Writing Blog

The Adventure Begins...though it was almost delayed

My husband, my dog, and myself are starting what we expect will be a multi-year adventure living on a sailboat in the Caribbean. Last year we test drove the idea, taking the boat we owned down through the US and across the ocean to the Eastern islands to see how we liked it. After all, things don’t always live up to expectations.

We ended up selling the old boat, selling the house in Toronto, and bought this beautiful catamaran, so I think you could say the test was a success.

Sunday, September 1, Charlie and I had tickets to fly down to Panama to join my husband Ritchard who was already on the boat. Ritchard had left a couple weeks earlier to get things started. Charlie and I were joining him in Panama, because Panama is supposedly a little easier for flying in with a dog.

I had some niggling worries (or call them major concerns) before we left. I didn’t sleep well the night before, worried that the airline wouldn’t have room for the third bag I had to bring. Two bags came with the ticket - I had to pay for the third one, but the airline could decline to take it if the flight was too full. Then what was I going to do? Each bag was the size of a hockey equipment bag, so that was a lot that would be left behind.

Then there was Charlie. I’d jumped through hoops to get all his paperwork set up, but I worried I might be missing something. Also, I’d read a lot, and the reading wasn’t always consistent. There was a chance he might have to wait in the airport till Monday to be seen by a vet. Since I was flying in to Panama City, an hour away from where the boat was in Colon, and was being picked up by a driver - what would I do about Charlie if I couldn’t bring him with me?

Turns out I was worried about the wrong thing.

My son dropped us off at the airport, and helped me load up two carts. One had three hockey sized bags, weighing more than 150 pounds altogether. The other cart had the dog crate and dog, my carry on and bag for the plane.

That was the first problem. A nice safety feature of the carts is that when you don’t squeeze the handle, the cart stops. That way it can’t roll away from you.

However, trying to operate those two bulky and heavy carts while keeping a hand squeezed on the handle was…challenging. It took a while, both in time and distance, to get myself and my accouterments to the right line to drop off bags - you can’t check in online with a dog.

The airline clerk wouldn’t check me in. I needed proof that I was leaving Panama, or Panama wouldn’t let me in, she said.

Once I got to Panama, it turned out they didn’t much care of this end, but I couldn’t check in without buying a return ticket per policy on this end. Ritchard swears he could have talked the agent into it, but my frazzled tired self could not. So I stepped aside to try to buy a ticket online on my phone.

Of course, being frazzled and feeling like the clock was ticking, I was slow, and when I finally was paying with my credit card, the credit card insisted on sending a verification code. Which did not arrive. Not the first time, not the second time, not the third time, and then I was out of tries.

Okay, I had to buy a ticket at the ticket counter then. That was at the far end of pillar 2. I was at the far end of pillar 5, with my two unwieldy carts. But nothing for it, it was all I could do.

Pulling the heaving one backwards behind me worked for a bit, but it had a tendency to swing wide at random intervals, endangering other travelers and coming to a halt. I ended up mostly pushing one cart six feet, then the other, over and over, till I found the ticket counter.

Where there were twenty people lined up ahead of me.

I’d come two and half hours early, as suggested when flying with a pet. It was not early enough for this. Time was racing by, and I still didn’t know if my third bag would be accepted. I was convinced I was not going to make this flight. I tried to buy an online ticket again, using another credit card, but it was a US one and wanted to ask more questions about citizenship, so I gave up.

I was out of options.

Then came my break. The lineup of 20 people was for the baggage drop off in front of the ticket counter. Once I got around them (one cart then the other, over and over) I was the next in line.

A lovely agent reassured me this was going to work. She sold me a ticket, telling me it was non-refundable, but if I cancelled within 24 hours I’d get the money back. She didn’t weigh my bags, just accepted them, and put a fragile sticker on them all so that I could drop them the same place as the dog. And she said we were good for time.

How was the dog in all this, you ask? He was fine. He’d been given some anti-anxiety stuff, and he just sat in the crate, mostly dozing, sniffing my fingers when I stuck them in the slots to reassure him. Or when I let him reassure me.

Now, I just had to take the two carts back over to the pillar 5 aisle. A passing stranger, seeing me struggling, offered to help. When he heard where I was going, he offered to take one cart half way - then ended up taking it the whole way. Considering how the time played out, it was a real stress saver.

Wanting to pay forward this kindness, I helped a woman wrestle her TV into the special baggage drop off, and then dropped mine. The agent told me someone was coming for Charlie, but that I might want to head to the gate: it was a 20 minute walk away.

The next delay was security, but yay Nexus! I got to take the short line and saved time there.

I had enough time to grab some water at a store, and then my flight started boarding. I thought I’d lost my phone, and had to race back from the plane, but I found it. I hoped all was going well for Charlie down below, but I was on the flight, all the luggage was as well, and I could relax. For five hours, at least.

There was some stuff to do with Charlie once we landed in Panama, but he was released with me. The driver met me, we loaded up his vehicle, and an hour later, Charlie was shocked to discover Ritchard in this strange place. Shocked, and thrilled.

I was pleased as well.

I didn’t have to take another flight, the start of the adventure wasn’t delayed, and I’m here now, learning about life on our new boat, and experiencing Panama in September. I’m not in Canada anymore.

Kim FindlayComment