Thursday, 19 March 2015

3/2015 La Playita

Hi from Clare                                            Wednesday 18th March 2015

No3 La Playita

Well our latest news is that Andrew is flying to Hobart tomorrow as his mother is seriously ill in hospital. We have put Eye Candy in La Playita Marina and I am staying here. Andrew will be away for two weeks returning to the boat at the end of the month.

We have been anchored on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal near Panama City. It is a woeful anchorage at the entrance of the Canal. The constant traffic causes a lot of wake making the yachts roll and buck around. Not the best conditions when provisioning the boat as it is necessary to hang on while walking around below. Packing things away under couches and floorboards is a balancing act. The shopping in Panama City is good but far from convenient. We have made numerous trips to various supermarkets before finding what we wanted. Each time we get back to the boat I am exhausted.

Price Smart bulk store

When in Australia I bought a Vacuum Packer and so I am busy sucking the life out of everything. I am hoping this will eliminate weevils in the oats, flour, nuts, rice etc. It is a constant battle as they come in one thing and then spread like crazy. At the moment we are bug free, I'm planning on keeping it that way. I am also blanching and vacuum packing some fresh vegetables in an attempt to prolong life and save space in the fridge.

Andrew is busy fitting another Solar Panel. There is not as much sunlight here in the Pacific as there was in the Med. The sun goes down here around 6pm as opposed to the Med's sunset at 8.30pm. We fortunately found exactly what we wanted. The new 65 watt panel has the same technology as we already have and it fits perfectly between the two existing 85 watt panels on the arch.

We had a great night out with about fifty cruising friends at the local wood fired pizza place. The pizzas were absolutely delicious with thin crispy crusts and plenty of topping.
The deal for the night was $1 beer. We all sat together and I looked down the table at one stage and all I could see was beer bottles, almost no room for pizza; but cold beer after a hot day is always pretty tempting.

Andrew and Maurice (Cativa)
Pizza night and $1 beers

Mark, Maria, Maurice. Clare and Sue
The water temperature has dropped from 30 degrees in the Caribbean to 20 degrees in the Pacific. It's a bit of a shock but it should improve as we travel west. The daily air temperature is around 30 degrees and is quite pleasant on the water as there is a good breeze. It is much hotter in the city but fortunately all the buses and taxis are air conditioned. Panama City has some really classy shopping centres and modern housing. It also has some desperately poor areas which are not at all safe. The housing is very dilapidated and covered in graffiti. The local school in the area is surrounded by high fences with razor wire on top and all the doors and windows were heavily bared. I guess they have experienced break ins.

The local people are pleasant but the service is pathetic. It is not unusual to be left waiting in shops while the staff completely ignore you and continue with a private conversation. The thing that cracks me up the most is in the supermarkets there are bench seats in front of the deli and meat counters. So take a number and sit down because nothing going to happen in a hurry. Just about every Cruiser here has a story about poor service and broken promises. It's such a shame really as the opportunities are endless and the local people could do with the money.

I will have plenty to do while Andrew is away and I think the time will pass quickly. I don't envy the amount of hours Andrew will spend travelling but family comes first and our love and prayers are with Andrew's Mum Jo.

Love Candy xx

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Tuesday, 10 March 2015

2/2015 Panama Canal Transit

Hi from Clare,                                           Saturday 7th March 2015

No 2 Panama Canal Transit

So this is a momentous occasion, our first newsletter sent from the Pacific. Let's hope there will be many more written from exotic and peaceful locations.

We transited the Panama Canal Wednesday and Thursday spending the night in the Gattun Lake. The hand drawn diagram below shows the three locks going up to 85 ft above sea level, the twenty mile wide Gattun Lake and then the three locks coming back down to sea level. We paid $1875 to the Panama Canal Authority of which about half is refundable if no accidents occur, and thankfully they didn't.

Carlos' diagram

Rafting up with Andromeda at the canal entrance

Entering the canal

To prepare for the transit we needed to hire long lines and rubber car tyres and have four line handlers on board, The line handlers can be friends or anyone offering their services. Believe me there is a constant procession of people coming to the boat asking for a ride through the canal. Apart from myself we opted to have two cruisers who have been through the Canal before and then we paid Ricky, a Panamanian born professional line handler. Ricky has done many transits and was a wonderful asset. Not only could he handle the boat work quickly and efficiently, he spoke the local language and communicated with the canal personnel to get our lines secured onto the bollards quickly when entering each lock. There are many different types and sizes of vessels in the canal at the same time. We were rafted up against another yacht about he same size as us. Eye Candy was the designated lead boat as we had the bigger engine. This suited Andrew and also the other skipper who was pretty green and had already asked Andrew to tell him what to do.

Lock doors close behind

In addition to our own arrangements the Canal Authority provide an Advisors who assists the Skipper as the canal is narrow, the incoming water and tugs working in the canal can cause turbulence and there is an outgoing current and wind to consider. We had two Advisor on board, one for the up locks and then another for the down locks. Both Advisors were tug boat skippers who also assist with canal transits. Our second Advisor Carlos has been a tug boat skipper for thirty years and has done 1000 canal transits. Both our advisors were knowledgeable and very pleasant. Consequently we had a good and trouble free transit unlike the boats behind us who's line handlers were inexperienced and failed to get secured quickly and their raft drifted into the side wall of the canal causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to the yacht pushed onto the wall, see photo.

Ricky at work on the bow
Leaving the Gatun locks
Carlos our second advisor
It was lovely when the final gate opened and we motored out into the Pacific. It was also lovely to have the four additional crew leave Eye Candy, clean up and get back to normal. We are now anchored in a bay at La Playita just outside the Canal along with approximately thirty yachts.
We know the people of at least six of these yachts so we have plenty of company. Andrew started up the watermaker only to find a leak, so he is occupied trying to fix it, we will need to buy some new parts.

View of the Pacific


We will be here for a while provisioning the boat and preparing for the Pacific leg. We haven't got our heads around where to shop yet, but we have plenty of notes from friends who went through the process last year – thank goodness for Brenda's (SY Bandit) notes!

Love Candy xx

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