Posted by: catamarantwooceans | October 27, 2008

Waiting for the crossing

23.10.08 – In the morning I woke up feeling that my back is better – better be careful… I tuned in to the cruisers net and there was this American yachtsman telling how his dinghy, which was tied to his yacht, was stolen at night. He went on to remind the listeners that he is the same guy who was jumped on by two locals in town, one of them holding a gun. He hit the man that held the weapon and ran away to a safe place! So all the warnings regarding Colon are not figments of imagination. I went on the radio to ask if anybody would like to cross the canal with me as linehandler and a French lady said she knew somebody who wanted to do it. She took my telephone number and promised to pass it on. I took the liferaft on the wheelbarrow to the bus, where a young yachtie helped me put it on board. On the way the phone rang. The woman on the line identified herself as Lucia, an Italian and said that she and her man, Spartako, would like to join for the crossing. They are staying at the Colon Yacht Club, so we agreed that when I get to the “Flats”, the anchorage near-by, I’ll call them and we’ll meet. When we arrived at the final station the other passengers helped me carry the raft down,but that effort was bad for my back. Stanley showed up, lifted the raft efortlessly,like it was a big pillow and put it in his car. We drove to the free zone, where, after showing my passport,I got a pass to go in. Stanly drove to the Panama Marine place through the maze that is the free zone. It is huge! Stanley says it is actually bigger than the whole city of Colon.On the way I asked him if they took payment by credit card. It turned out they do not. “So is there an ATM around?” “Don’t worry” says Stanley “I have the money, you’ll pay me later”. The deposit for the liferaft job was 325$; Stanley put his hand deep into his pocket and took it out with a big stack of bills. The flares cost 376.5$ and the same procedure was repeated. Going out of the store, Stanley drove to another place of business and bought something for himself. The items – mine and his – found a safe place in the car and out we went past the checkers at the gate and back to Quatro Altos and the supermarket. It was 1050 and the bus to the marina leaves at 1115. I still wanted to get a haircut and do my shopping. Both tasks were accomplished, but imperfectly. The lady who cut my hair left too much hair on the crown of my head in what is known in our family as an “Andy haircut” after the crying sherrif deputy in the TV drama “Twin Peaks” (I was a fan of that one…). I had so little time left for the supermarket that I forgot many basic things that I needed, like bread for instance. On the way to the marina, every bump in the road, not only hurt my aching back but also reminded me of some other item I missed. Back at Shelter Bay I made up my mind to stay put another day and heal some more. I decided to solve the bread situation by baking one myself, after all I have the experience! Went through the motions, following the recipe Moshe dictated and probably added too much water. The dough became a sticky mess and I was late in deciding to throw it to the garbage. It spilled over the inside of the oven and blocked part of the gas apertures. I’ll fix that tomorrow. I invited a couple I met on the bus, Sandy and Edward to come for drinks at 5 p.m. When they boarded I saw my French neighbour on the Privilege 495 looking on. I asked him to come aboard too and he delined, apologising that he only spoke French. “Come on” I said “Have a Pernod” This convinced Raymond and he came over. His wife, Pascal, came back to the boat, joined us and we had a pleasant get together. Sandy and Edward are on their second boat and second circumnavigation. Their first yacht was a Tayana 47, a heavy displacement boat, built in Taiwan. They sailed that boat all around the Far East, through India, the Red Sea, the Med and on across the Atlantic. The new boat, a 51 foot monohull was built in New Zealand. They sailed her all over the Pacific, on to Hawaii, San Francisco and then to Panama. They plan to go through the Caribbean islands and then to south America, around Patagonia (probably via the Magellan Straights) and then to Chile and… I forgot the rest of the plan. They are cruising since 1994.That’s serious sailing!

Edward

Edward

Sandy

Sandy

Raymond and Pascal came from France, crossed the Atlantic to Antigua, turned south to Trinidad and then west via the Venezuelan islands, the ABC (Aruba, Bonair, Curasau) Columbia and then down here. Their future plan looks very much the same as mine. Costa Rica, Galapagos and French Polinesia. We may meet on the way!

Pascal

Pascal

Fish dinner and then early to bed for a night of heavy rain.

