Traveling and staying for awhile is what really exposes you to a place and its culture.

5 Lessons That Panama Has Taught Us

The Canal is King: The Panama Canal and associated everything with the canal is king in the cruising/boating/shipping world of Panama. The staff at the Canal speak multiple languages, run things on time and professionally and make sure you get where you need to go safely and on time.  I was very impressed with the entire process.  Of course, our process was made much easier by the use of a professional agent (Erik Galvez and his crew) to smooth things along for us.

Expats in Panama: Panama is full of folks from other countries living and working here permanently.   Shelter Bay Marina is the most international we’ve ever found…full of boats, languages, customs and folks from countries all over the world.  We love the multinational nature of the marina and the experience of hearing multiple languages all at once.

-We did find permanent expats who were looking for the easy way.  When there was work that required more time or effort than they wanted to expend for the price negotiated, they were not interested.  

-The expat team at Wikus Marine did want work and finished the install of Tulum’s engine.  I’m eternally grateful for the hard work and time they put in to the fix.  Thanks guys. 

Travel Fees: In Panama, most marine contractors and technicians have to drive (long distance) to whatever marina has work for them.  This travel isn’t normally free (it’s either written into the bill or charged separate) and is charged in addition to the bill for services provided.  Make sure to ask if you have to pay lodging and food if the mechanic or technician has to stay overnight or work multiple days.  If you do not get quality work or the technician disappears (to get parts ect)…make sure you discuss with the marina prior to paying any fees.

The Panamanian People: Panamanians are diverse and friendly. I’ve LOVED getting to know them and getting out into areas outside the cities to see folks just doing normal life.  I’m bummed we have not been able to get to Bocas del Toro or the San Blas Islands….but we make lemonade with what life throws us.

Work Schedules, Shipping Dates, Deadlines and Finish Dates: Unless you are going through the Canal or getting on an airplane….schedules are not always followed here.  Seriously.  Not many of the deadlines, work schedules or shipping dates we’ve been given over the last 7 months have been met.  Since we live on the boat with family, giant breed dog and kitty, we ask for and would love to have a work schedule or finish date we could reliably use with family in mind.  Most frustrating is that usually the only way we received information about schedule changes or missed deadlines is by us reaching out, multiple times.

The original draft for this post was written in Panama but refined and edited back in the US.  

As a family, we’ve moved on from our half-year in Panama and our beloved sailboat…into a bus turned motorhome known as a skoolie and lovingly named the Big Green Machine.  In the photo above, we’re parked inside a vineyard beside a field of winegrapes in Arizona.  We found the site on Harvest Hosts and we were very grateful to Birds and Barrels Vineyard for allowing us to spend the nite.  And the wine was RAD.  Still have some of it in the bus.  We spent 10 days slowly traveling across the US in the bus as we made our way from Florida to California.  The bus performed flawlessly and we’re really happy to have it.   

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