With the coming of August it was time to start thinking about the end of my voyage. Windsong had to go into storage and Spot and I had to fly home. I started looking into storage options in Colon, Panama and Cartagena, Columbia. Cartagena looked like the less expensive option since there are several marinas in town competing with each other.

I also looked into getting Spot her rabies shot and medical certificate so that she could fly home. I spoke to the marina staff. The vet actually comes right to the marina to treat cruiser’s animals and tomorrow was the day he usually comes to Bocas. How convenient! I had them make me an appointment and four days later, the vet arrived! Spot was caged up, lowered into the dinghy and went for her first and only dinghy ride. It was also her first time ashore since she found the immortal Bahamian fleas in Nassau. The vet arrived two hours behind schedule and Spot was inspected, injected, and ready to fly.

Spot Going for a Dinghy Ride

Spot Going for a Dinghy Ride

The following evening, Spot stood anchor watch while the crews of Sea Star, Tregoning, and Windsong dined at the Calypso Cantina. After dinner drinks were cut short by a thunderstorm blowing through. Dan and Kathy darted for Sea Star but by the time my bill arrived, the storm was in full downpour, trapping Alison, Randal, and me ashore. We stared into the blinding rain hoping that the faint outlines we were glimpsing bucking in the harbour were our boats, and they were not dragging. When the storm cleared we headed out to discover that Windsong had indeed dragged. She was lying two feat abeam of the derelict next door with her anchor right underneath her. The was no apparent damage but, clearly I was going to have to do an anchor drill in the pitch black with only the dinghy for propulsion. Fortunately, the wind had dropped to a dead calm, and there was no chance of the owner of the derelict finding out that I may or may not have hit his boat. I had never seen the owner and the boat clearly hadn’t moved for about a year. No sooner did I finish evaluating the situation than a panga arrived along side bearing the owner of the derelict! He was completely nonplussed and actually helped me to re-anchor.

Windsong Pitching Wildly at Anchor During a Storm

Windsong Pitching Wildly at Anchor During a Storm

Sea Star and Windsong were still completely disabled and life had become a game of waiting for parts. The weight of my trip ending was really starting to bear down on me and I was feeling a strong need to spend the time doing something and experiencing more of Panama. And besides, I was still ticked that Vulcan Baru had defeated me. I arranged for Dan and Kathy to look after Spot, jammed every piece of electronics that would fit into the oven for lightning protection, jumped in a water taxi and headed back up into the mountains to Boquete.

Land based travel in Panama is very convenient and inexpensive due to their fabulous public transit system. The water taxi to Almirante was $5. Taxi to the bus station: $1. Bus to David: $7. Bus from David to Boquete: $1.45. Total for a day`s travel: $14.45! Accommodations were pretty reasonable too: $10 a night at Hostel Refugio del Rio. Once checked in, I cased out the local breakfast joints and found the one that opened earliest for my pre-climb breakfast, looked at my dinner options, and arranged a taxi ride to the base of Vulcan Baru for the morning.

Ngobe Bugle Woman and Child in Boquette

Ngobe Bugle Woman and Child in Boquete

Back at the hostel, I grabbed my book and headed into the common room to do some reading. There I Met Nicola, a Brit working on a study on the impact of the expats in Panama. She was chatting with Emma, an Auzzie who has travelled all over the place including a sail across the Atlantic from the US to Gibralter on a Yacht. Then five feet, 100 lbs of curly golden haired granola goddess walked in. She introduced herself as Joee. She works for a Heli skiing outfit near Revelstoke six months of the year and travels for the rest. She has also been damn near everywhere including crewing on a yacht in the south Pacific. Next thing I knew I was off for drinks and dinner with three beautiful, adventurous, young women. All I could think was: “Man I love hostels!”

Starting up Vulcan Baru

Starting up Vulcan Baru

I was up at 05:30 the next morning and headed to the café where I got a decent breakfast of coffee and pancakes for $1.10. My cab arrived promptly at 06:30 and I was off to the volcano. He dropped me off about a kilometre from the park gate to begin my climb. The going was a lot easier this time with a full stomach, a good strong cup of coffee in me, no heavy poor fitting pack full of camping gear, and no bizarre tropical virus that laid me out for the better part of week. The road was just as rough and steep as I remembered but I kept steadily rising upward until I found myself at “Death Corner” where I collapsed on my previous attempt at the mountain. One kilometre from the summit I reached the campsite that had been our prior destination. There I ran into Victor, my old guide with a group of students from the Habla Ya Spanish school who were on their way down.

