Today, March 15th, we are on the other THE OTHER side, in the Pacific Ocean ! I am so happy ! It were two long days with a lot of waiting…but more about those days in the next blog. I first have to go back to Porvenir where I left last blog.
Friday, February 26th, 2016, we left Porvenir at 7.25 AM because we had to sail about 60 NM and wanted to make sure we arrived in Portobelo in daylight. It was a cloudy morning and thus the reefs are difficult to see, Porvenir is surrounded by reefs ! Luckily we had the charts from Eric Bauhaus but still we did change our mind about going through two reefs because it looked too narrow. After about 45 minutes of motoring we finally made it to sea and could raise the sails. It was a great sailing day ! The sun came out and we were able to do about 7-8 knots with 20 knots of wind. We arrived in Portobelo bay at 3 PM. Lots of boats were already in the beautiful bay. Columbus discovered “Puerto Bello” in 1502. The city of San Felipe de Portobelo was founded in 1597. Portobello has a rich history as it was once the spot where all the gold and silver conquered by the Spanish was shipped to Sevilla Spain. Needless to say this attracted a lot of pirates and thus Portobelo was guarded by 3 forts ( UNESCO protected). Fuerte San Jeronimo, Fuerte Santiago and Fuerte San Fernando located on the other side of the bay. Although they are protected by UNESCO there is no entrance fee and it seems nothing is being done to keep these sites maintained. I am not sure what the obligations of Panama are once a site is UNESCO protected. Portobelo was first attacked in 1602, then in 1671 by Henry Morgan and in 1679 by the English and the French. The city was destroyed in 1739 by Admiral Edward Vernon and rebuilt in 1751. We learned later that much of the fortresses were dismantled to build the Panama Canal as many of the larger stones were used in the Gatun Locks. We also visited the Real Aduana de Portobelo, a two-story Royal Customs House which was built in 1630 to serve as counting house for the king’s gold. All the gold and silver was stored here until it could be placed on galleons and sailed to Spain. There is a museum in the building but we never managed to visit as it was always closed. In the Iglesias de San Felipe there is a statue of the Black Christ, lots of people over the WE stand in line to worship and see the statue. Portobelo has a lot of charm although a lot of poor people as well. It so much fun to learn about history this way, not a dull moment 🙂 We were happy to be back in civilization. We had not seen a car in 3 weeks and we had internet 🙂 ! We caught up with emails and chats and left Portobelo early monday February 29th for Shelter Bay Marina.
Monday, February 29th, 2016, did not know it was a leap year, we left Portobello at 8 AM for Shelter Bay Marina in Panama. We wanted to meet up with our Canadian friends, Bill and Cathy, before they go through the canal later that day. Another great sail and we caught our last fish of the Caribbean Sea, a little mackerel. We got in the marina by noon. It was a tight spot they gave us to dock the boat as the marina was almost full but Stefan did very well. Later during the week we had to take out the boat two times to test the motor and although I am always nervous motoring in tight quarters, Stefan is really getting good at it ! 🙂 Shelter Bay Marina is a nice marina located at the entrance of the Panama Canal and surrounded by woods. It has a small swimming pool and restaurant ( where you need a lot of patience) and so it was the perfect spot to get the boat ready for our long journey to Galapagos and Marquesas. We had internet (although very slow at times) on the boat and managed to keep up with mails and update our blogs. A lot of reading had to be done about the Las Perlas Islands (next stop) and Ecuador since we had no internet anymore after this stop. We arranged the canal transit for March 12th and were happy Jacques and Annet from SV Panache were willing and interested to do the transit with us. They will be leaving for the Netherlands from Panama City right after the crossing. We made a quick visit to Panama City for 2 days and were charmed with Casco Viejo. They were rebuilding lots of beautiful houses and we think it will become prettier than Cartagena if they make the right decisions. We never felt unsafe in the city. We got a taxi driver from Colon to come and get us back at the hotel and did all our supply shopping for the coming months in Panama. There is just more to choose from in the supermarkets in Panama. We bought for 700 USD worth of groceries….this should last till we get to the Marquesas, early June 2016.