Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Journey to Panama in Three Parts - Part I

March 20, 2018

Our journey to Panama started off with a flat tire on our rental car before we had gone 3 miles.  Should we have seen this as an omen??  After it was replaced, which was handled very quickly and efficiently, we sped off to Orlando to connect for lunch with my cousin John and his wife, Joann.  After a lovely visit, they headed off to Disney Springs to buy some special chocolate, we checked into our hotel and then met up again with them, this time  joined by our son, Jeremy and his family.  Family get togethers are very special to me especially since our family is strewn far and wide. 
With cousins John and Joann Coppes
 The following day, we joined Jeremy and family for a day at Epcot.  I think Cy's favorite was Tech Trek where you get to design your own race car.  Much to his delight, his beat ours though ours had a better safety record!!  (Perhaps a reflection of the age of its "designers"!!)  It rained much of the day, and other than a very strong gust of wind that turned Cy's brand new umbrella inside out and our sloshing around in soggy sandals we had a great time. 
Slightly soggy, but still having fun!
The next day we headed to Miami to catch our flight to Kingston.  One of the complications when we arrived into Jamaica was that we were carrying a wind generator for Seth's boat.  The customs official felt it was necessary to charge us a huge sum of  money even though we were bringing the item to be installed on a boat that was in transit.  Did not make sense to us so we were able to store the two large items in quarantine to await Seth who had much more experience about such things than we did.

We spent a couple of relaxing days in  a hotel with a beautiful view, but situated in a residential area with nothing but homes in the neighborhood, one restaurant, and nothing else within walking distance. 
View from the Jamaica Inn
After trying to find something to do in Kingston, we decided the most interesting things in Jamaica were to be found far from Kingston - with one exception - the Bob Marley Museum. 
Bob Marley Museum

Statue of Bob Marley in front of Museum

An early picture of his family

His former home has been turned into a showcase for family fotos, his platinum, gold and silver record awards, notable achievements and a photo journal of his remarkable yet very short life.  All visitors must go through the museum as part of a group with a tour guide.  This limit to one's wandering around at one's own pace is well counterbalanced by the knowledgeable guide we had who clearly enjoyed sharing fun anecdotes and stories while singing bits and pieces of Marley's music!

Serendipity at Sea arriving in  Jamaica
After our two nights in Jamaica, Seth arrived in the evening at the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club and we were there to greet him on the dock.  However, he had not cleared immigration so he couldn't get off the boat and we couldn't go on it!! We had a nice visit and then the next morning after the formalities had been completed we were allowed to move onto the boat.

And here begins our official "adventure".

An "adventure" is defined as  "an unusual and exciting, typically hazadous experience or activity, often involving the exploration of unknown territory"  Yes, indeed!  That about sums it up!   I am guilty of using the word "adventure" a little loosely, so I plan to be a little more cautious and circumspect in its use and my desire for one.

Seth's boat is an Island Packet 38, named Serendipity at Sea.  It is a very solid, seaworthy boat that is nicely laid out inside to make it feel much larger than 38 feet.  It is also very well equiped with redundant systems in preparation for a round the world trip.  En route to Jamaica Seth had determined that the engine was not charging the batteries consistently so by the time we arrived at the boat he had already contacted J.R., the resident electrician for the boatyard to sort that problem out as well as assist with the mounting of the Hydrovane water generator that we had brought with us.  (Seth was able to get it out of Customs with no problem!)
J.R. and Jim installing the hydro generator
And so began our week in Kingston - working on the boat.  Jim worked as J.R.'s assistant, Seth was both the boss and the one who had to drive all over Kingston getting parts.  (No West Marine in Kingston!  The closest thing to such a store was an old house that a wise old sailor had converted to a storehouse of boat parts.  I wish I had taken a picture because it was a maze of rooms, shelves, nooks and crannies and was always filled with both customers and visitors.  And he had almost everything we needed and more amazingly yet he or one of his helpers could always find it! )

Finallly on Feb 15, the boat seemed to be ready altho it still had a few electrical quirks which we hoped could be sorted out  in Panama.  The next five days were brutal.  Winds 20 - 25 knots from the aft quarter, confused seas with waves from 10 - 12 feet, but worst of all 15 foot swells coming at us from the side.  Not only were we bouncing up and down, but the swells were flinging us to the side.  Even holding on to the handrails inside the cabin I was flung off and landed head over tea kettle.  Other times I held onto the ceiling hand rails and when a swell came my feet were lifted up and I was swinging from the rails.  Jim and I were both sick the first two days (despite the fact that I was wearing a patch and then took Stugeron)  Needless to say it was a very long 5 days (2 half days and 3 full days).  An adventure!? Getting into Shelter Bay Marina just north of Colon was a wonderfu relief!!  Seth is clearly a very stalwart sailor - no sea sickness for him! 

After a visit from the Panama Canal Transit agent and a trip to Colon to go through immigration and shop for some various parts for the boat we were ready to tackle the continuing electrical problems on the boat. Seth was able to make contact with an electrician who with Jim and Seth as helpers went to work to sort out the electrical issues.

And so began our week in Panama at Shelter Bay Marina - working on the boat yet again.

Seth and Stuart working on the boat

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