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The Two Captains


December 23, 2000

Still at Green Island, San Blas Panama

'Tis the night before the night before Christmas, and all through the anchorage, the cruisers are doing what they can to bring Christmas alive in the San Blas. Aboard TII, we have our 3' Christmas tree - that arrived in the nick (heh-heh, catch that?) of time courtesy of the efforts of Cousin Patty and Diane and Alex - lashed to the mast in the salon and bedecked with lights and ornaments. In the cockpit we have white "lucicitos" draped around the new hardtop, and the Santa windsock jingles in the wind that has finally gone light. In the evenings one of our fellow cruisers, the only one with a stash of Christmas CDs, is broadcasting Christmas selections over the obscure VHF channel our group stands by on every twenty minutes or so when her thumb recovers from holding the microphone open. As the broadcast of music over marine frequencies is grossly illegal, she shall remain nameless, but it has probably done more to create the mood than any other

Meanwhile, the galley lockers have been ransacked for foodstuffs of a holiday nature, recipes and pans have been swapped, and tomorrow and the next day the ambient temperature of the anchorage will surely rise a few degrees as all the ovens on all the boats are pressed into service. Our social schedule is busy. Tomorrow afternoon there will be hors d'oeuvres and wassailing on Wasalidup island (no kidding!), a tiny circle of sand so crammed with coconut palms that they lean out over the water. Christmas Eve supper will be at home. We plan to excavate a couple of filet mignons from the depths of the freezer in an attempt to simulate my family's traditional dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding! Christmas Day dinner for us will be aboard Sandi Lee with Mac and Sam and cruising partners George and Sue of Suething. There will also be a big group aboard Sunbow, a large catamaran. After the main meal at midday, the plan is to cool off with a Christmas noodle before tucking into an array of desserts. It's a frightening thought, but it appears that I have been assigned pies. The fact that I may never have made a pie from scratch (who ever needed to with Patty nearby?) evidently matters less than the fact that I have a real pumpkin on board, acquired from a passing Kuna several days ago!

You may be wondering what has kept us busy in the two weeks since the last update. Well, we have gone absolutely nowhere. The anchor is probably halfway to China. The weather kept us put for the first week - with overcast skies and piping 20-25 knot winds. Great for the wind generator, but a little much for "outdoor" activities; noodling would have required harnesses! So we applied ourselves to interior endeavors, like accounting, inventory, email, research on our next leg and a few actual boat projects.

By Friday the 15th the sun finally came back to the San Blas and by Sunday the 17th, the wind had eased enough to make feasible a scuba certification course off Green Island's beach. I am sure I have never taught in a more picturesque spot! I had two students, Mac from Sandi Lee, who had been waiting patiently since I certified Tiffany back in Bonaire, and Corinna, a charming young German adventurer currently hitchhiking as crew aboard a power boat heading East. I always forget how much work a full certification course is, but it was a luxury for me to have tons of time and two very motivated, paying students. As Don would say, "Positive cash flow, what a concept!" Spicing up our confined water training was a sighting two islands over of a crocodile in the lagoon! They're supposed to be up the rivers, not offshore! So you can imagine, as every submerged palm frond emerged into view the shiver that coursed down our collective spines. In spite of such distractions, we all came through, with flying colors I might add.

Ever in charge of support services, Don generated a little cash flow of his own keeping the compressor humming all week not just with instructional tanks but with fills for all our neighbors. He also found time to take these neighbors diving (is that called generating your own business?), some of whom had gotten their gear wet in months or years! In reward for his labors, he finally succeeded in making Godwin's snare work for him bringing home a huge 6-7 lb. lobster!

So, you see we have had a very busy two weeks here in Green Island. It's how you imagine cruising, having the time to hang out in one place or another for more than a few days. We've been here so long, the Kunas know us by name! 'Course there's an advantage in that, the mola salespeople just wave and pass by! However, itchy feet are starting to return, so after Christmas we will begin moving westb again. There's a reunion of the Cartagena 2000 group planned for New Year's up in the Eastern Hollandes Cays, after which we begin steadily working our way to Colon, where the Canal transit begins with a long trail of paperwork.

Speaking of the New Year and of the Canal, it looks like our plans may have changed a bit. Oh, yes, we are going through. But once out the other side, we have all but decided to defer our Pacific crossing and hang a left instead, heading north up the Pacific Coast of Central America and Mexico to the Sea of Cortez. This variation was hatched during our enforced
confinement, when the cruiser's weather forecaster Divid ones passed on hurricane guru Gray's prediction of a mild hurricane season for the Caribbean thanks to a forecast "mild to moderate" El Niño. This news isfine for our buddies back home in the VI, but for Pacific passage-makers an El Niño can turn the famous Coconut Milk Run into an infamous Coconut Milk Shake. The first word of the possible El Niño set us to researching alternatives. Many of our newest best friends here in the San Blas have just come down the coast from Mexico and have nothing but wonderful things to say about the cruising, fishing and diving there. Of course, no sooner than we all-but-decide, than we hear counter predictions of a La Niña! Evidently, there is some uncertainty. When we realized, however, we were both disappointed to not HAVE to go north, the great reality of cruising finally dawned on us. We can go wherever we want, whenever we want, for however long we want. Flexibility is not a flaw; it's a virtue!

Right this minute we are flexing toward going to the Sea of Cortez. Other than all it's own inherent attractions - great diving, great fishing, and did I mention Mexican food? - it also keeps us a bit closer to the US for fitting in visits to and from family. Our friends (and former crew) Judy and Bryan are planning a wedding (!) in Michigan in late summer which we'd like not to miss, although if we do because we are in the Pacific they are liable to honeymoon with us!

So you see, just because email is quiet doesn't mean we're sitting around vegetating. Actually we keep waiting for those days to come!

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas to all and have a great holiday week!

Love, The Two Captains


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