World ARC - Day 18 - 26th Jan – a day checking in with the Kuna Indians

Steve and Lynda Cooke
Wed 27 Jan 2016 22:28

09:33.4N 78:56.9W

World ARC - Day 18 - 26th Jan – a day checking in with the Kuna Indians

It had to be done!

World ARC had arranged to check in and arrange the Panama Canal permission from our arrival in the San Blas Islands.

Brilliant plan.

Skipper Steve was picked up from the anchorage at Chichime Island at 06.30 by Roy, his big tender bumping up to the stern of Nina. We had arranged an Indian water taxi to take us across to Porvenir Island, some 4 miles across the open channel to the island with official customs officials in an office? an air strip (200 meters of tiny strip of concrete), dinghy dock (some old decrepit concrete posts with planks strapped across them) and little hotel (think row of tiny coconut roofed block huts). We had wet weather oil skin coats on and all our precious documents in waterproof bags, having already been forewarned about the crossing (albeit with shorts and flip-flops).

The Chief of Chichime came over to ask what we were doing on the dock?! Not a good start.....

We explained that we had arranged a taxi to take us over to complete our paperwork on Porvenir. OK, he'll wake up the lad.

We arrive at the offices on the other island, after a mad dash with both outboards hammering along, us being airborne every wave as we thrashed across in the long 20 seater heavy glass fibre boat. It was a bit like the GRP version of a Bangkok long tail boat, but with twin 100 HP outboards fixed to the back. What appeared to be a 14 year old driving us and another boat boy standing in the front, as we bounced over every crest and lifted out of every trough on the helter-skelter journey across.

Arrival in the offices was good. Three little rooms, and a reception at the Army desk to give all our passport details.

  1. Indian Clearance, simple forms and payment.

  2. Panama Check in and clearance through the Panama Canal. Very extensive, including all details of boat and crew.

  3. Customs clearance

Steve arrived at this desk at 10.45 am Having spent 2 hours waiting and clearing the other desks.

It hits the fan.

The little guy behind the desk opens his book of forms and realises that its the last copy.

He discovers he doesn't have the next sequential book, but three books are missing.

Bearing in mind that the clearance for Panama is $110 per person, and there is an average of 4 crew per boat, to mislay 300 clearance forms is a substantial oversight for guys who live on palm-tree islands and sell coconuts!

Good job Steve brought his Kindle.

Six chapters of a Jack Reacher book later, lots of discussion from all the other ARC boats, constant phone calls from the Panama officials to the desk, and constant phone calls from our man behind the desk,

At 11.45 am the official finally gets permission to complete the final four ARC boats in front of him.He then announces that he is extremely stressed about the whole situation, finishes officially at 12.00 hrs., and will not process any more boats for the day – in spite of there being another dozen boats waiting outside, and wants $20 per boat from us for his 'overtime'.Hysterical really, but at least we were all cleared into Panama, and we could spend our last day in the San Blas Islands where we wanted to go, rather than waiting for the officials.....We all got back to Chichime, beaten up after the crossing, and soaking wet, to be greeted by the Chief, who was cross at the length of time we had kept his boys with the water taxi, and wanted to double the fare!

Enough! Enough of these little chaps, thank you!

The biggest stress for the day with the remaining crew on Nina was deciding on whether to have chilled or hot drinks, and when to go for a swim around the reef!

Never mind! We were now legal again, and could enjoy our remaining time in the San Blas Islands, and prepare for our trip yo the Panama Canal.

Paradise has its downside!