Monday, February 20, 2017

Pacific end of Panama Canal, Balboa


Now we are at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal we can do a bit of a look around Panama City without having to worry about bus times. First of all we had to find what is safe and what is not, but today is a relax day after the last couple of days passage which was a little draining.
We enjoyed a lunch at the Balboa Yacht Club and had a few drinks. This Balboa Yacht Club at present is in a makeshift open area with just a roof overhead. The original club next door burned down and the club wants to rebuild but they are having trouble with getting permission through the port authority. The Port Authority would like to get rid of the club and the yachts altogether. Not sure if there is pressure from the Flamenco Marina complex or just the port authority. The Port Authority is also trying to get rid of the Yacht Club at Colon.
(Balboa Yacht Club is where the satellite dish is, the concrete building on the right is the original club that burned down)

Well we had a great afternoon at the club and it was relaxing.


Leigh on Mi Querida got through the Panama today and he invited us over for dinner tonight. Nancy started checking what we wanted as far as shopping to store ship before we start the voyage across the Pacific. We have noted in the guide books and a blog that we have been following that the islands in the Pacific Ocean do not always have stores that we may require.
(Mi Querida  which in English means My Mistress)

Talking to Leigh he has found out that yachts go around to anchor around the point of Flamenco Island and use the dinghy dock at the marina at a cost of $5.00 US per day you use it, which is cheaper than here and you don’t have the shipping traffic like here that rocks us every time they go by. So tomorrow we intend to move out there.


We left the mooring and motored out to Flamenco and dropped anchor then went ashore to see what it was like at that area. We tied up at the dinghy dock and there are security guards at the top of the ramp, they check people that come and go, you have to pay your $5 in the office and then show them your receipt and they then keep an eye on your dinghy. It is not compulsory to pay the money but it has been said that if you don’t it is most likely that the dinghy will disappear.
(Alana Rose anchored with Panama City as a back drop this is the anchorage near Flamenco Marina)
(Stormy weather)
(Panama City from across the bay)

 The marina complex is rather flash and they have all sorts of things there including restaurants, bars, and caf├ęs and internet machines, this we needed to update this blog. It was when we were updating our blog at the internet section that we had a bit of trouble. Nancy was on the next computer to me and I happened to see something in the corner of my eye, I looked around and this well dress young man was bending down to tie his shoe lace, I watched him for a while and he moved on. At that moment I finished what I was doing and as Nancy was having problems with the computer she was on I said use this one. As she went to pick up her hand bag it was gone. I spotted the young bloke heading out the door so off I went, he was walking fast and well ahead of me and I was running after him, yes this little fat bloke can move when he has to, I caught up with him as he was going in the toilet block, he spotted me at the last minute. I grabbed him and slammed him against the wall and held him there. He had a black back pack, I told him to open it, he did and he was smart, Nancy’s bag was black and he held open one compartment hiding the other side of the behind a division in the bag, but I put my hand in and pulled out Nancy’s bag. I then grabbed him by his shirt collar and dragged him outside a yelled to everyone that this lad was a thief he had stole this bag then I let him go. A bloke approached me and said in broken English he stole your wife’s bag and I said yes and I went off to see Nancy who was very upset. She was pleased to see me with her bag. We sat and had a coffee and this big fellow came up to me and asked if it was my bag that was stolen, I laughed and said no it was my wife’s bag. He said the police have got the boy and they want to talk to you, so we followed this bloke to the police.
(Flamenco Marina from the roadway to Isla Flamenco )
(Isla Flamenco (Flamenco Island) this roadway is reclaimed land joining the island to the mainland)

They had the boy handcuffed to a centre pole in the room, the big fellow that came for us was a biker and he and mates were having a drink when they saw me chase the boy down, apparently the other bloke that asked me about the boy earlier was a security guard and he alerted the police. The young man that stole the bag tried to catch a taxi but was stopped at the gate as they had been alerted and he ran from the taxi a couple of the bikers chased him down and gave him to the police, they also touched him up along the way.

The police asked us to identify the boy with aid from the biker who translated for us and the police. We both said yes and apparently the young man said it wasn’t him, in which Nancy replied, bullshit! It was obvious by the policeman’s face as he smiled hi did not need that to be translated. They asked if we wanted to press charges and we said no he is only a boy. The police said his photo will go on the gate he will not be able to enter this complex again and police officer will take him home and let his parents know what he has done and we left.

Later that day as we walked across the car park a car diverted and came our way, it was the biker and his brother, he asked if we were alright and introduced his brother, his brother apologized to us for what had happened to us in his country, they were really nice blokes.

Well after that excitement it was time to go back on board for a quiet night.

We went ashore again today and met up with Leigh we told him that we were looking for crew to assist across the Pacific, he said he had just let a young German couple go as he had other crew joining him. Later that day he brought them across to meet us, they had already joined another yacht “Creighton” but they were not totally happy with it. They asked us what would be required of them and we said they would have to help clean the boat take their share of domestic duties and keep watches. They asked how much they would have to pay us and we replied nothing you work your passage. Creighton’s skipper was charging them $50 US per week each. So they said they would see if they could come with us, but unfortunately Creighton’s skipper would not release their passports so we missed out. We never did get crew so we maintained the four on four off across the Pacific.
(Alana Rose )
(Nancy on the walkway from Flamenco)
 (Happy bloke enjoying the good weather)
 (There are two other islands joined by the road going out to Flamenco)
(More people enjoying the day)

 (It is Sunday and everyone appears to be out enjoying the weather, it is obvious that some Panamanians are a lot better off the others)
 (Family pinic by the water)
(One of the flash restaurants)
(Couple of the tourist boats)

