Saturday 7 February 2015

Panama, guest written by Kez

It feels somehow fitting that on my last morning on Juno I have her to myself just for a little while and so can quietly say good-bye and remember all the special moments on board and how she has magnificently looked after us during some fairly boisterous passages and kept us safe. But that ability to keep us safe is far from automatic and comes with an awful lot of care and attention from Paul. Since being in Panama he has done little else, forgoing the trip to the Embera Village, the city tour and also, before transiting, our trip to the Observatory to see both the construction of the new locks at Gatun and the workings of the existing ones.

I will leave the description of the transit to Paul for when he has time but it was truly an amazing experience, especially as we went through the Gatun Locks late at night. Everything was coloured yellow under fierce spotlights, and eerily quiet apart from the occasional calling of the line handlers and the warning whistle just before the lock gates were opened or closed.

Our Panama City tour guide was brilliant, starting us off in the forest to see the remains of the 'Camino Real', a cobbled path used to transport the riches of South and Central America to the ports of Nombre de Dios and Portobello, an enterprise masterminded by Francisco Pizarro (known for his conquest of the Incas) from Panama. The original city, founded in 1519, was destroyed by a notorious pirate, a Welshman called Henry Morgan in the seventeenth century, the ruins of which are still very visible.  The inhabitants of Panama just moved their city up the coast and we spent some happy hours wandering around the old quarter: beautiful, stucco buildings with ornate balconies, preserved in a state of dilapidation by the squatters who moved in after the more affluent citizens moved out attracted by the glamour and modernity of skyscrapers built to the east of the old city.

Yesterday we had a more frustrating day in a very large shopping mall in the new city, trying to track down (and, even harder, getting it to work) a local SIM card, a camera lens, exchanging discovered-too-late Columbian pesos (both unsuccessful) somewhere for haircuts and then a doctor for Andrew's earache which still hasn't cleared up.We are now waiting for the fridge man to arrive with a new compressor to hopefully fix the fridge which is struggling to cope with the latest round of provisioning and showing a temperature of 15°. This is now the most urgent problem, along with tracking down a missing parcel (containing important sail repair kit) which could be in Colon or Panama and is proving, again frustratingly, elusive.

It is hard to imagine that these are problems that I won't be involved in after today. Last night Frewie asked me to tell him my best and worst moments; the best was easy to answer and the worst much harder. Both involve night sailing; the best during solo night watches when Juno has the bit between the teeth (if I'm allowed to use a horse riding analogy!) and the worst must be when you are on bottom bunk trying to sleep when there is not enough wind and the sails are flogging above your head, the Genoa periodically snapping and the boom crashing in a way that you know hurts Juno.

I feel so lucky to have been part of this journey and to have shared life on board with two of the most generous and open hearted of hosts. I now know that boat owners have to be multitalented and have mastered so much more than just how to sail. They need to be a mechanic, an electrician, an IT technician, seamstress, expert in cleaning materials for all the dirt that accumulates and diver for anything that goes wrong under the waterline. You must surely need to enjoy solving problems to own a boat but also to be endlessly patient as nothing quite happens when promised and deadlines are tight.

Paul and Caroline have certainly demonstrated patience and enormous kindness to this member of Juno's crew and it now just left to me to wish them all the best as they set sail into the great wide Pacific Ocean.

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