Portobello - Colon
14 February 2011 | Panama
Mid November 2010 to mid January 2011
This period of time was spent moving between Portobello and Colon.
Being the “wet season” there has been no problem during this period keeping water tanks on the boat full but it puts a damper on getting off the boat and wandering around the town or catching buses. It was also a tragic time for many people in Panama and especially in Portobello as lives and property were lost in serious landslides. Both the community and cruisers pulled together to assist in any way possible.
Some cruisers, including Vossie, have also spent a lot of time helping Dennis out up at Capt Jacks with organizing new tables and seating, made from some very heavy thick wooden slabs and the task of getting them up the stairs and into position to expand the entertainment area . Sharing tools, skills and workmanship is very thirsty work!!! But fun….
We set off on the 29th November for the port of Colon which is the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal. We anchored at Club Nautico which turned out to be an absolute nightmare of an anchorage. For 2 weeks we hardly slept a full night what with tugs and ferries constantly going by causing uncomfortable wakes and boats dragging, tugs breaking loose from mooring buoys. Dreadful………………. A small anchorage which could take 4 or five boats comfortably trying to accommodate double that number. Definitely not a recommended anchorage for any length of stay.
The cruise ship harbor was nearby and watching the cruise ships passing close to our boats provided some excitement and also watching the comings and goings of the container terminal. Colon is a large and an extremely busy port. Colon is also a very dangerous city where even the shortest distance is done in a taxi. We visited a few shopping centers and hardware shops outside the city center which were well stocked and had a police presence to keep us safe. The city itself is very poor and many abandoned buildings and very unsafe.
While in Colon we booked to haul out at Shelter Bay Marina to see to our bottom paint and waterline ( which had disappeared with all the additional weight loaded in St Maarten) . On the 13th December we hauled out and Vossie started work on cleaning the hull and raising the waterline. Difficult task with rain and more rain and having to fit the paint work into the few days when it was dry. Despite the walking distance from the yard area to the showers and laundry it was a pleasant experience and an organized marina set in a Nature Reserve close to the Panama Canal. They have a free shuttle bus in the morning to the Quatro Altos shopping center, outside Colon, for the marina customer’s convenience. I took advantage of this a few mornings and managed to catch sight of some wild Toucan birds and a sloth on the way in. I heard that a boa constrictor was seen on the road on another day. There were also many howler monkeys which make an almighty noise. Pity there was no time to spend walking through the jungle.
We splashed Talacam on the 24thDecember looking all bright and beautiful and headed directly back to Portobello . Although a bit rough leaving Colon port, it was a good trip to Portobello. What a pleasure being in a quiet anchorage where one can get a good night’s rest most of the time. A quiet Xmas was spent on Talacam with Bob and Debbie from “Passat” and Pat from “if Knot Why Knot”. And a not so quiet New year’s eve was celebrated at Capt Jack’s and a good time was had by all. The following day Vossie had an early start, going up to Capt Jacks to organise a pig on the spit for the afternoon meal. This pig was done to perfection and those cruisers who had recovered sufficiently from the revelry the night before had a feast. We needed a few days to recover from all this activity!
On the 5th January we were scheduled to be line handlers for friends transiting the Panama Canal in their catamaran “ Pacific Bliss”, Colin, Liz, Zinnia and Cosmo. What better birthday gift for Vossie! So with great excitement the Talacams and the Passats caught the bus to Colon to board Pacific Bliss. We waited in The Flats for the advisor to come aboard at about 3.00pm and headed towards the first Gatun lock. When time was right to approach the first lock we rafted up to the other Catamaran going through with us and motored in behind a container ship and a tug. Nervous excitement all around and time to concentrate as the locks start filling with water to raise us up from sea level to the level of the Gatun lake. Vossie and Bob shared the line handling on the bow and Liz handled the stern. Safely negotiated the 3 locks to Gatun Lake where, after separating from our partner cat, we both spent the night on a huge buoy. Everybody was very happy that all had gone smoothly, so a few beers to celebrate and wonderful meal and to bed, looking forward to the next day. At 6.30am new advisors were dropped off on the respective yachts. I must mention that both of our advisors were really wonderful, helpful guys and a pleasure to work with. We motored through the manmade Gatun lake ( 23 miles ) towards the next set of locks. It was a beautiful sunny day, very hot and we started passing the big ships that were heading from the Pacific side to the Atlantic side. We also passed many little islands that are actually the tops of the former jungle hills before the area was flooded. We were hoping to spot some crocs in the lake but they were all in hiding. About five hours later we arrived at the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks and it was raft up time again. We were very fortunate in that only the 2 catamarans were doing the transit, not having to share with a container ship. A lot easier and less nerve wracking. At the entrance to the Miraflores locks everyone was out on deck waving at the cameras as the families abroad watched the transit live. Again safely through the locks and great joy on entering the Pacific waters and anchoring in Panama City.
A big thank you to Colin and Liz and their children on Pacific Bliss for allowing us to share in the adventure and for their hospitality and for making Vossie’s birthday a memorable one.
It was a happy foursome that made their way back from Panama City to Portobello by bus arriving back to find our boats safe and sound.