Updated: Sep 20
Just before Joe Walsh lets rip with the guitar riff that made the Eagles song, 'Hotel California', a classic, the lyrics from the last verse are, " You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave". I have to admit that, as the weeks dragged on and our solar arch repair kept being delayed, I sometimes wondered if we had strayed into our own 'Hotel California' and we would be here for eternity. Certainly, many others seem to be stuck here. Luiso arrived four years ago for a 'quick stop'. As he departed, his engine groaned, died, and it quickly became apparent that the only way forward was a new engine. As the finances for this were not available he decided to try to take jobs around the marina whilst saving for repairs. He is a competent rigger, takes contracts looking after boats whilst owners depart, yet his floating home is still at anchor in the bay and the new engine looks no nearer.
There have also been more serious cases of 'checking out' and not leaving. Within a ten mile radius of Linton Bay there have been four murders in the time we have been here. The bus trip to the supermarket involves two checkpoints with soldiers armed with semi-automatic weapons. The victims were locals, not cruisers, and we have to assume this was related to drugs and the proximity to Columbia. But, all the same, we are happy to be inside the marina fences after dusk.
Fortunately, in the last two weeks, we know enough people who have managed to 'escape'. So maybe it is not our Hotel California after all. Long term residents Mike and Nicki arrived in December with engine mounts shot. Sourcing new ones turned into a science project but, last week, the new mounts, manufactured locally were finally accepted and installed.
TWe had fun manoeuvering the engine back into the tiny engine bay. But, with Mike's ingenious blocks and pulley systems (his knitting) and willing helpers on the winches, it was in and aligned in a morning.
For those wishing to do a 'circumnavigation' of the Caribbean, Nicaragua presents certain challenges. In addition to the nasty shoals which extend a long way offshore, there is a strong piracy risk. So most boats, having finished cruising the Panamanian coast in Bocas del Toro, close to the Nicuraguan border, turn around and return to Linton Bay to 'gain easting' before heading north to Costa Rica, the Caymans or Jamaica. The sail north, hard on the wind, is best done with milder weather and smaller seas and we met several boats waiting (in some cases four weeks plus) for an appropriate window.
Again, a posse of boats managed to escape in the past ten days as the wind dropped and swung round to the east. Smaller waves, winds below 20 knots and the direction far enough to the east to allow a straight sail to clear the shoals of Nicaragua
In our case the Solar arch was finally completed after a long and stressful five weeks. Having paid a deposit (cash of course), and been promised some 'action' in week 2, yet having nothing to look at in week 4, I was beginning to think we had chosen the wrong fabricator. With the structure 'delivered', it took a couple of days to run the wiring, bolt everything back on and clean up the mess. However, now it is confirmed the solar panels and wind generator still work, the world is a much happier place.
We are now in Shelter Bay, Colon (the entrance to the Panama canal) waiting to be measured, a necessary step in getting a slot to transit the canal. We have already travelled to Panama City by bus. And this is what awaits us on the other side of the canal - the Pacific Ocean!!!
Of course, there are friends we have left behind in Linton Bay. Patrick (SV Iton) still awaits a replacement furler. But that has recently been spotted in Miami. Max bought his catamaran in the Caribbean and was taking it back to California. He ended up in Linton Bay in December with serious steering issues. Now, although the steering is fixed, he had used the 'wait time' to go through the boat finding out what else needs to happen. So the jobs list today is longer than when he arrived! However, given the general competence of both, I am confident they will both be following us through the canal shortly.
So maybe, after all, Linton Bay is not Hotel California!