Posts Tagged ‘Panama City’

Frustrations

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Yep, when one is ready, one is ready. We’re ready to go and things just seem to drag on. We went back to Panama City to get our extended Visa for French Polynesia and the month was up on the 14th. We call the Embassy on  the 12th  and no they haven’t heard yet. Kim on North Star applied the day after we did. They called on the 12th and that evening they received an email saying come and get them. Oops, however it takes two days.  We ask Kim to ask them for us too!  A little subtle pressure is always good.  The following day we call, “No, haven’t heard”.  The following day we call, “Not yet”. It is now past the month that we should have received an answer from.  I’m starting to understand people’s frustrations with bueracracies. We figure Monday when W/ calls she’ll ask if there is a problem. If it comes down to it we figure that will just be money left on the table and walk away from it. We can’t wait forever, we are ready.

Then we go to Marina Warehouse to see about our motor for the generator.  We get lucky and catch Arturo in. He tells us there’s some difficulty at Customs with everyone’s order. He hopes tomorrow. We check tomorrow and he hopes Friday.  We wait. I’m getting a lot of practice waiting and I’ve never been good at it.

Years ago when I was under the influence of family my mom would drag me to Church. When you are only 7 or so drag is the best description. What 7 year old can sit still for an hour listening to stuff he can’t even see and play with. So my mom in her infinite wisdom figured I needed “sitting” lessons, or better “sitting” practice.  I don’t’ remember how long those lasted but I do remember the frustration of sitting on a chair in the dining room. I think I somehow only had 2 or three practice session and I would have thought of those as pure torture. I’ve not gotten much better at patience.

Kubota Stored under our Aft V Berth

Kubota Stored under our Aft V Berth

Finally, Friday we actually had the new motor on the boat. We used another cruiser to assist in lowering it to the dinghy (it only had a mass of about 45 kg’s) and we used a halyard to lift it on the boat. Put it in the cockpit to work on moving it below for stowage. Yeah, stowage. Our other motor is now doing fine so we’ll most likely be the only boat crossing the Pacific with a spare generator motor!

Monday arrives and we head to the French Embassy for the extended Visa. We sit in the waiting room for about an hour, the agent appears takes our Passports and tells us to return tomorrow between 10 and 12. We do, where she then advises us to stroll the old city because it will be another 45 minutes. We return for

Inside the French Embassy

Inside the French Embassy

another 30 minute wait and then we receive our Passports back with the extended Visas in them. Sweet. Back to the boat and get ready to leave. Only need to add some fuel and do a last minute shopping trip.

The following am W says the sink drain looks funny. I investigate and find the pot metal nut on the bottom of the drain rotted away and now it has separated. I look for our spares ( I have spares for most everything) but can’t find any spare nut nor tail piece. DAMN! While W/ hits the markets I hit the hardware store and buy the needed pieces. Or I had thought I did.

Returning to the boat I begin the task of fixing the drain and adding a shelf for where we will carry the spare motor.

The drain went well for about 10 minutes, then installing the new plastic nut the tail piece fell out. She looked right. But obviously not. I pull it back off and find that the flange on the tail piece is just a hair small for the nut. DAMN!  Tomorrow I get to go to the hardware store again.  Then I purchase a new tail piece and check to make sure it matches the nut. I was smart 🙂 I brought a new nut with me to make sure.

Back at the boat I install the new items and the sink is back in service. I finish the shelf for the engine and W/ and I lower into place.  We talk to Jackie on Jean-Marie and borrow their diesel jugs so we don’t need to move the boat to pick up fuel and then we’ll be all set.

I had hoped we would in and out of PC in 3 days. It was optimistic and most would never describe me as such. I did guess that I could be off by a day or two but the total time in PC was 10 days!  Finally, we’re ready to leave Panama.

