Thursday, April 8, 2010

one more day in panama

the buses are individually owned and many of them are elaborately decorated as you can see

view from Balboa Yacht Club yesterday - note the tiny sailboats against the backdrop of a freighter having come through the canal - our constantly changing view

how do they see out the windshield?

i became fascinated by the skyline and architecture

driving through the city, the taxi driver was kind enough to go slow as i took pictures from his cab

and then there are the older buildings where anyone who's not upper class has been forced to live

you wouldn't know it but this is where we did our check-out - migracion and port captain. they both had tvs playing. the port captain had a huge flat screen with what looked like a male soap opera. huge stacks of banded papers sat atop filing cabinets. job security for someone.

water spilling through the gates of the locks

two sailboats that just came through the canal - they're tied together - we stopped to visit with Akka later in the day and she said you have to hope the other sailboat doesn't have engine problems

one of four little trains that run along the side of the canal as line handlers for the large ships - 2 on each side for bow and stern

before the water is lowered 27 ft

not a great shot but it shows where we were anchored - the far "island" on the right by the dotted lines.

another poor shot but it shows the whole canal system, along with the 3rd lock they're building now which will be done around 2014. we were anchored in the lower bottom right hand corner. it takes about 2 days to go through the canal for sailboats. they spend the night in the lake which is in the upper left area. are you confused yet?

flags representing the Latin American countries - we passed these every day in the cabs going from Playita to Panama City. Can you name all the countries?

we decided to delay one more day here in panama so we could see the Miraflores Locks. So glad we did. It also gave us both a chance to do a bit more emailing. Our plan is to sail over to Las Perlas islands which is supposed to be much like the Galapagos on a smaller scale. After a few days of (hopefully) relaxing and water play - and cleaning the boat bottom - we'll head over to Puerto Amistad in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. Hopefully it will only take about 10 days but it looks like light winds which could make it a longer trip. We bought extra fuel jugs just in case.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

cultural crossroads here in panama

this is the monitor showing the chart.  we're the small black boat in the middle of the screen, all the other red-lined boats are commercial ships setting off the alarm

one of the large freighters in the foreground with other ships further out and the Panama City skyline in the background

i think it's kinda cute

one of the older buildings with a close-up below - many have been torn down to make way for the more modern high rises

the green building in the background was built in early 1900s

the shorter round building was the tallest building in downtown until recently

what a view they have and out there somewhere is where we're anchored

i was fascinated by this rotund building and tried to get shots of it as we drove by

this was in the huge hardware store - i've never seen sandpaper by the roll before

the artwork on the buses is really something

traffic jam at the dinghy dock

this is what the boats look like when they're getting ready to transit the canal - they get fitted with tires to protect them from the sides of the locks

the molas - i wish i had the time to look at them all

We arrived in Playita, Panama (with Panama City skyline across the bay) last Thursday, April 1.  Soon as we dropped the anchor we called the freezer repairman  ("U-U") who just happened to be near the anchorage.  He said he'd be over in an hour.  It was a mad scramble to get the dinghy into the water (along with the motor) so Jim could pick him up.  After tinkering about, he promised a fix for Sunday.  And he was good on his word, arriving about noon.  WE CAN MAKE ICE CUBES!!!  Since it was Easter Sunday when he came back, I was curious why he was working on Easter so I asked him what Easter was like here in Panama.  The way he explained it, the Virgin Maria and Jesus Christ walked down the street toward each other (3 days after the crucifiction) and when they met she welcomes her son back by tossing candies to everyone in the street.  Apparently they are dressed in paper mache costumes that hold lots of sweets and people follow behind them, having chosen which camp they want to follow, the Virgin or Christ.  It makes about as much sense as having a rabbit hide eggs.

We hired Taxi Tony to drive us to our various errands on Friday, April 2.  We've been warned not to attempt negotiating Panama City on our own if we want to accomplish more than one thing a day.  We dropped considerable $$$ at the Riba store where we found lots of our favorite US foods.  I saw plenty of Morningstar products so I'm a happy camper.  The last stop was to a store that was loaded with molas.  These labor-intensive, hand sewn fabric works of art by the Kuna are really amazing.  We also got a brief look at the Panama City skyline.  Oh my--glass and metal geometric giants squeezing out all but the upper class. 

Panama City is a true crossroads  of the world.  We're sharing space with fellow cruisers from all parts of the world, many waiting to transit the canal, some having just come through, others going south along with us.  Listening to the net in the morning or the multitude of cargo ships checking into the port, I hear languages from everywhere.  We have front-row seats to a constant changing landscape of freighters dwarfing us.  Fortunately the weather is behaving most of the time--it's primarily overcast (smog?) with cooling breezes for a few hours in the late afternoon to early evening.  It's just during the day that it gets humid and we turn to jello.

We're feeling quite chipper today now that I've done laundry and we've had a shower over at the Balboa Yacht Club.  We plan on getting final provisions tomorrow and checking out of the country before we head over to Las Perlas islands for a few days.  Then it's on to Puerto Amistad in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador.  It's about 700 miles with light winds predicted and no fueling options so we hope it's only 7-10 days with a lot of sailing - somehow.  And speaking of sailing, I should mention we actually got to SAIL for a few hours each day after we left Golfito.  Our last day out before arriving here, we rounded Punta Mala with winds in the low 20s and choppy wave sets.  The chart said this area is know for strong rip tides so it was a very long and bumpy ride up the channel.  Soon our computer screen lit up with over 50 large vessels ahead.  Our AIS system warns us about vessels when they get within a mile of us in 12 minutes or less.  Suddenly our alarm was going nuts because of the heavy metal traffic ahead of us or coming at us after crossing the canal.  Now that was pretty exciting.

If we don't have a chance to grab wifi before we leave, we'll have plenty of stories to tell once we get to Ecuador.

parting shots of golfito, costa rica

final shots of golfito before i launch into our trip to playita, panama in my next post.

our last stop in golfito was the fuel dock where i saw this alter made of stones, right next to the pumps

just after fueling up we ran up to the little market to get an ice cream cone.  hey, it was hot and we needed something to get us going as we left.  9:30am isn't too early is it?  this was the view across from the gas station and mini mart.  oh, it was so hot (at 9:30am) that the ice cream melted before we could eat it all.

one of the houses we passed on the way to the fuel dock

it's hard to see, but there's a US flag on this ship

the pier next to the fuel dock