"Death Corner" Where I Collapsed on My First Attempt on Vulcan Baru

“Death Corner” Where I Collapsed on My First Attempt on Vulcan Baru

The last kilometre was a tough one. The last time I had climbed a mountain for my birthday was Mount Rundle in Banff in 1997. Sure the actual vertical climb was 300m (1000 ft) more, and it was on a trail, not a road, but the summit was almost 600m (2000 feet) lower, and I was 12 years younger! I had also just spent the last month backpacking the West Coast Trail, not lounging on my boat with my feet up. I just kept putting one aged, out of shape, un-acclimatized, foot in front of the other as I sucked away at the thin air. The road ended at a cluster of radio towers shrouded in clouds and a trail continued through the mist to the summit. The trail lead me along a knife edge. My legs became wobbly with the altitude and my acrophobia, as I stared down into the clouds on either side of me, wondering how far down it was to the bottom. If there was one at all. Finally, I reached a small shrine. Ecstatic, I hurried to what had to be the highest point in Panama. I drew in a lung full of thin mist filled air, surveyed what little I could see, and quickly spotted a trail continuing higher up into the clouds. Slightly deflated, I plodded on. An then, there it was: a geodesic benchmark marking the top of the Isthmus. Heart pounding, I gasped my way there and stood atop it. I stared out into the clouds knowing that on a clear day, this is the only place in the world where you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the same time. Then out of the fog above me loomed a cross. Fooled by another false summit! I stumbled my way there and stood staring into the whiteness. Eventually, the clouds thinned enough to allow me to see that every direction lead downward. I had really made it this time. I was at the 3,474m (11,398 ft) peak of Vulcan Baru! Aboard Windsong down in Bocas del Toro, I lived in shorts and only put a shirt on to comply with local customs when going ashore. I had left Boquete in the morning wearing long pants and a zip T. Now I was swaddled in 300 weight fleece and Gore Tex, and only truly kept warm by the exertions of climbing.

First False Summit

First False Summit

I spent about a half our at the summit, eating granola bars to try to bring my blood sugar high enough to get me back down, and snapping pictures every time the clouds cleared a bit. Eventually, it did clear enough for me to get a good look at the nearest peaks and down into the caldera of the volcano. I knew before I started the climb that there would be no hope of glimpsing either ocean during the rainy season. Once I was certain that I had seen all I could see, I started to get chilled. The elation of summitting started to be replaced by the certain knowledge that I was only halfway through my trek. I had started just before sunrise, and it was now well past noon. With only 12 hours of daylight at this latitude I had to start heading down fast if I didn’t want to spend too much time walking in the dark.

Second False Summit

Second False Summit

Down was easier of course, but my feet and knees were quite worn. The last five kilometres were the most difficult of all. The air was much thicker now, but I was almost totally spent and had to keep resting. I called for my cab 20 minutes from the bottom and got an answering machine. There was a bus shelter at the bottom where I was able to rest while trying to get through to the cabbie. Before I could, a minibus showed up and whisked me back to town. I had walked 29 km with a 1.3 km (4,300 ft) vertical rise in just over 12 hours time. I was completely exhausted and my feet ached with blisters. Shoes were something I wore in Bocas even less than shirts.

The Real Summit

The Real Summit

I had breakfast the next morning with Joee. She had been studying Spanish at the Habla Ya Spanish school which had been recommended to her by an Israeli woman she met in the San Blas, the same Israeli lady I had met zip lining on my first trip to Boquete. She was now on her way down to Bocas del Toro to live with a host family while continuing her study of Spanish. Unfortunately, I had already booked a coffee tour for the morning so we could not travel to Bocas together but I gave her my cell phone number and she promised to look me up when I got down there.

The coffee bus was late, but I wasn’t complaining. The more time I spent with Joee the merrier! Eventually, the bus arrived and hauled me off to the Café Ruiz plantation. It was a fascinating tour as all I really knew about coffee is that a can’t survive morning without it, preferably strong, dark roast, organic, and black as death. Café Ruiz grows all of their coffee in the shade of fruit trees and castor beans. The castor beans act as a natural insecticide, and the fruit trees provide free food for the indigenous Ngobe Bugle people they hire to pick the coffee. Boquete is famous for producing the most expensive coffee in the world: Geisha coffee. Our guide showed us the difference between Geisha plants and Typica plants. The Typica plants where absolutely loaded with huge berries while the Geisha was sparse and thin with few small berries. The Geisha plants were once discarded as weeds since their yield is so low. Then, Daniel Peterson of “Hacienda Esmeralda” discovered that they produce and extremely fine cup of coffee. Since then, the Esmeralda Special has sold for a record setting $130 per pound. I was dying to try some only to discover that it is produced for export only, so you cannot get a cup of it in Panama!

