San Blas to Portobelo to Shelter Bay
25th to 28th April
Left San Blas Islands very early one morning and sailed and motored slowly the forty odd miles to Portobelo.
Christopher Columbus got to Portobelo ages ago. Apparently he discovered it on 2nd November 1502 on his fourth voyage. Then for many years it was the chief export spot for gold on its way from Peru to Spain, so it would have been an important place. Hard to imagine now, but it’s still a beautiful sheltered tree-lined bay with howler monkeys giving their unique unsettling chorus late most afternoons, and there are some handsome crumbling relics from the colonial era, including some 18th century forts with wonderful heavyweight rusted cannon lying haphazardly in the grass (Doesn’t look as if they’ve been touched for 200 years.). I’m sure it’ll all be restored and smartened up in a few years time as local tourism increases, and the preservation people get going; but for now Portobelo is small, laid-back, seriously scruffy and ill-kempt with litter scattered everywhere, decrepit old cars, peeling paintwork and crumbling buildings.
I liked the colour of the place and had a good lunch at Ida’s place.
Then, after a couple of nights in Portobelo Bay, back through the fleet of anchored ships waiting for the canal and into Shelter Bay marina. There I pick up emails including lots from my agent (for the Canal), Erick, wanting urgently to know where I was and what was happening, and telling me new dates for transit have come forward by a couple of weeks etc etc. In short it seems I could have ‘gone through’ a week or more ago.
Panama Canal Authority works in a mysterious way. Instead of yachts only going through late one day, mooring overnight halfway, and continuing the next, they now may go at any time, the time being a surprise until a few hours beforehand.
Never mind, I’m busy now: – shopping, port clearance, planning, clothes washing, boat fixing and tidying, and sociability……and preparing food (as I must cook for the six people who’ll be on board for a day or two to transit).
Now the lines (4 x 125ft) and fenders (8 x big and fat) have been delivered and heaped on Henrietta’s foredeck. Sometime tomorrow, with my four line handlers aboard, we’ll go and anchor, wait for our ‘adviser'(a sort of pilot guy who comes with us and I presume tells me what to do) and start to go through the locks. We should get to the Pacific sometime over the weekend. It’s all very exciting!