Week 06-10 2018 Panama both Pacific and Atlantic side.
5 February – 11 March 2018 340 nm
Week 6 5 – 11 February 2018 Las Perlas – La Playita, Balboa, Panama City 105 nm
5 February Monday Last overnight sail for several weeks to come – Las Perlas
It was a relief to anchor in the southern most bay, Bahia San Telmo, on Isla de Rey in Las Perlas during late Monday afternoon after a very tough run from Isla Cebaco, starting Sunday morning. The strong wind yesterday lasted until 11.30 in the morning and from there on we had to use the engine and sails until we had five miles left for Isla del Rey when the wind picked up again. But directly from where we were heading, so instead of shutting down the engine we furled the headsails and motored the last miles into the huge bay where we anchored in the northern end with no swell and good cooling wind.
One other reason for going to Las Perlas before Balboa, except for the wind direction last night, was a planned meeting with a Swedish boat in the northern Las Perlas where they are to start the third leg of the ARC cruise around the world.
After having reorganized down in the boat so we can sleep in the bow cabin that has much better ventilation through a big hatch compared with the aft cabin, we had a sundowner sitting in the setting sun in our chairs on deck. We had some reflecting thoughts around our years in Pacific since 2007, soon coming to an end as we are now close to the Panama Canal.
6 February Tuesday Bahia San Telmo – Isla del Espiritu Santo 14 nm
We went early to bed yesterday due to almost no sleep the rough night before and because of the heat we woke up before sunrise.
We decided to leave for another cove before breakfast to get going before the wind picked up. We were going in the opposite direction to the coming wind and we wanted to do the 30 nm to our meeting bay in two morning laps before the headwind picked up too much.
Tidal range is almost 16 feet, so there is a quite strong current to consider as well. Half of the day we have counter current and that together with afternoon gale from where we are heading doesn’t make room for much of a choice. Already half past ten we were anchored behind some small islands close to main island, Isla del Ray. The charts are not that accurate and the water not very clear, but we thought we could see the difference between deep water and less than three meters making day anchoring the only safe alternative.
7 February Wednesday Isla del Espiritu Santo – Isla Contadora 18 nm
Another day with an early departure to reach the gathering cove for the ARC rally where we are to meet our friends in Bijou. We had some tidal waves when we left our anchorage but after that almost flat water until we arrived Isla Contadora.
Anchored before noon a bit off the ARC fleet, outside a nice sandy beach.
Salad lunch and then a quiet afternoon relaxing and had a swim around the boat in the refreshingly “cold” water.
Bijou came late afternoon sailing from Balboa, anchored close to Moon and came by dinghy to inspect Moon, a boat they never seen. Had a long chat and of course a great dive into the computer to see what we had that could be useful for Bijou in the Pacific. Our tracks from our trips, especially Fiji, imported into Open CPN was probably the most valuable item.
When they went back to prepare dinner, Annika followed for more detail work on their computer.
Björn was collected later using Bijous dinghy. Bijou has davits while Moons dinghy still is secured on deck. We had a fun evening/dinner in their cockpit until late…
8 February Thursday Isla Contadora – La Playita, Balboa, Panama City 36 nm
Elisabeth and Roger came over after breakfast, giving us a Panama guide and they got some more guide books, courtesy flags for the Pacific, Asia and Africa which might come handy.
Then we said farewell and left for the Panama Canal.
No wind and motor for the first hour. Then motor sail which slowly became sailing without engine. Moon thanked for the wind and powered up a few knots faster than under engine making the trip across a comfortable run in soft wind on the beam and little swell.
Reach the anchorage well before sunset after some contacts with Flamenco signal station, the traffic tower for the approach of the canal.
Soon we got confirmation of our canal ships number and because of that we relaxed and thought everything was in order. Oddly enough they had no information about clearance and immigration, only referred to a ”local agent”, which we don´t have.
That will have to wait until tomorrow.
9 February Friday La Playita anchorage
None of the radio nets in the pilot came up this morning, so still no info about how and where to clear in. All boats around us have transited the canal to the Pacific and had no info about where to go in Balboa. Annika took the dinghy to the marina and got info where to go. After having gathered all documents, Björn drove the Captain ashore to clear the paperwork. After an hour Annika was back and called for the dinghy and then we had lunch.
Soon after lunch the inspector from the Panama Canal arrived and measured Moon and inspected cleats and so on. Moon was well under 15 meters, the limit when we have to pay another $500.
When the inspector had filled all forms he realized that the bank probably was closed tomorrow Saturday and probably even Monday Tuesday due to the Carnival…He called the bank and we got info that they close half past three today and open again on Wednesday….
