Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Another Ho Hum Day In Paradise.
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I have nothing to report. Nothing exciting or horrible has happened. We did not get fined, laid or attacked by pirates, Kuna or the Coast Guard. We did not sink, break apart, do anything noteworthy, or see anything more unusual than Mota making breakfast. So, to keep my editors happy and fill the page, this missive will contain various, unrelated insights I've gathered, gleamed or got throughout my travels.
But first the mandatory update...
We've returned back to Shelter Bay, safe and sound, placed our boat in a slip and reduced our caloric output to unmeasurable levels while increasing our caloric input by two cheeseburgers and a fries per meal. Two days passed with nothing more thrilling occurring than taking a shower.
Yesterday, Mota (DONT GIVE HIM SUGAR!) left for the States. He will be sadly missed - he was a ball of energy surrounded by good intentions, covered with hard work. I'm convinced we could have lost both engines and still gotten here using only a long bridle tied to his waist, a pair of flippers and a thousand cans of Red Bull. Jeff has also taken off for Panama City, but he'll be back. He grabbed a bus to go exploring. The plan is for him to rejoin us on the 2nd and go through the canal with everyone else.
Sometime this evening AnnMarie, Thorny (head bean counter for Burning Man), Erik and Qat are all due to arrive. It has been nice having the boat to myself for a day, but quite honestly, there are no end of friendly cruisers about and one can always find some sort of socializing, even if it means making a fool of myself talking to people in Spanish.
It is a small world though. Last night I got to talking with another sailor and discovered that not only did we both work in exactly the same sub-field of programming, but that he had designed a small electronic product for cruisers that he wants to market, and was looking for someone who could do board layout and help organize manufacturing. Oddly, the exact talents he needed exist in my friend Erik, who is about to arrive. I will put them in touch. It seems so weird to be talking "embedded systems" nerd stuff in paradise, with another barefoot guy, also in a dirty T-shirt, and even more strange to be able to provide a solution to his dilemma. ONLY IN [central] AMERICA!
We go through the canal in a day or two. Everyone seems to be very excited about it. I'm still confused why this is such a big deal. The principle behind this technology is hundreds of years old, and is no different than that found in the standard American bathroom, yet no one has ever sent me an email asking to be "put on the list" of folks that want to come over and watch the next time I'm fixing the toilet. Apparently large scale plumbing is somehow more interesting.
Beyond that, nothing much has occurred, but that has never stopped me from writing a lot. So, here are some random thoughts that have been kicking around in my head...
On Boat Maintenance: There are three kinds of boat parts: "broken", "about to break", and "recently installed". Some times there are only two types of boat parts.
On Physical Appeal: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but nothing improves looks faster than a long sea journey. I've watched young merchant marines get off a boat and flirt with their best friends great grandmother.
On Anchoring: The probability of your anchor holding perfectly, in exactly the best place in the anchorage, especially on the first attempt, is directly proportional to the chance that another boat will then come along and anchor directly up wind of you and drag their anchor that night.
On Food at Sea: Unless there is a professional cook aboard who continually prepares your meals for you, after five days with rough seas you will be reduced to eating anything that can be consumed with nothing more complicated than a scissor, a can opener or a straw. After ten days, you'll make a meal of nothing but condiments. After twenty days, you'll regret having blown through the condiments as it would have improved the "Canned Squid With Corn Flakes" breakfast you've concocted.
On Clean Towels: There are two kinds of towels found on a boat. The first are those used to dry off dishes, mop up food spills, dry off salt water spray in the cockpit, act as floor mats, buff the gel-coat, and cover equipment from the sun. The second type are identical in appearance to the former, but are clean, just back from the laundry...and completely imaginary; they do not exist in this reality. After two days at sea, I'm yet to dry off with anything that didn't smell like a goat.
On Learning: Feelings work better than intellect when instilling good habits. Repeatedly explaining the importance of keeping your thumbs away from the winch as you handle the line has only minimal impact on another's consciousness, yet freeing their fingers from within the jib sheet block instantly conveys the same lesson in only seconds and never needs reminding.
On Sex at Sea: There is nothing so romantic as a tryst on the high seas. Once you both get past the sea sickness, and have managed to get enough sleep, and found something nourishing to eat that doesn't make you sick again, and have arranged your watch schedules to coincide, and have managed to both take showers, and have then negotiated the small, cramped space in which to snuggle while the boat bounces you around like the back end of an old pickup truck, and have figured out how not to make so much noise it attracts the the crew's attention (or scares off the dolphins), and you've remembered which crevice the condoms and lube fell into, you discover that you have already arrived at the next port.
On Meteorology: Weather prediction is no longer the black art it once was. The advent of computers, satellites and government employees have made weather prognostication almost an exact science. For instance, the weather prediction we heard on the Single Side Band Panama Net for April 28th, 2007 was, and I quote, "The wind could be coming from one direction or another, which could be good or bad, depending on where you were going". This turned out to be 100% correct.
On the Nautical Lexicon: Ignore the common myth that there is a proper word for everything on a boat and that you must use only that word when communicating. For instance, there are many names for the left side of the boat, including "Port", "No, Mota, The Other Port", and "Not There You Bloody Idiot", to name just a few.
On Private Transportation Ashore: The cost of any taxi ride in any tourist location is determined by taking the cost of the average tourist's shoes and doubling it. I'm not sure why this is. Questioning it only increases the cost of your cab ride.
On Panamanian Cigarettes: "American Spirits" are still the only cigarette worth getting cancer for. The stuff they sell down here is horrific. It's so bad I'm amazed anyone can even get addicted.
On Communication: "Shirt-cocking" is universally effective and conveys the same meaning in all languages. Even die hard Kuna don't paddle up when your wearing only a Harley Davidson T-shirt.
Oh well, enough fun at your expense. I hope everyone is doing fine and all is well. I'll let you all know how the transit went, and then it's on to Costa Rica and then the great decision.
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