Shelter Bay Marina, Colon

Sun 9 Dec 2007 21:48
Position 9:22.10N 79:57.00W
After an overnight rather rolly anchorage in Portobello, Fleck had a wonderful downwind sail to Colon Harbour two days ago. I had ebooked into Shelter Bay Marina, (indeed very sheltered, within the Harbour breakwater) and just as well as the place is heaving with boats, one or two Europeans, but mostly American, and many of them, like me, returning home for Christmas. 
Portobello is another town that played a major role in the pillage of South American gold and wealth back to Europe after Columbus' voyages. Indeed so important was it that the Spanish built three fortresses for defence against Privateer Pirates, and the English, in the person of, yet again, Francis Drake. An Island just off the Harbour is Called Drakes Island, they probably don't know that there is another Drakes Island in Plymouth, UK. One named after a vicious pirate and fellon, the other after a National Hero!
Not much gold in Portobello these days. A laid back Afro Caribbean feel, even down to the old boat boy protection racket (Mind your dinghy for you on the dock, Captain?), that was rife on the Antilles Islands. I declined, but did a double quick tour of the town, just in case!
This marina is built on the site of and old American Military Base, Jungle all around, interresting walking. It's miles to anywhere, but a free bus to a safe part of Colon, where there are big supermarkets with USA stuff, but reasonable prices. The trip crosses the canal, over the locks: they are an impressive site, but in principle just like those on the English canals. If you google panama canal you quickly find the live webcam of Gatun Locks: the first flight up from the atlantic side of the canal. Downtown Colon is said to be very dangerous, and I'm not thinking of testing this out!!
I am making preparations for the Canal transit, so that there will be no long delays when I return, as Late February / March is the busiest month for yachts passing into the Pacific. A man: the 'Admeasurer' came this morning with a tape measure to check the overall length to the nearest millimetre: the cost is related to length, but as the minimum size is 50 feet, he didn't really need to be that accurate!! I have hired an agent to do all the work for me, a good thing with my poco poco Spanish. He handles the paperwork and the Port Officials and will acquire extra ropes and fenders and four Panamanians who will handle the lines and live on the boat (where??!) during the transit. Accidents are rare, but always expensive: so it will be an interresting experience in three months time
I've been having my first hot showers for 12 weeks, and trying to get rid of the accumulated dead burned skin. There are also washing machines for my sheets: well overdue in this heat and humidity. Therefore hope to pass as human again when I step off the plane at Heathrow next Wednesday.
That's it for now, Happy Christmas to anyone still reading this stuff.
PS Blog restarts around 20th feb!