Monday, February 25, 2013

Quick Update from Panama City + Taboga Island Photos

Current Location:  Panama City, Panama

I have a couple of blog entries started regarding our time in the Las Perlas and navigating the metropolis of Panama City...but between home schooling and prepping the boat for the Panama Canal transit, I can't seem to find the time to finish.  So here is an update of what we are up to currently.

Every day we watch enormous tankers and cruise ships drive by our anchorage here in Playita as they go to and from the Canal.  Like big, teasing bullies we must tolerate their taunting until it is our turn to venture through what the American Society of Civil Engineers has named, one of the seven wonders of the modern world.   How's that for intimidating??

Since the cost is approximately $2,000 we have been cooling our heels here, while squirling away our nuts (Balboas aka US Dollars).  Back in December, we checked into the country of Panama, but had no idea it would be so expensive ($750), the most costly so far. Even more the more popular and touristy hot spot, Costa Rica, cost less to acquire a cruising permit and get our passport stamped.

Our check in process is a story in itself and will have to wait for another time, but it did involve an official pocketing cash for an inspection fee, which never took place (in his WAS two days before Christmas, so maybe he needed some cash to buy presents for all of his big breasted, topless girlfriends.  I know this because they were proudly displayed in photos at his desk.  As an afterthought, maybe if my boobs were bigger, he wouldn't have embezzled money from us?). To be clear, all of the countries we have checked into have had straight forward procedures with fees that were quite reasonable and official.  This was our only negative experience with immigration or customs to date.

As I type this, Ben and the boys are off to the Panama Canal Authority to pay our transit fee, so tonight we should have an assigned date to go through.  Happy, excited, stressed, scared and relieved are just a few words that come to mind as I anticipate this big event.  Ben's mom, Sally, and my dad, Jerry will be flying down to act as line handlers.  We look forward to spending time with family and sharing this amazing experience (and also spend in their air-conditioned hotel rooms, swim in the pool and shower with hot water...ah, a cruiser's life!).  If anyone would like to join us, we may need another person.  Send us an e-mail if you would like more information.

We can't wait to get to the Caribbean side and start exploring!!  If anybody is interested in our rough timeline, we plan to head to the San Blas Islands in March and then make our way up to Belize, Mexico and then to Florida.  Again, if you would like to come crew on the boat and sail any of these waters, just let us know.  We love to have visitors!

Once on the East Coast, we will sell the boat in Annapolis and then drive across the country during the summer. We have promised Mickey we would visit a bunch of baseball parks in the U.S.  Then back in California by the end of summer!

That's about it for are some photos of our time at Isla Taboga a couple weeks ago (an hour sail from Panama City). 



OOOPS! I almost forgot about the blog's new feature!!  I have come to realize these stories don't always reflect well on my parenting abilities.  Please withhold any judgment until a later when my kids are fully grown and are in therapy.

Mickey and Molly's task for the day was to go to the grocery store.  Not an easy feat for someone without a car, living on a sailboat in a foreign country.  All went well until the cab drive home (Panama City cabs = headache, ulcers, quarreling..see former blog post). 

Before leaving the store, all parties had an agreed upon price, but as they were nearing their destination, the driver wanted more cash.  Molly politely declined and said he had already agreed upon the cost.  The quarreling and quibbling, which included bullying and yelling from the driver, continued until they reached the drop off point.  Mickey, now adept at unloading groceries from taxi cabs while his mother fights with cab drivers, completed his task quite efficiently. 

The driver now realizing he was not going to get more money from the now shrieking and angry Molly, sneered and said in Spanish, "Ok, how about a beer instead?".  

Being the class act she is.....Molly chucked a can of beer at his head and he drove off chuckling.  As the cab is departing, Molly, who has now completely succumbed to her Irish anger and in the presence of her 11 year old, rattles off,
"F- - -  you, ass- - - -!"

Obviously she had completely lost her cool and as the anger subsided realized what she had done.  As a result, she turned to Mickey and said sincerely, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I was just sooo angry and lost my cool."

Mickey (patting his mother's shoulder sympathetically):  "That's ok, mom. It's just a shame he didn't understand you. You should really learn how to swear in Spanish."

And that is all for now from the Floating Frat House....

Anchored off Isla Taboga, usually a sleepy little island that attracts weekenders, who swim and barbecue on the beach. However, it was Carnaval (which is BIG here in Panama) and the music played until 5:00 am. We can confirm that sound does travel really well across water!

J.P. helping dad fix the outboard engine.  It's just another way to earn allowance on the Floating Frat House.

A view of the anchorage from Taboga. Knee Deep is second from the right.

Loved the small, colorful houses on the island. Note the telephone booth on the right.  They are all over the place here and they work!  The boys now know what one looks like.

Two Panamanian kids carrying a cooler down to the beach, which contained.......wait for it........

.....FISH and a large knife! They were headed to the beach to meet the family for a barbecue. I loved the fact they were roaming the small streets of this village with the family meal. 
While we walkd around the island, two little boys took up residence in our dinghy.  They were pretending to drive and used it as a jungle gym.

Homemade cinnamon rolls and coffee is always good way to start the day.

"Escuela Benjamin.." a.ka. Benjamin School.  Is this a school for tall, skinny sailors?? Or maybe they teach people how to convince their spouses to live on a sailboat with two young children?? Brilliant!!

Apparently people from all nations love to be wildly pulled around on a big, yellow inflatable banana! This our friend's boat, Sundancer being buzzed by the banana.

Second oldest church in the Western Hemisphere.  It was locked so it was another church where we were unable to go inside.  Should I be worried?? Maybe God's trying to tell us something.

The anchorage at Taboga with Panama City in the background.  Also, note the enormous tankers anchored offshore.

The old church, complete with soccer field in front.