The Magic Shirts.
Well, here we are poised once again, all fired up and somewhere to go. However, my thought was, where does ones circumnavigation actually start?
Largs 4 years ago? But then, we doubled back to Norway. So, did we really start from there? Or was it Grenada last February. Or Norfolk? Or here? So confused. And then, will we circumnavigate or will some kind chap offer us a great price for Time Bandit in the Antipodes? Whatever, it's too far away to worry about.
So, worry free we headed for Carnival. Pounding music welcomed us along with representatives of the various police forces. Panama's constitution doesn't allow it to have any military so, they make up for it with what seems like half a dozen different types of police forces. Some in blue, some in khaki, some in camouflage, (these guys are hard to spot) but on the whole, they all look the same. I guess that why the individual officer seems to have the option to "accessorise" his or her uniform for that little, personal look.
Some wear their hand gun on the thigh. I think that's the macho look. The Clint look seems to be the traditional on the hip holster. This of course allows the casual stance of hip thrown out, right hand on gun. Perhaps the most impressive is what Billy the Kid would have called the "cross draw". That's where right handed cops wear their weapon of choice on the left side of their stab / bullet proof vest. Very smart.
We didn't know whether to feel incredibly safe or threatened! The thousands of locals and tourists didn't seem to care so we didn't either.
After a fun afternoon at the Panama Carnival and dinner by the water in the old town with Dave and Linda from Purrrfect we headed out for the Las Perlas islands, 38 miles out from Panama. Head off around the world then stop after 38 miles!!
Las Perlas is where the well heeled bring their stink boats at the weekends and the tourists come by ferry.
All very pretty and silver sand beaches and right now, we're off to explore.
Had this nice photo taken of my new shirt. Hope you like it.
Last night was the final World ARC "do" in Panama before they move on and we hang about. Thirty crews headed for a night out in Cafe Beirut just along from the marina where old people made idjits of themselves cavorting with the belly dancer.
We'll be sorry to wave the fleet goodbye as they head off for Las Perlas, Galapagos and onwards 3,000 miles to the Marquesas. However, we're also looking forward to meeting new best buddies and quieter anchorages......especially as grand plan A got blown out the water yesterday.
The grand plan was to park the boat for a few weeks while we flew south to look for the Inca Trail and specifically take in Machu Pichu. This grand plan was torpedoed when we found out Machu Pichu is closed for February for "essential maintenance".
So, our plans having gone somewhat aglae it's a couple of days at Carnival here, topping up the old victuals shopping in South America's largest mall then we will probably follow the ARC and head out to the Las Perlas.
Or.......I just read there's a new direct flight from Panama City to Denver Colarado. Hmmmmm!!
Well, who'd have thought. Here we are locked out of Miraflores and finally in the Pacific.
Until last July we still hadn't decided what we'd do this year. eastern Caribbean, (again), western Caribbean with the Ocean Cruising Club, Cuba or, cut through the Panama Canal and head west.
To a degree it was the young lads of "Vineyard Sound" back in Martha's Vineyard in July that tipped the balance when they bounded into the OCC barbecue and gave us their acapela rendition of Crosby, Stills and Nash "Southern Cross". Such is the depth of our planning. Or indeed our need for a plan. Listen to the words if you've time. "Heading for the Marquesas" hit the right note with us and so, here we are at the start of the downwind leg.
24,000 miles back to the Caribbean. 29,000 to Largs!!
Our canal transit was uneventful. Just a bigger version of the Crinan but without the need to push open the lock gates. Just as well as they're pretty ginormous. Fifteen World ARC boats headed out from Shelter Bay Marina at 2pm on Tuesday. Or at least 14 and us, the interlopers. We all anchored about a mile from the canal entrance where each boat picked up their advisor. It's compulsory to have one of these guys on board. It's also compulsory to keep them fed and watered, and entertained. Despite all the horror stories of grumpy, over weight men our guys on each of the two days were good company.
At 4pm the fleet formed into five rafts of three and we headed into the first lock where the shoreside line handlers chucked down light lines onto which we tied 1" poly warps which they hauled up from each corner of the raft. Repeat a few times and by dark we were through the up locks and rafted up to a ten foot diameter rubber buoy in Gatun Lake. A few rafts had problems losing control of the raft. Inexperience took its toll on a few gel coats and lines not controlled resulting in cleats being pinged off the side of the boat.