We head to the Perlas to wait for weather and complete a few more tasks. I know just hanging in La PLayata our bottom has suffered a bit and with the new rules in the Galapagos I need to dive and make sure our bottom is spic and span. Here we go!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Financial Woes

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Well, it’s that time again. I’ve been here, there and everywhere and yet somehow I seem to end up exactly where I started from; Shelter Bay Marina. We’ve made progress on project, not perfect progress but none the less we have made progress.

The little engine that wouldn’t now can. One head bolt (out of 6) would only torque to 80% of the required limit and so we left it there to see what would happen. And it all is working; mostly better then ever. Burning clean and humming along. I only wonder for how long. To that end I’m working on a back up should the fecal material discover the fan. In my mind; worse case scenario is that I will need to find a new engine, best case with my back up is I can get it working again. So we’ll see.

With the small diesel running again we snuck into Panama City for a couple of days and while Bill and Ted have excellent adventures we didn’t. There were some great moments but the overshadowing one was our fight with the ATM’s, and as with most things technological, the ATM’s won….temporarily. (For a brief discussion of the issue in the Panama News site; in English, has one).

We hung with Mike and Gloria from s/v Respite and had a great time with dinner and hiking the next day throughout the city.  But as we reached Multi Plaza Pacifica Mall to withdraw money things went to hell.

We arrived in the city with a day’s worth of cash and the thought to remove some money from the bank machine for the rest of our stay. Our Hotel; the Milan, gives a 15% discount with cash so here Cash is King.  We paid for our first night’s lodging and then planned on hitting the ATM’s for the rest of our visit. Well, at the mall we hit one of the ATM’s we’ve used in the past and all looked good, “Processing” popped up on the screen but I never heard the machine counting MY money. Then a new note appears “Please contact your financial institution”.  Now, I’ve never seen that before. Thinking the machine was out of $$$$ I went to try another. The next machine said we’re reached our daily limit and it couldn’t dispense any more money. Hell!  It never dispensed any in the first place! After the second machine I tried two more and all had the same message, “You have exceeded your limit” or close enough. We were down to less then 100 bucks and had a full day in the city left, one nights stay to pay, our cab fare and ride back to the marina to cover.  Our adventure had moved from a cool exciting weekend to one from the Twilight Zone.

Einstein Statue, Panama City

Einstein Statue, Panama City

Back at the hotel I went online and checked our account. The ATM machine had indeed debited money from our account and yet I didn’t have any greenbacks in my greedy little hands. I left the bank a message on their secure email and hit the sack. Gloria had said they had an identical situation happen to them once before and that evening when the banks did their nightly book work the account was fixed in the am.  In the am I checked and to my chagrin I was still out the money.  Oh, well, it’s a new day, a new amount to withdraw and I would wait for the bank to respond to my email.  After breakfast at New York Bagel, by the Einstein statue, we stopped at an ATM  at a Bank.  I went to draw out the same amount as the day before and ended up with the same message. “Processing”….. then…. “Please contact your financial institution”.  Back at the hotel I checked online and we had again been dinged for another hand full of money!  We have a contact at our banking institution that likes to follow us and see how crazy we are. We called him and he transferred us to the ATM department. There she informed us that indeed we could fill out the forms and it would be fixed; eventually, but until then she would raise our amount and suggested we try another ATM that we knew would be good. She indicated that their institution was acknowledging and approving the request for money so there was no issue on their end. Finally, we can get some cash olla! Off to the nearest El Rey supermarket and we proceeded to draw out a larger amount. Things are looking good, I get the “Processing” sign and “Oh-Oh”; it is taking too long and I don’t hear any counting, the screen from Hell; “Please contact your financial institution”.  We do immediately. Our contact at home (in Florida) tells us to try a smaller amount and we do on the ATM  immediately next to the one that refused to provide us with our own money.  We had observed people using that machine and walking away with the green stuff. So with our financial institution’s blessing we proceed to try for  a smaller amount. Same issue!  All the ATM manager we spoke with could do was tell us to fill out and fax the paper work to the bank for an account correction.  Not good. She didn’t understand that being in a foreign country like Panama completing the paperwork would be a nightmare.

