Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Balboa Yacht Club: gone

        I’m actually not gone until tomorrow morning, but shortly after posting this, taking my last fresh water shower for the indefinite future, and filling a one gallon plastic container with water, I will ride the launch out to GANNET and leave the land and Internet behind.
        I came in at 7 this morning to do my laundry.  
        The washing machine was fine and only cost fifty cents a load.  I only had one load.  But the drier didn’t do its job, so I took my still damp clothes out to GANNET where I spread them on deck and let the sun do its.
        When I came in again to have lunch with new friends, a 50’ catamaran was tied to the outside of the pier.  A man on deck was filling eight jerry cans with diesel.  This presumably in addition to whatever the boat carried in its build-in tanks.  Many ‘sailboats’ are really powerboats with masts.
        I expect to sail off the mooring around dawn tomorrow.
        I will turn the Yellowbrick on tonight set to update positions every six hours.
        The tracking page is:  https://my.yb.tl/gannet
        I wish you joy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Balboa Yacht Club: provisioned and cleared

        I am writing this at 4 PM on Monday afternoon, but it won’t be posted until I go ashore tomorrow.
        As of this moment GANNET is provisioned for two months.
        I went ashore after lunch and made a final supermarket run.
        These are done with wildcat drivers who hang around the Radisson and I have found that prices are steadily decreasing.  To be driven to and from either of the two nearest supermarkets and have the driver wait while I shop, essential because it is difficult to get taxis from the markets, I first paid $25.  The next day a driver only asked for $20 and today a driver asked for $14.
        Everything is on board, in waterproof bags if necessary, and stowed.
        I am still lacking a bottle of whiskey, but the office  to which I have to go to clear out of the country is at Flamenco above a duty free shop.  I will go there tomorrow to deal with the officials and to liberate a bottle of something. 

        Despite the 15’+/5 meter tides boats do not reverse direction on these moorings.  While often strong, the wind is not always strong enough to overcome currents that usually come with big tides.  I speculate that water released from the canal locks two miles north creates a permanent outflow that keeps all of us constantly pointing NW.

————

         11:00 AM Tuesday morning and I am back at Flamenco, where the offices of the port captain and immigration are that need to be visited to clear out of the country.
        I am cleared.
        The process took longer than it should and there was confusion because GANNET came overland rather than through the canal, but I anticipated that and had photos of her on the truck in my phone.
        The women in the offices were all courteous as opposed to the people in the Colon port captain’s office.
        I had considered not bothering to clear.  I don’t believe US officials care, but a lack of clearance would present problems if GANNET is damaged and we have to go into a foreign port.
        While here, I will buy a bottle of whiskey at the duty free shop.  Unfortunately not Laphroaig or even an Islay single malt.  Sacrifices must be made.
        I will also walk across to the Sirena Restaurant and duplicate the excellent meal I had there of a mixed brochette, sautéed vegetables, and two margaritas on the rocks.
        Not all is sacrifice.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Balboa Yacht Club: the passage

        This is the most difficult of passages to predict.
        The website sea-distances.org shows the distance from Balboa, Panama to San Diego, California to be 2844  nautical miles.  Make a modest four knot average and you’re there in four weeks, the length of time I have now been in Panama.  However, with perhaps the last thousand miles or more to windward and parts of the rest given to light and variable winds, we will have to sail considerably farther than 2844.  As I have said I will not beat GANNET or myself up bashing into strong headwinds.  I will wait them out.  And almost all this passage will be made under sheet to tiller steering which often does not permit maximum performance.
        Our present position on the Balboa Yacht Club mooring is 08º56’N   079º33’W, which is slightly east of Miami, Florida.  
        The entrance to San Diego Bay is 32º40’N   117º14’W.
        So we sail about 24º north and 38º west, except we have to first go down to 07ºN in order to get out of the Gulf of Panama before we can turn west and north.
        The 38º of longitude is like sailing across the entire United States, with the 24º of latitude adding about 1500 miles north.
        I do not know how far we will have to sail to reach San Diego or how long it will take.
        I’m provisioned for about two months.
        If it takes longer than that I’m in trouble.
        While I could and may fall off and divert to Hilo, Hawaii, which is much easier to reach than San Diego, I very much want the symmetry of completing the second part of my life, which I have called ‘being’ in San Diego where it began on November 2, 1974, when I pushed the engineless EGREGIOUS away from her slip at Harbor Island Marina for my first attempt at Cape Horn.
        More than most people do theirs, I have clearly understood my life even as I have lived it.
        I have called the first part ‘longing’.
        I loved some wonderful women, I learned, I may have written some worthwhile poems; but the first thirty-three years of my life were prelude.  November 2, 1974 was the true beginning.  And when/if I reach San Diego in GANNET that part of my life will end.
        Who knows what I will do next?
        In talking with Carol over the telephone this afternoon, she said that there will still be a lot of ‘being’ in the next part of my life.  I hope and expect that there will be, but it will be different.

