Friday, October 28, 2011

Briefly home to Panama and back

We had reached the point that we had cracked most of the preparations for voyaging further South so we booked our flights and went home to Panama. That gave rise to another list of things to do! Honestly life can get so complicated these days. I blame the internet and the technological age. It seems that we are now capable of multi-tasking and constant motion every minute of the day. Or perhaps it's just me?

It was great to see our apartment in such good shape and well looked after by our support team headed by the Thermo Queen herself. And we were curious to see the view from our apartment of the new Luxor Towers building across the street - well here it is. Not too bad! Thankfully our city vista is largely intact, at least until the next thicket of skyscrapers gets built. Panama City had changed even in the six months that we had been away. The diablo rojos are largely gone, and people now wait for a scheduled Metro Bus service from a bus stop! They are already building the Metro (Subway, Underground, Tube). There has been considerable progress to distance Panama from the Third World over the past few years; let us hope that successive governments here will continue the process. The economy has been growing at near nine percent over the last four years but perhaps there will be a slowdown in the growth rate, I am not sure. We seem to be completely insulated from the economic problems around the world; I presume it is the immense demand generated by business migrating away from the neighboring countries with political problems (Venezuela, Mexico).

On the Monday we stepped up the pace and I went off to finalise my Permanent Residency papers. It has only taken three years after all! Then we went to HSBC. While we were away our relationship manager changed - or left - and we were left incommunicado; just one of the pitfalls of itinerant lifestyles - you really do need to be ahead of the game in planning how to organise things from afar. I then went to another of my un-favorite places, yes, the phone company. These companies are the bane of one's life - Cable & Wireless (Panama), AT&T (USA), Rogers (Canada) .............managing our accounts effectively is a trial. (Soon we will be off to Mexico and I will have the pleasure of starting a new relationship with Telcel.) Other visits were the water company (easy) and the car insurance (easy). And then our doctor, and no we do not need any more vaccinations! We also dropped into collect our mail and found the usual bundle of things we had dealt with months ago. But there was the odd little gem in there that had got under the radar. A refund from AT&T, I should get that framed. Unfortunately the admin of one's life is relentless and never seems to get any easier; but at least I can whinge to you all about it!

It was delightful catching up with friends and our timing was brilliant, the annual Felipe Motta wine fair. The ticket is $20. There were about 300 wines on taste from 50 suppliers around the world. Susie and I wrote our tasting notes all over the book (yes the writing did deteriorate over the evening) and the next day used the $15 voucher from the ticket to buy a few bottles of the wine that we had selected for the grand sum of $5 a bottle, the net cost was notalot. The amazing thing is that the wine market in Panama is so young, and so vibrant, and the producers are so keen to get their product in and established. Competition at its best. And there is no excise duty; now that is my kind of shopping. Moving on............I will pass over the Proprietarios Meeting for Edificio Crystal............we went to the Ancon Theatre and saw a hilarious play, great fun. And then off for the weekend to the beach. Plenty of guitar playing and some excellent margaritas.

I was motoring through the emails on Monday morning and found a blog posting from another Nordhavn 55, "Just Believe", who had just arrived at Flamenco and were going to transit soon. I went down to the marina to meet them and see if there was anything we could help with. We ended up going to one of our favorite restaurants, Manolo Caracol, for supper to which we were very kindly treated. Jim and Julie hail from Texas and they have a ranch with zebra, donkey, elk and other critters. Just your ordinary Nordhavn owners then!

So here is today's photo selection from our apartment in Panama and one of Susie's masterpieces 'Canned Heat', which was selected for an exhibition. I am afraid the photo does not do it justice, it is approximately 5' square. Susie seems to be working on quite a number of pieces at the this space.

We are now back in San Diego. "Last Mango" is in the final stages of preparation for our departure to Mexico. We have another week here to get ready and get our crew briefed! Providing they have recovered from Felipe's wine offerings............

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Serendipitous Moment

Happening upon something one does not expect..............

