Once we arrived in Colon on Sunday evening, thirteen days ago, we had nothing but work and stress. It’s a good thing we had the previous two weeks in paradise to prepare us for what was to come. Because we did not think it wise to plug into shore power upon arrival, the only electricity we had was from a single extension cord into our vessel. Fortunately, our battery bank held up, supplying us with DC power for the lights, water pumps, and fridge. We think the solar panels are still charging the batteries, which will maintain the functioning of those items.
On Monday morning, we signed into Shelter Bay Marina and attempted to reach the port captain which has an office at the marina. After two hours of efforts, we finally found him lounging in the marina restaurant. That’s Central America! He filled out an entry “zarpe” and charged us twenty bucks, then said we’ve have to go into Colon the next day to the Port Captain’s office there and then visit immigration at a different location. It’s not clear to me that my visit with the port captain in the marina accomplished anything but ridding me of twenty bucks. The rest of the day was spent speaking with our insurance agent and trying to coordinate efforts to assess and repair the damage from our lightning strike.
On Tuesday morning, we caught the 8 a.m. free shuttle bus from the marina into Colon to visit the port captain’s office to obtain a cruising permit for Beatitude. Upon arrival, we didn’t have as many copies of our paper work as she required, so I had to go across the street to a random business to make additional copies. They apparently have no copy machine in the port captain’s office. After spending quite some time there, we were notified that she could not process our cruising permit because we didn’t have the serial numbers for our tow Yanmar inboard engines. We’ve never been asked for these in any other countries, but she was adamant. She called the port captain representative at the marina, and he was supposedly going to look on our vessel and call her back with the serial numbers, but eventually he stopped answering his phone. We were there for over three hours, when we finally decided we’d come back the next day with the numbers. Others have since told us they’ve just made something up and have had no problems. Aaargh! Anyway, upon returning to Beatitude, I called in the serial numbers and was told our cruising permit would be ready the next morning when we return. That afternoon we also retrieved our laundry that we had dropped off at the marina laundry the day before. The rest of the day was spent tidying up in preparation for our soon departure.
On Wednesday morning, we once again caught the free shuttle into Colon. The ride takes about an hour as we have to cross the Panama Canal at the Gatun locks and usually have to wait for a large container ship to pass through. We expected to pick up our waiting cruising permit and head off to immigration. But, no. It wasn’t ready. They were still examining our yacht documentation. After about an hour, we were given a temporary permit which would allow us to go to immigration, but would necessitate a return trip to the port captain’s office for our cruising permit for Panama. So, we hailed a taxi which took us to immigration several miles away. Fortunately, he had some rudimentary English skills because we needed him to help us at immigration. To make a long story shorter, they made us go to yet another immigration office at the port for clearance, which we did… and then we returned to the port captain’s office to pick up our cruising permit, which was finally ready. Ultimately, both Beatitude and her crew were legally in Panama! It only took us two days and about one hundred dollars worth of taxi rides! (Along with $195.00 in fees to Customs and Immigration.)
While attempting to clear into the country, we received a message from a local surveyor, named Julio, who was on his way to the marina to begin assessing the damage to our vessel. We expected that he would arrive a few minutes before we would, however, that few minutes turned into two hours when, on the return trip to Shelter Bay, we encountered a large tree which fell across the only road into the marina. A group of mostly volunteers and some late arriving firemen had it all cleared away within an hour or so. The rest of the day was spent going over all the electronics on Beatitude with Julio. This was only the preliminary assessment. More would need to be done in the ensuing days.
Thursday morning was spent cleaning our home and preparing to be away for the next month. Around 2:30, our taxi driver from the day before picked us up for the two hour drive into Panama City. He dropped us off at our hotel near the airport, where we would stay overnight for our early morning flight back to the states. Cindy spent the next week in Ohio, while I had a five-day, sixty-hour workweek at Indian River Medical Center in Vero Beach, Florida.
Yesterday, I flew back to Akron, Ohio to meet up with my beloved wife. After two weeks of stress and hard work, it’s time for a little relaxation once again. Around noon today, we boarded our plane for Spain! Ten years ago, I took Cindy and her twin sister, Christy, to Italy for their 50th birthdays. This year, I’m taking them to Spain for two weeks for their 60th! We arrive in Barcelona at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. We’ll spend a few days there before heading to Madrid, Toledo, Seville, and Granada. If time permits, I’ll be blogging about our exciting times in España!