Thursday, March 7, 2013
Back to the city
22:00 Saturday. 2 Mar, 13, At anchor at the Playita Anchorage, Panama City
The wind has been howling for the past 6 hours and is predicted to increase over the next day or so. This system wasn’t supposed to arrive until tomorrow so everyone is a bit surprised. The anchorage here is protected on two sides by stone break waters. The eastern wall is a causeway that joins the islands and supports the main road to the mainland. To the north the break-water opens to the marina where we land with our dinghies. With the predominant wind from the north we are well protected. I pity those further out; it will be a rocky couple of days for them. The anchorage is packed and everyone has increased the amount of chain to reduce any chance of dragging. We are in good company. The threat of bad weather has caused our old friends to arrive early. Over the past few days Warren Peace, Optical Illusion, Ideal 1, Chasing the Sun and Liberte have arrived. Also in the anchorage are Rio Nimpkish, Sun Dancer, Tikka, Knee Deep, Risk taker and Beverly J. Every day we see new boats arriving from the Caribbean side, mostly European boats getting ready to leave for the Galapagos and the Marquesas, including a number of Oyster sailing yachts that are on a round the world rally.
We arrived back to the hustle and bustle of the big city a few days ago after spending a few days in the Northern Perlas islands. Yesterday we had a shopping day at the Albrook Mall where we assisted Ideal 1 to obtain their internet sticks and phone and Fran picked up her new glasses at quite a saving from what she would have paid at home.
Over the next few days we will be getting our Canal transit organized, stocking up on supplies for the remainder of the trip, ordering a few items like our bottom paint and an Engle freezer that will supplement our tiny freezer compartment in the existing fridge. It will really be nice to have ice for our rum and cokes from now on.
A few words about the price of booze in Panama: Although the price of alcohol has been very reasonable compared to Canadian prices all through Central America, Panama wins the “cheap booze” distinction. Here, a case of beer (24) is under $11 and it is not a bad brew. Rum is dirt cheap with Abuello, a local brand, comparable to Bacardi, selling for less than $12 for a 1.5 li bottle but dark rum is almost impossible to find. The amber variety is popular. All grocery stores carry wine and alcohol and specials are always in vogue. Wine is inexpensive and the “Clos” brand, from Chile, sold in tetra packs for $2.00/li, meets the budgets and the indelicate palates of most cruisers. Wine lists in the moderate priced restaurants have many choices under $20. It would be easy to become an alcoholic here but you very rarely see any….
22:30, 6 Mar 2013, Same place
The wind has died down finally and we are enjoying a moderately calm night. The wind seemed to peak this afternoon at about 25 knots, and there were some boats that began to drag. No serious damage was done here but in the Las Brisas anchorage across the causeway, a large motorboat slide into a number of boats and there was some damage done. In Panama the police and harbor officials don’t pay too much attention to small vessel complaints. They must have their hands full with the larger vessels so the little guys are left to fend for themselves. It is doubtful if anyone will be able to get compensation except from their own insurance providers. On the Colon side of the canal there are reports of several freighters aground.
Today was a productive day. After assisting Warren Peace with their in-clearance we went to the Ad-Measure office to apply for our clearance papers for the canal crossing. This is the first step in a complicated process that will take a few days. Next step will be a visit from the Ad-Measure officials who will measure and inspect Gosling to make sure that we are ready. Once that is done we have to go to the bank and pay our various fees and an $800 deposit (in case we damage the Canal….). This amount is returned after the event. We are then given a date and time. Before the actual event we must get our 4-man line handling crew organized, tires lashed to the sides as fenders and rent 4 X 125 ft lines which we will use to keep Gosling centered in the canal and off the walls. We won’t know until we actually enter the lock whether we will have to tie up alongside another vessel or share the lock with a large ship.
Another change to our plan…. We will not be going to Cartagena this season. Although our insurance policy covers us for the location, we seem to be the only ones that have theft coverage while in Colombia. We are about 6 vessels here with the same insurance company but it seems that our underwriters are different and most have one that is still nervous about Colombia. Everything we have heard about Cartagena has been positive but their underwriter is adamant. The plan now is to explore the San Blas islands and then return to the Caribbean entrance to the canal and summer over at the Shelter Bay marina.
Tonight Fran and I had dinner at the Balboa Yacht club. We were there to meet a few other cruisers and pick up a set of paddles for the dinghy. Encore, a vessel from San Diego and very good friends of Sunday gave us a beautiful set of oars. One of ours keeps breaking and repairs have made it quite a bit shorter than it should be. The other is still intact but in sad shape and we have literally been “up the creek“ without one paddle for most of this trip.
21:00, Wednesday 6 Mar 13, Same location
Another productive day, we were Ad-measured today. A Panama Canal Official came aboard and officially measured Gosling, told us the rules, inspected the boat to confirm it meets the required specs and filled out a raft of forms. Some copies of those were then taken to the Canal’s chosen bank where we paid our canal fees of close to $2000. An automated copy was sent from the bank to the Canal Authority’s offices and tomorrow we should have confirmation of our appointments to cross the canal.
We did all this with Steve and Linda (Warren Peace). We walked back to the Balboa Yacht club to see if we could scrounge some tires and we lucked out with 4 each. On our way to the Playita back Fran hailed a cab and wormed the guy down to half his asking price for the ride back. Is it Fran or the female touch?? I vote for Fran…
21:30 the following day.
Just finished our routine of watching one of our canned movies in the cockpit on the computer, something we usually do whenever we are onboard by ourselves for an evening. We have a light breeze blowing from the shore and it is nice and cool, another good sleeping night.
We are now officially crossing through the Canal on Saturday, the 16th. This is a lot later than we had planned but now that Cartagena is no longer in the cards there doesn’t seem to be so much of a rush. Most of our friends are crossing through next week and we will be among the last of the group. We’ll accompany Rio Nimpkish, also scheduled for the same date.
Fran went to the Price Smart (similar to Costco) store today and stocked up for the next month and I continued to get Gosling ready with fuel and water. I also scored another 10 tires from a French boat that had just crossed to this side. My expertise in repairing Avon dinghy valves came in handy today with British boat with a broken valve. Luckily he had the parts but had no idea how to install them. It is a very tricky procedure.
Now that we have a firm date we can relax a bit so we are planning a tourist day over the weekend to see the sights of Panama City. We still have lots to do and, already, the preparations for storing the boat in just over a month are in our minds. The improvements we had planned to do in Cartagena will most likely not be done now due to availability of the specialists and cost, however, there are a number of items such as the vibration in the shaft, the bottom paint and checking out the gearbox that will have to be done before we leave or when we get back in the fall. Shelter Island is in a remote location and we must obtain as much of the materials we will need before we leave this side. That includes the bottom paint.