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Friday, May 01, 2009

Departing Panama City!

Finally! We plan to leave Saturday morning after a final top up of the water tanks. We've spent the past week working our tails off getting ready to go.

Last Friday while John did a sail repair for another boat I went to the U.S. Embassy to get Ziggy's Import Permit for Hawaii notarized. That round trip took me four buses, one collectivo taxi, and three hours because the embassy has moved and is no longer at the conveniently located building we've passed several times that says "U.S. Embassy" right on it. I left a note in the suggestion box at the fancy new embassy building way out in the boonies asking that they post a sign similar to one of those "We've moved! Our new location is..." signs that businesses put up for their customer's convenience. The good part was that I had to go via one of the nice malls here so I did some shopping and found a couple of $7 swimsuits, $3 "crocs," and a $13 pair of Joan & David sandals. You can't beat the clothing prices in Panama City.

On Saturday I did boat chores while John made four new Sunbrella hatch covers for another boat. We still can't quite figure out why we volunteered him for the job since he hates to sew (especially when there's no benefit to our boat!), but they had admired ours and the person they originally signed up for the work wasn't doing a good job. So now he has a case of beer (his "payment") stowed away for future refreshment.

Monday I took some borrowed charts to a copy center, stopped by the local (English speaking) clinic to make dentist appointments, got my hair cut, took the charts back to the boat, went to the vet's to pick up Ziggy's FAVN blood test results, had a quick bite on the boat, went to the swap meet that John had organized (to try and get rid of some of our junk), and finished the day at the book swap/dinner at the Balboa Yacht Club. That day I took six buses and two taxis and did a lot of walking in between.

Tuesday morning we got the much anticipated call from FedEx saying that our life raft was waiting for us at the airport cargo terminal, and did we want it delivered. Thinking that delivery would be very expensive we decided to pick it up ourselves. We then spent all day (literally five hours) getting our life raft from the FedEx office at the airport. The taxi alone cost us $60, plus the road tolls, plus lunch for the driver (and us - during one of the long waits), plus the FedEx and Customs fees. We were sitting around waiting for most of that time (the drive out there is about 45 minutes each way), so it was pretty tense knowing that we had a cab driver sitting outside wondering how much he was going to get out of it. But the raft is in a beautiful new Pelican case (hard plastic and watertight) which even comes with rollers like a carry on suitcase, so it's much easier to handle than our old one.

You'd think we'd be all ready to go once we had the long awaited life raft on board, but we've been scrambling to finish last minute things. Wednesday we took a taxi to drop off our laundry, then took a bus out to the mall "for one more thing," then a bus to the dentist for cleanings, x-rays, and exams ($68 per person and $63 for one filling, in case you're wondering), ate a gyro at Niko's for lunch, bussed back into Centro for last minute perishables (bread, eggs, tortillas, meat, etc.) from the grocery store, and taxied back to the anchorage with all our stuff.

Yesterday morning we went to the nearby marina for fuel and water, re-anchored, and then I shared a taxi to the big wholesale produce market with two other women. But before we got there the clouds opened up and it started pouring rain. We exited the cab and ducked under a roof overhang but there was no sign of it stopping. The thunder and lightning were right across the street at one point. We made a break for it and waded in ankle deep water to get past the entrance to the market area where we found an indoor area we could start shopping in. None of us had been there before but I'd heard about it from other cruisers. We hired ourselves a guy with a big hand truck and loaded it up with three 25 lb bags of oranges ($3.50 each), a 40 lb sack of potatoes ($20), a 25 lb sack of onions ($13), a 25 lb sack of mangoes ($3), and most of our individual purchases of pineapples (3 small for $1), watermelon (small ones for .50 to $1 each), tomatoes (.50/lb), green peppers (.50/lb), carrots (.50/lb), garlic (.50 for 10), and cabbage ($1.80 for two). Except for the oranges, we split the big bags of stuff three ways (or two ways in the case of the onions). When we were finished shopping our "porter" wheeled the cart out to the street where he unloaded everything to the sidewalk and we paid him $5 (poor guy, he earned every penny of that with three gringo ladies going off in all different directions!). It was tough finding an available cab but finally a guy agreed to take us and our stuff back to Amador for $6. He opened his trunk so we could start loading and there was a big tool box taking up a lot of the available space! We managed to get all the big sacks in the trunk (literally, we had to load it ourselves - the drivers don't usually help you), but everything else had to fit in the cab with us. The rain had stopped by then so we split the bags and stowed everything back on the boats, then John and I caught a bus to town for "one last thing" at the grocery store, took another bus to pick up the laundry, and a taxi back to the boat (seven loads of wash and dry including two sets of sheets, a blanket, mattress cover, pillow covers, towels, etc. for $25; total including cabs was $35).

Today we've been stowing things and cleaning in preparation for tomorrow's departure. There's quite a bit of convection forecast over Central America for the next couple of days, so we're going to take it in little hops waiting for the weather to clear a bit before we actually get to the Western islands of Panama up by the Costa Rican border.

Linda and John