July 2013 - Panama

1 July 2013   Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
We were up at 0545, when our Advisor arrived.  Roy was allocated to the catamaran and so we had a different Advisor today.  I'd been a little concerned about how officious the Advisors were going to be, but the ones that we met were very pleasant guys, spoke good English and chatted away happily about the canal and the wildlife in the Gatun Lake, which is a nature reserve.

We were soon under-way to travel the 25 miles to the Pedro Miguel Lock.  We had a slot booked at midday, so the Advisor had us slowly motored along at 4-5 knots.  Surprisingly there was no ship going through the lock with us, so we were rafted up with the French catamaran and went through the two chambers alone.  Even though they used lock gates that halved the capacity of the chambers, it was still a massive amount of water used up for two small yachts.  

Exiting Miraflores Lock into the Pacific Ocean

The procedures though the locks were the same as yesterday, but we were now going down from Gatun Lake to the Pacific Ocean.   We cleared the final chamber of the Miraflores Lock and motored out into the Pacific Ocean at around half past two.

We stopped at the mooring field at the Balboa Yacht club and were met by a small launch, which picked up the shore-lines and tyres – Bill had to pay $1 per tyre to dispose of them.  Glenys, Rocky and I said goodbye to Bill, Lara & Isobel and then hopped aboard the launch to go ashore.  

We caught a taxi from the Yacht Club to the bus station ($6), took the express bus to the Quatro Altos shopping mall in Colon ($3 each) and then got a taxi back to the marina ($20).  We were back at half past five and retired to the bar for dinner with other cruisers.

2 July 2013   Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
We spent all day sorting ourselves out ready to start our journey back to the UK tomorrow and to get some things shipped in from the States through Marine Warehouse.  I was hoping to buy a new, slightly smaller guitar when we get back to the UK, but after reading about United Airline’s baggage allowances, I decided that it would be too much hassle to bring a guitar back.  Instead, I contacted Marine Warehouse and they’ll ship a guitar out to Panama for $15 – this is good news because guitars are 30% cheaper in the USA than in the UK.  I just hope that it survives being shipped out here.

The afternoon was spent doing the final packing and, exhausted, we retired to the bar for dinner.

Panama City, Panama

3 July 2013   Shelter Bay Marina to Panama City, Panama
We caught the express bus to Panama City and then a taxi to our luxury five star hotel.  It didn't cost us anything for the hotel which we booked using air miles that we've accumulated over the past year.  Nice hotel.

After we’d settled in, we went out for a walk to get some lunch and ended up catching a taxi to the old city for only $3 – taxis are so cheap in Panama City.  We had a sandwich in a café and then wandered around the very touristy area.  We went into the Panama Canal museum, but were disappointed because all of the exhibits were in Spanish, so we couldn't really understand what they were talking about – at least it was air conditioned.

4 July 2013   Panama City to UK
We caught a taxi to the airport and caught a plane to Dallas in Texas – not too bad a flight – only five hours with reasonable movies.  We were a little concerned that our connection to the transatlantic flight was a little tight at 2½ hours, but Dallas is a superb airport geared up to international transits, unlike some of the other USA airports that we've passed through.  We didn't have to collect our bags and they had an express immigration clearance for transient passengers, so we were at our boarding gate within 30 minutes.

The flight to London was tedious – nine hours in a cramped seat in steerage.  We picked up a hire car and were at our son, Brett’s house by one o'clock.  Not too bad a journey – only 24 hours.