Week 7 12 – 18 February 2018 La Playita anchorage Balboa, Panama City
12 February Monday La Playita anchorage
The temperature during the night was perfect in our bow cabin thanks to a fresh breeze all night. It’s very nice to be on anchor compared to sit in a marina. On anchor the boat swing towards the wind and create good ventilation through the boat with open hatches to the wind.
We spent the whole day on the boat, mostly under our tent in front of the mast that create a nice shaded cool area in the fresh breeze.
We wrote the English blog and some other updates and went for a walk ashore late evening. It’s obvious that there is a Carnival going on. Lots of people were walking the causeway up and down. It was almost difficult to get exercise walking in the crowd. All restaurants were full and because of that we took the dinghy back to Moon for a simple late dinner.
13 February Tuesday La Playita
Almost too much wind during the night. It’s a bit crowded in the anchorage and for that reason we only used a short scoop when we anchored. With the wind perpendicular to the direction we sat the anchor, the anchor “re-anchored” during the blow, making the distance to the closest boat a little too close. Before noon we pulled the anchor and went back to the original place where we let out more chain and set the anchor in the direction of the strong wind. We don’t feel comfortable if we haven’t sat the anchor using 50% revs on the engine, giving us a straight chain to the anchor and can really judge if the bottom has good holding.
A Dutch Malö 43 that we had seen among the ARC boats out in Las Perlas came to the anchorage and anchored close by. Because we know that the ARC boats are half way to Galapagos by now, we understood something was wrong. Björn took the dinghy across and asked if we could be of any help. They had ordered a new forward lower shroud, broken during the crossing of the Atlantic, and that was supposed to arrive tomorrow. A rigger was engaged to do the repair.
Back in Moon all cockpit winches got an overhaul, easy as we had used TEFgel on all screws when we did first maintenance of the winches in Malaysia when we bought the boat and had a big job making them as new again. All winches were fine and only in need of cleaning. Dirt in the grease has to come off, not to damages shafts, gears and bushings.
Before sunset we went ashore for a walk and had dinner on the restaurant we used two times before.
14 February Wednesday La Playita
During the morning VHF-net we announced our pilots from Alaska through BC and down to San Diego if somebody was heading that way. An American HR 46 was interested and soon Moon was a bit lighter. Ten books, that we most certainly don’t need in the future, use a huge space on the shelf, a space that we really don’t have.
After breakfast we did our planned trip to immigration to get our tourist visas. When we arrived to the office we understood that due to the Carnival that ended yesterday, they didn’t open the office until after noon!
Ok we took a bus to the big Mall to use the time waiting for them to open. Busses in Panama City go in circles so when the bus driver nodded when we asked about the Mall he was correct, but first the bus drove a tour in the northern suburb. Using our phone with GPS we soon understood we were approaching the Canal. We had planned to visit Miraflore locks next week, and now we were there by accident. Being cruisers we are used to change plans when circumstances change?.
We jumped off the bus and walked a mile to the lock and got a presentation of the canal while two big ships were in the locks. The prop wash behind the big ones was impressing when they went out of the lock, something to remember when we are there next week.
The reason for us to see the locks was to “calibrate” the rumors we listen to and be able to compare with our experiences from locks in Sweden, Holland and Scotland.
Going back we could catch a bus just outside the canal and jump off that bus two blocks from immigration where we showed up shortly after one o’clock. Everything seemed to be ok until they wanted us to fill a form with fingerprints and photo. We had our thumbs with us? but no photos.
Out again and walked to a nearby drugstore where they could provide us with passport photos.
Back to immigration, it took only half an hour, and then we could pay $105 each to get our stamp and three months visa.
Going back to Moon we did some grocery shopping before the bus to Amadore/Flamenco.
Back in the boat we soon took the dinghy back into the marina to postpone our invitation to the Dutch Malö, because it was cruisers dinner at the Pizza restaurant just outside the marina.
There were cruisers from all three anchorages in Balboa. Several had heard our call for line handlers and we were offered help from three boats. We also discovered that several boats spend years here in Balboa.
Happy for having those offers we went back to Moon for a good night sleep.
15 February Thursday La Playita.
Nice temperature thanks to the good breeze over the bow.
