Nancy and Sam welcome you aboard Windfall, our 1977 Maple Leaf sailboat. Windfall is a center cockpit design, 42' length, 13.5' wide, and 40,000 lbs of cruising fun!

On August 7th, 2010 we set sail on our "No Itinerary" world cruise and enjoying the "Cruising Life" very much! It's a wonderful adventure!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Panama Canal, and Back to the USA, and Buying Property?

    Well, Hello everyone. Sit back and relax as this is a great story of the canal "Trip from Hell" we were on.....and, we have a couple surprises too!
   We've had a busy schedule (by Panama standards that is). Last week, we helped our friends aboard Zeppelin go through "The Ditch" and had a very exciting time to say the least. We went through along with a power boat (to remain nameless) that turned out to be the trip from Hell.

Yes, it barely fits into the canal and was behind us! You can see two of eight "mules" connected with cables to help guide
    After watching the powerboat ....lets just call this boat "LOOK OUT ! ".....hitting two tugboats inside the canal, losing a boat fender inside the canal, and hitting the canal wall itself (Ouch!), we made our way through the cut to spend the night on Gatun Lake tied to a mooring with
    We were tied to the big mooring ball and awaiting "LOOK OUT!" as they slowly approached (with them not noticing the 20 knot wind was blowing them directly into the mooring...and with Zeppelin tied onto it as well) they sped past and were lining up for a second attempt. Our adviser suggested Zeppelin quickly untie and move out of "LOOK OUT's" way. We agreed and dropped anchor in 70 feet and a good distance away...Anchoring in Gatun Lake is strictly not permitted for pleasure boats...but, with this case it was and surely one for the record books. We watched as the mooring attempts were finally successful for the stressed crew of "LOOK OUT!"
    It was nearly 2:30 pm the next day as our new adviser aboard and was in a hurry to make way to the second sets of locks. I asked our adviser if we were still to go into the West Locks along with the big orange ship currently heading toward the locks...but,  why was the ship heading into the East set of lock"s and not the West Locks as supposed to be? He called on the radio.... this began the "mass confusion" and the tugs quickly began to pulling the HUGE ship from the East Locks out ,and back to the West of plans again! Now we're going BACK to the EAST Locks.....and HURRY as the ship is nearly at the entrance to the East Locks and we must be in front of that orange ship along with "LOOK OUT!"!
    Zeppelin was quickly inside and tied to the canal wall as "LOOK OUT!" was out of control and about to make hard contact with Zeppelin. Our adviser said, "If he comes closer just close your eyes because he's GOING to hit you!"
    "LOOK OUT!" was finally stopped and wildly side-tied to the far wall (and not the tug as supposed to be) as Zeppelin retied along side the tugboat (as normal). We felt sorry for the two paid line-handlers aboard "LOOK OUT!"...this should be a hint to any cruiser asking for volunteer line-handlers and not getting ANY response for help...maybe it's YOU! All the cruisers listening to the morning net were aware of "LOOK OUT!"asking for line-handlers and no volunteer help was offered....oh, and another hint for cruisers looking for help...don't ask on the radio if anyone has a spare bucket for the line handlers to use as a port-a-potty while on your won't get ANYONE to come aboard.....unless you pay....A LOT! Yes, the paid line-handlers used a bucket, but after seeing the conditions aboard "LOOK OUT!" would you!
    Due to the Captain's poor seamanship and bad handling of "LOOK OUT!" a new record was set for the longest time to traverse the locks according to our adviser. The Captain and wife (owners of LOOK OUT) have lived aboard 14 years and were on their way to Jamaica and then Bermuda Islands... we hope they make it.
  Eventually,  we were on our way to Shelter Bay Marina where friends, Larry and Lena, aboard Hobo were standing on the dock and awaiting our arrival. After quickly tying Zeppelin to the dock, and giving "fair warning" to the Harbor Master about a "Dangerous Boat" coming in, we watched as "LOOK OUT!" entered the marina's "C" slips at a high rate of speed.
    As Larry and I stood watching, I made a bet that "LOOK OUT !" would hit that BIG catamaran boat side-tied safely against the "B" slips. Larry laughed and took me up on the bet...a Fool and his beer were about to part! Ha! Sure enough, here comes "LOOK OUT!" as he sped past his assigned slip, then, realizing his speed and passing the assigned slip, throws it into reverse...which brought his bow completely around and now pointed directly at the "B" dock...this is where "LOOK OUT!" proceeded to throw the boat into full Forward and run upon the "B" dock itself.  Again, realizing they were in a "tight spot", the Captain throws the boat into reverse where the stern of "LOOK OUT !" bumped against the expensive and helpless catamaran. (Ouch! That will cost!)
    After watching the exciting experience unfold before our wide unblinking eyes, Larry slowly turned his head toward me and said, "I owe you TWO BEERS for that one!"  And, in true cruiser fashion.... Larry stills owes me those two beers!