24.10.08 – I had no choice, I had to go back to the supermarket and buy some more stuff. I needed waterbottles, beer and coke but those were heavy items so my back decided to buy them right before the crossing. Back at the marina I went to pay my bill at the office. Lina forgot to bill me for the fuel, 340$, and I reminded her. Funny thing about the price of fuel: in Bocas I paid 4.95$ to the gallon. When I took fuel two days ago the price was 4$. Driving through the city with Stanley I saw that the price at a gas station was 2.85$! Buying fuel is now like Day Trading in the stock market, timing is all important.
Going out of the marina I noticed this strange craft tied to the dock. It is an effort by some companies to promote Bio-diesel, supposedly a cleaner fuel.

Bio Fuel boat

Bio Fuel boat

Out of the marina, I called “Cristobal signal station” to get permission to go to the “Flats”, an anchoring area inside the Colon harbour. No ships were passing the canal so I was given the go ahead, reached the designated position and anchored. Called Lucia and arranged for them to come around 5 p.m.
A friend, Guido, brought them in his dinghy and was promptly inducted as number three linehandler. We had a nice chat, they have this charming Italian ways and seemed to be fun people. Lucia used to be a stewardess in Alitalia so we had a little “Airline talk”. Before leaving they invited me to come for lunch the next day. “Spartako makes the best Pasta” Lucia promised. Of course I’ll go, I love Italian cooked Pasta!

Lucia

Lucia

Spartako

Spartako

Guido

Guido

25.10.08 – I woke up feeling much better so I allowed myself to tackle a job that was bothering me for a long time. This may be the worst task anywhere. I’ll give you a hint by telling an old joke I heard working in the airline: A guy is a waste systems operator in an airline and is very proud of his job. One day he brings a friend along to see him at work. An airplane lands, taxies to the stand, the passengers disembark and then our guy shows his friend how he carefully approaches with his special truck, connects a big pipe to a fitting on the fuselage and as he pulls a handle to empty the holding tank all the load gushes out and covers him all over. The friend is shocked:” Why don’t you find yourself a proper work?” The guy answers:”Are you nuts? leave Aviation?”. Yes, the port holding tank on Two Oceans got clogged and there is nobody to repair it but me… I won’t go into details, I’ll just say that afterwards I took a long shower, shampooed and soaped myself more than once. And no, I will not leave Aviation, sorry – Cruising under sail…
At 1230 I showed myself in the Colon yacht club and found Spartako’s boat. I was not the only guest. Luciano (Italian, of course) and Ellen, his German born wife, came too. They are in Panama for the last NINE years, visiting Italy for a while in the rainy season. They have a modest property, 1.8 acres overlooking the Gatun lake, where the Panama canal passes through, with fruit and coffee trees. Spartako takes his Pasta seriously and made it (Rigatoni?) with a good Pesto sause. This was followed by a salad and Italian cheeses and fruit. The liquid part started with “The house drink” a chilled concoction that included, to quote Spartako:”A bottle of Campari, a bottle of white Vermouth, a bottle of Gin, a bottle of Canada Dry, a bottle of Spumante (that’s a bubbly) and a bottle of…” I probably missed onre or two. We drank the Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon that I brought with  me and, with the coffee, or rather in it – Sambuca, the Italian Anis liquer. A pleasant two hours lunch after which I slept almost the same time!

26.10.08 – A day passed resting, relaxing and reading.

27.10.08 – The telephone call I was waiting for came at 0825. Tina, my agent, called to say that the meeting time with the Canal advisor, that’s like a pilot for yachts crossing, is set to 1630. Wheels are in motion!

I left the Flats and entered the marina again. I went to the supermarket to buy stuff for my crew, after all they are going to stay on the boat for a day and a half and will need some food and drink. Stanley the wizard showed up and brought the liferaft with him. In the bus on the way back, a lady sitting behind me heard that I was going to cross and offered to give me the tires they used as fenders on their crossing from the Pacific. Raymond, the Frenchman on the catamaran next to me, told me that a friend of his is also crossing tomorrow. I went to that boat and met Bertrand, on his one off big catamaran. We will probably raft together for the crossing. I confess to being quite excited by the whole thing!

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