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Days off the vacation [ENG]

von | Jan 24, 2022 | Atlantik, English, Panama

„So you’re taking a few days off your vaccation?“, some people countered with a slight smirk in their face when I told them about my plans to fly home over Christmas. Even though it may sound funny, that’s exactly how it felt to me! But more on that later.

It is also due to this vacation that I have not written an article for a long time. Now there is some to catch up to today.

Knowing about the upcoming trip home, the last week in Bocas with Leonie passed by insanely fast. Cause of the persistent rain showers, we cancelled our ideas of visiting a few more bays. Instead, we sailed back to the main island of Bocas, Isla Colon, and spent the last nights there in the northern anchorages.

There we met again the crew of Elixir, Max and Hannah from England and America, whom I had already met during my stay on Curacao. In the evening we were touring through the streets and bars of the city and while Lelo devoted herself to one book after another, I tried again in surfing.

Being honest, I only had medium success. From the northern anchorage it was only a stone’s throw to the neighboring island of Isla Carenero.

A short walk on the beach to the other side and you have the choice between a clean „reef break“ and a somewhat murkier wave over a sandbank. I preferred the second. The number of successfully surfed waves was close to zero, whereas the numbers of wipe outs and washes under the wave crests was skyrocketing. I didn’t necessarily intend to crash directly onto the reef and injure myself on the last meters in Panama.

We parked WASA in a small port – Bocas Marina – just before we left. Since I would be away from the boat for almost three weeks, I preferred to play it safe and pay a few dollars for the welfare of my little home.

The flights to Germany left from San Jose in Costa Rica. We have been already super close to the border, so the way there was only slightly longer than to Panama City. As the connection home was perfect from that port, the decision was made.

Early in the morning, we took the taxi boat to get from the island to the mainland. From there we continued by shuttle to the border, which we could pass on foot without any problems. The ongoing trip from Sixaola to San Jose then took another eight hours. We arrived at a small room near the center of the city where we spent the night and had no rush coming to the airport the next day.

We’re having a sharp lookout to find something eatable in San Jose

In Munich we were eagerly awaited by my parents. Although we had seen each other the last time on Curacao, my anticipation of the reunion was incredible! Only after big hugs and many kisses we finally went on to the car and drove the last kilometers to home!

What I had absolutely not expected:

My parents had invited my best friends to surprise me. Together they prepared a really nice dinner and hided on the stairs in the hallway when I arrived.

I guess I was way too perplexed to really freak out right away, but especially now when I think back on it, it made me insanely happy to have you all had there!!! 

Of course, my two sisters were there as well. I had last seen Hanna when I left Portugal and with Luisa it had been even longer! We had a cheese fondue and grilled some beef that we ate until everybody was full to the top. Drinking beer and rum we stayed

Christmas, we have spent much more quietly in a small family circle. The following days we visited aunts and uncles, grandma and grandpa. I wanted to pay a visit to all of them before before heading back to the boat again. I visited a lot of friends, went for walks and even managed to get on my bike twice!

New Year’s Eve was celebrated with good home-cooked, multi-course meal and wine at Lara’s home. Like that an old tradition continued. We ate until midnight, then went off to the lake and partied in our small group afterwards!

I felt like never having left for a long time. – And that was incredibly beautiful!

Suddenly the day of departure came closer and I had to prepare for my trip back to Panama.

For a long time I had been struggling with my broken dinghy. A falling off bottom, leaking hoses and leaking valves. One repair followed the other. And it got worse and worse.

At the same time, however, it became increasingly difficult to find a reasonable replacement. In Panama I tried every possibility.  But a small, completely inflatable dinghy, which should then also be somewhat robust, was nowhere to be found. My research even went so far that I considered ordering in the USA and having it shipped to Panama. Just the cheapest shipping itself, in a maritime container, would have cost me 360$!

Do you remember the first repairs on Grenada?!

