07/06/2010 - Panama a la vista

The engine was running as I came up to deck for breakfast this morning, (an hour after I woke up as I was still on the previous day’s time) and a land mass was already visible in the distance off the port bow, Panama was already in view,.. unless the engine gives up the ghost within the next few hours, then I have definitely lost the ‘time of arrival’ bet

This morning was uneventful, bog standard ship work, but as we approached Panama everyone was commenting on two things; the lushness of the green hills visible on the coast and the quantity of tankers manoeuvring disturbingly close around us.

People were exclaiming how they were going to climb and explore them.

Before long we discovered why there was so much greenery as we could see rainfall in the distance.  The captain was right, it was almost rainy season and we were going to get rain!  It wasn’t until we were all ordered up on deck at about 16.15 that the rain really hit, HARD.. we’ve had storms before, but nothing quite as persistent as this rainfall, it was physically painful to look forward into the oncoming rain and as nothing could happen while it was raining so hard we were all stood around on deck getting soaked for a good half to three quarters of an hour! 

We discovered that after 2 months hard ship work and 45 mins of rain that we could model for “Zombie hands weekly”.  Since we have no moisture left on our hands and the calluses we have formed soften and come away in the wet our hands look like we have aged 50 years in a few minutes!  Fred and Dave were neck and neck, but Fred pulled ahead as the back of his hands really looked like he was 120 years old!

As luck would have it the rain dissipated as we entered Colón, an incredibly industrial port with tens of tankers milling about the entrance to the canal like bargain hunters waiting for the sales to open.  The rain stopped completely as we dropped anchor and the captain came onto deck to explain the situation.  It looks like we are going to be here ‘till Wednesday, but we would be moving into the canal at 3am.  Tomorrow would be a very busy day as nothing can extend past the hull of the ship as we pass through the canal which means that the port anchor has to be brought onboard, the 2 boats must be brought onboard and the yards have to be cockbilled (hoisted up and angled), I honestly have no idea how we are going to get the boats from their davids onboard,.. going to be an interesting and exhausting day!  All the new crew are arriving today, which means we will have more crew than bunks for a couple of days before Crista (our doctor) and Nicksa (who is leaving us to join the Denmark – another tall ship) depart, which is going to be interesting, Katie has to move back into her leaky bunk, a couple of people have agreed to sleep in hammocks and a couple have agreed to sleep on the salon tables!  It is going to be an interesting few days!  We don’t have customs clearance yet to go ashore so as it stands we are stranded on the ship,.. no big issue, but it is a little frustrating to be so close to shore yet not be able to go ashore!

It is strange having new faces aboard and I cannot imagine how the new trainees feel being thrust into a society already built and constructed around a month of preparation for the voyage and a month at sea, bonding through new shared experiences, pushing ourselves to the limits, enduring new environments, new scenarios and in everyone’s case, new relationships with unknowns, be it people places or situations!

As the evening progressed, the distinction between trainee, AB and mate became more distinct, it’s not easy to define the social norms that are created in an environment like this, but the first mate and the captain seem to be very separate from the rest, then there is the group of ab’s who’s experiences, both together and on other ships give them a bond that is difficult to break and finally there are our trainees, whose bond is formed as we grow into experienced seamen.  I hope the barriers will be broken down as the voyage matures and we get to know our mates and Abs on a more level footing.  We have heard much about their adventures and personalities through rumours, but they always present us with their respectable and responsible façade,.. we shall see!

The trainees hung out either on the hatch or the well deck, whilst the ab’s played extreme dominos in the fo’c’sle head and the captain and first mate stayed in the mess.

Bed beckoned early and after a cigar and a few shots of rum I was in bed by 10.30!

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