Finally departing Portobelo
After a month sitting at anchor in Portobelo it was finally time to make our final move of the season. With a weather forecast for the week of 10 to 15 knots from the northeast we were expecting a good run the 20 odd miles southwest down to Colon. Sunday and Monday the winds were steady, we checked out (something you need to do on a port by port basis in Panama) on Monday and were ready to depart Tuesday morning. We awoke to a very gloomy day and waited while an early morning squall with torrential rain passed, it was little surprise that it brought with it a westerly breeze – always on the nose!
We departed anyway, thinking the weather cell would soon pass and the settled nor’easter would return. But no, not today, we motored into around 15 knots of wind, a very choppy sea, a cross swell, at times a 2 knot current against us and under very gloomy skies – not really what we had in mind as our last run of the season!
There were many ships lying at anchor just offshore as we closed on Colon, all waiting for their turn to transit the Panama Canal, leaving the Caribbean Sea and popping out into the Pacific Ocean. We radioed Port Control on our final approach to gain permission to access this busy harbour area and then squeezed in through the breakwater entrance passing a very large container ship as it entered the Caribbean. The ships were lined up about 7 minutes apart so it was a little challenging gauging their speed and picking the moment to zoom through the gap before the next one powered down on us. Never too challenging for Skipper though, he timed it perfectly and we motor sailed through without incident and headed across the bay to Shelter Bay Marina.
Marina life again
So we have tied Balvenie up and booked into Shelter Bay for 3 months, its a great marina set in a National Park Rainforest. It is very isolated but that’s part of its attraction and they do run a morning shuttle bus into an adequate shopping centre and Colon. But we are not staying, my Dad is not well so we have decided to take the opportunity to fly back to New Zealand for a couple of months and spend time with family and friends. We will move from a Panamanian tropical rainy season to a New Zealand winter rainy season, and although much much colder we are expecting (hoping) to see a lot more sun down under.
We have spent a frantic 10 days closing Balvenie up for “winter”. With so much rain and high humidity mould is a huge issue here. We have removed the sails, waterproofed the canvas work, washed dried and vacuum packed all the clothes and linen, cleaned the boat from top to bottom in an effort to avoid mould growing inside. Plus we have rented a big dehumidifier and engaged the services of the onsite company that checks the yachts regularly. In addition, Mark has disconnected all the wiring for the instruments, electronics and radios to try to contain any damage that may occur in the event of a lightening strike. There is nothing else we can do, so we are heading for the airport.