Well the week has certainly been busy here in Panama. We got temporarily back into “dirt-dwelling” (cruiser speak) and started organizing ourselves for our next passage. I will post here where we went and what we got up to in the City so that any other cruisers can have the benefit of whatever local knowledge we have; it might be useful. Firstly there is the business of trying to get a slip. There is one large marina on the Pacific side which is Flamenco; it is extremely busy and in spite of calling every day they had no room. The small marina here is La Playita; it is right next to Naos Island, near the Taboga Ferry and the Smithsonian Punta Culebra Park – great for sloth watching late in the afternoon. After extensive networking every day at La Playita’s office, we got a slip, which was useful for provisioning and getting on and off the boat. Our provisioning started at the Riba Smith supermarket at Multi-Plaza: that is the mall with the expensive designer stores. R-S is the most upmarket super here and better than either El Rey or Super 99. We then went on to Mega Depot, on Transistmica, which is our favorite warehouse store – no membership required. We didn’t have time to get to the large public market (Mercado de Abastos) for fruit and vegetables, that is highly recommended for lots of fresh produce. Our final topping up of fresh food was at the Transistmica branch of Riba Smith – excellent place for fruit and vegetables, shrimp, and other produce. Oh and we had a few visits to the huge mall here which is Albrook – the place where the whole region comes to shop. Panama is very busy, the economy grew by 10.6% last year. The Yamaha service people here are Tesa and they have a place down the Amador Causeway but weren’t too good at returning calls. A useful place is the Balboa Yacht Club – they have mooring balls and a launch service – that was our back-up plan if we could not get a slip. Now a word about our agent, Tina McBride, and her assistant Elias. They have been superb, and have delivered everything promised. We have had excellent service which has resulted in our transit on the requested day, our inbound and outbound documents processed swiftly and painlessly, and timely delivery of our hand lines and fender-tyres for the canal. And if you are looking for restaurants here in Panama then Manolo Caracol in the Old Town is excellent; Gaucho is more or less the only place for steak, there is a new Italian called Bella Gianni down the road from our apartment which is excellent and where we had dinner for all our crew, and the place for mojitos and Cuban food is the excellent Rincon Habanero on Via Argentina. Of course there are hundreds more places to dine but these are some of our recommendations.
Today we were informed that our transit starts at 1600 local tomorrow; the pilot will come by launch to meet us between buoys 3 and 6. We will have an evening/night canal experience, since private yachts are now going through at all hours. Our best guesstimate is that we will pass the live internet camera at the Miraflores Locks at 1700-1800 local.