Saturday, April 28, 2012

Almost On the Move

I haven’t blogged for awhile because I just didn’t think there was anything more to write about after the sloth sighting and photos. We are getting ready to head north out of Panama on Tuesday. Our friend Bill is coming to help us, he’s from San Francisco and should be showing up tomorrow (Sunday). Then on Monday morning we will start the dance to check out at the Port Captains office. Load up on groceries in the afternoon and be ready to leave on Tuesday morning. The plan is to sail straight for Grand Cayman Island. We’ll spend a few days there, then either sail to Isla Mujeres in Mexico, or if the weather is decent, straight around the west end of Cuba, across the Gulf of Mexico and onto the Dry Tortugas. These are about 60 miles west of Key West. I’ve always wanted to go check out Fort Jefferson, a Civil War era fort that is on the islands. Then we’ll head into Key West to check into the US of A. Head up to Fort Lauderdale to see my Dad. Then off to Jacksonville to check in with our sister-in-law Mary. Then to Charleston or there abouts to see John and Lisa. Then off to Annapolis.
OK so why the big haul up the East Coast of the US? The plan is to do some cosmetics on Jeorgia and then put her up for sale. She’ll make a great boat for someone on the east coast, she has a shoal draft keel and is really fun to sail in the light airs they have. In the mean time we will be looking seriously for a bigger boat that we can continue cruising in. We’ve identified a couple that would work out well. Jeorgia has been a great boat for us. Fun to sail, easy to handle in heavy weather. What she lacks is easy access storage for long term living and a good sized galley. Since we no longer own a house and we plan to be cruising for the next 6 or 8 years, plus I plan to stay married, we decided to bite the bullet and spend our children's inheritance on a boat to live on. We’ll blog about the boat hunting experience when the dust settles.
We are done with the medical world of Panama for awhile. In the end Chris’ anemia was due to a lack of vitamin B-12. Despite extensive testing, the reason for the lack of B-12 is still in the unknown category. Now you might think B-12 deficiency is some super-star disease de jour created in Hollywood. Turns out it has been around for a long time and has some nasty side effects, like nerve damage and death. The good news is that monthly shots of B-12 solve the problem.
The picture at the top of the page is the fuel certificate and the fuel sample bottle we received after taking on a whopping 30 gallons of diesel from the fuel barge Panama Star. The Panama Star is tied up at a pier inside Shelter Bay and carries 64,000 gallons of fuel onboard. When the big guys fuel up with thousands of gallons, they always get a sample bottle that they save onboard to use in case there are any issues with the fuel. We poured ours into the tank.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Finally, Successful Sloth Spotting

Is this gal cute, or what? If you ignore the flies on her head and the sloping forehead, you can bet her mother loves her. Who could resist those eyes and a Mona Lisa smile?

These guys hang on the simplest of branches. This one was just off the road in the late afternoon about 8 feet off the ground. We could have touched her, but have been warned that the flies that bite the sloths can carry some ugly human skin eating bacteria.
IMG_9457 She is a 3 toed sloth. You can see her manicure on the right side branch. She was fairly active when we visited her and was gone the next morning. That’s fairly active for a sloth – she moved head multiple times with slight arm wave thrown.
So, after months of searching, we can cross the 3 toed sloth off our wildlife sighting list. Now, on to the elusive anteater.
shelterbayIMG_9443 Near by, hanging in the dark of the jungle canopy was a toucan. Not as bright as the ones on the Fruit Loops boxes but cool none the less.
This is Gary, the Gecko. He hangs in our galley and handles mosquito control on Jeorgia after we go to bed.
These critters are all within walking distance of our slip.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Medical Musing

Our blog reader has asked for an explanation of my burns that I mentioned in an earlier post. I didn’t say much earlier because I didn’t want to be one of those heroes who is always bragging about their escapades.  So there was this fire on a boat down the dock from us. The flames looked small, but the smoke was starting to get thick. On the dock finger were a bunch of folks just standing around and gawking. A little 4 year old girl was screaming that her cat was onboard. So I jumped on the boat, crashed through the companionway and started feeling around for some fuzz. Up high above the galley I found the scared fuzz ball, grabbed her by the nape of the neck and flew out of the smoky boat. The crowd cheered wildly. I was sure I was going to get free beers for a week at Happy Hour.
Yea, in my dreams. I poured boiling water out of the tea kettle into my coffee cup. Then lifted the lid to the reefer to get some milk. It knocked the cup over onto me. Nasty ass second degree burn. Something we always fear when sailing offshore. Of course, I managed to do it while tied to a dock. Either way, not recommended.
We’ve been in Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, dealing with some medical issues before we leave Panama. Colon itself is a rough town. Fortunately we are a half hour outside of it. A few nights ago a catamaran was anchored off the Club Nautico near downtown Colon. Late at night 3 guys swam out to the boat, boarded it, tied the owner up with wire ties and ransacked the boat. They took his dinghy to load up all the stuff they stole and left him tied hands and feet. His boat is now in a slip 2 down from us. (Skipper tied up and Robbed)
Colon looks a lot like Bourbon Street in New Orleans with 75 years of deferred maintenance.

