Friday, November 4, 2011

Independence Days

There are lots of holidays in Panama. And most have to do with Independence. Many are in November. There is Independence Day, Independence from Spain, Independence from Colombia, and Colon Independence. There is also Flag Day (today) and in honor of today we will hoist a new Panamanian flag. If you have an old, faded or torn flag you can be fined $50. So we bought a new one as our old one has a few wind-torn areas.

There are eight holidays this month (including Day of the Dead, all the Independce Days, Flag Day and then various days celebrating specific cities including Bocas del Toro) and the rules change with the various days. Some are considered BIG holidays and others are smaller one. That means various shops are or are not open, the government offices charge overtime (an issue for us when trying to clear in and out of areas), and on some days you can't buy alcohol. The noise level also changes depending on the various holidays – some have parades in town, lots of boat traffic and partiers. Other days are more normal. We have heard the local Bocas drum lines practicing nightly – probably getting ready for some parade or other.

Yesterday (Thursday), we decided to test our new Hong Kong sail that Tom brought us from the states. It is a large asymmetrical drifter – a very large, light air, downwind headsail. We bought this sail anticipating our Pacific crossing with light winds coming from our stern. This sail comes in a large "sock" so it looks like 50 foot blue sausage when hung before being deployed. The winds yesterday were light and the perfect conditions to test her out. So we motored to Bahia Almirante where we would have some room to maneuver (without reefs) and put her to the test. And we failed. Michael got it rigged okay and it actually deployed pretty well (though the sock didn't seem to want to go all the way up). But when it came time to "snuff" it – which means pulling the sock back down over the open sail, it would only go about half way and then jam. We tried several times and then when Michael was totally worn out we headed back to Bocas.

We took the large blue sausage ashore and borrowed a lage piece of grass to unfold and repack the sail in its sock thinking that some of the lines probably got twisted inside. It looks like there was a fair amount of twists – so we repacked and will hopefully test again over the next few days. This big sail will take some pratice but we hope it will serve us well. The time we had it up yesterday, with the wind blowing only about five knots, we were going about 4.3 knots. So it does work well and pulls our boat nicely.

We're back in the BocasTown area after our bat cave adventure on Bastiamentos. By the way, the scary looking bugs we saw in the cave (photos on the photo album) are a Tailless Whip Scorpion and a large cricket. The scorpion was one large and very scary looking insect...especially in a subterranian environment!

Our boat documentation papers and a few small items arrived yesterday with Doug from "Yellow Shoes" so we'll collect those today and invite the courrier and his wife to dinner aboard as our thank you. Otherwise, it a bit of provisioning and then getting ready to head south next week.

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