Panama, Thurs May 13th   

Having only managed to stagger back to the boat for about 2am, I was woken from my mattress on the bow of the deck, by the Singapore Crew who were moored alongside us and were making preparations to slip lines and leave for their journey through the canal. There was a bit of a hoo-hah as 2 of the Singapore crew were nowhere to be seen. One had just disappeared for a few days without leaving any contact info and the other one had been last seen out in the early hours, drinking with the Edinburgh crew! The boat now had to leave – it's passage through was booked - and the crew, if and when they showed up, would have to hitch a lift with the boats leaving tomorrow – of which Hull & Humber was one. It was already hot – even at that time of the morning so I struggled into my shorts and immediately got embroiled in moving the boat to a different place in the marina. Once up I thought I'd make an early start to our one day off in Panama, but Heather from the Race office scuppered that somewhat by asking if I'd hang round to do an interview with BBC Radio Humberside on the phone. I agreed and was soon chatting with my old friend Peter Levy about my experiences over the last 8 months and about what it was going to be like to return to the real world!
I was soon in a cab on my way in to the city to meet up with Mike & Jezza at their hotel, to do a bit of sightseeing. On arrival I bumped into Tom and Brett and Tom P, so was smuggled into the hotel restaurant to have a breakfast of bacon, pancakes, butter and syrup – the American style breakfast I'd been meaning to have in San Fran but had never got around to. In fact it was SO good, I went back up to the self-service counter and had exactly the same breakfast all over again! I decided that friends who booked into posh hotels where they don't check your room number for breakfast, are friends indeed!!! These guys were definitely worth hanging out with!

Panama is not necessarily the most attractive city I've ever seen. There are lots of skyscraper tower blocks, mid-build, all in a vast range of styles. Some of them 'a la Georgian mansion' – which seemed a slightly weird style for a tower block. The city sits right on the edge of the water, which was its most attractive feature. The old town – where we went for a wander, is very run down in parts. Lots of semi-demolished buildings which you could see at one time would have been quite glorious buildings. We went past the Presidential Residence here, complete with many armed guards on the street. The whole area was crying out for a load of savvy property developers to come in and turn the place into a leafy, urban, paradise of small cafe bars and ultra chic living. In places you could see signs of that happening and I'll bet, that in 5 years time it'll be the trendy place to live.

We stopped for a couple of beers in the central square; obviously the gathering place of the locals and watched a small team of youths as they appeared to be polishing up the huge brass statue that stood in state, holding court in the square. We mused that that while on the face of it this appeared to be extreme care and attention of their local heritage, the chances were that these youngsters were out nicking cars the week before and were now paying for it by doing community service!
An early dinner and a sensible early night was on the cards as we were booked to pick our Canal pilot up at 6am the following morning. This meant slipping lines at 5am and a crew call for 4.30am. The intentions were there but after Tom snuck us into the Club lounge at the Marriott for some freebie aperitifs and hors d'oeuvres, the evening went down hill rapidly and ended in a slightly drunken, fully clothed dip in the pool at around 2am and not too much sleep!