Return to Panamarina

It has been an interesting time for us lately. Travelling back to the boat has been quite an undertaking. There were many weeks of gathering equipment to bring back and lots of visiting with loved ones before the final day arrived to put most of our worldly belongings into bags and get on a plane that would bring us to Panama, customs, immigration, and a boat we’d left behind over 10 months before sitting in the wild Panamanian jungles.

I had visions of monkey poop piled up on the cockpit and Dani fretted about the mold and mildew situation inside of the boat. We’ve heard many horror stories in the past of people returning to their yachts to find a veritable garden of mold and mildew running amock inside. Without ventilation and in the tropical heat mixed with lots of rain, a boat can become an ideal green house for certain undesirable spores to take root and flourish.

Our hearts were full of both longing to return home to Sundowner but our heads were pounding with trepidation as we left the United States for what could be the last time for a very long time. Leaving was somewhat stressful, but not so bad. We had to go through the usual unsavoury business of proving to our airline that despite not having a return ticket to fly home, we wouldn’t be taking up residence in Panama. Some airlines get really fussy about this. So we had to parade all of our boat documents, receipts, and other paperwork proving we did in fact have a yacht there before a cranky airline attendant who had just been in a very serious argument with a German woman about a bag that was 2 lbs overweight. Great, the stickler. She actually had the gall to tell the German woman that the bag weight was important due to the safety of the bag handlers who were used to 50lbs all day and if something was 52lbs they might throw out their back. This is despite the fact that travellers regularly pay overweight fees and have bags heavier than 50lbs. Is she stupid? Does she think we’re stupid? Is this the airline’s word? I don’t know, but I can tell you that while you’re in the US airports, you’d better walk a straight line and dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s. Otherwise, brother, you’re in trouble.

So we prove we’re not heading to Panama permanently. Then come the bags.

We’d measure the weight of all of them except our bag with two sails in it. I dutifully hoist each one onto the scale and it just so happened that each one was heavier than the one before. 42lbs, 44lbs, 44lbs, 45lbs, 46.5lbs, 47lbs. Finally the sail bag. I gulped. It measured a fortuitous 49.5lbs. A half pound under the max weight. I can tell you that I was glad to be past “the stickler”. We made it through the TSA without being probed, prodded, or strip searched, though I feel that we were close because I managed to leave a BIC lighter in one of my bags. I somehow slipped through undetected, like a smooth criminal.

The flights were uneventful with the exception of a disturbing rust stain over the top of one of the jets we flew in.



Panama was what we expected. We went to Immigration and they asked why I hadn’t put an address on my customs declaration card. I said because we live on a boat in the islands. STAMP. Moved onto customs. Same question and answer then they made us put all of our bags through a huge conveyor belt machine which as far as I can tell does absolutely nothing. I surmise this only because we had every imaginable container, device, piece of hardware, and even pounds of pipe tobacco in there, all of which probably look suspicious. Also you can only bring 2k dollars worth of goods into Panama without being taxed and we had 7 x 50lb bags. However, all of these facts were blissfully overlooked and we passed out of the lines and into the humid and hot air of Panama.

Then we met our driver and provisioner, Emilio. He bought about 1000 dollars worth of parts and groceries for us before we arrived and transported us back to Panamarina where Sundowner slumbered.


This is no small feat. We had our 7 huge bags, he had 5 batteries of approx 80lbs each, and a lot of groceries and supplies. But somehow we packed it all into his Ford Explorer and safely made it to the marina. I estimate that the vehicle had no less than a half ton of gear in it. Once at Panamarina…

We knew we couldn’t sleep on the boat right away. The heat is too much and without batteries in operational condition, it would have been misery. There is also the not so minor issue of working where you’re living. A bad combination. So we rented a room for 25 dollars a night and “moved in”. It has made a world of difference in comfort despite the lavish expense. It is the FIRST time we’ve paid to stay somewhere in over a year. Yikes. I guess if you’re going to break a streak you’d better have a good reason to do so.

And finally, there was that moment where we saw Sundowner for the first time in months.

The first time we climbed aboard. And the first time we opened the main companionway hatch to discover what was waiting inside. But maybe we can go over that next time.