    We went to a nearby Saturday Market and enjoyed looking at all the great items for sale by the local artists.
Beautiful ceramic plant wall hangers

Oh-oh...they've got LOTS of plants for sale!
Handpainted items - colorful and very detailed
    As of now, Nancy is in Reno taking a test to renew her California Nursing License so she can start a 13 week Traveling Nurse assignment in Sacramento, she starts the new job next Monday!  We are wanting to upgrade Windfall with more solar panels and replenish some of our cruising kitty.  And....hold on to your seats....We are looking to purchase property on the Island of Taboga (the Island of Flowers) ...located just 7 miles offshore of mainland Panama. We've been looking at properties for sometime now for a special place to live. No, we're NOT ready to give up cruising just yet, we still have a LOT of places still on our "Bucket List" to visit and explore before returning and building a home on the island.
Taboga beach walkway - No cars on the island

     Taboga is filled with lots of history...even some Pirates pillaging and plundering...OH MY! History of real Spanish Conquistadors, Pirates - such as Captain Morgan who were at Taboga, buried and sunk golden treasures, and even shipwrecks just off the shoreline!
The ferry dock and where the PT boats trained for WWII
     Yes, occasionally a gold doubloon coin is found washed up onto the nearby beach from real pirate treasure buried or sunk in the clear warm water. I figure Nancy and I will be doing a LOT of diving and using our underwater metal detector! Arrrgh!
    In 1998 construction workers found 1,000 buried treasure coins as they were excavating for a new building right in town!    
    Taboga is where John F. Kennedy trained aboard the famous WWII PT boats  known then as the "Mosquito Fleet." Real artillery fire also took a toll on Taboga. The US Navy used the broad hill facing the town for artillery practice during WWII and even installed a number of anti-aircraft guns and machine-gun bunkers atop the island to protect the canal zone.
    Yes, there is a LOT to see and do here in Panama along with it's beautiful mountains, beaches, and incredible surrounding's wonderful to say the least, and dare I say "Paradise" with out overstating the obvious. 
    Many tourists and Panamanians come to Taboga to enjoy the warm sandy beach, or to visit the Wildlife Reserve (which consists of half the island). Taboga also has the oldest Church in the Western Hemisphere, and it's still used today.
    Here's a link with some great info of Taboga Island
   For the next 3-4 months Nancy and I will be located at a hotel somewhere in Sacramento while Windfall waits safely and patiently tied to a very secure one-ton mooring off the beach at Taboga.
  Windfall will be lonesome while we're gone, but rest assured anxious upon our return to continue the adventures cruising these warm tropic waters. We are planning to go through "The Ditch" (as the canal is called locally) sometime next year...but as with all good plans, and so much to see on this side (Pacific side) of Panama, we may be here awhile....That's the great thing about not having a schedule!   

See you soon out on the water!
Sam & Nancy