Silver Lynx

Silver Lynx, the Laurent Giles-designed 57-foot aluminum ketch that will bear us to New Zealand

28 January

Got to Bocas del Toro, on the Caribbean side of Panama not far from the Costa Rican border, with 50-lb duffel bag of boat parts, fishing gear, and a few swim suits and t-shirts. Signed on to Silver Lynx and started settling in. Several of the parts I brought proved immediately useful in fixing the sanitation system, so we now have two working toilets and can pump out each one’s holding tank. Important.

Heading to the San Blas, about 200 miles to the east, tomorrow. Tough duty, cruising around in paradise for a couple of weeks, but someone’s gotta do it. Then around 15 Feb we’ll head to Shelter Bay Marina, located across Limón Bay from the city of Colon, at the northern entrance to the Panama Canal. It’ll take at least a few days to get all the Canal admin work and scheduling done, during which time we’ll repair a few more small things, install the new sails that are waiting for us there, and do some mass-quantity provisioning.

Seven people on board: Matt and Ana, the owners; their daughters Farrah (age 12) and Zelda (age 10); Ryan and Meghan, from Portland; and me. The boat’s a 57-foot aluminum ketch built for sailing to Antarctica, which was the original owners’ plan. Seven is a lot of people to have on board, but the boat is large and everyone, kids included, is very nice and seems to know how to get along.

(For the non-sailors out there: a ketch is a sailing vessel with two masts, the main being the larger and located more or less in the middle of the boat, and the mizzen being the smaller and located most of the way toward the back, or stern, of the boat. I’ll spare you the technical info about the boat here but may well post it later if nothing more interesting to write about occurs to me.)

I would welcome questions and comments on this page, but it seems that the Comments section is what hackers and bad guys attack, so I’m going to have to turn that feature off. Feel free to email me directly if you’re so inclined. If you don’t know my email address you probably don’t know me and I probably don’t want to hear from you anyway. I likely won’t be able to reply at all promptly, but I will eventually reply.

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It’s a new year — 2014 now — and a long time since I last posted anything. I’ll add some items that go into a little more detail, but the short story is this:

After getting through the Panama Canal, I singlehanded up the Pacific coast, first past Panama, then Costa Rica, one day at a time, finding one of the many good anchorages along the way by sundown. In Nicaragua I stopped at Marina Puesta del Sol for a bit of R&R, then ventured on a little ways into the Golfo de Fonseca and after that to an anchorage off the beach outside of Bahía del Sol, El Salvador.

From there I ran overnight and beat it straight up to Puerto Chiapas, formerly known as Puerto Madero — didn’t want to stop in Guatemala — and spent a week or more in late January 2013 in the new Marina Chiapas waiting for the Golfo de Tehuantepec to calm down.

Eventually it did, and another boat and I crossed together, keeping one foot not quite on the beach but only a mile or so off it. Approaching Salina Cruz the wind blew 20-25 knots but from the south, which made for a sloppy, wet slog the rest of the way to the Huatulco area. Far better than being caught out in the gulf with the north wind blowing 40-50 and the seas running 15-20 feet, which had recently been the case. Hard to remind yourself of that at the time, though, when you’re exhausted from the two-day-two-night run and want only to find some flat water, get the hook down, and sleep.

The Huatulco –> Acapulco –> Zihuatanejo trip was uneventful, just uphill. Spent a couple of days resting up in Bahía Puerto Marquez, outside Acapulco, while jet skis and water skiers roared back and forth.

I lingered for three weeks or so in Zihua, one of my favorite places. My friend Louise signed on board there, and our trip up to the Sea of Cortez will make the second installment of this abbreviated saga.

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Am not in the Pacific itself quite yet — technically I’m in the Gulf of Panama or the Bay of Panama, depending on which chart you’re looking at — but finally am on the right side of the Continental Divide.

Transiting the Panama Canal southbound was a two-day affair: first we went through the Gatun locks in late afternoon, then once in Gatun Lake motored a couple of miles east and took a huge mooring ball for the night. The Gatun locks lift you up (if you’re going south) some 84 feet in three steps (three separate chambers) from the level of the Caribbean Ocean to the level of Gatun Lake, formed by the dammed Chagres River.

The huge gates in one of the locks (Dan Shelley photo)


Then early the next morning we resumed the transit, motoring for hours before getting to the Pedro Miguel lock, which lowers you about 30 feet in a single chamber to the level of Miraflores Lake. From Pedro Miguel to the next set of locks, Miraflores, is only two or three miles. In the Miraflores locks you descend the remaining 54 feet in two steps to the level of the Pacific Ocean.


This transit passed without incident, thankfully — there are quite a few ways to get into significant trouble in the locks — and was notable only for two things.

