12-12-2017 – Panama City to Hackensack, NJ

Uh-oh, time is moving faster and faster, and the blog is coming slower and slower. 🙂 We have done a lot of traveling in the past two months! We took a short trip back to the Perlas, returned to PC to meet a few people, went back to the Perlas for another short trip and then left the country entirely to visit family and friends. It’s been a busy period, and here’s some of how it played out.

After finishing up our errands in PC and finalizing plans for our upcoming travels, we went out to the Perlas for a short visit before things got busy. We visited a new place that we’d read good things about. It’s a lovely little nook in a channel between the biggest island in the group, Isla del Rey, and a small island off its northwestern shore called Isla Espiritu Santo. Although it’s a channel and the current moves through here, turning with the tide, it’s kinda tucked in so it feels protected from most directions. It was a lovely place to hang out for a few days while we explored and – you got it 🙂 – worked on some boat projects. We loved watching the wildlife here, especially birds. Our first night in the Espiritu Santo channel, we heard a sound that was very similar to a barking dog, and Dan remarked that he was surprised to hear that there was a house nearby. The next day on a dinghy excursion we saw a bird that might have been a night heron standing on the beach – barking! It was the funniest thing! (Hmmm, maybe you had to be there. 🙂 ) It confirmed our original understanding that we were nowhere near people. We also enjoyed seeing lots of small parrots flying overhead, squawking their gossip of the day to one another. We also spent one night on the north side of Isla del Rey, near the town of San Miguel, to try to get some internet access and to scope the place out for future use. On our way back to PC to meet up with our new crew person Dave, we saw lots of whales. One in particular was slapping his big fin on the water’s surface over and over again – regularly enough that we were actually able to get some decent photos and the following video!

Whale Slapping Fin  Peeling Tree  Dan through Rock Window

We met Dave online just a few weeks before our departure for our (annual) visit back to the States. We had a very nice voice conversation and invited him to visit us. Since he was immediately available, he chose to come down before we left and stay on the boat while we were gone (rather than wait until we got back for us to meet). He is recently retired from a career as a ship’s captain, he has a happy outlook on life and an enthusiastic attitude. We met him at the airport and enjoyed getting to know him for almost a week before our next friend arrived. It worked out well to allow Dave to settle in a bit and learn his way around before bringing another person into the mix! Keith spent some time on Lungta a few years ago, so he already knew his way around. He was just returning from a 5-week trip in Patagonia, and came to us direct from Chile. It was very nice to have Keith return, both because we like him and because he is already familiar with many of Lungta’s systems. Since we had two crew now, both very competent people but with different backgrounds and skills, we were comfortable with the idea that they could relocate Lungta safely among a few of the islands – but for that to be feasible they would need to get familiar with some additional systems! The day after Keith arrived, we headed back out to the islands to familiarize them both with what’s involved in moving the boat. Because really, who wants to spend time in a crowded municipal anchorage when you can be in an anchorage near a tropical island with only a few other boats? We had a nice sail down to the Perlas, and moved 3 or 4 times during the week so that they each had an opportunity to raise the sails, manage the anchor, man the helm, etc. By the time we left, they felt like they had been drinking through a fire-hose, but had enough knowledge to safely look after Lungta while we were gone. But we still suggested that they stick to places where internet was readily available, in case they needed to contact us for additional information or advice (where should we look for a hammock? how do we repair the XXX?).

Dave & Lungta

One day a local boat zipped up to us. We thought perhaps they were going to offer us some fish, but they looked somewhat distressed. They had something in the bottom of their boat, which turned out to be a turtle that had gotten tangled in a net. They had rescued it, pulled it into their boat, but were unable to untangle the net from around its flippers. They were clearly hoping that we could help. We offered them a knife and a pair of shears, and they carefully worked at cutting the strands from around each of the poor turtle’s limbs. It struggled at first, but eventually slowed down. We worried that it might be dying, but then figured out it was relaxing as it realized that they were helping it. The fibers had cut fairly deeply around the tops of each flipper, and we all winced in empathetic pain. When they lifted it over the boat’s gunnel and dropped it in the water, it slowly swam away, while we all breathed a big sigh of relief! We thanked this gentle couple, and they thanked us, and we all went back to whatever we had been doing before this emotional interlude.

