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Email from Mark Harrison from Panama

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I'm in Panama, on the east side and should be transiting in the next day or two. Things are probably being held up by the holidays. I don't know if you got my last message as I sailed off of Key West, but here's the general gist:

I've been sailing since the 8th of December. My crew and I hopped down the coast from Charleston to Florida and got stymied by harsh north winds from crossing the Gulfstream to the Bahamas. Instead, we sailed to Key West and did an 8-day straight passage between Cuban and the Yucatan, down past Belize, Guatemala, the Caymans, Honduras and Nicaraugua, to a small island in the west Caribbean called San Andres. The passage nearly killed my crew. Everyone was seasick for days, and we were always hundreds of miles and days of travel from the nearest safe port. The weather was benign, but the seas were short, high, and constantly crashing. A couple of the crew kind of lost their wits being sick and thrown about endlessly for days. In the end, I lost two crew - the actress went home out of sea and homesickeness, Kathe had to go home to her practice, but that was the plan all along. I'm suprised I kept the rest of the crew. The cook disappeared into his cabin for 4 days straight, one of the two Mormon guys was a complete wreck they whole time (though he stoically kept his watch every night), Laura another sailor nearly lost her mind for lack of sleep and having her 200+ pound frame thrown around violently for days on end. There was really no non-emergency place to stop - no place where it would not have been a greater risk to tuck in than to just sail by, barring a disaster - I think my crew considered mutiny a few times in their discomfort...

I had a great time - the seas were safe, no storms, no disasterous breakage, no close calls, no man-overboards, no injuries - just days of strong winds, tough currents, and cruelly choppy seas.

In the end, we traversed 1000 miles of open ocean and arrived Christmas morning safely behind the reef of a small idyllic western caribbean island called San Andres.

San Andres was a tropical island paradise, with gorgeous reefs, tropical rainforests, beautiful people, amazing fresh seafood - and a calm anchorage. We recovered for a few days, fixed all the things that broke in the bucking seas, and sailed to Panama over the last two days.

A friend of mine from New York grew up here, and the one marina is owned by her cousin. I visited her parents every day, ate with them - Kathe Ana joined me for a visit once, treated almost everyone in the family, and charming them all to within an inch of their lives.

Saturday evening, we set sail for Panama and arrived yesterday at dawn. An amazing sight, the breakwater at Panama...

Now we are in Colon, the eastern end of the Canal - it is a desolate pit of a slum, gutted 20 years ago by the departure of the American military. It should be an interesting, chaotic New Years here. We'll transit the Canal in one, maximum two days and be in Panama City which is supposed to be beautiful. They we'll make our way up to Costa Rica, Guatelama, Mexico and in four weeks, LA - God and the seas willing.

Right now, the streets are exploding with firecrackers and masses of people are crushing though the dark streets, taxis and busses blaring as they try to inch through.

It's going to be an interesting night.

Have a great New Years. Give my love to everyone. I'll be in touch again soon. Let me know if you want a phone call!



Jan 01, 2003 05:45 PM