Cetacean's in the work yard.

Cetacean’s in the work yard.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Caribbean-side Panama since February 24th. But, we know we’re here. The Trades are blowing 18knots. It’s really hot too…about 90 degrees with 70% humidity. A squall will be coming soon,  bringing a tantrum of rain and howling. Then suddenly, the clouds clear and the sun returns.

We survived our flight from Portland to Panama City with 200 pounds of luggage. Nothing got lost or damaged. PTY Immigration and Customs were generous. Those 200 pounds were mostly things for the boat. Of course, I say mostly for the boat. We (actually I) suffered a lapse in judgment and went to Bob’s Red Mill. Added soup mixes, muesli and the other favorites to our duffels. Each of Bob’s bags weighed in at two pounds. I think we bought eight which added 16 pounds to the load. Lifting our duffels, it was more like an additional “16 Tons.”

Continuing along here with musical metaphors, as we muscled our bags through the PDX check-in line, I conjured my inner Peggy Lee: “This has got to be all there is (to luggage).”

Two days later, we arrived in Panama City and recovered at “Deb’s Place,” a cruiser/traveler/wanderer’s hostel-slash-BnB.

Actually, flying is good prep for returning to the cruising life. There’s the unexpected adversity, deciding where everything goes when there’s no space, dealing with ever-changing rules, weather calling the shots. And, there’s always payback for triumphs or discomforts. Travel’s (however you do it) ultimate payback? Nietzsche said it best.

Cetacean's new friends prepare for battle.

Cetacean’s new friends prepare for battle.

Shelter Bay Marina and Cetaceanas expected, Cetacean’s seven-month idle (or idyll?) with humidity took its toll. Our boat welcomed us with a lot of work to do…inside and out. The sun covers we’d constructed and carefully tied down to protect Cetacean’s topsides last June were shredded or turned to dust. Humidity and corrosion kept our refrigerator, charging system and assorted electronics from turning on at first try, requiring lots of tinkering and cleaning with alcohol. It took over a week to clean the cabin surfaces’ moldy rouge and follow up with Tea Tree Oil.

Shoot! We were only gone seven months! But, Ron, my undaunted, indomitable engineer/knight fearlessly took on each stubborn wire, corroded circuit, disintegrating impeller and rusted bolt. We were soon living aboard in relative comfort, doing normal things like eating and sleeping.

Ron finishes Cutlass Bearing job

Ron finishes Cutlass Bearing job

The Cutlass Bearing assembly before wear discovery

The Cutlass Bearing assembly before wear discovery

Four days ago, we motored to the dry dock loader and put Cetacean on land to get her bottom painted. Cetacean had become a paradisiacal floating reef for a massive variety of sea life. After the pull out, the sea critters stubbornly held on to their real estate, power washer be damned.

Once on land, Ron discovered that our cutlass bearing was wearing (poetry helps, no?). This particular boat problem is a showstopper, one determined only when the boat is on land. Well, I suppose you could find out about the wear in the water, but it’s better to find out about it on land so you can fix it!

This particular task is an onerous one. It requires lots of physical effort (pulling apart heavy metal components that have happily fused, rusted and corroded together over the years). Oh, and then there is the animal life that happily takes up residence in every nook and cranny. We have been fortunate that our cutlass bearing lasted (for us) the past 15 years. This task has challenging, but a lot of helpful folks offered advice, special equipment and muscle to get things disassembled.

Hen4

Señorita Henrietta

In closing, there is serendipity in all of this boat work stuff. As mentioned, we’ve been fortunate in finding help when needed. We’ve reconnected  with people we met here last season; made new friends too. There are sailors from all over the world here. Walking the docks one hears a symphony of French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, even Russian; lots of New Zealand and Aussie-accented English too. And then, we have a unique contact, of the feathery kind. A hen has decided to take up a kind of residence with us. We call her Henrietta.

Henrietta is a lovely brown hen (I have no idea what kind). Since everyone needs a backstory, I’ve created one for her:

One day, having discovered she had an injured, possibly broken right leg, Henrietta la pollo escaped from her clutch at the nearby Panamanian army facility. Leaving was probably a good idea. Life is short enough for most chickens, especially ones with injured legs. Henrietta was brave and curious.  She wondered about those strange humans living on their boats up on stilts. Maybe they had food they could share. So, Henrietta hopped as fast as she could to the boatyard, coming by night, we think, to avoid the army, other chickens, traffic and the occasional Fer de Lance.

Anyway, (now) Henrietta meets us at the bottom of our ladder every morning, clucking and waiting for a hand out. She happily accepts our offered hot dog buns and leftover cereal.

As for the future…that will have to be another story.