Nomad, the HR 46 that bought our pilots came with some jerry jugs and we took the dinghy into the marina twice and filled our port water tank full and the starboard one became half full. Hopefully we don’t need more water until it is time to transit the canal. Annika then went in the process filling water to the marina and did the laundry.
We called the canal office and asked for an update of our date for transiting the canal. Every time we call we get a new date, this time two days earlier. We have soon to have a fixed date to be able to making arrangements with line handlers and stock up on food and water.
The afternoon was spent in Nomad the. Annika installed materiel on their computer while we exchanged experiences from our cruising over some beeers. They had recently left Canada east coast, our next goal, and we were of course curios about their experiences.
Back in Moon we got ready for a walk ashore, but stopped at the Dutch Malö, waiting in the marina for the rigger. Annika solved their problems with a new Raymarine plotter and we had a look at the broken shroud. Didn’t look good, but probably caused by improper handling while rigging the boat. The mast had been down at least three times during the years and eventually some bending had introduced a fatigue weak point where the swage ended. More than six strands were broken just at the edge of the swage! The other three lower shrouds looked ok, another reason to think about mishandling while taking down or rising he mast.
They have to speed up as their friends in the ARC have already arrived at Galapagos Island. Maybe they have to sail straight to Marquesas?. ARC has a great speed around the globe!
After sunset we finally had our walk. Looked at some menus but decided to have a late dinner in Moon.
16 February Friday La Playita anchorage
Almost no wind during the night. But the temperature was ok using no blankets.
But when the sun came above the horizon it soon became very hot.
Before noon we got some clouds and same relief.
In the afternoon we even got some rain! Our first rain since one day in SF in October. The squall lasted only half an hour and after that we took the dinghy to Kokopelli, a boat that promised us to be line handlers, for a chat about details doing that.
Later we took the dinghy ashore to pick up a Cuban Pilot that was given away very convenient.
We had dinner on our “normal” restaurant close to the marina.
17 February Saturday La Playita
Almost no wind during the night, but in spite of that we had good temperature down in Moon. Annika called the Canal office after breakfast to ask about date for transit and noted that Moon was too low to be rafted to the Tug we saw in the lock Wednesday. We didn’t get a new date.
Annika continued to document all our tracks over the years which cruisers love to use when they are in difficult areas with uncharted reefs, such as Fiji.
We changed oil in our gear box and could leave the used oil from the engine and the gearbox in the marina, something they was not allowed to do in Mexico!
Moon is bit by bit getting ready for transiting the Canal.
We have to buy bottle water for the advisor! That tells you something about their ideas about the distributed water in Panama. But it’s similar with cruisers. Some hazels with expensive bottle water and the storage those need, while others like us use the distributed water if it taste good and drink the water we have in our tanks.
Being on an anchorage like this for weeks with water around that isn’t very good for the water maker of course calls for other solutions. The marina charge you if you go in with the boat and fill up, but you can use jerrycans in the dinghy to get along. Moon has almost 1000 liters and we normally can manage two weeks without filling. But in this humid heat we shower too much and are running low after two weeks. We borrowed some jerry cans and got 100 liters that hopefully will keep us running until we go in to the marina and fill up diesel and water before transiting the Canal.
Our new Dutch friends didn’t get their shroud last night and came out and anchored today. The marina charge them $86 per day and that’s too much only waiting. On top of that the wind cools the boat better out in the anchorage when the boat turns into the wind.
18 February Sunday La Playita
Clouded in the morning, but it only lasted an hour before the sun fried us from a clear sky.
We had breakfast under the tent in front of the mast, where we spend most of our outdoor time.
Annika continued with our tracks, a really time consuming work, mainly because of different software over the years.
We tried our own lines for the locks. We will use the recommended technique for shorthand handling we learnt many years ago in Swedish and Dutch locks, using blocks at the bow and bring the line back to our main winches in cockpit. We will for the stern line have use for our aft deck winch for the first time!
The windlass was dismantled, cleaned, serviced and greased before assembly.
During the afternoon we had some gust in the anchorage, making it almost chilly!
We had a walk ashore late afternoon but dinner back in Moon.
Annika & Björn