|Not the usual Caribbean beach|
It’s now 15th April. We have been told that our date for transiting the Panama Canal is tomorrow, Easter Sunday 16th April. Happy Easter everyone.
|Spot the monkeys|
Much has happened since we arrived in Shelter Bay Marina. The Marina contacted an agent called Erick Galvez the day we checked in. He left his email address the same day. We looked at his website and gave him all the information he needed to start the process of transiting the Canal. The next day a Measurer arrived and was a happy man because we had been through the Canal before and he could use the information from last time. After he had gone, two of Erick’s staff arrived and Jeremy paid $1705 (which included $350 agent’s fee) by bank card to these two strangers who worked for a man he’d never met. He was given an itemised receipt on headed paper. At the end of our second day here, Erick emailed us with our transit date of 23rd April. Our initial excitement changed to disappointment, but there was a chance that our date might be brought forward and it has been.
|Abandoned military base|
We still had to check in with Immigration in Colon. We had seen someone from the Port Captain’s Office at the Marina on the day of our arrival and paid $20. We caught the Marina’s free bus to a shopping mall called Cuatro Altos and stayed on to the next stop at a mall called Millenium Plaza. From there we took a taxi to yet another mall called Colon 2000 and went to the Immigration Office, but it was the wrong one. Fortunately, the right office at Home Port was only 5 minutes’ walk away and half an hour later our passports had been stamped. There was no charge. Another taxi took us back to 4 Altos, where we bought some groceries and caught the Marina bus back to Shelter Bay.
There are much worse places to be waiting. Here we are in a national park. We can hear howler monkeys and can see other monkeys only a short walk away. The whole area used to be an American air base called Fort Sherman, where soldiers trained for Vietnam and many of the military buildings are still standing but sadly, vandalised. The Marina is also a hotel with a restaurant, swimming pool, gym, shop, laundry and cruisers’ air conditioned lounge. It’s like being on holiday and it’s hot and sunny (27-31C).
We volunteered to help another yacht transit the Canal by being line handlers and expected to leave with them last Monday. Our Canadians friends, Ann and Barry, from Cat’s Paw IV were also volunteer line handlers on another yacht. The day before we were due to leave we were told another couple were taking our place and we were no longer needed. We were given a half bottle of rum and a chocolate bar as thanks. The next day I met the new line handlers. They were much younger than us and closer in age to the Skipper and his mate.
|SD in Shelter Bay Marina|
We left the Marina and went to Portobelo for 4 nights on anchor. It was much fresher in the bay anchored under Fuerta San Fernando. We knew that Francis Drake and Henry Morgan had sacked Portobelo in times past, along with Admiral Vernon in later years. There used to be warehouses in Portobelo where gold from Peru was stored prior to shipment to Spain. However, three forts failed to keep out the British and other Europeans such as the Dutch.
|Camera shy monkey|
Nowadays, Portobelo is a quiet fishing village, which you can walk around in an hour or less. We explored the remains of the three forts and enjoyed the hospitality of Casa Vela which has a free dinghy dock, café, bar and wifi.
Four people responded to our advert for line handlers for our own transit, which we pinned to the Marina notice board. Two could not help out on our dates, but two others, Howard and Tammy, are keen to help and we are happy to have them aboard. Our third line handler has been arranged by our agent and we have yet to meet him (or her).
|Anchored under Fuerta San Fernando|
All being well tomorrow we hope to have time for Easter Brunch at the restaurant before setting off for The Flats and anchoring in Cristobal Harbour to await our Advisor, who stays on the boat while we are transiting the Canal (but not overnight in Lake Gatun). You can watch us on the webcam at Miraflores Locks on Monday 17th April between 8.00 and 10.00pm BST or 1900 to 2100 GMT.
|Jeremy at Fuerta Jeronimo|
|Old Custom House, Portobelo|