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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Update from Panama City

It's hard to know where to begin after such a long dry spell away from the blog. I'll try to cover a few of the highlights so that I don't have to write a book.

First on the list is to thank everyone who wrote John consoling him about missing Ziggy, and to let you all know that the big Z. is back - bigger and badder than ever! John and I talked about it while I was still up in the States and we decided that if the woman wasn't completely happy with Ziggy, John would offer to take him back. No surprise to us, it turned out that Ziggy had bitten just about everyone in her family, including her adult son who had to see a doctor for his (probably infected) wounds. We assume that the son most likely engaged Ziggy in some serious hand play which, as we tell everyone who visits Nakia, is a big no-no. John arranged to retrieve Ziggy the morning of my return, so I came back to an intact household.

During my absence John got a recommendation for a local vet who can arrange for the blood test required for entry to rabies-free places like French Polynesia and Hawaii. The day after my return we hired a taxi to take Ziggy to this vet for all three of his annual booster shots and installation of an ISO approved micro-chip valid for foreign countries. We learned that we would have to wait 30 days after his rabies shot to take the blood sample in order to ensure that the necessary markers would be present in his blood. This means that we will stay in or close to Panama City until that chore is done in mid-March. We obviously weighed all the pros and cons before considering Ziggy away in the first place, and we are totally thrilled to have him back in spite of the cons. He's a one of a kind cat (aren't they all) and our lives are much richer with him on board.

I, of course, had a wonderful visit stateside. The weather in both Seattle and Pendleton was lovely and dry 95 percent of the time, with a dusting of snow to wake up to one morning in Seattle. We are between renters so I was able to spend almost a week on Bainbridge Island camping out in our little condo right by the ferry terminal. Everything was beautiful and I enjoyed lots of shopping and eating foods I hadn't tasted in years (a reuben sandwich at the Three Girl's Bakery in Pike Place Market, Indian lunch buffet, sourdough bread, Mission style burritos, fabulous baked goods, P.F. Chang's, Il Fornaio, salmon, pizza, Greek salads, a terrific burger at Hamley's in Pendleton, and much more). It was the best vacation I've had in ages, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Of course the visit wouldn't be complete without returning with as much stuff as I could carry on the plane. I carefully packed, weighed, and repacked until I was able to get all the boat parts John had ordered, and other items I had bought, into my two checked bags and one carry-on. I ended up with 49 and 46.4 lbs in my two checked bags, and close to the allowable 40 lbs in my carry on. The latter included half a dozen new novels and almost a full year's worth of back issues of Vanity Fair magazine which I look forward to devouring on our upcoming ocean passages!

In other big news John and I transited the Panama Canal on 2/21 as line handlers for Frank and Gisela on S/V Shared Dreams. John had already made the trip on another boat while I was gone, but he agreed to go again with me. This was a once in a lifetime experience and I'm so happy we were able to do it with friends. To make it even more fun we were "nested" or center tied in each chamber with the catamaran Gloriamaris, captained by Tom and Lilianna, and crewed, among others, by friends Rob and Linda from Cat'n About and John from M/V Maestra. We completed the transit in one day (it often takes small boats two days to complete a transit), and only had one hiccup at the end when a weld failed on the engine exhaust elbow, spraying saltwater all over the engine compartment. Frank, John and Gisela worked quickly to get the problem under control and we never had to take the engine out of gear. We were only a few buoys from the "Flats" anchorage in Colon when it happened and had no trouble getting in and anchored. Our Canal advisor, Ricardo Alberto Gonzalez Fung, was an outstanding guy. He spoke very good English, was extremely helpful during the transit, and encouraged us along at every step of the way. We couldn't have asked for a more professional and courteous advisor.

In other news: John sold our 15 HP Evinrude and bought a new 9.8 Tohatsu. The Evinrude was still a trouper but John had concerns about taking an old outboard to remote places like the South Pacific. We visited the huge Metropolitan Park here in Panama City and didn't see monkeys or sloths - until we got back to the parking lot here at La Playita where I finally got to see the resident sloth. The water temperature in the area (including the Las Perlas islands) has dropped from a high of 82.6 F to a very cold 70.2 F. Needless to say we're showering on board now and John runs the generator just long enough to take the edge off the chill. We can even feel the difference in the breeze over the water as we ride in the dinghy. That Humboldt current is really something.

Linda and John