Two weeks in Panama City


16 March 2010 | Panama City

For the past 2 weeks, we’ve been working to prepare the boat to cross the pacific in Panama City, so I haven’t had a lot of time to update the blog or really anything super exciting to write about. This is the last major stop that many cruisers will have until they reach Fiji, New Zealand, or Australia. Food and labor are cheap, ordering parts from the US are reasonable, and the anchorages are fairly comfortable, so everyone is ripping their boat apart and making little changes. After Panama City, you’d have to ship parts into the French Marquesas and technicians’ prices are similar to those in France. Although we’ve been sitting here for much longer than expected, we’re not alone at all. Most of the people here don’t really have a schedule whatsoever, so they kind of just wait until they feel like they’re ready. The anchorages are located on the end of the breakwater that the US built for the panama canal and their free…you can literally sit here anchored for years and not pay a penny (if you ever want to go to land you have to pay $5 to use the dinghy dock, but still). We’ve met people that have been here for the better part of 7 years.

So here’s what we’ve been working on…motor tuneup, windlass fix (motor for retrieving anchor), wind generator installation, sailmail setup (get weather reports and send mail through the radio), bought new halyards, fixed the windvane (a type of mechanical autopilot), fixed the autohelm, made the boat official by putting the name on the sides, completely weather sealed entire boat, sowed up the jib (the front sail on the boat), and replaced the anometer (wind speed and direction meter on the top of the mast). Unfortunately, we fix things more like Tim the Toolman Taylor than Bob Vila, so every “fix” leads to another fix. Fortunately, almost all boaters are in the same situation and need things fixed that they don’t know how to fix. In the morning on the net, you mention the services that you need and usually you can either find another boater that will help you out or someone will know of an expert in town. People often trade services and since no one is in a hurry people often offer help for free, a few beers, or for next to nothing.

I also became the official net operator for Friday mornings for the Pacific Net. You pretty much just make sure that everyone isn’t talking over each other and manage the questions and responses. I’ll surely be adding it to my resume.

Obviously, we made sure there was time to see a bit of the nightlife. Panama city is a pretty wild city and like most central and south American countries you can pretty much stay out as long as you’d like. The people in general were super friendly and the women are beautiful…so we made sure to make it out at least a few times. After hearing claims on the radio that “el mejor banda en todo la planeta…la music del Diablo…Metalica!!!” was coming to town, we realized that it was right down the road from us and ended up getting in for free to the VIP section. We were there for a few songs and a mosh pit broke out that I kind of got pushed into and kind of pushed myself in. Being the old guy, I got tired after 30 seconds, stepped out, and hit the indiglo button on my watch to realize we’d only been there like 10 minutes. Anyway, it was a great time.

We’ve met some really other boaters in the anchorage. A prosnowboarder from Austria, an adventure sailor from Hungary (going from Panama City to antartica to brazil…one stop expecting 50 waves…then he’s planning to sail Siberia then hurricanes…seriously), the guy who was in “The Life of Brian” by Monty Python in the last scene hanging on the cross by Jesus, a british dude living under a tarp on a row boat for 7 years, a young dude single handing around the world, a couple with 4 kids under 10 sailing around the world, and a good Samaritan diesel mechanic who helped us out a ton with our engine. Everyone is leaving at different times, but we’ll bump into each other down the road.

We found a new crew member from Finland, Panu. He’s a big time surfer with an apartment in the Galapagos and a friend who is a guide on the islands. He also was a paramedic and used to teach extreme rescue techniques to firefighters. Very cool dude who will be the only other person on the boat going to the Galapagos.

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