Next morning the advisors were due back at 06:30. On Island Time that meant nearly 8am and with twenty odd miles through the lakes to go before going down through the famous Miraflorres lock it was a high speed motor to make up the lost time and make our scheduled locking through the Miraflores locks.
Locked in, we got the ropes sorted, drain the chamber and bingo, we were in the Pacific......without a fixed plan.
Funny thing was that as we worked our way out of the lock the VHF sprang to life and David and Gitte from Comrie, 15 miles from our house, called up to welcome to the Pacific.
Yesterday's grand wheeze was to join the World ARC tour to see the native Embra Indians in their huts a 45 minute ride up the Chagres Rivet by Yamaha powered dugout.
The Embra were originally Colombian but the FARC guerrillas and drug activity made life intolerable so they moved to due town Colon.
The poor folk couldn't settle into city life so......
They returned to the rain forest and today, 141 of them live in their huts making a living by giving tours to Muppets like us and selling their hand craft
They still live in downtown Colon and take it in shifts to man the encampment and do the tourist thing.
Think A is the more likely as they looked genuine.
A really nice afternoon seeing them and the environment.
As previous, we depart for the canal transit in a couple of hours.
We had to remove our solar panel and fold in our davits to get us under the 50 foot break point, or pay an extra $500.
I've been under the hull ensuring no barnacles hitching a ride. We've also been fumigated. No, nothing about personal hygiene although it won't do any harm. It's for Galapagos but it all seems a nonsense when there's 9 flights of tourists a day and a population of 30,000. Not sure a couple of barnacles is going to make a huge difference but it keeps the coffers full.
Off for a final swim before we go. Look for us on the webcam if you've nought better to do!
Or maybe it was west meets east but yesterday we did a dugout canoe trip up the Chagrss Euver to meet the Embras tribe. More of that in next few days.
Meanwhile gotta run as we start transit Panana Cansl this afternoon.
There are webcams at Www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-Java.html. We will or should be on screen between 4pm and 6pm local today and about 11am until 3 pm local tomorrow.
After our quick stop in Puerto Lindo and our taxi tour of neighbouring Portobello (the better anchorage). Portobello, again, back in ye olden days, 1597 to be exact was the major port in the "Spanish Main". Long before the canal, gold, silver, tobacco and quinine, presumably for medicinal purposes rather than G&T was trafficked to portobello from all over South America for shipment to Europe.
Consequently, lying offshore were some rather accomplished pirates; Drake, Morgan et al who stole all the gear and attached the city.
In the absence of pirates, we set off for a great sun drenched downwind sail to Panama.
Four hours and a fresh sun tan later over 100 AIS targets greeted us on arrival at the breakwater protected entrance to the Panama Canal. One big geezer was charging out at 10 knots but we managed to just nick in behind him, finally leaving the Atlantic and Caribbean seas. A short
motor took us into the delightfully posh Shelter Bay Marina. Full size pontoons, pool, gym, bar and restaurant all set in a 360 degree protected mangrove. Chust sublime.
World ARC had done their magic and checking in was a breeze.
A few beers on the pool, monster burger and bed.
A good day had by all.
Pretty the island's may be. Sheltered they are not. I finally gave up trying to sleep in the bunk last night, put all the saloon cushions on the floor and caught some sleep in the pivot point. Meanwhile we rocked and rolled in the ocean swell endlessly.
Next morning we upped and off'd, having "done" the San Blas and headed for Puerto Lindo 40 miles along the coast and into Panama. Such is the problem with being on a schedule. We'll be glad when we leave the ARC fleet and can make our own way in our own time.
We dithered for months whether to join the World ARC eventually deciding it moved too fast for us. Great if you're on a schedule to get around but we've been spending years trying to slow down. Now we're just getting the hang of it, going on s fast schedule didn't seem right. Although we might miss the company.
We arrived in Puerto Lindo and spent a long lovely smooth night at anchor. Sleep at last!
Tomorrow off to this side of Panama Canal to prep for going through.
Stopped here for the night. More woffle later.