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By Darryl

Panama June 2005.


 The Land Divided The World United

     What and experience to be able to sail, or I should say motor, through an architectural wonder such as the Panama Canal.  And even though the Canal services have declined ever since the U.S. transfered control over to Panama in 2000, traveling the 80 km. canal within meters of these huge cargo ships was a definite landmark for the trip.  An even bigger landmark was when  the gate of the last lock opened up to lead us out of the canal towards Panama City and 'The Pacific Ocean'!!  No more Caribbean.

     Here in Panama City we would have to concentrate on getting the boat ready for the next big sails to the Galapagos Islands and then on to French Polynesia in the South Pacific.  When we arrived at the Balboa Yacht Club in Panama City we found out that not only was there no dock space for us to work on the boat but, there was no dock,...or a yacht club.  The old club has deterioated over the years and now, they were starting from scratch and getting ready to build a new marina project.  So for now, all they had for us was a mooring a few hundred meters from the canal shipping lanes.  This meant that every 15 minutes or so various ships, either arriving or departing the canal, would cruise, very close, by the moorings.  It was a very neat sight to witness, especailly at night when these ships were all lit up.  However, with no break water to protect the small boats on the moorings (and we are always one of the smallest) when the wake that these ships leave behind reaches the boats it creates a rocking as bad as some of the worst sailing we have had in the Caribbean.  This posed an interesting problem when it came time to work on the boat since some of the work was on top of the mast.  Another factor that effected our work was the Panama weather.  Being in a valley between two mountain ranges, and with us arriving at the begining of the storm season, there were constant storms coming at us from all directions.  Sometimes you could watch the storm come towards us, hit us hard, circle the mountains and come back for round 2.  These daily storms were so severe that a luxury fishing boat was sunk due to the bad weather just a few moorings from us.  Luckily, with an 8 meter tide the yacht club personel were able to retreive it.  And even though it took them a few tries to get the boat up it seemed like they have raised sunken boats many times before at Balboa.  We knew we had to get our work done and get out of Panama ASAP.  If only the water taxis to the pier were faster.

     When traveling to countries such as Panama we can't help but stand out as tourists.  It is a situation that we try to become used to as taxi drivers, peddlars, store owners, and beggars assume that we all have hundreds of dollars in our pockets and take up our time to try to sell us something that we would never use for an outrageous price.  It would be nice if we could just blend in with the local crowd sometimes and be able to go about our business without being mistaken for an 'American Gringo'.  But, instead of becoming frustrated with the constant misunderstanding, I decided in put my American Gringo good looks to work for me here in Panama City.  While waiting for Kjell and Joar to come in from the boat one morning, I took a walk up to the lone hotel on the shore to check it out.  It was built for the American tourists complete with a TGI Fridays and U.S. prices that no local Panamanian would pay.  When I entered the lobby I found the staff treated my arrival just like I was a typical guest and they had no problem directing my question to the hotels business center for use of their free internet!  This was great.  After my emailing was done, I noticed that no one was using the fresh water pool outside.  Now when you live on the ocean, a fresh water rinsing is beyond words and can create a whole new personality once the, sometimes week old, salt is removed.  I was in American Gringo mode now and I easily convinced myself that I was going to spend the remainder of the morning sun relaxing, fully rinsed, by the pool.   But first, I didn't want to burn too much energy laying there in the sun so, I needed to stop in the hotels restaurant for a quick breakfast snack. It was only after I filled up my plate that I realized all this buffet goodness was complementary for the 'American' guests!!  Well, if I was playing the part, I had to go all the way.  After the guys found out the dicovery, our appearance at the hotel had become so routine that the staff started recognizing our faces with a morning smile and small Spanish conversation.  Even the security gaurds would hold open the doors for us when we would appraoch the enterance to the hotel.  It was one of the only times I didn't mind being mistaken for an American Gringo.  We would like to thank the hotel for its hospitality while we were there and for donating the 3 pool towels to the boat when we left.  Too bad they were out of bathrobes.  ;-)

    With a good rinsing, relaxing and a full belly it was time to concentrate on boat work and with a handyman such as Joar on board it was easy to get motivated for the work.  By the time we left Panama City we had put in a new floor in the dinghy as well as patched it up numerous times (it still leaks), wired up two new outside speakers, hooked up a 12 volt power outlet in the cockpit, rewired all the electrical to the mast (VHF, lights),  repaired the cabin door, tarped up the cockpit roof, built a wind tunnel for better cabin circulation, and of course Joar's personal ongoing project of fixing the toilet (which also still leaks).  We then shopped 'til we dropped at Panama City's Cosco (membership has it's privelages) and $350 US later we were finally ready to leave Panama City and take on the trip to the Galapagos.  Now, if we could only schedule it perfectly to leave in between the storms,...






Darryl & Kjell


























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