and my jacket and shopping list were in my bag and ready to go. We planned to leave the boat 15 minutes before the bus was scheduled to leave and have plenty of time to be on the bus when it left. We did leave the boat at 1245/12:45, just in time to see the shuttle pulling away from the marina building as we walked on the dock.
Sometime in the last 24 hours someone changed their mind and changed the “new” departure time back to the “old” departure time and we “did not get the memo!” No big deal...we will plan to go tomorrow morning! We took a walk around the marina and I took another reflection photo with palm trees in it and a photo of the marina tractor pulling a monohull on a trailer from the ocean to the boatyard among some palm trees. The boatyard is there in the background to the left in the photo.
When Z and J were packing for `their trip to the States, some big decisions had to be made about what was going to go with them in their backpacks. The hardest decision for J was to leave her beloved “Bear” on the boat. She really wanted to take him, but his size and the idea that he might get lost, convinced her leaving him on the boat was a good idea. She asked me if I would “take care of bear”. Of course I agreed to do that.
I try to include 3 photos each day that go along with telling something about what is happening on EXIT ONLY. I decided while the kids are away from the boat, I will use one of those photo slots to show what bear was up to today.
The Bear Report...Bear was sad to see J and Z leave without him yesterday. I wanted to keep him busy here on the boat. I told him he could help me type my blog and help select the photos to include with the entry for today. He immediately sat down at my mini IPad and took a selfie!
This was a big day and the girls were packed and ready for it. They did get to go to the pool for a short time in the morning. Back at the boat, they were doing some last minute chores like straightening their cabin, but everything else had been taken care of ahead of time. The last thing I gave them (as promised) to put in their backpacks were some gummy bears for a treat on the plane. Sarah had packed plenty of snacks for the trip, but I wanted to do my “Gaga thing”, too. After lunch, it was time to leave.
Sarah had made arrangements to meet a taxi driver at a certain public bus stop in Colon at a certain time. Dito, Sarah, Z, and J all rode the afternoon shuttle bus from the marina into town and the driver dropped them off at the bus stop before he dropped everyone else at the shopping center. Another person also was meeting the same taxi and going to the airport, so they were able to share the cost of the ride. The driver said it would take about an hour and a half to go from Colon to the Tocumen Airport in Panama City. Their plane does not leave until late tonight, so they have a long trip ahead of them.
Back at the boat, I was already making a plan to clean out the pantry in the galley. Every couple of months it is necessary for us to go through all the food stored on the boat. We are looking for several things...food that was purchased in Florida (because most of that should have been used by now), food that was purchased in the Bahamas (again, this food is newer than Florida, but older than the food we have bought in Panama), and food that is showing signs of deterioration (to be thrown away). Also, I am asking myself the obvious question, “What foods are stored onboard and how much of each item is usable?”
By now we know in general what kinds of food we like to eat on the boat and what ingredients we use the most when we are cooking. At this time, we are trying to keep enough provisions for 4-6 weeks on the boat. If we end up going first to Guna Yala/San Blas, we will not have many opportunities to go grocery shopping. If we go first to Cartagena or Bocas del Toro, we will have many opportunities to buy food.
I have mentioned that every Sunday evening, all the cruisers in the marina are invited to come to the palapa (shaded area) for Sunday supper. One of the men gets a big charcoal fire going in the outdoor fireplace at one end of the shaded area. Everyone who comes brings something to cook on the grill, plates, utensils, drinks, etc. for your crew plus something to share with everyone. I made a cake with icing like I have been doing every week, because the kids in the group have let me know they expect a cake from me. I found out by chance that two days ago, Friday, the man who organizes the fire had a birthday. I made the usual cake, but we added some birthday candles. During dinner at the palapa we lit the candles and sang “Happy Brithday”. We also thanked him for the effort he makes to have the fire going, then, later, he puts the fire out. To say he was surprised is an understatement. That made it more fun!
Dave and I have been trying to get out and walk more and the logical place to walk is on the docks. We walk docks A, B, C, D, E, and F. With all the coming and going in the marina, there are always new and different boats to see, people to meet and chat with, details on different boats to notice and discuss, different boat designs to compare, etc. Going over to A or B dock and looking at the marina from that vantage point gives us a very different view than the one we have from our slip in the middle of E dock.
One of my favorite kind of photos is a “reflection” photo. A reflection photo is a very difficult kind of photo to take when the wind is blowing. We do get wind occasionally here in the marina, but this area is very sheltered, so we also get a lot of calm, still water that is perfect for reflecting the boats, trees, and sky. These are photos that I took today when we went walking in the morning.
Sarah, Z, J, and I went on the shuttle bus to Colon today. We left at the usual time of 0800/8:00 a.m. on Saturday. Because the new suspension bridge officially opened at 1400/2:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon, our trip to town took 35 minutes...no waiting in line...no car ferry, no waiting for ships to go through the locks, or no driving in single file across the locks.
The bridge is the third bridge crossing the Canal and is called the Atlantic Bridge. They started building this bridge in January. 2013 and it was completed in August 2019. The bridge is 2,820 m. / 9,250 ft. Long, 212.5 m / 697 ft. High, with a clearance underneath of 75 m / 246 ft to allow all the Panamax and New Panamax (huge!) ships to pass under it.
We had such a quick trip to Colon, that we arrived before a lot of the shops were open. Not to worry...the panadaria (bakery) was open! We made that our first stop and took our pastries over to a convenient bench to enjoy our breakfast.
