Our crossing to Panama City was very easy with little traffic to worry about. We did get caught in one storm, lightning on all sides and approaching us… and had a water spout touch down about 100 yrds away from the boat. I had to do a 180 degree turn to avoid being sucked up by it. It was only about 200ft across, and was kicking up maybe 3 ft seas in the middle. I don't have any idea on the wind speed, but it looked pretty scary. Once we arrived in PC we took a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club to start the process of going through the canal. Across from us was Grace, Jim and Kay, who invited us for Happy Hours. We met Wolfgang from Germany and Ed from the U.S. Parked behind us was Natasha, from Poland, who is single handling her small sailboat around the world. She is one leg from finishing this 2 year trip. We were all getting things repaired-boat life is not just Happy Hours. There is work involved to keep this lifestyle going.
The first duty once we arrived here in a Panama City was to get checked into the country. We were told the steps to follow only to find they had changed. They were even different from the day before. Every cruiser we met had a different story to tell and paid for different inspections . We found a taxi for $8 hr to run us around and help with the process. Our first stop was the Port Captain. We were told we no longer check in there and need to meet a Port Captain representative at our boat. The phone call was made and off we went. Instead of the boat we meet him and the health inspector at the BYC bar. The PC took our paperwork and issued us our clearance papers. The health inspector told us we needed to be fumigated because we came from Costa Rica but he would let it slide for a $46 fee. We received a clean bill of health and no receipt. No one else we have talked to have been charged or inspected by the health inspector, others had an agricultural inspection, and still others had a $20.00 something inspection. We then went back to immigration and received our visa for 90 days. We were legal for the time being.
My next order of business was taking care of the alternator and Honda Generator. I called Honda America about warranty and was told since I am out of the country the warranty in not valid. After a long conversation about not standing behind their products and what good is a warranty he hung up on me and left me to find my own help at my expense. So much for customer service.
The next day I hired Prado to take me to the local mechanics. I took the alternator to a local shop and the generator to the only Honda dealer and hoped for the best. We drove through at least ½ to 2/3 of Panama City that day. Mostly on the back streets and saw the real Panama. Both projects were fixed quickly and I am back in power.
The next week was spent doing all the paper work for the canal transit, and scheduling line handlers, renting 125ft lines, and finding 20 tires. The process was actually much easier than expected and we saved $400 in agent fees by doing it ourselves. About the only other thing we really did accomplish was to spend $600 on provisions and visit the large mall to get a phone and just walk around. We are set to make the crossing. Four days before our scheduled transit I was able to crew on Ecos, a friends sailboat, that would give me great experience on what to expect. The transit was two days and I was ready to tackle the Panama Canal in my own boat
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