Sailing to Panama – Day 1

We begin the day by clearing out of Mexico.  We start at 9am – ish (remember this is Mexico.)  Oh, the paperwork…    The first thing you have to do when arriving in a new country is “clear in” and the last thing you have to do is “clear out.” It’s not consistent from country to country, it’s not even consistent between port to port within a single country.  You just have to go with the flow.  Fortunately, we are staying at a marina that is helping us through the process and even driving us to the various points around the city we need to visit.

We start with paperwork at the marine office.  Then we, along with crew from 3 other boats, climb into the marina truck (some of us in the cab, others in the open bed in the back) and drive to the port authority to pay a fee and do paperwork.  Then we go to the airport to clear out with immigration.  We pay another fee and get our passports stamped.  Then, off to the port captain to get our “zarpe” (Mexican exit visa).  You guessed it – another fee.  And a long wait this time.  Even our marina guide is puzzled by how long it takes to print out the zarpes. Finally at about 1pm we are presented with a single piece of paper that looks nice enough to frame.  Our first zarpe. Back to the marine for final paperwork.  But we’re still not done.

Now it’s time for a boat inspection by the Mexican navy and the port captain (and yes, more paperwork).  We serve them sodas as they sit in the cockpit.  Dante takes pictures and they are charmed.  They don’t inspect the boat with drug dogs as we had expected. Finally, we are free to go!  It’s 3pm.

We shove off at 4pm ready (or not) for the passage to Panama.  We begin with enough wind to sail and Darold is ecstatic.  Though we carry 65 gallons of fuel in the tank and another 65 gallons in jerry cans on deck we don’t have enough fuel to motor the whole way.  We need wind as we are in the doldrums where winds are often light and unpredictable. Unfortunately the sail is short-lived.  After a couple of hours the wind dies and we have to fire up the “iron jib” (the 56 horses of the Yanmar diesel) and we motor through the night in light winds, taking turns on watch.  The first of at least 10 nights of on-and-off sleep. Whoopee!.

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