|Crossing through the entrance towers to the Panama Canal you enter the crossroads of the world.|
Shelter Bay Marina is one of those mythical places, a crossroads like the Azores, where every world cruiser stops by at some point of their life. Boats are here from all over the world, all full of dreamers and adventurers. Some will continue to circumnavigate the Caribbean while others will transit the Canal for points west. We’ve enjoyed the nightly sundowners sessions with five or six languages being spoken, usually simultaneously. Subjects are always when are you transiting, what’s your boat name, and the required recitation of boat projects.
|Our admeasurer from the Panama Canal Authority (now run by the Panamanians) filled out forms designed for huge 600 ft. ships.|
|I forgot about the extra length added by our solar panels.|
While we wanted to linger and enjoy the ambiance of the resort we were in a somewhat frantic mode to complete all the paperwork for our application for a long stay visa for French Polynesia (FP). With a one-year visa we could stay in Tahiti and environs over the hurricane season and not have to rush through FP on our way to hurricane safe New Zealand.
The amount of paperwork was overwhelming: police records, proof of financial stability, proof of overseas healthcare, proof we were breathing, and so on. Some embassy’s even wanted forms in triplicate and translated to French, but each embassy had slightly different requirements. If you could speak French you could even find out what the requirements were ahead of time. We were supposed to fly up to San Francisco to the embassy there to apply (it would take three trips total) but luckily we found we could apply at the Panama City Embassy because we had been out of the US for several years.
As with everything, there was a rub. The Embassy is only open from 8:30 to 11:30 each day. This meant we had to take a $120 cab ride (that we shared with Steven and Sandra who were going to the American Embassy for extra passport pages) for the roughly two-hour drive from outside Colon to Panama City (PC). Because the road from Shelter Bay crosses the Canal, if there is a ship going through the locks you may have up to a 45 minute wait, so it’s tough to precisely time the trip.
|It will be hard to get used to the 15 ft tidal range of the Pacific Ocean after the 2 ft tides of the Caribbean.|
|The Old City in Panama City has some beautiful architecture including Caso Viejo.|
|This square near Casco Viejo is filled every night with young Panamanians relaxing after work.|
|It's very easy to get lost in the massive Albrook Mall in Panama City.|
We did a quick walk around the old city and then took a cab over to Albrook Mall, a huge shopping complex with every shop you can imagine. It’s wonderful walking through a mall when you live on a boat and have zero room to store anything you may want to purchase. Had some franchise food and then crossed over to the massive Transportation Center to catch a $3.15 express bus back to Colon. Similar to big Greyhounds, the buses have movies playing on a TV screen. Ours featured a good war movie with Brad Pitt, but I couldn’t understand a word since it was in Spanish. He bit the dust in the end.
|I have to say I was a little concerned as I watched our bus driver count out over $200 in $1 as we're hurtling along the freeway at 70 mph.|
|Sensing our ultimate demise in a fiery bus accident I decided to take one last photo for posterity.|
The next day was equally crazy as we quickly packed for our “quickie trip” back to Seattle to visit grandkids and friends and do reprovisioning. Oh, and also to go to Dicks for a chocolate shake and cheeseburger.
On Friday Jan 23rd we took another expensive taxi ride out to Tocumen Airport in Panama City for our flight to Houston. Luckily neither flight was very full and by midnight we were getting our rental car and driving to our friends, the Berrys, to crash in their guest room.