I'm gonna come back here one day with a dirty great sign Saying "The Pacific Ocean Welcomes Careful Drivers" and affix it to the last buoy in the channel. After I've got my Zarpe (excuse spelling). Then leg it.
For "Wench" Read "Winch" throughout
A Zarpe is the port captains clearance paper. For my generation who've grown up with the benign regime of the EU and open borders and aeroplane's they're a bitch. To go from country A to country B generally speaking you need to see customs, see the port captain the port captain will have a form listing the crew of the vessel an give you your "Port Clearance" or Zarpe. Stating where you've come from and where your going too with whom.
Then you go to immigration and get stamps in your passport. Country B will want to see your Port Clearance, and woe betides anyone who's crew list is different on arrival, is arriving in the wrong country port or whatever. In some cases if you change crew you must go see Port Capitan and or Immigration with the crew list and get signed on or off. If changing boats sometime both captains are required and you'll be stamped off one boat on to another. My old passport has three Trini(dad) stamps for my first visit. One for in (on S/ V Ramprasad) on for out (on Ornen) and one marked D/T (direct transfer?) to Ornen indicating my change of boat.
Getting off the crew list and not on to another boat is made nigh on impossible in some countries. The only way to do it is buy buying an air ticket out and showing it to the immigration officials. This is frequently a bugger, since it makes waiting for a ride on another boat bloody expensive. Obviously if you can't get off the crew list then the boat can't leave or its crew list will be wrong.
Sometimes people will transfer to another boat which is staying for a bit even if they're nothing to do with it. This simply defers the problem. Many boat owners do not like this cos you never really know how your going to get rid of the person on your crew list.
Well some particularly bloody minded countries like to further complicate matters by Zarpeing you internally to the country, last time I was here we didn't realise we had to clear out of Colon, go through the canal and clear into Balboa. Mind you even the Blue Water Rally forgot initially.
Bloody bureaucratic bastards. The process in the Caribbean frequently takes longer than the actual sail between the islands.
Caribbean customs officers have
made it into BBC2's Room 101
Anyway we've had weird weather here. Was a lovely strong offshore breeze for the first few days. Yesterday the proper doldrums weather kicked in. It was windless, it was hot it was so incredibly sticky. I chose yesterday to go shopping (AKA getting lost) around Panama City. Went back (eventually) to the knock off board short shop I went to last time. Bought 36 waist. When I left the UK my 38 inch shorts were tight. Think I sweated off half a stone yesterday alone.
We were supposed to go out to the old town for a Jazz open mike night last night. Glad we didn't. We went to the bar at sunset for a couple of beers. As we came back the wind came up big time. Dinghy ride out was incredibly wet, waves coming straight in the anchorage. A very crowded anchorage. We weren't dragging, I think its bloody hard to tell when every boat is bucking like a hobby horse kid on a sugar rush. But we were scarcely close to several boats who either were or would give no warning if they did drag. If you want a lubbers comparison it was like the sort of ebb and flow of people at a borderline riot/demonstration. With 20 ton boats.
Dinghies everywhere, rushing back to their boats. Easier said than done. Finding your boat in the dark is a skill. When the anchorage has changed and the dinghy ride is like a Brighton Beach launch on a bad day and either your boat has dragged (I.E. its anchor has lost its grip on the bottom) or those around you have finding your boat becomes a challenge in its self. To extend the demo analogy imagine the dinghy as the parents and the yacht as a lost child - in the midst of the pol tax riots. Remember here there yacht is their home, centre of their universe with all their worldly goods on it in many cases and the analogy won't seem so extreme.
To add to the back ground of mayhem you have shouting between boats, which is usually inaudible, conducted as it is in 5 languages. Powerful searchlights stabbing out briefly illuminating boats. Sometimes a boat dragging badly will be illuminated from several directions as it goes backwards through the anchorage.
This happened right next to us. An Island Packet (American Heavy cruising yacht not something out of Master and Commander), scrapped down the side of a boat next to us, maybe 20 meters away. 10 meters behind us a tinny little yellow yacht was plunging its bow in then 15 feet in the air. Its chain out of the water to almost our transom.
At this point the Island Packet crew, and one of the crew from the boat 15 meters ahead of us managed to get aboard their wildly bucking boat, get the engine on and start hauling anchor.
Imagine a lost child at the poll tax riots
yacht owners in a dinghy in a messed
up anchorage have the same way
about them as the child's parents would
Given they'd gone past the boat they'd hit, on one side and looked like coming back up the other (thus pulling the stationary boats anchor up too) and left the lurching boat close ahead of us short crewed we had a spectre of both boats entangled crashing into us so we cut and ran. Getting our anchor up involved passing right along side the boat ahead. Within feet. Both boats plunging up and down similar distance. At one stage we thought we'd hooked they're chain but in the end we we're up and clear.
Even as we cleared the anchorage it was clear the wind was dropping off again. Several other boats were milling around too. The radio was alive with similar incidents, some on going. Rayla's anchor was pulled out by the yacht that dragged past her, other rally yachts took the decision, like us, that even if they did hold there was as much of a threat from other people dragging and came out to anchor offshore with us.
The night was rolly, the wind dropped but the swell didn't morning saw the yellow boat who'd been close behind us anchored out at see with us again. We've moved back in to the re- arranged anchorage. With a bit more space. Where we were yesterday it's difficult to imagine where we'd have fitted. There's a cluster of boats all very tight, no sign of the gap both us and the yellow boat were occupying.
All in all there was little damage for the amount of carnage. Bear in mind that I know one boat here has no steering at all it due to arrive back today. One of the cats has an engine out I.E. it can't do 'owt but circles. We all got off quite lucky. One boat did loose their dinner to the ravenous cabin floor. After they'd got the hell out of there, they opted for a liquid dinner of fruit juice with a rum stock.
More pleasant way's to spend the evening but no harm done. Given we're all rusty, we handled the whole thing bloody well I think.