Coffee Berries

Coffee Berries

Next stop was the drying factory. Coffee is actually a berry, not a bean. It takes several steps to get to the coffee “bean”. The berries are first sorted by density. Floaters are beans that are damaged by insects and fungus. They are removed and sold to Folgers. Then machines peel the flesh off of the berry to reveal the seed. The peels are used back on the plantation for compost. The seeds are then dried and sorted by size and density by machine. They are colour sorted by hand to remove any damaged beans that made it through. The seeds are then aged. The driers are fuelled by firewood made by trimming the shade trees, shells from the seeds, and natural gas. There are still two more shells. There is the parchment layer that is thick, parchment coloured, and easy to peel off. This is what is used for fuel. Then there is the onion layer that is like a layer of onion skin and hard to peel. Once both of these are removed you have a green coffee “bean” ready for roasting.

Ripe Berries Showing the Coffee "Bean

Ripe Berries Showing the Coffee “Bean”

That meant we were off to the our final stop on the tour: the roasting factory. Here we were fitted out with hairnets and smocks that made us look like surgeons. I had a hard time believing that this was not simply for dramatic effect! Mr. Ruiz’ first roaster was a steel bowl. He then bought a machine that could roast a pound at a time. Then a 10 pound machine. The small machines are still used for specialty coffees. The main machine they use today roasts thousands of pounds at a time.

Mr. Ruiz' First Coffee Roaster

Mr. Ruiz’ First Coffee Roaster

The tour ended with a coffee tasting. Central American’s prefer a medium roast so that the coffee carries a fairly strong aftertaste but isn’t overly roasted destroying most of the flavour. The lighter roasts could be tasted with the front of the tongue, while the medium roast was tasted with the middle and sides of the tongue, and the dark roast was tasted with the back of the tongue. Specialty coffees are never dark roasted since it destroys most of the unique flavours of the coffee. You could certainly taste the citrus flavour of the Boquete coffee. I must confess, I still like my coffee dark roasted and prefer the chocolaty flavour of the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and Cuban coffees. I guess that while I love coffee, I am not a true coffee snob.

Are We Doing Surgery on the Coffee?

Are We Doing Surgery on the Coffee?

After the tour I began the bus and water taxi journey back to Bocas del Toro were Spot was waiting for me standing guard over Windsong.

Two days later I got two great pieces of news: my new starter was waiting for me at the airport, and Joee wanted to meet up for lunch. Lunch was a watermelon and some crazy potato like vegetable we picked up at from a street vendor. Then we walked to the airport for my starter and Joee headed to her afternoon Spanish lesson. When I got back to Windsong, the strangest thing happened. The starter fit like a glove. It popped right into place and the engine started right up and purred like a kitten. No repair job is ever that easy!

Joee called again after class. She wanted to go snorkelling at Starfish Beach in Bocas del Drago at the other end of the island. We caught the bus across the island where he discovered that Starfish Beach was only really accessible by boat. We hired a guy with a monkey on his shoulder to shuttle us there in his dugout launcha. The visibility wasn’t great, but the water was warm, there were lots of starfish, the beach was beautiful, and so was the company. As we watched the sun go down I thought about Joee’s warning not to fall in love with someone from the other side of the world. That was going to be a very difficult trap to avoid.

Joee and the Monkey Man

Joee and the Monkey Man

The next morning, we met up to go surfing. Joee was an experienced surfer so she found us a surfing operation that was running lessons and ferrying experienced surfers at the same time. The boat dropped us off at the beach next to a breaking reef. Joee paddled out to the outer part of the break while the instructors taught us the paddling motion and the pop up. Once we hit the water I was instantly amazed at how tiring paddling was. It was like doing the front crawl, a stroke I have never been very good at, without your legs that normally do most of the work. To make it worse, the board forces your arms far out from your body preventing any efficiency whatsoever in the motion. I caught a couple of the waves and body surfed them for what felt like forever. I was certain that if I tried to stand up, I would wipeout instantly. I wanted to enjoy at least the first couple of waves. Paddling back exhausted me. It reminded me of back country skiing. A huge exhausting climb, followed by a short burst of exhilaration on the downhill. By my third wave I was so spent that the instructors had to push my board to get me up to speed. This time I figured that to be a man I had to go for it. I popped up into a crouch. The board was surprising stable when it was up on a plane. The instructors had us try popping up when the boards were just floating. I hadn’t stayed on the board for a whole second. On the wave it was much easier to balance but I still didn’t dare to stand up. I was now struggling so badly to paddle back that an instructor came and towed back up to the break. Once there, I ducked my head through a breaking wave and it washed my new glasses right off of my face despite the strap. I dove down, but there was no hope of finding them without a mask.

