Location: Underway to Galapagos
Today was the 39th day of our trip (kind of crazy to think there are only six days left, and then we will have spent half of our time here on Vela). After going through the Canal and anchoring outside of Panama City for a few days, we finally got to have shore time to explore after getting out of bunks ready to bring aboard new provisions. Everyone left at about 10:30 in the morning to get into a dingy and go while the staff and I stayed on Vela. The staff was checking on the boat while I made sure to finish my Oceanography literature review (I’ve never read so much about the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill) before I could relax for the day. After a couple of hours (around 1-1:30), Matt and Allie were going to take fuel onto the dock, and I was finished with my assignments, so I got my shoes, packed my bag, triple-checked my wallet, and hopped into Angkarn with them. After getting onto the dock, they advised me to not go farther than the boardwalk alone, a plan because I would probably get robbed, so I decided not to take any risks and tried my luck at the boardwalk. I explored small shops, where I found a cheap travel mug with a cute design that read “Panama” on the side. I lost my water bottle in Bonaire and needed a replacement (sorry, anyone at home!). After that, I noticed a nice restaurant nearby and took a seat. I think I weirded out the staff by ordering so much as a single person (I assure anyone that doesn’t know me, an appetizer of calamari and a burger with fries seems to be a completely normal thing for me to order whenever I enter a foreign country), after that and trying to get into contact with anyone who’s Instagram I had I decided to take a risk and got an Uber to Independence Square, in the center of Old Town. I think my Uber could tell I was out of my element as he dropped me right outside of a local church, one dedicated to Saint Paul. I entered the church and tried to buy a rosary but realized it was pretty dumb to think a small Panamanian church took debit. So I left, dejected. Then I remembered I had my phone, so I quickly ran around Independence Square for an ATM and fumbled around the machine for maybe 15 minutes before running all the way back to buy that 15-dollar rosary (it was worth it for the lady at the counter’s laugh when I came in with the money). After leaving feeling proud of myself for the ingenious idea of using physical dollars, I ran into Ted, Morana, and Carla. After learning that they were going to a mall to grab food, I quickly asked if I could take an extra seat in their Uber, and just like that, I finished navigating around the threat of robbery in Panama City. After getting there, we ran into Owen, Saskia, and Magdalena! So we all went around this grocery store, picking out what we wanted for the passage ahead. I was convinced to get skittles and Oreos, but mainly, I picked pit three weeks’ worth of teas (again, I also got three boxes in Bonaire) and instant fruit juice packets (to anyone reading this, Passionfruit is a newfound addiction on this ship and is almost like gold). After awkward stares and long checkout lines, we realized it was time to head back to Vela, as we were also promised a sign-out night! Magdi, Saskia, and I took a taxi home and realized we had to walk to the restaurant we were actually supposed to be at, so we arrived about 20 minutes late. Besides that, the sign-out night was great! I was still stuffed from the juice I had gotten and the heavy burger I probably shouldn’t have ordered, so I just ordered juices and split a bottle of white wine with Nella and Lexi. Our end of the table finished quite fast, and, as such, we were one of the first people to be ready to pay, so we were also the first group to head back to Vela. We ran into a pelican that was in dire need of being shooed out of the road, which Drew did to the entertainment of a sizable crowd of locals. After arriving at the dock, we were also asked to begin loading in provisioning bags, which were filled with cans, every single variant of tomatoes imaginable, and so much more. One bag was so filled with cans I was given a wheelbarrow to carry it by the local taxi driver that brought it to the dock. Once we were on board, we began putting things away, which was long and sweaty, and everyone was tired by the time they arrived. It probably went much quicker than it felt like it did, but as skipper, I felt like I had to give words of encouragement. So I did at certain points, like when we had to give announcements or shifts in the packing plan, I’m sure everyone enjoyed them and found them vital to getting the day done. All in all, it was a fun day! I was pretty happy to be skipper for the last day in Panama. The fact we spent so much time ashore basically meant all I had to do was wake everyone up, and I did not do it with loud music but just taps on shoulders, which, again, I am sure everyone enjoyed. Want to give apologies to my family for getting this out a bit late, hope everyone from my little sister Lola to my aunts and uncles is doing great because (as far as I can tell) everyone on Vela is doing fine, and we have almost halfway done, so we’ll see anyone reading this soon!