You can check out Emilio Lau for provisioning services here:
EMILIO LAU Professional Ship Suppliers
email: Emilio at proshipsup.com
phone: +50766167531
web: http://www.proshipsup.com

Enjoy these beautiful sights from our 100km drive across the country of Panama from the Pacific to the Caribbean.












Also of course we have made our first new video in our sailing series. It took us 48 hours to finally upload and cost about $30 due to issues with cell providers way out here including a tree that fell across a critical line during our upload. Dani also (poor thing is sick too) had her final video edit deleted when she got online with the video editor open causing her to basically have to remake the video. But we have it out and we enjoy watching it, we hope you will enjoy it too. Hopefully future uploads will go smoother. Next post will be about boat work…in paradise.

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Back to the boat in 5 DAYS!

Tate and I are flying back to Panama on November 2nd, next Wednesday, only 5 DAYS AWAY. Holy Smokes have we been busy. Once things get settled down in Panama we’ll update the blog more on what it took to get here but for now chew on these sounds bites:

We sold the RV, motorcycle and all extras for pretty much what we paid for it minus a couple thousand. Tate goes into the cost a bit more in our last video, which we have just finished making see below:

Sundowner has been moved from the storage yard to the boat yard already and we are getting them to sand the bottom ($30 a day!). We’ll inspect and buy paint after we arrive.

November 2nd is actually the Day of the Dead and everything will be shut down once we arrive…

Back here on land we been visiting with family and buying all kinds of things including ALL NEW CAMERA/COMPUTER GEAR (thanks PATRONS!) and we plan to start shooting our travel Vlogs in 60 fps.

I have been working on a side video project for my sister Frances and her husband Jason which is a travel vlog series for their trip to Ireland. These are more home movie type productions so please be kind. I was SOO happy to be able to get some of these videos out before we leave because I won’t have the bandwidth down in the tropics. If you want to see Ireland through the eyes of a funny mid 30’s couple check out their videos on my personal You Tube page here in this playlist.

I can’t believe we are about to leave land again. We have a little bit of boat work in the yard before splashing. Stay Tuned!

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Spending August at 8500 feet

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No tags :(

Our cabin owner friends rented a raft and took us 12 miles down the Snake River in Wyoming. The scenery was breathtaking and it was great to relax for a few hours watching the mountains slowly pass by. Afterwards we cooked up some Delicious Jambalaya before saying goodbye to our now dear friends…Hopefully we’ll see them again soon, in Panama.

We soon expired our time camped on free Shadow Mountain and after 16 days camped there we headed a bit further south looking for another free campsite in a different National Forest. Unfortunately the aftermath of recent forest fires filled up our prospective camp sites with emergency personnel so we had to keep on driving, all the way to Utah. We had wanted to stay as far north as possible to soak up the cooler temperatures but as luck would have it we found a nice campsite 300 miles south in Duck Creek Utah which forecasted mild temps in the 70s and 40s. At 8,500 feet it escaped the heat of the land below.

This campsite also happened to be 40 miles from both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks! Antelope roamed free and I enjoyed the flat, albeit high altitude jogging and biking.

Check it out!
Tate and Dani

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The end and the BEGINNING!

Over the past 7 months Tate and I have driven around 10,000 miles visiting 24 States, 9 National Parks and numerous other monuments and State Parks. We experienced wide ranging climates, landscapes and demographics and met some INCREDIBLE people including many that have followed our refit and sailing adventure for years before this RV trip. Through a combination of National Forest, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), friend’s lands and the occasional Walmart and Flying J truck stop’s we ended up not spending a penny on a night’s stay!

The entire seven months living expenses were around $9,100 ($1,300 a month excluding gas, boat storage and RV purchase price), while our gas bill over the 10,000 miles was about $2,800 an average of $2.50/gal for us. I’ll share more details of the cost in a later post but what do all the details add up to? THE END OF OUR RV TRIP (sniff).

