Panama City

Well we did not do too much exploring in the big city. Funny, over a month was spent in the anchorage, and we have no idea what we did for that about of time.

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We went out on the town one evening with Jöurn and Dianna from Scooby II. We had a great night out , tried a few of the bars and found  an amazing pizza place that even hard german beer. To finish off the night, as we were walking on the dock about to get into the dinghy… I took out our brand new phone to give to Jon, so he could put it into the dry bag. But instead of handing it over to Jon, I kinda just threw it at him. He didn’t even know what was happening,  as it hit the dock it spun slowly as I chased it down the dock yelling ” NO NO NO” and then bloop. Into the water it went. We watched it sink all lit up till it hit the bottom. I asked Jon to get in and get it, let me remind you that we had all been drinking for the whole afternoon, we were a bit buzzed.  He said there was no way he was going to get into the dirty ass marina water. So I undressed and went in.  Lucky for my the tide was super low and the water was only chin deep. I was able to use my monkey toes to bring up the phone.  To this day Jöurn likes to give me a hard time about getting naked out our “first double date”.

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Anyways we gave the phone a few fresh water baths and stuck it in a bag of rice for a few days. … and a month later, the phone still works no problem.

There were a few other times we explored the historic french quarter. After a visit to the US embassy, where Jon was almost arrested for taking a picture of the huge american flag. We needed to go to the embassy to get our passports renewed as they had less than a year left before they expired.  So after Jon was released and got his camera back after they made him delete the picture, we headed into Casco Viejo.

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Panama has spent the last 10 years and millions of dollars rebuilding and fixing up the old french area, the result is amazing.  The area feels like your walking in New Orleans, but without the smell.  This was a great area to explore!

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Time spent in the anchorage was slow and depressing ,well besides the people you get to hang with… but the water is nasty. A whole month went by without getting into the water. Jon and I were like fish out of water, drying up and not knowing what to do with ourselves. So when we were asked to help crew as line handlers on SV Sirena we couldn’t wait for the chance.

Funny thing about the canal, for as scheduled they have to be, they are kinda all over the place. Grant it they have just opened the new locks and are figuring out all the bumps and stuff, but still.  So Sirena was scheduled for a 6:30 am pick up, but were asked to call around 8pm the night before to check the time. That night they were told their time had changed to around 7:30am, but once again to call at 5am the morning of. So 5 am rolls around and they changed the pick up time one more time, 5:45 am. That gave Sierna 45 min to weigh anchor and for all the crew from 4 different boats to get aboard. It was a hectic morning, but we all got on board and were only a few minutes late to the pick up spot. Then it was a bunch of hurry up and wait. Their transit went smoothly, besides sucking up some plastic which over headed their generator. We had to make a stop over on Gatun lake for the night, while Jon helped Chris get the plastic out of the strainers and had the power back up and running. 8 people on a 55ft boat worked out great, and there was always enough ice for all our drinks. They had a 8 am pick up scheduled for the next morning and going down in the Gatun Locks went very smooth.  Once we go to Shelter Bay Marina we got into a van  with the rest of the crew and made our way back to our boats on the other side of the country.

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The whole gang on SV Sirena

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Jon and I on SV Sirena with the Pan America Bridge

We got 2 days rest and then at 4:45 am on Oct 12 we were aboard SV Oleada with a new found friend Jet and made our way to go pick up their advisor. We waited around for awhile, while Flamanco Signal Station told us to stand again and again  and again. Finally 2 hours later they told us that their canal trust was canceled for the day and that we were rescheduled for the next morning. So we were all jacked up on coffee and made our way back to the anchorage. We had breakfast and then went back to our boats to get some sleep and rest up for the next day. Once again the moved the original time schedule to an earlier time, this time we had a 4:45 pick up, and we were underway with fell crew aboard by 4:20am. Here we go! Once again another smooth transit! AND Oleada even made it through in one day! They really lucked out with timing and weather!

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We are going to miss these guys!

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Jess and Josh in the last chamber in the Gatun Locks

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The whole gang and the Advisor on SV Oleada

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When the gates open, Oleada enters into a new ocean!!

With our 2 experienced transits Jon and I had high hopes for having a smooth transit as well… but we were going to wait till after I got back from my trip back to the states.

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At the end of October I flew back to California to be at my sister’s wedding. One week at home was almost to short! I felt like I had so much to do and little time to do it in. Sadly I did not bring a camera with me,  but let me give you a quick rundown of my week at home.

Day 1: I left Panama on Sunday afternoon, landed in LAX late. My best friend and her mom, aka my mom, where there to pick me up. Jenna had been receiving packages for me and other cruisers for weeks, and when I got to her house I could see why she said there was no way I was going to get this all back with me.  But I had brought along with me the huge roller bag that our SUP’s came in, and it had no problem swallowing all the stuff I needed to bring back with me.