Leigh called us on the radio this morning he said apparently yesterday when one of the other yacht’s crews were ashore they had things stolen off the yacht and apparently it occurs often out here, he was going back to Balboa moorings and he advised us to do the same. This we did we weighed anchor and motored back to the Balboa Yacht Club moorings. It is a little busier here and water  taxi’s take you to and from your boat and there are security on the dock.
 (Back with the other boats at Balboa)
 (Couple of other Australian catamarans)
(The Bridge of Americas)
We went ashore once settled and looked for a taxi and we got Alan a taxi driver he asked if we needed a taxi at other times and we said yes, he said if you are happy I will be here for you when you want me and you pay me at the end what you think is best. So we agreed, Alan would take us everywhere and wait for us every time he dropped us off.
(This is Alan our Taxi driver/guide)

Nancy wanted to go to the centre where the local Panamanians shop for the clothes. It is a centre that you can only go to with a local guide, Alan would be our guide. When we arrived it was hard to find a park, Alan asked if we would pay $2.00 US for a car wash, we said yes. Next thing Alan drove into this yard with scanty covered car park where guys were washing cars by hand. We paid the money and that became our car park. Well Nancy was in her element good tops and shorts for $5.00 US, they were the same quality as what you buy in the good shops in the city only the manufacturers tags have been cut off. Alan stuck close by Nancy and I was supposed to do the same. To be honest shopping for clothes with Nancy I would prefer to watch paint dry. So I walked out front of the shopping area, I wasn’t there for two minutes when this little old guy comes up to me. He said hi, you ain’t no American are you, I replied no, he said thought so where you from? I said Australia, he laughed and said a kangaroo hey. He said I thought so you don’t dress like an American.

He stated to tell me about his life and about the Panama, I knew it was going to cost me money but it was interesting. He was 71 years old, his grand or great grandfather help build the Panama Canal. He went to an American school as a boy and that is why his English was good. He said it is only here where the Panamanians can afford to shop, he said when the Americans were here looking after the canal he said Panamanians wages were $5.00 US per hour, now they have gone the hourly rate dropped to $1.29 US per hour. He said he was a proud Panamanian but he was not fond of what the government was doing. He chatted for a while longer and then asked, can you spare a dollar for a cup of coffee, I said sure and gave him $5.00. It was a good history piece about the place and it was better than shopping.

Today we went around the big shopping centres to start loading necessary stores and some spares as it will be a long time before we see large stores again, I think we shopped that much that we have enough food supplies to last us around five months and that would be for us and two more crew if we could have got them. Having Alan as a guide knew all the places to go.

06/07/2007 – 10/07/2007
We think we are ready and all is done so now time for some sightseeing and enjoyment.
(lunch at the Balboa Yacht Club and a few drinks Nancy right of centre)
(One of the bar staff always smiling and friendly)
(Me chatting to one of the bar staff)


Today the day before we actually depart Panama we were alerted to low house battery alarm, this had happened a couple of times before that could have been easily explained as we were using a good amount of power, but not this time. I had suspected them on occasions of not performing the way they should but the tests although not flash were within limits. This time I tested them they failed miserably. So I said to Nancy we had better replace them we will not be able to get them where we are going. So that was number one job for the day go and find the batteries that we required. Allan our taxi man was ashore and we were able to get him again, second place we tried had them. Our taxi was overloaded with the weight of the batteries, every road crossing we bottomed out but we finally got back to the dock. The next task was to get them on board fit them and remove the others. Had no worries about getting rid of the old ones I had Allen, Junior and the guy’s at the fuel dock fighting over them.
 (Driving into town to find batteries)

(The new batteries, this bloke wanted to give Alan and I a hand obviously wanting to earn some money)
(Junior, in white shirt with two of the old batteries, Alan took the other one they tested alright for whatever they wanted to use them for)

The Panama is not the best for manual labour activities, it’s hot and bloody humid. So once on board I strip down to the sea state dress of the day, yes the jocks. What’s that you say, not a pretty sight? Your probably right, well the sweat just poured out of me, I had two pieces of rag that I rung out a dozen times or more, then when all was finished Nancy had to get a mop to mop up the moisture on the floor. No wonder my love handles are disappearing. After this we fueled and watered the boat ready for the departure early next morning.

On the dock here is a Customs officer so we went to see him about clearing out. Well he said we can’t do it here and we have to get approval of the Port Captain before Customs, both are at the Flamenco Marina Complex, we had already paid Alan a tidy sum of $150 US so he is probably home celebrating with his family, can’t blame him, he did a lot for us.

So we get a taxi to Flamenco, the Port Captain will not be there until 1600 hours, so we wait, he finally shows up and a nice man, he signed our papers and I asked how much we owed, he replied we Port Captains do not charge we are paid by the government. I did not tell him his colleague the other end of the canal charges $10 US and no receipt. Then we go to the Customs Office, no they cannot do it because we did not come here and get them signed when we arrived at this end of the canal, we now have to go into the city government offices to customs there. We arrive there at 1650 hours but they make us wait until 1705 hours, now we have to pay overtime rates because it is after 1700 hours. We also have to get signed out just before we leave in the morning, I said we are leaving at 0400 hours, they assure me they have 24 hour service at the dock. We thank them being polite, because it does not pay to get upset because we would pay somehow.


It is 0345 hours and we are ready to leave, I call a water taxi on the radio and he arrives when we get to the dock I ask him to wait there I will be back soon. We get to the customs office and it is in darkness, we knock loudly on the door and a light goes on, out comes a very sleepy customs officer and signs our document. The water taxi takes us back to the boat and we get back on board and start engines, slip the mooring and we are off. Galapagos here we come.
(The customs officer that we woke to sign the papers wished us well)

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