OUR RV IS UP FOR SALE! (detailed sales post to follow)
2002 Itasca Sunova 27c Sale AD on RV Trader

So where are we now?…In Tulsa, Oklahoma actually. Does this guy look familiar?
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This is Doug Jackson, the mastermind behind SV Seeker which is a giant 74′ steel “boat the internet built”. Tate first showed me Doug’s videos WAYY back around 2011 or 2012. His massive project gave us hope that we could tackle our smaller project aboard Sundowner. Welders, mechanics, sail makers and just awesome people from all over the world come by and help Doug with this construction.

Why build a giant steel boat you ask? Doug says it best here:
“If your interests are in exploration, discovery and adventure then what could be better than a boat to take you where you want to go. SV Seeker is our 74 foot steel origami hull, junk rigged, cargo, motorsailer. Once completed she will be a part time research/charter vessel and full time home on the water.”

He is even building a “low cost” ROV for underwater exploration over 3k feet in the ocean!
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Wow really?
SV Seeker – Check out his project here (He has about 75,000 You Tube subscribers!)
You Tube channel
Blog

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However seeing SV Seeker was just lagniappe to the REAL reason we came to Oklahoma on the way back to Louisiana. We came this way to see some other long time blog followers and aspiring sailors (who also happen to be our biggest Patrons for our video series) Eric and Joanna Knox!
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We spent an incredible weekend here sharing delicious meals like thyme and lemon stuffed wild caught rainbow trout, venison and sausage burgers and a homemade gumbo from the man who has the BEST recipe (Tate) and also dreaming of the future. Our own future sailing but also what the future might look like for them.

After following our adventure for 5 years they have now put in place their own 5(ish) year plan to go cruising one day! It was SO great to meet them and they have inspired us to keep sharing our lives but also to soak in each and every moment of our trip.

Seeing how much other people want to do what we are doing is a good reminder to never let our lives feel ordinary or take our experiences for granted. They even sent us on our way with local jam and bbq sauce and homemade salsa, tomato sauce and banana walnut muffins. This picture is all that remains of these muffins.
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But wait, weren’t you just in the Tetons hanging out with Montana folk and wild red foxes? Why yes we were, at least back in August. It’s now almost October so I suppose we’ve fallen a bit behind on updates.

Allow me to catch you up real quick. We left the Grand Tetons, WY area in early August and drove south to Utah where we stayed a GLORIOUSLY cool month at about 8,500 feet. This location was called “Duck Creek” and while there we visited both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks which were only a 40 mile motorcycle ride from our RV. This campsite and these parks were definitely one of the trip highlights for us.

In early September we drove from southern Utah to Flagstaff, Arizona where we picked up Tate’s dad (Mr. Logan) who proceeded to join us for the next 10 days. We visited the Grand Canyon (wow) and then drove up through Utah again (and Zion) before making it all the way to Northwestern Wyoming near Cody and Yellowstone National Park.

Mr. Logan had always wanted to go to Yellowstone and Tate and I discussed going there with him way back when we were still on the boat in Panama. I’m so happy he came and made it happen.
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We drove to Denver, Colorado with Mr. Logan where he flew out and then we spent a week visiting with my cousin Timmy’s family (who I haven’t seen in YEARS) and some old work acquaintances. After Denver we headed here to Tulsa and now today…

WE START THE DRIVE BACK TO LOUISIANA!

That’s just the details of the RV trip but there has been much much more going on in the background. Over this past year every time Tate and I would think of something we’d like to bring back with us to the boat in Panama we’d add it to our “boat list”. Now finally I am buying the various items we’ve jotted down and we are so grateful that Mr. Logan is letting us use his address to receive these many packages.

I’ll try to write a more detailed blog post about what we are bringing back with us for just to give you an idea here is part of the list:

  • Bilge pump
  • Bow sprit bolts
  • Hand bulb
  • Watermaker membrane
  • Propane detector
  • Sails
  • Checks
  • Cash
  • Pipe tobacco
  • Protein powder
  • Flax and Chia seeds
  • Vitamins
  • Sunscreen
  • Summer clothes
  • Hair shears
  • Conditioner
  • Argan oil
  • DVDs
  • Hard drive storage
  • Tablet
  • Laptop
  • Microphone
  • Camera
  • Underwater housing

I usually try to look for quality used items in order to save as much money as possible and while I don’t exactly LIKE to buy used camera equipment I found a pretty good deal on Ebay in Greece from a nice man who was selling a gently used Canon G7x with the underwater housing, dive tray and light. I was REALLY excited about this deal. The seller I feel is trustworthy and has good equipment that he just isn’t using anymore. I paid for the camera package and it was shipped without issue and made it all the way down to Lafayette, Louisiana where it shows it arrived at the Post Office on Monday Sept 19th but has no tracking after that.

