Sunday, April 22, 2007

April 20 and 21, 2007 - Colon, Panama

There is something wonderful about waking up and seeing land after days and days of being surrounded by water. I had come off watch around 0030, so I was very surprised to discover that it was dawn when I woke up. I looked up and Sten was sitting on the pizza box (the cushioned cover that Alena made for our life raft).

"How come you let me sleep so late?" I asked groggily.
"I was looking at shippy-ships," he responded with a grin.

I stuck my head out of the hatch to see the lush purple hills of Panama in the dawning light. What a wonderful change of scenery after the aridness of the ABC's. As we approached the breakwall that protects the basin on this side of the Canal, I counted 24 big ships waiting outside. Inside the basin, there were half a dozen more.

[If you look closely at the picture above, you can see all the white dots on the horizon. Those are ships.]

We dropped anchor in the Flats area, had a late breakfast, stowed all our lines, inflated the dinghy, showered and headed into the yacht club to see about clearing in. No sooner had we arrived at the yacht club when we met a Canadian cruiser who steered us towards Tito, a guy who for $50 would ferry us around to all of the offices that we needed to visit to get our cruising permit and visa and to schedule the Admeasurer's visit. He knew everyone in the offices, spoke English very well, and had us back to the yacht club in about an hour. Even with our cruising guide, we would have had trouble finding these offices, and Colon isn't a town that we plan to be wandering around on our own, so we felt that his fee was well worth it.

We woke up this morning to a dead calm, surrounded by a smoky haze. I've never lived in LA. Is this smog? Whatever it is, I'm now calling the Flats, the Ashtray. Sten sat in the cockpit this morning, drinking coffee and enjoying watching the ships head into the canal. He's a boat watcher from way back (one of our favorite beaches in Newport was a little stone beach by Castle Hill that let us watch the boats coming in and out of Narragansett Bay), so he's enjoying the scenery here in the Ashtray.

Around noon, the Admeasurer came out to measure our boat. Boats up to 50 feet pay a transit fee of $600. Boats with a length of 50 to 80 feet pay an $850 fee. So we were really hoping to come in at less than 50 feet. Even though our LOA is 48feet, after he stretched his tape measure from the tip of the pulpit to the edge of our swim platform, we came in at 49.05 feet. Yeah.

On Monday we'll take our paperwork from the Admeasurer to the bank and pay our $600, plus a "buffer" deposit of $850, which will be refunded unless we manage to damage the Canal on our way through. Based on the beating our gelcoat took when we faced off against the customs dock in Aruba, I'm betting that the chance of the Canal coming out on the losing side of a showdown against us is pretty slim.

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