Saturday, December 14, 2013

Shelter Bay

[Kyle]I’d love to say we immediately went out to explore our new country as soon as we arrived but, as usual, we had a lot of post-passage work to do to transition from the routines of sea to those of land.

The Shelter Bay Marina was expecting us when we arrived and had us quickly tied up in a slip. We gave the guy who helped us with our lines the name of the agent we hired for the canal transit and before we had even finished adjusting our lines and fenders, Roy from the agency appeared and introduced himself.

Clearing into Panamá is not that difficult, but pretty much any dealings with bureaucracy is included in the agency’s fee, so we were happy to let Roy do all of the necessary legwork for us. He actually made it so that we didn’t even have to leave the boat. We gave him the necessary documents and the next day, he returned with everything freshly signed and stamped.

Since my vacation schedule had us arriving way at the beginning of the season, and since I won’t have a decent chunk of time off until the optimal time for setting off into the Pacific next year, we decided to use the opportunity to haul Begonia out of the water. We would do a bunch of maintenance and let her dry out for a couple of months before putting her back in the water. Shelter Bay isn’t the most convenient place for this and is pretty pricey, but it was the most time we had for a haulout, so we had to make the best of it.

Since we had a lot of jobs on our list and since the marina’s high rates are even higher at a dock, we were keen to get out of the water as soon as possible. We went to the yard office and were booked for the first thing the day after tomorrow. We forced ourselves to take time out for an end-of-passage meal at the restaurant, but after that, it was back to work getting ready for being hauled out.

The crew was ready at eight o’clock when we pulled up to the crane. As I was busy trying to explain where to put the slings in broken Spanish, I was pleased to see that they had a guy in the water making sure they weren’t getting on the props or our ham radio’s grounding plate. When he was done, he climbed out and fired up the travel lift. It turns out he wasn’t just some guy; he was THE head guy, Don Victor. Since the road was too narrow, once we were out of the water and pressure-washed, he switched Begonia from the travel lift to a really cool articulating trailer and then gingerly took us on it to our spot in the work yard.

Once we were there, break time sauntering behind our boat down the road in the hot sun was over; we had to get to work.

Plenty of jobs to keep us busy in the boat yard; Ugh!

The next week was pretty much horrible. We chipped away at our list, sometimes together, sometimes separately, but always in relentless tropical heat. Every few hours, we would stagger into the steaming cabin, gulp down a quart of cold Gatorade and then immediately start sweating it back away. At the end of each and every single day, we would set new records for both grubby and tired. At sunset, the ONLY thing we wanted was nice cold showers. Only once we were freshly scrubbed did we realize how hungry we had been.

Some days Maryanne managed to make something aboard, but on most, we couldn’t face the effort of cooking or cleanup, or for that matter, clearing enough of the tools and half-done projects out of the way to have space to eat. It was all we could do to put our berth back together at night so we could sleep in it. Our only other alternative was the marina restaurant. The prices weren’t bad and the food was pretty good, but the service was just about the slowest we’ve seen. After a while, we learned that the only way to get a meal in less than three hours was to chase down the wait staff for everything. {Normally we'd be happy to take time enjoying the views, but we were so exhausted every day we needed to dine and get to bed}

Colón and the area around it are generally considered to be very unsafe. Shelter Bay (just across the harbor), on the other hand, seems perfectly secure. Locking the boat here seems more like a good habit in preparation for other places than a necessity. The marina is on the location of the old U.S. military base, which was way out of Colón on the opposite side of the canal. There is no public transport, so the place very much retains a feel somewhere between a compound and an isolated backwater. Once you’re here, there’s really nowhere else to go. It didn’t take long before we got pretty familar with the restaurant and its limited menu - we soon had no need for the menu.

On days when it was going to be dark soon, but it seemed too late to start another job, we would give ourselves a mental break and drag ourselves away from the boat and out to a loop road that was all that remained of the old officer’s quarters. Now, apart from the cracking pavement, all that remains is the rapidly encroaching jungle. We spotted several different species of parrot there and even saw a couple of toucans. On our second trip, we found a troupe of capuchin monkeys making huge acrobatic leaps from tree to tree. They seem to spend their whole lives a hundred feet up. Once on a later trip, we heard the unmistakable call of a howler monkey. After following the sound, Maryanne managed to get a look at him and even got a picture. {Maryanne: This almost daily break from the boat yard to see the jungle life is really helping to keep me sane, being in a boat yard at any time is basic misery - but in this heat, and with time pressures and cost pressures we are both getting stressed and snippy with each other - it's so nice to be reminded of the beauty all around and relax again!}

A daily walk to the jungle to see the animals - in this case capucin monkeys

After a week in the yard, we finally started to feel like we were getting on top of our job list. The engines are serviced, the props are freshly painted, the hulls are waxed and we even put a new coat of non-skid in the cockpit. We are tired, but feeling satisfied with our work. My hands have accumulated so many cuts, dings and scrapes that I can hardly bear to touch anything.

So far, we still have no real impression of Panamá. We have yet to leave the immediate area of the marina. We haven’t even needed to speak Spanish except on rare occasions. All we have is a conditioned association with heat and work and bugs that’s making Panamá seem unfairly like a miserable place. We’re looking forward to finishing our work, getting away from the marina and having a little bit of a look around.

1 comment:

Mommy Dearest said...

Keep the faith, you two. The hard work and sweat will be over soon and you can relax on a newly-cleaned and fluffed Begonia with a good bottle of wine and pasta for dinner, enjoying a sunset.... remember? Sounds like things are very challenging now. Be kind to each other, though--you both deserve it!