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The Two Captains


Latitude: 09-00.90N
Longitude: 079-36.50W

February 7, 2001
Pedro Miguel Boat Club - Panama Canal

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida at 26*02'N; 80*09'W is almost 900 miles DUE NORTH(!) of where Tackless II sits at Pedro Miguel Boat Club. Indeed it is a few miles to the WEST of due North! It is incredible to me that we have sailed all these miles and all these months and we are actually closer to Florida than we were in the Virgins!

On January 26, I flew from Panama City to Miami bound for that great mariner's mecca Ft. Lauderdale with a shopping list that took up a dozen pages in my little book. Coming "home" to the States may sound like a piece-of-cake jaunt to most folks, but you have to remember..I haven't driven a car in over two years, and that was in the Virgins, in a Suzuki on the left side of the road with a maxiumum speed limit of 30mph. I was a little stressed. Especially when I realized I'd be on the road in rush hour with sunset coming on fast.

Good news. Everything went smoothly: the flight, the car rental (my new Spanish was very helpful at the counter in Miami!), and even the drive north. Rush hour traffic doesn't move as fast, and sunset came later than I thought. My only glitch was missing the turn for 595 East in Ft. Lauderdale to find myself barreling due west into the burbs! When I finally was able to get off, I was in Plantation...which, believe it or not, was more good news.

The truth is there was a second reason for my trip North. A few weeks before I'd received a chatty little email from my good buddy Mike asking me to reroute his "Two Captains Updates" from the email address aboard the megayacht he works on (at the time in Micronesia) to his brother's address in Florida. It seems Mike was nearly done in by a virus that attacked his heart! He was med-evac'ed out Christmas Eve on an air ambulance, with not much hope of his survival! Indeed he was on the heart transplant list as he arrived in Miami! However, Mike is obstinate about these sorts of things, and he has surprised his medical team with a determined recovery so far avoiding any invasive solutions! Currently he is in the midst of rehab, staying at his brother's ....in Plantation, Florida.

The truth is, Mike looks better than I can remember seeing him in years! The rigors and privations of even just one month of rehab -- aerobic exercise, no Buds, no Camels, and a heart healthy diet including LOTS of vegetables (!) -- have worked wonders (although he is quite rueful that his "downfall" did not have a thing to do with the habits he has now had to change!) He was also quite bored, so my arrival, shopping list in hand, gave him the opportunity to do something he's very good at...track down boat parts! However, he not only knocked the snot out of my copious list, but, as I struggled to keep up his pace, he sparked a resolve on my part to get my own health act in gear. Who'd ever have thought it! Taking most meals with Mike inspired a healthy diet, while staying at Waterfront Inns on the Ft. Lauderdale beachfront and week of perfect weather enabled a daily walking regime.

I must admit it was not ALL work and no play. We worked in dinner with Mike brother's family, brunch with Mike's Mom, and several other meals with mutual old friends. I even had sushi with Bob and Kathy of Briana, fellow cruiser from Panama, whom I bumped into in the aisles of West Marine! A cruiser's world is a small one. I can't say enough about the terrific attitude of everyone we encountered in Ft. Lauderdale's marine businesses. With one exception (Boat US), everybody went out of their way to help us find what we needed. After the manana attitude of the Caribbean, the good sevice left me in pleasant shock. And we got everything, I mean everything on our wish list! I flew back to Panama late Friday arriving after midnight with my three huge bags packed to overweight, and the week's good vibes carried through to Panama as I got an airy wave through customs. Bless the Gods that watch over us traveling sailors!

"Back at the ranch," Don had had a productive week. His social highlight was the Pigskin Pig Roast organized to celebrated Superbowl Sunday, where he didn't have to bring a dish; to the other potluck dinners he confessed to bringing a tube a Pringles. He is glad to have me home to raise his social reputation. Meanwhile he has gone into overdrive with all the new things I brought him, and suddenly we are making great strides on our project list. Many small parts he just installed instead of storing them! For example, our wine locker finally has a latch! Today, we airlifted the nefarious Minus 40 freezer (via a halyard and guyline) up, out and off the boat, and it, the replacement parts and a faxed sheet of instructions from the manufacturer are in the hands of Paulo, a local refrigeration man. Incredible as it may seem, there are no specialists in marine refrigeration around here! However, we are encourged by the questions he asked. Cross your fingers. Up at the bow, our anchor davit is being extended by Ali, evidently a master welder and engineer, despite being camouflaged in the person of a slight, squeaking, long-haired (I mean looooooong-haired) German hippie, who, I kid you not, lives in a VW microbus! Back at the stern, Capt. Don is doing some engineering of his own, designing a mounting system for the tillerpilot I brought back to drive our Aries windvane (when the wind doesn't coorperate.)

And so it goes, the life of the cruiser. We hope to move on in a couple of weeks.


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