(La Playita, Panama City, Panama)
When I think back to the time we went through the Panama Canal, I will obviously think fondly of the good times we had transiting through the actual canal, but I will also remember the bookend work weeks we had on either side. Cruising can be nothing but sunshine, salt water, and cervezas; the other side of the coin though is provisioning, hardware stores, and boat chores. And because we prefer to be anchored somewhere between the middle of nowhere and a surf break, when we’re city living it’s heavy on the latter.
Top of the list here in Panama City was taking our auto pilot in to be spruced up. It’s operational and runs fine most of the time, but sometimes it has a mind of its own and acts a little funky. Greg researched a shop here in Panama City and our first stop this morning was Protesca to have it assessed.
Customer Service in Central America more often than not leaves you yearning for the efficiency of North America, but this shop had it dialled in. No sooner had we walked through the door than all our needs were being met. One guy had measured our hoses, found the correct end replacements, and presented us with an invoice for the proposed work before you could even catch someone’s attention in a coffee shop. Another gentleman had popped open the little motor and was reviewing its insides with Greg. After going over the motor, the pump, and the hydraulic arm our concerns were heard and maintenance was planned. Come back thursday and it’d be all tuned up. Thank you!
Our first stop turned out to be the most successful of the day, albeit the rest was still helpful. We enjoyed cheap (less than $5) taxi rides all around the city, but walked when we could. At one point we were headed to Centro Marino which was only a couple blocks away when a man leaning out of a taxi window began waving at us and shouting to “not go”. We assessed the area and took a detour around a sketchy apartment complex. Before we got to Centro Marino we got two more warnings to be careful when walking in the area. Finally when leaving the marine shop we ran into Roger – a known taxi driver who speaks fluent English and ferries cruisers around the city on the regular – who again warned us grab a taxi right outside the door and not venture too far on feet. Evidently, we were in a known dangerous area, and our blonde hair and touristy charm made us prime suspects.