April 25th 1982

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
Val posing with beer (under the express directions of the Captain!)

…was a Sunday.  More than that, it was election day at the club, which took Dave away for the morning.  It would have been nice if Monika had gone too, so Val + I could have got on with listening to the music we like, but she was still around, so Val did some more sail-sewing, on the dinghy sail, while I started to plough thro’ a weather book – weather seems to be my assigned specialty.  Unfortunately, I didn’t understand very much at all.  Still, I persevered.  Dave returned at lunchtime with the news that the good guys (from our point of view anyway) had won most of the places, + to drag us off to a celebratory lunch of Chinese food at the club.  There were drinks afterwards of course, but Dave, then I, then Val excused ourselves slowly, + one by one returned to work, mainly getting Dave up the mast to fix the lights.

In the evening, D, M, me, John, Barbara + Ed went for a Chinese meal – Val was the sensible one who stayed behind to read + listen to music.  Unfortunately, they were all drunk, + I was sober.  To make things worse, a loud argument developed, sparked by club politics.  D + M continued when we got back.  For once, Dave was right.

Still finding it difficult to comment on the day, since the same thing is happening, over and over. Shouldn’t really have any complaints, but we were finding it frustrating.

April 24th 1982

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0

And yet more frustrating still.  Yesterday we did little – today we effectively did nothing.  Not quite true – Val was busy all day, even though she was just about the only one.  She was assigned the task of some more sail-sewing, and that lasted her up until about 3, when Dave decided work was over for the day.  I did virtually nothing.  I taped for a while.  Then I worked on the 2 foldaway bikes for a while – they too are going with us.  When I compare the clean, open, easy-to-work-on decks of the other boats with our cluttered mess, I could weep.  Oh well.  And D + M did absolutely nothing, so far as I could tell.  Anyway, as I said, an early finish to the day’s labours, which meant an early start to the evening’s drinking.  A good meal too, + then the Oscar show, 3 hours worth.  Val gave up early, but I watched to the bitter end.  “Chariots of Fire” won best picture, much to my surprise (and delight.)

Famously, the Oscar ceremony which announced that the “British are coming!” Otherwise, another of those sort of days. As you can probably tell, I am starting to run out of photos of Panama, but still a trick ot two up my sleeve.

April 22nd, 23rd

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0

For once, a day of work that was entirely satisfactory, certainly from my point of view.  In the morning, it were as though I were trying to re-introduce pole-squatting as a major sport, since I spent getting on for 3 hours up the main mast.  The job was to fit a new bridge piece (sort of a mini-spreader which sticks forward) which meant having the piece of wood pass up and down various times to be planed, drilled, etc.  The most difficult thing up there is always having to put tools, screws, material away, and then dig them out again, usually discovering they’re in the wrong hand.  However, I seem to have lost completely my nervousness about working at a height, and it is intensely satisfying to be able to complete the work satisfactorily, and see the tangible results. 

After lunch, a variety of small jobs up the mizzen – fixing a deck floodlight, (which didn’t work… and I told Dave to check it) and a couple of aerials.  As usual, we have back-up systems for everything.  Most tricky was affixing an insulated retainer for yet another aerial, out at the end of the spreader, so I had to pull the seat out to reach it.

Finally, was able to relax with a couple of drinks, + then dinner, with John + Barbara present.  A good relaxed evening.  John is very good company.  Dave, as usual, went to sleep.  Although basically a lazy person, I do enjoy working when I get going, + the job is something to get one’s teeth into.

In contrast, Friday was relatively speaking a complete waste of time.  Oh, we got the canoe on board.  And Val spent ages cleaning up the batteries.  And Dave drilled 4 holes.  Which was just about it for the day.  Which is very silly really, since there is still much to do.  Dave put off climbing the mast to fix up the rest of the electrics.  The strain of a month’s work is beginning to tell, I think.  At any rate, Val + I have arrived at one of our pissed off with the Simons phases once again – at Monika’s silliness + at Dave’s insensitivity + bullheadedness.

As I have already said, irritation with our hosts does seem to preoccupy me a great deal at this time; read cumulatively, they come across as a massive whinge, and rather an ungrateful one at that. Still, I can’t go on apologising for it ad nauseum.

