Not everything smells like banana here, but it is nice, because we are still sitting in our own little house, just like in Janosch’s story. This house is swimming just in front of the Marina La Playita near Panama City. It is hot, about 34 degrees during the day. But the Pacific Ocean probably has a cooler current, at least the water is much cooler than in the Caribbean. If we go into our technical room now, it feels nice and cool, only 27 degrees. That’s pretty close to the limit where you have to put on a T-shirt….
Because the corona virus does not allow for planning, we are preparing for a longer stay. All around I have installed sun protection on the outside of the windows and our fans are often used.
In order to be able to use the WLAN of the marina (as long as it remains switched on), we have anchored close to the shore or close to the breakwater of the marina. Unfortunately, there are also two excursion steamers lying here, which are probably not allowed to sail at the moment. But there are always a few people on board who clean up and look after things. Anyway, they are daily polluting the air with their diesel engines and depending on the wind direction soot particles fall on our ship. Today they had a big cleaning and a huge puddle of soap swam leisurely towards our ship, only good that we had just generated our drinking water yesterday.
When we left the marina, we filled up the diesel tank, because it was not clear what would happen to the gas station if the marina closed down. When paying, I had a very nice conversation with the lady of the marina. She asked if we had already checked out. Mathias had already done that. But the reception lady wanted to look at the file and asked a colleague to hand her the file. He came out of the next room with an envelope and then the lady asked me very strange questions. We had been there for 10 days and now we came back? No, we’ve only been here since Friday. Check the name of the ship again. Zulu-Alpha-November? No, SAN, Sierra-Alpha-November. She had the file of our friends in her hand, who were also in the marina, but have been on their way to the Marquesas for some time now. The correct file was still on her desk and so it could be confirmed that the mooring fees were already paid. We were both amused about the mix-up. The receptionist asked me about my country of origin and the status of Corona there. We said goodbye with mutual good wishes for us and our families. I don’t know if this good mood contributed to it, but just before we left, she came out of the office and gave us two orange plastic bracelets with which we could identify ourselves, so that we could go ashore again and, after shopping, be allowed back to the marina area. That was very nice of her. There are now controls by the army at the entrance to the dinghy dock. While Mathias was shopping and I was waiting, a woman came in a dinghy. She was controlled by the soldiers and had to turn back. Let’s hope that our orange bracelet will prevent this from happening to us.
In general, there are supposed to be a lot of controls by the military. A German we met in the marina reported that you can anchor in front of the islands further out in the bay, but the beach is closed off and you are prevented by military posts from going ashore with the dinghy. So it’s probably really better to anchor here, even if the scenery is not very picturesque.
Mathias always has a bad feeling when a motorboat approaches us, because he fears that it could be police / military who want to expel us from the country. At the Las Perlas Islands this has happened to several yachts. Now, they do not know where to go.
It’s difficult everywhere at the moment. Friends of us in the Caribbean have had a hard time, they sailed from one island to the next and were turned away everywhere. Finally they were allowed to anchor in Jamaica but were told „We don’t need white people here“ and they are not allowed to go ashore.
The navionic charts for the Pacific can be obtained again in the meantime, only we can’t get into Panama City and we don’t know yet when we will need them. Maybe we won’t cross the Pacific Ocean until next year.
Mobile operators are renaming their network: „Stay at home“
Registering with the German embassy was a multi-day undertaking. Again and again either the internet connection was too bad or the server was overloaded. In general, you don’t always have a good connection to the Internet when you are on the road. So it helps that we were already used to it from Alvesen, that you have to wait until a website is set up or that video calls are not possible because everything goes too slowly.
Wildlife on SAN
One evening we were sitting comfortably in our sofa corner and were about to choose a movie when our alarm went off in front of the starboard hatch. We jumped up and looked. Shortly afterwards Mathias shouted, „There’s an animal on board!“ „A bird?“ „No, there it goes!“ A raccoon hissed through our living room! It was quite fast, we closed the windows and doors as quickly as possible, hoping to scare it out the back. But it was even faster and stupidly flew into the starboard hull. We have shelves with supplies there and there are a lot of corners where it could hide. I turned on a light and saw it sitting on a shelf. The raccoon hissed at me angrily. You too! Should I snarl back? You didn’t have to run in here. Although we have been vaccinated against rabies, the teeth it exposed looked dangerous. We remembered that we had bought a (much too expensive) catcher, which Mathias found quite quickly. With it we could fix the raccoon on the shelf, but not move it away. We tried to fight the raccoon with a Taser and with pepper spray, but it was not really impressed. At some point it escaped again and fled to the front part of the starboard hull. There we store a sail and on top of it some Ikea bags, behind which the raccoon hid. This time we were able to use the Catcher better and the raccoon soon hung in it. Covered with a cardboard we lifted the net towards the hatch. The raccoon managed to climb out again. Mathias quickly sprinted after it and I locked everything inside. On deck the raccoon was no longer to be found. It had probably had enough of us and preferred to jump overboard again. Very well. It would have been a little too wild for me as a pet. We suspected that it had climbed up the lines of the bridle and put rat protection on them. That are round disks that turn and animals cannot climb over so easily. At the back of the outer hulls, Mathias attached tripwires, which should at least trigger an alarm. In the evening, when we wanted to go to bed, there was a strong smell in the bedroom. Reason: The raccoon must have been in the bedroom before we noticed him, it had shit into our bed! Yuck — strip everything off and throw it on deck. Since the mattress protector was also affected, we moved to the front cabin for the night. That wasn’t a bad idea at all, the cabin lies a bit deeper in the bow and therefore profits from the cooler water and the ventilation is better there than in our cabin.
