Into Panama City chasing some blocks
06 May 2021 | 08 56.256'N:79 33.418'W, Balboa Yacht Club, Balboa, Panama City
08 56.256 N
79 33.418 W
Weather; hot and humid, wind n/a, waves n/a
We actually had a plan for today for a change. I told you that we had met a taxi driver named Orlando when we visited Jonathan on his boat a couple of days back, well Gerry contacted him to see if he could locate a couple of medium size blocks to replace the ones that we had broken during our rough passage to Cartagena. Jonathon had told us that there were several small chandlers around the area but they were very hit and miss with their stock and he had found that it was best to try and get Orlando to find anything and take us directly to the place once he had found somewhere that had what we needed. Gerry had sent Orlando a photo of the exact blocks we need which included the size of line that it needed to be able to run through it and Orlando had come back with the news that he thought he had found them at a cost of $35 each, which seemed very cheap but who are we to argue. So thinking that we were onto a winning purchase we booked Orlando to drive us around for part of the day, firstly to buy the blocks and then to do a bit of stocking up of groceries. We met up with him at the dock at 10 am and set off towards the city of Panama - we hadn't expected to be going that far but who were we to give up on the chance to see the city. Our very first stop was a new place where Orlando wanted to see what was on offer - it was a farm to butcher direct shop and all of the meat was fresh in and cut to order, we hadn't any great need to buy any meat but as we were presented with the option of fresh meat at very cheap prices we bought a couple of bits which kept everyone happy. The only down side to this is that we needed to freeze the meat ourselves once we returned to the boat as we were just stocking up and not buying to eat today. Our next stop was at the store where Orlando had been told they had the blocks in stock and both he and Gerry headed inside the store whilst I sat in the air conditioned car. They weren't gone very long so I correctly surmised that they didn't actually have the correct size blocks. They did have similar blocks but they were either huge or minute and certainly wouldn't have taken the line that Gerry had specified - epic fail! Orlando was immediately on the phone to other shops and came up with a few other options to try but first we were close to the supermarket that he thought we would find some frozen lamb in (something we had asked if it would be possible to find as lamb isn't eaten often in Panama but it is available) anyway this particular supermarket seemed to be the "go to" place for most American sailors as it stocks a good variety of American products that aren't available anywhere else in Panama. We went in and browsed the offerings and did indeed find our frozen lamb along with a few other bits and pieces that we needed in the way of groceries but we found it was severely lacking in a lot of the basic stuff that we like to keep on hand and completely missed out on things like long life milk and butter - we would need a regular supermarket for those items later but at least we have a lamb roast to look forward to even if Tom Cruise calls (Only the Aussies will get that one!). It was then on to the next couple of stores which potentially had the blocks - you can of course guess the out-come at each - more chance of a snowball fight in hell than them having the ones we need. Orlando, bless him, kept phoning around and coming up with more suggestions of places to try, we put the brakes on as it was now past lunch time and we needed to eat something. I had said in jest that I really could tuck away a Chinese meal, yes you guessed it Orlando took us to a Chinese restaurant that did both eat in and takeaway. We opted to eat in and although we only ordered one dish with rice between the two of us Gerry and I came away with enough left over for dinner tonight and Orlando also had at least half of his meal to take away after eating his fill for lunch. Once we had done with lunch we tried one last place for the blocks and then gave up and headed back to the marina as we didn't want our frozen goods to defrost. Our day out was a whole lot of driving around in city traffic on busy roads with Orlando pointing out odd things that he thought might be of interest to us (not that I could care less about car dealerships, McDonalds and KFC which he seemed enthralled with!) however he did show us where the museum and the 500 year old city building remnants were and we asked if it was possible to go and see them close up at a later date. As we had expected Panama City isn't the greatest tourist destination and there really wasn't a great deal to commend it but the contrast of the up-scale high rise blocks to the dilapidated and run down barrios was something to behold, we even went through areas that Orlando told us were "middleclass" dwellings - I don't think I would have put them in that category but that's my first world thinking showing through when looking at what is basically still a third world country in many respects. It is quite shocking to think that Panama is quite a rich country due to the canal and some mining that is carried out in country, but the riches don't seem to have filtered down though the population even in this major city. We are just bewildered as to why there is no large chandlery somewhere near the canal (either end would have done) as hundreds of yachts and boats of every size shape and description pass through here on a regular basis, even in the current climate of Covid restrictions there are still hundreds transiting the canal and most would require a few things from a decent chandlery - it's an opportunity that some business like West Marine are missing out on but I guess there has to be a reason why they aren't here , all I know is that it's frustrating not to be able to get the parts that you need. Talking of parts the spare brushes that we ordered from the US still haven't turned up as yet, we have tracking notifications that they have arrived at various places or left various places several times a day but there is still no sign of them, I just hope the guys on the international space station appreciate them when they open the envelope and find 2 small brushes inside that probably wouldn't fit anything on the station! We settled up with Orlando for the trip -$10 per hour which was nowhere near as cheap as our Colombian Taxi tour for the day and made loose arrangements to do another trip on Monday. We staggered down the dock under the weight of the bags and filled our water container which Gerry had brought along for the ride, then jumped in the water taxi to ride out to our boat where I unloaded the groceries and Gerry topped up the water tank. As I type there are gentle snores coming from the bed, guess it's been a long day out but at least we got to see the city even if we weren't particularly impressed with it. I would hate to have a hire car here; the driving is city mad and apparently Google maps don't work here so we would be well and truly lost in no time - we'll stick with a taxi! That's my lot for today, I'll see if I can upload a few photos to the Gallery under the Panama album (not the canal album), fingers crossed for a quick upload or you'll have to check back later. today's photo is especially for Maz, the Balboa Yacht Club - seeing is believing!