Preparing for Panama Transit

Fri 1 Feb 2008 15:53
Sorry for delay in blog after our arrival at Shelter Bay, Cristobal, Colon Province of Panama. We arrived at about 9am, several hours later than we had anticipated owing to avery strong adverse current. We were met on the dock by the panama hat -wearing marina manager. By the time we hit the bar for happy hour (rum and coke $2, Balboa beer $2), we'd had no sleep since about 3am and were feeling somewhat zombie like. We then had a meal of the best broiled pork chops we have ever eaten.  Shelter Bay Marina was previously Fort Sherman, an American Army base, set up to protect the Canal. Although it's several miles form Colon, that's no bad thing as the city has a very bad reputation for violent crime. Instead we have the pleasure of bird watching in the surrounding jungle and listening to the cries of the howler monkeys.
Yesterday the Canal pilots came and measured us for the canal and prepared us for our Transit, which is quite a big deal. We'll go through later today with 3 other yachts, and each yacht has on board a pilot and a rope handler. We have to hire  four special ropes at $25 a pop, and the cost of the pilot is $2000, increasing to $4000 if you change your plans. The pilots all speak fluent English,  although they don't seem to mind my practising my Spanish on them. After being in
French-speaking Martinique for a couple of weeks it's taking a while for the Spanish to come back.
I should mention that our Australian and NZ phones don't work in Latin America, so the only way of contacting us  at present is by email. Once we reach the comparative safety of Panama City on Monday morning, we'll try to buy a phone that will work in Latin America so that we can send and receive text messages.