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Jan Reed

Jan in the bustling Colon market
Jan in the bustling Colon market

March 20 - March 26, 2003

After arriving in Colon, Panama and dealing with the terrible anchorage called The Flats (it was deep, stinky, foul, and not great holding) we started investigating the Great Canal Transit Situation.  As we had remembered from our transit in Oriental Lady in 1988, we needed 5 crew on board: one at the helm, two on the bow, and two on the stern to handle lines.  Being one person short, we figured we'd swap off with other yachties.

Then we recalled that one of our great cruising buddies from the 1980's, Jan Reed, had said she'd LOVE to go through the Canal with us.  A few emails later and she had tickets in hand.  She arrived on March 20, having taken the public $2 bus from Panama City to Colon.  Having a fellow cruiser on board was a treat because she was a great help with all the provisioning and transit preparations.

Jan on Ocelot's bow, approaching the first lock
Jan on Ocelot's bow, approaching the first lock

We transited the Canal on March 22, making it through in one day, much to our disappointment.  We had been looking forward to the beautiful, surreal night in the Gatun Lake anchored right by the channel where the immense car carriers and freighters transited all through the night.

As it turned out, we didn't make use of all the crew we had on board because we were able to side-tie to a tug for each of the locks.  Once we entered a lock and the tug was secured, we motored slowly up to it and tied off our lines to the side of the tug away from the wall.  It gave us lots of free time to take pictures, chat, and make snacks to pass out to the tug boat crews (who really appreciated them).  We even got a tour of the tug while going up the third lock into Lake Gatun.

Tying to the tug in the Canal lock
Tying to the tug in the Canal lock

With the war in Iraq starting the Canal was on high alert and the anchorage we had planned to use on the Balboa/Panama City side was evacuated to make space for US Navy vessels.  We spent two nights anchored on the south side of the break water near the new Flamenco Marina.  The next day Jon, Jan, Amanda, and Sue took a bus to Summit Gardens which doubles as a botanical garden and zoo.  Sue had been there in 1967 on her way south to Chile as an exchange student, and her one overwhelming memory was of all the vultures sitting on the cages of the zoo animals!  Luckily it's better kept now, and though many of the enclosures were still small, there were no vultures in sight.  That afternoon, we nearly swamped the dinghy while ferrying back to Ocelot loaded with groceries from the wholesale store in Panama City.  The next day we moved the boat around to the Canal side of the breakwater and picked up a mooring at the Panama Canal Yacht Club.  This gave us easy access to buses, taxis, a swimming pool, a TGI-Fridays restaurant, and a lovely Canal-side promenade.

Jan sets up "shop" in the cockpit.
Jan sets up "shop" in Ocelot's cockpit
The Ocelot sweat shop. Wages were abysmal.
The Ocelot sweat shop. Wages were abysmal.

Jan is a sewing genius (and has a home business doing yacht fabric jobs) so when I mentioned that Amanda and I has a few projects in mind for Ocelot she jumped right in.  In one day she and Amanda had made covers for water jugs, the cat box, the stern lazarettes, and lee cloths for the salon shelves.  We also managed to shop in the fabric district of Panama City that day as well.  Whew!  Good thing we drank all those iced coffees to give us enough energy to keep up with Jan!

Jon and Jan in the Panama City park nursery.
Jon and Jan in the Panama City park nursery
Amanda and Jan in the Botanical Garden
Amanda and Jan in the Botanical Garden

On Jan's last morning she and Jon and Sue headed for the huge metropolitan park in Panama City for a good walk and some great birding.  Just wish we'd had a birds of Panama book to figure out what we were seeing!  All in all, we had a fabulous, busy, fun week with Jan!

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