I'd been asked why I never mentioned here that I was going back to Panama to go sailing (as evidenced by this post and this one). My answer was that I'd mostly already told everyone about it in person, so I guess I didn't really feel the need. But now that I'm back home I can expand on things a bit more.
Those of you who first heard about this in person know that the original plan was to go back to Bocas del Toro to meet up with friends and sail from there to Columbia. It was an opportunity too good to pass up. Most of you also know by now that Columbia didn't happen. One thing after another piled up and it just became kind of an impossibility. Regardless, the two and a half weeks I spent on the boat were pretty awesome. Here, now, are some more pics and more details...
What was it like living on a boat? Pretty laid back, actually. The three of us tended to wake up early-ish, do some kind of activity - swimming, exercise, a light hike, surfing (I don't surf, but I can take surf pics!), snorkeling, diving - and then retreat back to the boat for naps/reading/dominoes. We'd collaborate on dinner, play more dominoes, and then go to bed early-ish.
Speaking of food on the boat: Damn, we ate good! We caught fish and lobster so we had fish tacos and Creole lobster Alfredo. Chorizo jambalaya, blackened chicken sandwiches, veggie stir fry, and stuffed pumpkin were just some of the dishes we had. Although I like to cook, I only cooked a couple of times because Matt (the captain) really likes to cook too and the captain always gets what he wants!
So what was my job on the boat, then? I'm not a sailor, have never sailed a day in my life, actually. Primarily I was the dishwasher, but I was also the general tidier and picker-upper. My most important job, however, was Chief Rum Drink Maker. Apparently, I'm good at it. :) Also, the last day on the boat before we docked it at the marina and headed back to the States was major work-on-the-boat day. All of the interior wood needed to be oiled, the bathroom and refrigerator needed to be cleaned, the floors had to be wiped down, laundry had to be done, water tanks had to be filled, and surf boards and other toys needed to be brought below deck. I didn't do ALL of that work, but I definitely did my fair share - it was my last chance to prove myself useful!
And how was it to be in such tight quarters with two boys? Not too bad, although I did tell them that never in my life have I been around so much spitting, burping, or farting haha. We teased the hell out of each other and basically never stopped giving someone a hard time. But really, we all got along and did our part to be useful when we needed to be and stay out of each other's way when that was needed more. I had to smile the night that all three of us were working in the tiny galley kitchen at the same time. Matt was chopping on one end, I was chopping in the middle, and Austin was stirring at the stove. Aw! How family-like and homey! :)
Didn't anything exciting happen? Hmmm, no, I suppose not by traditional definitions. I didn't bungee jump or see any famous monuments or experience a major "first." I saw a big-ass spotted manta ray while snorkeling one day and an up close pod of dolphins swimming alongside the boat (I've never seen them that close before), both of those things were pretty cool, but not exciting per se. No, it was just a time to relax and get away from it all.
Speaking of getting away from it all...the farthest we ever got was this general area. But make no mistake - we were definitely in the middle of nowhere. We were the only white people we saw for days and, with few exceptions, no one spoke any English. We were such an oddity, too. The locals would paddle out in their cayucos and just kind of watch us/look at the boat from a distance. Some of the braver ones would venture closer and initiate conversation. (One super brave kid named Wilbur actually climbed on the boat when we were below deck. I had to go up and tell him he wasn't allowed to do that!) The kids loved to run errands for us - when we tired of chatting, we'd send them off to get coconuts or oranges for us (we would pay them, of course). The adults would bring different kids over each day because everyone wanted a close look. Sometimes they'd try to sell us stuff we didn't need (homemade crafts and such) and sometimes they'd ask us for gifts. We were asked for books, cookies, sugar for coffee, clothing, water. No electricity in the village meant that they weren't used to cold water. They found it quite odd and always made a face when drinking it, but word soon got out and all of our visitors were asking for this strange drink.
I knew more Spanish than Matt and Austin, so I ended up being our translator. I admit that I surprised myself with just how much I knew. If we hadn't been in such a remote area, I don't know that I ever would have figured that out. Don't get me wrong, though - I definitely need a lot more practice!
So that's about it, my grand sailing to Columbia adventure that never was! I think the guys will make another attempt sometime early next year, but I don't know if I'll be included in those plans or not.
What's next for me? The job search is in full swing. Beyond a trip back east for the holidays, I have no major travel plans. But you all know me - more travel is absolutely in my future!