Tuesday 18 February 2020

Preparing to Leave Panama; San Carlos, the yard, and the splash

Returning to the Tintamarre after our brief visit to the UK was a bit daunting. Tintamarre had been hauled and placed in the marina yard whilst we were away - and we knew there were a few things to fix - notably our steering and windlass (which had both broken) - and our keel needed re-treating after being dragged through the mud at the mouth of Rio Dulce in Guatemala.

We also needed to buy in lots of provisions for our long trip across the Pacific - planning on buying in everything we might need over the next 6 months.

We found Tintamarre perched rather precariously ...climbing on board required a bit of concentration.

We had planned on staying on board...not a comfortable thing to do, but the options seemed limited. When the marina informed us on day 2 that permission to do this was cancelled for everyone we were grateful to be offered accommodation in San Carlos, a small village a half hour walk across the beach. Tim and Jenni's casa was a delight, attractive, central, spacious and very comfortable.

And we enjoyed our daily walk across the beach past the fishing fleet.

We beavered away at our job list....

And brought in endless bags of food, drink and other necessary supplies, which all needed to be sorted, recorded on our spreadsheets, and safely stowed (as well as having to be hauled up that ladder). Complicating matters a bit further, our next port of call, The Galapagos has a long list of products which may not be brought to the islands. We knew that boat searches are routine there...

After a hard day in the yard we enjoyed catching up with old and new sailing friends. We visited the Chinese (Panamanian style, of course), Restaurant, opposite our village casa every evening (menu del dia was less than $5 and very good.)

We were also "treated" to the start of carnival in the village. Festivities happened on our doorstep (literally) - loud music, processions and fireworks which continued until 3am. 

With our jobs nearly complete, and knowing that we had to wait for a high tide before we could put Tintamarre in the water we took a day out to visit the nearby Highland town of El Valle. A $1 bus ride took us miles into the hills, through orange groves. Sited within a massive caldera this little town is famous for rare golden frogs (we didn't spot any). But we did climb the Sleeping Princess mountain, passing old petroglyphs on our way up. With a strong cooling wind blowing at the top we enjoyed the view.

Leaving the country we adopted a strategy of "splash and dash" - so that Tintamarre would sit in the marina for as little time possible before leaving - minimising the chances of growing barnacles on her newly cleaned hull (something which were very mindful of with our impending visit to Galapagos). So the day before our planned splash we took the bus to Panama City and checked out. (As an aside, public transport in Panama is fabulous. The hour and a half bus journey into central Panama City on a comfortable bus cost just $2.50. The clean and modern metro and bus services in the city were just 25 cents a ride, easy and pleasant to use.)

Splashing Tintamarre was at best unusual. We were in the UK when Tintamarre was hauled out. Vista Mar Marina used a trailer system, on a steep ramp, with big tides and strong winds omnipresent. We waited for a suitable tide, ensured that Tintamarre was loaded on the trailer in good time so that she could be launched at high tide. Just prior to launch we climbed on board so we could start the engines and speed away as they launched us. I would never choose to use this launch system again.  Somehow we survived the experience.

We filled with fuel and water and with no slips immediately available remained on the fuel dock for the night. The next day, late morning, all preparations and checks complete, we said a last goodbye to friends, slipped our lines and left for the Galapagos.


Scott Tompkins said...

I was wondering about the ramp there, for regularly launching an outboard boat? We used to live in Panama, we still have a house in Santiago, but we have a lot in the San Carlos district and are thinking to build there. I want to find a place to regularly launch a panga fishing/tubing boat.

Andrew G. said...

When we were there others were using the ramp for your type of boat with storage on the hard too. However, the prices were going up and at least one small boat owner was thinking of moving to a new marina further up the coast