(La Playita Anchorage, Panama City, Panama)
That wraps four days of serious errand running all around Panama City. We’ve put our bus passes to good use, even tried the new metro, but most of all, we’ve walked some serious holes in our otherwise forgotten shoes. We’re undoubtedly bagged at the end of each day, but Oceanna’s to-do list and provisioning requirements are slowly getting taken care of. With the happy side-effect that I’m sweating off some unneeded boat pounds!
Every morning we strap on our backpacks and head out with new tasks to be tackled. With all the success we’ve been having we spent today on the boat to install our newest additions, inventory what was still needed, and reset for our finally week in Panama City. Our huge scores of the last couple days include:
Alternators – we’ve always had a problem with our starboard alternator. It never produced the power it should. Back in Wilmington Greg order a new one. Unfortunately, we ended up getting hosed receiving a knock-off that also never pumped the voltage. During our Panama City stay back in September Greg hauled the original alternator all around town searching for someone who could tune it up. No such luck, just a couple great days of weight exercise. Fast forward to Thursday, we were back on the alternator hunt. This time just in the market for a new one. After our first inquiry and subsequent rejection at Panama Auto we were beginning to think we were chasing a lost cause. Then the employee pointed us across the street to a building behind a building. Rounding the corner we were met by the sign Auto Partes Japanese. Things were looking up! A quick search in their computers and wouldn’t you know it they had one. A Hitachi one even and for a complete steal at $85. We’ll take two please!
R134A Fridge Gas– Our large AC fridge had been working at an increasingly shittier rate for the last couple months leading us to believe the refrigerant gas was low. The bottles of gas we had from Wilmington unfortunately got used up on our DC fridge, adding R134A gas to our must find list here in Panama City. Another huge thanks goes out to our amigo at Panama Auto as he pointed us again to the exact right location to find what we were looking for. And again, it was mere steps from his shop door. Now the fridge is back in top working order and there are cold pickles to be had once again.
Door Roller – As I go through these wins they seem so small and insignificant, but believe me, when it’s sometimes an entire’s days work finding, purchasing, and getting home something as basic as eggs, these are huge victories. So, though the locating of a tiny, little door roller may not invoke feelings of triumph in the average Joe, it sure does us. One of our sliding doors into the main cabin has never slid with ease, and when Stephen helped Gregory remove it from the tracks it became apparent why. The one set of rollers was seized and doing absolutely no rolling. Just grinding away. Although we didn’t find an exact match, Gregory did some modifying of one that was close and ta-da! fully functioning doors.
Laundry and Mending – There aren’t many modern conveniences of “home” that I miss – or don’t have for that matter – other than one. I may sound like a xx housewife, but the sight of a proper laundry machine brings real feelings of joy to my heart. Yes hand washing my clothes and linens via our three-bucket on board system held a certain air of fun and function the first couple of times, but that was the first couple times. Now the prospect of loading our dirty duds in one machine and getting them fresh and fluffy out of another is a real treat. So our trip to Free Way laundry was already a win without counting the complete overhauling of Greg’s shorts collection. We arrived and met the three lovely, hardworking ladies holding the place down. Two kept the laundry service going (for those who simply dropped their laundry off to be cleaned – not my style as I love the reward of doing it myself) and a third who was posted up behind a beautiful old Singer machine mending and altering all sorts of threads. Greg wasted no time enlisting her skills and soon had multiple pairs of his boardies taken in, hemmed up, and blown out butts sewn back together.
China Town – Modern medicine is a wonder to be revered, but there’s a reason ancient Chinese remedies have been around for so long. That being said, I can’t attest to their true Chinese origins or even if they’re legitimately old, but Oceanna’s crew could not subsist without Tiger Balm or TTYJ. We use Tiger Balm for everything from sore muscles to cold remedies and TTYJ is Greg’s universal fix-all for scrapes, cuts, and burns. Because of recent events (Greg’s general weakness getting unexplained sicknesses and his practised ability at cutting himself whether he’s surfing or simply shucking a coconut) we are running low on both magical antidotes, making a trip to China Town more than necessary. Our first stop proved beyond successful as the owner easily pulled both out from an unseen area behind the front desk. A score I certainly wasn’t expecting when we walked in. The shop was piled floor to ceiling with dust-covered plates, trinkets, you-name-it. I felt like if I searched long enough I was bound to pull something off the shelf revealing a forgotten jewel waiting to be discovered. With what we came for in hand though, I was rushed and settled on a beautiful red and gold pot to replant my oregano into.
Organization – Now that we’ve been on the boat for almost a year, one really learns what is important and requires prime real-estate in the cupboards. Not unlike setting up a new house and finding the exact right place for everything to go, except my area is sufficiently more limited and must account for things like a 12 month stock of peanut butter and 2-stroke oil. Therefore with my growing knowledge of boat space and stocking requirements I took on the home sections of department stores to outfit my floating home with space-saving, organizational wares. My everything-in-its-place self was in heaven and now when I open cupboards I’m dorkily filled with glee. I don’t have a labeller, but I’m pretty sure my friend Sarah would be proud.
First Aid Kit – We set up a pretty comprehensive first aid kit before we left North Carolina. Over the last year though we’ve used some things up and, more importantly, discovered some things we were missing. We filled in all those holes except for a suture kit. Assuming Greg is the one that gets the cut I’m not sure who would be capable of applying the stitches anyhow. We’ll just stick to TTYJ for the time being…
Batteries – With the reality of a month’s worth of night shifting coming our way, banked power to get our auto-pilot through the night is on the forefront of our minds. With our current systems we’re left a little short and having to run the generator. Absolutely not a problem, though if there’s an alternative way to get a little more juice without burning those costly fossil fuels we were willing to think it over. For the last month Greg was thinking seriously about purchasing and installing a wind generator. He eventually came back to his senses and kiboshed that idea. The initial investment, upwards of $3000, doesn’t come anywhere near balancing its power output. The new and decided upon solution is to add two more batteries to our current six in the house bank. During the sunny days we have nothing but free power streaming in through the solar panels and this way we’ve got that much more stored for the night and our VIP auto-pilot. After a frustrating experience of “yes we have them in stock, but we don’t know where they are” at Price Smart, we returned the next day to pick up our new batteries. Today Greg built a second level in our battery bank to house them and just like that we’ve upped our power capacity.