The San Blas Islands particularly the western isles near Porvenir, are a busy place for visiting yachtsmen. So it is not quite the unspoilt paradise, of the less visited eastern isles. But there’s white coral beaches, on tiny islands, palms and mangroves, traditional palm huts, less picturesque corrugated and recycled huts, dugout canoes and modern open boats. Kuna Indians are in the main friendly and dont take offence when you dont want to buy their wares, except for a lady selling molas, the traditional embroidery, who treated me to Kuna ‘disappointment’! In the Hollandes Cays there seemed just 2 huts made of plastic sheeting, imagine “king of your own island” idyllic for a day!
Wishing we could have spent more time in the San Blas archipelago we moved onto the sheltered anchorage of Portobello, the estuary of several rivers surrounded by wooden hills and from a distance the picturesque town of Portobello. this town was founded by the Spanish Conquestadors as a shipping point for all the gold from the South America’s. Some much so that henry Morgan and Francis Drake were attracted to this town. Their success encouraged the Spanish to fortify the town but in the end the shipments came via Cape Horn. Incidentally Francis was buried at sea just off the port.
Some remnants of the old port survive in the customs house and the castles. There is also a church famed for its statue of the black christ, which is very beautiful. We visited town on a Sunday and spent a little time listening to the service there. The congregation is bussed in, the church full and the singing uplifting. The church doors are wide open, the roof high on slender and unadorned posts, plain white walls focus attention on the altars, one of which is the black Christ, fabled as a miracle worker for whom pilgrims travel long distances, arriving on their knees. Birds flying around the church interior, no one seems to mind. There’s a market outside selling religious icons (which puts me in mind of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, who spoke of the same market stalls; somethings have been going on for ever), and traditional embroidery. Much of the castles are in ruins now, sea erosion undercutting some of the walls. The town is a hotch potch of buildings, some shanty within the old castle walls, viewed from above, a mass of corrugated iron. There are roads with a regular bus service but other infra structure, drainage, sewage, water supplies, pavements, rubbish disposal is very poor. Surprisingly then there are many new looking cars outside these places, and how they love their 4WD’s as well as the totally pranged heaps.
This is also a Panamanian playground they come here at the weekend, take off in boats and party in the nearby bays. Lovely houses are just across the bay. We spent some time at anchor watching the pelicans feed. In flight they are graceful but land with a belly flop and a huge splash. When fishing they fold their wings and dive in, it’s a very comical sight.
Moving on again we sailed to Colon, with strong winds we made a quick passage, sailing through the breakwater under canvas. For some reason I cant quite fathom, I was surprised to find Panama mountainous, shrouded in mist and quite mysterious. The land around Colon at the Caribbean side of the canal is low, and the narrowest part at about 50 miles wide which is all that connects the America’s and separates the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Colon has lived up to its reputation as a place you are in a hurry to leave. The advice is to not look like a tourist, dont take cameras, jewellery and bags to town, go every where in a taxi, dont go in after dark. Much of it looks like a war zone, and I am assured this is good by comparison with the worst. Some shops have door entry systems, all banks have armed security guards. So glad not to have to go there again!
The national park which borders the road to the marina is tropical jungle, huge leaves, butterflies of iridescent blues and greens, we have seen sloths, armadillos and agoutis but missed the Howler monkeys.
Just to let you know that the Canal has live webcams for transit through the locks. We are going through the Gatun locks today around 5-7pm local time, this would be 10-12pm UK time and again tomorrow at the Pacific end Miraflores Locks around 4-5pm (UK time 9-10pm). There are 3 locks at each end so it takes a while.
All our best, Lynne and Alan
The link is:
www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-java.html... at the Miraflores & Gatun Locks, as well as other points of interest in the Canal. ....Webcam Location; View in Pop-Up; View Non-Flash Version · Direct Link to thisWebCam · Last … @canaldepanamatv · @thepanamacanal