A cracking time.


23rd February 2023

Linton Bay, Central Panama, Panama – Portobello, Central Panama, Panama

Panamanians know how to party. As the volume is turned up, they have a cracking good time and really get their teeth into dancing all their cares away. On Ruffian we’ve also had a cracking time and got our teeth into something, unfortunately it’s been a lot less fun and a lot more painful than carnival.

Carnival was taking hold of Panama and with every office closed and every official on holiday the streets were full of people getting ready to party the nights away. In Portobello the focus had been taken away from the forts and churches and was firmly on the rows of speakers that were blasting out base that shook us to the core and felt like it could vibrate our teeth free.

The crowds were jumping as the tunes thudded through the town and all this dancing was hot and sweaty work. To help keep the energy levels high the carnival queen had armed herself with a water cannon, a tanker full of water and a deadly aim. If anyone started to flake, she took aim, fired the icy cold water and reinvigorated all those she hit.

Not being able to keep up with the rhythm we returned to Ruffian and listened to the tunes from afar while being both dry and civilised. As we snacked on nuts and supped wine we were about to have our very own cracking time. As Fiona bit down, one of the nuts was stronger than one of her teeth and she now had a mouth full of enamel, ancient amalgam and a razor-sharp stump.

After a flurry of out of hours messages, we secured ourselves an appointment with a dentist and in true Ruffian style we found ourselves bouncing our way into Colon. If the tooth wasn’t already in pieces, then the busses jaw shaking failed suspension and the music that drummed through us would have probably broken it anyway.

Once prone in the dentist’s chair with her jaw opened so wide it as like her head had been dislocated the expert delivered the bad news. A root canal was on the cards, along with a new crown, a heap of injections and worst of all, another day having to brave the busses.

Returning to the clinic Fiona was squeezed in between other disgruntled cruisers, hurting locals and children who were excited at the prospect of the tooth fairy. After what felt like hours, she emerged high as a kite, with no feeling in her face, but a new tooth that and relief that we’d be able to use the weather window that was mere days away.

To use this weather, with Fiona still reeling from her dental work we had the task of checking out of Panama in Colon. Colon isn’t famed for either its tourism, its safety or its picturesque old town and we were in the process of confirming its reputation.

We wandered through the port into anonymous offices where people loitered on every corner and watched us suspiciously. This suspicion quickly turned out to be curiosity as they helpfully passed us from office to office where forms were filed out in triplicated, noisily stamped and then passed to other anonymous offices. With the last stamp Ruffian was given permission leave, we now just had to deal with Ruffian’s crew.

Searching for immigration around the back streets of Colon, where wires were haphazardly strung from building to building and the alleyways echoed with the sound on dominoes, we once again happened on an anonymous office. Once again forms were filled in triplicate, passports noisily stamped and we were now cleared to leave.

Thinking that Colon had a hidden side to discover and so far we were feeling safe(ish) we decided to meander to the bus station via the far corners of the town and suddenly things started to feel less safe. Surrounded by crumbling buildings and huddles of men on street corners, Iain spotted a ‘dude’ running across the road.

Everything about this dude screamed danger. His jean shorts were slung low, his reflective sunglasses gave no entry to his soul and in his right hand glinted a long sheath of bare metal. Fearing the worst, Iain faced the danger head on. Then up went the ‘dudes’ right hand a smile grew across his face and he simply wanted a high 5. Without breaking stride a high 5 was exchanged, the ‘dude’ disappeared down a back street and Colon’s unwelcoming unsafe reputation had been ruined.

With Fiona’s teeth now fixed, Ruffian and crew legal to leave, and the weather now playing ball all is looking good for us to explore new lands. We’ve cut our teeth by sailing offshore and by heading to Cayman we’ll be able to take a decent bite out of the miles we need to make north.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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