Sunday, March 30, 2008

Boat rammed by a whale -- not us! Plus got visa for French Polynesia

S/V VAGAMUNDO recently was rammed by a whale while enroute from Cartagena to San Blas Islands.  They were about 5 miles from the Eastern Hollandes Cays and sailing along peacefully when a whale rammed the port side of the hull.  It was quite a jar and there was blood in the water all around the boat.   The wood joinery inside the boat was shifted almost a foot over towards the starboard side.  This was a major impact about mid-beam area of the port side.

They limped into the Hot Tub area of the Eastern Hollandes.  Another cruiser helped them use a halyard from the top if the mast and tilt the boat as far as possible to the starboard side, exposing the cracked port side of the hull.  And another cruiser had lots of underwater epoxy on hand, which they used to fill the crack.

M/V DIESEL DUCK was about 15 miles behind VAGAMUNDO when the whale struck and they hurried to help.  DIESEL DUCK had a portable large capacity pump, the discharge hose is almost firetruck sized.  DIESEL DUCK could not stay to help further because they had to hurry to Panama for a reason that could not be delayed.  So, they loaned this pump to VAGAMUNDO and went on their way.

VAGAMUNDO used the pump and very slowly made their way to Shelter Bay Marina, where they hauled the boat.  This will require major repairs.  While it is awful that this happened, they are very fortunate that this happened in an area where other boats were available to assist.

It is extremely rare for whales to ram vessels.  The owners of the boat assume that they sailed between a mom and her calf.  They were under sail with no motor running, so they were moving quietly through the water.  The mother whale might have taken this boat as a predator after her calf.  This is still the season of humpback whales calving in the Caribbean.  I wonder if the shape of the hull and keel had any bearing on this incident.

Bill`s visit to the VA hospital was very beneficial.  He was able to obtain a script for the expensive drug that he takes for Crohn`s Disease.  The VA benefits covering just this one script will save us more $4550 per year, so this was certainly worth a trip home.  The doctor said Bill`s lab results were excellent; like they might see in a 35-year-old----unheard of for a 61-year-old who takes no meds for chloresteral or blood pressure or anything of the other typical things one expects for someone his age.  So he again has a clean bill of health.  Guess living on a sailboat agrees with him
Thursday I made a trip over to the French Embassy in Panama City to apply for a 90-day visa for French Polynesia.  I couldn`t wait for Bill to return so that we could do this together because my visa for Panama will expire on April 7.  So needed to get the French visa handled before the Panama visa expires.  Don`t think the French would look too kindly on me if I am in this country beyond my visa date.  The family on S/V FREE SPIRIT accompanied me on this day trip to also apply for their Polynesia visas.  Also along was their guest Jerry, who is a French Canadian.  His fluent French was a great help.

Getting the required photos and copies of various documents was a bit of a challenge, but we did manage to get everything and complete the application forms before the Consulate closed at noon -- thanks to Michele.  Michele was determined we were going to get these applications processed that day and not have to make another trip from Colon.  She went walking down a side street going into businesses and asking to use their computers and copy machines; and she found one office willing to help us.  We printed and copied the things required (a lot more than the Consulate had told us to bring when we called there the previous day).

We high-tailed it back to the Consulate and arrived about 20 minutes before closing.  Paul and Michele and their kids went first and did not have a problem.  Then it was my turn.  The woman processing the applications initially rejected my photo because my face was too large and there was not enough white background showing around my hair.  Tried to tell her that I have a lot of hair, but that did not matter.  As I was leaving, Michele pointed out that the photo lab had given us 6 photos each and that the face on each one was a slightly different size.  So I went back into the office and the woman agreed to take one of my photos and process my application after all.  The French are very, very picky about the photos.
By the time we left the Embassy we were all emotionally wrung out and decided to stop for pizza and beer.  I could have used a stiff drink after that morning but settled for a Diet Coke since I don`t drink beer and the tiny restaurant did not sell liquor.  Then we grabbed our fourth taxi of the day and visited the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal.  Recommended if you ever visit the area.  Then back to Albrook Mall to the bus terminal so we could catch the express bus back to Colon.  It was well past dark before I finally made it back to the marina.  This was a busy day, and I am glad that we accomplished the French Polynesia visa application. 

Our canal transit date is still set for April 12.  The canal authority told me to check back again on Wednesday as they are expecting things to speed up a bit next week.

 One final note about the James Bond movie #22.  When the film crew finished here at the marina most of them were then going to Chile.  There was a duplicate film crew already in Chile shooting the same scenes they did here.  There are also 2 film crews in Europe.  So they had at least 4 complete film/production crews operating at the same time.  No darn wonder these movies cost a freaking fortune.

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