Panama Round One, SUCCESS!
Well, we bought the boat for QM Travels. Our trip to Panama was a success, we’re now the proud caretakers of Esprit, a very fine sailboat. So, what’s next? What’s the state of QMT right now? The checklists are only getting longer. We’re studying weather, charts, boats systems, downloading apps to aid in navigation, buying stores, wiring money all over the place, communicating with officials in Panama, buying insurance, and enjoying Windrose while we still have her. Yes, we’re in San Francisco right now and Esprit waits patiently for us in Panama, on the Caribbean side. We’ll be back March 15th.
We couldn’t have had a better boat buying experience in Panama. The previous caretakers of Esprit are delightful people with terrific stories of the boat, passages, countries, geographies, and cultures. They truly embody the cruising lifestyle. We lived aboard with them for a week, ate every meal together, shared knowledge, and just hung out. They are very forthright, organized, and knowledgeable people who were dedicated to Esprit. We have been so fortunate to buy a boat from such wonderful people. We seem to get lucky, making lifelong friends with the people we but boats from.
I’ll be the first to admit, we had high expectations. When we found the listing for Esprit in November ‘17, we thought it was too good to be true, except that the boat was in Panama. As we started communicating with the previous owners, we were provided with far more information and pictures. We couldn’t believe this boat was for sale in our price range and with no deferred maintenance or broken gear. Everything on the boat works, really well. The salon is comfortable for six with room for eight, the cabins are spacious—as are the heads. And the galley! It’s at least three times the size of the galley in Windrose. It’s a stretch to say that a boat, which was sailed around the world and is nearly 30 years is ‘perfect,’ but she’s pretty damn close.
We had plans to sail to the San Blas islands, located 80 miles east northeast of Colon, but due to unusually strong winds and rough seas, we were confined to living in the marina for most of the trip. We were able to get out for one overnight and took refuge in the Chagres River, the out flow of Lake Gatun, eight miles west of Colon. We were anchored just seven miles down stream from the dam that makes the whole Panama Canal possible. You can sail right up to it! Entering the river we passed the remnants of Fort San Lorenzo, a 17th century Spanish fortress guarding the overland gold route. Plundered by Captain Morgan and used as a prison for some time. It is a numbing reminder of how easy sailors and traders have it now! We had the whole river to ourselves. We motored in a quarter mile and dropped anchor right in the middle, looking up at the fort punched 80 feet above the shores. Talk about ideal! After exploring the fort and enjoying a sunset dinner we were gently rocked to sleep under a big moon. Howler monkeys woke us at sunrise like roosters but with a roar and howl that would challenge a pack of lions. Sounds of the jungle surround all consciousness. We’ll certainly be back.
I took a few photos on my 35mm. This film went through airport x-ray machines while in the camera and therefore the shots are a little cloudy.
We received a real sea trial, sailing downwind to the river the day before, we had 15-20kts of wind and six to ten foot confused seas with additional wind waves atop. The next day were the same conditions, with slightly higher gusts, but we were headed into it this time, sailing upwind with ease. We put the boat to the test and she passed. We tested all the systems, inspected all the storage compartments, went over the very detailed and long, long spares and parts list. We put our hands and eyes on 17 years of organization and planning of what goes where and how easy is it to find. We have spare parts for spare parts, all accounted for in a composition notebook.
Esprit is exactly the boat we were looking for, carefully cared for by the kind of people we admire. Under the ‘goals’ heading on our business plan—started more than a year ago—we wrote:
“We need a boat. A yacht, in fact! We are considering yachts in the $80-130k range, between 40’-50.’ Our main focus is on boats less than 30 years old but in excellent condition. We have meticulously rebuilt our 40 year old 32’ boat and know what it takes. We realize that if we pick another boat in similar condition to Windrose (when we bought her), it will cost a lot of money and we won’t be able to sell charters for 6-12 months. We’re only considering boats designed by reputable designers and builders, and need a yacht that is capable of sailing all the world’s oceans. Even if we don't sail the high latitudes with guests, we want to have the safest boat for everywhere in between. This yacht will have two cabins and two heads (bathrooms) and a galley (kitchen) that provides enough space and safety to create five star meals for our guests. Most boats this size can sleep 4 with great privacy and 6-8 in a more communal setting while not giving up all comfort. Great for small families or two groups of good friends. These boats are not plentiful but they do exist!"
Now we have the added adventure of bringing her home to the Bay Area from Panama, in just the right time of year. There is only a few days until we head down there and prepare to transit the Canal! We have about a month and a half to get her home in our allotted time frame, it’s going to be a great time!