Sunday, December 12, 2010

Not a Captains Log!

Hi All

Ok I admit it, this isn’t really a Captain’s Log. Last Mango is in Degnen Bay, BC, and Susie and I are in Panama – but never mind! There are some one hundred fifty of you on the blog list and someone will have time to peruse this Seasonal Edition before it hits the Trash! We arrived back in Panama mid-November after a great week and more with our dear friends in Tennessee. Bike rides, parties, a couple of days in the “cabin” in Hardy, Arkansas, and even a jam session with the local hillbilly band – what a fun time. And plenty of Scrabble too, although it is a bit worrying that Mary keeps track of the score over the week. One day I am going to be told that my average score has slipped; that will be the signal to pack it in I guess. So here in Panama we have been getting back together the land-life (affectionately referred to as dirt-dwelling in cruiser speak). That means that we are working our way through the list of chores we had in mind…………first on the list is to get my permanent visa now that my initial first year visa has expired. My how the tables turn, Susie already has her permanent jubilada status and it is me playing catch up. And what the usual bore it is, a collection of near-worthless documents for immigration to rubber stamp and then more visits to the glory of that familiar office on Avenida Cuba. Speaking of chores, another mission for us has been to rip out the wardrobe complex in the main bedroom here, only because it had been taken over by a drywood termite colony. Rather irritating rummaging around in one’s drawer for something to wear and chancing upon some termite nymphs trying to start up a new outpost. These creatures are fascinating in that they form a colony inside the wood and you never see them – just their frass, mmm. But when they feel the need to branch out they breed some emissaries and send them out to go and find another planet. “Go forth and multiply” -  not in our apartment, thanks – the former wardrobe now resides in that great Panamanian repository of removed household fittings (Jacinto’s front yard). But it is not all chores here, Susie is now working on yet another quilt, another inspiration. For my part I have an hour at the piano most days; recovering lost ground and making inroads into something new, the world of boogie-woogie (dum-ti-dum-ti-dum, yeah!).  We have also been out and about on the trails, looking for critters:
Sloth with baby

Cheeky monkey
Snake eating a frog

Now some advance planning. The winter months are useful in that many cruisers are lounging around at home itching to get back on board and spending far too much time on the internet firing messages at each other on the Owners sites or the Nordhavn Dreamers site (Yes, really! ). A useful time for me to be looking ahead a couple of light years and figuring out whether we need any more toys (I mean equipment of course) on board. And what do you know – we do! Hah! For example we have a super tender on board, a 14’ Caribe with a bloody great motor. But one fellow Nordhavn owner got it dead right when he said that those tenders are for the grandparents, and what we kids really need is something rugged, coral and pebble resistant, which even I will be able to pull up the beach when there are no marinas within a thousand miles. So..…, the plan in March is to get a second tender on board and I have my eye on a Porta-Bote, together with a 4 stroke 2hp Honda outboard which weighs just 27lbs (wow) and does a hundred miles to the gallon. Even the 12’ boat only weighs 77lbs and folds to 4”. So what else am I looking at, well, kayaks, although I haven’t figured out yet which ones. Then there are the downriggers……… catch those (big!)salmon up in Alaska we are going to need gear to fish at the right depths, so downriggers it is. Last Mango is now booked into Emerald Harbor Marine in Seattle from around 7 March and we are going to get some servicing done, like, engines/generator, stabilizers, windlass, autopilots, fire and safety equipment, as well as getting the new stuff in place. I use an online system for my service records run by Seakits ( ),usefully it alerts owners when maintenance intervals are due. We are also going to haul her and check the underwater fittings, paint and so on and the through hulls. Much of this boat maintenance is new to me but grappling with it certainly keeps me entertained. The Admiral hasn’t yet taken the bait for the engineering course that I have suggested but I am working on it.

Here in Panama the dry season hasn’t arrived yet, we are having a La Nina year which gives us extended rain; the canal had to be closed this past week because strong currents from the Chagres River were a hazard to shipping; worse, there have been landslides and loss of life. Panama has one foot in the first world and the other in the third and is still trying to catch up lost years under indifferent government. (English language daily news can be found at ). And I am reminded that we have been celebrating for well over a month now my retirement. I didn’t know I was retired but I was asked to take a call one day to discuss my contract and that’s when I found out! Thank heaven for that, life is busy enough and now I really don’t have to worry about the office like I used to. (I did honest!) We just thank our lucky stars that we managed to sell the business back in 2005 before that nasty downturn started. Oh and by the way, please delete any old email addresses you have for me, they are defunct (Lee & Allen, CRAI etc). We are now looking at our forward plans and mapping out 2011 in the first instance. We have visitors coming to Panama (and through the canal) over the next couple of months and then we will be off back to our other home. After Seattle we head for Alaska; first visitors are due on board mid-April for the early part of the trip (all weather-dependent of course). I have been researching the anchorages between Port Hardy and Ketchikan by reading blogs of other cruisers. I don’t really have any idea how long we will be exploring Alaska, but I understand that it gets rainy in July so we should be heading South by then. We plan to make our way back down the Eastern seaboard to California and see what happens. I have signed up for the FUBAR rally in November 2011 from Long Beach into Mexico, that looks like good fun.

Here are some pictures of the effects of La Nina here in Panama. The high water level pictures are from the Gatun Dam and spillway on the Caribbean coast. The central picture shows damage to the access road onto the $120m Centennial Bridge over the canal at the Gaillard cut. The bridge is apparently sound, but clearly the access road construction did not allow for the level of erosion which had been experienced (!).

Gatun Dam


Centennial Bridge

For visitor planning: January is still free here in Panama; February is pretty busy. Plenty of time to hook up with us on the Alaska run in May and June. All crew welcome.

So here’s wishing you all the very best Seasons Greetings. Special thanks to our wonderful support systems everywhere: to Robert and Marlana for looking after Last Mango though these cold months; to Kathy for looking after base here in Panama in the warm months. And to family and friends everywhere, Happy Christmas.

Best wishes

David and Susie