The Vilisar Times

The life and times of Ronald and Kathleen and our voyages aboard S/V Vilisar, a 34.5-foot wooden Wm-Atkin-designed sailing cutter launched in Victoria, BC, Canada, in 1974. Since we moved aboard in 2001 Vilisar has been to Alaska, British Columbia, California, Mexico, The Galapagos and mainland Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Las Brisas de Amador anchorage, Panamá City, Panamá, Thursday, 16 July

Blistering hot today with clear skies and very little breeze. Around 0800
went ashore with the dinghy and our four 5-gallon water jugs. We had
learned of a water tap or two in the parking area. Now that the government
has torn down the showers and other small buildings at the dock, it's no
longer possible to get water right at the dock.

In one of my last blogs I wrote about the visit of recently-inaugurated
President of Panamá, Ricardo Martinelli. More information has come to
light since my rather cynical comments about what he might have been up to
in visiting Las Brisas de Amador, the site of a future marina. The
newspapers have been full of the event. In front of the TV cameras, it
goes without saying, Snr. Martinelli swept into Las Brisas and other
marina projects, evicted the tenants, personally drove in big signs saying
Propiedad de Estado (Property of the State). He announced that the
developers, a wealthy man named Figali and three other real estate moguls,
had created an illegal landfill for a huge parking lot instead of building
a marina, and were in arrears for taxes to the tune of around $30 million.
A deadline was set for payment.

Martinelli recently won a strong electoral victory. A self-made man (food
retailing chains), he too is personally fabulously wealthy. It is said
that he refused to accept any campaign contributions so he could assume
power without political debts. He vowed to clean up corruption and make
funds available for programmes for the poor. As from the day of his
"evento", 'our' docks became free for everyone and anyone, including us
dinghy-bound cruisers. There was some confusion at first as the Navy had
gone round in their pangas to tell cruisers that they had to leave, even
though anchoring has nothing to do with the marina project and cruisers
have all paid for Panamanian "Cruising Permits", which one presumes allows
one to anchor anywhere. The next day, one cruiser was even hit up for five
dollars by one of the policemen who are now guarding the project. A rather
typical Latin American action.

But the cruiser lodged a complaint at police headquarters, the copper/perp
was marched in, was forced to cough up the bribe and received a wigging.
The cruiser was informed by the police lieutenant that such actions were
totally contrary to government intention, and that we were welcome to use
the docks for free. Not a very typical Latin American scene.

A pity that the showers and toilets at the head of the pier were torn
down, but this was no doubt meant as warning to Figali and his ilk. El
Presidente's actions were greeted with joy by demonstrators in the city
and by the press. Editorials pointed to a couple of other hotel and marina
projects that stink to high heaven. Ever resourceful, cruisers soon
located water taps around the parking lot and, although it means a lot of
jug-lugging, we joined in and topped up our tanks.

The anchorage is still swept by squalls nearly every afternoon. The two
tropical storms off the Mexican coast are causing large waves right down
to the equator and some of these swells have been rolling into the
anchorage. Combined with the squalls, we found ourselves yesterday far too
close to another sailboat. After the winds and waves died down therefore,
we pulled up the anchor and moved in closer to the dock where the swells
are much less noticeable, and from where we can reach the dock easily in
our oar-powered dinghy.

Somewhere along the way, we broke a switch on the electrical panel. No
spare on board, so will go into town tomorrow to buy a new one and to
acquire a length of garden hose so that we can use the taps more easily on
shore. Then we intend to leave for Islas Perlas on Saturday. This might
well turn out to be the first step to Los Galapagos and French Polynesia.
In a way we are tricking ourselves since, whenever we tried to leave in
the past for the longer voyage, something has happened. We shall do the
little test run of 35 Nm and decide then whether to go or not to go.
Nothing is really keeping us now that the Iridium phone has been repaired.
But, we have become overcome by inertia. The prospect of a long, long sea
voyage is sometimes just too overwhelming. Just breaking the suction here
and getting out on the open water should help.

Roger, a French fisherman and cruiser, showed us an email he had received
from a friend who had stopped at The Galapagos. He wound up paying about
$1,000 in fees, charges and whatnot. Maybe we shall bypass The Galapagos
after all. It will depend upon our fuel and water needs. We can call it
when we get closer.

Marine Satellite Services in Balboa has been really good at supporting us.
Our old phone handset needed quite a bit of repairs. But the technician,
Manuel, just replaced the electronics in it basically for nothing by
cannibalizing another phone. Bless him!

So, this will be our first attempt to post a blog using the satphone. We
are sending the blog (by satphone email) to my mother-in-law who will post
it for us on Blogger.Com, and also email it directly to various friends.
We shall see how this works out. The free email software that comes with
Iridium saves a lot of money since you can prepare emails offline and
complete a mail exchange in only a few seconds. A voice call ticks away at
$1.81 a minute. We will blog every few days along the way.

Stay tuned to this site!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Alex, a cruiser from Odessa in The Ukraine (although he still refers to it
as "Russia") helped me with some electrical work. He's always in need of
some ready cash and we now have all the minor-but-irritating electrical
things functioning. He also convinced be to re-wire the solar panels with
6- or 8-guage wire instead of the 12-guage I used. "Sooner rather than
later", he said in his Russian accident. He seemed to think it was
dangerous. Of course, it's Saturday afternoon, and the electrical shops
close in the early afternoon. We go ashore to catch a bus to Do It Center
("Doeetcenna') but the workers are knocking off and the busses are too
full to take us. We decide to go tomorrow morning (Sunday) and leave
Sunday night.

Alex says we should definitely leave in the middle of the night for Las
Islas Perlas as we would have light land breezes pushing us the whole way
rather than being becalmed if we leave in on the land breezes in the morning
and encountering adverse sea breezes in the afternoon. Also, we would
arrive in daylight and that would be one less worry.

Another postponement. Kathy is totally depressed and ready to sink the
boat. Fortunately we run into Jakob, the slightly strange but charming
Swiss pensioner who has been soloing for years. He is always cheerful and
always insists on buying one a beer. Kathleen talks to Juan, a 26-year-old
Nicaraguan who crewed on a French yacht to Panamá and then was stiffed for
his wages. Very nice guy. Fortunately, he has some options and will be
crewing on a Brazilian catamaran.

If we get the wire we want tomorrow, we can do the solar-panel and nav-
light rewiring in the islands. It's no big deal.

Did I say to stay tuned?


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