Beatitude: Makeshift Emergency Room

Shelter Bay Sunrise from Beatitude

Another Sunrise on Shelter Bay

On board Beatitude, I carry a reasonably extensive supply to meet the most common emergency medical needs. I have needed very little of it until Shelter Bay. One reason, I am sure, that I am using more of it now is because we have been here for five months and fellow cruisers are aware that I am a resource to meet their medical needs. Shelter Bay is a very busy marina which sits on the Caribbean side of the canal. Most every sailboat that crosses the canal ends up in the marina for a few days. And then there are a sizable group of people whose boats have been in the marina for a few years. At any rate, I’ve practiced more medicine, pro bono of course, in the past two or three months than in years of previous cruising. Our salon and cockpit has become a makeshift emergency department. I’ve drained abscesses, sewn and stapled lacerations, splinted broken limbs, treated skin infections and various rashes, examined eyes for foreign bodies, and even consulted on more serious problems such as gastrointestinal bleeding. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to help my fellow cruisers in some way. It’s a small way of giving back to a very nice community of folks.

Packing an incised and drained abscess in our salon

Splinting a young girls broken arm. She fell from a tree. (This is screen shot of a video, which is why it is blurry… sorry.)

As I type this, I am sitting in the Atlanta Airport, waiting out an 8 hour layover before flying into Melbourne, FL for work in a “real” E.R. I’ll work ten twelve-hour days out of the next twelve days, and I’ll be flying between Wisconsin and Florida on the other two. Once again, I am thankful for the flexibility my profession allows me to work as I do. While in the United States, I will pick up additional parts for the generator and the engines. Then, on April 7th, we fly back to Panama, hopefully for the last time. If all goes as planned — prayers will be greatly appreciated — we’ll depart Panama on Beatitude within one week of our return. We need to have our vessel in Florida by the second week of May in order to begin the next phase of our adventures.

Two of Cindy’s latest paintings, a toucan and a woodpecker, as seen through the window from our cockpit.

One of the stream of Megayachts which make their way into and out of the marina. The 164-ft long Aspen Alternative can be chartered for only $185,000/week + expenses!

We took the shuttle into town to find a notary for some insurance paper work. It was remarkable easy to get it done. This is our friendly notary.

This is inside the complimentary shuttle van that takes cruisers into Colon and back. On this day, we had some entertainment by this young cruiser.

My incredible winning scorecard from last Sunday’s game of Mexican Train.

Meanwhile, our comfortable daily routine continues. We’ve now gotten into the habit of rising early to walk our 2.5-3 miles through the jungle before the sun rises too high in the sky, bringing with it it’s intense tropical heat and humidity. We revel at God’s creative beauty, breathing in the floral fragrances of the dawn hours, listening to the diverse songs of the many species of birds which inhabit these forests, marveling at the long, loud, cries of the howler monkeys, and photographing as much as we can. We’ll never forget our time we’ve lived in Central America.

On one of our early morning walks

Walking on the docks at dawn.

A little crab scrambling across our path.



The long-billed hermit hummingbird

Momma and Baby Howler


Proof of Evolution?


This little guy is cracking open a pod for breakfast.

We don’t do really video, but here is a short one consisting of a few random clips from the past few days:

Beautiful San Lorenzo

I’m lucky to be able to spend my days with this woman.

Fort San Lorenzo, one of the most ancient Spanish fortresses in America, lies just a few miles down the road from Shelter Bay Marina. It has been designated a “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO. The natural beauty of the surrounding area is only made more beautiful by the ruined remains of what used to be an important fort in protecting the Spanish gold and other trade.

My companion in adventure.

Looking down past Fort San Lorenzo and into the Caribbean

Manning (or womaning?) the cannon.

“I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree…”

Views from the Fort

Fort San Lorenzo stands at the mouth of the Chagres River, which is seen in the background behind Cindy.

Since we had our rental car for one more day after returning from Panama City, we decided to drive over to the fortress for another visit. We arrived shortly after 8 a.m., which meant we avoided the worst of the day’s heat, as well as the hordes of visitors which throng to the site by bus as the day wears on. We had the place to ourselves for the most part. Our only interaction was with a group of howler monkeys which were congregating in a tree just on the other side of a fortress wall. It was a gorgeous, sunny Panamanian day, which are plentiful this time of year (the dry season).

Fort San Lorenzo

Howlers at the fort

Standing at the precipice of a cliff at the fort. It’s straight down for maybe 75-100 feet into the water. Directly in front of me are stairs which lead downward. I could imagine that this would have been the entrance from the water back when the fort was operational.

