The worst single word you can hear at a cash register. It worse still when you have spent 4 hours provisioning and the cashier has rung up a month’s worth of groceries. When the store in question is over an hour taxi ride away from the marina it is like something out of a nightmare.
Umineko had gotten to Balboa marina the day before and it was lovely. It had a swimming pool, hot showers, fast internet, not to mention it was filled with WARC yachts resplendent in their flags. This was a new WARC so I didn’t know most of the yachts, but I had met a few of them in San Blas.
The large crew of Boingo Alive, delightful men (and 2 women) from a Swiss yacht whom I had met in San Blas, Panama were drinking at the bar. It is always fantastic to see familiar faces in new ports and this was no exception. We spent a late first night drinking, catching up, and getting to know one another.
The next morning we all went provisioning; their entire crew and me as Umineko’s representative. I couldn’t believe how far it was to Cologne from Balboa. What made it worse was that the taxi had to stop for nearly an hour waiting for ships the size of city to transit the Panama Canal locks and the bridge to go down. There was actually a roadside stand selling banana bread, sandwiches, and drinks for people who had to wait while the canal bridge was up!
We arrived at the dilapidated shopping center a little before 10, and made plans with the grocery store’s drivers to take us back at 14:00. After a quick neunies (a Swiss traditional snack between breakfast and lunch they had drunkenly told me about the day before) we got down to provisioning.
Provisioning is far from my favorite thing to do. Buying enough food for months (or at least one) at sea is overwhelming to say the least. Just imagine if you had to do all of your shopping for a month+ in one go and you can’t buy or get anything else. Well, possibly some fresh fish but that’s it.
Still, I was going through the aisles, crossing things off the list and getting things done. I filled up the first cart. By 13:30 the second cart was overflowing. Myself and half of the marina. The queues of WARC members provisioning, each one with several carts piled high with groceries, was comical. By the time I finally got to the register I was more than ready to be back at the marina.
It took 20 minutes for the plump Panamanian cashier to scan all of the items. When I handed her my debit card I was already helping the bag person arrange items in heavy boxes.
“Your card was not accepted,” she told me in Spanish handing it back.
“Try it again,” I said, the panic building.
The world went grey. I’d left my credit card on the boat for safe keeping. After all, we were in Cologne, reputedly dangerous. I looked through my wallet just to see if money had miraculously appeared. No luck: I didn’t have even close to enough money on me.
“Could you run it again?”
The woman obliged, but shook her head. Declined.
My eyes went big. We were well over an hour away from Balboa yacht club not to mention the fact we’d taken an expensive taxi to get here.
I did the only thing I could. Harry, one of my new friends on Boingo Alive, was in line several carts back.
“They declined my card!” I told him in a wail, my face ghost white.
“How much do you need?” The shaggy-haired Swiss artist asked, not missing a beat. He pulled out his wallet and counted out twenties.
I almost fainted with the strength of the wave of relief and gratitude that washed over me. When Harry met Sally? Yeah, he saved her life. Cruisers are amazing. The welcoming nature of the sailing community seems to draw the best people to it. Or maybe sailing simply brings out the best in people. I’m not sure if it is because sailors are more in tune with nature, realize their own mortality on the high seas, are just doing something they love, or any number of other reasons, bit sailors are some of the friendliest, most helpful people in the world. To other sailors at least.
Harry had known me for less than a week and without hesitating he lent me the money to pay for the groceries. No, he wasn’t a Swiss banker.
Earlier Harry had asked if we had any wasabi we could trade Boingo Alive (they weren’t sure for what but that’s how things work in sailing). Later that day I paid Harry back and brought over a tube of wasabi. Boingo Alive went through the canal the day before Umineko so sadly we didn’t have time for a dinner party but hopefully I will get a chance to cook for them in some port in the future.
Boingo Alive wanted the wasabi for all the fresh fish they were going to catch, but I love to use wasabi in all sorts of dishes. I was delighted when I found a vegetable truck in Portobello, Panama selling watercress and all sorts of delicious treasures. I’ve loved watercress sandwiches since childhood and wanted to put a Japanese spin on them.
Winch Watercress Wasabi Salmon Sandwiches
- 1 8 oz package cream cheese
- 1 c watercress leaves (and thinner stems), chopped
- 2 T wasabi paste
- 2 T lemon juice
- ½ t pepper
- 1 t salt
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 8 oz smoked salmon