The trip to Miami and back to Bocas del Toro literally entailed “Planes, trains, and Automobiles”, in fact add to that list boats which we had to take to the mainland from Bocas! Needless to say we were glad to be back on the boat to relax for a few days. I replaced the exhaust mixing elbow on the engine, which I got in Miami, as well as a drain hose which was old and in questionable condition. As of November 10, we have now been on this trip for an entire year. We left thinking that we might have enough money for an entire year, but honestly not knowing how long what we had would last us. I believe it is now safe to say that when we left we didn’t know our stern from our rudder (nautical version of the classic “ass from elbow”).

We are now at the point in our budget where we have just about enough to get us home. The problem is that before now we could not safely sail home because of the threat of hurricane season and now with winter approaching there are numerous cold fronts which come down from the northeast and bring very strong winds which have crippled boats trying to leave here this time of year. If Shannon was not pregnant, I might be tempted to try my luck and rush to get the boat home, but after the storm we went through getting here and knowing the physical and emotional toll it puts on us, I have decided to leave the boat down here and either come get her in the spring or if I can not get sufficient time off work have someone sail her back for me.

November 16th is known as Bocas del Toro day. We knew that this was a local holiday and that there were signs up around town for bands that were going to being playing. We went into town and to our surprise there were thousands of people in the streets. It turns out that Bocas del Toro day is the celebration of the day that they separated from Colon and became their own province in 1903. Shortly after we got there the big parade started. There were bands from all over the country here to celebrate and band after band of uniformed men, women, and children marched down the main street while everyone watched from the sidewalk.

It seemed that most “marching bands” were about 80% drummers. In addition to the different types of drums there was the occasional horn section or xylophone section and all bands were led by majorettes. We met the Gorhams as well as the Leafs and spent the day walking around enjoying our street beers. I of course drank Shannon’s beers for her. We stayed till dark with the Gorhams and Conor and I sampled some of the local street food. We said bye to the Gorhams for the last time as they were leaving for home the next day and we were leaving two days later. It was an unexpected party day which seemed to be the perfect way to end our year with the Gorhams. The remaining crews of the Tortilla Flotilla officially disbanded, hopefully not forever.

We spent the next few days getting the boat ready for us to leave her. After all the Salty Dog has done for us the past year and the emotional bond we have (and will always have) with her, it is hard to just leave her down here and possibly not sail her back ourselves. We are leaving her in a safe place with a friend who will look after her, but that is small consolation when we will be over 1000 miles away. In few short days we will be ending one big adventure and in 6 months beginning another …

On behalf of the crew of the Salty Dog I would like to thank all those who helped us physically, mentally, and financially. Pre-trip friends, friends we’ve made on the trip, and all loyal readers of our blog. Specifically:

- Thank you Arlo, Patty, and Charlie Bess for being such great neighbors and a seemingly endless source of boat improvement knowledge.
- Thank you to Frank Traynor for helping us through the first and hardest month. You’re welcome Frank for the experience that launched your boating career =).
- Thank you to Bryan and Angie Romo of the Stray Cat for all the help (especially through our battery issues) as well as the constant laughs and positive attitude. You have been missed by the whole Flotilla since Honduras. ~By the way, YOU hit US! :)
- Thank you to the Gorhams of the Gualby for the inspiration to embark on such a trip, for the captain to captain talks to help me understand my engines, for always having a spare whatever we needed (making us feel both lucky and unprepared), and finally for always being up for a good time. We miss you guys already.
-The biggest thank you definitely goes out to both of our parents without whom this trip would not be possible. Thank you for raising us to be so awesome, and for all your pre-trip last minute help, and all the “Base camp” assistance along the way. Hopefully with this grandkid we can call it even!

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