So here we are in Panama City. We had the boat in the yard for a week and did final inspections of hull and rig for our insurance company regarding the lightning strike. Everything checked out fine, and we’re feeling better about taking Bella Star across the South Pacific. We replaced a bad battery in our house bank, and we’re adding 200 more watts of solar panels to accommodate the demands of the water maker and our computers.
The lift got the boat out and plopped down on stands without any drama, although it’s always a little nerve-wracking to see our home dangling in the air. I totally forgot to take a picture of the leading edge of the keel where the minke whale hit us and took the paint off.
After so many lonely anchorages working our way to the city, it’s been good to meet up with friends again. Knee Deep, Serendipity, Sundancer, and Taking Flight all showed up from points north and it was a fun reunion. We’ve also made several new friends, many of which are heading to the South Pacific as well. A neat change is the makeup of the cruisers in the anchorage here. For the first time, we’re really seeing a truly international group of boats and are enjoying meeting cruisers from all over the world.
We had to stay in a hotel while the boat was in the yard. On Sundays the yard is closed and we couldn’t get aboard to work on projects, so we took a little trip up to the Panama Canal visitors center at the Miraflores locks. We spent an interesting day there learning about the canal and its history.
We even saw some sailboats lock through. We commented that it would be fun if we met any of the boats that we took pictures of. Sure enough, we soon met Christian and Birgit on SV Pitufa (with the yellow sail cover) heading to the South Pacific from Austria.
The restaurant at the locks was surprisingly good, and had the most amazing buffet we’d seen this side of Las Vegas. The unlimited champagne may have contributed to our thorough enjoyment of the visitors center.
Our pals on SV Serendipity were making the transit through the canal and asked us to be line handlers. (The canal authority requires 4 line handlers and an advisor for the transit.) Nicole couldn’t go because she had to work. Like at a real job. She received a contract to do an editing job, so she worked on that while I went through the canal. Personally, I’m coming up on two years of unemployment and I really don’t want to break my streak. Fortunately the crew of Sundancer filled the other line handler spots and it made for a fun group.
Once the first lock was full, I got the reverse view back to the visitors center where we were a couple days earlier. You can see the observation deck crammed with people watching us make the transit.
Most of the canal transit is through Lake Gatun. It’s totally undeveloped and wild – I can see why it’s so popular with cruise ships. Our advisor took us on a shortcut off the main channel through beautiful winding jungle passages.