Panama Gets Better
To enhance our less-than-enthusiastic feeling about Panama, we discovered a small bit of water leaking out of our boat's exhaust line. The water was coming from a piece of hot pipe that should not have had water in it.
Something was rotten in there, but Bocas was not the place to find out what. At least the engine appeared to be running normally, and we figured exhaust pressure would keep any water out of the engine--as long as the engine was running.
We stocked up on diesel, and set off for the 120-mile overnight run to Colon, where the Panama Canal begins. This trip was with some trepidation. Cruisers know Colon as the town where all money should be stored in your sock, to avoid pickpockets, and it's the place where you don't venture anywhere, except by taxi. Some friends had their engine block stolen off the dock next to their boat at the Panama Canal Yacht Club.
However, we were pleasantly surprised to find the new Shelter Bay Marina welcoming, safe, and very comfortable with its air-conditioned lounge and disco showers (you have to experience them to believe them).
The marina contacted a mechanic for us, transplanted from the U.S. so language wasn't a barrier. Three weeks later we had a new exhaust, our wallets were a lot lighter, and we had explored lots of jungle trails complete with monkeys, wild dogs, and panthers.
We never saw the panthers, but one day Leslie called the marina to have someone find me so I could rush out to rescue the kids from the panthers. Ian and Heather were off to the beach with some friends, Leslie was on the bus in Colon, and I was supposed to be working on the boat. Leslie heard from someone on the bus that a big cat had been spotted on one of the trails, so she called the marina to alert me. I ran off through the jungle, carrying a big stick, only to find no kids at the beach--they had gone to a different beach. Miles of running later, I found the kids, didn't see any big cats, and I needed to drink lots of cold water. The joys of the jungle.