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Ship's Log: Updated September 10, 2008

One Building's Up on Cerro Velero, One More to Go

It's rustic, but it's pretty close to everything we need while we're building the main casa. The water tank is installed and plumbed, and the roof's gutters add water to the tank with every rainfall. In fact, we had 13.39 inches of rain in August, and the tank is full! We have a sink with double-filtered water, and an outdoor shower just off the porch.

What a view from the shower! Just don't lose your balance and fall down the hill!

It really was quite a lot of effort getting that 350 gallon water tank up the hill. Makes us appreciate every drop that much more! Our neighbor Mary took a picture of us on the way through her yard.

She also came over one afternoon right after we got back from town, to see how the construction was coming along, and brought her camera. (The next batch of photos are courtesy of Mary.) As you can see, with the hammocks up, it's really comfy-cozy.

The dogs think so, too!

And the refrigerator is in such close reach...Ooops! Is Sharon really taking the last beer? Well, yes, but she's going to give it to Tracy, so it's ok...

And anyway, she has champagne!

American gothic in Panama?

Well we don't call it a Man Cave for nothing! (Neighbor dog Mandy doesn't quite know what to make of this.)

We just found a used industrial-strength 6KW diesel generator to power us, so we could return the little Honda 2000 to the boat.

We can even put together a pretty good meal.

There is just one last little detail we need to attend to before it's really complete...Shhh...can you guess what Tracy is doing? (And no, Mary didn't take this picture!)

More descriptions of our property near Buena Esperanza on Dolphin Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama, in the last log, log before that, and here.

Our Dock's Done!

We finally have direct access from the water to our land! The permit came through and four guys, led by Fidel, started building with enthusiasm, even if it did mean standing waist deep in the mud at times. Marcos carved a sloped walkway with steps to get up the first little hill from the dock to level ground.

Then covered the ramp with cut grass to help slow down erosion.

Tracy and Marcos built a little landing at the top of the ramp, where we can unload groceries and whatnot before making the trip up the main hill, or where we can wait out a downpour.

The roof won't be added until after the big construction materials are delivered for the main house. So...Done! Walk across the landing, then down the slope...

And around the corner...and there's Cricket! We had to make the dogleg so that we wouldn't have to cut mangroves.

So now we're walking all the way from shore to the bodega on our own land. Mary took this picture to memorialize the completion. She and Carl must be so relieved that we can finally stop using their dock to get to our place. We sure are!

Connected to the Rest of the World!

It has finally happened! As of two days ago, we have our own Internet connection! After weeks of promises, we finally persuaded the Mobilephone installation manager that if needed, we would go fetch the installers in Almirante to make it happen. That did the trick; they were here within days. Mobilephone is based in David, a four hour drive over the mountains to Almirante, and then once they got there, they would have to find a boat to rent, and persuade the driver to wait while they did their work. So it's a little bit understandable that there would be logistics issues, but...they do advertise that they provide service here!

Tracy headed off at 7:30 the other morning to get three guys and all their equipment. It took a bit of finagling, but we finally got a signal. Turned out our hill is too high, if you can believe that. They had to walk down the hill to install the antenna, to get a better signal, then run wire all the way back to the bodega, 190 feet!

But it works!!

Dolphin Bay Visitors

Mornings here are usually very calm. Some mornings we get a quick peek at the bay's namesake. The first thing we hear is the phah! of the exhale.

Then the soft shuss of their sleek bodies sliding back under the water.

They are usually busy feeding in here and don't play around. Still, they are wonderful to see!

Molding the Landscape

The toughest part about being here so far is getting up and down the hill. So we've been hard at work getting guys out here to do a little switchback and stairs work. It has made a huge difference in how easy it is to get back and forth!

The path from the waterfront now looks like this: Walk from the boat, down the dock and up the ramp. Cross the landing and down the stairs.

Walk across the soggy bottom by the fence and head toward the logs for the pole house (the poles won't be there forever).

Once past the logs you have to make a decision.

Here's the hard way up, best suited for mountain goats.

And here's the easy way up! Take a right and walk along the path beside the mango tree...

then switch back and walk along this nice new river rock path.

Then up...

and up...these easy thirty-three steps...

"See," Gellie says, "Nothing to it!"

And here we are on level ground! Walk the upper path along the shoulder of the hill to the bodega. The house site is higher still!

Our permanent worker, Vicente, is responsible for the day-to-day clearing and upkeep of the grounds, and he's done a lot of the trail construction as well. He came by the other day, on his day off, to visit with his woman and three of their four children (we have heard that he has another woman and several children in the village as well, but they have fallen out).

They brought a lot of baby plants that he would plant around the property on his next workday. We offered them all sodas, which they happily accepted. I think he also wanted to drill home to us that he is supporting all these people, as his contract was up for renewal in a few days. It's hard work, but there are a lot of other men in the village who would take his job in a minute if he didn't want it.

We're not quite sure what to make of the expanding gringo presence in this small community. But in fact, their lives are changing rapidly, with or without us. Already the schoolchildren have received huge benefits, mostly through BESO's donations of uniforms, backpacks, books and supplies. More and more men are working steady jobs that were not available just a few years ago. Conscious of our huge footprint in a small community, we strive to be a change for good.

Making Our Contribution to Reducing the Unwanted Pet Population

In Bocas, as everywhere, there are too many unwanted puppies, kittens, dogs and cats. So, as responsible pet owners, we had little Indy spayed at the local pet store last weekend. A gringo veterinarian visiting from David, Panama, came over the mountains to do the surgeries. Here's Indy after getting the shot to knock her out before surgery.

And here she is an hour or so later, just waking up after the deed is done.

Any question in anyone's mind who was more anxious, Tracy or Indy? And wouldn't you know, we knew the boxer who was spayed before Indy: that's Gladys, our friend Chip's dog. Since Chip wasn't around, Tracy did the recovery comforting.

Indy was a little slow for a day or two, but Gellie seemed to know to be tranquillo around her.

They have become the best of friends. Bookends!

Walking the Grounds in Comfort

It took a hard-working three-man crew, led by Emiliano, over three full days to complete it, but we now have a stable walking surface to get around the property boundaries.

We can't exactly say a flat walking surface, because there are still those hills, but at least the pitch across the path is now more or less flat, so you don't go tumbling off the edges, and the really steep places have steps.

You never know what you're going to find. This day it was a gorgeous spider.

A day earlier, it was a five foot snake...unfortunately, no camera that day! It takes about fifteen minutes to do the whole loop with no lolly-gagging. If you stop to meander it could take half a day to see it all!

Tropical Yummy Fruit

A neighbor showed up with these rambutans, native to southeast Asia, called mamón chino in Central America. Inside they look like peeled lychee fruit, and have the taste and texture of a grape, but with one big seed instead of many little ones. We're going to plant some seeds, and maybe we can harvest our own someday.

Sneak Preview

Can anyone guess what this is?

Stay tuned...

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If you are following this log and have not recently been advised of new updates, please send your email address to Sharon's computer crashed and died in May, taking with it all her email address lists. And Tracy's buddies have pretty much co-opted the 2captains address, so we're using twocaptains for our web site address contact. Thanks!

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