Starfish Beach

Starfish Beach

Our time was up anyways and we started paddling back to the beach. Despite my shoulders screaming from with the effort, I quickly fell behind and an instructor took me in tow. I had spent 13 months hanging out with cruisers who were mostly 20 years older than me or more. I had always been the strongest, fittest, fastest, and most agile. Now with these 20 something surfers, I felt like a blind feeble old man. Just give me a wheel chair, some Depends, and start pureeing my food!

I also had a problem: How does a blind man pilot his dinghy back to his boat to get his spare glasses? I supposed I could go really slow. I could see large objects like boats, but smaller objects like pilings, coconuts, and swimming children wouldn’t be visible until a couple feet off of the bow. Well, there was silver lining to all this. I now had an excuse the get Joee out to Windsong. She could be my dinghy driver.

She drove the dinghy like an old pro. Soon she had met Spot, had lunch, and was off to Spanish lessons while I returned to the surf break with my mask and snorkel. The current was so intense that I had to resort to front crawling with my fins on to make any progress. I was fairly sure I had found the right spot but the waves were throwing things everywhere. It was like searching for a needle in a haystack while the haystack is being thrown at you. From the motion of the sand and rocks, it looked like if I did find my glasses they would be entirely opaque with scratches.

Dan and Kathy’s shipment of parts arrived and for a few days I settled down into a pattern of repairing Sea Star all day and spending evenings with Joee. I tried to convince her to sail to Colon with me, but she eventually decided that she had to follow her heart along her original path north to Costa Rica to save sea turtles. In University, had I listened to Cat Stevens, swearing not to do what they all say “Work hard boy and you’ll find, one day you’ll have a job like mine.” I read Thoreau vowing not to live like the mass of men “in quite desperation.” Then I found myself at a crossroads up in the mountains of Banff. I was happy up there, but I felt that I needed a real career to put my degree to use. Despite Robert Frost’s warming, I turned from the path less taken and stepped onto the speeding highway of the rat race. Perhaps that choice is what allowed me to make this trip but I feel I have spent far too much time saying yes and sinking low because they happened to say so. And here was Joee, the living embodiment of the road I hadn’t taken. She had stayed up in the mountains and continued to live so fully. I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the fact that both paths had lead us to the exact same place in space and time. It was going to be so hard to see her leave.

Replacing Melted Masthead Hardware on Sea Star

Replacing Melted Masthead Hardware on Sea Star

When I told her this she simply told me, “Dude, you have not lived like most people. Most people have not sailed 7000 miles to Panama.”

We had one day left together, so I was determined to make it a good one. We weighed Windsong’s anchor for the first time in a month a sailed out of the anchorage toward Isla Cristobal. It was an extremely gentle sail and once we reached the far side of Baiha Almirante the dolphins came to join us. We were moving so slowly that I considered jumping in with them but Joee was rather concerned about all of the jellyfish. The jellyfish cleared so I suited up and grabbed my mask and snorkel just in time for the dolphins to disappear. When they finally came back, they brought the jellyfish with them. So I still haven’t had my chance to swim with dolphins. Soon the wind died completely, and we had to strap the dinghy alongside to push us back to Bocas. (Remember I still had no propeller for Windsong’s engine.)

Sailing with Joee

Sailing with Joee

Dinner was with Dan and Kathy at the Calypso Cantina complete with the one man band and closing with the big gay fire show. One performer even intentionally set his crotch on fire! All too soon, the music was over and it was time for the dinghy ride to bring Joee back to her host family in town. I took her all the way around to the fire station to shorten her walk. The fateful moment was here. I thanked her for all of her joy that she had allowed to overflow into me and asked her to save a turtle for me. She said she would save thousands and asked me not to be sad. “Just think of all the fun we had.” She said goodbye and disappeared into the night. I went back to Windsong, put on Cat Stevens, lay on the deck staring at the stars aboard what Joee called my “million star hotel”, and fought back the tears.