Baby Howlers are so cute!

My beautiful wife with a howler family behind.

A lovely beach adjacent to the fort. I ambled down a steep, narrow path while Cindy remained up high at the fort. I’m a speck on the beach in this photo.

On the beach next to the fort.

A small creek drains into the sea at this crescent beach.

Panoramic view while standing on the beach

We bought another hammock for the boat from a local Panamanian lady.

When confined to the marina, we’ve continued our daily jungle walks to commune with God and the wild animals of Panama. The monkeys have gotten quite active in the trees above us. The last couple of times we’ve walked, we’ve been bombarded from above with nuts, fruit, twigs and branches. I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but I think it’s personal. 🙂

Busy Capuchin

Two Amazon Parrots perched high in the tree


In a previous post, we showed this little fellow hollowing out his home which he now inhabits. As we walk by, he repeatedly sticks his head out to see what’s happening.



This guy knows how to spend a hot, muggy Panamanian afternoon.

And… a little boat work.

Only half of our outlets were working after our charger/inverter was replaced. After replacing this GFI outlet, they all are. The lightning fried the outlet, which (improperly) is serving as a fuse/breaker for several other outlets scattered around the boat.

Three Days in La Ciudad

Cindy and I love to get away for brief reprieve from the isolation of the jungle and into the big city. Escaping to Panama City for two or three days in a month breaks up our Shelter Bay Marina routine a bit. So, we took the marina shuttle into Colon, rented a car for a few days, and drove from the Atlantic to the Pacific in a little over an hour. We may not have gone, but I needed to check with the Yanmar dealer in Panama City to see if they had the raw water cooling pumps needed to repair my engines. (Alas, they only had one, and I needed two.) Since we had to drive over, we figured we may as well make the best of it.

This time, we stayed in the Doubletree, just a few blocks from where we usually stay. It’s not quite the Waldorf Astoria, but it was plenty nice. Of course, it’s not all that difficult to please someone who lives on a boat. Pleased we were, though! Our first afternoon and evening in the city, we relaxed at the hotel and went to Gauchos, an Argentinian steak house, for dinner. The filet was succulent and flavorful. Mmmm!

In our hotel room, about to leave for an excellent steak dinner.

Our hotel, the Doubletree, was just across the street from this gorgeous church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmen, one of the most visited churches in Panama.

The Gothic architecture belies the 20th century construction date.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmen above the altar.

A beautiful floral rose window in the rear of the church

Our Lady stands high above the facade.

The pool was nice, if not a little chilly.

Filet Mignon at Gauchos. I splurged and had the 16 oz. size. 🙂

Cindy at her favorite Panamanian restaurant, Gauchos

The next afternoon we taxied into Casco Viejo (the old town) for a stroll through the narrow streets before eating dinner at a wonderful tapas place called Tántalos. It has a youthful vibe and is decorated in a modern, artsy manner. The shrimp mac and cheese was my favorite, while Cindy’s was the broiled goat cheese. Mmmm, again!

Scenes from Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo

Interior of one of the several churches in the old town.

Tapas at Tántalos.

Interior design at Tántalos. The lamps are made of plastic soda tops.

Panama City skyline from Tántalo’s rooftop bar.

An after-dinner beverage on Tántalos’s rooftop.

On our third day, we walked a couple of miles to the Multicentro Mall, where we hung out for a little while. Then, in the evening, we headed back to Casco Viejo for an evening of jazz. Our intention was to return to Tántalos for dinner, but they were closed for a private party. So, we enjoyed Italian at the restaurant, L’Osteria, a few doors down. After dinner, we wandered the charming streets of the old town for awhile before arriving at Danilo’s Jazz Club. The club is owned and run by Danilo Peréz, a grammy nominated jazz pianist who has played extensively with Dizzy Gillespie and Wayne Shorter. He is a graduate of Berklee School of Music in Boston, where our daughter, Mariah, attended. The night’s performer was Idania Dowman, Panama’s “Lady of Jazz.” It was the perfect way to conclude a wonderful three-day excursion into the big city.

Dinner at L’Osteria.

Casco Viejo at night.

The nighttime facade of the Iglesia La Merced.

The bellower and top of the church of St. Francis

More night scenes from Casco Viejo

Panama City Skyline from Casco Viejo

Seated at Danilo’s and ready for jazz!

Cindy seated at our front row table.

Idania Dowman