A friend had suggested a Mexican restaurant near San Diego Old Town, El Agave. Guess what it is famous for. We had wandered around the Old Town for a while but then the mission grew strong and we were looking for El Agave. In the end we asked four times for directions and, finally, there it was way out of range several blocks away. Why did we make such an effort to find this place? Going to be worth it? Well, after a good house margarita things started looking up. The menu was looking good.........I strolled around the restaurant in my usual restless way and found a table by the window where we could watch the sunset, getting better with every sip I can assure you.

So there we were. Here was the view to the inside:

   A thousand tequilas........the guy was quite a collector. The restaurant walls were lined with display cabinets, hundreds of bottles everywhere.

We took to our table. And suddenly, the Admiral said: "Oh my God" - or words to that effect. This is what she had seen in the display absolutely right next to our table:

The serendipitous moment. The great mystery is solved. Yes, the name of our wonderful floating home is enshrined as a brand of tequila. And not just any brand, Jimmy Buffett's own developed variety, Margaritaville "Last Mango". After all, he did write a song of the same name and also named one of his boats "Last Mango". And he had a Nordhavn at one time............

So: analysis. Was it fate that led us to find the restaurant and sit at that particular table? What if we had never seen the display? Are there times when one has missed these opportunities and never known how close they were?


Sunday, October 9, 2011

San Diego and The List

Since our arrival in San Diego we have been slogging our way through the punch list. Looming departure from the ready availability of everything to do with boats seems to spur one into full preparation mode; I have been living up to my reputation to the Admiral of being "List-Man" numero uno. Within a day or two of our arrival we had lined up our projects and started the plates spinning on their poles.

The generator now has a new starter motor and the old one has been rewound for a spare. I had succeeded in my mission to get the wing up to the 50 hour level and that triggered the "large" service after the run-in period. My escapade with the bow thruster in the 'Charlottes required a review of both thruster drive connections and  replacement of worn parts. The flirtation with varnish for the teak rail around the cockpit has come to an end; that has been stripped and simply sealed; there is just too much fishing activity for pretty varnish finishes to survive in our cockpit. The sub-zero freezer drawer has now been meticulously re-engineered by Eddie and shouldn't ice up like the Antarctic any more. Stanadyne - diesel additive - was found by yours truly at a very reasonable price on the internet and we probably have enough on board to trade our way across the Pacific rather like Captain Cook's beads. Chevron's oil production peaked this month and much is residing as ballast downstairs, along with various other necessary fluids, found at very reasonable prices on the net. We drove up to Irvine and "slept" in the Handcraft Mattress factory; an extended period on board deserves replacement of our current pallet with something really comfy. Talking of Irvine, home of Intellian, we are installing a satellite communications platform so that we can remain in email and voice contact without depending on shore-based systems. Tim at SeaNet Inc is our comms guru and deals so patiently with me as I tiptoe into the 21st century. Chart research has been done and we are on course for Navnet chips; MaxSea downloads, and paper back-ups. Admin has been tackled with my usual gusto; we have our temporary import permit for Mexico; fishing licences; special Mexican insurance, crew list in espanol.......... And on the shore power front, I have decided to go with the ASEA shore power management system. I crunched the math and decided that connecting to alien shore power in a Tahitian marina would beat running the generator every day. What else can I bore you with? Spare parts orders from our internet-based maintenance system run by Wheelhouse Technologies. Watermaker service. AC service. Honda outboard service. Oh yes, and a new bank of starter batteries. Mere detail............

