Waiting for Godot

Panama

14.03.17 – 27.04.17

After our relaxing ‘holiday’ in San Blas we were back fully focused on Project Pacifico… 

Shelter Bay, Colon

14.03.17: We arrived at Shelter Bay Marina and the atmosphere on Fruit Salid 3 was buzzing with excitement. Everything was fitting into place, next stop Panama Canal! 

Boats preparing for the Pacific

We received our canal crossing date, in 10 days time, giving us plenty of opportunity to prepare Salid for the Pacific. 

Round the block

We had a great routine of getting up early doors, around 6:30ish, and going on a team run. Then we completed our task for the day and finally went to the gym. The evening was internet time. (Remember we live day to day with no WWW so we made the most of it at Shelter Bay!) 

Obviously we had a few treats…

And lots of red meat.

Jobs:

–  a day cleaning the outside of the boat, with a toothbrush I may add. 

–  a day calculating the Fruit Salid finances

– a day preparing for provisioning, including a colour co-ordinated spreadsheet

– two days doing the provisioning

– two days loading the boat with provisions

– a day in Panama city collecting charts and more importantly a surf board

– a day washing the laundry

– a day cleaning the inside of the boat

In typical “Mañana Mañana” style the canal crossing date was pushed back and we ended up staying in Shelter Bay for 17 days. It was ridiculous! I still can’t believe it. That’s the longest I’ve stayed in any location since I left London! Although we were there for so long, it went unbelievably quickly and we had 3 ‘rest’ days overall. 

Bad News

The dreaded moment

Whilst Mark was fixing the deck light up the mast he found some cracks in the rigging. We were very worried and knew this had to be fixed before Project Pacifico could kick off. We organised a Rigger to come and assess the damage. Thankfully Kiwi Magic Mike turned up 2 days later and gave us great hope that he could fix it within a week, we couldn’t believe it…. We were so glad it wouldn’t delay our crossing….

Magic Mike

I wasn’t going to write about Magic Mike but it seems wrong considering he was such a huge part of the delay. Plus an odd ball. He boarded the boat and I offered him a cup of tea… I soon realised this was a mistake. He could talk the hind leg off a donkey! He was a Bandito, I hadn’t heard of this but was a bit like Hell’s Angels. He hit a cow and killed it. Flipped off his bike and broke his pelvis. He had a huge package in his pants… A lot of discussion on board about the legitimacy of it. His wife was a belly dancing princess. His son was a drug lord. He ran through a forest to retrieve a kidnapped child from the army. He was a hired mercenary. You did not want to get on the wrong side of Magic Mike!

The fourth crew member arrived… We celebrated with a pineapple upsidedown cake of course.

Panama Canal Transit: 31.03.17 – 01.04.17

The day came and we were very excited! We headed out Shelter Bay with our fingers crossed that the transit would go swimmingly. 

We picked up our agent and went into the first lock leaving the Caribbean Sea behind us.

There were 3 locks with a total of 30m up to reach the lake. 

First lock

Second lock

The next day we spent 8 hours motoring through the lake and eventually reached the locks at the other side to lower us the 30m down into the Pacific ocean.

The heavens opened

During this time I had a very strange feeling of sadness. It was the end of the milestone I had set out to achieve, the Atlantic. And the start of a new unknown, the Pacific. I had no intention to cross the world’s largest ocean yet here I was! 

Now Panama City towered to our left.

A large flock of birds flying across our path in the direction of the city, rising up and over the road pass in the bird peloton slip stream. 

The Waiting Game

Originally we had intended to set sail straight after the transit but instead we anchored at La Playita just outside Panama City and waited for Magic Mike to return with the new cap shroud. After his promised date came and went, he kept giving us hope that it would be in the next few days. 

We sat tight and enjoyed Panama City. La Playita was a great anchorage on the end of a spit of land which was perfect for morning runs. 

We walked into the city

13.04.17: Evening bike ride across the bridge, just what the doctor ordered.

And into the city

Great spot for a Mexican

After visiting the old town a number of days we gave up on Magic Mike and decided to motor 6 hours to visit the Las Perlas islands located within the Bahia De Panama, off the South coast of Panama. 

Las Perlas

We explored different islands but in the back of our mind was… will today be the day? 

I went paddle boarding, walked along the beaches and swam almost every day, with stingrays a couple of times! I would be swimming along minding my own business when one would come out of nowhere! A spasm ran though my body. 

But the most outstanding aspect from this time were the birds.

Thousands and thousands of birds in flocks paraded the skies. You could not look at the sky without seeing them, especially Pelicans. They were everywhere! 

Ally caught this fish who seemed to have had plastic surgery

17.04.17: Sting rays, swimming, paddle boarding

19.04.17: long beach, swimming training

22.04.17: Went on a paddle board with Jess around the rock. Roald Darl. The Twits, the big tree covered in birds. And cactuses.

Blue footed boobies, penguinesque ones, white long beaked red head bird, fluffy white bird. It was truly incredible. And 4 turtles. 

Eventually we decided to take matters into our own hands. If we didn’t set off soon we could miss the Pacific Crossing weather opening. Mark made some calls to find out exactly where our boat part was, tracked it down and thank god got things moving at last. We headed back to La Playita for the final time, we had now been through the canal and waiting for 25 days. It really made me realise that if you want something done, do it yourself. This could be deemed as a negative point of view, but after this incident I think you should think twice about trusting others to have your best interests at heart.

Although we tried our hardest to make the most of the huge delay, it definitely feels like it took its toll on The Salid’s. It was challenging and frustrating but when the time eventually came, I was eager to get going and explore a great natural wonder and it’s bizarre wildlife. 

27.04.17: We set sail to the Galapagos. 


Pigeon released.

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