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April 25, 2007 (13)

Before we left for the Galapagos, we decided to do some sightseeing. The taxi ride to Miraflores Lock took only 20 minutes. Most of the way, we observed buildings and housing built by the US whenever they managed the canal. During the drive, we passed through what had been Fort Amador on the Canal side of the road and the Canal Zone on the right. Panamanians have remodeled the old living quarters as beautiful condominiums in some cases and apartments in others. However, some buildings have been stripped and are falling apart. The visitor's center was quite lovely. We watched the locking of 2 Panamax container ships headed for the Pacific, watched a 10-minute movie about the canal's history, and visited the four-story museum. All this took 2 hours, and we left when the center closed at 5 PM. The day has been cloudy and a lot cooler. It did sprinkle a little. Maybe this weather will hold for the next few days.

Well, the Boys are going out to dinner. Deborah's stomach is not feeling so good, so she will stay on the Bella Donna and lay low. We get in the dinghy and go to shore. We walk by the Italian Family Restaurant; there are two tables occupied. The steak house is empty. The Japanese Restaurant is empty. We do not want to eat a Subway sandwich. We keep walking, and I know there are only bars ahead and a Bennigan's about a quarter of a mile down the road. We pass the bars, and the Bennigan's is our last choice. I do notice a lot of cars are going in that direction. We arrive at Bennigan's, and it is packed.

We put our name in and go to the bar. This is a happening place. We go straight to the outdoor bar and tables overlooking the Flamenco Marina. The prime spots are all full of local sport fishing boats. Tied to the end of a finger is a 92' monohull sailboat named Vivid. It turns out one of the crew is sitting at the bar next to us. The fishing here is fantastic. The bartender is a good-looking Latin girl who does not speak a word of English. We try and order drinks, but she is not getting what we want. Don's order went from Manhattan to Jack on the rocks, and he still had to explain what ice was. I ordered Scotch and soda, a simple request, but I received a frown. Don helps the bartender identify the Scotch by counting uno, dos, tres, and cuatro. The J&B was the fourth bottle from the left. We do just fine.

A big cheer erupts from a large group of people nearby. There are flat-panel television screens everywhere. They are all tuned to ESPN2 and showing American baseball; Atlanta is playing Florida. It sounds like a Latin cheer you would hear when the favorite soccer team scores a goal, but there are too many cheers too close together to be a goal. 

The baseball game is not that exciting. What is it? Later in the evening, we find out that it was just one or more birthday celebrations, which is common in this bar in Panama.

We walked a little less than a mile from where we left the dinghy to the restaurant at 7 p.m. It was now 10:30, and I was falling asleep at the table. The ramp down to the dinghy dock has been steep for most of the day but is much flatter now. We do not understand the tides here; the tide can be as much as 13 feet on the Pacific side. However, on the Caribbean side, the tide was just 1 foot; they are about the same latitude. At the entrance to the Panama Canal, the Pacific Ocean can rise as much as 20 feet, but 45 miles away, the difference between high tide and low in the Atlantic is just three feet. I guess the gravitational forces are different on the Atlantic versus the Pacific.

Back on Bella Donna, we are wide awake after the long hike. Once I reach my cabin, I am asleep within 10 minutes. I am now one day behind on my journal. So this happened yesterday, and you will get what happened today tomorrow.

God Bless Bella Donna.

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