Day 116, Year 1: Cristobal, Panama
Date: Friday, February 10, 2006
Weather: Sunny and Very Warm
Latitude: 09 degrees 20 minutes
Longitude: 79 degrees 54 minutes
Location: Panama Canal Zone, San Cristobal, Panama (near Panama Canal Yacht Club)
Miles Traveled from San Blas to Cristobal: 88 miles

We had a great overnight passage from the San Blas to the Panama Canal Zone. We arrived safely at about 1000, so it took us a little less than 14 hours to make the trip. We sailed under double-reefed main and reefed head sail to slow ourselves down so that we would have good light to enter the Canal Zone. What we didn’t know is that we would have a good 1 knot current against us beginning in the wee hours of the morning, so we got in a little later than expected. As we headed into the Canal Zone, a school of Spotted Dolphins served as our welcoming committee. With so many boats coming in and out of here, those dolphins must be worn out at the end of each day.

We had some mail that needed to get to a post office about a week ago, so Mark headed into the Panama Canal Yacht Club as soon as we arrived. I stayed on the boat as we have read that it is unsafe to leave your boat without someone aboard here. After being here for the day, I think that leaving during the daytime is fine, but at night, you need someone to keep a look out. Mark was gone about 2 hours having successfully gotten the mail off, plus he returned with the lines required for Canal transit and tires that we need to use as fenders. He is a fast mover! We did not plan to do any of this until Monday, but when he got to the Yacht Club, he found that he could not walk to the Post Office. It is very close, but it is totally unsafe to walk anywhere here. So he got one of the many cabbies that hang out here to take him. This guy is even a faster mover than Mark-and that’s going some. He took Mark to the PO and then he asked him if we were already registered to go through the Canal. Mark explained that we had just arrived, but the guy said, “What are you waiting for? If you’ve got a copy of your boat documentation and a crew list with you, we’ll go straight to the Admeasurer’s Office and make an appointment to have the boat inspected.” Mark had the documents, so off they went. The Admeasurer will come tomorrow to check the boat to make sure it safe for a Canal passage. We will go to the CitiBank on Monday to pay the fees, and after 1800 on Monday evening, we call to get our passage date. The cabbie Mark randomly chose is an agent here and he swears he can make that call for us for $10.00 and get us through the Canal by the end of next week. That seems VERY optimistic, but he did a great job today of getting about 3 days work done in 2 hours. But I believe in magic, so we’ll see what Monday brings.

When Mark returned with the lines and half the tires, I asked why he didn’t bring all of the tires. It seems that a 72 year-old gentleman from Romania needed a ride back to his boat. Mark took him instead of the rest of the tires. The man is traveling solo around the world in a tiny, tiny sailboat-and he has no dinghy. A very brave soul. But since Mark had to go back in for the rest of the tires, I went with him. I’m glad I did as we finally met Patrick and Margaret aboard Aqua Magic from Portsmouth, England. We have talked with them on the radio many times and it was great to meet them. They have a transit date the end of February and think that our cabbie will not be able to get us through next week. We shall see.

We are headed into the Yacht Club for Happy Hour. We are hoping to find someone transiting in the next couple of days that we can go with as line handlers. And we need to find 4 strong people who are willing to handle lines for us. We have to have names for the Admeasurer tomorrow, so tonight’s Happy Hour will also be a time to connect with folks and find the people we need. Mark met a French couple earlier today that are on vacation in Panama, and they are willing to go with us, so we really only need 2 more people.

Since it is not safe to travel into town (Mark says it looks really scary-that it makes the worst inner-city in the US look like a walk in the park.), we’ll spend most of our time here on the boat and at the Yacht Club-certainly not fancy, just the bare necessities. We have to be on the boat all day tomorrow to wait for the Admeasurer, so it will be a forced day of little movement. I think we need that!

060210 Day 116 Arrival in Cristobal, Panama