Archive for the 'Panamá' Category

False Alarm!

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

We got up before the crack of dawn even happened to get all the last minute stuff taken care of, motored up to Balboa and picked up our line handlers. Then they called us and told us that we weren’t going to go today. I guess the bank lady never turned in our paperwork when we filed and paid a week and a half ago. So we are supposed to go tomorrow. Same drill.

The Miraflores webcam doesn’t seem to be working but you can look for us on the Centenario webcam around 10-noon. Also the Gatun cam around 4-6pm.

Casco Antiguo

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Anti-bush graffiti. Street kid. Panama City

Casco Antiguo, Panama City, Panamá.

I was trying to take a picture of the graffiti when this kid jumped into the frame and tried to extort money for the photo.

Panama Canal: Woodwind goes to the Mar Caribe

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Waiting for the pilot boat. Pacific Side of the Panama Canal

We met Jan and Bruce at Monday Night Pizza a week before and were invited to come along as line handlers for their canal transit to the Caribbean. They crossed the canal first with Woodwind, their home-built strip-planked gaff rig, in 1989 for $50. Now it costs $600. Holy crap, I say. They swung by Time Machine at 6:30am sharp and we hopped aboard.

Jan and Jerry

Additional line-handling crew were Jerry and Nola on Moonsong from Alaska, also a boat they built themselves. We drank about ten cups of coffee while idling around waiting for the pilot boat to bring us our man for the day.

The bridge of the Americas. Panama Canal

At 10, our pilot showed up and we motored with purpose for the Bridge of the Americas and the Miraflores Locks beyond. Bruce and Jan were a little tense with this late start because the Pacific-Carib route involves a race across Gatun lake and if we got through Miraflores early, we would have a good chance of making it (Woodwind did not motor at 8 knots); if we didn’t make it through the locks early, we might not make it in time to the Gatun locks and would have to pay an additional $830 for holding up the show.

Cheyenne and Jerry

All that hurry to motor around in circles while waiting for the tourist boat with whom we were to transit the Miraflores Locks. We didn’t make it into the locks until well after 11am and it was looking like it would be iffy as far as making it across the lake in time for the Gatun Locks.


Joshua the Line Handler.

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Finally we entered the locks with two canal cruise boats packed with tourists. Our pilot decided to tie us up alongside the white tour boat for the flooding of the locks.

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

It was very exciting!

Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Tied up alongside the tour boat, we didn’t have any line handling to do at all; so we took billions of photos.

Jan and Bruce. Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Piece o cake, baby.

Joshua. Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Jan. Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Jerry and Nola. Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

We chatted with the tourists from the white boat, one of whom rattled off the homeports of everyone aboard: “We got two of us from Texas, one from Connecticut, California, Washington, Illinois, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, some Canadians, and a couple from South Carolina.” “Huh,” we said.

turbulent water. Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Tied up alongside a large heavy power boat, the flooding locks had no effect on us whatsoever.

Ship. Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal

Our neighbors in the Miraflores Locks; there is always much waving and photo taking even from crew aboard the big ships.

Tanker Mommy Duckling. Panama Canal

The adorable tanker, “Mommy Duckling.”

Gatun Lake. Panama Canal

It was probably 1:30 by the time we got through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks and our Gatun Lock time was 4pm; with 22 miles to go against a stiff breeze, it was not looking very good for us. Bruce pushed the motor of Woodwind for all it was worth and our pilot got on the phone to request a later lock time.

Lucky for us, the lake itself is very scenic.

Gatun Lake. Panama Canal

Anticipations high, the pilot called the locks and told them we were 15 minutes away (even though it was more like 25) but as we came out of the Banana Cut to where we could see the Gatun Locks, the tanker we were supposed to be ahead of was just beginning to maneuver into the lock. Not a chance we could get through. We would all have to spend the night in the lake and Jan and Bruce were going to be charged the late fee. There was much throwing up in the air of hands and vociferous protestation amongst those aboard.