Day2: Remember the 4Runner Jon and I bought last summer and then sold to my brother, well my brother ended up not wanting it,  but Jon’s little brother Chris did! So it was my job to get the 4Runner from Summerland  (Ventura area) to Cambria ( San Louis Obispo area). So the trick was how to get to Summerland from where I was at Jenna’s in Long Beach… and guess who came to my aid, SCOTT and TROX. If you guys remember we met Scott and Trox back in our first season in Mexico, Scott was sailing a Catalina 27 and we got to cruise with him all the way down Baja. Scott was willing to drive to Long Beach, pick me up and take me to my brothers. Plus he was excited to see Sean again too.  So we had a mini road trip and it was great to catch up with an old friend. After a great lunch Scott headed back home to SD while Sean and I hopped into the 4Runner and continued north to Cambria. We spent the night at our Aunt Elly’s house.

Day 3: There were many cars heading back to Southern California for the wedding so I hopped in and we made our way to Lake Arrowhead. We had about a 6 hour drive, and a rehearsal dinner to get to. We made it to Lake Arrow Head just in time for a pre dinner cocktail. My sister had to get married midweek because our family is so large we needed to rent out the whole resort, so during the weekend was not an option.  My sister did not have a large bridal party, but she wanted all the brothers and sisters to be formally seated before the ceremony. So we all made it in time to the rehearsal, it was so amazing to see the whole family, some of which I had not seen in over 15 years. Our brother Paul even made the trip from Hong Kong.  After dinner, the majority of the family headed back to the big cabin where a lot of drinks and a great game of Mexican train dominoes expired!

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Heated game of family Dominoes

Day 4: Wedding Day! Our family is blessed that Karen’s addition to the “Outlaw” clan is a stand out guy! In our family we don’t have “in-laws” we have “out-laws” and all the outlaws know why. Karen started getting ready first thing in the morning and she brought me to tears when I saw her in white and ready to get married!  The wedding was beautiful and the venue was amazing. We danced and partied, and when the DJ had to quit the party continued at the big cabin, continuing on into the wee hours of the morning.

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The Benavides Family at Karen’s Wedding

Day 5: Check out of the cabins and a huge Belgian Waffle breakfast. It was shocking how much conversations were still going compared to the amounts of hangovers that we present. I needed to get back to Long Beach, and because my brother Will was heading south to SD for  mini vacation, I hitched a ride back down with him and his girlfriend. That night we went out with Jenna’s family  for a  family dinner, I had not seen Jenna’s brother or his wife in about 6 years, and I got to meet their beautiful little girls.

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Day 6:  Finally I got to sleep in! Then spent the day being spoiled by Jenna and her mom! We went shopping, got a pedicure and I even got to east at IN n Out! That morning Cater, Jenna’s 6 year old son asked me if I could pick him up from school, and when we were all there to pick him up, I’m proud to say he ignored mom and grandma and yelled out “AUNTY SHANNON!!!” ran up gave me a hug and then was off playing again. I love that kid.   The rest of the night was spent packing and trying to figure out some minor flight details that needed to be addressed.  Completely ignoring the fact my flight was at 7 am the next morning, Jenna and I stayed up taking and relaxing watching Netflix till late.

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Day 7: I set my alarm for 4:30am, I wanted to be out of the door no later than 5:00am. I thought i had hit snooze, but no, I turned off the alarm. The next time I woke it was 5:20. SHIT!  Good thing her house is only 20 min away from the airport, and la traffic is not bad that early. I made it in time to check my bags, and a fridge for a friends boat, with time to have breakfast and time to kill at my gate. About 12 hours later, I landed back in Panama, after a very turbulent flight.

Jon and our friend Bob met me at the airport. I thought I had made it through with everything without being stopped or questioned about all the boat parts I had with me. At the last-minute i was redirected to a different line, and was asked to run my things through a scanner. The woman took one look at the fridge unit and said ” what is that?”  When I told her it was a fridge for a boat, I was escorted to a small room off to the side. The customs agent went through my bags, my cloths and person items, no biggie, the big bag of misc. boat parts, no problem, the fridge though. That had to stay there till Monday, once an agent was available to escort the fridge to the boat.

The next 2 days was filled with prepping the boat for our transit. Then on Monday we headed to the airport to pick up the fridge, what we thought would only take about an hour, took about 4. 3 of those hours I spent at a window watching  a women struggle with whatever paperwork she needed to do for my item.  THEN she gave my paperwork and receipts to someone else! Then tried to blame it on her system malfunctioning. I did my best to keep my cool, it took everything I had not to scream and yell at this woman. Anyway we got an agent to escort the fridge back to the boat, while Jon and I headed to the store to buy some food for our crossing.

I definitely brought some kind of cough back with me, so my energy was low, and we spent our last night in the Pacific wrapping tires with Jöurn, having a few beers, having a light dinner and watching a movie.

Stay tuned, as my next blog post will be all about our adrenaline packed transit that did not nearly go as smooth as the others we had been on.

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