April 20th, 21st 1982

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0

Once more unto the mast dear friends once more… yes, another mast day, much like many of the ones that have gone before (and, the way things are going, many yet to come.)  The most frustrating thing is that Dave is such a poor organiser of labour.  For much of the day, I and sometimes Val as well, follow him around like a lap-dog, merely watching like medical students while the top surgeon performs the operation.  Which is stupid, since there are many things we could do, if only we were told.  It’s true that for very short periods – often in the late afternoon – Val + I are used effectively, but that is such a small part of what is possible.  And yet nearly always at the end of the day, when we sit down to our meal, Dave is very congratulatory about the progress we’ve made.  If we ever really put in a proper day of hard work, I don’t know what he’d say.  I messed around for most of the day, only working in one concentrated burst at about 4, putting up a couple of spreaders, and a few stays, right from the top of the mast – it was fun up there.  V + M were sensible enough to go and get some shopping done in the afternoon – they sure had nothing better to do.

Today, Wed the 21st, was even less productive.  For an hour or 2 after breakfast, I watched Dave drill a piece of metal to fit on the boom, then we fitted it, + then D + M took the 2 big cats to have some shots ( I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that Fluffy had kittens a few weeks ago – they’re ready to head off into the big world now.)  Val + I went in to get some shopping, and got on each other’s nerves, + then did nothing for the rest of the day – Dave had disappeared to fetch an engine, + returned very pissed off when he couldn’t find part of it, so no more work.  Val + I did take out the canoe for a paddle, at Dave’s suggestion.  It was fun.  A beer or 2 with Ed Lesesne, + then, for once, a different restaurant to eat in, making a pleasant change.

More of the usual frustration, which does reflect pretty accurately the feeling we had of being a bit stuck, but with the prospect of an ocean trip to come, something we felt we had to put up with. Don’t think I have mentioned the cats before (though there was a picture, I think) because they played so little part in our lives. Useful food, I suppose, should we be shipwrecked.

April 18th, 19th 1982

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
View of the deck from on high, including my Crusader crosses

A 2-day 1-page entry – I haven’t done one of those for a while, and I’m feeling tired.  Also, the 2 days were very similar in many respects.  However, Sunday morning started off, at least, weekend-style.  We all went out to visit Laurence + Claudia, our landlords, for breakfast.  All very pleasant – they have a beautiful house (tho’ somewhat marred, to my mind, by the presence of 3 bloody great Dobermanns) and the breakfast was excellent.  Returned around 12.30 or so, and began work.

Can’t really remember the different particular jobs for Sunday + Monday, but most of the time I was up the mast.  One general pattern has been to mark off on the wire stays their correct length, then I would unbolt them from the mast and lower them down, + Dave would take them into town to have loops spliced into them.  The trouble was, virtually every time they would manage to mess things up, , making the wire too short or too long, so we’d have to rig something up.  However, we got something done, even if it did take 3 times as long as it should have.  We also got the spreaders put on – I’ll admit I was rather nervous trying to fit them into their brackets – they would have made a nasty mess of the deck.  On Monday, we had to fashion the metal ends of the spreaders first – not easy, so I mostly left it to Val, who has more patience for such things.  I’m more or less comfortable going up the mast now – once I’m up there, + tied on, I’m even pretty comfortable.

A good meal Sunday night – sort of stuffed, rolled meat.  Ed Lesesne joined us, + it was interesting getting them both to talk about Vietnam.  War horrifies yet fascinates me.  The nuclear bomb vs Biggles, I suppose.  Monday night was another pizza night, with John, Barbara, + Buddy.  We’re getting rather fed up with them, but still I must admit I do enjoy the evening – plenty of beer, plenty of food.  Early nights Sun + Mon – I was shattered both nights.

Am becoming increasingly comfortable with working up high, and it certainly gives me a (spurioius?) sense of moderate expertise. I remember Dave telling me that I had obtained a marketable skill… but I had serious doubts.

Ed was one of Dave’s friends, a bit younger than him, and with the usual shattered home life – a wife and children elsewhere. Interesting to hear him talking of Vietnam, and the hostile reaction he had received upon returning; not the returning, conquering heroes, but finding themselves cast as the bad guys, being spat at, accused of mass murder.

April 17th 1982

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0

Awoken by Dave at around 4, twice (the first time didn’t register.)  Today really was moving day – Dave had the keys to the truck himself, so couldn’t be let down.  We loaded just a few things from the locker onto the truck, and then set off for Laurence’s beach house, me riding in the back.  I passed the time by reading a trashy novel, “The president’s Plane Is Missing”.  Then, at Lawrence’s, the work of the day.  By the time we’d finished, the truck was just about as full as it could be, + only a few things had to be left behind.  I had a cosy little hole left for me, + with a cushion beneath me, + the tarpaulin stretched over the whole thing as a roof, I was just fine.  An uneventful journey too, except when I had to yell at Dave to stop the truck because his ocelot skin was about to fly away.  We arrived at the storage place in good time, and then the workers there took over the bulk of the work.  They certainly knew their job too because they managed to pack it all in – bar about 3 boxes – into really what was a space not much different from a garden shed.  On the way back, I was able to make myself really comfortable – stretched out under the sun in my cushion reading my book.  And naturally enough, there was a beer stop.