Fortunately our other contact fully understands that living in a 3rd world country that pretends to be a 1st world country isn’t really conducive to the same realities as people experience living in the States or other Western Nations (Japan, New Zealand, and Australia included)  are used to. He said he would complete the paperwork for us and explain the situation to the powers that be and soon; hopefully,  we would have our money back.

My overriding concern now was what would happen if our Credit Card (CC) was tied to the problems with the ATM’s. We didn’t have enough cash to even pay our room bill. I might well end up in a 3rd world jail and W/ would have to head back to the boat and dig up some funds.  What a mess. While the day wasn’t the luckiest we were lucky checking out; the CC charge for the Hotel went through without a hitch and we would be able to return to the boat together.

Our next hurdle was with Roger; our Panamanian Taxi driver / chauffeur / interpreter. Fortunately we’ve established a good enough relationship with Roger that he understood our situation and accepted our word we would pay him later when we saw him at our boat or the next trip to the city.  Otherwise we had just enough cash to pay him for the fare to Allbrook Mall.  After visiting various boat supply places with Roger, Bob on Newly Mine picked us up at Allbrook Mall.

Riding back with Bob was a joy compared to taking the Panamanian Express bus. The Express Bus is its name but nothing in South or Central America is express, and we ran into a brief 45 minute wait at the canal for 3 ships and one sailboat moving in and out of the locks. We crossed  the bridge and were glad to be back home. An evening at the Dock, bellies full, breathing normal again we wandered out to the dock for a blessed evening sleeping on a bed that continually moves ever so slightly.  Ah, the joys of sleeping on a boat. The following am just for giggles I checked our account and low and behold; our money was returned. Now once again I need to find faith in technology and try an ATM. But not today.

Till next time…

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Up, Up, and Away…

Monday, February 25th, 2013

It is time. We’ve been here 6 weeks longer then we’ve ever intended. My mom’s place is looking shiny and new. She’s made great progress. Her wrist is much improved, her attitude much better, she’s ready to fly on her own again as well as we are.

We’ve spent 3 day’s packing, seeing some friends that we’d almost missed seeing,  and continuing my life long passion to annoy various family members. After all I am “Damn Dave”. 🙂

Packing has been a trip. Delta’s policy has changed from a year and half ago; I understand airline policies change sometimes daily, but for us the change has been more costly. They’ve gone from no charge for 2 bags / ticket to one bag and we have 5 bags plus 2 carry ons plus computers and a purse!  The total baggage charge will end up adding $205 more to the cost of the flight. I will say; in their plus column that they were very accommodating for our ticket change. We had called them approx 3 weeks before our flight in Jan and explained the situation and then about 3 weeks ago we called and made new reservations. They did ask several questions but that was ok. We are not trying to scam anyone. The cost for the ticket change ended up being $110.00 / ticket. In my book that was fair.

So it is that the time is upon us. We’ve a  last minute errand or two, a last meal with my mom, and weighing our bags for the last minute stowage of items. Then it’s the final packing or carry ons  and waiting for our friends Bruce and Pam to haul us to the Airport. From then on we’re in the hands of Delta. In Panama City after clearing through the paperwork we hope to see Roger and arrive at our hotel with everything intact. No problems last time, I don’t expect any this time.

Ciao….

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Cruising, etc…

Friday, October 19th, 2012

We’ve been here in Shelter Bay Marina for about a month now. Some things are going well and some frustrating as; to be almost politically correct, Hades. My mom has come and gone and has three blogs written, one of them soon to be posted. Since her flight home we’ve been working on the boat most every day, mostly mornings.

We work on Elysium primarily in the mornings.  When we work on any project we seem to open a good many lockers, parts and tools are out everywhere, and counters covered with the things we are working on and the tools we need. The boat is literally a mess. We try to time it so that around noonish or soon there after we begin the clean up, pick up routine. We either put things back in their place or hide them in the engine room the things that we know we will immediately need the following day. Then we find we’re able to live in a relatively clean or should I say not messy home. It is after all, paradise.

