Friday, March 11, 2011

Puget Sound, Mega Depot & Scorpions

Hi All

We were very lucky with the weather window for our trip to Seattle. In the previous week the weather was so bad that there were hurricane force winds off Vancouver Island and, most unusually, the BC ferries were shut down for the day. And now we are here the weather has been, in a word, horrible. But for our trip we had mirror-calm seas over to Friday Harbor and then the same down to Seattle. We ran through the Coastguard Checklist in case we were boarded and inspected – it being a slow Monday and a foreign-flagged vessel just entered is a prime inspection target. Surprise, surprise a Coastguard rib came up alongside for questions. Later yet another CG boat came up and radioed us – but it was all ok, they were all just watching all traffic carefully because there was a massive naval exercise involving the escort of a submarine out of Puget Sound; we counted at least seven escort vessels.

Pictures: Last Mango in her winter home; next picture – two vessels in sight or one? Yes – one – although they are a third of a mile apart it is a tug with a tow. Look out! Lastly – the sub with escorts.

Last Mango

One vessel - typical "Tug with a Tow"

Submarine with her escorts

Border crossings, aren’t they something? My technique is to be as helpful as possible, after all the officials are only doing their job. One needs to be patient, and never be in hurry. Well, our trip from Canadian to US waters was a revelation. The plan was to tie up at the Customs Dock in Sidney, BC by midday and clear out of Canada. I picked up the courtesy phone and gave vessel details and crew when I was quickly informed “That’s all right sir, you are free to go. There is no check-out procedure for Canada”! Hmmm, no check out procedure! I am liking Canada more and more……….. So we untied and headed for Friday Harbor, where we tied up at the Customs Dock and picked up the courtesy phone. Well, it only took the announcement of the BVI registration and two aliens aboard before we were summoned to the office for a one-hour form filling session. We were fortunate to see that Officer Tarantino was on duty, and he remembered checking us out of the US in June last year. BUT - we learned something pretty important! You cannot enter the US on a private yacht under the visa waiver program – news to me! in other words “Where are your visas?”. Er……….this is one of those moments when you keep smiling but you can feel the rug starting to move under your feet…………..but suddenly we remembered that we transited via Houston the previous Wednesday and were stamped into the US for 90 days from 2 March– Phew! – that worked (planned it that way? No!). Anyway, we made it. After getting our Clearance Statement I was expecting the Cruising License and was asking to confirm the Reporting Procedure (whenever you move your boat from anywhere to anywhere) but there was another surprise for us. Because we are sailing in one administrative region, we neither need a cruising license nor need to phone in when we change location. Well, all very curious. And the visa waiver issue needs to be fed to the head of logistics (me) to factor in to our plans for 2011. Like entering Alaska, re-entering the US, travelling to California later in the year for outline plans. Oh well, it will get figured out. And, more than likely, another border crossing experience will change the rules yet again!

It has been a busy couple of weeks or so. Panama, Canada, US………worlds of contrast. Just ten days ago in Panama we took Susie’s granddaughter to visit one of the Indian villages on the Chagres River. It goes like this. We go to Mega Depot and buy a sack of rice and other foodstuffs, we never like to go empty handed. Then we drive for an hour or so along a steadily deteriorating road until we get to the river and the road ends. I then call our friend Melio on his cell phone; he is the Under Chief of the settlement and he sends his nephew up the river in a dug-out to pick us up. We always enjoy our visits there and every time we go we get to know these gentle folk a little better. As I say, life is a world of contrasts. Pictures below – Melio; and two pictures from Punta Culebra - sloth and baby sloth; and a raccoon who might have misjudged his scavenging, I think he is saying “ouch”!


Opportunist Raccoon!

Sleeping Sloths
So here we are in Seattle for our scheduled maintenance. I laid these plans four months ago but actually there was a glitch with our booking. But I am hoping that everything comes up to expectations. We are going to be here for two or three weeks. Let’s see how we go. We came through the Lake Washington Ship Canal to Seaview Boatyard, Salmon Bay, hauled out and are up on the hard. This is a new on-board living experience for the Admiral and I here in historic Ballard; a great place to be for all things boats, we are where many of the Deadliest Catch fleet base their maintenance. And we have been fortunate indeed to be safe from the after effects of the devastating tsunami in Japan this morning. And we are resting somewhat, we have both been struck by a Seattle weather-induced chill so there is a quiet weekend ahead.

Final picture is a sting in the tail! We were down on the Azuero Peninsula and had a wonderful four days there. On the morning we left I picked up my roll-aboard and put it on the bed. Packed it. Lifted it up and put it by the door ready to go………….and…………I had a hitchhiker lurking on my case. See below. This is about actual size. Life has its exciting moments.

Best wishes

And always check your shoes!

David and Susie
Sting in the tale!

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