After we returned, + just put away the very few items that hadn’t made it into storage, a lazy time.  Val washed the dishes, Monika washed the clothes, Dave disappeared somewhere or other, + I simultaneously watched telly + did some taping.  In the evening, we’d all been invited to a barbecue, a political affair thrown out by one group of contenders in the forthcoming club elections.  D + M are friends to many of them, so I reckon our invite was pretty automatic.  Plenty of booze, plenty of food – unfortunately, we’d just stuffed ourselves with pizza in the afternoon, so I at least couldn’t do full justice to things.  Also, from our point of view, the party was very dull, so it was good to be able to use our early start to the day as an excuse for leaving early… tho’ we were tired.

Just a day of acting as labour for Dave… which is fair enough, considering the way we are being treated.

April 16th 1982

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
Gerd, Scott and Karin

Val was up with the lark – around 6 – so that we were able to get the others up, just by power of example really.  We inflated their dinghy, + then Scott rowed us in to the club.  A $3 taxi-ride got us to the station in good time to catch a train to take us back.  Val slept most of the way.  Then the dear old Yacht Club once again – breakfast, then work.  Up the mizzen mast I went, to release the side stays, so that they could be re-spliced at the right length.  I was nervous, I’ll admit, tho’ really with the bosun’s seat underneath you, it’s pretty comfortable.  After lunch, Dave took over, climbing right up to the top of the mizzen (the new one) while I went up the main, ready to take a line from Dave.  While he was up there, tho’, a tug went by at a good speed, creating a wake which rocked Dave about 5 feet in each direction, as the mizzen wasn’t tied down properly.  This caused Dave top abandon his plan of fixing a line from one mast to the other, so I was able to come down.  It was just as well, since, sitting in an uncomfortable + precarious position over the highest spreaders, I’d got myself a touch of cramp.  Very silly… I’d spent 20 mins perched up[ there doing nothing.  The experience with the tug pissed Dave off considerably, so that was effectively the end of the day’s work.  Buddy joined us for the evening meal – it was nice to have some additional company.  As usual, of course, a magnificent meal – chicken, mashed potato, salad, corn.

As for the world news, nothing really new as yet: the Royal Navy are still steaming towards the Falklands; there’s a 200 mile surrounding blockade around the islands which the Argentinians haven’t breached as yet; + Al Haig is jetting backwards + forwards between BA + London.  The US is seeking a middle course between what is right + sensible + what is wrong + foolish.  I still don’t know whether Bob is there.

And a pleasant close to what had been both interesting and enjoyable… as well as, in the end, providing a good story. Good too to be away from the Crusader for a while, where we really did feel ourselves sort of taken over. But back to work, and reasonably productive, moving towards leaving Panama and setting off into the ocean. About which, by the way, we were surprisingly sanguine. I don’t suppose I would be so unconcerned nowadays.

Housekeeping – apologies for a week’s silence, the result of a week in remote Wales – no internet, no phone.

April 15th 1982

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
The Marloo – Scott, Karin and Gerd’s boat

A definite jolt to kick the day off.  Val had got up a bit before me, and then came rushing back, me still in a dazed state, to tell me to get up quick because we were transiting with the Germans.  I was very confused.  Apparently, an Australian guy (tho’ to be fair, his wife + friend were both German) had asked Dave if he could borrow us to transit with him, + Dave agreed, once he’d extracted a promise for $30 for us for doing so.  It was all a rush, as they’d had a pilot sprung on them at the last minute.  We shot round there, climbed aboard, + away we went.  And had a good day, too.  There were just 3 of them – Scott, Karin, + Gerd – + they were young, friendly + fun.  We did very little all day really, more or less just fulfilling statutory requirements for 4 line handlers.  We just ate… very well… chatted + listened to music.  The pilot was nice too, until it became obvious that he’d drunk too much, by the end of the day.  In fact – this was only really evident once we’d completed going thro’ all the locks – he became totally incapable, mumbling the same instructions + questions over + over + over again.  It would have been funny except a) he became a pain in the arse, and b) it was dangerous.  Especially at the other end.  It was very dark so we couldn’t navigate by sight, + he was unable to get us to a safe anchorage.  When he called for a launch to come + pick him up, it couldn’t find us, so obviously we weren’t where we should be.  Eventually, Scott + Gerd took him back to Balboa YC (where we didn’t really want to go, but didn’t have much choice) + we let him off there, drunk + protesting.  Only then, safely moored, could we relax, laugh about him, drink champagne, eat cake + smoke some dope (it was Gerd’s birthday.)  Everything was nice, but the dope was tremendous… just 1 joint between 5, but we were bombed.  Scott used a life-saver strobe light for a mind-blowing disco light.  Then, one by one, we collapsed downstairs into our bunks.  We hadn’t intended to stay, but were glad we had.

