Posted by: catamarantwooceans | January 13, 2015

Sailing in Panama– part 3

10.1.15 – Saturday – The initial plan was to go to Isla Linton, a little over 40 miles away. Thinking that we might have strong wind from behind I also prepared a route for Portobelo, which is 53 miles from our departure point and has the benefits of visiting a new place (for Doron and Tova) and shorter leg for the next day. Once out of the reef cover of San Blas, "Two Oceans" started speeding along; we were doing around eight knots with second reef in the main and first in the jib. The decision was taken to go to Portobelo.

Those were not the ideal sailing conditions; waves coming from the beam, sometimes smashing into the topsides and spraying whoever sat outside, but the fast pace compensated. At 1520, seven and a half hours after leaving our anchorage, we dropped anchor in Portobelo bay.

A short visit to town, where we bought some necessary items (chocolate bars for one), walked around and had good natural juices in a roadside snack bar.

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Tova, always the photographer, saw a girl splashing in a makeshift swimming pool, asked for permission and took pictures; I took hers (without permission).

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Dinner of oven baked fish finished the day. We were all quite tired and went to bed early.

11.1.15 – Sunday – 24 miles to Rio Chagres; once out we immediately started trolling. At the beginning we thought the wind moderated, which was what the forecast said, but soon it blew 18-23 knots and the going was fast. Tova was the first to notice the bent rod and alerted Doron, who rolled in a good size wahoo.

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After that we stopped trolling, we were too fast for it and the waves were building up.

We passed through the area where merchant ships were waiting for their turn to go into the canal and arrived at the entrance of Chagres River. We  lowered sails, motored into the narrow pass between Lajas reef and Fort San Lorenzo and entered the calm waters of the river. It was lunch-time and we were hungry, so I quickly made a salad and hummus and we ate on the way. Food took our minds away from navigation and suddenly we found ourselves at the end of the line – the Gatun lake dam.

Turning back to go to the guide’s recommended anchorage, we rechecked it’s coordinates and surprise! I mistakenly put its longitude as 79 54.656 W instead of 79 58.656 W. Position rectified, I felt the spot we were at the time was just as good and we dropped anchor there.

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In the calm of the river we turned our attention to the port alternator which has been giving me trouble for a very long time. Doron, not an electrician, is perhaps a magician. He found out that a nut on the bolt to which the plus cable is connected was not tight enough. Bolt tightened, engine started – alternator working! At least three professional electricians checked it, did some unproductive moves, took my money and did not succeed in fixing it. 

12.1.15 – Monday – We relocated to a spot closer to the entrance and spent the day relaxing, reading and swimming. The day being Tova’s birthday, we let her dictate the culinary agenda: she cooked a dish of hot chicken curry which we had with Chilean red wine.

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                       Birthday girl in the wild

13.1.15 – Tuesday – Time to go back to Shelter Bay marina. Wade out of yacht "Joanna" called it in an e-mail "Shelter Pay". We motored leisurely towards the river exit; at a certain point the sounds made by the howler monkeys grew stronger. Looking around we found a few of them on a tree near the bank. The river is deep enough to allow approach right to the bank and we got very close to them.

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They were high up on the tree, hiding between branches and leaves but I succeeded in getting a close up of one.

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We said goodbye to thee howlers and exited the river. In a little over an hour we entered Colon port and proceeded to the marina.

In there I met an American yachtie named Rick who told me that during the time we were in San Blas and experienced the bad weather,  three yachts ran aground on reefs (we actually saw one as we left) another one sank and two locals, a policeman and a girl drowned when their boat capsized. Horrible news!

This is Doron and Tova’s last night on "Two Oceans". Tomorrow they will fly to their home in Martha’s Vineyard where the temperature is 3 degrees; Fahrenheit! We had great fun together and I would surely be happy to have them on the boat again. Actually, with the budding idea of sailing the the U.S at the end of the year, it may become a reality!

Tomorrow night Gili and a couple of friends from Caesarea, Israel, will join. Let’s hope the weather will be benign.



  1. Great photos and great descriptions. Keep enjoying and dont rush back! Nothing changed yet here. Uruthy.

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