Saturday, May 12, 2007

May 10, 2007 - Panama City, Panama

We've been provisioning for the upcoming 2 passages - 940 miles to the Galapagos and 3,000 miles from there to the Marquesas, which combined will be over a month offshore - ever since we arrived in St. Maarten last December. I thought that we had a lot of food on board when we left the states last November, but we've now got at least 50% more food on board than we did then. Mata'irea is now at her saturation point.

There are canned goods under all of our floor boards and the nav station seat; 4 dozen eggs and a case of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc at the bottom of the pantry (the coolest spot on the boat, other than the fridge and freezer, because the refrigerant pipes for freezer run through it) and a case of miscellaneous red in the drawers under the bottom crew bunk in the port stateroom; dry goods under the salon settee; 2 cases of diet coke and 4 cases of beer in the port stateroom hanging locker and another 2 cases of diet coke under the drawers under the bottom crew bunk in the port stateroom; a case of UHT (long life) milk in the cubbies on either side of the v berth in the forward stateroom; loads of Gatorade powder, coffee beans, a variety of creamers and another half case of soy and UHT milk in the drawers under the v berth the forward stateroom; and fruit and veggies in the baskets on either side of our bunk in the aft stateroom.

The freezer and fridge are full of nuts, cheese, frozen pasta, rib eye, tenderloin (to be cut down into filet), rack of lamb, ribs, bacon, sausage, puff pastry (never leave home without it), Presidente butter, and frozen peppermint patties (one of my granddaddy's many vices).

And then there are the carb bags: giant Ziplock bags filled with chips (all the classics - Pringles, Doritos, tortilla chips, and pita chips), candy bars, crackers, cheese puffs, shrimp crackers, Oreos, and Digestives. There are four of these giant bags of goodies lined up on the upper bunk in the port stateroom. If these items are available in the South Pacific at all, they will be prohibitively expensive, so we loaded up in advance.

On Thursday, while I was off doing laundry, Sten rounded out our provisioning by hitting the El Dorado produce market in Panama City with Patti from Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Lor (the spelling of whose name I am undoubtedly butchering), a backpacker from France who has joined Patti and the rest of the crew of the s/v Phoenix for the Pacific crossing. Sten described the scene at the market as being surrounded by a half football field of pineapples, 18 trucks of plantains and bananas, stalls of citrus, melons and vegetables.

As they arrived, they were approached by porters with dollies to cart their goods around in. Being novices, at first they shrugged them off, but quickly realized their mistake, and for $3 engaged the services of one of the porters to haul their goods around while they haggled.

Lor is fluent in Spanish as well as English and French, and much more accustomed to shopping at markets than we Americans. She was invaluable at the market. Before buying a giant bag of oranges to be split between the two boats, Lor demanded to try the wares. She rejected the first orange as too woody, and she moved on to another vendor to sample his fruit, which was much juicer.

As more deals were struck, vendors gathered to watch Patti, Lor and Sten shop. As they were haggling with a lime vendor their porter spoke up and said that the price that the vendor was demanding was too high. Another vendor came over and elbowed the porter, telling him to remember where his bread was buttered. Sten leaned in and said, "Hey, he's working for us, not you guys."

Sten struck a deal to buy half of a bag of limes. The merchant counted out fifty limes, saying that was half of the bag of 100. Sten, with Lor translating, responded 'No, no, no, there are still more limes in the bag than the 50 that had been counted out.' "50 is half," the merchant responded. "Well, then I'll take the other half." Checkmate.

For less than $20 spent at the market, we're now loaded down with the following fresh provisions, which, other than the top 4 items, are stored in Everfresh produce bags:
10 heads of garlic
13 red onions
21 yellow onions
6 potatoes
1 bunch green beans (they don't last)
1 bunch long beans (ditto)
9 small peppers
11 large peppers
2 heads of cabbage
3 avocados
4 zucchini
16 carrots
3 cucumbers
2 pineapples
1 watermelon
1 random melon
1 bunch of bananas
8 grapefruit
24 oranges
57 limes
1 kiwi
The pineapples are sitting on the cockpit table looking like something out of a cruising magazine.

When we reach the Galapagos, which should take 6 to 10 days, I plan to go through the produce to figure out what we consumed, and how much more we need for the the big passage across the Pacific.

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