Pleased that we finally got to enjoy the full transit experience, complete with good food, good company, and drink… even if the latter very nearly got us into serious trouble.  Still, all’s well that ends well, and what doesn’t kill you makes for a good story.  And our pilot was, by the end, utterly incapable.

April 14th 1982

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
Fixing the mast

Val was busy all morning, finishing off sewing a patch to the sail.  Heavy, hard work.  Dave gave me another painting commission to do, Maltese Crosses (my 4th + 5th) on either side of the canoe.  I’ve become fairly proficient at them by now.  When I finished, I took a trip into town, to buy a 2nd pair of tennis shoes – a best pair – to post some cards, and buy some knives for Dave.  He is endlessly fascinated by weapons of any kind, even tho’ he already has a stack of them.

Lunch, and then the big project of the day.  At last, we were going to put the mast up.  Bill, a black guy at the club, and Buddy, and Roberto, were all coming along with us, so we had plenty of manpower.  Plus Ed Kirby – our next door neighbour – was taking his boat down at the same time, so additional help there.  They left first, and we followed close behind.  Not a long journey – just a couple of hundred yards along to the industrial division of the Canal Commission, where Dave and Ed had worked out some sort of deal for an hour or two’s use of a crane + labour.  First problem tho’ was a distinct lack of space to tie up, but we managed it pretty well (tho’ I did get mildly bawled out for not reacting fast enough when we pulled in next to Ed – the trouble being I haven’t been on boats enough to know instinctively what to do.)  Erecting the mast was relatively easy – a huge crane came along, picked up one end of our mast, and we used all our available manpower to walk the other end down to its hole, where it was dropped in, and then wiggled some.  It was tied down then, as best as possible (Bill climbed the mast to tie on the ropes) then a smooth sail home to start the celebrations – champagne, then a shrimp supper.  (I didn’t think much of it – ever since my Seattle experience, seafood leaves me cold.)

Real progress today, with the hope that it pushes us that much closer to a departure date. Interesting comment on the seafood – I have long thought (and claimed) that my seafood allergy began in Seattle, and that since then I have not been able to encounter it without throwing up. But we have come across numerous examples since Seattle – Zipolite, here – where I have managed it without serious reaction. Maybe I’m not allergic after all… though I do seem to be.

April 12th, 13th 1982

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0

Torrential rain once again today.  Just as well we had planned nothing more than taking care of various admin things.  First off, early, without even waiting for breakfast, was the Immigration Dept, for us to renew our visas, but it was closed, so off to the Army hospital for some injections for Monika.  Back at Immigration, + the business completed with little difficulty… once Dave paid the woman a tip.  Then the local health centre, for injections for Val + me.  The place was overcrowded + seedy, + they didn’t have the typhoid stuff, but were efficient about giving us the other 2.  Breakfast then – hamburgers – followed by driving round to a succession of places for Dave to attend to things while we sat in the car and read.  Important things – but we didn’t need to be there.  Val did some sewing in the afternoon, while I drilled some pieces of wood for use as fender bars – not very difficult.  Steak in the evening, then a TV movie, then cards + bed.

On, off, on, off.  Rain yesterday, shine today.  In the morning, Val got on with the laundry, then tidying the rope on deck, then checking the life-raft with Dave.  I was playing at sign-writer, painting on the word Crusader on the boat.  Fortunately, they had some stencils, but they didn’t really fit, + were a bit broken + battered, + anyway I had to paint it on an awkward spot, so it was pretty difficult.  However, got it done, and made a fair job, so at least partly successful.  In the afternoon, Val had to sew a patch on a sail – very hard work – while I was up the mast screwing.  Screwing on a storm-sail track, that is.  It’s quite comfortable working up there, once the seat is rigged up underneath you.  Monika was ill all day, suffering from the effects of her injections, + wasn’t up to accompanying Val, Dave, Buddy + I for a pizza.  A good meal.

A normal day, dealing with minor chores, and stopping early enough to enjoy a sociable meal in the evening.  Pleased that I seem pretty comfortable working on the mast now; by no means in my comfort zone, but it can be good to challenge oneself.