Tuesday, February 7. Back on the Atlantic side.

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 7th, 2017

The boat was measured on Monday the 30th of January at anchor near the entrance to the canal. That same day I learned that I would transit on February 3rd and the 4th. The agent, Erick, had the 8 large fenders and four extra long mooring lines delivered on Thursday afternoon. I had to shop for the food and drinks for the four line handlers and the pilot. A taxi driver charged me $60 for bringing me to a supermarket and to the farmers market for the produce. I finally received my debit card replacement in Balboa on Wednesday evening. My credit card had been sent to the Shelter Bay Marina in Cristobal/Colon where I arrived Saturday late afternoon. But it had been bouncing back and forth between here and Balboa through in-attention/misunderstandings. The line handlers were young Panamanian men provided by the agent. For most of the time I felt like a kinder garden teacher. Nice kids but they left their trash all over the boat, empty plastic drink bottles, etc. And on a small boat the four of them talked/argued so loud that it drove me nuts, mostly about their soccer heroes. And I’ll be telling the agent to teach them a few basic rope knots. I have only three berths available. Friday night we were anchored near the last locks and two had to sleep on the floor or in the cockpit. A couple good tropical showers came through and then the outside sleepers climbed down in the cabin.  The mooring lines were too thick for my cleats. The agent, Larry, managed to get us alongside a canal tour boat in the first lock. Mostly American tourists. I managed to sell two SoloMan books to them while we went up in the lock. In the next lock we went in side tied to the “Junipero” a power boat from San Diego on their way to Florida. We picked up the straw hat of Pete from Wisconsin, one of my “SoloMan” customers. Because we were not going to be able to get close to the tour boat and the lock wall, we tied the hat to the messenger lines that were let down to “Junipero” to bring the heavy mooring lines to the lock wall. The intercom on the tour boat announced our rescue of Pete’s hat and Pete stood there on the aft deck smiling. His bald head will be properly protected while he gets into “SoloMan”. Be sure to watch this recorded in detail on you tube video.

Pete's sombrero

Pete’s sombrero

I also posted a video of my VHF radio conversation with Thomas Puchner on the Austrian Schooner rigged 52 foot Wharram catamaran “Pakia Tea”. I saw the huge sails from a distance and then saw the details on my AIS screen. This took place on Tuesday evening the day after I left Gulfito, Costa Rica, in Panamanian waters. The conversation is in German. You need to check out the web site of the Pakia Tea: www.Planet-Ocean.org they are on a very interesting voyage, beautiful marine and underwater photography.Pakia Tea

Saturday evening I was having a beer with the “Junipero” crew in the Shelter Bay Marina bar when I felt ladies hands clasped from behind around my face: “Guess who, Jack?!” Turned out to be a lady I traveled with many years ago. We split up because it was like two captains on one ship. Then a week later she came up from behind in the same way, out of nowhere. Another one for my next book: “Small world encounters”. There is a lot more social interaction with the boat crews than in Balboa. Here we are moored in regular dock boxes instead of out on mooring buoys, so you can walk from boat to boat. Most of the boats here are going west and waiting their turn. Last week a large fleet of the ARC rally came west into Balboa. I have met several Dutch, French and Scandinavian crews. There is a very good restaurant, bar and a day room, a barbecue area, swimming pool and exercise room. It is far from town but the marina provides a bus in to Colon. This morning I went on this bus to try and find a few boat items and grocery shop. On Sunday there was no bus into Colon and I joined a worship service in the day room. A good crowd, I guess around 30. It was led by two couples who have been here some time. We had Baptists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, etc. I enjoyed it and was definitely inspired. We sang a few common hymns. I spoke about the May 4th 2016 concert in Amsterdam, where the chapter was recited out of my book “The Mastmakers’ Daughters” about the hymn “Abide with me”. One of the ladies had the text and we sang three verses together: “Did you hear us, mom?”

I just sent in my application to enter Cuban waters, to the US Coast Guard. This might take as much as three weeks to be approved. I should have researched the requirements earlier. It is fairly obvious that I need change my “around the world before 80 years” into “at 80 years”. But that suits me just fine. There still are very strong NE winds here. But after I get some of my maintenance looked after, I plan leave here in the next days and enter into the Chagres River which waters feed the Panama Canal. It is supposed to be a sight to see, for Toucans, Howler Monkeys, etc. , next the Boca del Toro archipelago, then a straight shot to the Yucatan Peninsula and from there to Cuba. I am still somewhat handicapped without a decent rowing dinghy. The cheapest I could find here was a 9 foot Caribe for $3,500 which is half of what I paid for this boat. I just read on Richard Spindler’s FB page that Costco sells an inexpensive dinghy and there is a Costco in Cancun, where I plan stop.

Guayacan related to Lignum Vitae and Ipe on Gatun Lake shore.

Guayacan related to Lignum Vitae and Ipe



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