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The Two Captains


December 30, 2000

Eastern Holandes Cays, aka "The Swimming Pool"
Sas Blas, Panama

I don't know if it's because we watched the video "Waterworld" the other day, but I am beginning to feel like we are on a whole different planet. After a summer with maybe five or six days of rain, it is really mind-boggling to go day after day with gray skies, wind and regular precipitation. Thank God, none of our family visitors squandered their hard-earned dollars to visit during this. Last night and today that precipitation escalated to utter downpours accompanied by driving winds and thunder and lightning. We really haven't seen anything like this since we hid out in Mary's Creek, St. John as Hurricane Hortense passed south of the Virgins in September 1996.

The amazing thing is that despite the weather, despite Don having a cold, we actually changed anchorages yesterday. Three weeks of being hooked to one spot was starting to get to us, not to mention the fact that where we had once been the only boat, there were now eighteen. So about mid-morning, as the sky and winds seemed to lighten, we picked the hook up and motored out to the Holandes Cays. We've been aiming to get to the Holandes since Diane and Alex's visit. Miraculously, we had a fairly easy trip out and got the hook down just before lunch, even as the sky to the north began to blacken yet again.

"The Swimming Pool" is a nickname given to an anchorage here which features clear shallow water over bright sand lying behind nothing but a long barrier reef, on which there is supposed to be great snorkeling and spearfishing. Our friends tell us, however, that before someone gave it its nickname, few boats anchored here. In the olden days, boats looked to anchorages to provide shelter, but in this age of wind generators amp-hungry cruisers are much less likely to hide themselves in the lee of an island. There is no lee here.

So far, we are not overly impressed, but then we are hardly seeing it at its best. Indeed, we are hardly seeing it at all. If the GPS didn't confirm we were here, you could wonder, as walls of water blow by. With no sun, there is no hint of the turquoise the water would be on a nice day, although the waves crashing on the outer reef are pretty impressive. There are probably thirty boats here, most squeezed in to the shallow area. We didn't care to squeeze in, so, unafraid as we are to anchor deep, we dropped the hook in a 50-foot trench and put out 210 feet of chain. We have been fairly grateful for all that chain as the boat has ridden the 30-knot winds quite steadily. We have also been truly grateful for the hard top and the enclosure. Most folks are confined below-decks in this kind of stuff.

Our truly nasty weather appears to be connected to the huge cold front that has pushed south of the US, where, we gather, the holiday weather has been none too charming in its own right. The weather fax this morning, the first we have troubled to get in a long time, shows two deep gale centers off Florida, with tight isobars suggesting lots of wind for friends in Florida. The frontal boundary stretches west all the way down to Guatemala, and it appears to be drawing Pacific moisture across the Panamanian isthmus. Amazingly, we had a crystal clear chat with Judy and Bryan up in the VI this morning where they are preparing to spend a romantic New Year's Eve without charter guests up at Anegada. The weather report there (east of the front) was clear and sunny with light winds. Grrrrrrr.

The reason we bothered to come to the Swimming Pool is that there is supposed to be a potluck party on "Potluck Island" here New Years Day for the Class of 2000 survivors of the Colombian coast. We may all have survived the Colombian Coast, but that trip is starting to look like a walk in the park compared to the effort it would take folks to get here!

Christmas, by the way, was quite nice. The "Wassail" party on Wasalidup was the highlight for us. One friend built a table from logs and sand, another decorated the table and nearby trees with a Christmas motif, and about 15 boat crews -- including Germans, Swiss and Israelis! -- showed up with goodies, including a batch of eggnog. We were having such a nice time that, as the evening descended, we were almost caught out forgetting we'd have no lights to resort to! Don and I enjoyed Christmas dinner with Sam and Mac aboard Sandi Lee along with George and Sue of SueThing. We had a very nice meal and were glad not to be coping with the crowd of 18 aboard the nearby catamaran, although they surely had more turkey! After letting the midday meal settle we moved to Tackless in time to turn on our Christmas lights and the Nutcracker Suite over dessert.

By the way, my all-day pie-project was dubbed a success. However, I was reminded why I don't like to be assigned desserts…. all that work, but nobody really wants it! My voyage into new culinary terrain reaped an unexpected benefit last night as I pulled out from the freezer the second half of the pie crust with which I whipped up a chicken pot pie, comfort food for my honey who spent the afternoon in bed with his cold. Furthermore, my misadventures in the galley really paled next to tales we heard of Corinna, my young German dive student, who valiantly struggled with a 25lb turkey with no tradition to guide her. She had no pan in which it would fit and tried to fashion one from aluminum foil, which, needless to say, sent turkey drippings everywhere, which she threw out leaving her gravy-less!

So, here we sit, listening to the chatter on the VHF, watching the boats turn round and round, monitoring the wind speeds and scurrying the computers back and forth to the oven when the thunder comes too close. Just another one of those days in Paradise you all envy so much.

Happy New Year to all!


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