SV Accomplice Blog week 14 23/1/20 to 29/1/20
Thu 13 Feb 2020 13:56
Crew recovered from the 24 hour sickness bug, we set off for the San Blas Islands in company. A course set to sail offshore for a good while then head west across the bay to then close the shore again. This way avoiding a counter current within the bay.
The wind was there but not quite enough to allow us to arrive in the San Blas in day light which was our plan, in all a 48 hour passage. So it turned out a motor assisted sail in reasonably benign conditions.
With the aid of a good pilot book we approached out first anchorage in daylight as planned, and threaded our way between the shoals and reefs. Arrival destination, Holandes Cays, a large anchorage protected from the open sea by a reef and scattered tiny palm covered islands. A welcome contrast to built up Santa Marta. This was truely an idyllic setting.
We spent a couple of days here only, knowing we had to keep moving to ensure that we arrived at the Panama Canal for our transit preparation slot. You could spend a whole season meandering amongst these many islands strung out along the Panamanian coast. Simply beautiful.
Time was spent attending an impromptu Burns Night on a neighbouring aptly named BBQ island, whiskies were provided by the Scottish contingent. Janet enjoyed swimming across the anchorage to the islands and the rest of us just chilled, enjoying our surroundings in lovely sunlight.
The day for weighing anchor was by contrast a dark wet one. A weather front covering the whole region, we left the anchorage and set a course between the islands bound for Provinir, a small island at the westernmost end of the chain of islands where we needed to deal with the official part of clearing into the country of Panama. The small anchorage was busy
with many of the fleet boats doing exactly the same as us. Anchored, we dinghied across with ships papers and passports in hand. It was quite a surreal outpost really, tiny thin island with a small airstrip running its length, fringed by a handful of tumbledown buildings and shacks. One of the buildings housed the police, immigration and other officials, just casually dressed locals given the jobs I guess. Anyhow the process was handled very efficiently and off we went to explore, with passports and ships papers all stamped up.
We needed to keep moving so shortly after we weighed anchor as dusk was falling and motored sailed out into a dark, murky sea moving west, offshore along the Panamanian coast to the Canal. A short overnight passage with arrival planned in daylight. Our only obstacle being a large fish farm which we gave a large berth and motored along tracking shipping which had the same destination but were further out to sea in the designated shipping lanes. As dawn broke the coastline appeared in lovely sunshine and provided a lovely green hilly backdrop as we crept along heading with some trepidation into the canal approach zone, an area full of anchored or slow moving ships. As it turned out it was actually very straight forward and we only had to alter course a couple of times to dodge around ships. We called up the port authorities and we managed to slip through the breakwater and into the canal approaches during a momentary lull in ship movements, we put it down to their lunch break! We hugged the inside the breakwater, kept in the deeper water and entered Shelter Bay marina, our home for a few days as we prepare for the canal transit booked for the coming Saturday.
While on passage I developed a nasty rash on my chest and just thought it was a heat thing. It didn’t respond to any creams and once in the marina I showed it to a doctor, a lovely lady doctor sailing in the rally, and she instantly diagnosed shingles, well actually the Swedish equivalent! She advised that I get some medication in me and Janet and I duly set off for the local hospital for their diagnosis and drug prescription. The hospital was in Colon, a short taxi ride away and for $30 I got to see an A&E doctor who prescribed the medication, just hand written pieces of paper. These were handed over to a pharmacy together with $70, no NHS here. The outlook for the shingles was pain, just what I needed!
The marina is very pleasant, fringed by mangroves with bar, restaurant, pool, shop and basic chandlery, yes quite pleasant. It is however situated in the middle of nowhere on a military base bordered by jungle, it did therefore feel very secured. There is also a resident crocodile who patrols up and down between the pontoons! There were some good jungle walks apparently from the marina however I wasn’t well enough and had to be fore gone.
The preparations for the transit of the canal were priority now. The first job was to have Accomplice admeasured by a canal official. This basically entailed running a tape measure over the boat and answering a list of questions on the engine, tanks etc. then signing a form putting you in the hands of the canal authority. Certificate then issued and placed in the cockpit for all to see and use. Next job fumigation. Another official arrives with a serious fumigation gun and duly fills the boat with a noxious smoke. The boat needed to be sealed and vacated for a period. Not sure why all the boats needed fumigating though.....
The engine needed to be in good order as any breakdown would lose you your slot and could cost a kings ransom if assistance was required in the canal system. Sobering thought given the problems that I have had to date with Accomplice’s engine.
I had planned for Accomplice to be lifted out here and cleaned off to enable entry into the Galapagos. I cancelled at the last minute due to not feeling too good and decided that we could do it later ourselves by diving under when in a quiet anchorage.
Next provisioning, you always need to be thinking ahead planning how much food you need, where’s the best place, where to get diesel and gas etc. We decided to start the food provisioning here in Panama as the food is reasonably good and much cheaper.
Mike and Diane decided that they wanted to leave Accomplice here prematurely and arranged a flight home from Panama City. I guess living in a small space with others on a sailing boat 24/7 being sea sick, hot and bitten by insects is not everyone’s cup of tea.
I don’t really know how things will now pan out as the shingles is starting to make itself felt and I am down to one crew member, Janet (how unlucky is that!) and need to get through the canal on this coming Saturday.
Andrew, Mike, Diane and Janet
Shelter Bay Marina, Panama.