November 30, 2010
Officially, November 30th is the last day of the north Atlantic / eastern Pacific hurricane season. It is with some disgust that we are enduring several days of grey skies, drizzle, and occasional downpours as a tropical depression is developing in the southwestern Caribbean Sea and is sucking humid air across the isthmus and directly over us. This would be annoying enough (and we realize that those in Britain and the Pacific Northwest are not exactly overwhelmed with sympathy here) but it has coincided with a week’s visit by our friend Sue from Jupiter. Since that is Jupiter, south Florida, at least she was not fleeing northern winter misery in search of tropical heat and light but Panama certainly does not look as inviting under a grey shroud.
Unmet expectations of weather can be surprisingly influential on one’s general disposition in both negative (as with these currently disappointing conditions) and positive ways. I anticipated only damp, gloom, and cold for my two week stay in Britain and so was absolutely thrilled by the two or three days of sunshine to which I was treated (in between days of unremitting damp, gloom, and cold). I gather from Jennie that a bitter, wintery blast overtook the country just after I left on Nov 22nd, so I am doubly thankful for my meteorological luck. After very enjoyable visits with assorted friends and relations, several good walks, and numerous delicious meals, I returned to find that both Randall and Tregoning were in good shape, having enjoyed a single-handed trip to Las Perlas and back. Sadly, the same could not be said for the dinghy and for a few days it sat limply on the bow while we borrowed a dinghy from the absent owners of “This side up”.
My return flight was uneventful once aboard the plane but after a 3:45 am taxi pick-up from Jennie’s house, I was disappointed to find that I had been left at the wrong terminal at Heathrow airport. The free train service between terminals did not start running for another hour (after my check-in time) so I had to pay even more than for my taxi from Harrow to get another taxi to the correct terminal. When I got there I was flabbergasted to find that I would not be allowed on the KLM flight to Panama City without proof of how I was going to leave Panama, which is difficult to provide for departure on a sailboat. In the end, barely containing my early morning irritation, I had to go to another airline’s desk and buy an expensive fully-refundable ticket from Panama City (I chose a Delta flight to Atlanta thinking that I was sure to be able to contact Delta easily) to be allowed to complete my check-in with KLM (it was lucky that I had not waited for the free train). Needless to say, the Panama Immigration officers were not remotely interested in knowing whether I had a departure ticket and when I cancelled the ticket and claimed my refund, I found on my credit card a non-refundable administrative fee that I have been assured would not be charged.
Once back on board Tregoning, there was not much time to complete my laundry, stock up on food, and clean the guest quarters, etc., before Sue’s arrival on Nov 28th (Randall had nobly cleaned up the rest of the boat in preparation for my return). But within the week we were able to get these chores done and with cruisers and guests from several nations, we joined in a celebration of the American Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday Nov 25th. The traditional feast was organized by Donna, Brady, and others, working with our favorite pizza restaurant such that we paid $8 per person for turkey, potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, and some fruit pies, while the rest of the dressings, appetizers, side-dishes, and desserts, were contributed by the 35 (or so) attendees. We invited Alberto, our taxi-driver friend, who came with his wife, his 18-month-old granddaughter and Alberto’s friend. Predictably, the little girl stole the show and once she had eaten an impressive amount of food, she was much exercised and entertained by the energetic young girls from Sea Parents and Blue Sky.
The Panamanian holidays also continued in November with a second Independence Day (this time to celebrate independence from Spain) on Nov 28th. Being on a Sunday, businesses were closed for this holiday on Monday but luckily for Sue and me the tourist spots such as Casco Viejo and the Miraflores Locks were open and happy to receive visitors. The big Mother’s Day holiday when people come from all over Central and South America to go shopping in Panama City is still to come on December 8th but we are taking our own little vacation first with a brief excursion to Las Perlas for a few days with Sue. We hope that we can enjoy some good snorkeling and show her a few of the islands during her brief stay and we plan some rest and relaxation (oh, yes, and cleaning the rampant growth of algae and barnacles from the hull) before we return to Panama City to track down a new dinghy and prepare for Christmas. With Thanksgiving over, the moratorium on Christmas music has been reluctantly lifted (the beginning of December seems a much more respectable start date). The I-Pod’s random-play of Randall’s jaw-achingly (to steal an apt phrase from nephew Roger) large collection of Christmas tunes is in full swing. So we are being cheerfully entertained even if…” the weather outside is frightful…”