be tightened sequentially along the way. This isn't an easy task.

The whole process took from dawn until late afternoon. We were covered with sweat, bruises, and cuts, but the boat was again orderly, and the engine ran like a top . "Success!" I cried out as we sped westward under power at six knots. "We had big fun with pipes. Why, we even got to monkey with our monkey wrenches."

? Busted for Joy

| Carolyn wasn't quite as pleased with the day as I was. "I'm w beat," she said, as she headed below for a nap. "And stop bub bling with joy, or I'll call the U.S. Coast Guard and have you arrested for excessive happiness."

"Guilty as charged," I mumbled while trying to keep as straight a face as possible.

The following morning (or was it a couple of days later?), Carolyn was back to her usual self and suggested, "Let's bang a left and pull into the San Blas islands."

I wasn't too keen. We were running late, and I wanted to get though the Canal. But Carolyn had a strong argument: "I hear it's very romantic in the San Blas."

We were in the San Blas islands, off the deserted northern coast of Panama. This archipelago is perhaps the most intriguing island group in the Caribbean. A Kuna Indian woman with four children stopped her long, heavy canoe about 100 feet off Wild Cards starboard side. She was dressed in typical style: brightly colored blouse, a lovely scarf, gaudy beaded leggings, a gold ring in her nose.

She was shy. I waited. She was working up her courage. I helped. "Ola!" I shouted over to her. She maneuvered her canoe alongside and placed her handcrafted ap-pliqued fabric pieces, called molas, on our lifelines. "Ten, five, one dalla," she said, using up all her English in four words.

Carolyn carefully inspected them, making murmurs of approval. "El Gato," she said, pointing at a small, crude mola. "One dalla?"

"Si," the woman said and visibly wiggled with pride.

"Muy bueno," said Carolyn, taking the mola and, with a slow, respectful flourish, giving the woman a single American dollar bill.

" Gratia,' the women beamed. I could almost hear her thinking to herself, "Yes, the three-hour row was worth it. Now I have money, and my fisherman husband will be proud."

I watched her for an hour or so as she began her row back home. To me, it was as if she was fading back into her time. I could picture her life and I could picture mine, but as we'd spoken, I'd noticed a jet contrail behind her, and it didn't seem possible that we could all be sharing this same moment. It seemed as though if one of us existed, then the others must not.

The Kuna are extremely pro-American, as the United States protected them from slaughter during the construction of the

Panama Canal. They are, perhaps, among the most independent and culturally rich Amerindian groups surviving. They govern themselves completely, and we had to first visit the sahila, the village chief, to pay our respects (and $10) for the privilege of touring his home island of Artitupu.

Later in the day, in a different deserted anchorage, we were visited by another Kuna cultural icon: a transvestite. This man was locally revered for the brilliance of his molas, the making of which is usually considered woman's work. He majestically displayed his lovely, carefully crafted wares. Then he rowed back to his nearby island, an island without electricity, fuel, and plastic. A little while later, I fired off this story via my laptop computer, Pactor digital modem, SSB radio, shoreside server, and, thus, the Internet. In San Blas, among the Kuna, I was often rattled by how the past seems so close to the future. F.G.

Nobody in the world knew where we were or where we were going. We'd just tossed a dart at the chart to pick a hole in the reef to slither through. So I was quite surprised to catch the tail end of an excited female voice saying, on the VHF, "Is that Wild Card? Fatty and Carolyn?"

I dashed below to the nav station, snatched up the VHF microphone, and said, "Who calls Wild Card?"

"Ithaka" said the voice. "Ithaka calls Wild Card!"

"Bernadette?" I said in disbelief.

The Cruising World Turns

Yes, the Cruising World family might be a small one, but we're well traveled. I'd just partied with Herb McCormick in Culebra, Puerto Rico, a few months ago. Elaine Lembo often visits St. John, U.S.V.I., where we've headquartered for many years. Tim Murphy regularly plays music in New England with many of the same degenerate guitar pickers I play with in the Caribbean. Once, in French Polynesia, I waved at Steve Callahan as he sped past in a delightfully strange multihull. And now Douglas and Bernadette Bernon, two of my favorite marine writers, were guiding us through the reef, inviting us to dinner, and giving us the literary lowdown on the world of salt-stained inkslingers.

Did we enjoy the ensuing party aboard the lovely Ithaka? I assume we did. "Their reds were better than their whites," Carolyn groaned the next day. "Though it sure was a judgment call!"

Later that same afternoon, Carolyn discovered that one of our engine-mount flanges was loose. Yes, I know, I know: Most women don't root around in the engine room, but Carolyn isn't "most women" in almost any regard, and she knows a loose flange when she sees one. "This thing is looser than your morals," she said.

I raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Well," she reconsidered, "maybe not that loose."

It took us 10 seconds to tighten the bolt and all day to realign the engine. I have a vibration plate/isolator between my prop flanges. To align my engine, I have to remove the plate, remove my underwater shaft zinc (actually, Carolyn removed it this time), slide the shaft out, carefully align the engine, then reassemble it all, above and below the water.

The Bag of Broken Parts

On the final run to Panama, our engine started to overheat. Since I hadn't replaced the impeller in two years, I figured, correctly, that it was the problem. Knowing I'd just purchased three new impellers, I shut off the engine, whipped out the old impeller (only two out of six blades intact), and tried to slap in a new one. No luck. None of them would fit. Too tight. Damn! Luckily, I carry a bag of old "ruined" engine parts that still sort of work despite being replaced, and we were soon back in business.

Finally, cargo ships became thick as flies around us. It was still dark when we called Cristóbal Port Control on VHF Channel 16 for permission to enter, and it was just dawn when we shot through the breakwaters off Colón, Panama, at the entrance to the Canal. "Anchor down!" I shouted forward to Carolyn and heard the chaining rattling out almost with my words. I re versed, and she daintily placed a toe on the rode to feel if it was hopping or dragging. "More power," she called aft.

I gunned it. "Fine!" she shouted, and she began her foredeck housecleaning as I shut down the diesel.

"Coffee, tea, or me?" she said coyly as she ducked back into the cockpit.

"Hold the tea, thanks," I replied. "Nice passage."

"Really?" she smiled as she started the kettle boiling. "I mean, we didn't have our engine for most of it, it took us three times as long as we expected, and we had to do a couple of major jobs at sea. Just the engine alignment alone took us an

Douglas Bernon on Ithaka (above) lets out some rode in preparation for a gathering of "salt-stained inkslingers." Cap'n Fatty and Carolyn (left) are moving slowly the morning after.

entire day. We might have been right next to a major international drug deal. And we're dead broke." "Yeah?" I said. "So what?" "So," she said, "so maybe not everyone would think it was such a nice trip, is all."

" That's because they wouldn't have shared it with you," I said, grinning at her. "You're the sweetest liar I've ever married," she said as she put her coffee cup down and moved slowly toward me.

As we went to press, Wild Card was in New Zealand's Bay of Islands, and her crew held vague plans to head for Hong Kong in the fall. "We're having a ball cruising Kiwiville," reports Fatty, "but, damn, it's just gale after gale after gale here. No wonder the Kiwis are among the best sailors in the world."

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How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.

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