The first was a comical cluster-fuck of a raft-up the first day with a sport fishing power boat full of Venezuelans who apparently didn’t know much about handling boats but had lots of opinions, all of which they expressed emphatically in staccato-fire Spanish with lots of gesticulating. We eventually got rafted up more or less satisfactorily (I was worried about only one of my cleats) and got through the locks without ramming the walls, which we came close to doing a couple of times (the other boat was steering). We wound up going through with our little raft tied more or less in the middle of the locks behind a huge container ship.

The second was the frustration of almost four hours of delay on the second day, lots of hurry up and wait, driving in circles, wasting time and diesel fuel, with ever-changing plans, watching big ship after big ship pass us by.  Eventually our number came up and we were center tied by ourselves through both the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks just ahead of a huge ship (not the same one as on the first day). Fortunately the big ship was under complete control, and its bow never got to within less than about 60 feet of our transom.

Somehow it’s Friday already and a singlehander I first met in Ecuador some years ago insisted last night over pizza at a cruisers’ get-together that I not leave port today. But changing anchorages is OK, so in a few minutes or when it stops raining for a while I’ll leave my mooring here at the Balboa Yacht Club, where I’ve been parked for the last couple of days while getting groceries and diesel fuel, and head down the causeway a few miles to the La Playita anchorage. That’s OK, it’s still a start, if a very modest one, on the path back to Mexico.

Approaching one of the locks, can’t remember which one, on a previous transit (Dan Shelley photo). Dig the two Canal workers in a little rowboat in there as well.

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Set sail on Saturday 1 December, pulling out of Bocas Marina and heading due east. I thought it would be a 28-30 hour trip, but I made it to the big-ship anchorage outside the Colon breakwater in about 22 hours, thanks to having 5-10 knots of north wind on the beam, flat seas, and a strong favorable current – sometimes as much as 3 knots, almost the entire way. Was secured in a slip in Shelter Bay Marina by 0930 or so Sunday morning. Gotta say, though, that staying up all night is not everything it’s cracked up to be.

Bocas Marina: A very pleasant little marina, well run, pretty, convenient to Bocas Town. Recommended, for a short or a long stay.

Shelter Bay Marina: Improved substantially since I was here last in January 2010. The physical facilities have grown a bit (new dock, additional showers and bathrooms), but the most noticeable change has been in the service level. Not coincidentally, John Halley, the very well regarded former dockmaster at Club Naútico Cartagena, became manager here at Shelter Bay perhaps a year and a half ago. The shockingly customer-hostile employees from 2010, most notably in the marina office, are gone; the people working here now are friendly and helpful and service oriented.

Cruising: fixing your boat in exotic locations, in this case on the hard at Shelter Bay Marina, near Colon, Panama (north end of the Panama Canal)

The restaurant has improved immensely. In 2010 on a given night the menu included perhaps five completely ordinary items, such as hamburgers or tuna melts, two or three of which were typically not available, and the wait staff was extremely slow – if they could be bothered to stop by your table at all. Now, the restaurant offers a full menu (the few items I’ve tried have been quite good), and the wait staff, while at times overwhelmed and a little disorganized, for the most part works hard and appears to care. Both the marina and the restaurant are overpriced, though, clearly a function of location and lack of competition.

Anyway, my canal transit date is set for Monday 10 December, and I have the tires, lines, and line handlers all set up. We’ll leave here Monday afternoon, go through the Gatun locks in late afternoon or early evening and then take a mooring ball in Gatun Lake for the night. Early the next morning, like at 0600 or 0630, the adviser (like a pilot but not as exalted) shows up again and we beat it on down the line. Quite a bit of Gatun Lake and canal to go through, then the Pedro Miguel and finally the Miraflores locks, which will take us to the level of the Pacific ocean. We should get into Balboa around mid afternoon on Tuesday.

I’m hopeful of finding a mooring ball at the Balboa Yacht Club, where I’ve spent quite a lot of time in past years, for two or three nights while I do a final provisioning, some laundry, and take care of absolutely final preparations before heading for Mexico.

Happily, my zarpe (port clearance) from Colon shows my destination as Puerto Chiapas, Mexico, via Balboa, so I won’t have to do any more paperwork.

Arrangements having come together surprisingly quickly and easily, I have time to do some boat cleaning and minor maintenance without being in a cold sweat.

And I’m walking around with more spring in my step these days, being quite a lot lighter in the wallet after setting up the Canal transit and covering the various related expenses.

But it’s worth it. I am really looking forward to being back in the Pacific and getting back to Mexico.

Runnin’ with the big dawgs in Shelter Bay. Oh yeah. For a sense of scale, compare the size of the guys working on the boom to the size of the boom itself. This is not a trick photo or an optical illusion. I paced this sled off at about 150 feet.