The Aquagen is apart and back together as much as possible. The new heat exchanger is in and all plumbed.  I have to wait till

New Heat Exchanger

New Heat Exchanger

we get the Centek Aqualift Muffler replaced and need two parts to complete the exhaust system and finish that side. The high pressure (HP)  pump seals have been replaced and it’s put back together.  Dan at

Watermaker Pump Rebuild

Watermaker Pump Rebuild

Aquamarine was helpful as I couldn’t see that one piece from the pump housing still came apart till we called him on a Sat; twice, and I finally got the idea. The rebuild then went slowly and smoothly. That was one day I worked 6 hours on the project and we actually put the pump  in the second day. On our list is to now buy a spare so when I need to do this again I can replace it easily and then do the rebuild at a more convenient time. Also the bracket that held the alternator on has been replaced with a SS one and the bracket that holds the Alternator to the top of the high pressure pump housing is going back to Aquamarine to be beefed up! I will say while there have been some issues with the generator setup; Dan at Aquamarine has been always helpful in either assisting me in fixing a part or in repairing / replacing a part.  Calling on Saturday was wonderful and he even answered the phone the second time with “Hello Dave”! 🙂

And now since we have a window AC unit the boat is dried out some and I can get the floorboards up. A 9 month rainy season is hell on a boat.  I’ve trimmed off about 3 mm off one or two sides and now we’re revarnishing the sides. Hopefully  they will never be able to swell up enough to lock into place. Some items we store in the bilge we do need.

Mr. Gasket

Mr. Gasket

We replaced a broken fuel pump. This pump was made and sold to be good for diesel and although it maybe was, the plastic hose piece wasn’t good for even 3 years.  Never again a Mr. Gasket fuel pump!

We’ve tried to contract some with Lyman Morse Panama  but 2 of the 3 things we wanted them to do were an outrageous bid. We paid last year to have the boat waxed, the SS polished, and the teak scuffed up with a scotch brite pad  – $240 including tip and marina fee. This year the same work was quoted at approx $1,200.00.  Even W/ broke out laughing when she heard that price.  The Cove stripe just under the cap rail on the aft of the boat was quoted at appox $550.00 and we signed on for that to be done using Awlgrip and actually changing color a bit!

perkinspart

Perkins Part Needed

We traveled to the big city; Panama City, and spent a few days of  RnR. Oh, we can’t just hang out so we  did run some errands. We stayed at the Milan where before we’ve had a comfortable time. The internet worked about 80% of the time but we did accomplish a great deal. We found Bronze Wool, 30 weight oil, and Pet Safe Antifreeze which we hadn’t found in Panama before. We attempted to get the injector for the generator rebuilt and were unable to find the parts here. We attempted to find a Perkins Marine engine part and that too was a bust. But we suffered our trials well by eating out with some other cruising friends in the old city, and enjoying a night at our favorite steak place; Martin Fierro.  W/ and I made it to one of the two Chiropractors in Panama and so we were moving freely.

However as our Spanish is only good enough to order meals, ask for the bill, and find a restroom, we were calling and dealing with the Doctor.  She unfortunately had a child get sick and had her staff call her patients. Since her staff didn’t have our number or know we were going to show up we arrived at 5:00 p.m.in the rain by cab. We paid off the cab and entered to find that Dr. Lillia wasn’t there and our cab had left. We paid our bill and walked a short way in the rain to find a taxi.  Now we are in rush hour and there is a steady rain while we stand under an eve from a restaurant on the main throughway.  After we signaled about 20 taxi’s (all had fares) one finally stopped. As we’re gringo’s we want to make sure all the expenses are up front, thus W/  asked about the  fare back to the Milan.  Again she almost fell down laughing; the driver wanted $20 to travel the same distance we had just paid $5 for and the same distance we’ve now walked 3 times in less than an hour. Because we’re adventurers and because we like to walk;  we choose to walk in the steady drizzle, hiding under every overhang we could find.