        Evening drinks here are a pleasure, sitting in the cockpit watching ships pass fifty yards away.  Tug boats release them in front of us.
        On two evenings sailboats passed—three one night, two another—having just competed what I assume was a one day transit.  Of my three transits of the canal, one was a one day, two were two days.  It is easy and I think preferable to transit in one day if the authorities schedule a boat to enter the upward locks early in the morning.
        I could sense the relief of the crews to be out of the last lock and again at sea level, as launches came alongside to take off the advisor and line handlers.  I have felt it myself.

        I wrote the above last night on GANNET, but can send it only today, Monday, now that I am ashore using the Radisson Hotel free wi-fi.
        I did taxi to a supermarket yesterday afternoon.
        I expect that I will complete provisioning tomorrow, have a quiet Wednesday to look GANNET over and do my laundry, and leave on Thursday.
        Before coming ashore, I rethreaded the reef leech lines on the mainsail and topped up the canisters of protein powder, trail mix, and powdered milk, which is easier to do in port than at sea.  The powdered milk was a New Zealand brand and so has now  been on board for more than two years.
        I will make another grocery run this morning and maybe another this afternoon.
        The things left on the list:  crackers, juice, snacks, cookies, chocolate, museli, water, tonic, dried fruit, whiskey.
        I already have supplies of all these except whiskey and just want to add more.
        Whiskey is not essential, but I would like to have a bottle in case somewhere along the way I desire something more warming than coffee.
        I will take a glass from my third of a bottle of Laphroaig when we reach 21º, the halfway latitude, but the rest will be saved for San Diego.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Balboa Yacht Club: jibed and watered

        I smiled as the launch approached GANNET a few minutes ago after a quick trip to the pier to fill two jerry cans with water because she is again complete.  Mainsail covered on boom.  Jib furled on forestay.
        I bent on the jib at first light this morning.  This constant and often strong wind was worrying me.  I could picture the jib flogging, the luff tape jamming in the foil groove, repeated dashes to the bow to straighten it.  The wind is lightest early in the day.  The jib went up easily and quickly.  The old jib was always a problem.  The new one isn’t.
        Once up the sail furled as it should and GANNET is again a sailboat, not a truck load.
        I had four things to do today and I finished all of them by 10:00 am.
        Bend on jib.
        Fill jerry cans with water.  Two still have Hilton Head water, so only the other two needed to go to the pier where there is a high volume hose.  GANNET now has about 20 gallons/75 liters of water on board.  My consumption of fresh water has consistently been .37 gallon/1.4 liters a day.  So I have about 54 days of water on board.  I’ll buy an additional four or five bottles of water.
        Fit split rings in shroud turnbuckles and tape over them.
        Tape the fitting through which the mast electrical wires pass through the deck.  I had already sealed that fitting with LifeSeal.
        All this leaves to do is top up provisions.
        While the supermarkets are better on here, the logistics are more difficult.  A taxi to and from the supermarket.  A long walk out the pier which is long because of 15’+ tides.  Into the launch and from launch to deck.  Certain supplies were more easily obtained at Shelter Bay Marina, but GANNET was so cluttered and disorganized, I did not want to add to the chaos.
        I am not aware of any dock carts here, so I am limited on a single trip to what I can carry a substantial distance.
        I will go ashore in a while to use the Internet and have lunch.  If I find a taxi driver, I will go shopping.
        Now that the boom, boom vang, mainsail, bow sprit and jib, all of which were below deck for the truck ride, are again above deck, the Great Cabin seems spacious.  Well, relatively.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Balboa Yacht Club: free

