Departing the Causeway islands

Causeway islands, Panama

Latin rhythms interspersed with American classic rock and pop fill the airways as tourists happily peddle covered trolleys for two to four people down the sidewalks.  Taxis stop to honk at us, assuming we can't make the five minute walk to the next shopping center.  

The water dropped its regular tidal range of 15 feet, exposing the sandy beach here in the anchorage marina where a city of tiny crabs dash about shaking their white pincers at each other.  Vultures and seagulls sift through debris and juicy tidbits, discussing their finds.

Mendoza Cafe at low tide with Panama City in the distance.

Justin receives the secret-recipe hot sauce from Jose Mendoza.

Overlooking this exposed beach is Mendoza Cafe, where owner, Jose, delivers us a bottle of homemade hot sauce we ordered from him the day before.  The recipe is a guarded family secret.  After the huge meal we had there yesterday, the hot sauce and cafe latte were on the house.  He has a picture on the wall of his brother, Ramiro Mendoza, who used to be one of the top players for the New York Yankees, and he has named his restaurant for the family name.  

We are still here in Panama because we insisted on being provided with a receipt for the suspicious $200 we were told we had to pay to the clearance office.  They claimed we had not paid for our permit, until Justin produced the receipt from San Blas, which is again, why we always obtain receipts.  Still, we were told by the nervous woman, that we would have to clear out Monday, because she would not agree to give us a receipt for the remainder of the supposed charges.  

Photos of Ramiro Mendoza, the owner's brother, hang on the wall of the Mendoza restaurant.

Our wonderful cab driver, Fred, wanted to get to the bottom of this mystery, so he took Justin to the Flamenco Office and called the port captain, who verified that we should not have been charged anything at all.  On the way there, a sloth held up traffic by dangling from a tree in the middle of the road. Although typically closed Sundays, he arrived at the office and cleared us out himself, and Fred went home with a nice tip.

Justin provided the anchorage with a fireworks show while filing down and fitting our burglar bars for the V-birth hatch.  This way we will be able to leave the hatch open at all times to keep the boat airy and cooler.  The shower pump problem was diagnosed and fixed, as well as two year's worth of fridge coolant purchased.  Thanks to Fred and the information pamphlet from other cruisers, we managed to find everything we needed around town.  

Playita boat ramp at low tide.

The bilge has been cleaned and pumped, after a hilarious accidental miscommunication regarding leaving the head faucet on, thinking it was off, when in fact, it was only off on the control panel.  So when it was switched on via the control panel, and no one was in the bathroom, well, the faucet managed to stay on long enough to flood the bilge!  Well, geez, it needed a good cleaning anyway!

Our new outboard is working beautifully, again.  That is, after some hours of work and worry.  The entire dinghy was completely submerged at the dinghy dock.  We spoke with two other dinghy groups whose inflatables had been severely punctured.  Apparently, the tide was abnormally high that night, and the ferry could have pushed some of the dinghies under the floating ramp as the water rose.  

Playita boat ramp at high tide.

Oodles of fresh provisions have been put away and stored.  Unfortunately, the mechanic never made it out to our boat, so Justin ran more tests and thinks we'll be fine.  Not great, but okay.  We installed another solar panel, which should alleviate most of the concern should the alternator begin to pout again.

Our friend, Mark, held a party aboard for his daughter, Megan's “Sweet 13” birthday. Five kids swarmed the decks shouting in French, and it was lots of fun to watch young kids enjoying themselves on a boat. Matthew, Mark's son, was particularly fond of swinging on the bow in his hammock chair, while we swapped charts and chatted the sun to bed with friend and father of three, Simone. Homemade cake and defrosted fudge all the way from Annapolis were offered up.  

Our forecast for our crossing to the Galapagos looks crummy.  Light winds, then winds on the nose.  We could wait for a better weather window, but this is one of the tradeoffs of having a tight schedule on a rally.  This area of the waters is known for doldrums/light winds anyhow, and we're looking forward to reuniting with the fleet!

One last 20 minute shower, and one more night in a bed that doesn't move, and then we're outa here!!!

So long Jose, and thanks for all the stuffed tostones and hand-cut yucca fries.


Seamanship in Action

When currents take over: Anchoring in a crowded anchorage with no wind

Sailboats live where the forces of wind and water collide. Making way is all about balancing and harnessing these forces. Staying put while riding anchor or on a mooring also involves dealing with these forces. In a crowded anchorage, all of the boats will point or vane in the same direction into the wind if the force of the wind is strong enough. However, if there is no wind, the forces of water prevail. Click on the photos below to learn more.

Posted on February 22, 2015 .