Mon-Wed, Aug 11-13th - Chores and Exploring Casco Viejo

On Monday morning, still feeling some of the effects from Saturday night, we got up and decided to do an unpleasant, but necessary task that we had been putting off. Since we had left Mexico and entered the more tropical Central American waters, we had been having a growing problem with cockroaches on the boat. At first we might see only one every few weeks, but by now the infestation had grown to where we were seeing several every day, around the kitchen, at the nav station, the situation reaching a head when we started seeing them in the master cabin.

So Monday morning we un-stowed everything in the galley, master cabin, and nav station, piling it all up in the salon and covering it with a tarp. We uncovered all of the floor boards and opened all the cabinets and drawers. Then we set off several bug-bombs in the cabin and galley and went to shore, bringing our computers, so that we could check our email and the weather at Bennigan's while waiting for the poison to do its work.

After the poison dust had settled, we spent the rest of the day putting the boat back together. There were dozens of dead cockroaches to be found, and it took quite a while to vacuum and clean all of the cabinets and compartments and re-stow everything. I also replaced the port cabin macerator when I tried to empty the heads and it jammed later that afternoon.

On Tuesday morning, at 9:00 am, I had made an appointment to have a diver come out and clean the bottom of the boat. Here in the tropical waters, the gunk grows quite quickly and we had not cleaned it since we had done it ourselves over a month previously at Isla Secas. I took the dinghy into shore, picked up the diver and his equipment, and came back to the boat. While he cleaned the bottom, since it was a sunny day, I decided to apply the canvas waterproofing I had purchased earlier, so I emptied 3 bottles of the stuff, spraying it carefully in coats on the bimini and dodger.

The diver turned out to be quite inexperienced and he wanted me to dive and see his work. When I did, I noticed he had not done a very good job. I went under the boat, while he watched, and ran a putty knife over an area, cutting dozens of dime-sized barnacles away with a single stroke. I dove with him down to the propeller and showed him that it was not clean either. I then came back on deck and attempted to explain to him, in broken Spanglish, that he would have to do a much better job if he expected me to pay him. So he kept working on the bottom thru the morning. In the meantime, I went down in the galley and unpacked the freezer and installed a new thermostat. The old one had been giving us some problems and I had a spare on board.

Finally, at about 12:30 pm, the diver felt satisfied with the work he had done. I dove the boat, and could still see significant growth here and there, but was tired of trying to help him out and teach him how to clean bottoms, so I just said it was ok, and helped him pack up his stuff and took him to shore.

After that we decided that we'd had enough boat chores and decided to go back into Casco Viejo during the day and do the "tourist" thing. So we did.

It was actually quite a pleasant afternoon as we walked along the quay. We shopped at the small tables set up by the Kuna Indian ladies and walked around to the monument dedicated to the architects and governors of Panama City and stopped at an art museum located in the former "Bovedas", which were the old prison dungeons in the fort that stood here in the 1700's.

From there we walked all over Casco Viejo, sampling the architecture and stopping in a few of the fine art galleries & shops located there. The place almost reminds us of French Quarter New Orleans or La Jolla. Quite upscale in places. We saw the President's Palace (in use) where armed guards kept us from getting too close. We walked to the edge of the "bad" part of town and down to the fishing docks. One could tell where the bad part of town started because the guards with M16's were thick- and then they disappeared! We didn't feel great about wandering those particular streets, so, in short order, we made our way back into the "nice" part of town, and ended up spending the rest of the afternoon, almost 3 hours, in the Panama Canal Museum.

It was fascinating to learn more about the Canal. Most people don't realize that the idea of a canal went back as far as the 1500's, and that, for instance, crossing the Isthmus by donkey and train was one of the most important routes that brought prospectors to California for the Gold Rush. The museum had artifacts from the building of the Panama Railway, which was instrumental to the later building of the canal. Another interesting fact is that the country of Panama itself, would not exist, were it not for the U.S.A. taking over the Panama Canal project from France at the turn of the century. The U.S. wanted assurances before they would invest in the country and so they actively helped Panama declare its independence from Columbia so that the U.S. could get the terms it wanted before committing to the huge project.

We weren't allowed to take photos in the museum, but it was still fascinating, especially since we will be going through the Canal ourselves in the near future!