        Mike, from Milwaukee, and Richard, a Kiwi, appeared in the launch at 9:30 and the high flying furling gear top swivel was at the base of the foil ten minutes later.  I can not be more pleased, relieved and grateful.  I thanked them in person, as well as paying them twice the token fee they asked.  I thank them again.
        For the first time since reaching Colon almost a month ago, I am free.  My life and GANNET are again in my control.
       Unless there is an unexpected lull today, I will bend on the jib early tomorrow morning.
        The now captive swivel can be seen above with the Bridge of the Americas in the background.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Balboa Yacht Club: maybe the solution

        Despite the frequent tsunami wakes from power boats, I like being on this mooring.
        We are a half mile south of the Bridge of the Americas, the first and for many years the only bridge across the canal, and the shipping channel is only 50 yards away.  Ships pass close and often.  They are moving slowly and not the source of the wakes, which come from smaller motor vessels, perhaps carrying pilots or other workers.
        Strong wind is blowing down the canal today as the last two since I left Flamenco.  It will be a good wind to leave on.
        Last night for the first time in a long time I slept in my lightweight sleeping bag rather than on it.
        This morning I scrubbed the deck.  The Raptor nonskid cleaned up better than I expected.  It was in places deeply grimed from workmen’s shoes.  It is not now pristine, but it is acceptable.
        Then I pushed the wires that run up the mast to the masthead light and the steaming light through the deck fitting and reconnected them to the panel and sealed the deck opening.
        I went ashore and found decent free wi-fi in the lobby of a nearby Radisson Hotel.
        While there a man came up to me and asked if I wanted a taxi.  I decided to have him take me to a good supermarket I remember from the past.  We made a deal where he would wait for me and bring me back.
        Rey Super Mercados are a chain here.  This one is a good one.
        I mostly was doing a reconnaissance.  I did not find oatmeal, so will have to settle for muesli.  I didn’t find trail mix, so will have to devise my own from dried fruit and nuts.  I did not find Laphroaig, which really isn’t a drink for this climate, or any other Islay single malts.  I did find other single malts and might buy a bottle of one.  I did surprisingly find Botanist gin and did buy a bottle.  If you are wondering, there was a duty free shop near the Flamenco Boat Yard and I already have several bottles of gin.  I don’t actually know how many.  You can't have too many bottles of gin.
        Ashore I asked Ricardo, who was the man who responded to my email request for a mooring and may be the dockmaster, about someone to go up my mast.  He named two men who work together, Richard and Mike, and said they often are at the small restaurant ashore.
        When I returned from the supermarket I asked some men there if they were Richard or Mike.  They were not, but knew them.
        I went back out to GANNET.  Ate a can of fish for lunch, then tried an idea presented to me by Andy in an email of tying a boat hook to another halyard and running it up to try to catch the swivel or the halyard to which it is attached.  I was not successful, so I turned to straightening up the v-berth.  In this I was successful, moving two plastic bags containing sleeping bags I do not expect to use to the stern.
        Launch service here is free and mandatory.  You cannot use your own dinghy from the moorings.  I called on the VHF for a ride ashore, went up to the restaurant and asked a likely group of four men if any of them are Mike and Richard.  Two are.  Mike is a New Zealander.  Ricardo had already talked to them.  They knew my boat and problem and said they will come out to GANNET about 9 or 9:30 tomorrow morning.  I am optimistic and deeply relieved.  I’ll be more relieved when the top swivel is in my hand.
        When it is, I will have to bend on the jib, not easily done in this wind.  Best first thing in the morning.  Top up the water jerry cans.  Only one is empty.  Another partially.  Make another run or two to the supermarket.  Do my laundry.  There are washing machines at the yacht club.  And get a haircut.  I might just chop off what little hair I still possess myself.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Balboa Yacht Club: yesterday and today

