Monday, April 15, 2019

Panama City: Busy Day, Little Accomplished

Today was busy, but not a lot to show for all the effort.

Intermezzo was berthed in Marina Flamenco, the most expensive marina I've ever stayed in, $111 per night. Other than a decent dock, you don't get much for that high price. The restrooms were clean but tiny and both the men's and women's lacked shower heads on the showers. They were completely missing, just a pipe sticking out of the wall, teflon tape around the threads where the shower heads would screw on. I think someone stole them. The water pressure is pretty low, too, so taking a shower involved bending one's body in different directions to get under the thin stream of (cold) water, like doing some weird snake dance.

Around 0930 this morning a very pleasant official from the Panama Canal Agency stopped by to inspect Intermezzo and get information for our canal transit. Fortunately, Intermezzo had passed through the canal before on her delivery trip from the builder in South Africa to me in California in 2012, so the canal agency had most of the pertinent data for the boat and didn't need to take any measurements. Back then the boat's name was A4135, an impersonal identify, like a prisoner in a penitentiary. We officially changed the name to Intermezzo in the canal agency's records.

We left the marina after the inspection and refueling. At least the diesel is cheap, $3 per gallon versus closer to $5 in Mexico.

We headed to Balboa Yacht Club where we planned on taking a mooring ball for the duration of the wait for our canal transit. Our ship's agent, Roy Bravo, was to meet us at the club bar/restaurant at 1500 to clear us into Panama. When we arrived at the club', we were directed to take a mooring ball at the very outside the mooring field, right next to the main shipping channel for the canal. There was a swift ebb current in the channel and a southerly wind blowing against it.

We attached ourselves to the mooring ball and watched with concern as Intermezzo sailed and drifted all around it, the thick hemp painter lines rubbing off bottom paint. We tried adjusting the two lines from the bow to the ball with no improvement. We finally decided to lower the dinghy and attach line from our stern to a mooring "ball" (actually a tire) behind us. It took a bit of effort, but solved the problem, preventing the boat from swinging around.

By the time we got the stern line finished, it was time for me to meet the agent at the club. Roy ad I hailed the club's launch and went to shore. No Roy Bravo at 1500. I waited until 1530 and called him. He apologized, explained that he had been delayed on the Atlantic side of the canal and couldn't meet with me until tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, Intermezzo's Roy had wandered off, something he is apt to do when he gets ashore. I returned to Intermezzo on my own.

Back at the boat, John and Kim reported that our proximity to the shipping channel, in addition to providing close up views of huge passing ships, also subjected Intermezzo to terrible rolling wakes from passing pilot and tug boats.

I had found Balboa Yacht Club is a bit of a dump, with little sign of life, save for the yacht tender men. The bar and restaurant were closed and didn't look like they would be much good when open. The place has clearly seen better days. Given the crappy facilities, the crappy mooring ball, and the rolling wakes, I decided to leave and anchor outside La Playita Marina, a recommended anchorage further off the ship channel. Now we just had to wait for Roy to return to the boat.

Roy got back from his walkabout around 1700, we untied our spiderweb of mooring lines fore and aft and headed to La Playita. The anchorage here is pretty crowded with yachts either waiting to transit the canal or having just completed their transit and preparing to leave on longer passages. I took us a couple of goes to find a spot amongst the other boats.

I was feeling a bit tired, frustrated, down and out so stayed on the boat while the crew took the dinghy into the marina to have dinner. It's almost 2300 and they haven't returned yet. I suspect alcohol is involved. All those stories about sailors on shore leave are true. If they aren't back by midnight, they will be AWOL. A couple hundred years ago, I could administer lashes for such an offense. Now, all I can do is give a disapproving look and make a few disparaging comments.