Back to civilization. After about 5 weeks of incredible cruising in the Western Islands of Panama and the Perlas Islands, it was time to head to the big city to meet up with Carrie’s parents and brother.
We moored Terra Firma at the famous Balboa Yacht Club in Panama City and spent 10 days sightseeing with the family. We visited the Panama Canal Museum at the Miraflores Locks, took a tram ride through the rain forest canopy, walked around Casco Viejo and sampled some of the great food that Panama City had to offer.
We also had the opportunity to transit the Panama Canal as line handlers with our friends Jan and Rich on their boat Slip Away. Friends Iain and Aly from Loon III (we just call them the Loonies) line handled as well. What a great experience!
Carrie’s parents and brother rented a condo on Cerro Ancon for a 10-day visit. We stayed at the condo too and enjoyed luxuries like showers with hot water, ice cubes, wireless internet and unlimited electricity.
Here is Carrie’s brother hanging out with a martini — shaken, not stirred.
This nyeke was a common visitor to the grounds. Nyekes looked like rabbits with their ears chopped off.
The spider monkeys came by to check for treats every evening.
We spent a day at the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center. The Panama Canal is 100 years old and still operated in the same manner as the day it opened. The stories of the engineering hurdles and lives lost during construction were fascinating.
This is the Miraflores Visitor Center.
A German sailboat transiting the canal from the Caribbean (north) to the Pacific (south).
After the German sailboat tied up to the tour boat, the water was let out of the lock and the boats were lowered to the level of the next lock. Only 1 more lock to go for these guys before the Pacific!
We took a day-trip to Gamboa. Gamboa is a very nice resort with a huge amount of land dedicated as a nature reserve. We rode a tram through the jungle canopy to the top of a hill where there was an observation platform.
Here is Carrie’s brother, William, saving his favorite sister from death by crocodile.
A flower called ‘Hot Lips’.
The spiraling ramp to the top of the observation platform. The top was above the canopy and had great views of the Panama Canal and surrounding area.
Gamboa had many attractions. The highlight was the tram ride through the canopy. Others included: An orchid farm, a reptile zoo, a butterfly farm, an aquarium and crocodile exhibit, not to mention the yummy lakeside restaurant.
Our Panamanian tram guide was from the Darien. The Darien is the eastern-most part of Panama that shares the border with Columbia. It is also where the Pan American highway ends in swamps and mangroves. It is impossible to drive from Central America to South America.
Our guide spotted the national bird; a very stately white eagle.
The orchid farm
Casco Viejo, or Old Town, was another sightseeing opportunity. We poked around in the gift shops and walked amid the beautifully restored old houses. Unfortunately, the theater and the president’s house were closed the day we went but there was still plenty to see.
Here is a nicely restored old house.
Carrie, Mom, Dad and William with the Bay of Panama in the background.
Nothing better than a refreshing shaved ice on a hot and humid day. We had no luck getting this guy to smile!
William, Pat and Carrie took a hike to the top of Cerro Ancon where a massive Panamanian flag flies for all of Panama City to see. There were spectacular views of the old and new city, the Panama Canal and the bridge of the Americas from the top.
This is probably the largest Panamanian flag in the world.
Big green iguanas were everywhere. They were especially numerous in the area marked ‘No Trespassing’ behind the locked gate with a small hole in the fence just large enough for a hiker ….
Whew! What a climb and what a view! William and Carrie relax and enjoy the city views before heading back down the hill. And, yes, William is the poster boy for sunscreen!
One of our favorite meals in Panama City was Marcos’ Fish in a Bag. Marcos was a Jamaican who specialized in fried fish and patacones (smashed and fried platanos). The secret was in the jerk-seasoned pesto and his homemade habanero sauce. It was a great deal too — only $1.00 for 2 fillets and patacones. We treated the whole family!
Fish in a Bag
Friends Jan and Rich on Slip Away planned to leave the Pacific and head to the Carribean through the Panama Canal. We were fortunate enough to have behaved ourselves well and were invited to transit the canal with them as line-handlers. Our friends from Loon III must have also behaved, because they were invited as well.
We arrived at Slip Away at the crack o’ dawn only to find out shortly afterwards that our pilot called in sick and the transit was cancelled.
Wait. A pilot was found on the Colon side of the canal and sent to guide us through. Yippee! It is tricky business transferring the pilot to Slip Away and not made any easier by making the transfer in the middle of the canal with a huge container vessel coming right at us!
‘I thought you knew what to do!’
After a nerve-wracking start to the transit (a bag clogged the diesel’s raw water intake) we made it to the locks. On the way up to Lake Gatun, we side-tied with a tour boat making the process very easy. On the way down we had to use our lines (this is why they called us ‘line-handlers!) to keep the boat straight in the lock as she descended.
Here the first of the Miraflores Locks closing behind us as we started our journey up to Lake Gatun.
On the way down from Lake Gatun, the big ships follow the little boats into the locks. We sure hoped this guy’s brakes were working!
The men on the wall threw light lines with monkey fists on them so we could send our lines up to them. Here they are walking us from one lock to the next on our way down to the Caribbean.
Well, we almost made it without incident. During the transfer of the pilot back to the pilot boat the port cap rail took a hard hit and cracked. Overall it was a successful trip and the damage was minor.
Here is a battle scar from the Panama Canal transit.
The happy captain cracking open the champagne at anchor on the Caribbean side of the canal.
The whole gang. From top left: Iain (Loonie), Pat, Carrie, Aly (Loonie), Jan (Slip Away), Chris (Jan and Rich’s friend) and Rich (Slip Away).