Saving a Turtle

Since we were leaving the boat in the Perlas islands, 30 miles from Panama City, we needed a way to get back to the city before our flight. We booked a trip on a ferry that goes between these two places daily. Coincidentally, as Keith was planning his visit to Lungta, a friend of his from Germany was also able to visit him for a week. He arranged it so that he flew into Panama City the day before we left, and we crossed paths and got to meet Michiel for an evening’s meal of pizza delivered to our hotel. Michiel is a thoughtful guest who brought us a few sweet treats from Germany which we enjoyed as we progressed through our various travels in the States. He spent a week on Lungta with Dave and Keith, enjoying a tropical break from the onsetting winter in northern Europe, and contributing to the daily work and adventure. He and Keith had a nice explore of a tiny Isla Bartolome and returned with some big bunches of bananas, which the group enjoyed for several days!

Sunset in the Perlas  Birds on a Log  Kathy at Isla Mogo Mogo

Meanwhile we (Dan & Kathy) flew to Houston, TX for a week’s visit with Kathy’s mom. Oddly, both of us got sick within the 36 hours of our arrival and were low-key house-guests. We had something very like the flu, including fever for 4 days and respiratory congestion for an extended time. 🙁 Apparently our immune systems are no longer as effective at fending off the diseases that circulate in cities since we generally live far away from the madding crowds. At any rate, we had a nice visit with Marilyn. We were extremely surprised when there was a knock at the door one morning and it turned out to be a surprise visit from Kathy’s sister Jean, who lives in Denver! She “popped” down expressly to surprise us, and we were all delighted to spend a couple of days together! After she left, we took a half-day’s driving trip to San Antonio to meet up with Kathy’s other sister Margie. She and her husband Frank were just coming to the end of the long and sometimes painful process of building a custom home on a lake north of town. They were excited to show us the nearly finished structure, with its high ceilings and echoing chambers. They took possession of the house just before the Thanksgiving weekend, and camped out on the floor with their three college-age kids. Rounding out the visit with a warm phone call with Kathy’s brother Andy, it was a full visit.

We moved on to New Jersey for a month-long stay with Dan’s mom. As usual, part of that time was spent at the family’s Thanksgiving gathering in upstate New York. This year there was a lot of 2-year-old energy (3 of them), with more added in from a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. We also had some new attendees in the form of Dan’s half-sister from Boston and her mother from Atlanta. Along with us, Dan’s sister Eve from Washington state, his son Jesse from California and the family from Chicago it’s quite a far-flung group! There were more people than ever before and more space had to be cleared for additional tables. Dan’s aunt Nancy gave a beautiful tribute to her older sister Helene, Dan’s mom. We had just the right amount of food – by the time we left there was only a tiny amount of leftovers for Nancy to finish up. It was wonderful to catch up with all of the stories from the many family members!

We spent a day visiting our friend Jonnie, who spent almost 2 months aboard Lungta earlier this year as we left El Salvador. Although she lives in Oregon, she was also spending a month with her mother in Long Island. She introduced us to quite a bit of her family, and her brother took us out on his runabout for a ride around the Sound. It was a beautiful day and we actually ventured out onto the open ocean for a bit – which Jonnie told us was an unusual thing, and indicated that he really liked us! 🙂 After a delicious dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant, we ended the day at a yoga studio, where Kathy and Jonnie stretched and sweated to the choreographed moves of Jonnie’s favorite instructor (while Dan enjoyed some internet surfing time in the lobby – what a sweetheart!). It was a late night drive back to New Jersey, with lots of heartfelt conversation still ringing in our ears.

