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Ship's Log: Updated February 24, 2009

The Roof, The Roof!

Here it comes!Tracy's adding the final top floor rafters and the zinc comes next!

Our friend Garry, who now lives in Port Townsend, Washington, but who built a house here last year, (and Tracy helped) showed up at just the right moment to help us, and he stayed for three days. What a lot got done! He's lighter than Tracy, so it was a easier for him to go out on the skinny edges to haul up and screw in roof zinc...

while Tracy stayed closer to the big timbers to set in the rafters.

After two days' work, the top floor roof was done!

We got to enjoy the shelter during the lunch break while relaxing in the new deck chairs. Incredible! The view, the breeze, the results!

Next, we'll work on the main floor roof rafters. Tracy and Garry did a lot of walking around and measuring to try to figure out how best to screw rectangular zincs onto an octagonal structure that isn't exactly square, to make it look seamless. And by the end of Garry's stay, they had it all figured out. Now, to execute! That is a lot of radials! Thank goodness for the radial saw!

Welcome, Burrows Family!

One reason we were rushing to get the top floor roof finished is because we had company coming! Sharon's father Bob, brother Justin, and his two children, Kai, 10, and Ana, 6, arrived from California into Panama City on February 2. Tracy went to Panama City to meet them, and they spent three days touring around Panama City, seeing the Canal, visiting the neighborhood where Tracy used to live, exploring Gamboa and the rainforest there, and generally being tourists.

They all arrived in Bocas late Thursday afternoon in unseasonably stormy weather. It was too stormy to even pick them up when they arrived, so they had to find a hotel. Our worker, Joe, raced into Bocas in his family's large panga at barely-light the next morning, sensing a brief weather window. He woke them all up, herded them into the boat, and raced back here, to a welcome greeting of leaping dolphins, right in our little bay!

We had just gotten the last bit of luggage up the hill when the skies opened up again. And it stayed wet for almost their entire visit. Argh!

Well, the bodega is one dry spot, and the kids can write to Mom to let her know all arrived safe and sound at Cerro Velero. Then there was fifteen minutes each of online games, followed by...schoolwork! The kids were out of school for one of the weeks they were traveling, so they brought some homework with them. Justin, a teacher, was more than competent to supervise their studies. They all also kept journals describing the highlights of the trip.

And, of course, just hanging out with Grandpa Bob is entertaining in its own right!

Justin set up their tent on the top floor of the house, under the new roof. He and the children slept there. Dad slept in our berth on the boat, while Sharon slept on the settee in the main cabin, and Tracy slept in his hammock in the bodega. Plenty of room for everyone!

Though you should have seen us all crammed into the bodega watching DVDs in the rainy evenings. The floor space in the bodega is about 8x5, so the six of us were crammed in even closer than in a movie theater! There was usually one child on a lap, and one on the small step ladder. Glad we bought those new deck chairs a couple of weeks ago! We could fit three in, squeezed side by side. That left someone to either sit up on the workbench, on a beer case, or on a small end table. All with no one blocking the door to the refrigerator. Hey, it worked!

Trips out to Landfall also provided diversion. (Kai and Ana each spent a night sleeping on the boat with Grandpa Bob and Aunt Sharon and Jasmine, a first for both.)

And we play card games no matter where we go, especially when it rains!

Rowing the dinghy provided entertainment, and so did driving it, although the motor jumped off the transom (yes, again!) while Kai was taking his first drive. Yikes!

Fortunately, Justin had the kill switch attached to his wrist, so the engine stopped immediately when it went overboard. Tracy had tied a leash to the dinghy after the last episode with the engine leaping off the transom, so the engine stayed with the boat this time. But, it's heavy and awkward to wrangle back in from the tipsy dinghy!

Joe, who happened to be on his dock, saw the events unfold and paddled out in his panga to help. He and Justin hauled the engine back into the dinghy, got back to our dock, and flushed the engine with fresh water. No harm done, though I am sure Kai is still wondering how the heck that happened!

And so despite all the rain, we were busy! Had a Sunday afternoon outing at the neighborhood pizza joint to celebrate Justin's recent 40th birthday. Took a long walk (half in the rain) at Jim and Dorothy's place, and ran the rock maze they've built. Borrowed a kayak from our neighbors the Cerrutis, and both kids immediately became enthusiastic kayakers. Went snorkeling near friend Chris' dock one morning before the rain started, and snorkeled again during a visit at Ron and Cynde's, while Sharon played Mahjong with the ladies. And closer to home, we played with the dogs, scraped mud off our feet, and watched with eager anticipation as the toilet project progressed.