The biggest single expense we have while we’re out cruising is the health insurance premium, a policy with a $10,000 deductible, that we pay each month.  But this is for the big, bad events that we hope won’t happen. In the meantime, any medical stuff we need on the way we pay for with cash. (If you are interested in the cost of cruising, our friends on Kokomo publish exactly what they spend each month on their blog at the beginning of each following month: Kokomo.)
Medical care in Panama City is very high end. Lots of US board certified specialists, excellent clinics and hospitals. We deal with the private health care system in Panama. This is a two tier system, with public Social Security hospitals paid for by the state along with private hospitals and clinics. In general, the doctors and specialists who work in the private system also work in the public system. 
So, you make an appointment with a specialist, he sees you for 50 minutes, taking all the time in the world to expertly examine you and deal with your issues and questions. Go to the receptionist desk and pay your $50 or $60 for the visit. Head down to the lab and where you pay $30 for this test and $20 for that test. Need a chest X-ray or EKG, $30. In a lot of ways, this has been a way better experience than the broken US system.
Easy availability of specialist means that you do get referred a fair amount to the local expert. Right now, there’s a push for more tests that involve semi-flexible tubes placed in places that the Panamanian sun don’t shine. Not a popular choice.
We’ll grab the bus back over to Panama City tomorrow. Finish up with test land, hopefully, and get ready to head north out of here in about 10 days. More on that later.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

No More Transits – Finally Got The T-Shirt

Panama Canal – The Land Divided, The World United
Did two more transits of the Canal this week. Chris came alone on the US boat Legacy, a Saga 43 and I did another transit a day later on the Dutch boat Fruit de Mer, an Allure 44. Now that I have the t-shirt I think I can stop running back and forth across the continent.
There are a ton of European boats that are doing their transit to the Pacific this time of year. Lots of opportunities for line-handlers, as each boat requires a skipper and 4 line handlers. The Canal has decided to take the South-bound boats (to the Pacific) through in one day, instead of having them anchor in Lake Gatun for the night. This means that most boats are doing a large part of the Canal at night. Last fall the rules were no hand-line boats at night, way too dangerous. Legacy was scheduled for a one day transit, but when we exited the Gatun locks they said we were too late to make the last lock down on the Pacific side, so we ended up in the lake for the night anyway and got to sight see during the daylight passage.
legacyIMG_9353  Chris, the casual skipper on Legacy stopping for some extra energy while a big Mersk freighter bares down in the lock. Chris left Alaska 9 years ago and is heading back up to Mexico to catch up with his wife.
legacyIMG_9321 Heading into the locks rafted up to two other sailboats.
The Centenario Bridge from the deck of Legacy, with crew member Patrick enjoying the view.
fruitdemerIMG_9368 The same bridge at night from the deck of Fruit de Mer
fruitdemerIMG_9367 The Gatun Locks doors closing on Fruit de Mer
legacyIMG_9304 The 360 foot, 170 passenger Star Flyer exiting the Canal.
Hiking through the trails and the old Fort Sherman roads, here in Shelter Bay, always allows some cool wildlife spotting. Actually, we hike out to go Sloth Spotting. Haven’t seen one yet.
This guy is a grumpy howler. The howler monkeys make the most amazing noise, must’ve scared the day lights out of the unsuspecting Spanish when they first landed on these shores.
shelterbayIMG_9395 A baby howler who was very interested in what we were doing at ground level.
shelterbayIMG_9375 Check the baby on the left with its tail securely wrapped around mom’s tail, with dad protecting the rear.
shelterbayIMG_9387 Sometimes you have to stretch for the good morsels.
shelterbayIMG_9399 I hope he stays up in the tree.
malwaiDSCF1007 This guy is actually a monkey Chris saw on her last trip to Malawi
Another Malawi monkey. Can you figure out how to tell the difference between a Malawian monkey and a Panamanian monkey?
Mom giving junior a ride in the Fort Sherman jungle
Paul and Chris