Parting is such sweet sorrow, especially when you are leaving the San Blas islands. We have thoroughly enjoyed spending the last few months exploring this amazing and beautiful island chain but it is time to head to Colon. The overall sail to Colon is about 80 miles and we decided to break it up into two days.
The first day we sailed to Portobello which was 58 miles. It was a lovely day, bright, blue sky, 2-3 meter waves, 20-25 knots of wind, beam reach. We hoisted our main to one reef, rolled out the jib to 1 reef and were on our way. It was lovely and so peaceful. After about four hours, the wind dropped to 15-20 knots so we unfurled the jib. We averaged 7.1 knots in speed, but with a few good waves we had a max speed of 11.3 which was fabulously fun.
Portobello has many derelict boats afloat and over 6 semi-sunk yachts so it is a bit unnerving trying to find a place to drop the hook. Especially because there are not that many shallow spots, most of the anchorage is 10+ meters deep. We drove around a bit, attempted to stick the hook several times before finally dropping next to our friends on “Heritage” in 11 meters of water. After we dropped 90 meters of chain, we headed in to shore.
On the way into town, we passed our friends on “KDans“. We had seen this boat in Curacao, Bonaire, and Aruba but we had never officially met them in person. We swung by, they invited us up for a chat and they mentioned they had seen us in St. Maarten and the BVI. Small world. Super nice people. Unfortunately, they had been struck by lightening the week prior and had to be hauled out in Linton Bay to do repairs. They told us that 5 boats had been struck by lightening which is frightening. We heard of a boat being hit in the San Blas as well. Always a fear as you lose all of your electronics, fridge, freezer, depth, autopilot, GPS, everything.
However, the first time I visited I was not able to buy rosary beads so I wanted to go back to purchase one. The rosary beads are special here because they are purple (see post on Portobello).
We grabbed some dinner and on our way back to the dinghy dock, ran into an English speaking family from a boat called “Gallivant.” We chatted briefly with them and determined we would see them in Shelter Bay as we were both heading that way.
The next day we headed to Shelter Bay in Colon. We enjoyed a leisurely morning as the sail was only 20 miles away. Now, which sails to put up? With winds blowing 15-18 knots, 2 meter seas and a wind direction of 140-160. The jib was unfurled completely for the first 30 minutes and determined that we could throw the spinnaker up. Sweet!
Transition with the spin up and just before we took the jib down.
We made excellent time, making 20 miles in a few hours, average speed 7.1, max speed 10.7. Our friends on “Una Mas” left from another bay when passed them. We hailed them on the radio and told them we’d meet them at the marina.
Matt got lucky and caught a large yellow fin tuna which made for several yummy meals.
As you enter Colon you immediately start to see many huge container ships, cargo boats, and large vessels that have just transited the canal or are staging to go through.
The shore is peppered with huge cranes to offload cargo.
Continuing on through Colon, you come upon the breakwater where you enter for the Panama Canal and Shelter Bay Marina. We were given strict instructions on how to proceed through the breakwater to avoid the big ships and keep Sugar Shack safe. We hailed the Canal authorities 8 miles out that we were in transit to Shelter Bay and then again at 2 miles out. Upon entering the breakwater, we hailed Shelter Bay to notify them of our pending arrival.
I took this image from the internet (owner unknown) but it showed the entrance to the breakwater (see green and red circles at top center). Then we followed the green diagonal line (toward left lower corner) and to the brown circle with the red arrow which is Shelter Bay Marina.
The dock master asked us to head to the T-head on C-Dock. Luckily for us, the marina had provided a map of the breakwater channel and a map of the marina so we knew exactly where we were going. You enter passing the large ship dock (slanted dock lower right) and we are at the end of the next dock. Not in the image as this was take before we got there.
As you enter the marina channel it appears really narrow as it is shallow mangrove area to the left and boats/docks to the right. Matt had to turn Sugar Shack around and head in stern first so that the port side of the boat would be on the dock.
With a little help from the marina and another cruiser, we arrived with no issues.