An hour later we arrived at our hotel, wet and relieved.  We showered; changed, rested and then walked to Martin Fierro where W/ and I  split a HUGE Filet, shared a bottle of wine, gorged on salad with baked potato, shared dessert (I had one spoonful … almost) and then strolled back to our room.

The following day we took it slow and easy, we ordered boat gear that was going to be shipped to my moms in New Port Richey, we played some games, watched the TV and met Teddy our Taxi driver at Albrook Mall in the afternoon.  There we had a leisurely trip back to our home; Elysium, in Shelter Bay Marina.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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I’m sick I ate at a McDonalds

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

First: I didn’t get sick eating at McDonalds. And yes they have a Mickey D’s in Panama City, Republic of Panama. I’ll start a day or so earlier. We needed to go to PC one more time; our Watermaker Clutch had arrived at Airbox Express.  So far we’ve provisioned for Kuna Yala about 6 times now, the freezer is full, the stores are full, I have most of the supplies for repairs that I can remember. Then about 2 days before one of us left  for PC the Mac computer died. It wouldn’t  start up. Didn’t even get a chime from a restart. The drive started but that was it. Couldn’t connect up to it from another computer and am about a month shy of a new backup. Since there was a Mac store (not listed on Apples International Website) in PC I would take it in and see what the cost of a repair there is. And too, we had met Drew at the Thanksgiving dinner in Linton; Drew’s an ex pat living in Panama, and he plays tennis. So I was elected to make the trip, play some tennis, grocery shop, and pick up our needed boat parts.  I had arranged with Drew to play in the afternoon and then would get to the hotel later that evening.

We arranged stay at the Las Vegas hotel again primarily because it’s Mothers Day in Panama and the hotels are full. Mothers Day is a national holiday in Panama and this did cause another issue.

W/ took me in in the am to catch the 9 am bus. I arrived about 30 minutes early as in our opinion most of the latin cultures use time as a guide and there is nothing finite about a schedule.  Thus, I’m early to ensure that if the bus swings by 10 minutes before 9 I don’t need to wait an extra hour.  After waiting about 20 minutes a fellow cruiser wanders by and tells me it’s a holiday and the buses only run on the even hours.  So all I ended up with coming in 20 minutes earlier was an extra hour wait.

Finally I’m on the Red Devil (an all painted up School Bus); as the locals call them, and take that into the bus terminal in Colon.  There I switch buses and get on an express bus to PC. Red Devil to the Bus Terminal $3.00. Express Bus to PC $3.35.   I arrive in PC about 2 hours later then planned but luckily Drew is still interested in some tennis. I run about the Allbrook Mall to the Mac store only to discover that they won’t take the computer for repair, I have to go to the Multi Plaza Pacifica. With that option nixed I run to get a bite to eat before I met Drew for tennis. I found a great Ice Cream place and had a Brownie Sunday – hopefully enough to get me by.

Drew takes me to a 3 court tennis club that is nice and quiet. Restrooms, Showers, water, and 3 hard courts. We hit for a couple of hours and share some tennis stories. I’m feeling good, albeit a little tired after the bus and lack of real food. Drew takes me for a short tour of PC before he drops me at the hotel and I promise to call again if we get to the city to play some more tennis.

I check in, drop my light luggage in the room and take my dead computer to the Mac Store at Multi Plaza. There is also a Reba Smith (a rather largish grocery store) at the Plaza where W/ had given me a IMHO rather extensive shopping list.

I hit the Mac Store in the holiday season and there were hordes of people. Fortunately there weren’t any waiting for repairs and I gave my computer to them with $37 bucks for diagnosis (although) I had told them what was wrong!  Then I went straight to grocery shopping. Shopping for groceries is high on my list of things I prefer  NOT to do. Grocery shopping is real close to visiting the Dentist and have a tooth repaired without anesthesia. There I nearly ran through the store buying as many dry goods on the list as I could find. Time was  rapidly approaching 9 pm so I checked out and I spent about 20 minutes awaiting a Taxi to take me to my hotel. Communication caused a longer wait as when the driver (in hind sight) asked what the address was I couldn’t tell him.

