local Panamanian line handlers lounge with their iPhones on the foredeck

A view from the helm. Local Panamanian line handlers play with their iPhones, killing time and trading barbs, on approach to the Miraflores locks. Four thick ropes, a bunch of inflatable fenders (rubber boat bumpers) and the aforementioned Panamanian rent-a-muscle, are provided by a canal agent - for a fee, but of course. Then again, one can try to do all the paperwork and gather all the materials and muscle (or completely inept cruiser friends) themselves, and spend weeks (if not months) doing it. When it comes to the Panama Canal, there is no truer statement than, "Time is money." It is also happens to be safety.

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