Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Journey to Panama II

March 21

Behind the Shelter Bay Marina was a jungle with some walking paths as well as the remains of Ft. Sherman which had been a major jungle warfare training location for the U.S.Army during the 60's.  I enjoyed several walks through that jungle while the guys worked on the boat.  (My electrical expertise is nil)  I saw monkeys playing and chattering in the trees and a coatimundi which took off across the path when I walked by.  Leaf cutter ants were prolific and from one day to the next their numbers increased dramatically.  Sadly, the sloths avoided me.  

I saw a variety of stairs to nowhere, walls covered over by jungle as well as a number of virtually destroyed buildings all of which I presumed were remnants of  Ft. Sherman.  The local story is that when it  was turned over to Panama in 1999, all of the barracks and army buildings were looted and in many cases destroyed. 

path through the jungle

church being devoured by the jungle growth
Stairs heading nowhere

stone wall, presumably remnants of Ft. Sherman

leaf cutter ants, next day the line was 10 times as wide!
Ft. Sherman buildings behind chainlink fence

there is a monkey - somewhere  - believe it or not

After a week in Panama, Chak, a friend of Seth's arrived.  He is a French Canadian professional photographer and had hoped to photograph his adventures sailing with Seth.  His first order of business, however was to help reposition the water generator. 

Chak and Jim running wires

Chak tested his submarine camera. (I don't think that is what he called it, but in short he and his son had built a waterproof case for a camera, which they could move through the water by controlling three small propellers with a hand held remote control connected to the vehicle by a cable.)  He had  hopes of using it around the reefs.

Chak and his submarine camera

A few electronic demons were still at work with the auto pilot and the charging of the batteries, but both the electrician and Seth were convinced that it would be safe to take off for the San Blas Islands!! We headed out of the marina and immediately hit heavy seas.  This time we were facing pretty much into the wind and had to motor sail.  It was again very rough and uncomfortable.  The bashing of the bow into the water was amazingly violent and the creaking and groaning of the boat was disturbing as I tried to rest down below before my watch. (It required hanging on for dear life trying not to be tossed out of the bunk.)  The smell of the diesel from the engine was making Chak sick and the motion of the boat was making me sick.  After being underway for a number of hours, Seth became concerned about the charging of the batteries so he and Jim worked on the problem for awhile.  They thought they had it fixed but then it resurfaced.  Finally Seth decided we should turn back.  So after 12 plus hours of bouncing, we arrived back at the marina the next morning.  At this point I think all of us were discouraged.  Plans were up in the air and time was moving forward and the canal crossing date was fast approaching.  

After consultation with the electrician, Seth contemplated trying again for San Blas.  However, time was so short that we would have had only two days there at best. Travel time would have been two days there and two days back. At that point, I had to admit that I was unwilling to face another ocean voyage.  Winds were still strong and the chances of them abating significantly were not good.  So at that point Jim and I decided that it was time to start our land based travel.  We would get to San Blas another way and then try to return to be line handlers for the canal transit. 

For a variety of reasons Chak also decided that this was not the adventure that he had hoped for and that he too was going to leave the boat.
packed up and ready for the taxi
The next day the three of us took a taxi to Panama City.  As it turned out, Seth did not go to San Blas, but instead to Porto Bello (about 1/3 of the way to San Blas) and had a lovely time exploring cute restaurants, fortifications and meeting someone who joined him on the boat for a while.

So, bottom line...are we glad we did it?  Absolutely.  We had an "adventure", we learned alot, we took a journey that I don't think we would have tried on our own.  Would we do it again?  I think not.  

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