Gap C rossed
Despite showing up in person to cross the gap without prior arrangements we successfully crossed the gap in less than 5 days. As we got closer to Panama City stories of large sailboats with $900 dollar (bike and rider) price tags became more and more available. People would tell us, " this is the only way" or "you will not find anything cheaper:". I do not know about the experience, compared to our ride it sounded very arranged. If you do not want to haggle with the operators of multiple small boats, large boats, and be without your bike for a night, the for-mentioned advice might be true for you.
There is a hostal named Mamallena in Panama city and a man works there who keeps track of the boats (for riders and backpackers). He also would tell us we had very few options and that they would cost near 1000 dollars and were booked for at least a week. He is a good source, if you are going to use one of his contacts make sure to phone ahead so you do not find yourself wandering around Panama City losing days of your adventure. Upon receiving this information we decided to head to Portobelo.
We had heard that Portobelo has less tourist traffic and this was, for us promising as far as the price issue was concerned. We got to the city and within a few hours made contact with two fellows transporting some bicyclist and backpackers to Colombia. We heard of many other options once in Portobelo and went to check on them the next day, It became apparent that it was not "high season" and many of these other options (some cheaper) would not be available for some time. Knowing we were on a tight schedule and this 38' metal hull sailboat was leaving the next day,,, we acted fast and negotiated a price. After a few minutes of bartering the price of $950 for both bikes and ourselves was agreed upon.
Now the fun began. Make sure to grab plenty of cash on your way into Portobelo. You see, there is a cash machine in town. Due to a thwarted theft attempt the machine has not run for months and no one seems to care to fix it, We would have to make two hour long round trip runs for cash due to withdrawal limits. We then would hire the Launcha to take the bikes to the boat out in the harbor. We have not perfected our dealing with these shifty fellows. You will have to come to an agreement on price before the start (they would love if you didn't as it would give them more room to wiggle later). The price would be 25$ TO 50$, this was the best we could negotiate with them before the work started. We would load the bikes (we did a lot of the work and this was ok) by essentially handing them down to a large row boat where one of us would sit on the bike while the operator took us to the sailboat. In the end this round of Launcha would cost 40$. It seemed a lot for the short work we made of it but, it was also seemed to be the only launcha available at the time.
More to come later, many miles to make today.