Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Greetings From Shelter Bay Marina
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Greeting from Shelter Bay Marina, natures little pond of delight just minutes away from mankind's little industrial canal of the colon.
We returned back from San Blas today and pulled back into the marina to regroup. This meant long, uninterrupted, hot showers. And cheeseburgers with French fries. And iced tea with real ice. Its funny but one of the things that define Americans is their copious use of ice. European cultures don't seem to go in for cold drinks the way we do. Two nights ago we had a big party on the boat and invited all the other cruisers. Peter, a German cruiser came aboard and said "Okay, where's the ice? You Americans always have ice."
And he was right! I'm not really sure what it is, but I'll tell you that I won't go cruising again without an ice maker and working freezer. After two or three days with only warm drinks, you suddenly appreciate how much better it makes things taste. It also seems to make whatever you're drinking refresh you more, even if it is just a glass of water. It isn't that hot down here, but you do desiccate a bit and the cold makes a huge difference.
Oh, and another interesting observation I never thought I'd make: Coke is better than all the cola competition put together, including Pepsi, 7-up beats Sprite and other such alternatives, and all of it is made ten times better over ice. It is surprising how much of a taste difference there is (even for someone like myself who barely ever drinks this stuff) when you are suddenly looking at the last can of Coke and know that what remains are three six packs of Fanta and a quart of Gingerbeer. Honestly, I don't drink soda pop, I prefer seltzer (no calories, no phosphates, no sugars, no salt) but there is a real difference in taste. I realize I'm offending Pepsi drinkers, but there you have it.
Its also been very interesting how certain food items can brighten your day. We got off the boat this morning after twenty four hours of rolling waves and high winds, and not enough sleep. We stumbled up to the restaurant and slumped into the chairs. The Shelter Bay harbor manager walked over with a plate of freshly baked brownies. I thought Jeff and Mota were going to cry. They relished them and their whole mood changed. It was like watching someone come back to life. I'm thinking of adding some to the first aid kit.
Jen, Mike, and MaryAnn left earlier. Mota leaves tomorrow for the states, and Jeff is headed off to Panama City for a few days of solo exploration. They will be sorely missed. What's more, I'm beginning to realize that Jeff, Mota, Jen, Mike, and MaryAnn have become the standard by which I will judge all other crew to come. I really lucked out this trip and had a string of really great individuals that worked as a team. Everyone got along fantastically well, coped with adversities like clogged heads and non-functioning autopilots without even the slightest frown, and did more than their fair share of effort, including scrubbing out bilges, putting up netting, rerouting plumbing, fiber-glassing and many other thankless tasks. What could have been a horrific slog across the ocean was actually a fun filled, laughter strewn skip across the pond. I am much indebted to them all.
If it sounds like I'm blathering on about it, I'm not. Finding good crew is really hard. I've spoken with many, many cruisers along the way. They all have relayed their disappointment and frustration in finding folks that work hard and still have a good time. There have been quite a number of horror stories about crew quitting halfway through, or getting into fights, or freaking out, or breaking expensive boat parts. None of that happened, and everyone arrived in port safe and sound. A better trip could not have been had.
Now comes the much ballyhooed canal crossing itself. We are scheduled for the 3rd and it is supposed to take less than 24 hours to get through, but given the direction we're headed, we'll probably get scheduled with an overnight stop in the big lake. This is considered to be a great treat as there are numerous birds, monkeys and other exotic life (including giant crocodiles) to be seen along the shores. We'll take pictures and share them with everyone when we return.
Otherwise it has been a relatively low key last few days. We did some more snorkeling before we left San Blas with Slater and his wife Julie. It turns out that Slater also worked for the Berkeley West Marine, but a year before I did, and we figured out that we had once met in the store. It is a very small world. They lived in Europe, but had flew to Richmond to buy their boat, and lived there and worked at West Marine for about two years. He came on the boat and said "Wow, you have all the same West Marine parts I do!" Funny how that works out.
I also spent several great hours with Folkher and MaryLou, a lovely German couple sailing on a really nice Privilege Catamaran. They'd been out cruising for several years and had been around quite a lot of the Caribbean. Their attitude was that it made more sense to leave now while their health was still good and they could enjoy themselves. On one hand, I agree with them, but on the other hand, I've been meeting a lot of folks in their seventies that have been out cruising for thirty years and look to be about twenty years younger than you might guess. This life style is definitely good for some folks.
I've also come across quite a number of families with children. A big part of their cruising life is home schooling them. If the folks I've encountered are anything to judge by, I'd say that this form of education beats anything I've seen in either private or public schools. I'm regularly amazed at the high levels of knowledge, poise, intellect, maturity and responsibility displayed by the children of cruisers. They are still playful kids, but are invariably achieving several levels higher than their land based counterparts. You regularly hear about some child turning sixteen and being admitted to college early. It is very impressive.
There hasn't been much else to report. We spend a lot of time making snide comments, laughing about them, then realizing that nothing we've said can be transcribed in any fashion that would make another person laugh, or even smile. It has all been location jokes that would take about three hours of typing to explain just ten minutes of on the spot humor - and then it still wouldn't be funny, so I won't try.
The boat continues to perform well, although with each day I find another thing about it I'd like to modify or improve somehow. We've enjoyed ourselves immensely, managed to avoid getting seriously hurt and have spent most of our time giggling at each other. Sounds trite, but its is the truth.
I hope all is well back home and look forward to seeing everyone again soon.
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