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Monday, March 23, 2009

Isla Otoque

We finally broke free of Panama City and are beginning a 2-3 week stay in the Las Perlas islands again. We have to hang around to finalize some business and then we'll be free to head up to the Western Islands of Panama which are closer to Panama's second largest city, David. In the meantime we'll hang out here and enjoy the sensation of not spending any money for awhile.

One of the things we're waiting on is our life raft. We sent our Givens raft to Colon for servicing because we last had that done in 2004 before we left San Francisco. The recommended outfit in Colon quoted us $150 for pickup and delivery, $75 for the certificate that says it's a real life raft, and $250 for the inspection, plus whatever it would cost to replace all the out of date items which are packed in the raft like flares, water, first-aid kit, etc. We expected it to be about $800-$1,000 total since that's what it cost us in the States. But when John called to check on how things were going he learned that our raft had to be condemned because of a damaged inflation valve. The guy sent us pictures and the damage was very small but irreparable. We might have been able to get a solution from the manufacturer but the Givens company is notorious for their non-existent customer service and we got no response from them. So John went shopping for a new life raft which is one of those items you spend a lot of money on hoping you never have to use it.

It turned out that there was a Winslow offshore raft for sale in Panama City. It's a 2003 model, never used, and we were able to get it for $400. But it had never been serviced so now John had the dilemma of figuring out how to get that done. Do we really want to send it back to the guy in Colon who isn't certified for this make of raft? John contacted Winslow customer service in Florida by email and got an immediate and thorough response. It wouldn't be cheap to ship it to the States and back, but if the raft checks out we know it will be repacked by professionals, plus they do a vacuum pack that makes it good for three years before another servicing is required. We packed up the Winslow and turned it over to a freight forwarding company to send to Florida. We hope this inspection goes better then the last.

Our last major chore was taking Ziggy to the vet for his rabies blood sample to be drawn and shipped to Kansas City for testing because there is no approved lab in Central America. We got another air-conditioned taxi to take us all the way across town to the only vet we know of who can process this. After getting all three of his booster shots and a micro-chip during his last visit Ziggy was not happy about the return visit. We had an 11:30 appointment but ended up waiting for another patient to finish. Then it seemed to take forever to get all the required forms filled out. When they finally started getting ready to draw the blood, I pointed out that they would need to muzzle our bad boy before they got started. The two male technicians returned with some lame dog muzzle that fell right off Ziggy's nose. They shrugged their shoulders and held him down to get started. I couldn't look and our view was obscured anyway, but when the vet walked in and saw what was going on she got out a tranquilizer shot to put him out for the duration of the procedure. A partially drugged cat is pitiful to watch but there's no way they could have held him still long enough to draw that amount of blood. After it was all over the vet put some ointment on his unblinking, fully dilated eyes and we paid the bill ($140 for the DHL refrigerated express shipping cost; $150 for the Kansas City lab processing related charges, including DHL return; and $50 to the local vet). We hope the test results paperwork can be returned in three weeks but if not, we will have the vet mail it to our address in the States where it can then be sent off to Hawaii for the required processing (for their five day or less quarantine program) in advance of our anticipated arrival there this winter. Oh, and that long wait at the vet? I realized the next day that we had arrived a day early for our appointment and the vet hadn't said a word to us about the mix-up!

We are sorry to report that Dale on Parrot Bay died while at anchor in Honduras. Dale was a generous host to us during our stay up river with Sailor's Run in San Lorenzo on the Pacific side. We reunited with him in Panama and last saw him in the Perlas islands before he sailed from there for his passage back to Honduras. He was looking forward to retiring in San Lorenzo and marrying his local sweetheart. It's reported that he drowned while returning to his boat in an inebriated state.

We mostly motored the 20 miles here from Panama City on Saturday in company with Sarana. Yesterday we tried to take a beach walk but there is only a very small sandy beach and we couldn't get past the rocks to the west on a rising tide. Sherrell took a spill on the slippery rocks but fortunately came out of it with only bumps and scrapes. Eric found a path through the tropical woods over the ridge but it was steep and slippery, and after John found a medium sized scorpion in the dry leaves on the "trail" we beat a hasty retreat back to the beach. The days are still nice and warm but the water is a chilly 71 degrees which keeps the night air temperatures down in the low 70's. Our first night here we were amazed by how dark and starry the night time sky can be which shows you how citified we'd become. It's nice to be back out cruising and we'll try to get back to regular posts again.

Linda and John