All I can say is thanks to Keith and all the team at Driscolls for their diligence in looking after Last Mango. We do enjoy being here on Shelter Island.
The yard is opposite the Marlin club established back in 1931. They have decades of records on the catches made; unfortunately the one in the picture was not able to be released and it made it to the public weigh station at the Club. We will make every effort to make sure that any sailfish we may hook up are released in good shape. Shelter Island was a mere mud bank in the early 20th century; now it is a haven for every conceivable supplier of yacht services. The harbours are full of ocean going yachts and the serious fishers who migrate south soon when the hurricane season ends.
This home made ravioli was served at Il Fornaio, in Coronado. It received a "Best Ever" Admiral rating, and my scallopine was as good as I have had in Sicily. This part of California has developed so rapidly over the past 150 years; prior to that these lands were explored or annexed by Russians, Portuguese, Spanish, Mexicans.........In the early 19th century the Roman Catholic church owned 90% of settled land in California; after the war with Mexico, California was part of the Mexican Cession transferred to the US. The population of California then was boosted firstly by the Gold Rush and also homesteading Confederate soldiers after the Civil War. Susie and I were desperate to get out of town for a while and so we took to the hills and went to Bed & Breakfast land in historic Julian, a couple of hours away. Up there in the sunshine we walked around this charming little place famous for Mom's apple pie and local cider. In 1860 the town was founded by two cousins who needed to head West to find a home after the war. Even walking round the town today it seemed little had changed, except that the gold has run out.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

PMYC Homecoming

Well here we are. We had called ahead and asked if Last Mango would be able to squeeze back into the friendliest slip on the West Coast, and Alan was right there waiting to give us a hand with the lines, thank you Alan. What a trip we have had, nearly 6,500 miles since we left the club in April 2010. This time we knew that we would fit in the slip, thanks to Sparky's "measurements" last year, and so Susie and I were happy to just get right on in there, after all there are those eighteen inches to spare. It was a great homecoming for us and we were able to catch up with the many characters at the club and make more new friends. Our thanks to Mike for introducing us to the club in the first place, and to the current Commodore, (another) Mike and his other half Candy, for being just, well, so wonderfully accommodating.
We are struck by how hard working all of the officers of the club are. The club opens well before we start to emerge and folks are always there until late. Susie and I wanted to make sure we made our small contribution so here we are doing our Officers of the Day. Yacht club pours, Margaritas, Bloody Marys. And that was just the breakfast session! What a great experience for us, we so enjoyed running the bar for most of the day. Alas, we had to move on after the weekend and so I had to run the club gauntlet of whether I could extricate us from the slip without crunching into the neighbouring docks, yachts and tenders. Hopefully the watchers put up the metaphoric "10".
So, I need to report on the FUBAR preparations. We are booked on the rally, leaving for Mexico on 7 November, and we did actually make the two-day prep seminar at the LBYC. This is a very well organised rally and we covered a lot of ground; getting one's vessel ready for travel, first aid and safety, routes, charting and navigation, fishing and regulations, and the Mexican tourist board even attended and cleared us into Mexico. All we need now is a blender and the right ingredients! And of course, our crew, Iain and Sandra. And, importantly, I have teamed up with one of the co-chairs of the rally and we now have our scratch FUBAR 2011 band. Ed has put together the set list and it is going to be fun!

So, back to reality. We departed Los Angeles and headed south, a night in Dana Point, Nordhavn headquarters country. After another day here we are in San Diego, to start our preparation routine for further travels. To put things in perspective, we have allowed ourselves a few weeks here to ensure that we cover as much ground as possible in preparing Last Mango for onward travel and probably a couple of years through and across the Pacific. Electrical power access, usage and generation has been on our minds for the last few weeks. Specifically we are looking at the best way to access and utilize non-60 cycle dock power (outside North America); our house battery bank needs replacement; and our starter motor on the genset needs replacing. We will also work through the extensive shopping list we have put together for maintenance, spares and purchases, improved offshore communications, charts and guides.

The FUBAR rally starts on 7th November and runs to the 22nd November when we should be in La Paz, more or less at the foot of the Baja. We had been thinking of pushing on to Panama for Christmas and then departing across the Pacific via the Marquesas but have changed our minds. Much better to save thousands of miles and have a leisurely cruise around the northern Pacific waters of Mexico including the Sea of Cortez; we can then join the Puddle-Jumpers and depart straight for the Marquesas from, say, Puerto Vallarta in March.