        March 6, Wednesday
        at anchor off Isla Culebra

         Steve, the rigger, showed up this morning at 10:30 with an assistant.  The mast was up and the rigging sorted out by 12:30.  The mainsail was bent on and the boom in place.  I could not bend on the jib while GANNET was on the cradle.  It was a windy day, windier than I wished as I was to find out.
        I was told that GANNET would be put in the water at 1:30 and about that time she was.  
        Before that happened I was presented with two bills.  One for $707.27 cents.  The boat yard charged me $160 a day to sit in abdominal heat and squalor while they were having Carnivale.  The additional is tax.
        I also received a bill for $856 which is the truly outrageous charge for the travel lift to launch GANNET They have, as does Shelter Bay Marina, a 40’ minimum charge.  $856 for a 24’ boat one way.  Not out and back in.  Despicable.
        I do not recall in all these decades of sailing any boat expense exceeding my estimate by a greater amount than this extraordinary transit.  $100 a mile will be far too low.  Getting  GANNET across Panama will cost very nearly what I paid for her.
        As the travel lift raised GANNET from her Gucci priced cradle, I had an odd experience.
        A man, perhaps in his forties or early fifties, came up to me and asked if GANNET is my boat.  I said she is.  He said, “Have you brought her here to race locally?”  I replied no, that I was nearing the end of a circumnavigation with her.
        He said he was circumnavigating too.  Solo.  He stressed the ‘solo’.
        I asked what boat.
        He said he has a Valiant 40 and started in San Francisco.
        He asked my name.
        I told him.
        He shook my hand harder than is customary, perhaps proving something to somebody, and then said, “I am sorry you are an American.  You are an arrogant bastard.”  And walked away.
        There was the smell of beer on his breath and he did slur his words, but I suspect he is not a fan.
        The travel lift put GANNET in the water stern first.  Strong wind was blowing on her stern.  I don’t like to use the Torqeedo in reverse, but it performed admirably and we backed out until we could swing into forward.
        Once outside the breakwater I set the mainsail and cut the Torqeedo.  The distance from Flamenco to Balboa Yacht Club is only 3.5 miles, but as you know I prefer to sail.
        As we rounded the end of the causeway, the wind increased to over 20 knots and came from ahead.  GANNET rounded up in gusts the tiller pilot couldn’t handle.  Spray came on deck.
        Without a jib, we could not sail against the wind and chop.  We could not power against it.  We could not motorsail against it.  At times even with the main drawing, we were going backwards.  Finally I gave up, fell off, lowered the main and anchored here on the west side of the causeway within sight of Flamenco Marina on the other.  Maybe Culebra was once an island, as perhaps Flamenco was.  Now both are just part of the causeway.
        I telephoned Ricardo at Balboa Yacht Club and told him I hope to get there tomorrow.
        This is a rolly anchorage with ferry boats going by leaving wakes.
        Still I am on the water and at last independent of others.  On deck GANNET is organized, if perhaps irredeemably dirty.  In addition to not having the jib bent on, the bow spirt is still below deck and the reef lines are not in the mainsail.
        The breeze coming though the forward hatch is pleasant and I don’t have to contort around the mast to go through the companionway.
        Below deck chaos reigns.
        I expect to sort that out at Balboa.  The yacht club is only 2.5 miles away.  Surely we can make that tomorrow.


        6:30  I am not free and I can hardly express how disappointing that is.
        While on deck, sipping gin and listening to music, I looked up and saw the upper swivel of the furling gear near the top of the furling gear.  To set the sail it needs to be within arms reach of the deck.  How could I have not have moved it there?  How could not the rigger have foreseen that?  Well, that answer is easy and goes back to Captain Cook, who also complained of ship yards, and far beyond.  While boat yard workers sleep comfortably beside their wives, sailors suffer because of boat yard incompetent work.
        So a swivel is near the masthead and needs to be near the deck,  It would have been so easy to move during the four days I unknowingly was being charged  $160  a day to live in inhuman temperature and squaller, while those who run the business were on holiday.
        

March 7, Thursday
Balboa Yacht Club

        I was up at first light and had the anchor up a few minutes later.
       Even with little wind and smooth water the current was still strong and we used 82% of the battery to cover a little over two miles.
        I called the club on my handheld VHF and a man came out in a launch to direct me to the mooring.
        As expected its pennants were far too thick for GANNET’s cleats, so I looped one over a winch and then ran a dock line from GANNET’s port bow cleat and back through the eye in the mooring pennant and tied the other end to the toe rail.  However, the force of the current was so strong I had great difficulty in lifting the pennant from the cleat.  Finally I was successful and ran a second dock line through the pennant eye, securing it to the starboard bow cleat.
        GANNET’s mooring is at the northwest corner of the mooring field and will be easy to sail off of.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Flamenco Boat Yard: fools

