We were hoping to have been long gone from Panama City by now, but like so many other times we’ve had similar hopes for leaving a place, reality has again intruded, and here we still are. We’ve had to redo a bunch of the solar panel work thanks to shoddy contractors, but luckily we’ve finally found some real experts who’ve whipped us into shape during the past week.. Finding quality help in weird places is one of the big challenges of extended sailing. Our advice is to never engage any contractor without first thoroughly researching your options with local yachties who’ve been sitting on the anchor for a while. This was a particular challenge for us in Panama City, so email us if you’re coming this way and we’ll point you in the right direction.
As we bounce around from port to port, we’ve met some pretty fascinating and unusual people from all corners of the world….. “normal” people just don’t find themselves in places like the ones we’re now visiting. We’ve benefited greatly from this – the perspectives they bring us, and our growing ability to see things in different ways, have taught us much about how to think about life and how the world really works. This form of personal growth is just one reason we encourage people to travel, take an interest in foreign cultures, and most importantly, make friends from around the world. The past few days have been a perfect example of this thanks to our solar panel welder / installer, Alfie, who we’ve spent most of our time with this week.
Alfie’s been installing our solar panels with a type of efficiency that really must be seen to be appreciated. Soon after meeting Alfie we realized he knew a lot about cruising sailing, perhaps more than anybody we’ve met, and pretty soon he was teaching us about everything from fishing to anchoring to boat building to metallurgy. The more he spoke, the more curious we became about who he was and how he knew so much about so many things. During the past week we’ve become almost inseparable from Alfie and his wife Gerty and been blessed to learn their story. In the process Alfie’s taught us, through the example of his own experiences, some rather profound lessons about how to think differently and how to live happily.
Alfie is German with two science degrees and a professional degree in welding who was “supposed” to go to work in the German factories. But instead Alfie decided to go exploring for a better life, first by driving around Europe and Africa, then after meeting Gerty and running out of places to drive, he bought an almost-abandoned boat so they could explore further afield. Alfie fixed the boat himself, then launched it into the Mediterranean Sea without ever having sailed anything before, and they simply sailed away into the unknown. The reward for Alfie’s (and Gerty’s) adventurous spirit has been remarkable – a history overflowing with unforgettable life experiences on every continent, an encyclopedia of worldly knowledge, and a happiness and excitement for life you rarely find anywhere. They’ve raised four kids in the process, who have all become true citizens of the world, impossible to associate with any single nationality, and as a family they’ve accomplished more than can possibly be listed here (although some interesting examples include Alfie’s appearance in the Monty Python movie Life of Brian and his son Eric’s now famous sailing book, the Panama Cruising Guide [http://www.sailorsnet.com/Panama_Cruising_Guide_Eric_Bauhaus.htm], but their list of achievements really is endless.). They aren’t traditional role models, but the family is a true inspiration for us, and we’re grateful for everything we’ve learned from them.
So we leave Panama City more than a week later than we hoped, but thanks to our new friendships, the delay was a huge blessing. On the practical front, we’ve completed our provisioning for the Pacific crossing, filled the fuel tanks, fixed everything that was broken, and with solar panels installed and working perfectly, we feel we’re in better shape then ever. We’re now heading off to the Perlas Islands just a day away to await good weather for our passage to the Golapagos – we’ve heard there are whales in the area so we’ll be keeping a close watch.