San Blas Sailing – Puerto Lindo

Sailing away from San Blas

Sailing away from San Blas

Then the winds slowed.  We furled our genoa and set up our gennaker (my idea).  That would have been fine if the winds weren’t changing.  No matter how much I adjusted the sails, or how I adjusted our course – we were moving slowly.  The sound of flapping sails isn’t one I enjoy.  So we changed things.  Then we changed again.  Then again.

I gave up.  I decided light-wind sailing isn’t very fun.

Tino seemed to be anxious to get to Puerto Lindo, so we put an engine on.  Back to 5 knots, which I’m happy with.  Settling back into Thoreau, I found myself unable to relax with the engines on.  They’re not loud, by any standard.  It’s just not as peaceful with the low-grumbling of even a single diesel engine.  The dolphins hadn’t given up on us though – so I was going back and forth between a good read and watching them play.

Back in Puerto Lindo

I really like this anchorage.   When we first arrived, before I’d even seen the boat – the remoteness of it was calming.  There were few sounds – the occasional whine of a dinghy engine – but mostly just fish chasing bait.  Birds were loud here – but that’s an enjoyable sound.  In the evenings the howler monkeys get a little rowdy, but I’m new enough to that sound that it doesn’t bother me.  I suspect when it’s less novel, I won’t be enthralled by it.

Puerto Lindo

Puerto Lindo

I got a taste of how interesting it would be to single-hand moor/anchor the Lagoon 380 in wind.  The anchorage isn’t tight at all, but if it were – this would be a chore.  Something that I’ll need to practice a lot.  Looking like a fool mooring isn’t ideal, but smashing into someone else’s boat would be a disaster. One that I hope to avoid.

Tino was in a hurry to get to Venezuela.  He was running through a list of things to do when locking up the boat for an extended period.  I wrote it all down, dropped the dinghy off the davits, and helped him get situated.  It was time for him to go, but I was here for another night as the mechanics were coming to check on a blown inverter and a generator that wouldn’t stay running.  The boat projects were piling up already.  

With Tino packing up his car on shore, and me starting to realize what I was in for – things got real.  Very real. I was alone, in a foreign country, where I didn’t speak the language, without a vehicle or a phone.

The dinghy-ride back from the local bar/restaurant, after dropping Tino off, was strange.  The Hunter S. Thompson meaning of strange.  Until this point my sailing trip to San Blas had seemed like a bareboat charter, with a captain that was also a friend. Not anymore though.  Now it was all up to me.  This is part of what I wanted, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a big feeling.

Back on the boat I was actually wondering what to do.  The good news is that I had a couple of fishing poles, a good book, and half a bottle of cheap rum to kill.  So I proceeded to tackle these tasks.  I couldn’t quite write as my computer was dead and I didn’t have a 12V plug for any of my electronics.

And my generator wasn’t working properly.  And my inverter was blown.

I wanted to freedive, but it was the end of the day.  And spearfishing isn’t catch and release – so that was out.  I had more fish than I could eat.

Drinking Alone

Hardly a stranger to this.  I like to say I drink socially, but the truth is I’m perfectly content with a good drink and a good book – alone.  So I drank, and cooked, and read.  Until reading seemed like a chore, I had a buzz, and I was full. Then I made lists of things to buy, projects on the boat, music to bring, and things to write about.  That list is sitting next to me now, but I can’t seem to start on anything.

Puerto Lindo

Puerto Lindo activities

The howler monkeys picked up at sunset – and the water around me was alive with fish.  The birds began to quiet down. Soon it was just the sound of a distant generator and the waves breaking outside of the anchorage.  I realized then that I’m still not completely comfortable with this kind of alone.  I know it’s a learning process, so I’m not too worried about it.  But it is a different kind of alone.

