2010-WARC-week 4

Dick and Irene Craig
Mon 1 Feb 2010 20:33
We caught the shuttle bus from the marina to the shopping mall this side of Colon and bought some provisions.
There are 2 courtesy shuttle buses per day. One leaves the marina at 8am and the other at 1pm. The bus holds 29 sitting passengers though there were also people standing on our second trip.
Only one person per boat is supposed to travel on the morning bus which is free of charge. There is a charge of $4 US per person, each way, on the afternoon bus.
Having heard that we will probably be rafted to another boat, or be at anchor, when we get to Flamenco bay marina, we decided to stock up with adequate fresh fruit and vegetables while at Shelter bay, to last us until we reach Ecuador.
We purchased more than the requisite amount of shopping required for the supermarket to provide us with transport, for us and our shopping, back to the marina but it was not available before noon which was a wait in excess of an hour. Eventually, one of the supermarket staff asked the driver of a taxi to take us back. On arrival at the marina we were asked to pay $20 US for the journey. We paid the taxi driver $15 US, the normal sum due for that trip, although our deal with the supermarket was to supply us with free transport.
We hired a taxi for the day with Oisin, Bev and Mo, two young people from another WARC boat. While waiting to cross Gatun lock, almost an hour, we looked over at the sluice gate, marvelled at the cruise ships and container ships transiting the canal, looking as though they were moving through fields.
The visit to Portobello was worth the effort. In 1597 the port had been colonised by the Spanish.
We saw the black Christ in the church, the centre piece of a ceremony held in October every year, attended by many pilgrims.
We visited two forts, walked across a bridge, initially constructed of wood at the end of the 16th century. The existing bridge, built in the 18th century is one of only two from this era, in the whole of Panama.
We went to the museum housed in the original administration building of that time. From Portobello we drove to a hotel situated on a white, sandy beach, shaded by tall palm trees.
There was no need of shade as the rain had started while we were in Portobello and was falling very heavily as we sat down, under cover, for lunch.
Not to be put off by the weather, Mo swam after lunch, enjoying the feel of the warm rain falling as he swam off the beach, in the Atlantic Ocean.
After lunch we drove to Colon and admired the old, though somewhat dilapidated city architecture. The taxi driver pointed out the streets to avoid, notorious for muggings and gang warfare. We saw two ships which had grounded, following confiscation. One was suitably named "Reefer".
As we returned towards the marina, we drove through a national park where the jungle grew right up to the roadside. We visited San Lorenzo fort, gazed at the huge nests, dangling like handbags from the branches of the trees. Spotted the black and yellow oronpendola birds which had built the nests and the driver picked from another tree, a bitter tasting fruit which apparently provides protection from prostate cancer.
The skippers meeting had just finished when we returned to the marina but Dick had already arranged for Bob to attend in his absence.
Unfortunately, we had not closed the small hatches when we left the boat just before 9am, so rain water got into the boat, as well as soaking the cushions on the fly-bridge. These had been left uncovered, as this is an ideal spot to sit in the shade and benefit from any breeze.
We left the mooring just before 3pm on Wednesday and made our way to the anchorage awaiting the arrival of the advisors who would transit the canal with us.
It was past 17.30 before they boarded the WARC boats.
We were the centre boat of three, rafted together and the lead pod.
Bob had gone through the canal on Saturday with the first group, to help with line handling and Dick and I must have traversed at least 50 locks, mainly in the motor cruiser so we found the transit quite painless, with helpers on the side of the locks, handling the ropes shore-side.
After passing through Gatun lock, we anchored in the lake around 9.30pm, continuing the transit just before 6am next morning.
As we came on deck around 5.30 in the morning, the howler monkeys in the jungle were already making their presence heard. Bob jumped into the water for a quick dip, quite unaware that it was home to a great number of crocodiles.
Although the water in Gatun lake was discoloured with mud it was dotted with many islands, all heavily wooded, making it all look very beautiful.
Arriving at our destination around 2pm, the boat was tied up alongside a pontoon but although there was water available from the pontoon, there was no electricity so we will had to continue topping up the batteries by running the generator.
At 19.30, the WARC participants were assembled in a restaurant in the marina drinking rum punch. The meal, a cold buffet starter followed by a hot buffet main course and then pastries, was delicious.
As Dick and I left the boat on Friday morning to take a taxi into Panama City, Dick noticed that he could still hear the generator despite being more than three metres from the boat. No trip to Panama City for us this morning. Dick donned swimming gear and entered the water to check that the water intake was not blocked. After the jelly fish problem when we were in Spain last summer, if there is insufficient water getting to the generator, we immediately think "blockage". There were two problems. The first required the replacement of the impellor, the other a leak, caused because the hose had not been connected properly when the generator was serviced in Las Palmas.
It seems that this weekend, the tides are far from normal for a spring tide. The astronomical tides which occur, what to us seem randomly every few years, are lower than the mean low tide by around 6 metres. Tomorrow, if we stay in this mooring, we will be sitting on the sea-bed. Not a major problem if the bottom was as soft as we had been advised but, having to get into the water to check for a blockage to the generator intake, Dick was able to see that there were rocks under our boat. We moved to the end of the fuel pontoon where there is a little more depth but no water other than that which we already have in our tanks.
Antonio has now moved off Thor VI so Bob has taken his place as far as Ecuador. From there he will fly home to Spain to rejoin Pili, whom he married just before leaving Menorca to sail to Las Palmas at the end of October.
On Saturday, 30th, there was a day trip around the city and in the evening, after a cocktail party in the marina complex, there was a night-time party bus around the city. All went off very well and Oisin crawled into bed some time after 2am.
Soon after 7am next morning, Paul, one of the rally organisers, brought a bag to our boat so that we might carry it to Ecuador in our spare cabin. A few minutes later, Mo and Bev arrived with some of their luggage, ready for when they join our boat in Ecuador. Then we were off, on passage to the Las Perlas islands.
Attached is a picture of one of the two-ended vehicles used by the workers on the Panama canal.

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