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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Bad Boy/Bad Hair
04/27/2008, The Boat

My clippers broke in the middle of a number 3 trim. Say no more.

Tony the Cab Driver
04/26/2008, Panama City

We have been in Panama for a month and then some. There has been no one Panamanian that has helped us more and been more kind to us than tony the cab driver. Many folks will not take you from colon to Panama City. It is a long way and with poor roads. Tony will, and while he's at it he will show you the sights help you find the best deals and give you a history lesson.

We paid 20% of the grocery store prices as the gree market Tony took us to for provisioning. Tony picked our friends up at 2AM to get them to the airport on time. He knows cruisers and cruising and can help in lots of way just because of his experience. Tony can even clear you in and out.

If you come to Colon or Panama City do yourself a favor and met Tony. We wer sad to say goodbye to him.

Safety Gear
04/25/2008, Panama City

We spent today working on our safety gear. We had our life raft repacked in colon and on the Panama city side we set about getting our ditch bag, EMT Kit, Medicine Locker, and pyrotechnics updated.

The life raft has water, a patch kit, flares, a sea anchor and all of the other SOLAS necessities. The Ditch Bag contains a GPS, more food/water, water dye, signaling mirror, strobe lights, etceteras. The EMT kit is a loaded EMT trauma kit from Galls ( A fire fighter friend turned us on to Galls and we have been glad to have our kit aboard though we have yet to use it and hope not to. it also has oxygen which is good to have around for diving. The medicine locker has been harder to stock. You really need to have a basic set of meds if you're going far off shore for a long time. Most of the anit biotics and the like require prescriptions though. Well how do you get a prescription if you don't need the meds right now? Some doctors will set you up and some wont. We are in pretty good shape now but it has taken a year to collect the things that our Offshore Doctor guide recommends.

Lake Watermaker
04/24/2008, Flamenco Marina

We made water in Gatun lake. I was interested to see what would happen. We only got up to 18 gallons an hour. The usual is 15. I figured it would take off but I guess it still takes a while to shove molecules through the membrane. The salinity meter was entertaining.

The Japanese Embassy
04/23/2008, Flamenco Marina

Hideko met a couple of girls from the Japanese Embassy at the mall today. they were very nice and took Hideko to the local Asian grocery to help us provision. Nobu joined them. I think we had a good percentage of the Panama Japanese population on the boat.

We have been shopping like crazy. It is amazing how many groceries we can stash away in our boat. I am carefully watching the waterline.

Flamenco Marina
04/22/2008, Amador Causway, Panama City

Flamenco Marina is filled with Sport Fishers. There are maybe 10 sailboats. Maybe. We are on a dock along the break water where the commercial launches come and go. Not optimal but fine. It is interesting to watch the tide go up and down 15 feet. Haven't seen that before.

The marina has good power and water and is in general a nice place. Expensive but nice. Hard to find someone who speaks English around here but it is doable if you look long enough. My Spanish is getting better but is still not clear of the entertaining zone.

There are lots of great restaurants here and free internet at Benegans which has very good food. The Internet on the dock is $18 a day or $50 a week.

We spent the morning with our guest crew and then saw them all off on their way back to Shelter Bay. Then we closed up the boat, turned on the air conditioning and took the day off.

Crossing Panama
04/21/2008, The Panama Canal

We got up at around 6:30, which was the time we expected the new advisor. We fired up the Genset to give it a nice fresh water rinse. I was interesting to see Swingin' on a Star riding low in the salt free lake water. We made some Lattes and got the boat ready to go. At 7AM the advisor came aboard and we were off.

Regist was our mentor for this leg of the journey and he was also a very laid back and experienced sailor. All of the advisors work for the canal company. Some are security guys others are captains of the various launches running about. Regist was a captain and he really new his stuff.

We motored out of the anchorage and into the Banana channel. We were the last boat to leave with the exception of the large motor yacht. As we got into the narrow Banana channel and caught up with the other sailboats I noticed the motor yacht coming up fast. Apparently the Pilot was driving the boat. I thought for sure he would shut things down as he passed all of the little sail boats. Nope. He blasted by leaving a huge wake that almost boarded the little 30 footer in front of us. Jerks can be found the world over. Later in the day we heard a pusher tug yelling at the same guy on the radio. He had waked them the same way and snapped one of the lines they had running to the barge they were pushing.

Once the motor yacht was out of sight things became tranquil. The jungle paced by on both sides and everyone kept a good eye out for crocodiles. Some of the smaller boats put sails up to make more way. We just motored along and ended up at the front of the pack by noon.

The canal is under constant construction. They blow up this bit to make it deeper or wide, dreg this bit to remove the bits from explosions or run off, and on. It was great to have the AIS on so that we could watch the big boats coming through the narrow as we reached the Galliard cut.

It was a hot day and we parked under the bridge of the Americas for a while to wait for Galletia to catch up. After a short wait Galletia came along side and we motored into the Pedro Miguel lock. The motor yacht and the large sail boat had already run through so we were at the front.

Going down was much easier. The wall guys are at your level so the monkey's fists can almost be handed over. Going down there is less turbulence as well and you let the lines out instead of pulling them in. The lake is about 80 some feet above sea level so each lock chamber drops you down about 30 feet.

Once out in Pedro Miguel we motored across the Mira Flores lake still rafted up and entered the Mira Flores Locks. There is a great Panama Canal Museum here with a big observation deck. It was fun to wave and yell at all of the on lookers.

The last two chambers went quickly and before we knew it we were sailing in the Pacific Ocean. Our crew, Peter, Debbie, Josh, Mattias and Nobu had done a great job. Hideko and I couldn't have asked for a better passage.

We waved good bye to Galletia as we unrafted and headed out to Flamenco Island. A Pilot boat picked Regist up just before we reached the end of the causeway that stretches along the little islands running to port as you exit the canal channel.

We rounded Flamenco Island and pulled into Flamenco Marina. We had to park twice because they were so crowded. Our spot was on the dock used by the cruise ship launches (there's no cruise ship port in Panama City yet). We had to wait until about 6PM to get settled. But settle we did. After an early dinner at one of the several good restaurants on the causeway we all hit our bunks and went straight to sleep.


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