        2 PM.  I thought life would get better today.  It didn’t.
        I had been waiting in the heat for Steve, the rigger, with increasing frustration and anger since 8 AM.
        After several phone calls I have just learned that Steve and a helper did come over this morning and were refused entry to the boat yard by security because it is closed for the carnival holidays.  No one bothered to notify me of this, who must have been at the time about fifteen yards away.
        So I suffer for two more days.  104.5º when I left the Great Cabin a few minutes ago.
        GANNET is due to be launched on Wednesday.
        Flamenco Marina is expensive and run down.  Broken toilet doors are held together by tape.  The showers not only do not have hot water, not essential in this climate, they don’t even have shower heads.  Just a stream of water from an open pipe.  The toilets are dirty.  Many of the docks are subject to strong surge.  And the wifi doesn’t work.
        I have arranged a mooring at Balboa Yacht Club where I have stayed before, and after launching and restepping the mast—hopefully Steve will be over again Wednesday, but I can do it myself with a yard worker or two—I will fit the Torqeedo and go to Balboa.
        I will be so damn glad to get out of here, both boat yard and country.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Flamenco Boat Yard: a new record



        This morning I reattached the Windex to the masthead.  There is no point in reattaching the non-functioning Raymarine wind unit.  I will throw it and the display into the trash.  Basta!  Which if you have not been here long enough, means ‘enough’ in Italian and Spanish.  I will when I can have wind instruments again, but I am not sure what.
        This boat yard and marina are near the end of a two and a half mile long causeway that I expect was made of material dredged from the shipping channel leading to the canal.
         I walked a mile up and back and then went to one of the restaurants near the boat yard.
          I have not had much appetite in this heat and have lost weight I do not need to, but I enjoyed a lunch/dinner of grilled shrimp and sautéed vegetables, accompanied by two margaritas on the rocks.  In the wine glass is water, also welcomed. 
         When after lunch  I returned to GANNET I found the temperature in the Great Cabin to be 108ºF/42.2ºC.  A new record.  And I had left the forward hatch open as far as it can be with the mast down.
         Perhaps needless to say, I did not remain on board but retired to a nearby hotel that has free wi-fi.
        Just beyond the boat yard is a steep natural hill that was an island until the causeway was extended to it.
        It is now 7 PM and I am in the Great Cabin, but at sunset I was sitting on deck, sipping gin and listening to music, as I did last evening.
        There are updrafts from that hill upon which dozens of birds soar.  Some have the sharp angled wings of frigate birds.  Some are pelicans.  I think some are hawks.  Perfections of evolutionary design, almost none ever flap their wings.
       I fervently hope that Steve shows up tomorrow and the mast goes up.  The current mast placement pushes the limits of my getting in and out of the interior.  The contortions are difficult and grotesque.
        GANNET is disorganized and dirty.
        I can’t do anything about that until she is back in the water.  Assuming that happens Wednesday, I will need several days to clean, provision and organize.
        I expect to sail the second week in March.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Flamenco Boat Yard: part 2 solved









March 2, Saturday
Flamenco Boat Yard:  crossed

        Probably the fastest and almost certainly the most expensive crossing of Panama by a sailboat has been successfully completed.  The moment I first glimpsed the Pacific Ocean as we came down from the hills was wonderful.
        A few have suggested that GANNET’s transit proves the viability of trucking across.  This is only true if money is no object.  There are more expenses to come, including the boat yard and travel lift fees here, so I do not yet know the total, but it will probably be between $5,000 and $6,000.  A good thing I am rich.
As you know I am not, but I have enough and I know it which may be true riches.  I can pay these bills, though this was an experience that became a black hole.  Once committed there was no way out except forward, and whatever it cost is whatever it cost.
        The truck showed up promptly at 8.  GANNET and cradle were lifted onto the truck by the travel lift and strapped in place.  There were delays, but we were on the road by 10:30 or 11:00 and on the Pacific side by about 1:30.
        From time to time I checked our progress in iNavX on my phone.  The maximum speed I saw was 42 knots/48 mph.
        GANNET is still on the truck trailer and because of holidays Monday and Tuesday—I think Carnival—will be until next Wednesday.
        Steve, the rigger, is due to come over Monday to help raise the mast.  I would like also to check out the furling gear, but probably won’t be able to with the boat still in its cradle.
        The first thing I did after GANNET was in position at Flamenco—I originally thought it was Flamingo— was to untie the mast and raise it so I can partially open the forward hatch.  It is at least as hot on this side as in Colon, and there is less breeze.
        The Internet here is almost non-existent, surprising for an upscale marina.  I am using my phone with a local sim as a hot spot, but have very limited data.
        Until I find a local spot with good Internet my communications will be brief.