Friday, August 23, 2013

Life in Panama City

The weather is great here.  Afternoon temps are in the 80's, with an occasional squall.  We look forward to rain as we are using our awning as a water catcher.  One good downpour can replenish our 175 gallon water tanks.

There's a busy shipping canal that passes close to downtown.  Its fun to watch the ships squeeze through.  The Panamanians are building new and bigger locks to handle even larger ships then these.

There is good shopping.  You can find almost anything needed.  All it takes is a bunch of time and a bunch of money for taxi fares.

It has a thoroughly modern infrastructure.

Getting to town is the biggest adventure of all.  Most cruisers are at anchor and dingy ashore.  Dingys are nosed in to the steps that provide access to land, passengers alight carrying garbage, computers, tools and an occasional acetylene bottle.

The concrete steps are awash at high tide and exposed during low.  They are covered with sea slime, making them extremely slippery.  Almost everyone takes a fall at some time.  After dropping off passengers the dingy driver takes the dingy out to the floating dock, often scrambling over other dingys, and ties it to bollards or exposed rebar.  All that remains is to jump into the very little, very unstable shuttle boat and pull one's self to shore using the rope.

It's really quite simple if you can climb like a mountain goat and are not a little dyslexic.

There has got to be an easier way.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Surviving on Mogo Mogo

Our first stop after rounding the dreaded Cabo Mala was the Pearlas Islands.

The Pearlas, made up of approximately 100 various size islands lying 40 miles southeast of Panama City, used to be fertile pearl territory.  The Spanish, who named the islands, stole a great many from the locals, before defeating and enslaving them.  One pearl,  "La Peregrina" was given to Mary Tudor as a wedding gift by her intended, King Phillip II of Spain.  The pearl passed through many hands over the years,  including those of Elizabeth Taylor, earning it the name "The Wanderer".    It's current owners bought it from Taylor's estate for 11 million dollars.

We bounced around the islands for a week or so, before retreating to the narrow channel between Isla Chapera and Isla Mogo Mogo after a harrowing night of high winds while anchored off Isla Contadora.

For fans of the TV show survivor, Mogo Mogo might ring a bell.  Several seasons were filmed there, including the first all-star season.

Of course we had to check it out.

It's not a particularly pretty island with low scrubby vegetation, but it is close to Isla Contrador and it's hotels where the film crew probably stayed.

We found the remains of one of the camps.  Not much was left.

We soon saw why.  Locals have been stripping it for their own special projects.

There were a few artifacts left that we might recognize were we to watch the show.  For one, the bench, which we put to use.

 Secondly, an oddly shaped chunk of wood.  We also put it to use.

Steve, Patty from Armagh and Judy and Kris

I mentioned retreating.  We have a very rough night of high winds while at anchor off Contradora on a lee shore.  Not a good place to be should the anchor drag, as it did for this unfortunate catamaran.  It was pulled off the beach and seemed to be ok.  We pulled the hooks up,  and retreated.

Monday, August 5, 2013

2295.2 Miles from La Cruz, Mexico

Panama City!!!

We're here, and all is good.  I guess all the useless worrying I did about the boat, the crew, the weather, lightening strikes, and all the rest of the things I have no control over has paid off. 

Now we have to figure out what's next.  But before that I want to take a look back at some of the favorite places SV Grace has been lucky to travel through. 

First, Behia Honda in was about the kids.

As soon as Grace dropped anchor off the village in Behia Honda kids showed up rowing thier little dugout canoes, as they do for all arriving boats, looking for candy, pencils or anything of value.  Some brought coconuts, mangos or hand made trinkets for sale or trade. 

One day while we were having beers in the local cantina, a doll came in dragging a shy little girl with her.  The big Nikon camera was drawing it like a moth to a flame.

The shyness began to evaporate........

And was gone.

A friend showed up moments later, and suddenly we had a photoshoot going.

They loved posing with a pair of glasses.

This is the biggest smile I could coax
her to make.  She had lost her two front teeth.

I would take a picture, show it to the girls, they would laugh and giggle, tease each other, then demand another photo.  It was like catching lightening in a bottle.  These may be my favorite pictures of the whole trip.

The village the girls live in is on an island in Behia Honda, comprised of a few tiendas, a couple cantinas, a church that is visited by a priest once a month, a police station and a very nice school.  Most of the homes are scattered about the forested island.  Recently paved paths wending through the jungle tie the community together.  It's an incredibly idyllic setting.

Across the bay and up a narrow but deep river is another village.  A group of us Gringos made the trip up river following a panga.

About half a mile up we came to the village landing.

We created quite a distraction at the village school.  Students saw us walking by and came boiling out of class to watch the strange sight.  The teachers were quite nice and invited us in.  None of us spoke Spanish, so it was a bit awkward. 

On another day we were guided by Phillipe, a young man who adopted us, to a waterfall visible from the boat.  We scrambled upstream from the beach for a quarter mile or so to the falls.


Niether village is connected by roads to the rest of the country.  Everything is brought in by uniquely designed pangas.

The most popular personal transport are elegantly carved dugouts.

Finally, we have a new contestant for the worst bathroom award.  These are in the cantina where we spent afternoons on the very slow national internet system.