Potobelo and onwards

Norman Carter
Wed 3 Mar 2010 19:59
From the various descriptions this area seems well worth a visit and the anchorage was safe and quiet but the town was another storey.
The area is steeped with history and the town is home to the church of San Felippe de Portobello famous for the wooden statue of the black Christ.
It's history is not physically well preserved and neither is the town, I found it dirty, smelly and a bit intimidating so next day off to Shelter Bay, Panama!
 It's an exiting experience, going through the Atlantic entrance of the bay for the Panama Canal and the marina was able to just about squeeze us in at anchor for three days before finding us room on a pontoon where we had access to water and electricity.
One of the other yachts on the pontoon had dropped his Gerber Knife overboard and asked me to look for it - I tried free diving but it was over 8 metres and vis was poor.I was thinking of using my bottle but the harbour master suggested it might be unwise as there were crocs in the water and only the day before they had a local pig!
The skipper was quite disappointed.
Going through the canal is a brilliant experience and we did it twice, the first time was as line handlers as all yachts that passage through have to have a skipper, four line handlers and a pilot on board.
The transit up the locks takes about three hours and then you overnight on Gatun Lake so a good excuse for eating and drinking! Up early the next morning and motor the next 25 miles to the down side and the Pacific
Here we anchored at Playita for about a week where we worked on the boat and provisioned her for many weeks.
For the first two days I managed a swim from Norsa until I noticed a regular massive sick of raw sewage being discharged in the bay-------thank goodness I had my hep BE before we left.
During our time at Playita I managed to fit a small katadyn water maker but because of the state of the water I was very reluctant to try it out! Management of batteries and energy consumption of energy is quite a problem on smaller boats and I'll write about our various problems and solutions later.
Enough! -of s----- Playita and time to leave. The Las Perlas Isles are only about 35 miles away and we are the second boat to leave, close behind Briet, a 34ft Najad. We are the two smallest boats in the fleet, and off to ContadoresAt this lovely inhabited island we had a chance to clean the Panama dirt from the hull and decks.
The island is little more than a mile long and less wide and it made a very pleasant walk
Here at anchor we watch the pelicans flying in formation, like the Red Arrows, skimming the surface of the sea, then climbing high and dive bombing for their food
Threre are a couple of basic shops --but they do sell alcohol and a couple of restaurants. We had some delightful meals at Geralds, near the tiny airport.
Sara and I bought a 2 bottle dive but it was disappointing as the viz was really poor, still good practice.
It really blew up on the third night and some yachts had trouble with dragging anchors.
Next day off to Isla Canas to a most wonderful isolated anchorage where we ate our spanish mackerel caught on route, what a wonderful fish.This anchorage was so beautiful that we just had to spend another day here.
The next day we slipped for Esmeralda. - in fact just a little north of it to river Cacique where we anchored for a few nights. a very good anchorage and quite an exiting trip up the river on the dinghy through the mangrove trees.
Caught more fish, a blue fin tuna and an even bigger crevalle jack.
The locals visited our boats on their dugouts, selling their wares and the local kids were a delight, looking for pressies which they generally got! Couldn't give a strange kid a penny lollipop back home!
Time - to go!! we left Las Perlas at midday on 02-03-10 and are now 133 miles into our journey to Galapagos. there is virtually no wind so we are motor sailing although the seas are quite rolly.We are trying to eak out the diesel as well as we can so keeping the revs below 2000, but still averaging 5 knts.
As I write this I am dripping with sweat, everything is sticky, at night the moisture laden air clings to all it touches, mildew and mould thrives on everything - now where was that in the contract?