Friday, December 5, 2008

Mega Yachts and Tensions Rising

Sitting, drinking "Cola Light" at the swankiest Marina in Panama ( and maybe all of Central America), Marina Flaminco! . The richest of the jet-setting Latin Americans, celebrities and wealthy cruisers on their way to and from the Caribbean are all docked in each one more incredible than the other, multi million dollar luxury yachts. We are parked next to the Princess Mariana one of the most famous yachts in the world that circumnavigates the globe with a full time crew of 25, it's own helipad for the owners who fly on and off the Princess as the whim strikes , and is so opulent she is almost blinding. I am determined to get invited on for a tour and am strategizing my move as they have strict orders to not let Looky Lou's ( like me) on board.

So I am here at the air conditioned Market Place Cafe quite contentedly writing this while Captains Mark and Captain Joel are off fixing radios, filling up on 2k worth of diesel fuel and checking provisions before we take off, most likely tomorrow, for our first bay to anchor in after a 200 mile run somewhere between here and Costa Rica.

The Panama Canal took 2 days to get through as we had to moor at Lake Gatun overnight because of weather and other middle of the night scheduling issues that came up.

Now picture this...we had to get through two days of weird silent and sometimes not-so-silent brooding tension between the owners of the boat- this extremely odd and multi loaded mid-western couple Tammy and Fred and their two attention starved kids who clung on to me for two days and calling me Princess Patrice (which I actually quite liked), Captains Bob and Captain John ( who after traveling 3500 miles with the "the family" are spent and taking no prisoners) Fred's best friend this completely milk toast Oklahomian named Jim, and now Captains Joel and Mark, me and the Panama Canal Adviser that travels with us to get through all the locks okay. Even though this is a nice big yacht , 12 people that are not getting along is 12 too many as we wind our way through the Canal.

At first I wasn't fully aware of just how bad tensions were when Tammy, Fred, the kids and I went on a walk, looking for Howler Monkeys in the jungle near Shelter Bay before we began the transit.

I found plenty of monkeys, as Fred and Tammy filled my ears with how awful the passage with the two soon to be leaving, (as we the west coast crew takes over) Captain Bob and John have been. Apparently not pleased at all ( and who can blame them really) that the family was going along the whole way, Bob and John have been getting increasingly intolerant of the kids, and this created Tammy pulling rank and treating them like hired help and all sorts of dramas have unfolded and continue as we all pull away from the dock a few hours later in the middle of the night in the middle of the Canal with freighters and cruise ships and tankers surrounding us in this kind of eerie parade of lights through the locks and deeper into the canal.

Captains Bob and John also feel the need to tell us their version of the trials and tribulations of their journey with "the owners and brats from Hell" whenever Tammy and company are out of earshot. And how a complete mutiny was only narrowly avoided.

When it is obvious that all twelve of us will now be spending the night on board together, the tension is so thick that even the sharpest of knives could not begin to cut it .

Meanwhile.... I am getting so sick of Captain Joel who is turning out to be a lecherous creepy dude giving me weird little looks and comments like ," oh that sundress looks so nice on you- you really are a California girl aren't ya" and staring at me comlpletely inappropriately-- ICK! He is also really hard of hearing and refuses to wear his hearing aids so I have to repeat everything 8 times. And is one of those people who LOVES to hear himself talk, and talk and talk...He is driving me mad already and we have only just begun.

Captain Mark, meanwhile is just plain annoying and oblivious most of the time to everything that is going on with the various camps on the boat. As always, I am acutely aware of the the whole cast of characters and the odd dance that is playing out before me.

I awaken after no sleep due to Captain Marks incessant, unnerving snoring all night, and we sit idling in the lake for the next 2 and a half hours till it is our turn to head through the last three locks that will bring us from the Atlantic into the Pacific.

And the hours pass like molasses as I switch back and forth from coloring picture book after picture book to keep the kids happy and not screaming bloody murder to wandering throughout the boat wondering why the fuck no one tells you ever that ...

The Panama Canal is the most boring overrated wonder of the world I have ever experienced.

After you have seen tons of big ships and mile after mile of jungle so friggen what....not to mention smelling all the exhaust from the diesel fuel at each lock and the ensuing "fire drill" of way too many men "chiefs" all screaming at each other and scrambling for ropes, and fenders.

Finally some real excitement happened in the form of fast storm that literally came after nowhere suddenly engulfing us, complete with cracks of lightening and thunder that could rival the most over the top B horror film. It was a National Geographic moments as we are entering the locks and the boat is being tossed like a piece of candy and crashes into the sides, the kids are screaming and clutching me because mom Tammy is to busy freaking out as her Nikon camera went flying. Fred the owner gets shocked by the electric charge from the lightening but lives to tell about it- everyone is drenched, and slipping and falling and it is wild and I am loving every sheer moment of it because now finally something interesting is happening.

Then, as quickly as it began, it is over, we grill our prawns for lunch pass through the last locks uneventfully and arrive with Captain Mark who has now taken over the helm, at Marina Flamenco.

I am ready for the white sand beaches, fruity drinks and snorkeling that I had been promised when I set out on this journey. Captain Mark promises me that they are coming. So far nothing has turned out to be the tropical vacation I had pictured.

I have now been in Panama for a week and have yet to put my toes in the ocean, which is way over due.

I miss my Coco ( sausage dog) but little else and so I feel no immediate urge to cut out early. Now that the the old crew and family are gone, we have this gorgeous million dollar floating toy to play with , and play , I plan too. Needles to say, I am eager to untie the ropes and GO!

I'm off to find my husband Mark ( screw the captain crap- it's getting old) and try to expedite things.

No doubt more coming soon...


Just Love!


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