Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nobody said there would be an essay!

I'm pretty sure the travel brochure never mentioned anything about a compulsory essay (blog entry) for a visiting guest to Astarte... But here goes...My name is Tom Babich and I am from Portland, Oregon. I have known Barbara and Mike for half my life. We were all are in the TV business in Portland. But more importantly we have sailed together for many years on each of our various boats. I have had five boats, Mike wins having had seven. We have stood up for each other at our weddings... and I have always considered him a "brother from another mother".... thus the sibling rivalry. Barbara always knows when MH and I are together the mental age level of any conversation falls to that of eight year old boys.
Following their adventures via email and Skype I thought I had better come see my friends in Bocas del Toro before the head into the Big Salt Chuck (That's a Pacific Northwest term for the Pacific). So here I am in Bocas del Toro, a Temperate Zone Boy (TZB),sweating away and feeding the local bug population with fresh blood. I made it here traveling through Costa Rica with "mi esposa en la bolsa*" Actually, a new cruising spinnaker Mike had made in Hong Kong and shipped to me that I carried in the largest duffel bag known to man. The joke works better when you know I had just gotten divorced... (insert comment here). (*translation: "my wife in the bag")
Anyway, I make it to Bocas with the whole family to meet with Barb to help her get Astarte back into shape after two months of being closed up. While we were provisioning for the week in Bocas "the bringer of rain" appeared once again. Back story... Being from Oregon whenever I visited M&B in Florida it always seemed to rain. Including the "Super Squall '93" event in the Dry Tortugas. After weeks of dry weather in Bocas I show up and the town is hit by "Super Squall 2011"... tons of wind and rain lasting over an hour, streets flowing with rivers, roof tiles falling, small children flying through the air, me and a new non English speaking friend pressed against a building in the only cover we could find. Welcome to Panama.
After a wet ride to the boat Barb and I set about getting Astarte in shape and me back on a boat... long story. Boat bites... those smacks, cracks and shin barkers that we all get when in the locale of any sailing vessel, usually followed by the #@%$$ that your dad taught you. Mr Mikey showed up Sept 9 glad to be back from being on the road. As the days followed I was fortunate enough to meet some very nice, warm and friendly Bocas folks. A great pig roast at Red Frog Beach, or wonderful pizzas at Rana Azul (dancing the swing with Janice and BS-ing with Bill, meeting the owner,Joseph), a death march photo op for frogs in the Finca, swimming at delightful Cindy's in the "dark lands". Now I see why people live here... maybe me someday... if I ever get used to the heat (TZB).I have done the Kuna Yalas (1998) and will always put them Number One but this is a close second.
To me this area is like Barkley Sound but with heat and not many beaches and no salmon.
One thing that is fun for me was watching M&B work together on Astarte. Like I said I have had a few boats and few partners... these two have it together.
Sometime the "Battling Bickersons" but never for very long... I think that's the key to living in such a small space for any length of time. They are each an individual and a part of a team. As any visitor will soon find out the treasure that come from the Galley are amazing. Barb has known me for so long that she knows I will eat a can of cold beans and call it supper.... but not on her boat. I have not eaten so well in many years... truly amazing.
As this week wanes on I am due to fly out this Saturday back to CR and then the next day to PDX. I will miss my good friends and their good ship Astarte but I will know the crew and boat will do just fine in the Big Salt Chuck. For me I will also miss the comfort of the V -berth (I'm 6'3 and 220 lbs, I am the V-berth) and feeding the local bug population. But more importantly, I am taking away with me much more than just photos, memories and an adventure. For the past 14 months I have been re-discovering myself... looking for Tommy 2.0. These past two weeks being here with my true best friends, being back on a boat again, all this has been good. Thanks Barb and Mike, Astarte, Mario and Caspar (the pet geckos).


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