II and crew are safely arrived in the Pacific Ocean!
We had a very smooth downlocking, finally entering the westernmost Miraflores Lock rafted with a Island Packet 42 around 2:45pm, after many changes in schedule and plan. Even after we pulled away from Pedro Miguel, we must have rearranged our lines about three times! Fortunately, we had a great crew: Nancy and Kaci of Tethys, and Heather of Charmer. Our advisor (who had been with John of Nepenthe on his mash-up (in no way his fault)) was a little uncertain about Don's all-women crew, but that doubt passed quickly as the competence and attentiveness was quickly evident. In the end, we went down with the two boats center-locked, which was fairly close to ideal. We have no idea yet if anyone saw us on the pancanal.com Internet camera, but it was sure not for the lack of trying! We fullfilled all ceremonies traditional and new -- pennies, flower petals and a rum tot for Neptune as we passed under the Bridge of the Americas -- all designed to propitiate the gods for fair winds and calm seas in these new waters
It really does feel like an event. Suddenly the mind expands around all the places one can go. Before they were no more than theoretical possibilities. Then again, as Tiffer sees it, she can now go down to the beach in LA and stick her toe in the same ocean we are sailing in!
Tiffany arrived early into Panama City last Wednesday, and we have had a fairly busy schedule since. On Thursday we visited the Panama Canal Museum housed in the original headquarters of France's Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique in Cathedral Plaza in what used to be the center of Panama City. Our group paid extra for an English speaking guide (all the detailed explanations were in Spnish only), but her accent was so thick that if I hadn't already read The Path Between the Seas, I might not have had a clue what she was saying. Fortunately, I was able to digest and interpret for Tiffany, who had done a fair amount of reading about the Canal on the Internet before coming. That said, we all quite enjoyed the museum. Most memorable bits were a model of the lock doors, a picture of a completed lock empty, and a film of the first waters bubbling in through the culverts. There was also a lot more photographs, in particular of the Gatun dam, which gets pretty superficial coverage in the book. The more you know about the Canal and its history, the more it grows on you.
Our transit got bumped from Friday to Saturday, so we spent Friday in some more tourist activities including the summit Botanical Gardens & Zoo on the way to Gamboa in the Canal Zone. Things at the zoo were a little loose. Only a few of the exhibits had any information about who lived inside! We were left to guess. For Don and me, however, it filled in a few gaps left by the El Valle zoo, because Summit had a very extensive collection of Panama's wild cats: the jaguar, the puma, and the several ocelot relatives. We also saw several different species of small monkeys, tapirs (a long-nosed relative of the rhinoceros and horse!), peccaries (like wild pigs), agouti (like giant guinea pigs), coyote, badgers, and lots of toucans, parrots and scarlet macaws. The zoo's highlight -- a harpy eagle (Panama's national bird) was officially unavailable as they were working on its habitat, however we got a distant peek at him anyway. From his photos he looks like a cross between an eagle and an owl!
After a Panamanian-style lunch out on Flamenco Island with our taxi driver Luis (who seems quite taken with Tiffany!) we visited an Indian Artisan's collective in Balboa. I was keen to check out the baskets and tagua carving of the Wounaan Indians. A few days before Tiffany arrived, I joined a group of gals for a visit to the home of Llori Gibson, a 2nd or 3rd generation Panamanian American whose is patron and advisor to Wounaan artisans. She opens her home, which is a lived-in gallery of Indian crafts, to anyone interested. Her collection of mostly baskets, tagua carvings, wood carvings are displayed creatively along with wonderful plant and flower arrangements she does herself. If I ever have a house, I'm flying Llori in! Some of her stuff is for sale, some is for samples of pieces you can order, and others are items you couldn't induce her to part with. She has a fat scrapbook of all the artisans with whom she works regularly, about each of whom she has stories to tell. It was my good or bad fortune that the pieces that caught my eye were either already sold or promised elsewhere, or weren't for sale at all! (For information on or to order Wounaan crafts, you can email Llori at firstname.lastname@example.org). Hence the trip to the Artisans' Collective in Balboa. I was surprised to find that there was actually some nice stuff there, in amongst the stalls of molas, Panama hats (which are actually made in Ecuador!) and other junk targeted to tourists.
the tourist stuff, was neat, packed as always into the final hours,
but, now that we are floating free in the Pacific, we are ready
to go somewhere. So, in just a few minutes, we will sail out to
Isla Taboga for a couple of relaxing days before Tiffany must fly