Since it has been so long between updates I will make this one 3 parts to cover our last ports.
Colon, Panama: Shelter Bay Marina is a jewel in a very tough area of Panama. The Marina is new and located at Fort Sherman which was once the American Base for the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal. The base was abandoned in 2000 when we turned the canal over to the Panamanians. The numerous buildings are still standing but most are run down and unoccupied but there is still a guard posted to gain entrance to the area. A trip to the grocery store requires crossing the Panama Canal and can take hours depending on the canal traffic. There are many areas to explore on the Ft Sherman grounds. Just across from the marina is a jungle complete with monkeys, exotic birds, sloths and even jaguars. Fort San Lorenzo and the surrounding park is just a 5 mile walk down the road. Colon does not have much to offer but there are decent grocery stores and the “Free Zone” for shopping; for marine stores and good hardware stores you need to travel a couple of hours to Panama City. Panama City is like Miami and everything is available there. We have really enjoyed our stay here at Shelter Bay. The folks that run the marina are terrific. There are volleyball games most afternoons and “spike” Argosy is in the photo gallery. We met some interesting folks that are trying to break the world record for circumnavigating the globe in a powerboat. The boat has 4 crew members and 5 ground crew and they all spent two nights aboard Seabird. Take a look at EARTHRACE in the gallery as you will not confuse it with Seabird!!
Bocas del Toro, Panama: Bocas del Toro was an overnight cruise for us and is a group of Islands located about 30 miles from the Costa Rican border. We have received mixed reviews about Bocas and were not sure what to expect. We stayed at the Bocas Yacht Club and Marina and once again found it to be a nice marina. There are many full time residents here unlike Shelter Bay which seems to be very transient due to the Canal Traffic. To reach Bocas Town you must take a water Taxi or dinghy as there are no roads leading to or from the marina. The town has many restaurants and shops and seems to be growing. There are decent hardware stores and a wonderful gourmet grocery store for provisioning. When we arrived there was a serious draught and water was not available at the marina, hotels and very limited to restaurants. We chose to eat most of our meals on the boat and found out that was a wise decision when we met a fellow that had contracted a life threatening case of Ecoli in town. We were in Bocas del Toro for three weeks. We took some tours, explored the other islands and went to Spanish School.
Spanish School was a real challenge for two people that have not been in school for a very long time. We really enjoyed the classes and can at least attempt to communicate in Spanish. Steven is very good with the pronunciation and I remember most of the words so as long as we are together we communicate pretty well. We have a long way to go but figure we can practice as we travel through Central America.
We took a side trip to the highlands of Panama. We flew from Bocas Airport which is right in town to David on the Pacific side of Panama. We rented a car in David and drove into the beautiful highlands to a town called Boquete. The climate is very cool and we were not accustomed to 50 degrees at night…BURRRR. We stayed at the Panamonte Spa and Inn which is about the nicest hotel in Boquete but would not get many stars in the US. The highlight of the trip was a Tree Trek or Canopy Tour way up in the mountains where we got to play Tarzan and Jane for a day. There are steel cables stretched from tree to tree and you attach to them with a cable that is strapped around your waist and soar through the jungle with only a gloved hand on a cable for a brake. We did eleven zips for about 3km and it was an absolute hoot….can’t wait to try it again.
A more sedate tour was through a coffee plantation and plant. Boquete is known for the best coffee in the country due to the perfect climate for growers and the labor intensive harvesting and processing of the beans. We appreciate our morning Java now that we know the process that takes place before we start to brew it. Boquete had lots more to offer but our time was limited but one could easily spend more time hiking the national forests, visiting the volcano, white water rafting and bird watching.
San Andres, Colombia: San Andres was another overnight cruise from Bocas del Toro. We arrived mid day and were immediately boarded by our Agent, Rene and six officials from customs, immigration and the port captains office. I got a chance to try out my new Spanish as they each needed a different document and spoke at once. It was somewhat intimidating but as it turns out they all wanted to see the boat, collect their fees and ask for T shirts and hats. They were all polite and friendly. You have to use an agent to check in and out and the prices seem to vary from $60.00 to $200.00.
We med moored at Nene’s Marina managed to pick up an extra anchor and a buoy mooring line from the cluttered harbor bottom. The marina was expensive and we should have anchored in the harbor but Steven does not like to give up AC if possible.
Each night we had new neighbors as the Sport Fishing boats would stop for fuel as they make their way from Costa Rico back to Florida. The crew were fun to meet and had a lot of good stories.
The Island is gorgeous with clear blue water, sandy beaches and good roads for traveling. We rented a mule (fancy golf cart) for a day and toured the Island and on another day we took the dinghy to the little cays for swimming and lunch. San Andres is a resort Island for the Colombians and there are many nice restaurant and hotels and a very large duty free shopping center.
From here we will return to Shelter Bay for provisioning and then off to the San Blas again for a few weeks.