28 May, 2020
Yep. Back in the USA. Whaaatt???
Here we go. Hop into the “wayback machine.” Our February was business (Alizann’s business is play) as usual. Anchor here, party there, snorkel, swim and hang with friends old and new. Seems like ages ago.
Went to Red Frog Marina for a Super Bowl party. Game projected on an outdoor screen at “The Point” restaurant. Captain Ray juggled fire for the pregame show (Oh yeah-Ray was a professional juggler. You kidding? We Googled him. He was the official juggler for the San Francisco 49ers. He also toured with many rock bands-Grateful dead, Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mack to name a few.) The party was rained out for the second half, so Suz and I streamed it aboard Alizann.
We served as one of the committee boats for the 2nd annual Bocas sailing regatta. Board member Ray Jason joined us with Dave, Shelley, Holly, Michael (Picaro)and Judy. What a treat to see all of the competitors race by as we anchored at the start/finish line. The post-race party at Bocas Marina was a real happening. The pictures that Suzanne took were published in Latitude 38, a San Francisco sailing mag, and Bocas Breeze, the local newspaper.
Spent a week or so anchored in the bay near Dave and Shelley’s floating house. They led us on a merry chase, partying like it was 1999. Ya can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning! As if we needed it, we’re continually reminded that we can’t run with the “Big Dogs” anymore. Still fun to try.
Anchored off Starfish Beach for a week or so. Captain Ray (an expat who has lived on his boat in Bocas for 17 years), Jim & Suzie (Octopus’ Garden), Robin & Tad (Bisou) and Fabio (manager of Bocas Marina) were all anchored near us. Beautiful swimming and buck-and-a-half beers at the shack on shore. A young couple lost their anchor there several days earlier, but by the time Marty got the SCUBA gear on, it had sunk into the silty bottom and was lost forever (or until somebody snags it with their anchor).
Suz and I motored over to “Monkey Island” and anchored there for 2 nights. A Canadian cruiser, Francine nursed an injured monkey back to health years ago, and was tapped as the go-to if you came upon an injured or orphaned monkey. Before long, she was gifted a couple of mangrove islands. She built her home there as well as a few guest cabins on stilts over the water. Income from renting the cottages as well as donations fund her work with the monkeys.
Meanwhile, we’re hearing news about this novel virus that is spreading out of China. With the spread from country to country, the handwriting was on the wall. After giving our situation a great deal of thought, we decided that being tied up at a dock with internet, potable water and stable electricity was where we wanted to be. We had no illusions. This was going to last a long time. We called Chelsea at Red Frog, and she said “Your spot” is still open. “Cool, see you tomorrow”. So…the first week of March, Alizann became a “Marina Queen.” We were joined at Red Frog by 20 other cruisers and 2 megayachts. Our isolated island enclave has formed.
Here is the letter that we sent home late March :
We are in Panama still. In anticipation of the current situation, we secured a slip at the IGY marina on Isla Bastimentos in the Bocas del Toro Province around six weeks ago. We picked this location for several reasons:
The marina in an isolated bay, and is attached to a several hundred-acre resort/condo development. We have our own generators and water wells, and there are around 30,000 gallons of diesel in storage here.
The only population within 5 miles are indigenous villages.
We have a grocery store here which is stocked daily by a large supermarket on another island, which is owned by the same family.
The marina is gated, and has 24/7 security
What we have done on Alizann:
Filled fuel tanks
Replaced membranes on watermaker
Suzanne has repaired a hopelessly effed up Furuno black box with several parts scavenged from the unit that the Rosa’s graciously gave us several months ago. Not only does it now turn on, but we actually have our primary chart plotter and radar back. Not just the PC system
Repaired the Canbus that reports the John Deere engine status from totally non-functional to working like a charm-that only took this numbskull a week or so to figure out.
Suzanne has been busily downloading charts for the East coast of the States-we thought that we’d never need them again!
Bottom is clean and ready to roll if necessary.
Presently, the country is in full lockdown. No international flights. No alcohol sales. No public transportation. No entry or exit of pleasure boats into ports (even if you’re coming from somewhere else in Panama). You can go out to the grocery store or pharmacy for 1 hour per day, with ½ hour travel time on either side. Times and day of the week are determined by whether female or male land the last number on your cedula (national ID number), or in our case, passport. Old folks (hey, that’s us now) get a dedicated hour in the middle of the day in addition. As of this morning, there have been two reported cases in our province, many miles away from us. Cases are mostly concentrated around the Canal which is around 150 miles away. Of course, Suzanne with her Public Health background, epidemiology and experience in a virology lab knows that the virus is here, it just hasn’t been reported yet (lack of testing). She’s been sewing merrily away making masks for us and our pals using a pattern that she found online.
We presently have no plans to return to the States, it’d be like jumping from the frying pan into the proverbial fire. We are even beginning to wonder if we’ll be back in the Summer-we’ll wait and see. Hope to get back, as we have a new granddaughter arriving in Atlanta this July. Our boss at home called last week to see if we’d still be driving the Ironton car ferry. We told him “Probably.”
Plan B. If things hit the fan here-civil unrest, rules regarding foreigners changing, or anything that we feel is threatening our security, we’ll head from here directly to the origin of the Florida Current off the coast of Central America, head past the west coast of Cuba and ride the Gulf Stream north. We figure around 9-10 days to Stuart, FL.
Our everyday life here is good. The resort here was closed around a week ago, so we have a few miles of paved roads, jungle trails and beaches for hiking and biking. There are no police here, so we are not feeling bound by the curfew. We’re doing boat chores-all the little things that we’d do “when we have time.” I’m moderating a WhatsApp group and VHF net that I set up for our marina and trying to stay busy.
We have lots of new pals, but mostly miss our old friends and family-let us know how and what you’re up to.
Stay healthy, be safe, and savor every moment of the good things that come your way,
Marty & Suzanne
I said at the beginning of this tome that we were back in the USA, right? Gotta stay flexible. A cruisers plans are written in sand at low tide, No?
Here’s the note that we sent home on May 11th:
Okay…….so we’ve been making noise about how much safer we are here than back in the States. We still believe that we are.
But………(and you know that everything before “but” is B.S.). We’re going to bring Alizann back to the U.S.
Our original plan was to leave the Girl here in Panama and head back to Michigan for the Summer, returning to Panama in the Fall and heading through the Canal and up the West coast to Alaska.
- There’s no way that we can know that Panama will be open enough for us to use our June 15 plane tickets back to the U.S.
- If we get back to the U.S., what happens if the 2nd or 3rd wave of Covid closes down the country here, and we are not able to get back to our trusty little ship in the Fall?
- How about if one of us is in the unlucky percentage that requires us to be hospitalized? Neither of us wants to be a foreigner who doesn’t speak Spanish well laying on a gurney in the hallway of a 3rd world country.
- We have a new Granddaughter debuting in July.
So……all that said, we are embarking on an 8-day, nonstop offshore passage to Florida. Our plan is to store our Girl in Deltaville, VA and drive back to our home in Michigan.
We’ve got a weather window. We’re leaving tomorrow. If you wish, you can follow our progress at: share.garmin.com/Alizann
Okay. Waaayyy too many words. I’ll fill in the blanks from the past few weeks