20 March 2010 | La Playita de Amador, Panama
Aussie couple who, along with me, helped Whoosh transit the canal finally made it themselves three days late enjoying the uncertainty of an advisor and pilot strike/sickout, but they were lucky. Last work stoppage, awhile ago, apparently lasted two months and this time no one was told what to expect. Reportedly, twenty two agitated boat crews will, tomorrow, be flooding through into the Pacific and our little anchorage. Anticipate Monday cruiser's net will be alive with pleasant things to say about Panama.
And speaking of a well oiled bureaucratic machine, here is an edited story Jack T. sent along from a friend:
John and his wife had lived in Panama for 10 years and spoke excellent (colloquial) Spanish. He bought, from a guy in the Canal Zone just to haul his boat, a 10 year old Oldsmobile which now had to be registered in Panama and import duty paid.
John decided that he'd lived in Panama long enough and spoke the language well enough to import and register this automobile himself, so he took a Thursday off from work and headed down to the customs office.
By mid-afternoon he had accumulated a stack of paper about 2" thick. Keep in mind the purpose of this exercise was give the Government of Panama $2,000 (the duty on imported American cars was 125%). He and a guide he picked up to show him from office to office finally got to the last one before being allowed to pay at the National Bank. This small office had two guys at a single desk. John was directed to give his paper work stack to the first guy who put the stack in his in-box and said to come back tomorrow, adding that tomorrow was a half-day holiday and it was Friday, so come back on Monday. Noticing John's state of agitation, the guide pleaded with the two guys that John was a good Gringo, spoke the language and all and can't we expedite this process? So the first guy said to John, "Para usted servicio especial." He flipped down into the stack of paper until he found one he liked, stamped that page and passed it to the second guy who added his initial and handed the stack back to John. By now it was too late to pay, so he had to take off at an inconvenient time next day, because the bank was only open for 2 hours as it was a half-day holiday.
Panama in a nutshell.