Sunday 29th March
We left Shelter Bay in Colon in the late afternoon of Wednesday 25th and went through Gatun Locks rafted up to an american in the dark; spent the night just past the locks. The line handlers were superb as was the pilot who took us through. On Thursday morning we traversed the Gatun lake and Galliard Cut with the two guys and a 'transit advisor'. Motored all the way at 6 kts, and went through the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks around 3 pm rafted up to two other boats. Several of the family even saw us do it on the web cam at Miraflores! Altogether a fantastic experience.
Ended up at Flamenco Marina which is still being built, no electricity. For such a huge city Panama City has surprisingly poor chandleries or perhaps we just didn't find the right ones.
Here we've spent 3 days not mending the Fischer-Panda (it sometimes works but often cuts out after 2 or 3 minutes). Water maker finally mended and gas alarm installed. Bought a huge free standing AC generator but yet to get it working.
Plan on setting off later this afternoon but may be so tired we'll stay one more night.
As final departure approaches it feels appropriate to start my ham-fisted two-fingered typing once more. This is not to say that the exciting events of the last week were not worthy of note but they are tales for another time. Suffice it to say that Winston and Alfonso, our line handlers were stars and that Luis – a genuine supernova - gave me my first ride around the sights of Panama City in a fully blinged-up blue neon 4x4 pimp-mobile (Yes, I have offset the carbon already.) He is quite possibly the greatest taxi- driver-cum-interpreter I have ever met. No disrespect to Tedy from New Jersey -my first chauffeur in Panama. He was great too and sufficiently big for me to feel confident in refusing the offer of a police escort from the airport (a bargain at $50), but you just can’t beat a 50 year old taxi driver whose horn wolf whistles any woman half his age in a bikini or short skirt.
As I type I am dripping with sweat having already been to the top of the mast and the depths of the cockpit lockers carrying out routine maintenance. The Panda and I are now intimate. At the moment, everything works (ish), so we’d better get going before anything else breaks.
I am slightly aware that my sanity has not started to ebb, but give me day or two.
Just to let you know I am still here ! The canal transit was definitely special and Alfonso and Winston the line handlers we hired made it very unstressful compared to using random punters.
I decided I was too feeble to be a line handler with 100 ft ropes so I had to steer. Bit worrying finding myself manoeuvring 3 boats rafted up into a lock as we were in the middle…
We are setting off with a dodgy generator and Guy cuddling up to the new portable back up one that he and Luis found. He has been a complete star.