Monday, January 28, 2013

Buenos Dias from Panamá City

Position: 08°55’N, 79°32’W – La Playita, Panama City

We had a pleasant stay at Isle Contadora, walking on terra firma, swimming, snorkelling and sleeping. One evening Kate & Paul invited us over for a dinner (roast chicken – OMG!) and introduced us to Andy & Sue, an English couple who sailed extensively around Ireland before coming across the Atlantic. We had a lovely evening swapping sailing stories over dinner and exchanging information about our respective next destinations.

Seeking a safe spot at La Playita
On Thursday we travelled the final 10 hours to Panama City and marvelled at the number and size of huge container ships waiting in the bay for their canal transit. We motored into La Playita anchorage, looking for a space to anchor among the many other yachts. As we passed a Canadian yacht, the Skipper spotted our Irish flag and called out to tell us his wife is from Ireland. This alone was a first but when we heard where in Ireland she was from, we almost crashed the boat – Mayo! That’s where we’re from! Whatever about meeting another Irish person on another boat, the chances of finding one from Co. Mayo in an anchorage in Panama are beyond slim.

Here on the Pacific side of Panama, the sailing community is diverse. Some boats have just come through the canal; others have journeyed down from Vancouver or San Francisco. Most boats are preparing to cross the Pacific Ocean; the odd few are going the other way, like us; others plan to stay ‘local’ and travel to Costa Rica or Mexico. Every morning a local American sailor hosts a 30 minute morning radio call, welcoming new arrivals, wishing departing boats well, and facilitating the exchange of information about local goods and services like laundry, tours, stores to buy boat parts or suppliers to do boat repairs. It is a great way to meet people and get information, and has cut back on a lot of Google time as we trust recommendations from other sailors above any others.

Si, Señora
Come Friday, it was time to spoil ourselves so we checked into the nearby Country Inn & Suites Hotel. A king-size bed, a bath, a proper toilet, a TV, unlimited power, WiFi, air-conditioning – it felt like we’d died and gone to heaven! On Saturday we went on a shopping spree at the local mall, splashing out on new clothes and feeling like ‘normal’ people again. A haircut was well-overdue so we ventured into a hair salon in the mall and found ourselves sitting side by side with local Panamanians, miming instructions to the non-English speaking staff and hoping that ‘Si, si, si’ meant that we were on the same page. Obviously whatever it was we said, the Skipper’s ‘short back and sides’ seems to have translated as ‘that drug dealer look, like every other guy in Panama’.  

On Sunday we got our first glance of the Panama Canal when we visited the Miraflores Locks Centre. The Miraflores Locks are one of three sets of locks in the Panama Canal, which we hope to pass through sometime next week with Ashling. It was fascinating to learn about the history of the canal, the traffic passing through each year and the plans for expanding its size and capacity by 2014. We even got to see the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship pass through while we were there.

A container ship transits the canal with the Queen Elizabeth coming in through the second lane behind. You can just about make out some more container ships lining up in the distance.

1 comment:

  1. Obviously, the new haircut wouldn't have the same impact without the shades and a pink shirt--great styling.
    Looking forward to new stories!

    ReplyDelete