Monday, May 14, 2007


by Bob

Melinda and I are in Panama!

It was really cool coming into the canal area. Dozens of ships were anchored out for a few miles. A few of them were playing follow
the leader into the canal. There is a controller, kind of like air traffic control, who tells people where to go and what to do. He
was telling ships when to start their engines, raise the anchor, turn, and when to go into the harbor. The controller is called
Cristobal Signal, and he lives on channel 12.

We managed to get into the harbor through the hole in the breakwater with no trouble. We anchored around 8:00 am in "the flats"
where small boats (i.e., anything smaller than a ship) wait to head into the Panama Canal. Then I called the Shelter Bay Marina to
see if they had any dock space. They did!

So we headed over there. Cristobal Signal told me to cross underneath the stern of a bulk carrier who happened to be tooling down
the channel, and cross the channel real fast. I wasn't to sure about getting underneath a big ship, so I crossed close behind it.
And I crossed the channel fast. Luckily, Cristobal Signal told the ship to shut down his engines before I crossed behind. There was
still quite a lot of turbulence.

Shelter Bay is across the bay from Colon. Colon is a fairly rough town complete with muggings, murders, and even some violence. They
recommend that you always take a taxi rather than walk, because tourists are ripe targets for muggers.

Shelter Bay is out in the country, where Fort Sherman used to be. Fort Sherman was a U.S. army base built in 1912. It was turned
over to Panama in 1999 along with the rest of the Panama Canal. It occupied 23,000 acres.

Melinda and I went walking this evening down an old road. We saw monkeys, a huge line of leaf-cutter ants, a coatimundi, some
strange birds, and a couple of old artillery batteries. We heard some really strange noises in the jungle, probably the abominable

Tomorrow we plan to go hiking when there's enough light for photos. The problem is, neither of us knows enough to know what to be
afraid of. There is supposed to be a big jaguar living out there, among other things.

The marina here is really nice. It's only a year or two old, with floating docks, a restaurant, laundry, wireless internet, etc. We
went to the Panama Yacht Club on the Colon side this afternoon. It's a little small and a little old, but it's closer to town. I
prefer not being close to town.

Even though there are security guards there, and even though the boats were obviously occupied, a couple of boats and their
inhabitants were recently robbed at the Panama Yacht Club. By comparison, I haven't even locked our boat or dinghy since we got

I have an autoresponder on my email in because I'm not checking my email regularly. I was emailed a newsletter that I occasionally
get. My robotic message autoresponded. The newsletter autoresponded back to me. I autoresponded back to it. This kept up for over
11,000 iterations.

When I started checking my email yesterday, I caught on right away that 11,000 emails is more than I'm likely to read anytime soon.
But it would take a long time to go in and delete those a page at a time using the webmail interface. So I decided to just let them
all download using Outlook 98, and that would delete them off the server. It worked! At least it looked like it worked.

This morning, I checked my email. It started downloading the same 11,000 messages. The server didn't like them all, and they got
stuck before they could be deleted. Must have filled up those infamous internet pipes. I ended up downloading over a thousand more
of these today before James fixed it.

My new computer has a setting for wireless adapter power level. I keep it turned up to max power.

They don't have fuel pumps here, but they'll bring in diesel either in jugs or a tank to pump into your boat. I was in the office
this afternoon checking on our diesel order and there were people complaining about the wireless internet being really slow. How

When we got to the marina, I plugged in the shore power. It didn't work. I messed around with everything to see what the problem
was. There was no problem readily apparent, except that the shore power didn't power the boat.

An AC connection has three wires, one neutral and two hot in opposite phase. Opposite phase means that when the left one is
positive, the right one is negative. The alternates 120 times per second (60 cycles per second). It's 50 cycles per second in Europe
and most 220v countries. If you connect a voltmeter from neutral to either hot wire, you get 120 volts. If you connect it across
both hot wires, you get 240 volts. If you do this while the voltmeter is on the ohms setting, the voltmeter smokes.

I checked the voltage coming into our boat. Our boat only uses one of the hot wires, since we normally use only 120 volts. It was
getting less than 60 volts.

I went to the dock and measured it there. It was 240v across the two hot wires. I figured there must be something flaky in the power
cord. I disconnected, cut off, and re-assembled the shore side connector. No change. Then I did the boat side. No change.

Then I had an epiphany. The neutral wasn't connected on the shore power, so it wouldn't work at 120v. I moved to another outlet and
everything started working. At least we have nice clean connections on our shore power cable now. And the air conditioner has been

This morning a guy from the Panama Canal Authority came by to measure our boat. They do this because they charge by boat size. Our
registered size is 52 feet, but we have a joisting pole that sticks out the front of the boat. So our boat measured 56 feet.
Tomorrow we should find out when we're scheduled to cross over to the Pacific.

1 comment:

tricia said...

Leaf-cutter ants!

We want pics!!!

~ Tricia