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Margarita Moreno  1957-2010

Margarita, todavía te extraño tanto. Todavía hay un hueco enorme en mi vida. Te amo; te llevo en mi corazón para siempre.

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No, not 502 as in “deuce,” section 502 of the pre-1970s California Vehicle Code, if you’re old enough to remember that and unfortunate enough to have had any direct or indirect involvement with drunk driving.

This time it’s Initiative 502, on the Washington ballot, which asks Washington voters whether recreational use of marijuana for people over 21 should be legalized.fillfillfillfillfillfillfillfillfillfilll fillfill
An article in the current Time magazine reiterates many of the same issues we’ve been discussing at home. On the one hand, one line of thinking runs that passing the initiative, even though flawed, would be a significant and long overdue step forward and away from the obviously failed policies of criminalization and interdiction. The initiative of course includes controls and sets limits. With the state controlling production and distribution and gaining revenue from the industry, it would be analogous to the liquor industry.

On the other hand, some among the advocates of legalized marijuana oppose 502 because it so imprecisely defines who might or might not be under the influence of the drug, thereby, say some, giving law enforcement a new means they do not now have to harass or arrest marijuana smokers. Specifically, the initiative says that if you have 5 nanograms of THC in your blood you’re too stoned to drive legally, just as a .08 blood alcohol level defines when someone is too drunk to drive legally. The problem is that alcohol in the blood goes away in a matter of hours, but THC in the blood can remain for days.

In other words, you could smoke a joint at a party on Saturday and get a ride home afterward, then driving home from work on Tuesday, long after you would be in any way functionally affected by the joint you smoked on Saturday, get stopped and THC tested and come up as DUI.

So the more interesting question to come out of this is: When is it better to do what you can when you can to drag mainstream society kicking and screaming down the avenue of progress toward a change that is inevitable even if the first cut at the law contains imperfections, and when is it better to reject the imperfectly cast law despite the opportunity to make a progressive step, in favor of holding steady for the time being and recasting a better proposal that is not so open to abuse at the hands of less-than-objective officials?

Comments Off on 502 Personal, Policy & economics rants

A good wisecrack from Paul Krugman’s Oct 7 NY Times column, titled “Truth About Jobs”:

But the employment data [the recent BLS report indicating unemployment has fallen to 7.8%]  do suggest an economy that is slowly healing, an economy in which declining consumer debt burdens and a housing revival have finally put us on the road back to full employment.

And that’s the truth that the right can’t handle. The furor over Friday’s report revealed a political movement that is rooting for American failure, so obsessed with taking down Mr. Obama that good news for the nation’s long-suffering workers drives its members into a blind rage. It also revealed a movement that lives in an intellectual bubble, dealing with uncomfortable reality — whether that reality involves polls or economic data — not just by denying the facts, but by spinning wild conspiracy theories [referring to the assertion by Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO and a “BLS truther” (Krugman’s term) that the labor statistics must have been fabricated or manipulated to suit Democratic political ends].

Full text at

Yep, I’m a liberal. Progressive, even. Deal with it.

Comments Off on A good wisecrack Policy & economics rants

The next big change and positive development of the summer came about in late July or so, when we bought a house. “We” means Emmet, Kara, and baby Phoenix; Jordan; and me. We’ll all be here except when we’re working on San Juan Island or sailing or traveling somewhere, which we’ll do in various combinations and at various (but mostly seasonally driven) times.

The main house forms a big + sign with a couple of small decks on the front corners

Three generations under one roof – kinda like the Old Days, I’m told. Older than me, anyway (and at this point, that’s starting to get fairly old), as I never lived with my grandparents. The house has plenty of space for everybody, including a small, free-standing one-bedroom apartment in the back, a light and airy feeling, a great view to the south that on clear days includes Mt Rainier, lots of parking, and even a couple of fruit trees in the back yard.

The only thing we were looking for that this place fell a little short on is a two-car garage and space for a machine shop / workshop. We do have a one-car garage with just enough space to jam in the mill, lathe, drill press, tool chests, spare parts, etc., and still turn around in. Nevertheless, we’re really happy to have found this place and count ourselves most fortunate (but we also paid plenty of dues, having spent months looking and having been disappointed by a couple of potential deals that went pear-shaped).

Mini urban ski lodge, big window facing south

I’ve put a few teaser pix here; you can see the full collection, lifted from the real estate listing, on the Gallery2 page ( and click on the thumbnail). You’ll see that the house, designed and built in 1961 by the folks we bought it from, is a little unusual – overall, the house forms a two-story + or plus sign, and the interior might be called “mini urban modern ski lodge.”