Finally back at the hotel I dropped my groceries and walked down to Monolo’s Italian restaurant. I had my favorite dish there; Carne Lasgana, and skipped the Cervaza as I was exhausted. I ate quickly and then walked back to the hotel. I entered the cold room; I had turned the AC up as I left to go eat, and almost ran to the wall unit shivering. I turned the temp back to a human survival range and from there I crawled into bed fully clothed with chills. I balled up into a fetal position and waited. I was slightly lucky in that I had brought some Saline mist to counteract any nasal buildup and I used it freely. All night I chilled and sweat waiting for morning to come, wishing I was on the boat instead of alone in PC.

In the am I felt a little better but knew I wasn’t 100%. Roger, our cruiser friendly SSCA cruising station guide was going to pick me up at 9 am. There we were to travel the city to acquire the rest of the supplies on W/s and my list, then stop at Airbox for the clutch and he would deliver me back to Linton. Hopefully alive!  First thing I said to Roger was I need a pharmacy for some medicine. We hit the pharmacy about 1 pm. 🙂  We made a list and attacked the stores we needed, some more refrigeration stuff, a Pizo alarm, a clamp on Amp meter, Price Smart, and Reba Smith again, then Airbox and then home. As the day dragged on I was running out of energy fast.  I was making it though the am quite well but still needed my Aspirin and some decongestant.  Finally; at Reba Smith I hit a pharmacy and picked the necessary supplies up. From there it was McDonalds.  I wanted to grab a bite at RS but the lines were so long and I was barely hanging on as it was. Right now this holiday season my wish was to be back on the boat ASAP, and from PC to Linton was at least a 2 hour ride.  We swung through Mickey D’s and I got a Big Mac, Fries and Soft Drink. I only ate 1/2 the Big Mac. I wasn’t doing all that great.  We hit Airbox Express where we picked up the all important Water Maker Clutch and Roger ran into Rey’s (another Supermarket just across the parking lot). I was so exhausted that by this time I just sat in the car.  I knew there were large bags of MnM Peanuts there but didn’t have the energy to go and pick some up!

On the ride back to Linton I tried to sleep and every so often Roger and I would talk about Panama. Can’t say as I remember much while I’m simply just trying to hang on to life. I may sound like I’m really hanging on to life, I felt like I was at Death’s door but I know I was simply a body out of energy.

We made it to Linton still with daylight to spare and we were just ahead of the rain showers.  I had called some friends on Hobo and they called W/ on the VHF to let her know I was getting close. She’d come in in our Dyer Dinghy with the massive 2hp on it and there we would ferry all the goodies out to the boat. I estimated 4 trips. I was wrong…..again.

We unloaded the car and W/ paid Roger for his time in the city and the trip back to Linton.  He took off as he had another cruiser to pick up at the airport that evening.  W/ and I loaded the Dinghy and I rode with the supplies to the boat while W/ guarded what was left on the dock.  I hefted all the supplies from that trip on board Elysium and then headed back to pick up W/ and the rest of the goodies hoping to stay conscious and hoping to beat the rain squall moving in the anchorage.  As I neared the dock W/ waved me off!  Reggie and Debbie on Runner had dropped off a friend and were heading back to the anchorage so they offered to take W/ and the rest of the supplies. They have an inflatable with a 20 hp on it and move close to light speed across the water.  Thankful now for them I turned around and sped at max with our 2 hp of about 4 kits!  W/ was on the boat and moving supplies out of the rain. I shut the engine down, handed her the painter to the dinghy and went below declaring that “I AM FINISHED TODAY!”

I rested for 4 days before I felt like doing much beyond getting up, looking out at paradise and then falling back into bed. And on the 4th day, I was back with the living world.

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