welcome to our blog!

This blog tells the story of our 22-month sailing journey from Oakland, California, to Bristol, Rhode Island, aboard our beloved Bristol 32 sailboat, Ute. Please feel free to browse through the archives (partway down the sidebar to your left) to see pics and read stories of our adventures in North America and Central America . (Sorry the first 3 months of the trip are missing - they vanished somewhere in an internet cafe in Mexico - but all you're missing is CA, Baja and Western Mex).

If you're trying to track us down now that we're landlubbers, try us at uteatlarge at yahoo dot com. Thanks!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Panama City, Panama

We made it! Unreal! We’re in the Canal Zone and it’s so much more exciting, amazing, exhilarating than even I imagined. To be at this crossroads and watch colossal ships and teeny yachts go in and out all day….to meet people from all over the world and hear their stories and their plans…it’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. There was a point when we were in southern Mexico where we said, you know, anyone with half a brain and a sense of responsibility would turn back now and head for California and get a job. And we thought about it. But we decided to go for broke and get here – and now that we’re here I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Seriously, I told Allen today that if we have to sell organs on the other side of the canal to put food on the table, it will have been worth it. It’s so, so great to finally be here!

We left Isla Otoque yesterday morning around 5….and were delighted to find a WNW wind that was just perfect to get us into Panama City. Even with the good weather it was a stressful ride though…..at one point as we entered the shipping lanes I counted 86 container ships on the radar within a three-mile radius…normally just having 3 or 4 in that range would have us soiling ourselves so it was a pretty interesting passage. The Gulf of Panama is dotted with dozens of islands large and small which makes things even more fun because there are all these dots on your radar and some of the ships are bigger than some of the islands! But we made it through with no problems and when the time came for me to get on the radio and announce the presence of our itty bitty boat to the canal authority and get permission to anchor, I was so happy and so proud I nearly cried.

When we pulled into the anchorage we were happy to spot a handful of boats we already knew, some from El Sal, some from Nicaragua, some from Costa Rica…..and we got to know our other neighbors fairly quickly when a 20-ton Danish sailboat off our bow suddenly started dragging its anchor and missed crashing into our boat by about 5 feet. Miraculously, it didn’t catch our anchor on the way back, but it kept moving and picking up speed in the afternoon wind. Since we didn’t have the dinghy out yet, Allen ended up diving in, swimming to the boat and boarding it, and deploying a second anchor he found there with the help of another neighbor that kayaked over. A pretty exciting way to kick off our stay in Panama City….

Our anchorage is right next to the canal entrance so we get to watch everybody come and go all day long. In fact we hadn’t been here an hour yesterday when a big boat full of smiling, exhausted Aussies rolled in and dropped anchor next to us – they’d just done the transit. They’ve been cruising for nearly 16 years so I think we were more excited for them than they were, but they were happy to have it behind them. They were nice enough to give us the eight trash-bag-wrapped tires they’d used as fenders, so we got to check something off our enormous Canal Prep To-Do List on our first day here, which felt great.

It’s funny because I was so excited to get here but somehow I didn’t think through the fact that it would be a giant city with a real downtown, freeways, a twinkling skyline, the works. We haven’t experienced anything like this since San Diego…it’s only been six months but it’s a little overhwhelming. Pretty though. Feels a lot like Miami, just more Latin and more jungley. Funny to see Kwik E Marts and McDonalds and TGI Friday’s and such after months of rice and beans joints and beach palapas.

Many of our neighbors smile or chuckle when we talk about being proud to get this far or how long it’s been since we were home; most of them have been on the road for 2 or 3 or 4 years – in some cases as many as 10 or 15 years. So we’re like the new kids on the block. Sometime we even run into cruising sailors that seem to feel sorry for us because we’re only on the “one year plan”. All I can do is crack up when I hear that….are you kidding me? Feel sorry for ourselves because we only get to do this for a year? I wake up and pinch myself every day. If our trip had ended after two months it would have already been one of the most worthwhile things I’d ever done. I’m determined to not let these people warp our thinking….I appreciate what we have so much.

We spent most of this morning taxi-ing around to the various offices and officials that will make our transit a reality – immigration, customs, more immigration, maritime authority, canal authority, blah blah blah. Heaps of paperwork. All around it was remarkably quick, painless and efficient – way easier than we’d anticipated. The next step is the admeasurer’s visit tomorrow morning. Once our boat is measured and approved for transit (not a sure thing but probable), we’ll head to the bank to sign away our life savings and firstborn child (all told, the transit will probably cost us what is normally two months’ cruising budget), and then hopefully, hopefully, the canal authority will offically give us our transit date tomorrow afternoon. IF everything goes smoothly.

Anyhoo, enough babble out of me, thanks fam and friends for putting up with our tooting our own horn here. Appreciate all your support. Updates soon. Cheers, CC

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

here we come! i can't believe i'll be there with you guys in exactly 2 weeks. i can't wait! already researching panama city disco hot spots.