Friday, February 21, 2014

Off to the Islands

Luggage reportedly at the airport, but we have left. We made it to Contadora today and will be out and about the Perlas islands for the next week or so. Beautiful sail out today, perfect winds ~20 knots, sailing at 8-9 knots (we are loaded for the South Pacific no less). Nice day at the beach and the awesome tree house at the park. Getting back into the travel mode after being stuck in the errand mode for so long. Caught a Bonita on the way out and had fish tacos for dinner. Lots of wind, so we are even running the fridge. Getting spoiled now! Now off to bed, thinking it's going to be a snorkeling kind of day tomorrow.

Nice beach day - Intrepid found an eel, maybe a small Moray eel? saw 2 eagle rays swimming by, lots of jelly fish floating by the boat, Vitality caught one and they put it in a pan, had watermelon on the back swim steps, lunch, and now it's quiet time. Getting back into the routine. Probably leaving Internet this afternoon. We were going to swim, but the jellies floating by were a bit of a deterrent.

Feb. 18, off to Chapera to snorkel with the white tipped sharks!! Nice winds, sails up, kids napping, see you in a week!

Made it to Boyarena - nice little island that is all sand on top and no trees. It gets washed over at high tides. Nice snorkeling today, kids played in a large tide pool that was like a kiddy pool with no waves, sandy bottom, and about 1 -2 feet deep. It was perfect for them. Then cool watermelon on the back swim steps with sandwiches for lunch. Good half to the day.

Immigration Fiasco - Stuck in Mexico City

Panama has this policy that if an airline flies someone in, they are responsible to confirm they have a way to leave the country. If not, they have to fly them out. We came in by boat; now the 15 year old has flown to LAX and is on the RETURN leg of a round trip ticket to return to the boat in Panama. We entered the country by boat and will leave by boat. She has the boat papers. She has a 6-month visa approved for French Polynesia. She has an airline ticket booked from Tahiti in July. We are NOT staying in Panama! They don't believe her. They need her to buy a ticket from Panama to LAX to prove that she's going to leave the country. What the _____? She's NOT going to be on that flight, so why do we need to pay them to book it?? It's a ransom. So she's stuck in Mexico City indefinitely. The ticket was even purchased, but over an hour before her flight left, she was bumped. So we paid the ransom, but too late. Insane!! Maybe going to get her on a midnight flight out of there!! I sure hope so!! Seriously?? Judy on Grace had the same ransom threats and had to buy a ticket. It's a round trip - Panama to LA to Panama. Can they do this??

My complaint letter -

I have a 15-year-old daughter who was flying your airline for a visit to the United States for one month. She flew OUT of Panama City to LA to visit her father, and then was to return to Panama to be with her mother and mother's family with whom she lives on a boat traveling the world. We arrived in Panama by boat and are leaving it by boat. We have received a ZARPE from every other country and we immigrate legally. We are legally in Panama currently and planning to go to the Galapagos, then French Polynesia in March. 

Her return flight was on February 13th at 12:01 am. She didn't realize the details and missed the flight thinking it was that night, not first thing that morning. We paid a change fee and she left LAX on Feb. 15th to return to Panama. She had a layover in Mexico City. She was allowed to fly from LAX to Mexico City. She was at the gate in Mexico City, but was denied entry to the plane because your gate agents couldn't prove that she was going to leave Panama. She had our boat documentation with her, which is all we've needed. We entered the country by boat and are leaving by boat. We are here legally on visas. She is on the RETURN leg of a round trip ticket. She was allowed to fly half way. We sent her an email showing our approval for our long stay visas for French Polynesia from the French Consulate. We would not buy these if we were not planning on going. She has an airline ticket from Tahiti in July for her visitation. She showed them this ticket was booked. We are clearly not lined up to stay in Panama. We were then forced to buy a return airline ticket Panama to LAX (I want a FULL refund of this!!) that we have no intention of using. We never did and the gate agents know this, so how is this PROOF that she is going to leave Panama. It's a RANSOM and everyone involved knows it's just a scam ticket. She HAS PROOF with her that we show intention of leaving. That is all the proof anyone has before actually departing. We need her and her passport back to get our ZARPE by the 28th of this month. So, we paid the ransom and she went to the flight that was just boarding and they told her she'd been bumped over an hour ago. What?? She was running around trying to prove to them that something is going to happen in the future. And she met all their demands. Now they wont' rebook her for another flight. She's 15 and stuck in Mexico City, with her father in LA and her mother in Panama City. This is NOT OK@@ She had $20; she does not travel with money. We have been on the phone with Copa (the airline carrier that refused to let her on her scheduled and paid for flight) and Aeromexico (who booked it). We are now trying to pay for yet ANOTHER airline ticket as required by aeromexico to get her home this last leg. Copa has "locked" the original ticket, so they are booking her a whole new one because they don't know why she was bumped. They can't take payment over the phone 1:45 min before the flight. She has no money. I gave her the credit info, but Copa only has gate agents, no one to take payment. My 15 year old is trapped in Mexico City due to your gate agents. 

All we get over the phone is run around and finger pointing. I can't do anything; Copa locked the ticket. I can't do anything; you have to pay Aeromexico a fee. Seriously, we paid for the ticket, provided everything necessary, your gate agents failed to interpret it correctly and a young girl is trapped at an airport in a foreign country. You have effectively taken her hostage and demanded a ransom. 

Finally it seems that we paid a $150 change ticket fee - again, and she is going to go. We sure HOPE no one in Cancun is going to bump her for the same ridiculous reasons as she was held up and charged all kinds of fees in Mexico City. I want a refund of my $150 change fee; we did not want or need to change that ticket. I want my Panama to LAX completely refunded - NOTHING taken out of that. And I believe you owe me for the stress and difficulty, not to mention hours and hours of phone time working to sort this out on her behalf.

Finally got the girl, no suitcases. They didn't know where they were so they sent out emails. What are those bar code trackers for if they can't locate them? Since they sent out emails and were pretty sure they weren't in Panama, we left. Probably go back in a couple of weeks when we return from the islands and try to get them again. . . Must say they royally screwed this one up.

Preparing for Ocean Crossing in March

In March, we are going to do the Pacific Puddle Jump crossing where we head across the Pacific Ocean to the South Pacific islands. It's a 20-30 day crossing, then we arrive at remote islands for 3 months or so. When we get to Tahiti, we can resupply, but everything is very expensive due to the fact that it's imported, so we don't want to have to plan on that. We can supplement what we have, but hope to not plan on needing to shop for 10 months until we are somewhere more mainstream.

We have a water desalinater for fresh water, and we collect rainwater. We have 4 propane tanks, use about one per month, will fill them just before we leave. Getting parts to adapt to the French system, can refill in Tahiti. And just bought a little two stroke motorcycle so we can get around the islands!! We will be OK.