What is next for the Blacksmith’s? Will they continue their high seas adventure? Will they rot away at the cruiser’s ghetto of Las Brisas De Amador? Will they brave 3000 miles on buses in an attempt to get to LA? Will they work in an orphanage in Costa Rica? Will they sell their boat for nicks? Will they be home for Christmas?
These are some of the options we have been throwing around. Our dream of sailing across the Pacific is dead. We don’t have enough cash to stay in Panama and mount a new attempt at the start of the “ season” in March 2012.
The place we are anchored has no power, no shower and no water; it seems that the guy who owns it hasn’t paid his taxes so everything has been cut off. There are daily squalls which have boats dragging their anchors all over the place.
A couple of days ago we watched in horror as a three story ferry came very very close to us. We have no engine so there was no way we could get out of the way. Nail biting. The “ Chicken’s Arses” as the squalls are called here, can come from any direction and usually blow 40 knots for about 20 minutes. Admittedly not long, but like all the other sailors we are out on deck watching carefully for any sign of trouble. And, raw sewage floats past us most mornings.
To be honest we’ve had a guts full.
On our way back to Panama we formulated a plan; we would fix the engine, sell the boat and head home.
But things changed. As things, always do.
We stumbled through our first day back, our eyes watering with tiredness. Immigration and Customs needed to be sorted, and with our adrenaline still giving us that horrible shaky feeling we walked along the causeway to Flamenco Marina. (This is the fancy pants marina, where I am sure Panamanian Drug Lords launder cash by buying multi million dollar super yachts).
Finally out the back, past the duty free shops emblazoned with advertisements showing white horses galloping along a beach, were three little rooms. Inside the middle one were five government agencies jostling for space and, wait for it …….a TV playing 80s music videos! Bitchin or what? Against the soundtrack of “That’s what friends are for” we handed over our passports.
It seems everything “costs” 20 bucks here. Immigration Stamp, 20 bucks, Customs Clearance, 20 bucks and a new one…. “Agricultural Tax,” you guessed it, 20 bucks. While Ross paid the backhanders Dash decided he had had enough and let out the most ear piecing scream known to human kind. Embarrassed we slipped into the nearest cafe ‘Dulce Idea’ and attempted to order coffee. After days at sea the air conditioning was a welcome relief and despite having put on my ‘good’ golden jandels and a sun bleached frock we looked like ragamuffins.
“Dos espresso per favor” I asked the lady behind the counter.
“Uh?” She stared at me blankly.
“Dos espresso per favor” I repeated as I pointed to the coffee machine. Still a blank stare. At this point my eyes were rimmed with red and my patience was at an all time low. Again I asked and pointed and, in desperation, mimed drinking a cup of coffee. Surely she just had to look at me to see how desperate I was for a coffee!
‘Oh dos espresso” she finally said and turned to make them.
“That is what I said” I muttered to myself under my breath.
In less shattered circumstances I use these interactions to practice my Spanish.
Ross and I sat looking at each other. “It’s okay darling we will sort something out. Let’s just get through today.” I said. He nodded and slugged the coffee down. Dashkin sat licking his ice cream, even in the air conditioned loveliness; it was melting faster than he could eat it. Soon he was covered in chocolate, the rust on the pushchair, a victim of many days and nights in the salt air and torrential rain, gave us an air of poverty that was not entirely without basis.
“Come on, let’s go and look at some tractors.” Ross said and we slowly hauled ourselves out of the chairs and into the ever present, energy sapping, blow torch like heat.
Even Dashkin, who is a tractor/ grader/ bulldozer aficionado was subdued.
The next day we braved The Mall.
And there, in Cyber Space cafe our luck changed.
“Okay darling I’ll see you in 20 minutes” I said to Ross.
“Yeah okay” he replied.
“Australian or New Zealand?” A grey haired women asked me as she looked up from her computer.
“New Zealand” I answered.
“Same, which part are you from?” she asked
“Oh the thriving metropolis of Palmerston North, but I lived in Wellington “ I quickly added trying to make myself seems cooler.
“I’m originally from Timaru, so I can’t talk- but I lived all over.” She said.