It’s impossible to describe if you haven’t been there, as cliche as it sounds – it almost felt like I’d stepped through a time-warp.  I thought about what it must have been like to be a sailor a century ago.  Reading Joshua Slocum’s book doesn’t do it justice (despite Slocum being an excellent writer). The experience is the definition, the books just help you understand it or inspire you to do it. Or maybe they just help you recognize the experience when you have it.

Mechanics, E-Friends, and Settling Finances

Puerto Lindo

Puerto Lindo’s “Restaurante”

The mechanics were coming at 11AM.  I was meeting them at the local, shoreside, restaurant/bar.  I arrived with the dinghy at 10:30 – just in case.  When they hadn’t showed up at noon I was getting a little nervous and starting to wish I’d brought the iPad to at least check the (400+) emails that had piled up since starting this little adventure.   If the mechanics didn’t come, I was up shit-creek as they were my ride back to Panama City for my flight the next day.  But a little after noon they arrived, families in tow (it was Sunday) and we piled into the dinghy.  This is the land of manana. 

I realized then how much I didn’t know.  Small things about closing hatches, covering the sails, and shutting down all of the systems were overlooked.  But the mechanics were helpful, and I needed the help.  Turns out the generator had a coolant leak and the inverter had been blown by Tino.  I’d inadvertently left a hatch open in the salon, so I had some wet books and cushions to air out.  And there was a ton of “laundry” hanging on my lifelines – needing to be put away.

Leaving the boat actually felt good, but I had a ton of worry about not leaving something “just right” and coming back to the boat in a state of disrepair.  Nonetheless it was done.

The mechanics needed to make a stop by another Lagoon catamaran.  Let’s call the owner Matt.

Matt reached out to me through this site awhile back, and had actually purchased a Lagoon 410 just around the corner from my boat.  Matt was from Texas too.  I’d never met him, so this was going to be interesting.  Turns out Matt and I got along pretty well.  We talked about leaving the states, making money abroad, and the general shift to this kind of life. One that neither one of us has much experience in.

Rather than imposing on the mechanics I chose to head back to Panama with Matt.  A good choice.  We had conversation and I learned.  I ended up just getting another queen in his hotel that night, and he showed me what he’d found in his little area of Panama City.  Another solid win for the visiting team.

That night I met up with Tino at a bar.  We had some leftover financial negotiations to deal with. They were handled amicably.  But I’m sure, now, that both of us weren’t completely happy with the result.  Of course, in any deal (with any significant amount of money changing hands) this is the only result that can be considered “fair”;  with both parties wanting a little more.  Everyone compromising.

I learned a lesson which I should have learned a long time ago – about the importance of having everything, every little detail, in writing. Tino was off to Venezuela, and I was off to the states.  We both agreed that Cartagena, Columbia was a place worth visiting together – I hope that works out.

Home – Whatever That Means

The truth about my life is that I don’t feel at home anywhere, right now.  The boat doesn’t feel like home yet.  Home doesn’t feel like home anymore.  I’m in limbo, which leave something to be desired.

Everything else was uneventful.  It seemed that life hadn’t changed much here, but I had.  It was harder to relate to issues others were having.  Harder to get into “the swing” of life back in the States.  Just a not-so-subtle reminder about how hard re-integration will be.  If re-integration ever really happens. But I did that after Iraq, so I’d imagine I can handle it.

The demands of friends and family were back.  Everyone wants to hear about the trip.  Some even demand your time.  There were a million completely irrelevant things that had happened in the media, and some hoped I’d have some input on them.  But I didn’t.  And I don’t, still.

That, afterall, is the most liberating feeling; being detached from the minutiae. I don’t care who made a racist rant. Or what the Kardashians are doing.  Or what basketball teams are doing well.  The minute one of these conversations start, I realize we’re not here to talk about anything of substance.  For that, I fear, I need to be around the well-traveled.  Maybe just the well-read (and I have some making-up to do here).  For those conversations you need to be somewhere with space, with time.

And the thoughts I’ve had about losing both time and space in the States are reinforced. This kind of time and space exist only in the furthest reaches.  We may have lost that space and time, here.

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