So where are all the pictures of all that? Well...Dad and Justin were snapping photos all during the visit, so we figured we'd get most of the pictures of the trip from them. More to follow in the next update!

Does it Flush Yet?

One project that wasn't quite finished when they got here was the darn toilet. But a lot of hard, muddy work went into trying to finish it while they were here! Our floors aren't installed yet, so how can you put in a toilet with no floor? Exactly. So Tracy built a platform for a utility room on the ground under the house, and plumbed a toilet there. It was such a messy job!

Now where is that vent going to go?

Bob, trying to keep his white sneakers and socks out of the mud, observes their progress.

Let's get that trench finished so we can drop in the final piece of pipe...

And we are happy to say, it was done the day before they left!

We Have Windows!

In early January we ordered sixteen two-panel windows, four feet tall by five feet wide, from a company in David that makes custom windows. They were ready three weeks later, but the logistics of getting them here got pretty complicated. The delivery truck we normally use was running off schedule, so while we planned to get them on one day, the truck would end up coming on a different day. And with only two trips a week, weeks flew past with no windows.

Finally, though, last week, we found a day when we could be in Almirante on the same day as the delivery truck.

Tracy, Joe and Marcos left well before dawn on Monday the 16th to pick up the large panga we rent when we need to haul large, heavy loads. The panga is docked just a short way off our route into Almirante. Then they raced off to meet the delivery truck in Almirante. They had to get there before 7am because the trucks start loading onto the ferry to Bocas at 7. If they missed the delivery truck while it was in Almirante, they'd have to drive both the panga and Cricket all the way to Bocas, wait on the truck, and take delivery there. That would be a huge waste of gas, and we'd lose most of a day's work for the workers, too.

Tracy, in zippy Cricket, got to Almirante before Joe and Marcos in the plodding panga. He found the truck in the ferry line moments before the line started moving. He quickly man-handled all sixteen 70-plus pound windows off the truck onto the roadside while waiting for the guys to catch up with him. Then they hailed a taxi truck, loaded the windows into it, shuttled to the panga, unloaded the windows off the taxi truck and into the panga, and headed home.

Well, first they stopped at the gas station, then headed home. It almost goes without saying that every trip to Almirante or Bocas entails a stop at the gas station. The boats' gas tanks only hold about six gallons, about enough for one round trip.

And here they are! Seven for upstairs, nine for the main floor.

We put the first one in and it fit perfectly!

And looks great!

The second one we tried to install revealed a slight discrepancy in our measurements…so Tracy had to bring out the crowbar to do some adjusting…argh!

The next four went in easily, but then the last one just plain would not close right because it was a little cockeyed, so out came the chisels and planer. What a mess!

Sharon climbed the ladder and stairs to the top floor at least ten times in one day, helping Tracy install those windows upstairs. And she felt it the next day! (Tracy pointed out to her, with little sympathy, that he does that every day...) But now the upstairs windows are all in, and we've started on the main floor!

Flooring and Siding!

We spent last Tuesday loading the panga with more sand and rocks for the last concrete pours, and then spent Wednesday getting the lumber for the flooring and siding. Two hundred and thirty-eight pieces of 12-foot laurel, the same wood we used on the siding and flooring in the bodega. We bought it from the same place, Madera Nativa, just outside of Almirante. It took three taxi truck loads to get it from the mill to the panga. The wood filled the belly of the panga, and loaded it down. Here we are at the gas station, topping off the tank to head home.

After many, many worker trips up the hill, the wood is all up on the porch and waiting to be put to use. Things will really start going fast from here on. How exciting!

Cerro Velero Pet Critters

Jasmine and the dogs have been exploring the new digs. Jasmine is trying to decide where her aviary is going to go, top floor, main floor, or porch? Here, she is clearly undecided.

"Well it's a pretty good view from here, how about if we just put me up here in the rafters?"

The dogs cannot climb the ladder to the main floor, but they can make it up to the top floor once Tracy has carried them up the ladder.

"When do we get to move in?" Gellie wants to know. Notice the pink nail polish on her toenails? Right...that's red clay! And it is everywhere!!

Cerro Velero Other Critters

Last update we posted this picture but didn't know what it was. Friend Liz (of Liz and Laurence of Isla Popa) asked friend Dr George C. McGavin, who is an Honorary Research Associate at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, if he could identify the insects in the photos. Well, of course he could!

He writes that this one is an adult fulgorid bug that produces long wax filaments from glands in the body as a protection against predators.

And this is a species of Philaethria in the family Nymphalidae. Thanks!

Stay tuned...

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