The Big Gay Fire Show

The Big Gay Fire Show (Kathy’s Photo)

Not knowing how to mend my broken heart, I spent the next day fixing Sea Star instead. Real, physical problems, and the feel of tools in my hands was extremely therapeutic. Soon we had fixed everything we could fix aboard Sea Star. I fuelled and victualled Windsong making ready to head to Escudo de Veraguas. Dan and Kathy still wanted to do sea trials on their autopilot, and Alison and Randall were still waiting for mail they were having delivered by US mail. (Every cruising guide ever written about the Caribbean says never to send things by regular mail and boy were they paying for that mistake!) I figured that if somebody didn’t haul up an anchor and leave soon, none of us ever would. I might as well be the one.

Fixing Sea Star

Fixing Sea Star

I strapped the dinghy alongside to push me out of the harbour, sang my weighing shanty, and I was off. The wind came up in the afternoon allowing me to fly the spinnaker. It died around sunset so I had to go back to the dinghy pushing routine. There was a good swell so the dinghy took quite a beating. It was so inky black when I approached Escudo de Veraguas that I only saw it on radar. I anchored in the lee of the island and had a pretty lumpy night. Maurico arrived in the morning to solicit a donation for his construction and turtle monitoring work. He told me about a well sheltered anchorage at the other end of the island. I dinghied over there. It was perfectly sheltered but there was no way I could get in without an engine and a bow watch. When I returned to Windsong the wind had shifted and built. I couldn’t stay there and conditions were perfect for sailing on. Weighing anchor was a chore. Normally, I would put the engine in gear and let it push me upwind to the anchor as I brought in the rode. Without an engine I had to haul the boat to windward, and the wind was pretty considerable. I had to run the anchor line back to one of the primary anchors and grind like hell. I could tell that the moment the anchor broke free, the bow would swing toward the beach. That’s exactly what it did. I sprinted forward, catted the anchor, and ran back to open the genny. I had to allow the boat to gather way toward her imminent doom, to get the water flowing over her rudder so I could gybe. The gybe was clean and I was underway dripping sweat from the exertion and fear.

Sketchy Anchorage at Escudo de Veraguas

Sketchy Anchorage at Escudo de Veraguas

The fear came back when I reached the Rio Chagres. My charts disagreed about the number of rocks to avoid off the entrance. I only managed to spot one, and not until it was abeam. The dinghy had taken on a lot of water so I could not pull it forward to get it alongside. I had to make the entrance under sail. I managed to miss the rocks and glided in under the guns of Fort San Lorenzo serenaded by howler monkeys.

Rio Chagres

Rio Chagres

Fort San Lorenzo was built in 1587 to protect the Las Cruces trail. This was the rainy season route for Peruvian gold moving across the isthmus from Panama City. In the dry season, gold could be carried along the Camino Real directly to Portobelo where it was stockpiled for the annual flotilla of galleons. In the rainy season, the gold came down the Rio Chagres and along the coastline by boat. Henry Morgan levelled the place in 1670 and used it the following year as the base for his famous raid of Panama City.

Fort San Lorenzo

Fort San Lorenzo

The fort was rebuilt in the 1680’s in its modern day location. This second fort was destroyed by Edward Vernon in 1740. The fort we see today was constructed to replace it during the 1750’s. It was never attacked again because the Spanish changed their trade routes and began sailing their gold around Cape Horn. The California gold rush gave the fort and associated town one last infusion of life as prospectors converged on the river on their way west. When Colon was chosen as the Atlantic terminus of the Panama Railway, the town faded away for good.

Fort San Lorenzo

Fort San Lorenzo

I was able to take my dinghy all the way up the river to the Gatun Dam and climb up to Gatun Lake. Here I watched the ships moving through the Panama Canal.

Gatun Dam

Gatun Dam

Ferdinand de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez canal, lead the first attempt at building a canal in 1881. De Lesseps imagined a repeat of Suez, a steep sided canal at sea level. The Panamanian jungle was nothing like the desert of Suez. The constant rains caused the excavations to continually collapse and nurtured mosquitos carrying malaria and yellow fever. The French abandoned the attempt in 1894 after losing $287 million and 22,000 lives.

In 1902 the United States began negotiations with Colombia to take over the building of the canal. By January 1903, the U.S. had signed a treaty giving them a renewable lease on the land. The Colombian government delayed signing in an attempt to get more money out of the deal. In response Teddy Roosevelt helped orchestrate a tidy little revolution. The province of Panama separated from Colombia, while U.S. warships blocked the approach of any Colombian troops. Panama got to keep all of the money from the treaty and Teddy got his canal. Instead of allowing Congress to debate the canal for years, Teddy left them to debate him.

