Tag Archives: sailing culture shock

Culture shock: from remote Panama to City life…

Two months ago we checked out of Manzanillo , Mexico and sailed south to Costa Rica and later, Panama. Manzanillo was a big port for ships, and was busy with cars and people, but not too overwhelming. After experiencing mostly small villages in Mexico over the past 2 years, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo were the among the largest cities that we visited. From the day we checked out of Mexico, the next 2 months we would make a our 19 day crossing without seeing a single other soul and again only see small villages along the coast of the pacific side Costa Rica And Panama.

Bright lights, big city: Feb 11th, we sailed into Panama City after a 37 hour upwind and up current from Playa Venao. About 10 miles from making our anchorage we could smell the crude oil from all of the ships coming in and out of the Panama Canal. As we neared Panama City, the air got thicker and thicker with pollution, so much so that we could hardly see the skyline of the city itself until we were only a few miles away. Regardless of that, the air was filled with excitement and buzz. We were wide eyed with amazement as we entered the huge port after so many days of quiet seclusion.

We anchored in the anchorage known as Las Brisas just before sunset. We made dinner and ate outside, taking in the view of Panama City’s skyline. We all agreed that it is by far the largest cityscape that we’ve ever seen. As the day set and the darkness of night filled in, the city’s lights shown brilliant across the bay in our direction. This has now been our view for the last four weeks. Yep, four weeks already!

It took about a full week to get our bearings straight. We made friends quickly with a few other sailors who helped show us the lay of the land. I don’t honestly know how we would have figured it out without them. The very first full day we were there happened to be Carnival. Yes, to add chaos to our already overwhelmed feelings, it was Carnival. Places were closed that were normally open and places were packed that were normally not. Our new friends on Brisas 302 and Arc en Ciel showed us how to get into the city and use the bus system. We explored the mall and a few grocery stores, ate out for lunch and returned home for dinner. We avoided the nighttime Carnival scene, we were exhausted from our overnight sail and not quite ready for that kind of excitement.

We spent the next 3 days checking into the country and going to the city exploring. Yes, it took 3 days to check in. Ugh! Yikes! Over the next few weeks we met more sailors from all over the world, took the bus to town for entertainment, arranged for and completed much needed dental work, had family visit, friends visit, and slowly continued to prepare for crossing the Pacific Ocean. We quickly discovered that Panama City is just as expensive as the United States.

So here we are, four weeks later and still a few more to go before we head to the Galapagos and then French Polynesia. Why are we still here? Why did we get here so early just to hang out? We sailors always have our reasons. Ours being, much needed dental work that would take at least 3 weeks to complete. Taj needed is passport renewed, which we did at the US embassy. The turn around for that is two weeks. And most importantly we were waiting for our middle daughter to return from her time with her Papa on March 9th (today!) . She also needs her passport renewed, so we tack on a few more weeks before we can actually go…weather dependent.

I will post more pictures of our small Panama excursions in later posts. But here is this short video for now and a few pics.

Also, don’t forget to check out our videos (part 1 and part 2) of our passage from Mexico to Costa Rica.