Saturday, April 28, 2007

April 27, 2007 - Colon, Panama

"When it rains in Panama, it really rains." So said our Admeasurer when we ran into him in the yacht club the other morning. It rained for three days straight, then we had a sunny day, and now it is pouring again. We took advantage of the first day of the rain to wash down the boat. In Aruba, we were anchored near the airport and ended up picking up a huge amount of dirt on the windward side of everything on deck - mast, lines, stanchions - everything had a greasy layer of dirt. We haven't seen any serious rain for a while so it was good to get out the scrub brushes. We are now a slightly lighter shade of brown than we had been.

We got our transit date for the canal - May 6th. That gives us two weeks of waiting time in Colon. Perhaps we should have saved the week long autopilot installation project for here, and gotten here a week earlier. But it is so hot and humid during the day here that it is hard to do any work. Yesterday Sten worked on installing new LED port and starboard running lights on our bow, which turned into a day long rewiring project. While he worked on that, I worked on rebedding the chainplates, a project that involves scraping off and digging out the old caulk, and replacing it with new. The last time I did this project, we were anchored in St. George's Harbor, Bermuda. It took me twice as long this time, because I kept taking breaks to get out of the sun. By the end of the day, we were both wiped out.

Would it be a typical week in our life if the shower drain pump didn't need to be repaired? Nope. So Sten worked on that earlier this week. This time the problem was an airleak in the check valve that he installed in Aruba.

On Wednesday we took the bus over to Panama City to accomplish two tasks - get our visa for French Polynesia and arrange the fabrication of a new fitting for the boom vang. We completely mistimed everything and got to the embassy too late (actually, we were there before they had officially closed, but they wouldn't let us in, but we weren't surprised - did I mention that it was a French embassy?) and finally found the metal fabricator's shop five minutes after they closed. Defeated, we headed back to the bus station, which just happens to be located across the street from a mall. A real American style mall. I can't tell you how happy I was, surrounded by all sorts of consumer products. We didn't buy much (a skirt, some printer paper and some sewing needles) but it was a wonderful feeling knowing that just about anything we needed was available. That has been one of the hardest parts of adjusting to this lifestyle for me - not being able to hop in the car and run out to pick up what we need. Being so close to this mall (only a 2 hour bus ride each way!) seems like the height of convenience. How my frame of reference has changed.

As we were getting on the bus to head back to Colon, a guy about our age was blocking the aisle as he shoved some packages into the overhead compartment. He apologized for blocking the way, in English. We chatted a bit, and it turns out that he and his wife were from Chicago. After we sat down, he asked us where we were headed. The "express" bus to Colon actually makes about half a dozen stops, so this wasn't a ridiculous question. When we told him that we were going to Colon, he was incredulous - "have you been there before?" he asked, his tone of voice saying 'why would anyone go to Colon?' "Unfortunately," I responded, "we're staying there." "Really? Be careful." Yeah, we know.

I know that a few days ago we said that we weren't going to be strolling around Colon on our own, but we've taken to doing just that, during daylight. The Colon bus station is literally at the end of a really long driveway to the yacht club. So we're not so impressed with the taxi drivers' scare tactics to get us into their cabs for a distance of 300 yards. And the other morning, when we went into the yacht club to meet our "agent" Tito for a trip over to the Colon central immigration office to get our Panama visas, he wasn't around at the appointed hour so we had lunch at the yacht club while waiting for him and eventually walked the six blocks over to the immigration office - two of those blocks are pretty sketchy but the rest are fine. When we got there, Tito was there with some other cruisers. He wasn't pleased that we hadn't kept waiting for him at the yacht club, or that we walked to the immigration office, but what really bothered him was our plan to walk over to the grocery store afterwards. Apparently, one of the stores is in a bad neighborhood, but he consented to our walking four blocks to the other. Colon is poor, dirty, and probably pretty crime ridden, but seriously folks, this isn't a war zone, and with some common sense, it doesn't seem all that dangerous.

As soon as the rain lets up, we're headed back to Panama City to try our luck again with the French Embassy and the metal shop.

No comments: