Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Checking in to Bocas Del Toro
The passage from Providencia to Bocas del Toro, Panama, was the best sail we've had yet. We made our fastest time yet - 140 miles in 24 hours, averaging six to seven knots - and experienced the joys of a beam reach for about 200 miles. It was truly gorgeous. Perfect weather, great wind, tranquilo seas. You just can't get better than that.
But no passage can be perfect. As we got closer to Panama, the winds started dying down and eventually about 50 miles out of Bocas we had to turn on the motor because the wind indicator was slowly spinning in circles, a sure sign that the wind is no more. And we were stalked by these giant, slow thunderstorms that looked on the radar like massive black amoebas trying to swallow us whole.
We wound up having to wait outside the entrance to Bocas from about 4:00 a.m. until 6:00 a.m. when the sun came up, dodging storms and wondering what all that stuff was ahead of us - was it a boat? land? a channel marker? Definitely not that last one. The channel markers were nonexistent coming in to Bocas, which made us extra glad we waited for some light.
As for checking into Panama at this spot, it was extremely easy. Once again, you need to have five or six copies of everything, but they come out to your boat. We anchored in the southeast anchorage right in front of the Port Captain's office, and they just loaded up customs, immigration, the agriculture guy and the port authorities and motored out to Bettie. It took less than 30 minutes and that included having to explain that we have an undocumented hedgehog aboard.
But much like a passage, no check in can be perfect. We had heard that checking in to Bocas was more expensive than checking in to other parts of Panama, and indeed the $304 sticker price was, we thought, ridiculous. Evidently, they charge you an extra $100 for the ease of having everyone come out to your boat. Of course, you don't get to choose whether you would like this luxury, but so it goes.