Gatun Lake

Gatun Lake

The U.S. construction began in 1904 following a completely different strategy. They dammed the Rio Chagres to create Gatun Lake. Locks were built to raise ships up to the lake and through a much shorter excavated canal before another set lowered them back down to the Pacific. This still required the removal of 130 million cubic metres of material above and beyond the 23 million cubic metres already dug by the French. Huge developments in machinery and disease control allowed the Americans to complete the canal by 1914 at a cost of $375 million. The canal was turned over to the Panamanians in 1999 and today carries near 15,000 ships a year. It is known as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Click here for more history of the Panama Canal.

I also strongly recommend David McCullough’s book The Path Between the Seas.

Ship Passing Through the Gatun Locks

Ship Passing Through the Gatun Locks

The Americans worry about the quality of the Panamanian security around the canal. Well, the Canal Authority quickly found me and chased me back to my dinghy.

Sea Star arrived two days later after their own nightmare at Escudo de Veraguas. It became so rough that they snapped their snubber. Then the chain came off the gypsy of their windlass. They narrowly escaped being washed up on the beach. We enjoyed my last few days at anchor by exploring the jungle on various trails and channels off the Rio Chagres. We watched for birds and found monkeys and a sloth. All too soon it was time to weigh anchor for the last time and head to Shelter Bay Marina.

Dan's Photo of a Howler Monkey

Dan’s Photo of a Howler Monkey

Shelter Bay is on the grounds of Fort Sherman. This modern fort was built in 1912 to defend the Atlantic approach to the canal. It included barracks for 300, an airstrip, various recreational areas and massive batteries holding a total of 8-12 inch mortars, 2-14 inch guns, 4-12 guns, and 2-6 inch guns. It was handed over to the Panamanians along with the canal in 1999. Apparently, they could not afford to maintain it because they have allowed almost all of it to crumble into the jungle.

Shelter Bay Marina. The Main Building is the Old Fort Sherman  Hospital.

Shelter Bay Marina. The Main Building is the Old Fort Sherman Hospital.

On August 28, Windsong was hauled from the water after sailing 5549nm from Sidney, Nova Scotia. English teachers tell me that I should use similes and metaphors to try to capture the feelings of such moments. Here is my geek’s attempt: It was much like watching Han Solo being lowered into the pit to be frozen in Carbonite. This hero who had carried me through so many incredible adventures was being taken away and put into a state of temporary death. I knew that I would likely be able to come back and rescue her one day. To bring her back to life. But I couldn’t imagine how. My job back in Windsor loomed darkly over the proceedings like Darth Vader. I wept like Leah. I roared like Chewy. I was wracked with guilt and regret like Lando.

Hauling Out After ? Nautical Miles

Hauling Out After 5549 Nautical Miles

I had a few days to put Windsong to bed, explore the ruins of Fort Sherman, and deal with the nightmare of getting Spot home. In order to maximize the money wrung out of rich Gringos, in Panama, a private individual cannot book a flight for a pet. I had to visit Panama City to hire an agent and take Spot to a vet in Colon, after her health certificate from Bocas Del Toro was rejected. Spot’s flight ended up costing as much as mine.

Ruins of Fort Sherman

Ruins of Fort Sherman

Preparation for this trip had been the focus of my life for the past four years. I had met the most amazing people and seen the most incredible things along my journey. All I could think about was how to make it continue, but the money was simply gone. I had no choice but to go back to work. Never in my life had I felt so alive. Now I felt certain that I was returning to the land of the living dead. It was obvious already that I could never live in Windsor again, but I felt duty bound to give it a try.

Leaving Windsong Behind

Leaving Windsong Behind

The faithful day arrived. I left Windsong behind and climbed into a rental car with Dan and Kathy. We drove to Panama City and spent a night in a hotel. They took me to the airport in the morning. I was completely torn up inside as I said goodbye to the two people who had shared so much of my dream. I wondered how a real man would feel right now. I saw the tear in Dan’s eye, and I knew.

Postscript

As you all know by now, my return to Windsor did not work out. Instead I ended up spending four fabulous years in South Korea and exploring Asia. As I finished writing this I was back aboard a beautifully refitted Windsong in Shelter Bay five and a half years later with a fuzzy new cat.

Click for More Pictures of the Journey's End

Click for More Pictures of the Journey’s End

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