Fortunately, at some point in my search I came across a Yamaha dealer in Türkenfeld (10 minutes away from Ammersee). Although the thought of buying one in Germany felt absurd in the beginning, I sent a request to Mr. Epp.

Ireceived feedback already the next day, saying that my desired dingy was in stock, including a transport bag. Further I realized, that even the extra cost of excess weight on the plane was cheaper than the postage, it was somehow clear that I would probably drag a dinghy around with me on my return trip to the boat.

Mr. Epp from Sport Federer not only sells all kinds of dinghies and SUPs, but also specialized in repairing them in his workshop in Türkenfeld! Good to know that you don’t have to throw away your leaking SUP right away, but can have it professionally repaired just around the corner.

In the end, the transport was not too difficult. From the airport in Costa Rica I took a cab to the hostel in San Jose and then took a bus back to the border with Panama. Only on the bridge inbetween the border patrol stations, I had to carry the 28 kg dinghy plus 11 kg hand luggage plus small backpack for the first time.

Way more challenging has been the theoretical border crossing. During the preparations, I forgot that you have to present an outgoing ticket when entering Panama by land. But since I wanted to continue with my boat, I did not have this of course.

It took me over an hour to convince the immigration officers and later their supervisor in broken Spanish. They checked all my boat papers for the smallest detail and for the first time ever I was even asked for my captain’s license. Even though I only carry a sport boat license, I pretended to have a proper Captains license and luckily got my entry stamp in the end.

Back at the boat, unfortunately, I found what I already had expected. WASA stood alone and unventilated for almost three weeks in tropical, warm and humid conditions. Although I had set up dehumidifiers in the boat before leaving, they were probably full after just a few days. As a result, a distinct musty smell had spread through the boat and in some places, I found beginnings of mold. Three machines of washing and two long days of cleaning later, everything was finally clean again.

At the same time I had it still well met. My neighbors haven’t been on the boat for a month. When they returned, they found everything, but really everything, overgrown with mold. Even the spice dumplings in the kitchen were covered with a white fur.

After 28 hours of sailing, I arrived in Shelter Bay Marina yesterdays afternoon, the last Port before the Panama Canal. Here I will take care of all the papers for the transit to the Pacific side in the next few days and get an appointment as soon as possible.

Early in the morning, after a hearty breakfast, I began to finally prepare myself and the boat for the 145 nautical mile trip east. I cooked a lentil-bean-vegetable stew for two days, prepared rain gear and life jacket and stowed the dinghy on deck. Everything was ready for my second solo passage! With only an hour’s delay, the last meters of chain disappeared into the anchor locker and I set sails.

The wind remained weak until the evening. Only near thunderstorms I caught enough wind to sail. Otherwise I used the engine as a support and made it to full 6 knots of speed over ground thanks to the strong current.  Only the waves came against, which didn’t really provide ultimate comfort.

As the sun began to set, I prevented further seasickness with a pill and then began to adjust to my night sleep rhythm: After every 15 minutes of sleep, the alarm woke me up to check the wind, course and surroundings. When I felt everything was „okay“, I started the timer again and tried to fall asleep as quick as possible.

The wind was slowly picking up and from midnight it blew almost constantly with wind force four. I tied a reef in the mainsail and temporarily furled in the genoa a bit. Like that, WASA was perfectly trimmed and I did not have to worry even during gusts or thunderstorms. I only had to hide from the rain.

The dive mask made it possible to see something during heavy rain

48 wake ups later, the night was done! Around noon, I reached the anchorage off Colon where the large container ships wait for their permission to enter the Panama Canal and port and further two hours later I was already tied up safely in Shelter Bay Marina and tidying my lines.

Thanks taking your time, reading my article!

It is the first one I have compleately translated to english. So please forgive me any misspelling or grammatical issues. Instead, I am very curious about your feedback! Let me know if it was interesting, easy to read or if it has been totally boring.

You can easily write me a message HERE.