Sunday, March 19, 2017


This picture encapsulates the mix at our Panama City anchorage. In the background, bristling skyscrapers, funded to some degree by the service industry for wealthy foreign nationals looking to evade the sovereignty of their home countries.

In the foreground, the expensive playthings of the local moneyed class.

And in between, anchored work vessels, mostly having to do with the constant business of the Canal.

So, a pretty dynamic setting.

And, on the other side of the causeway from which this picture was taken, La Playita, the anchorage for most of the traveling boats in Panama City.

That's the Mothership, on the left
The water there was dirty, the anchorage was rolly, and the traffic of high-powered launches setting out from the anchorage to meet various ships occasionally sent tsunamis of wake rocking through the anchored fleet. But for all that, La Playita turned out to be a really favorite spot for me.

At this time of the year, nearly all of the yachts on the scene have just come through the Canal and are about to jump off for that greatest of all sailorly delights, a crossing of the South Pacific.

All of the derelict boats and stuck boats and tough-luck stories are on the Caribbean side of the Canal. (Well, most of them, anyway.) The boats on this side are full of really self-actualized people who are about to realize lifelong dreams. There's a frisson of excitement in the air, and a few butterflies in stomachs. Great things are about to happen.

I found it to be a really infectious, enjoyable atmosphere to be around.

Add to that mix a few long-term resident boats who run a very effective VHF net to help all the transient yachts that are looking to cross off final items from pre-passage lists, and the fact that Panama City offers a tremendous range of services, and you have reached that final circle of paradise for sailors, those most practical of all people: Panama City is a (relatively) easy place to get things done.

Of course, there can be a down side to getting things done, as Elias found out when the family went to the dentist for cleanings. Some cattywampus teeth in the back of his mouth, which we had been aware of at least since South Africa, were ready for an intervention. As in, extraction.

The night before the big event, Elias asked us in all innocence - will it hurt?
We answered with the standard parental prevarication (lie): no!

Well. I got to run off with Eric to the hardware while Alisa stayed with Elias for the event, which involved sawing the buried tooth in question in half so that it could be pulled.

Afterwards, Elias asked us, again in all innocence - When you said it wasn't going to hurt, did you really think it wouldn't?

Panama City is a bustling place
And this is a yachtie whose bustle was a fair match for the city's. She was forever charging off and getting stuff done, preparing for our long miles ahead
There was one other noteworthy dynamic in La Playita: dragging boats. While we were there, at least four unattended boats started on the passage across the Pacific without waiting for their owners.

This picture is from the worst incident of the lot. The owners of both boats were gone. And, annoyingly enough, the anchorage was completely empty - most sailors in the anchorage were off at a rally meeting, doing their very best impersonation of landlubbers. (I know, my anti-rally mania is getting tiresome.)

Anyway, Elias loves charging off in the dinghy to board a dragging yacht, and in this case he was super-helpful. He listened to my instructions, he didn't panic or get over-excited, and he tied fenders in place with good knots.

The only bummer was that as everyone else was off at the meeting, there was little help on offer when Elias and I couldn't get the boats separated on our own...

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