Blog 10. Shelter Bay. 09.22.08N 79.57.02W

David Batten
Sun 31 Jan 2016 17:43
We left Portobella with regret on Wednesday 27 and motor sailed the  20 miles to the entrance to the Canal, with the Skipper’s wife very stressed by the Skipper reading his book as we approached a fleet of anchored ships of varying sizes, one of which was directly on the course being followed by “No Hands Hans”.  Further stress as we cross in front of a moving vessel which is not heading for the entrance to the canal as predicted by the Skipper, but to the channel for the harbour at Colon where we were waiting for him.  Had we not waited, it would have been less stressful!  Then there is a vessel coming out of the Canal, which we go behind and then we race across in front of the next vessel coming out.  It is hard to judge where to pass some of these ships as they either speed up or slow down unpredictably and “Christobal” ignored all our attempts to call them up on Channel 12.   However, we reached the entrance to the Canal safely and then proceeded down the channel, which is not a channel at all but just the edge of one of the anchorage areas, with a reef coming out off the wall and then another one just to the left of the entrance to Shelter Bay.  There is a definite disadvantage to our draft when driving around in shallow places and we went aground on the edge of the marina while going to our berth in a channel made much narrower by a large catamaran on the end of the pontoon.  Skipper’s wife now completely beside herself and not being at all nice to Jake who directed us to our berth, apologies Jake!
Once in, Shelter Bay is a lovely place, in a deserted American army camp on the edge of the San Lorenzo nature reserve.  Fabulous bird watching, monkeys, sloths, a great restaurant, swimming pool and showers.  A great place to prepare for the Canal transit and far too much to do to have time for anything but essential boat tasks, like cleaning, applying a little more Siko to the keel box, a supermarket shop, (could write a book on that) and a lot of laundry.  The boat has been draped in washing for days!  We have also fitted in a visit to the Gatun Lock Visitor Centre, fascinating and very impressive to see the Canal working and a visit to the Embera Indian Village, a great day’s outing and our advice is take lots of money and talk to some of the villagers if you get the chance and can manage some Spanish or find one of the ones that speak some English.  Jane and the Ship’s Boy went to Colon market instead of the Indian village with the local taxi driver, who has proved a great guide, protector and friend during our visit and who we hope will take us to the market at Panama and do a tour of the City.  Jane’s fluent Spanish has been a godsend and we have really benefited from our private interpreter.
Now it is 31 January and the day for our transit through the Gatun Locks into the Gatun Lake.  We have fenders and warps, huge ones, on board ready for the transit, we have been fumigated and we have made contact with Mearra Nieida, our raft mate for the transit and the last wash is being put away.  We have lost the third boat, Meermowe, who should have been part of our raft, as she is having problems with her engine and is waiting for a part to be delivered, so her transit has been delayed.  We are planning to leave the marina at about 14.30 to go to the flats to anchor to wait for our Advisor to board and take us through the first locks into the Gatun Lake.  Time for lunch.