2/1/2020, 11:20 PM
9°22’06.3″N ; 79°57’04.5″W
A few days ago we sailed from the San Blas into Shelter Bay overnight. It was a fun sail, because we were flanked by 3 of the other World ARC fleet boats, so there were people with us all night. But it wasn’t a fun sail, because the counter current and lack of wind meant we had to run the motor. For the most part (other than a first mate encounter with a boat that didn’t have AIS or radio, which she maneuvered expertly and adjusted back to course), it was uneventful. Or at least it was uneventful until we approached mainland Panama near the canal, and the AIS looked like this:
Luckily, that wasn’t my shift 😉. But it was fun to come in, see the locks of the canal, and start to think about our journey through in just a few days.
Since we’ve been here, there’s been boat cleaning and laundry doing and satellite phone troubleshooting, etc. It’s a good time to get things done because there’s not much to see in Shelter Bay. Shelter Bay is an old US military base that is still military protected, so they boast that they’re the “safest marina in the Caribbean”. But we’re just outside is the city of Colón, which is very dangerous for tourists (and the people who live there), so we haven’t ventured out much.
On the first night, we did go into Colón to the most amazing Lebanese restaurant I’ve ever been to with some of our boat friends (from boats Remedy, Amari, and Jan), but it was a taxi from front door to front door type of situation. Following good food with some of our favorite friends on the trip, we went back to Jan for a beer and got to tour one of the most beautiful sailboats I’ve ever been on (Jan). She’s a 45-foot and custom-made mono-haul and she “certainly is yar”.
The Admiral and I also went to Colón for the grocery store to begin provisioning for the Pacific. Weighed down with groceries, we waited for a bus for 2 hours, squished in with every seat full and our groceries on our lap, and then the bus promptly broke down before we got to the bridge over the locks to get back to the marina. They sent more cars for us, and with some sitting on laps we came back. But every chore is an adventure when you’re sailing internationally, and this one might have been worth it for the stories we heard from a South African couple about their adventures there and a stint where they were chased by (and able to out-run) pirates. We’ll do more provisioning on the other side of the Canal, where the stores are more cosmopolitan and therefore have what we need for recipes, etc.- but we but decided to spend some time cooking while in a less exciting marina like Shelter Bay, rather than while we had the opportunity to explore Panama City and Las Perlas on the other side of the Canal.
So what have we been doing for fun while we’ve been here? The full World ARC fleet is docked in Shelter Bay, so we’ve had lots of happy hours, pool time/parties, etc. The first mate accidentally invited about 20 people to Amazing Grace the other night for rum, which turned into a party of guitar playing, singing, and dancing that had to be shut down (whoops). Luckily, a Remedy (a friend’s boat) was “on the hard”, which means it has been hauled out of the water for repairs, so Captain Dave and Admiral Anne were relieved when the party was promptly relocated and continued on a much bigger boat (catamaran). The party crew (led by the 3 American boats but joined by many others) danced on the trampoline and shared stories until late into the night. Even Captain Dave was dancing on the trampoline by the end the night. It was a 10/10 good time.
Outside of our nightly shenanigans, I spent some time exploring around the marina with a new friend. We hiked and saw monkeys and lots of cool insects and butterflies and explored abandoned army buildings that have now been graffitied by the locals.
Then we went on a crocodile hunt. I decided he was the best person to hunt crocodiles with, because he has almost the right accent (Kiwi). Unfortunately, this ignorant American needs to sail around the world because I was completely unaware that New Zealand doesn’t have any predators (including crocodiles). Fun fact, that’s the reason the Kiwi bird adapted to lose its ability to fly. Still, he’s spent a lot more time in Australia than me (insert shoulder shrug here), so I digress.
Now when I say crocodile hunting, I of course mean walking around the tall grasses at the edge of the water to try to see one (we’re not in the business of poaching). Apparently, there is at least one crocodile here in the marina, and pretty much everyone here has seen him except me. Their size estimations vary at 18 feet (+/- 5 feet), depending on who you talk to. At least twice, I’ve seen people standing and pointing into the water and RAN to reach them, but the croc was gone by the time I got there. On our hunt, we didn’t have better luck. We found crocodile tracks, and crocodile poop, but no crocodiles. I AM STARTING TO THINK THAT THESE PEOPLE ARE PLAYING A GIANT PRANK ON ME.
First mate, Amazing Grace
TLDR: This is your first mate, standing by on the bow of the boat with the binoculars… throwing scraps of meat into the water…