Saturday, October 04, 2008

Panama Canal: Catching up!

Have been in a 'thinking' mode for a few months; re-evaluating most everything as usual, but specifically now, the priorities on the top of the list.

For those of you who thought I dropped of the face of the earth, forgive me. I just stopped to look around.

photo by Sherry McCampbell

I have taken a sort of sabbatical on writing and been doing more thinking.

Photos here with necessary comments give you a clew of what's up as well as, where we might be going from here.

Recent Past: Panama Canal Transit as guests/line handlers on SV Soggypaws.

My 98.8 year old dad is doing amazing well. I love the old guy and we do our best to "cover his bases". He lives in our same waterfront condo for 20 years and yesterday, I was lucky enough to find him a rescued dog; small, skinny but loving. She had been given up by a family because of "Hurricane Ike" hitting Galveston, Texas.

I feel quite sorry for the family that had to give up this cute little dog. She(Rat Terrier) did not seem to understand any English, but I'm not going to speak to her in Spanish or Vietnamese.
Learning seems to be going fast!
......Her skill set, not mine.........

OK, going back in time.

We bought our 8th multi-purpose vehicle a few months ago.

When i was a kid, we used to visit Florida in a 15' camper that my dad borrowed from his friend Gene Olson, and then towed behind our, "get this: stick shift 1950 Buick." Stick shift!!!!," but ,

Later we found out about vans. WE, are earlier talking the 50's and 60's! 70's brought mods of the vans and were vehicles you could use as in an everyday mode to get around town, but also to travel more comfortably with our extended 3 or 4 generation family/dogs, boats, etc. Our day to day household here in Florida now spans 50-100 yrs.! Gosh does time fly.

My Dad still talks about travel here and there, so in May I bid on what I felt was a clean unit on Ebay.
Yup, I even did it from Guatemala.. talk about chancy behavior! Inside and out, it looked almost new. Plan is to on sell off our other vehicle (a mini van) although we might keep it as a spare, but use this Ford van mod as our primary family vehicle. We have found that this size is small enough to park anywhere and has a bathroom in it! For my dad at 98.8 this is good,,,,even for enjoying lunch, but the woman aboard seems not to be able to pass a bathroom.

NOW, we again have the perfect solution.

We took care of Dad and other issues and spent pleasant time here in St. Pete chilling out and regrouping with family, yet prepared for our return visit to Guatemala on Oct. 1st.

Of course, things changed immediately and within one phone call and a few quick emails!

We got a call from Dave and Sherry McCampbell that they were going to head thru the Panama Canal in a week and...and and. You get the picture I hope, "we got tickets to join them."! MAKES SENSE TO ME!

Truly, a fabulous time and both of them were as always, wonderfully gracious/pleasant to be with in every way. It also gave me a bit of foreknowledge of what's to come for us, as we are well behind them now. Maybe it's a Turtle and Hair thing, don't know yet! [bet's are to be taken at 5 PM--tomorrow] :)

check them out at:

My reflections of Panama, will need to be digested a bit more, or a second trip will be required to settle my opinions. I'm not exactly sure what I think of the country. Not having a decent exposure to enough to it for a FAIR assessment is understood and fairness should be a target. I must say there are extremes in my mind. Maybe that's good, maybe bad, but this has been normal for every country I've ever been in (including my own, the U.S.) However, my feelings are still solid as First Impressions. I am ready to re-evaluate with more input.

The geography and cruising seems extraordinary, as does it's history. Today however, there are the "left overs" as well as the "potential" of the country that I still need to see in some kind of balanced way.
I do tend to analyse things don't I. (send me a letter.. to the wrong address please). ;) "I am what I am".

On the sailing vessel SoggyPaws (we offered to be 'line handlers' for their Panama Canal Transit but that was a piece of cake)

The 'vacation' part of it, was gentile, yet an eye-opener. MANY of the people of Panama seem extremely open to us Gringo's being in their presence. However, a cab driver said it best-I think. "When the Americans gave us the canal, their workers went home as well as their money................................. We need the money!"

Hello? Yah, good ol' US money. I do not forget that Panama would still most likely be in a peasant economy(suburb of Columbia) without 'something substantial', besides mosquitoes.
Yes, the U.S. took care of that too. Yes, I am not apologetic for the efforts of my country and my grandfathers and great-grandfathers generational efforts.

However, it was evident that the population was full of beautiful women/handsome men. English was reasonably used as well as other languages.

However, every country has it's 'low-life's' and there seemed to me to be a glut of them in the Colon area (Caribbean side of the canal.) Since MOST cruisers seem to go East To West, they will probably hang out in the Colon districts near the Panama Canal Yacht Club. The infamous 'club', known to most every sailor that has ever had dreams, is in serious disrepair..actually near extinction. ( I was very happy tho that we were able to eat and drink there... IT is STILL functioning and lets hope there is a way for it to survive.)

Blame history, blame the U.S., blame the effects of slavery, genetics, luck. Put blame where you wish; however the Panama Canal's, Caribbean Sea port of Colon, is city of the lowest order..... and you can quote me on that.

Beyond that, for Cruiser's passing thru, life can be still be good. The 'Advisers' (paid) Soggypaws had for the Panama Canal crossing and authorities anywhere in the Canal as well as those who just deal every day with Cruisers, seem to be just wonderful. I must accent this. The cruising community seemed to be well thought of and treated well. I think/hope, is that WE, the cruisers, have been good people and the people of Panama and elsewhere have learned this.

At least that was my opinion from the sidelines(guest/line handler) of the transit details. Those folks in contact with the skipper and ashore, were for the most part(-thru my "side-vision" of our vacation;) wonderful, happy, thankful folks.

I can say, I was in love with them. This is the point! There are many levels within a populace, anywhere, but you should be aware of the differences.

The trip on SV SoggyPaws was wonderful of course. Everyone aboard, knew plenty, loved what they were doing....we (5) should be probably considered 'cruisers' by now. That might be construed as, "those who will or have given up U.S. normalcy(?) for the right to to a 'walk-about' for the rest of their lives".

I did not nor should another, forget that Dave and Sherry are "as good as one-or a couple- can get", credential wise! They've GOT IT! We were thankful for our time aboard.

Hope I can fit all the photos I would like to add in here, but,,
check back.

I will try to re-work the upload of photos etc. for your pleasure, tomorrow.

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