Back to civilization.

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.

The many cannons at Fuerte San Jeronimo in Portobelo. San Jeronimo was the largest fortress to protect the bay.
On the steps in the Real Aduana of Portobelo.
The Real Aduana in Portobelo.
Fuerte San Jeronimo in Portobelo.
Fuerte San Fernando on the other side of the bay. Because of the beautiful setting in nature this is an UNESCO heritage site.
Fuerte San Fernando.
Fuerte San Fernando.
Fuerte Santiago.
Fuerte Santiago in the left corner.
Iglesias de San Felipe with the black Christ statue inside.
The black Christ statue devoted by many. Apparently on October 21 thousands come here to pay tribute to the black Christ.
In the museum of the Real Aduana they keep different robes for the Christ. Famous people (Salsa star Ismael Rivera) donated these.
A bronze cannon from a sunken galleon with Spanish coat of arms and date of manufacture 1617.

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.

Last mackerel caught in the Caribbean sea ! It was yummie on the barbecue.
Leaving Shelter Bay Marina for the transit of the canal.
A white headed capuchin monkey on our visit to San Lorenzo nature park near the marina.
A turkey vulture in San Lorenzo park.
View on the Chagres river from Fuerte San Lorenzo.
The remains of Fuerte San Lorenzo.
The Kinkayou not always so harmless, they bite if played with.
Stefan at Fuerte San Lorenzo.
A walk under the bamboo in San Lorenzo park.
Stefan was laughing at me because I was hiding under the tree from the pouring rain!
Two of the 4 carts provisioning in Panama city. You can see the DUVELS Stefan was very happy with ! They are kept for special occasions 🙂
Bags of groceries stacked outside waiting to be stored in a dry place somewhere on the boat. The hardest part is to remember where everything is stored one week later.