The next day Kathy took a flight to LAX, to spend (almost) a week visiting her best friend from college. Beth has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and begun chemo. Kathy originally had plans to visit before Thanksgiving, but changed those plans when the ill-timed flu came into the picture. Fortunately there was time after Thanksgiving to form a new itinerary. The visit was really good, with lots of conversation running the gamut from deep life issues to reminiscing to silly, picking up where they left off the last time they were together 5 years ago. They went to a day spa for massages, made some minor improvements to her home (setting up for accomodating later treatments), and spent time playing with her two small dogs. Beth is facing a big challenge, but has an impressively strong and upbeat perspective on her life and her future. After her visit to Beth, Kathy hopped to Denver for a short visit with her sister Jean. The first day, Jean arranged for a wonderful day’s outing which included a reflexology session and then a tasty lunch with her friend Tracey, who just happened to be the therapist. 🙂 The remainder of the visit was packed with deep conversation about personal growth, family dynamics, hopes & dreams, and lots of love. Both of these visits were heart-warming and uplifting, and Kathy came back with her tanks full (of love!) Dan met a friend in Manhattan one day for lunch and spent an afternoon with his sister Beth, but spent most of his time with his mother in New Jersey, doing projects around her apartment to make life more comfortable, arranging for her car to be fixed up in preparation for returning it to the lease company, and wrapping up the purchase of parts and goodies that we always come home with after trips like this. This was the first time Dan & Kathy have spent more than a week apart in many years, and it was delightful to be reunited!

Meanwhile, back on Lungta, it’s been good to have both Keith and Dave on board. The two of them have been kept fairly busy attending to both the general maintenance and the unexpected repairs. The biggest issues came up after a very near strike from lightning. As usual (it’s weird that we’re coming to view this as a common occurrence!) several unrelated items stopped working; this time the list included the anchor light (again!), galley overhead lights, depth sounder and refrigerator. Unfortunately only one of them was repairable: the voltage regulators in the galley lights did their job, sacrificing themselves to protect the LED’s, but were easily replaced the next day. We installed our last bulb in the anchor light just before the guys joined us, and now we need a new one. We’ll also be coming home with a new display for the depth sounder (we’re hoping the problem isn’t the sensor itself!) and a new compressor valve for the fridge (which appears to also have a leak somewhere in the circuit for the refrigerant that we will need to track down when we get back in another couple of weeks).

The day after the lightning strike, Keith’s daughter Ashley and her friend Allissa arrived. They had been doing volunteer work in the hurricane-ravaged Virgin Islands, and had a difficult time arranging their travel – but they finally made it! Unfortunately they only overlapped with Keith by a week; he had already made his return travel plans back home to Massachusetts. It’s interesting to see the beginnings of how much more complicated planning is going to be when we introduce more people into our crew, not just the crew themselves but also their guests. Life is changing…

Lungta Boatsitting Crew

We haven’t yet met these two women, but Keith was a powerful reference. Allissa and Ashley have reportedly also made a great impression on Dave. We are looking forward to meeting them on our return, and there’s just a possibility that one or both of them might choose to spend some time with us next year as we cross the Pacific. There was an accident one afternoon: the two of them were hanging out in a hammock that they had set up on deck when one of the lines they used broke. Both hit the deck painfully, one on the tailbone and the other on an elbow that had previously been injured. We’ve had very few injuries living alone, but introducing new people into a new environment, and doing new things differently, makes it more likely that accidents will happen. It is a good reminder about being extra aware when there are changes like that! Both of these young women have reportedly been energetically participating in the work and play on Lungta, and we’ve heard a few reports of some delicious-sounding meals prepared by one or both of them. We’re glad that they have extended their stay a few days beyond our return, so that we get to know them. We’re hoping that they’ll be spending more time on Lungta!

So these are some of the broad-brush events of the last 8 weeks. Details have been lost in the depths of memory and the complexities of having many lives intersect. It’s been a busy trip, and we”re glad to be heading home to Lungta soon!

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