Fri 23/12-2022 Day 789

Pos: 08.9134,-78.5288
Loc: Panana City
Acc: Hilleberg Allak tent
Dist: 40,9 km
Start: 6:10 End: 16:55

The last paddling day for this section! Hermit crabs were crawling into that trash bag I had to take down from the tree as it was noisily flattering in the wind. I am not sure what was finally the worse noise. But I had earplugs to keep most detractions from a healthy sleep away from me. I am early on the water, as always. I am not sure which path I like to take with the usual north-westerly headwind forecast. But after railing one minor island, I land briefly on its sandy, low-tide beach to have breakfast and to communicate with my pick-up people. There is no way but the direct crossing to Punta Bruja. I have no patience anymore to rail the coast and like to arrive as early as possible. I will survive the wind, and the chop will not be too bad.
I have the pleasure of being found by a school of maybe twenty dolphins escorting me for twenty minutes. They are beautiful large animals. I wonder how one lost a large chunk of the dorsal fin. Anytime he comes up again, I recognize the animal. Large ships are moored to my right and left side, waiting for their passage through the canal. A small island contains a fuel terminal. Not sure how often those ocean giants are refueled, but at some point, they need to.
Having crossed the bay successfully, I land on my last tiny Panamanian sandy beach for a final soak and calls. Noisy music wafts over from Playa Veracruz, and I am happy to be out of its reach here again. My nerves cannot take loud music after being in the wild for so long. I have an impressive view of the next bay at Playa Bonita at two fancy holiday resorts that look like Disneyland. Two monster-high-rise hotel buildings tower over the beach.
The coast stays natural, although I already have a great view of the skyline of Panama City. Three lonely fishermen throw their lines at Punta Guinea and wave happily at me. There are no small boats here on this canal side, and I learned later that no boats are allowed here. So my path for approaching the unallowed canal crossing was the best choice.
I asked my pick-up crew to get me from the same bridge where I was landing in March 2013, and they agreed. However, they fancied the Marina La Playite de Armador for more accessible take-out. Honestly, I cannot remember much of my arrival on that Balboa Marina Bridge in 2013, as I paddled almost seventy kilometers over from the Pearl islands and arrived in darkness. But somehow, I must have made it, and it was possible, so it still might be possible now. In any case, I like to close the dots there, even if I take into account making my way to the other marina later.
I have a detailed chart on my GPS for this area and aim for a channel marker that goes almost perpendicular to the marina bridgehead. Two monster ships pass the canal half an hour before I am due. One of them is an as-ugly-as-it-can-be rectangular box with a bow bridge, aptly named ‘Swallow Ace,’ as there are no containers on deck. The other is a traditional loaded high container ship with a stern bridge. When I am due to cross the two-hundred-twenty meters wide shipping lane in quite some strong wind, the path is free of giant ships. But there is a Canadian sailboat hanging out in front of the bridge. It seems to be waiting for the fast-approaching canal pilot boat I see only when I am already fifty meters into the shipping strait. I change course and aim for its stern, where I feel I am hiding best from the Canal pilot boat’s view and possible questions about what I am doing here. I am just disappearing behind the sailboat’s stern when the Canal pilot boat comes alongside the sailboat to let the pilot on deck. One cannot pass the canal without a pilot on board.
I do my best to thread through the many anchoring smaller ships here, but I see why it might be tricky to land a kayak at this marina bridge. Two working horse ships load carts full of supplies, and there is simply no space for me to get out. I hold on to a small low floating dock on the eastern side but cannot access the high bridge from here. Maybe that has been different in 2013. I call my people, and we agree I will paddle downwind to the other marina where Alberto is waiting for me. No problem, I connected my South American dot line here and will take it easy now!
I get blown along the causeway while calling my partner in Denmark and my son in Germany. When I have to pass the Mine dock where the fast Canal pilot bats resupply, I have to deal with one fast-approaching ship from the south. They planned to powerslide right into their parking lot. as I have seen with two other boats before. Two more left the dock at high speed. The working horses have no time to lose. I remember passing this dangerous dock in 2013 in darkness and got twice into close encounters with canal pilot boats despite having position lights. But who expects a kayak down there at night?
I finally turn safely into my marina and glide along the rows of expensive ships parking here to likely be used only once a month or less. I find Alberto waving at me from the dinghy dock, but he directs me to the launching ramp for easy disembarkment. Two raccoons take their chance when a small fish swarm is stranded on some rocks on the falling tide. They look like giant rats to me, and I know they would find any food in easy access around my tent. Alberto loads my gear and kayak on his truck and finds a shower space in the marina. While I am busy changing, he discovers two sloths hanging high up, one on the tree top and one in the middle of a long cable. They are amazing guys looking a bit like monkeys, but I am not sure what motivates the cable gymnast to hang out just there, out of reach of any leaves for feeding. A high truck passes and almost wipes the animal off the cable.
Alberto drives my baby to Hennies ‘Paddle Panama’ kayak shop, where we securely leave my trustworthy companion to clean it tomorrow. On the way, we stopped at a Chinese fast food restaurant which impressed me with a robot servant driving to the tables with the loaded trays while playing ‘Jingle Bells.’ I would need such an assistant for my Janny’s Eis cafés! As Hennie is away for three days, Alberto and Diego need to dump me at a small city hotel, where I happily crash in peace and privacy. Two and a half continents under my belt!