Our days in Panama are coming to an end. We enjoyed a lot our time in the San Blas, the islands are really a tropical paradise. To make things even better, we saved some money for the boat upgrades we wanted to do before the Pacific Crossing. Now it’s time to head to Puerto Lindo for the final preventive boat maintenance before we head west.
By the way, we were super lucky again with the timing. Two weeks before we left San Blas to come to Puerto Lindo there was a big change for the boats living on these islands. The Kuna Congress decided to really enforced the rule which forbids sailboats from receiving guests. Fortunate for us, we were about to leave the islands.
Luckily with the help from some of our local Kuna partners we still managed to receive our last two groups of friends. They had booked their vacation before the new enforcement and were unable to cancel last minute. I have to tell you, it was a BIG operation to get them onboard. It felt like smuggling tourists!
After our last guests left, we took a few days off to properly say goodbye to San Blas. And than we headed to Puerto Lindo to prepare the boat for the Pacific Crossing.
We spent one month in the boatyard working on the boat. At the end we got everything done one the boat. But I have to say… we have mixed feelings about working on the boat in Panama.
On one hand, sourcing for spare parts in Panama is quite good. It’s possible to find a lot of things in Colon or Panama City. It is also possible to buy parts in the US and then ship them to Panama at a somehow reasonable cost.
Unfortunately on the other hand, getting stuff done in Puerto Lindo is a nightmare. I guess that anyone who has refurbished a house with contractors knows what we are talking about. From our previous experience in other countries, our impression is that workers in Panama are way bellow industry standards. We knew the risk of hiring contractors. And we tried to do everything ourselves, but it is impossible as it takes too long. So we do part of the work and outsource the rest to the “experts”.
We always hire services on a work executed basis and not on a daily basis fee. Yet they all say it is going to be easy and that it is going to take no more than 2 days. Then they start the work and never finish them. We then spend a lot of time chasing the contractors around and finding no answer on the phone or WhatsApp. After a week they come back with a super lame excuse and with the work partially done. You then explain everything that still needs work, to a couple days later start calling and chasing them again. And so on. Repeat. The aftermath is that you spend a lot of time calling, whatsapping, chasing people around and revising the work and micromanaging the “experts”.
Funny thing is that when workers from Venezuela come looking for work, the Panamanians complain that they are “stealing” their jobs. I have a hard time trying to understand this argument. I believe in the free market and in a world with no borders. Everyone should be free to come and go and work wherever and whenever they want. This world would have a lot less inefficiencies, I am sure.
Maybe we should had done like our good friends from Good Run did. Do not outsource anything and do it everything ourselves. Or maybe we are getting too old for that. I don’t know.
We only hired four contractors, which we all knew and really liked as individuals. However as professionals… I have to tell you, they were all a nightmare to manage:
- Sanding the hull: It took four times more than agreed and a lot of micromanaging. We had to change the contractors three times;
- Replacing all covers of our boat cushions: Sweet girl, but it took her around eight times more than agreed. And at the end of the day it was still worse than before. Super unreliable with the dates. She fooled us more that six times, and was definitely the leader on the lame excuses leader board. Yet she was so sweet we kept trusting her. A lot of micromanaging and patience was needed here;
- Painting, fiber glass and gel coat work: Super super nice guy. The only one who would show up everyday as agreed. However when it comes to work, he was a complete mess. I have to be fair, I was amused by his mess, Sarah was the one wanting to strangle him. He reminded us of our cool carpenter from Cartagena. At the end of the day he told us he had really bad eye sight. We should have guessed that.
- Mechanical work: Another super nice guy and actually very competent. He does know his stuff. The problem was that we hired him and he outsourced most of the work to his son. Indeed some of the work we hired were well executed, however some were not solved. But the worst part here was that they messed up a lot of things that were ok trying to fix what needed fixing. In the end we had to bring in new additional spare parts to fix what they broke in the process and this involved spending more money and delaying our departure.
The only trully happy chap in this history was Feijao. This genius doesn’t stress out with anything. A true guru for me.
At the end of the day, I guess only Feijao is right. This is all part of normal boat life and we can’t bitch to much about it.
Well, sorry, this was the bitter and regretful part of me. Now these days are behind us!
Our last couple of days were great. We even had goodbye barbecue with some of the best friends you can find around the world. There is more story around this table than you can even imagine. Amazing people!
It is time to leave Puerto Lindo, cross the canal and enjoy the Pacific islands!