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Ship's Log: Updated April 7, 2009

Our Season for Visitors

As we said in a previous update, Dad and Justin were snapping photos all during their visit, and we promised more photos to follow in the next update. Well, here they are...thanks!

For those of you who haven't been to Panama City, a few city scenes. It may surprise you to see that it's a real city!

Located on the Pacific coast, the normal tidal range is about 15 feet (huge when compared with our 2-3 foot range here on the Caribbean side), so building docks and anchoring boats is a real challenge. If we took Landfall there, even if we anchored in 20 feet of water at high tide, we'd be hard on the bottom at low tide. But the fishing is great, judging by the remnants of this meal out at Amador.

Of course no trip to Panama is complete without a trip to the Panama Canal and locks. Kai was practicing looking nonchalant...

Just 20 minutes away from Panama City and a little further up the canal is the Gamboa Rainforest preserve, with 55,000 acres of protected tropical rainforest.

It's the habitat of more than 1,300 plant species, 525 species of birds, 105 species of mammals, 55 species of amphibians, and 79 species of reptiles...including these critters. The child is fearless!

Then, on to Bocas and our hill. Getting ready for some water fun near Cerro Velero.

With his fair skin, shaved head, and a lifetime of California surfing, Justin now takes special precautions against the sun. Even if he is not exactly making a fashion statement...who cares, once you're wet?

Ana didn't have good luck with her snorkel...

so she soon ditched it in favor of just kicking around.

Paulie's dock in Almirante, heading back to Cerro Velero after a long day trip to Changuinola to do the visa renewal. Tracy stayed behind to keep working on the house. Our trip into Almirante was wet and windy and wavy, and the engine quit on the way in, and then again on the way back. Vapor lock and kinks in the fuel line. Glad it had calmed down by the time we finally left Almirante, as we were made late by a huge traffic jam. A tractor-trailer rig overturned on a sharp corner, blocking the two lane road. We finally left as the sun was just about setting. Always an adventure!

On their penultimate day here we walked for two hours over on Dorothy and Jim's property, only one of which was in the rain.

Hansel and Gretel in the rainforest, sheltered by the roots of a big tree.

And closer to home, the on-going saga of the toilet...Justin is in the middle of remodeling his Santa Cruz house, and so has some experience with plumbing, while Tracy seems to be praying for resolution...

Finally finished! The day before they left...

So sad to see them go...Come back soon!

Welcome, Beau Watkins!

We didn't have long to wait, though, before we had another visitor! Tracy's son Beau, whom we hadn't seen in almost two years. Beau, 29, is finishing up his Ph.D. in Austrian literature and German studies at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He's also teaching English at the university this year. Tracy got the stairs built just before he arrived.

The rain kept us inside a lot, but much music was played and many movies were watched. Beau arrived with hundreds of songs, movies and old TV shows and cartoons on his portable hard drive for us to download to our iPods and computers. His music choices gladdened Tracy with old favorites, and widened his already-very-wide musical horizons with some new unknowns. Ever thoughtful, Beau even brought the whole Star Trek Next Generation TV series for Sharon, knowing that she is a closet Trekkie.

And Then Came the Next Visitors: Say Good-bye to Beau and say Welcome to Dan and Patrick!

All too soon, Tracy and Beau had to leave for Panama City to meet up with Dan Bowman, who happily surprised us with a spontaneous visit, and Patrick Rose, Tracy's Sigma Nu fraternity brother, on spring break from finishing up his studies at Tracy's undergraduate alma mater, Jacksonville State in Alabama. By coincidence, they arrived within a day of each other.

Of course, no trip to Panama is complete without a visit to the Panama Canal...

a trip up Ancon Hill,

and a beer at the Balboa Yacht Club, all places Tracy and Dan frequented while stationed together here in the army in the early '80's, when Beau was a young child and living in Germany with his mother. He finally got to see it all!

After a couple of days touring around Panama City, Beau got on his plane to St. Louis, and Tracy, Dan and Patrick headed to Bocas, where Joe picked them up for the ride down to Cerro Velero.

Finally! Dan got to see his namesake bodega!

And admire the new throne with the million dollar view.

Spartan guest accommodations up in the loft, but at least it was screened in...

The guys spent Sunday morning fishing with Joe, and this sure looks like the highlight of Dan's trip!

Though they all sure had a lot of fun! (We promised not to say who caught each fish...Ha!)

Then the guys spent Sunday afternoon at our neighborhood pizza place, Rana Azul. It's only open Sunday afternoons and Friday nights, so they got lucky! Dan happily switched back to Panama beer.

Hanging out on the deck on their last night. Tracy called Dan's wife Terry, to tell her we missed her and the Bowman boys, Matthew and Patrick, wished they were here, too, and then handed the phone to Dan.

Making secret symbols on their last morning. Who knows what this means?

Work on the House Progresses

Though we spent a lot of time visiting with family and friends, we also managed to get a lot of work done. Tracy worked on the main staircase, pouring concrete for the support posts and a pad, then building two landings and the stairs.

He put up the siding on the loft, then Sharon screened in above the windows, where we are leaving it open to the breezes..

And somewhere in there, Tracy got the call that would change our lives. He is going to work in Iraq for the coming year...and it all happened so fast, he's already gone!

Stay tuned...

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