Mr. Logan visited the post office for me but they said they can’t find the package. I have also called (twice) and now they are opening an investigation into the matter. They may have had a trainee on the route that day so they said they are putting 2 people on the task of finding my beloved camera gear. There was no delivery attempt. The tracking just stops at the Post Office.

(**EDIT- My Camera HAS ARRIVED, OH HAPPY DAY!)

I don’t often share the intimate dramas that Tate and I face from time to time but this issue really makes me sad. I have contacted the seller who says he didn’t insure the item (even though I suggested but didn’t confirm that he did) and he asked that I wait a while for it to show up. I have read online about non-insured international packages going missing with the USPS and apparently it’s not uncommon for packages like this to never show up. I’ve also read other instances where the packages DO show up.

So for now I will keep checking the tracking number with hopes to see it delivered or at least it’s location pinned down. I will try to have faith that it will show up. Even though the package made it all the way safely with tracking from Athens, Greece through New York and into Lafayette the seller is still liable for the package not making it to me. According to Ebay and Paypal I’m protected because the seller should have purchased insurance. But he didn’t. Not to be malicious but because he thought it would be ok I suppose. It’s not the sellers fault if the package gets lost, it’s the USPS fault but in the end it’s his responsibility.

It’s a no win situation here. I don’t want that nice man (and fellow diver) to be out his equipment AND money because of some mishap at the local Post Office. On the flip side I also don’t want to be out the precious $800 I paid for this whole deal. I feel the pressure everyday of this issue and it pains my heart so I pray and hope that it will get resolved soon.

Unfortunately I don’t have 3 months to wait for this item to show up. Our best camera from the sailing and RV trip is on it’s last leg. With it’s lagging pictures and blurry details in film it is time for a new camera. This Canon G7x is a camera that I’ve been researching since we started the trip. It’s the mac daddy of vlogging camera but also takes great pictures and is a FANTASTIC underwater camera. Since Tate and I spend the majority of our activities under the sea I am really looking forward to having better camera gear. This will be the best camera I’ve ever owned.

If the package isn’t found in the next week I’ll have to file a case with Ebay and then also buy another camera. We have to pack up to fly back to Panama and unfortunately I don’t have the time to wait for 3 months for it to show up. But like I said, while on occasion I feel a stab of anxiety and dread regarding this issue I am trying to be positive and believe that it will work itself out. There is nothing I can do about it anyways, it will be what it is.

Over this past year I’ve written emails back and forth to Panamarina (where Sundowner is dry docked) near the San Blas islands and ask that every three months they replace these “mold packets” and also pump our bilge. This month in fact they renewed our year long Panama cruising permit for the boat and when we fly back we’ll be given 6 month visas through the airport. We have no idea the condition of the inside of the boat as it’s been sitting the past 5 months in 90+ degree temperatures with high humidity and heavy rain about everyday. It’ll be interesting to do a Grand reveal to show the status once we arrive. We’ve heard all kinds of stories of mold growing on everything to Monkey’s living aboard. We’ll see.

Once we arrive we’ll put the boat into the work yard area where we’ll have the bottom sanded and painted, we’ll replace the bowsprit bolts and various other project before splashing and heading back to San Blas for a couple of months before our Panama Canal passage in early 2017 followed by (hopefully) our biggest passage yet…the Pacific Ocean (40 days at sea).

We have lots of catching up to do with friends and family as well as packing our duffle bags over these next few weeks but our goal is to be back aboard in early November to get things moving. We also have to catch up on our videos and we’ll start a new video series for the sailing trip. (check out our channel and RV adventure here on You Tube)

Until next time!