Having left Dominica in a force 3, we made gentle progress Westwards toward the Venezuelan coast through great long patches of Sargassum weed, which put paid to our hopes of getting fish. There were occasional vessels that appeared on our AIS transponders including a large cruising ship which crossed our course line from South to North.
Approaching the Venezuelan coast we noticed the wind increasing and eventually reaching force 7 occasional Gale 8. For two consecutive days we made 200nm a day but the wind began to drop off again as we were able to adjust our course towards Panama. I was mindful of the fact that there is a power play going on as Russia and Iran seek to get a toehold of influence by supporting a character called Maduro who is clinging on to power. The USA are supporting an election and meanwhile the people are suffering with Maduro apparently sending in armed ‘bouncers’ riding motorbikes to any protest rallies. It is all very sad and very human at the same time. This whole area is famous for cultivating drugs and trafficking them.
Arrival in Colon
The visibility began to fall away a little as we closed the Panamanian coast. We could see the Indian villages on the San Blas islands on our way past. A Dutch yawl passed us close by and after passing a number of ships waiting for their scheduled transit we passed the breakwater and headed into Shelter Bay Marina. Staff were on hand in the form of Emilio and Eddie to assist us in tying up and so began our stay here in preparation for our own transit.
Firstly a young woman came from the Admeasurer’s Office to measure the precise length of Living Water and also to check that we knew the regulations of making the passage. Papers were signed and this released me to pay the transit fee. There were delaying factors in transmitting funds from our bank because I had missed that they like to have the money sent via intermediary bank in New York (double the fees). The upshot was that I had to go to get the money from ATM machines $2375 at $500 a day maximum. I have no idea why the Canal authorities cannot take the fees via a card reader machine like everyone else does.
When we arrived we learned that some saints met about the restaurant for some fellowship which was very refreshing and we all felt so much at home with them. It is surprising to experience how close you can feel to complete strangers who are not strangers at all in the spirit.
I was very surprised to learn that the Canal makes billions of dollars yet so little of the money finds its way to the populace. Downtown Colon is like a disaster zone and not somewhere you would want to be after dark; gun law reigns and the usual drug trafficking culture rules the communities. Shelter Bay Marina is located on the opposite side of the harbour on an old US base called Fort Sherman. It is a delightful place with every imaginable facility. My favourite was Bill the sailmaker who runs his business for the Marina and is excellent at what he does. He is training an Indian husband & wife team in the trade and being as Bill was also a school teacher these skills come into play as well.
The Marina is managed by Juanho who gave a SBM bag with a T shirt to our 2 Papuan men. While the marina is not cheap it is much cheaper than marinas in Spain and Portugal and the facilities even include a free bus ride into Colon to do shopping as well.
Let the transit begin!
The transit today will take place at 14:20 EST and we will have to tie up to a buoy overnight before the pilot comes on board again at 09:00. The transit tomorrow through the lakes and out of the locks should be about 8 hours and then, after dropping off the hired lines, we should be free to begin our Pacific voyage.
Living Water is tied to a mooring
bouyovernight and will cast off for the last section of the canal at 1400 GMT approximately.
When she passes through the last section of
canalyou should be able to see her on this webcam.
Whilst in the canal you can see the ships position on Marine Traffic
(NOTE this link will not work when they cross the