Jan is wondering if they have enough rum aboard to pacify this crew.

Bruce serenading with a bullhorn

There was, of course, and before too long Bruce was serenading the howler monkeys with vintage television themes: “Chey-yenne, chey-yennnne! Where will youuuu be campingggg to-niiiiiiight!” (Oh brother!)

The irritation of not making the locks passed quickly really and we were all delighted to find ourselves with the engine turned off (whew!) in a tranquil freshwater lake with a sunset and howler monkeys in the trees. We all jumped overboard and splashed around in the sweet water (a huge treat for folks who have not had a proper shower in months), keeping an eye out for the crocodiles.

Gatun Locks. Panama Canal

We were all up early and ready for the pilot by dawn. Drinking coffee. Having breakfast and drinking more coffee. By the time he finally showed up at noon, we were READY.

We were first in the locks and as forward as possible, which gave us an awesome view down the locks to the Caribbean. Once again, the trip down the locks was a piece of cake.

Gatun Locks. Panama Canal

We were alone this time, suspended in the middle of the lock, with a big humongous container ship right behind us. Ayyy!

The doors opening at the end of the Gatun Locks. You can also just download the video (2 MB) if you’re having trouble with the embedded player.

Michelle in Panama

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

My friend Michelle visited a couple of weeks ago. She sent us an email along the lines of, “Hey, are you guys going to be around for the next eight or so days if I were to fly down?” And after we replied in the affirmative, the next email had flight dates and times. Right on! We picked her up at the Panama international airport where she was NOT arrested and thrown in prison for smuggling in Meyer Lemons (OH. MY. GOD.) packed in a large high-quality ziplock freezer bag (I was also stoked on the bag; this is because I am a huge dork) and I spent no less than three days smelling them and generally freaking out over the brilliance that is a Meyer Lemon. They just don’t care for lemons here, did I mention this? It is a shocking oversight on the part of Central America if you ask me.

meyer lemons

[Aren’t they beautiful?]

So we spent a week relaxing (i.e., not running around town in the blasting heat trying to find a DC potentiometer or somesuch, which doesn’t exist here) and playing tourist.

First in order was to introduce Michelle to the Panamanian Night Scene, which involves an inordinate amount of beer and confusion as to where to go now, where to go next, where to go for ‘el arranque’ (last drink), and where to go for all subsequent arranques. Thankfully cousin Tito was there to help us with the logistics.

Jet lag ingeniously staved off by a hangover the next morning, we headed down to Cinco de Mayo where we caught a bus on to the Miraflores Locks museum and visitors center. Here you can view the big ships (and sometimes the little sailboats) going up and down in the water. It’s really terribly exciting. We wandered around the museum which was fairly educational of course but my favorite parts were the vitrines of butterflies and other freaky bugs typically found in the area and a simulated bridge of a container ship with a wide screen that makes it look like You are the Pilot going through the locks. So you can push buttons and flip toggle switches and bark out orders on the fake phone until someone else comes into the room, and then you stand around quietly, trying to look intelligent until you finally say, “huh,” and move on to the next display.

cheyenne and michelle. miraflores locks. Panama Canal

miraflores locks. Panama Canal

Out on the observation deck we watched a car carrier and a large tanker full of something that may have been flammable, that is, if the Danger Orange paint job and ten-foot lettering advising you to NOT use cell phones or monkey around with naked lights was any indication. After watching the ships go down to the Pacific, we went back into the freezing air conditioning to watch a bizarre educational film on the canal that was edited like that Will Smith movie where he is being stalked by a bunch of computer geeks (Enemy of the State, maybe) with a Matrix soundtrack.

tito in the bamboo

[We went with Tito inland towards the deserted former Canal Zone town of Gamboa and on the way stopped at a botanical park and zoo. Here is Tito frolicking amongst the bamboo.]

baby two-toed sloth

[Baby two-toed sloth. He was so adorable I thought I would keel over on the spot. Exceedingly lucky people in the know (Tito) can find the sloth-keeper dude and actually get to hold him but today he was sick (poor guy!) and so we could only peep at him in his crate with his teddy bear and try not to die of cute overload.]

strange road sign. Panama

[One must always be careful not to hit pokey-nosed beasties with wide blunt whiskers.]