“Are you on holiday here? I asked
“We retired here 10 years ago”
She sounded so worldly; I knew Americans retired in Panama, but a Kiwi? Never!
“And you? Are you living here?” She asked.
I had been setting up my ancient computer and talking to her at the same time, now I sat myself down on an annoyingly high barstool chair and looked at her.
“No, no we don’t live here, we are on a boat.” And once I started I couldn’t stop. I blurted out our whole sorry tale to this poor unsuspecting stranger. I don’t know what I was expecting her to do; I just desperately needed to talk to someone about it.
“Thank God you are alive. I will let you get on and email your Mum.” She said quietly. I mean was else could she say?
I looked down at the keypad. “Oh my god, Ange, what were you thinking? This poor woman thinks you are nuts, why didn’t you just shut up and let her do her internetting, now you look like a total loser and have absolutely no dignity left.” I chastised myself as I tried to get the bloody computer to connect.
At this point Ross and Dash came back from walking around the Mall.
We tag team taking Dashkin for ‘walks’ while the other one checks their emails. With me he ends up in the Zara changing room while I try on fabulous outfits and he says things like, “ Nice undies Mama” in a loud voice. With Ross, it’s a long forgotten corner of the mega mall throwing a ball around.
Anyway Dash and I headed off while Ross had his turn online.
“See ya.” I called to the woman.
“Good luck love” she called back.
I did what anyone with a heavy heart and a restless toddler does. I brought some chocolate ice cream. We sat in a huge neon light food hall looking at happy shoppers as they stuffed their faces with chicken and rice. Central America rivals South American for chook consumption and I dread to think how many of my feathered friends are slaughtered each day.
Slowly we made our way back to the internet café and there was the woman talking earnestly to Ross.
“Hi again” I smiled, hoping she wouldn’t think I was a nut job.
“Hi, I have just been talking with your husband and I want you to know that if you want to come and stay for a few days while you get yourselves sorted, we would love to have you. I mean it. Truly” She said.
I looked at Ross whose eyes were filling with tears.
I looked at Dash who had spied the jelly bean machine and was about to start demanding them and then I looked at the extraordinarily kind woman.
This was no time for false modesty.
“ We would love to. Thank you. How do we get there?” I asked.
“How about we met you here tomorrow at 3pm and we can take you home. We live a little way out of town, we have lots of room and after all, you are kiwis..” She laughed.
“Okay!” I beamed “We’ll bring the Moet- we had hoped to drink when we crossed the line but this seems like a great time.” I explained.
“Great.” She handed over her card. Jan Williams (retired) it said. “Give me a call if anything changes”.
Any then, she was gone.
“What just happened Ange?” Ross asked.
“This is amazing, I am pretty sure a woman just asked us to stay with her for a few days. She doesn’t look like a serial killer or a recruiter for a weird religious cult, and I think she is actually going to show up tomorrow and we are going to have a few days away from our boat!!!” I said my voice getting more excited with every word.
“Oh my God- the kindness of strangers- the universe provides- good things happen to good people -ask and you shall receive- trust that you are right were you should be- DESTINY….. I will never mock these things again. Ever since we turned the beacon on we have been helped my amazing, kind, generous people” I gabbled at Ross.
At 3.05pm the next day Jan and her husband David turned up. We had been waiting since 2.30pm and obsessively checking the watch.
“We turned up! Right you lot, let’s go.” Jan announced.
David took our bag and Jan pushed Dash as Ross and I lugged some shopping and toys.
“ Car, Car. Dash go ride Car!” Our delighted son squealed as we came closer to their four wheel drive.
“Yes darling, we are going for a ride in the car, we are going to Jan and David’s house.” I explained.
“Very exciting” Dash piped up.
“Let’s stop at El Ray for a few supplies” Jan said as we swung into the car park of Panama’s snazziest supermarket change.
“You can get some things for Dash and I have a few things to pick up”.
“Great, we will get the beers” Ross said.
Once back in the car we cracked open a cold beer (not Jan as she was driving) and started to get to know these amazing people. Over the course of a fair few more beers, a swim in their beautiful pool, a delicious three course meal and wonderful conversations, a new plan was formed.
We are going to house sit their amazing home in Mahagual for two months.
Very good luck indeed.