Preparing to transit the Panama
We had a great visit to Fort Lauderdale, while TIME2 was
being painted. Once again we enjoyed the hospitality of the Patersons, in
between buying boat parts. Below are pictures of a fun evening with
Will & Di, and their daughter Mandy and her kids at the local
German restaurant The Old Heidelberg.
I also succumbed to my electronics addiction by buying
an iPad and a Kindle reader, both of which I am enjoying immensely. Even
Mike is enjoying the game "Angry Birds"!
When we flew back into the Panama airport we were
stopped by customs due to the large box (the new pump) we had. What followed was
totally bizarre... While there is no customs duty for parts for a "Boat in
Transit", it would seem that they wanted an agent to clear the goods. Mike went
to the office where forms were filled in and $23 was paid over. They never
inspected the box, looked at an invoice or searched the rest of our
luggage, just wanted to know the value and weight of the pump. I went
out of the customs area to find our taxi who could perhaps help us - he then
called the office and disappeared to produce his license and sign another
form. I was left standing there, very confused.
When Mike finally came out of the customs area, he had a
customs official with him, who then proceeded to get into the taxi with
us?! At this point I need to explain that the customs official and our
taxi driver, do not speak English, and we don’t speak Spanish, so we still have
no idea what is going on. Anyway, we set off for Colon, which takes
over two hours in really bad traffic, only to turn off at the port. The
customs official then gets out, goes into into an office, only to return to
fetch Mike. I am now convinced that we are in for a HUGE bill!
But Mike goes in , pays another $12.50 and then the Colon official and the
Airport official walk him back to the car and cheerfully wave us off.
????!!! And our taxi takes us the rest of the way (20kms) to the
marina. So, although they were strictly following their procedures, which
apparently state that they must ensure that the parts are delivered to the boat,
they never actually came to the boat. Was the customs guy just looking for
a free ride to Colon? we will never know!
Back at the marina, TIME2 was looking good with her new
anti-fouling bottom paint. We were able to launch her this morning and
then get down to the nasty job of cleaning off all the muck from the boat yard.
There has been a lot of wind and no rain, so she was covered in all kinds of
We have enjoyed our stay at Shelter Bay Marina, where
there are many boats waiting to go through the canal. We have met some great
people, including Rixzene and Steve on their 47ft Leopard cat,
Poyugan. They had tried to buy our old catamaran INDIGO up
in Annapolis, but she was already sold.... Small world!
We now have a confirmed date for our canal transit - 7
March - starting at 5.30pm. In the past, private yachts took 2 days to go
through the canal, with an overnight in the Gatun lakes, but due to the amount
of traffic, this has changed. We will now go through the canal in one shot -
overnight. First we go through the 3 Gatun locks, then we cross the lake and
head for the Pedro Miguel & Miraflores locks. We should exit in Balboa by
midnight. We have been assured that the whole route is buoyed and floodlit where
needed. We have been using a very helpful agent, who is providing the
tires to protect the boat, 3 line-handlers (I am the fourth one) and the long
lines needed to guide the boat through the locks. While Mike will do all the
driving, he will have a canal advisor on board to assist with the
process. Here is a map of the route. There are live webcams of the
locks, which may be interesting to watch albeit in the dark! (we are 7 hours
behind SA) This is the link: http://www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-java.html
Next update ... the Pacific!