Strange sign. God loves tourists. Gamboa Panama

[God Loves Tourists in Gamboa, but evidently not Gamboa itself, which looked like it hadn’t seen a tourist since the late 80s.]

The next day we stocked the cooler with ice and pulled anchor to head out to Isla Taboga for the day. The sail over was exceedingly mellow, as opposed to the last trip out to Taboga with Tito and Rachel when it blew like snot and the seas were choppy and ugly. Then it took us about a billion years to anchor since it was a weekend and all the power boaters were floating all over the mooring field where the only quiet anchoring spot lies. “Oh, you mean it’s not always like this?” asked Rachel after we finally anchored out in some major chop. Lucky for Michelle who has a history of seasickness, it was calm and there were no power boats in the anchorage; we chucked the anchor overboard only minutes before we were able to jump over ourselves.

Michelle. Beach on Taboga, Panama

[Michelle in Taboga.]

Cathedral on Taboga, Panama

[Cathedral in Taboga, which has a plaque explaining that the original foundations were constructed shortly after the village was founded in 1524. It did not mention when the Vegas remodel took place.]

Taboga is a pretty little island with a history full of pirate-sacking and lacks only a decent anchorage. There is a small colorful town nestled on one side and more footpaths than roads. We wandered around town in the blazing heat until we wizened up and found a shady trail around the northern side of the island where there were a bunch of old WWII bunkers, collapsing with age and covered with vines and jungly overgrowth. Michelle was completely fascinated with the ruins and spent an alarming amount of brain power trying to figure out what the series of ditches, covered sunken areas, and culvert-looking things could have been used for. I stood around geeking over the preponderance of enormous morphos, among other gorgeous butterflies and wondering if it was possible to catch them (it’s pretty much not). The morphos on Taboga are particularly awesome—extremely large, opaque, and more violet blue than usual. Joshua found about a hundred leetle froggies and spent probably twenty minutes trying to get a good photo of the guys, who moved like lightning.


[This was the best one.]

We went to Casco Antiguo and wandered around the barrio looking at the nifty buildings and the Kuna women selling their molas and seed jewelry on the sidewalks. They always tell introduce you to the “mola” like you have never seen one in your life, and you walk another fifteen feet and there is another woman with molas. “Molas,” she pronounces carefully, sweeping her arm over her display. It’s an interesting area of town with slummy buildings that look like they would surely fall down if they were not held up by the buildings on either side, which might be totally renovated and decked with varnished wooden shutters, flower boxes, and ornate iron balconies. Or it might be an empty shell just waiting force of gentrification to catch up with it.

casco antiguo, Panama City

Michelle with Mola

Michelle did not resist the temptation of the mola. We had fun. I hope she did too.

Puente de Centenario

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Gaillard Cut. Puete de Centenario. Panam Canal

Gaillard Cut, Panama Canal, Panamá.

Cheyenne has a bunch of posts ready for you all, but we’ve been running around doing last minute things before we leave Panama City and go through the canal. We’ll be transiting on Sunday the 25th of February. Our crew will be Jan and Richard from Slipaway, Benjamin (a friend from the states), and Cousin Tito. I know you’ve got nothing better to do so you should catch us on the live webcam. Unfortunately, we can’t give you an exact time, but it will be between 6am and noon for the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks. Then if all goes well, we’ll exit into the Mar Caribe through the Gatun Locks around 4 in the afternoon. Panamá Time is the same as Eastern Time (-5).

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell