A week at La Playita (Panama City)

Ah Ma sits safely in her berth with enough water under the keel to weather the 5 meter tides. At Playita we prepare for the long journey to the Galapagos and onward. The boat needs to be filled with dozens of tins of food and staples. Our skipper for hire and his first mate helpfully drew up a list of canned food and essentials for our shopping.

Playita is a comfortable small Marina mostly filled with fishing boats. The waters are rather dirty. At night the racoons scour the Marina on the hunt for anything edible.

The location on Naos Island on the Amador causeway is convenient. On quiet traffic hours, it’s just 20 minutes from down town Panama City by Uber. But do try to avoid rush hours, as the it can take more than an hour to get onto the causeway. The Amador is a safe and bustling causeway with a few restaurants and bars. Mi Ranchito is located right next to the Marina, according to the locals, this is the best place on the Amador causeway.

The Marina also has a comfortable (and cheap) hotel, The Beach House. We opted to stay there for the week to give ourselves and the crew some space.

The Beach House hotel


We send most of Monday shopping at the Albrook mall. This is an enormous mall with everything you need and even more you do not need. Except for those things we are looking for. In the mean time our skipper and first mate prepare things around the boat for the long passages ahead.


Via a friend in Macao we are connected to one of his relatives who lives in Panama City, Mei. She is so friendly to take a day out of her schedule to drive us around town. After a wonderful Dim Sum breakfast, we visit a Chinese grocery store to stock up on noodles and sauces. Later we visit the PriceSmart to stock up on bulk items. With a car full of supplies we have only half of the items from the list of our skipper, and a whole lot of stuff that wasn’t on the list.

Mei also helped us source a new outboard engine for the dinghy through her contacts at the free zone. The Honda four stroke starts, but it turned out that all the time sitting still in Curacao damaged the delicate 4 stroke. The temperature sensor housing is badly corroded and who knows what else is wrong. We will have this engine fixed and serviced later and will probably sell it off. The new outboard is a 25 horse Yamaha two stroke, not so ‘green’ but lighter and more robust.


Linda spends a day coocking up meals that we vacuum pack and freeze, so we have a supply of delicious curry chicken and bolognese sauce.

Coocking up some meals

In the morning the engineer from Protesca comes to the boat. He takes the AIS to reprogram it with the new numbers we got in Curacao. In the afternoon he comes back to hook up the new Raymarine Axiom Pro plotter that we bought at Curacao. And of course the plotter doesn’t talk to the new sonar transducer. Some “great” advice from Budget Marine Curacao on getting the “right” parts. We now have to place another plotter down below with the correct transducer interface to hook up to the sonar. But we are in luck, Robert from Protesca has a unit in stock. It has an unnoticeable scratch on the display. This makes for a great discount.


In the morning, Eric the engineer from Protesca returns with another 12″ Axiom for the chart table. While I reroute the transducer cable from one side of the boat to the other, which requires disassembling half of the boat. The kitchen island had to come out again, and the floor plates above the aft tanks. Quite a struggle, but I managed. Around 1pm Linda and our first mate returned from another supermarket run. With the help of the marina personnel, they rolled over 220 litres/kilos of water down the ramp and another couple of dozen of cans.

Late in the afternoon, the new outboard was delivered. We tucked her away in the dinghy for now, we’ll hook it up when we get to the Galapagos.

Outboard being rolled down the ramp

For dinner, Linda, myself and our first mate went to a Chinese restaurant owned by a friend of Mei. Here we picked up some take-out to freeze for the crossing.

Tomorrow we will make a quick run to the deli at Flamenco Marina. Our new crew, Dr Ignasi should arrive in the morning. Check out is scheduled for 10am, then we finally set sail for the Galapagos.

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