Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Checking Out of Panama


After we got through checking out of Panama we sailed the 28 miles to the Las Perlas anchoring behind Isla Chapera at sundown. It was a good sail with Georgia doing 7.5kts the whole way or better. We had a nice visit from dolphins who came over to play in the boat wake. Also saw a whale spouting as we approached the islands.


Checking out was a little more complex than it should have been – welcome to Latin America. After a 1/2 hour wait, the very helpful and friendly Flemenco port captain showed up and got us our Zarpe for Galapagos, Ecuador. Then we headed to Immigration to get our passports stamped. The immigration lady was having nothing to do with it. She insisted we head to the main Immigration office and get our Tripulante (crew) visas paid for and put in our passports (these are actual stamps they stick in your passport) before we check out. We had already paid for them -- $100 a piece – in  Porvenir in the San Blas islands when we checked-in. The visa in the passport had hand written next to it ‘Tripulante’ by the Immigration officer there, but no stamp. That wasn’t enough for her. The immigration officer had no English, so we were struggling a bit on the language side. We knew where this other immigration office was and didn’t want to spend the day getting out there, being told the right person wasn’t there and having to come back the following day. Just as I was getting a bit feisty with the situation the Port Captain stuck his head in. Despite his translation and encouragement we were at a standstill with Immigration. Then Chris found the receipt for $200 from Immigration in the San Blas. This broke the log jam – although the Immigration officer still wanted to see a receipt for an additional $5, but she finally relented on that. A dozen photo copies later and we had our exit stamps dutifully stamped into our passports.


Before we left, though, we needed a fumigation certificate to enter the Galapagos. A dozen phone calls, one more day, and Tito, the guy we rented Canal lines from, came by and with our $25 certificate. comment redacted for now..

A couple of days of cleaning the bottom, as it has to be spotless to enter the Galapagos, and cooking up meals for the passage, then we will take off – probably on Friday.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Big Stockup


Everyone tells us that the French Polynesia food is very expensive. You hear stories about $10 cabbages and the like. So we spent two days hitting the Panama City stores with our $10/hour driver Deb. The big hit was PriceMart (aka Costco). Just like being in a Costco in the US – stack ‘um high and sell ém cheap plus $1.50 hotdogs. It took us 3 full dinghy loads to get everything back to the boat. The last dinghy trip was in a torrential downpour that was unusual for this time of year. We had to wait for that load to dry before putting them away.

We shopped at two different large grocery stores, Super99 and Riva Smith. It was good to see that things haven’t changed in the Super99 by Albrook Mall since we were here 2 1/2 years ago. There is still half a long isle dedicated to soy sauce and the belts on the checkout register still don’t work.

pc_IMG_6678-001 Filling the bilge with long term stuff

We now have dedicated lockers for Panama Beer and Tonic water. Lots of rice, Ramen noodles and a fair share of miscellaneous.

pc_IMG_6680-001 And there’s the locker full of Chilean Clos boxed wine at $3.00 a box. Their marketing motto is “It’s close to wine”.

With a little luck we will checkout of Panama tomorrow and sail over to the Perlas Islands. There we’ll finish putting things away and clean the bottom. The Galapagos does an underwater inspection of the boat and will send you 70 miles offshore to clean it if they find growth on it.

Then its wait for a weather window to sail to the Galapagos. The basic weather pattern we wait for is when the ITCZ (Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone) moves north of Panama and fairly strong winds from the north pickup. Right the ITCZ is just south of us, but moving northward. This should give us a decent sail for at least the first day or two, then it will most likely be light air and we take what we get. We’re hoping the passage will take us about a week.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Panama Thinks Big


These are the gates to the new Panama Canal locks waiting to be installed on the Atlantic side. The wire lines in the foreground are standard telephone poles. They are 95feet tall and weigh 3,319 tons. The old locks can fit boats known as ‘Panamax’ size. These boats are basically 965 ft long, 106 ft beam with a max draft of 39.5ft (in tropical fresh water). The new locks offer a new size: ‘New Panamax’ which will accommodate boats 1,200 ft long, 161ft wide with a draft of 50ft. That’s a big ship. The old size took container ships that could hold 5,000 Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) – standard measure of a container. The New Panamax ships will be able to carry 12,000 TEUs.

The new locks should be ready early next year and hopefully be usable for the next 100 years. The 100 year old original locks will stay in service.

panamasubway  When we were in Panama City about 2 1/2 years ago the streets of downtown were all torn up with the construction of a subway. If this had been any other Central American country I would have bet that the project wouldn’t be done in 5 years – if ever.  Not in Panama. They do big projects. The first line of the subway is open and really easy and fast to use. A trip on the subway costs 35 cents. You use the same Metro card for air-conditioned bus trips at 25 cents each. Beats taking a taxi!

We are busy getting the boat stocked for the long passages into the Pacific. We went to the Cruiser’s Dim Sum breakfast Tuesday on our way to shopping. Dim Sum for breakfast never showed up on my breakfast list before, but its actually pretty good and a good way to get to know what the other cruisers in the area are doing.