Unfortunately our ship’s own cricket is no longer. It has fallen victim to a tragic mix-up. Mathias was working in the technic room when he saw something crawling around. He immediately thought of a cockroach, chased the creature and killed it. It turned out that the cockroach was our cricket Jeremiah. 🙁 We should not ransport insects or other animals from one place to another and if it had escaped us e.g. on Galapagos, it would certainly not have been good. But we miss him anyway.
Speaking of Galapagos. The islands are now fully closed anyway, but even if you want to sail there during normal times, you have to get a confirmation that you have a clean underwater ship and it costs several thousand dollars in fees. We have resigned ourselves to sailing past the islands in any case.
At our anchorage here we have pelicans in our front garden. You can see small shoals of mini rays. Hopefully no more raccoons come on board, the one probably only made it when we were relatively close to the shore.
In the marina on the Caribbean side of the canal it was even more adventurous. There is a resident crocodile. We got a picture of it sent to us:
What else is going on:
The water level at the anchorage fluctuates around 4.5 meters, the ground is quite clayey. You have to be a bit careful, the anchor can move. Maybe a good thing for us. It wouldn’t be bad to start the motor from time to time. Since we don’t need it to generate electricity, we have to take extra care not to shut it down too long.
In Panama the supermarkets are open, but to avoid a crowd, one may only shop at certain times. The allowed hour is determined by the last digit in the passport. Our last digit is a letter, a joker? 😉 People have not followed this rule well, so now women and men are only allowed to shop separately. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for women and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for men. On Sunday, everyone stays at home together.
One hour for shopping is not really much if you don’t know the supermarket. But at the moment we stay put anyway, as we have enough supplies and even fresh things still last.
Our ice cream production is making progress. Fruits that are too ripe and that you don’t like to eat any more are excellent for making ice cream. We have already had banana, pear and pina colada ice cream. The consistency is not perfect when stirred by hand, maybe we will find a small converter from 24 V to 110 V at some point, or from 230 V to 110 V if necessary. You see, we’re not beaten down yet. 🙂
Mathias has a number of craft projects again. One is to replace the antenna cables from the radio devices in the navigation table to the foot of the mast and from there up the mast. He had measured with a standing wave meter that more than half of the power is lost in the cables and no longer reaches the antennas. Pulling the cable up the mast proved to be extremely laborious. Something is still wrong up there and the AIS antenna is still not connected. So there are enough tasks left.
Addendum to the canal passage:
Just before our trip through the canal there were problems with the front toilet. Because the toilet in the port hull is still clogged, we would have had only one working toilet for the 6 persons during the passage and all men would have had to trott through our bedroom all the time. Not so ideal. Fortunately the fault could be found quickly. A rubber sealing connection had a hole. We did not carry this particular spare part, but a tube of heat-resistant and – more important for this purpose – elastic silicone had been taken from our workshop at home. The trick worked and the toilet could be used again.
In the canal, pilot lines are thrown onto the ships, to these lines the thick Panama Canal ropes are attached. Then the pilot lines are used to pull the ropes up to the lock wall, where they are attached by the canal crew (loop laid over the bollard). To make sure that the pilot lines land where they should, a „Monkey Fist“ is attached to the end of the lines. This is a ball of rope with or without a lead core. In the second section of the channel we were one of the outer ships and so the Monkey Fist would land on our bow. We were very worried about our solar panels. So we covered them on the side and also an area in front with blankets. But the first time the Monkey Fist hit exactly one area of the solar cells in front where there was no blanket. Lucky in misfortune, the Monkey Fist had no lead core and although there was a good bang noise, the solar cells looked ok afterwards. The lines in the next chamber were skillfully caught by our line handlers. Anyway, the Monkey Fist throwers don’t aim as good as we were told before.
During the trip across the Gatun Lake we tried to use the water maker. But it did not build up enough pressure. Even when Mathias tried it, there was no improvement. I had to take over the steering wheel just in a curve of the fairway with an oncoming ship (a short relief from cooking). Only later in the marina we could deal with the water maker. A clamp on the hose had loosened, that was easy to repair, and we also changed the filter on that occasion. Now it works again. Fortunately – the water maker is an essential part of our equipment.
Commentary by Mathias:
Speaking of equipment. In this Corona crisis our travel preparations really come into their own. With the solar cells we are self-sufficient in terms of electricity, so we don’t need a marina, and we don’t have to run the Volvo engine for an hour or two every day because of it. We have almost every part of the watermaker with us as spare parts. Also the central pump, which builds up the water pressure on all pipes, we bought again on St. Martin as spare part. If we run out of gas for the dinghy, we switch to electric drive. This tank is full. There are also lots of spare parts for the Volvo Diesel on board. So, touch wood…
Anyway, I feel completely confirmed by the current situation in my actions since Portugal, where I started to buy everything in every supermarket, always in huge quantities and never speculating that you could buy it in the next port.
Last but not least, a big thank you to everyone who stays in touch with us, whether via the comment function, e-mail or WhatsApp. We always like to hear news from all over the world and from home.