Monday, February 4, 2013

The meaning of mañana

Position: 08°55’N, 79°31’W – Flamenco Marina, Panama City 
View of Panama City from La Playita
We had great hopes for our first week in Panama City. We would spend a day or two restocking the boat and then venture out to explore the old town, the new town, maybe even fly up to visit the seaside islands of Bocas del Toro. However most of these were scuppered by mañana. 

According to every Spanish-English dictionary, mañana means tomorrow but in reality, at least in Panama, it actually means some other time that is not now. We waited all day on Friday for a canal official to come to visit Ashling and confirm she was canal-worthy. Only at 3pm did we find out that he would come mañana. He eventually arrived on Monday at lunchtime. We spent an afternoon waiting for our canal agent to deliver tyres (to protect Ashling’s sides against the canal walls). When he turned up four hours late, it wasn’t quite mañana but it was another afternoon wasted. We had been warned of this way of life in Panama but it was still frustrating when it happened over and over again. So no siteseeing, no seaside, just shopping. 

We traipsed from one supermarket to another, usually emerging with two trolleys full of boxes and bottles and bags. By now we have a well rehearsed shopping list that consists of two or ten of everything. Like 2 bottles of washing up liquid and 10 bottles of rum, that kind of ratio J We also topped up our water and gas tanks (still plenty of fuel left over from our rendezvous with the Navy) and are taking great comfort in seeing Ashling sit a little deeper in the water, a sure sign of a full boat again. 

Johnny, Ben & Jerry set sail



On Thursday afternoon a knock on the hull was followed by the sound of a familiar accent and an introduction to Johnny from Dublin who had just arrived in La Playita after transiting the canal. He is making his way around the world with his mates Ben and Jerry. It was great to see another Irish flag flying and hear of their adventures on their passage across the Atlantic. They stopped in Cuba and at Grand Cayman, our likely next two destinations, so there was plenty of information exchanged over a few beers before they set sail for the Pacific.
Today we are at Flamenco Marina, fitting a new forestay to replace the one that disappeared into the Pacific Ocean just before Christmas. Without getting too technical, it's like losing fourth and fifth gear in a car so there will be smiles all around when it's back in place. Our rigger is Mike Barker, a Kiwi from Auckland who is now based here in Panama and runs the only rigging outfit in Central America. It turns out he was involved in the building of Gulf Harbour Marina in the 1980s, the marina where Ashling lived for six months last year. The world just keeps getting smaller!
Ashling (centre) holding her own at La Playita
Today is also our last day in the Pacific. Tomorrow we will transit the Panama Canal, another big milestone on our adventure. We are hoping to transit the 80km route in one day but may need to spend the night in Gatun Lake if we don’t meet some speed deadlines along the way. Caroline and Johannes, a lovely young Swedish couple who also have a boat anchored at La Playita, will be joining us on board to help with handling ropes to get us through the different locks. We’ve read and talked so much about transiting the canal with other cruisers, it’s hard to believe we’re finally going to do it ourselves. 

If you are interested, you may be able to get a glimpse of Ashling on the Panama Canal webcam - http://www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-java.html. Click on the high resolution tabs along the top of the picture to get the best view. We hope to be passing through the Miraflores Locks at 1300 GMT and the Gatun Locks at 2100 GMT.

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