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
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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