28 November 2009 | Bocas del Toro
Gary aka: The Mark
We have started heading back towards the Panama Canal for our January transit. We are also heading home for Christmas. Panama is still rainy and sadly, still corrupt. I was reading in the local newspaper that Panama is considered highly corrupt among...well, everyone in the whole damn country. We came into Bocas on Sunday and all the official offices for the Port Captain and Immigration etc. were closed. We went into town on Tuesday and told the Port Captain we were here. There is a new Port Captain in Bocas del Toro, as many officials in Panama are newly appointed, due to the recent elections in Panama. Through the string of pay-offs and who knows what else, most positions get new corrupt officials with the new President. As I was scolded by the Port Captain for coming ashore to check in (something that every country along the way is fine with), she explained to me in her "power tripping" attitude that there are new rules in Bocas del Toro and that even though "we are far apart" on entry procedure, she would, "help me get closer to what was required." Tara and I were then instructed to turn around and go immediately back to Pursuit and await the officials that would come out to the boat. What she did not explain was that we needed to wait for a boat full of her fellow corrupt idiots, including their girlfriends, to come aboard and ask for Cokes (I only had 2 cold ones, the rest of them, 7 in total, got warm pop. Enjoy that jerks), and then proceed to shake us down for an extra hundred dollars for what they explained was overtime because we came on Sunday. We said that is is a weekday now and they coughed and said that is was Sunday. I told them that we had entered Panama many times and that this was wrong. They told me that "things are different in Bocas now". I guess they are! I demanded receipts from all of them and got the run around. Only a few gave them to me. The rest said they did not have receipt books and I could get them later. After they all took their cut of the bribe pie, they all left with smiles. I then had to go back to the Port Captain to get a cruising permit and pay her an extra $20, again a hand written receipt, then to the bank to buy "stamps" for our passports. The Immigration officer told me to but $15 worth of stamps and then come to the airport to see him. I am a pretty patient guy. One has to be when cruising in these countries. Talk about island time, but when he told me that I needed $30 worth of stamps now, for two passports, after playing "multiple tellers" at the bank, I lost it. I try to be respectful in other countries and especially with corrupt officials. I do not want my boat confiscated. Who knows what they can do, but I gave buddy a blast. I told him that I was tired of their corruption, that this type of bullshit was going to bite them in the ass, and I was not taking it anymore. He backed down and told me I did not have to get more stamps and return. He said just buy them later and put them in the passport ourselves. Yah, sure buddy. We'll get right on it. I again demanded a receipt while blasting his ass, and like the others, received a handwritten scribble on some unofficial piece of paper. We will be so happy to get out of this country. The people are so lazy and dim-witted that it is not even funny anymore. In the beginning, the vacant stares and empty minds were kind of entertaining, but how many times can you watch the Panamanian version of the "Jackass" movie unfold before your eyes before it gets really old. We still have to organize another transit of the canal, along with having another useless adviser on board again. Deep breath...not long now and we are out of Panama, putting nothing but miles between us and it. Too bad, it is beautiful here.