Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Escaping Panama City, Las Perlas Islands and Life on Land

Current Location: Venice, Florida (Molly, Mickey and J.P.);  Isla Mujeres, Mexico (Ben, Pierrre and Andrew) en route to Key West.

As I write this, two months have passed since we were able to extricate ourselves from Panama City and it’s sticky, intricate web of discontent.  It was a place from first landfall that challenged our philosophy of positive thinking and the ability to see the best in our fellow man.  As corny as it sounds, the Doolittles usually attempt to find the positive in every place and culture we visit, but our experiences and encounters in Panama City seemed to challenge our intent to execute this every day.

As a testament to it’s stronghold and altering affects on us, the usually easy-going, genial, fun-loving Captain Ben transformed into an irate, frustrated complainer.  I spent many afternoons listening to him spew his disdain, all the while wondering if the that bulging vein in his forehead would actually burst this time.  My duty as a devoted wife and first mate was to inform him quite frankly, “You are turning into an angry, bitter man…we need to get you the hell out of here!!!”   

Don’t get me wrong, I morphed into a ranting, lunatic whiner as well, which deeply disturbed me!  Just ask any store employee, cab driver or crew member aboard Knee Deep.

Crooked immigration agents charging bogus agricultural inspection fees, bullying cab drivers and the general rudeness/unhelpfulness of Panama City’s inhabitants indicated it was time to escape before our optimistic philosophy of our fellow man became irreversibly altered.  In short, we needed to bolt, before we permanently crossed over to the Dark Side.

As we waited to transit the Canal, we attempted to spend as little time in Panama City as possible.  Fortunately, only a day sail away were the lovely Las Perlas Islands.  There we swam in the cool, blue waters and discovered, not surprisingly, that island life suited us much better.   After provisioning and running errands in the big city (a.k.a. Gotham city), we would sail out to the Perlas.  The moment we tossed the anchor overboard, I felt my blood pressure drop and my body relax.

Here is where I am inserting an editorial apology.  Unfortunately, our old computer died due to the humidity of the tropics which is extremely hard on electronics…just ask my IPhone that decided to burst open one day. I am currently attempting to figure out how to download all of our files to our new laptop.  This has put a damper on completing my blog entry regarding the San Blas (see a tidbit from Ben in previous blog entry), which will have to wait for a later date.

The first part of this blog was entitled "Fantasy Island", but it has disappeared into cyberspace and I hope to find it soon.  Also, our pictures of the Las Perlas Islands have gone missing, so here are some repeats from Mickey and J.P.'s blog.  Hopefully a little random narrative regarding our Pacific Island stay will suffice for now.


(After visiting the main island of Isla Contadora, we ventured the 3 miles to more remote and deserted islands.....) Here is where the story continues:
................Then our island adventure continued over at Isla Mogo Mogo which all agreed we must visit for the mere fact that we loved saying it. The dialogue on the sail over went something like this:
Molly:  “Hey, Mickey! Where are we going?”
Mickey (in a deep guttural, native voice): “MOGO MOGO!!!”
I found it rolling off my tongue often and murmured to myself repeatedly, “Mogo Mogo” until the boys  told me it was getting old, which pleased me to no end. 

“Ah, Young Grasshopper….the Annoyee has become the Annoyer!!!”.  Point scored for the House Mother on the Floating Frat House!!
As always in true sailor form, Ben unattached us from the mooring ball without starting the engine and sailed out of the anchorage.  He just can’t help himself….why turn on the motor when you can use the wind??! I have grown accustomed to this over the years and have adapted to sailing into and out of anchorages…..“just for fun!”
The boys and I were down below and realized after a few minutes that we were underway.  In less than 45 minutes we were approaching our destination.   As a reminder, we had been traveling at an extremely quick pace to reach Panama City for Christmas. Our sails were long days or multiple overnight hops, which usually involved beating to weather, battling currents and hours of motoring.  As a result, we were unaccustomed to such a short, uneventful sail which only increased our enthusiasm for Isla Mogo Mogo.
We were tickled to discover a beautiful anchorage between two Islands with clear, blue water and sandy beaches, one of which contained a tree swing.  So the anchor was set and we cheered our good fortune.  In addition to the name, it was exciting to discover from the guidebook, that Mogo Mogo was the place where a season of Survivor was filmed.  So off we went in search of any remnants of American pop culture laying under the Panamanian sand.  What would we find; Immunity Idols? Hammocks? Torches? Survivor handkerchiefs worn as tube tops by those skinny, starving, emaciated tribal women? 
As we searched I chuckled at the thought of the Doolittles participating in the Survivor game.  Ben would certainly starve to death within a few days, leaving me to be voted off first, due to my sheer inability to withstand the heat.  Next to go would be Mickey who would extinguish his torch voluntarily to scurry off to an air-conditioned hotel room to catch up on his sporting events.  Thus, not surprisingly, J.P. would be the million dollar winner by using his cunning and charisma.
Unfortunately, no Survivor paraphernalia was found, but there were some pretty lavender shells spread all over the beach.  We had an enormous bonfire with some other boats and were content knowing that nobody would be voted off this island. 
We spent our days swimming, snorkeling and exploring the area, happy to do homeschooling and work in another amazing place.  Recess and coffee breaks were spent jumping overboard or floating in the inflatable boat behind Knee Deep.  Mickey also blew off some steam terrorizing the anchorage in the dinghy attempting go fast enough to plane out of the water.


Getting into the swing of winter making a sand snowman on Isla Contadora!

As for present time, they boys and I have been enjoying a month long stay with our friends Deena and Rick (s/v Talaria) in Venice, Florida.  They generously opened their home to us and we have thoroughly enjoyed our stay, while catching up with our friends Maureen and Dick (from s/v Blue). This sounds benign enough, however, putting several sailors together, who have traveled 10K miles, in a home with a pool and beer refrigerator is A LOT of revelry waiting to happen.  We all enjoyed cooking, baking and drinking much to the neighbors confusion and dismay.  Apparently, the recycling bin was quite the spectacle each week!!

The boys and I are grateful for our land time and appreciate having the break! We are now ready to hop back aboard Knee Deep and make our way up the Eastern seaboard where we are planning on selling the boat this summer. It seems impossible that we have been sailing for almost two years and our travels are coming to an end.  I am both excited and saddened about this fact.
And now another edition of the.....FLOATING FRAT HOUSE FOLLIES:
Knee Deep crew and many of our cruising friends often frequented a mini-mart (the “Shopette" in Panama City) near our anchorage to use the WiFi.  On this particular crowded day, Molly sets up the laptop and steps inside the store leaving J.P. and Mickey outside to keep an eye on the computer.  There is a children’s festival taking place in the parking lot adjacent to the store.    Molly notices a man dressed as a clown in the store, complete with face paint and large red shoes. He exits before her.
Molly returns to her table outside the store where J.P. is awaiting her arrival.  A brief conversation takes place:
J.P.  (sounding more like a 30 year old than an 8 year old):  Did you leave anything here except your computer?”
Molly: No.
J.P.:  Ok, good! Cuz the clown sat down right here next to me.  I wanted to make sure he didn’t steal anything.
Molly: Oh?!
J.P. (now giggling): Yeah…he was drinking a beer! A clown, drinking a beer, that’s so funny!!
Molly:  Yep, that’s funny   (not sure that a grown man dressed as a clown, drinking a beer at a children’s festival is at all funny).
J.P. :  Yep, sometimes you just gotta be yourself!!!
And there you have it...from the mouths of babes.....Be Yourself Everybody!!!

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