After we ate, we walked around to see what was open in the general shopping area. The sidewalk eateries were doing a booming business and a few of the telephone kiosks were open. The grocery stores were open, so we checked out a Chinese shop. The large El Rey grocery where we usually shop for groceries opens early, so we headed that way. We purchased a small amount of groceries today, so we could easily carry them in our recyclable grocery bags and our cooler bag backpack. Next, we went to a fabric store to find clear plastic to put over the tablecloth on the salon table. One to six people using this surface almost constantly all day long makes it hard to keep the tablecloth nice and clean, so we are trying something new.
Madison’s, a department store we wanted to go to, finally opened at 1000/10:00 a.m. They have an outdoor-accessible bag check desk where all backpacks and large bags must be left before you can enter the store. There is a guard at the door of the store watching everyone enter and leave. We dropped off our 2 bags full of groceries and went through several departments in the store. We were looking for some specific things, but mostly just looking to see what they had for sale. We did find a 2-liter water bottle, 2 pairs of light material shorts, some Panama souvenirs, a tablecloth, and a pencil sharpener all in the same store.
The last thing to do before we had to meet the bus to go back to the marina was go by Pizza Hut and order 2 carry out pizzas. When I ordered the pizza, I told the lady we had to catch a bus at a specific time and she made sure we got our order as soon as possible. I called Dave and Dito to tell them we were bringing pizza for lunch. We have never carried pizza back before, because we did not know if it would take 1 hour or 2 hours to get back. With the quick trip back over the bridge, carrying pizza became possible! There is another good reason we are glad the bridge is open!!
We had our last day of school for a couple of weeks today. Sarah and the girls will be heading for Kentucky on Monday so it will be awhile before we do it again.
After school finished, we walked up to the palapa (shaded area) to look at the molas. Every Friday since we have been here, 2 Guna Yala/San Blas ladies bring molas and handicrafts to sell. I have seen the ladies over there before, but had never stopped to look at their selection. It was fun to go through their piles of molas and see all the different designs and needlework on each piece.
The mola is a reverse appliqué style of needlework. Pieces of material are cut out of the top piece of fabric to allow you to see the second, third, or fourth layer of fabric which are different colors. The mola began as a utilitarian piece of clothing and was worn as the main part of a woman’s blouse. When the women are making a blouse, they make two rectangular molas as the front and the back of their blouse. Short puff sleeves and a front and back yoke are added to complete the pullover blouse.
When the mola became of interest to collectors of indigenous art, they started to be sold by the piece and framed to be hung on the wall. Collectors usually buy both matching pieces that are actually from an old blouse or new pieces that could be made into a blouse. As molas gained popularity, the Guna Yala started making molas for the tourist trade. Most of those molas have fewer layers, but they still display sewing handiwork in tiny decorative stitches. They now sell mola belts, purses, scarves, etc. to the tourists. The traditional Guna Yala women still wear their mola blouses today.
The Guna Yala Comarca (region) on the mainland and offshore Islands is located on/off the northwest coast of Panama. The area and people used to be called the San Blas, but today they choose to use their own name for themselves in their own language. The majority of the people live on the islands and go to the mainland daily to tend their crops of rice, yams, yucca, bananas, and pineapples.
Generally, the Guna Yala people do not like to have their picture taken. The few who do, want to be paid for it. After I made my purchases, I asked the ladies if I could take photos of Z and J standing in front of the molas and they said that was fine. As I was taking the second photo one lady walked into my photo. I did not try to take a photo of her.
In the evening, while the rest of the crew went to the lounge for movie night, Dave and I went to the restaurant to eat supper. I had to laugh when I saw the photo the waitress took for us! It looks like I had all of the food and Dave had a small empty plate! No worries! I shared the coconut shrimp and the club sandwich (they put a fried egg on it in Panama). It was delicious!
It is another new month today! There I am with my mini Ipad typing away on my blog...doing well. Z and J drew EXIT ONLY and it is apparent that the boat is doing well, too. I was amazed at how many details the girls had noticed and included in their artwork.
After lunch yesterday the crew had a conversation about “What now?” We listed all the things we know have to happen between now and January 2020...the boat has to be reregistered every three months in Panama, people have to be out of Panama for a minimum of 3 days before 180 days elapse, we have to apply for a long- stay visa for French Polynesia ahead of arriving there, we have to fill out paperwork for Galapagos ahead of time, and we have to arrange for an appointment to transit the Canal. We hear there is a big discussion going on in The Panama Canal Authority about doubling the fees to go through the Canal as of 01 January 2020. We think it will cost around $1,200 for EXIT ONLY to transit the Canal before 31 December 2019. We certainly do want to pay double that if we can avoid it!
We do not have to do all of these things immediately, but we do have to figure out “what needs to be done when” over the next few months. Some of these things require us to have our passports in our hands. Other procedures require us to leave our passports with an embassy to get visa stamps for the future. We can and will make things happen one thing at a time. The real challenge is prioritizing and figuring out how all these puzzle pieces fit together to make the proverbial “big picture”.
Sarah has been wanting to go visit her folks before we head out across the Pacific. After our conversation yesterday, it seems like now is a good time for that visit. A few hours later she had airplane reservations and was refining details of the trip. When she told the girls she was taking them to visit their other grandparents, they immediately went to get their backpacks and started packing.
What about the boat? We will be staying here at this marina until the boat parts that we are waiting for arrive. Once the repair is made, we will make a decision about staying here until Sarah and the girls return, or moving the boat and having them meet us somewhere else in Panama. Dave, Dito, and I have to leave Panama for a minimum of 3 days, too, so we need to work that in somehow. As I have often said...we will make all of these decisions as we need to, but will have to take it one day at a time.