Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 31, 2015

Panama–April 2015–part 2

In the last post I neglected to put in Ali’s telephone number. If you are in need of a reliable pro-welder in Panama, Ali is your man. tel. (507)66850858.

24.4.15 – Friday – I took the 0800 marina bus to Quatro Altos, hoping that Abernathy, the chandlers, had the water pump I needed. Luck was with me that morning and I left the shop with the pump as well as a new rod and reel for casting at anchor. Sharing a taxi with two other guys who finished their shopping early, I reached the marina at 1045 and rushed to the office to settle my account and to make sure I would be able to refuel on my way out. Shelter Bay marina does not have a fuel tank of its own; they have a dock, to which a fuel barge ties to and serves the customers. You have to calculate the quantity you need, pay for it at the office and with the receipt go to the barge. “Yes,you can go there right now” said Lilia, the young lady in the office.

At 1120 I approached the dock only to see the barge leaving. My frantic waving and calling was answered by hand signals, which seemed to indicate they were coming back later. The delay proved to be of value, because I found out I forgot the new rod and reel at the office. Those retrieved, I used the time to have lunch and then waited. Having decided to spend the night at Naranjo Abajo island, only nine miles away, I was not pressed for time. The barge came back, entered the haul-out bay and started taking fuel from a tanker truck: everything moved so slowly but finally, at 1500, I was free to go.

Naranjo Abajo was nice; I anchored at 3 meters depth in complete serenity being the only yacht around.

25.4.15 – Saturday – Next destination – Portobelo, 10.4 miles to the northeast. With time on my hands and Gili not on board, I could indulge in tacking against the wind, trolling for fish. No fish was taken but the sailing was good and I was reminded that cruising is not only about maintenance. Once anchored on the north side of Portobelo bay, I put the dinghy in the water, intending to go to town, filming the ride with my new “GoPro”. What that amazing apparatus recorded was the refusal of the outboard to start. I decided against rowing and when I saw a panga leaving a home on the nearby beach, I hailed the man and inquired about a mechanic. It turned out the young man and his brother were mechanics.

They took the outboard’s carburetor apart, the elder brother instructing the young one on the right way to do the job and then leaving on some other errand. Raamses, for that was the lad’s name, cleaned all the parts, put the motor back together, pulled the cord and it started!


By then it was to late for town, I’ll go tomorrow.

26.4.15 – Sunday – Before I could go ashore I wanted to tick off a list of jobs that I had made; first of the eight items was the replacing of the faulty water pump. I put in three hours of work and then went to town. Yachties use the dinghy dock of a place called “Casa Vela” which is a sail repair business as well as a sort of bar or club. Over there I found out the whereabouts of a Thai restaurant on the beach two k.m from town. After my hard work I felt I deserved some good Thai food and motored over. The place is called “El Castillo” and has a big veranda built of massive wooden planks, overlooking the bay. It has character and charm, but the food… Simply bad! Spring rolls looked like sponges dripping oil and the Thai green curry used yesterday’s leftover pieces of chicken, floating in green, bland, watery sauce.

Next door, however, I found a dive-club and made arrangements to go diving tomorrow.

27.4.15 – Monday – Freddy, dive master and Alu, boat driver came at 0800 to pick me up for the dive.


We did two dives, one on Salmedina reef, the other near Drake island, both just out of the Portobelo bay. The diving was mediocre at best, but I didn’t mind; it was good to be underwater again. The downside was that I  came out with a bad case of lower back pain; I even took a pill.

In the afternoon I went ashore again. A new problem with the outboard cropped up. Whenever I opened the throttle wide, the R.P.M rose but the power was not transferred to the prop. Is it the gear? Raymond, the owner of “Casa Vela” said he had the same thing with his motor; the prop has a rubber bushing where the shaft enters and with time it starts slipping. Solution? buy a new prop. I’ll have the joining crew bring one.

28.4.15 – Tuesday – I woke up with my lower back much better. The plan was to go to Linton bay and it was imperative that I catch a fish on the way. It was an exceptionally calm day, wind less than 10 knots. As “Two Oceans” clocked the miles toward Linton and with no fish caught, I changed course too pass by Los Faralones, a small group of islands and reefs further off-shore. Surely I’ll get one there. But alas, no fish agreed to take my lure. At the entry to the Linton island bay I reeled the line in and to my surprise there was a hooked fish on the lure! It was one of those Mackerels that abound here, yielding four portions.

In the bay I saw a familiar motor yacht, La Creatura, and anchored near her. I had two “projects” in mind; one was to take a video of the monkeys on the island and the other to investigate what seemed to be the new Linton Bay marina. I dinghied over to the tree where I had seen the monkeys in the past. GoPro running, I circled the place but no simian was to be seen. It was a very hot day so they probably found a cooler shelter.

Next I motored to the marina. There were quite a few yachts in there and one of them was “Southern Comfort” with Rob and Lauren on board. I came over and Rob was a good source of information. The marina started operating, although water and electricity were not available yet. The prices, accordingly, are ridiculous – if I understood him well, they were paying 10$ a day! The hardstand area is in the build and the plans are for big development.


On board “Southern Comfort” I met a man named Hilton; Rob told me his sad tale. It seems he went aground in the Holandes Cays and in the effort to save his boat, he fell victim to some yachties, who exploited his situation, taking most of the equipment from his yacht, plus a lot of money for their help. She was towed, keel-less, to the marina. This, of course, is one side of the picture, but any way you look at it, it is a very sad story.

Back  to “Two Oceans”, I  retired for a little nap but that was disturbed by sounds of something hitting the hull. Rushing out, I saw a school of fish, fleeing or hunting and in the process banging our waterline. Fish in the area? Let’s try and take some! I casted a mackerel piece as bait and sat waiting. After a few minutes there was a strike; the line was pulled out strongly. I was sure it was a shark but it turned out to be a close relative – a ray.


29.4.15 – Wednesday – Wishing to divide the trip to San Blas into short legs, I decided to go to Turtle Cay marina. I topped up my fuel tanks and fill two jerry-cans, not thinking of asking for the price in advance. The marina charged 1.35$ per liter, which is 5.13 for the gallon. I paid in Shelter Bay 2.91$! Yogi, the marina manager, explained that the owner had bought a large quantity of fuel and when the prices went down, decided to charge the old price. Luckily I only needed 23 gallons..

Yogi arranged a nice berth for me, facing the entrance. A convoy of three German flagged and crewed boats came in a little later and joined me there.


30.4.15 – Thursday – I woke up to another hot, windless day. Next destination – Bahia de Escribianos, 17 miles away, exactly mid way between Turtle Cay and San Blas. BdE is a very shallow big bay, I would have to expect 2 meters bottom there and a narrow, reef strewn entrance. I didn’t even raise the main, the wind was less than 5 knots and just motored on one engine. Got another mackerel, processed it and put it in the freezer.

Arriving at Escribianos, the reefs at the entrance were quite clearly visible; I entered gingerly, bottom rising slowly. When the instrument showed 1.1 meters I stopped the boat by reversing both engines, then turned back using port ahead and starboard in reverse. Looking back I could see a cloud of sand the props raised from the less than a foot distant bottom. I anchored at a point where I had a leisurely depth of 1.5 meters. The time was 1220; I was looking around me at the dismal surroundings and the thought of going another 17 miles and reaching the lovely anchorage of Chichime was simply natural. Started the engines and in three hours was back in San Blas. Chichime, as always, was full of yachts, I counted twenty four.


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