This year the plum tree was prolific, very productive, but the fig tree never ripened for some reason. It’s loaded with half-size green figs that look like … well, let’s just say that they look like an anatomical feature found on male mammals and let it go at that.

The fig tree probably didn’t get much water for a couple of months, but that didn’t seem to slow the plum tree down at all. Would pruning it in some specific way in the spring help? If you have any thoughts about how to get the figs to ripen next year, send them along.

And now it’s autumn and the clouds and chilliness are starting to move in.

Mt Rainier, like an inscrutable god, a touchstone

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It’s official: I have a granddaughter! She’s named, in case you haven’t guessed by now, Phoenix Aloha, and was born June 15 in Anacortes, WA, without any problems at all.

Grandpa’s little calabasa

As I write she’s lying in a bassinet next to the table, making little cooing and sighing sounds in her sleep. She’s still in the earliest phase of life but so far seems to be a pretty tranquil little person. As my late wife and Emmet’s mom Pamela noted a long time ago, kids are generally pretty easy to take care of until they learn the word “no.”

Mom and Dad (Kara and Emmet) seem to be doing well, running behind on sleep at times but catching up when they can. Kara is recovering her shape and energy level amazingly quickly, to my non-expert eye. It no doubt helps that she has always been a very fit and athletic person.

Mom & Dad & brand-new Phoenix

Emmet is running back and forth to the island fairly frequently, burning his


candle at both ends a bit, to have as much time as possible with Kara and Phoenix while also keeping up with his work. He’s a self-employed painting contractor and now that the weather has turned (mostly) good he has more work than he can handle.

Kara’s sister Kim is here in the little rented house in Anacortes as well, helping out in myriad ways, showing a beautifully deft and gentle touch with all sorts of baby-related tasks. I flutter around helping where I can with some cooking and kitchen patrol, some shopping, a little baby-burping and baby-sitting, not much in the larger scheme but a pleasure to do.

I couldn’t be happier for Emmet and Kara, couldn’t be happier to have a new


family member. This is a wonderful new focus, a huge, bright positive for me as well, after the darkness and emptiness of the last year and a half.

Words are inadequate to express the feelings that arise in a moment such as this.

They’re not ready right this minute, but I will very soon collect the best of the baby pix to date in a Gallery2 album on line. Click the “My photo albums” link to the right of this post to go there.

Dumpling sleeps. In a while she will awaken, and I ‘ll get to hold her and talk to her and wiggle her teeny little fingers and toes. Life at the moment is good.

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I’m sorry, I can’t help it: when I come across something that clearly explains a key element of the political and economic mess our country is in, I have to pass it along. This one’s an article by Joseph Stiglitz titled “The Vicious Cycle of Economic Inequality,” from Politico.

Some of the choice bits (but read the whole article – it’s not long – to get the full logical flow and supporting detail):

America’s growing inequality is likely to play an important role in this election — and rightly so. Americans see that something is happening to our society: We have become increasingly divided. … The net result is disheartening: Most Americans are worse off today than they were 15 years ago.

Much of the top-most wealth instead comes because of successful “rent seeking.” Economists use the term “rents” for income derived from owning an asset, rather than from effort. “Rent seeking” refers to attempts to garner a larger share of the economic pie, rather than making the pie larger. …

Market forces do, of course, play a role in creating inequality. They have been particularly important in the hollowing out of the middle class. … Market forces…in the U.S. shape markets in ways that enrich the top — but don’t necessarily enhance growth and efficiency.

In all this, there is both hope and despair: Hope because the inequality in the U.S. is not inevitable. There are countries that, even with the same market forces at play, have managed to grow with less inequality. There are countries that have managed even to diminish the level of inequality. …

There is, however, also a sense of despair — because it will most likely be so hard to get these reforms passed. Just as our laws and regulations shape market forces to serve the interests of the top, our political system shapes our democracy so that it serves the same interests.

Our system would increasingly be better described as one dollar, one vote rather than one person, one vote — as the effects of campaign contributions, lobbying, revolving doors and disenfranchisement all take their toll.

Economic inequality feeds into inequalities of political power, leading to still more economic inequality. The U.S. is headed down the path that so many dysfunctional societies have traveled — divided societies in which the rich and poor live in different worlds.

There is an alternative. But will our politics allow it? Will those at the top come to realize that a house divided against itself cannot stand — that this level of inequality is not in their enlightened self-interest?

Or will the vast majority of Americans finally realize that they have been sold a bill of goods — trickle-down economics has never worked and is especially not working today.

In other periods of our history, when inequalities and injustices grew to the breaking point, America changed course. The question is: Will we do so again?

OK, I’ll try to lay off this theme for a while. But a lack of evidence of change for the better suggests that there still aren’t enough people paying attention.

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