The Last Few Days

Fresh fish, new table

Calm

The locals were gone.  As soon as it began to get dark, they head back to Portobello.  So, at night, things are calm and peaceful.  It’s kind of a nice thing for a couple of days – socialization during the day and peace at night.  Josh and I were both beat.  We fell asleep when I was supposed to be grilling.

Results of a long day...

Results of a long day…

Luckily the girls figured out the grill and managed to cook a big spread of beef, pork ribs, sausage, and even some tamales (real ones, not Mexican tamales).  It seems as if I’m spending time between two extremes – being immensely spoiled and being deeply tried.  After some thought though – that’s fine with me.

Spoiled rotten...

Best Laid Plans

Josh was hoping we’d be headed to Bocas.  I was too.  We both actually completely and totally planned on it.  But the family is coming in for Christmas and the committee spoke and I was overruled by my family.  What happened, after looking back on it, is pretty strange – my family, with no real investment in my boat, the work on it, or my voyage – overruled me and my crew.  Considering me and the crew had an immense amount of work (months) and money invested in the boat, it’s hard to really comprehend how that happens, but it does and it did.  It will be great to have the family aboard and show them a little bit of the lifestyle.  I’m looking forward to it, and consider whatever sacrifice to be well worth it.  But the whole exchange was a stark reminder of how different the average American mindset is than what is required for a real cruising/voyaging mindset.  The difference couldn’t be greater.  And, again, even when crew comes from America – it becomes clear that there’s a real adjustment period.

So when I broke the news to Josh that I wasn’t going to be taking the boat to Bocas, the dissapointment was obvious and he quickly arranged to head to Bocas via a bus.  Honey was headed to Columbia.  My friend from Panama City had already headed home.  So the boat was going from 4 people to just me.  I was planning on heading to San Blas for the sake of the crew, but with now crew onboard I could now tinker with the boat at my leisure and head to San Blas when and if I felt like it.  The relief was immediate, and I realized then how much additional pressure crew adds.

Without crew onboard, I’ll have to (again) relearn the art of cooking and cleaning after myself.  I won’t have people to pass tools to me. I won’t be able to leave the boat and have things continue to progress.  But I will have some pressure lifted.  I’ll get back into a healthy routine, and I’ll have the kind of peace that you can only have when you’re alone on a boat in the middle of a third-world country in the middle of a remote anchorage.  For short periods of time, this is priceless.

And then, I may have the opportunity to test my single-handing skills.  If I have the chance, it’ll be a really gratifying experience to sail around San Blas again by myself – purely self-sufficient.

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Spearfishing for Dinner

Spearfishing for Dinner

Spearfishing for Dinner

For me, it’s taken me 6 months of recovery and I still hold shots when I should pull triggers.  Almost everyone I spearfish with pulls more triggers and lands more fish.  I’m still trophy hunting, no matter how hard I try to spearfish for dinner…

It’s a massive relearning of every technique I’ve used thus far.  It’s also different equipment – better to use smaller and more maneuverable spearguns. Two bands is enough, and often overkill.  A 110 cm speargun is enough.  A 130 cm speargun is usually too much.  In holes in the reef, 80 cm is about right.  Thin shafts fly faster and you don’t need heavy shafts for smaller fish.

This kind of hunting can be alot of fun, though.  Smaller guns, faster reloading, more pulling of triggers.  All of that adds up to something really fun, when you get the hang of it.  Of course, we don’t get to post pictures of us with massive fish.  And we always stop after we have enough for a couple of meals.  There are a couple exceptions to the “enough for dinner” rule:  when we can share fish with friends, when we are spearfishing with locals, and when we can trade fish for other stuff (like alcohol or produce).  Providing fresh fish to others brings with it quite a bit of good will.  I enjoy that.

One of the interesting things about the “enough for dinner” rule is that if we shoot a big fish, or a bunch of small fish – we don’t get to spearfish the next day.  Or we eat fish three meals a day, so we can go and spearfish again.  Not a big problem, but it certainly makes you think about shooting those large-but-not-quite-trophy fish.  Those fish are tempting, but one of those and all the spearfishing is over for a bit.

The good news is that I have a dedicated freezer onboard.  It’s sole purpose is to keep meat frozen on long passages.  So, if I really do bump into a trophy fish (not a large-but-not-quite-trophy) – I can put it into the boat without feeling guilty.  It just means that we’ll be eating fish three times a day for a month, and freediving armed with cameras rather than spearguns.

There are worse punishments, me thinks.

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