Full speed ahead in a taxi to the bank, but first we had to have a SIMcard for the phone to be able to get information about our banks SWIFT and IBAN numbers, necessary to be able to get the refund of the “buffer”, the $500 we have to pay as a deposit if something happens.
After having used three taxi drivers and twenty minutes in Digicel office we were back at the bank an hour before closing.
In spite what we had understood from various sources the bank didn’t accept credit cards! Luckily the next-door restaurant had an ATM so we made a quick run to that machine. The remaining problem was the amount of money being able to redraw in one day from our cards. The canal fee is quite something, but we managed with two cards and some pocket money to gather $1875 and could pay the bank ten minutes before closing time!!!
The bank phoned the Canal and informed them that we had played and the process could start.
The built up pressure in the heat was almost too much. To relax from all excitement we took a long walk back to the Flamenco Islands where the La Playita anchorage is located.
Coming back to the marina there was a nice restaurant where we sat down and had dinner well before sunset, in a way celebrating that we had gained four days getting in to the transit waiting list.
Coming back to Moon we had almost a chock when Annika called as agreed to get our preliminary transiting time – 28 of February!!! Yes you think this is a joke and there is little you can do when they tell you there is a lack of advisors… We are not allowed to transit without an advisor so here we are stuck for almost three weeks.
Had a shower and then tried to forget all about the Canal for tonight.
10 February Saturday La Playita anchorage
The wind across the anchorage gives us a decent climate in the boat during night, and that together with only 22 C in the water makes us sleep very well. But daytime it’s far too hot downstairs and on the not shaded parts of the deck. We live most of the day under the tent above the deck in front of the mast. Sometimes almost too cool in the wind!
Today we had to deal with our lack of cruising permit and only 48 hours visa that they decided yesterday we only needed. We took the dinghy to the marina and walked across to the harbor office and immigration that was said to be opened today.
Now we suddenly had to pay $185 for a cruising permit and because it was overtime an extra $20.This is about three times the numbers we can find in our four year old pilot. And yesterday the customs charge Annika $ 20 without a recite!
Another dilemma was that the immigration was closed until Wednesday, meaning we will be fined for overstaying due to their handling yesterday. It’s not easy to be the polite customer…
Luckily there was an English spoken agent at the harbor office and he helped us to translate and got in contact with an immigration officer that prolonged our visa until they open on Wednesday when we will come and pay a lot of money for a tourist visa!!!
With these new permits and documents we took the local bus in to town. We have not bought any food since we left Mexico almost two weeks ago so sure our storages in Moon were very low.
Started with buying a SIM card from another provider to get better reception on the anchorage – if possible… It turned out to be as slow as the other one… The bus stopped at the bus terminal where hundreds of bus lines and tube lines connect. A super big mall is across the street, and it’s really a super Mall. You can walk for a day in and lose your bearings all the time. You find several shops from all the famous brands with prices that are not cheap. Who buys all these products? Not the average Panama citizens for sure.
We finally found the food market and with those findings we went back to the bus terminal. Yes we found our way out of the Mall, even if it was difficult without a map. Found the bus just as it was leaving for Flamenco.
Coming back to our marina we sat down and had a beer at the restaurant we had dinner yesterday.
Back in Moon we opened all hatches to let out the heat from the day and sat for a while in our deck chairs in the shade admiring the sunset.
11 February Sunday La Playita anchorage.
Another nice cool night thanks to the wind that kept on through the night.
Breakfast in the shade on deck where we later spent most of the day catching up with blog and e-mails. We have not had internet since Mexico, and two weeks almost not attend the “inbox” create a lot of work.
OK we have HF radio/SSB with a modem so we are not out of reach on passages. A long quiet day on anchor without even letting the dinghy into the water.
Week 7 12 – 18 February 2018 La Playita anchorage Balboa, Panama City
12 February Monday La Playita anchorage
The temperature during the night was perfect in our bow cabin thanks to a fresh breeze all night. It’s very nice to be on anchor compared to sit in a marina. On anchor the boat swing towards the wind and create good ventilation through the boat with open hatches to the wind.
We spent the whole day on the boat, mostly under our tent in front of the mast that create a nice shaded cool area in the fresh breeze.
We wrote the English blog and some other updates and went for a walk ashore late evening. It’s obvious that there is a Carnival going on. Lots of people were walking the causeway up and down. It was almost difficult to get exercise walking in the crowd. All restaurants were full and because of that we took the dinghy back to Moon for a simple late dinner.
13 February Tuesday La Playita
Almost too much wind during the night. It’s a bit crowded in the anchorage and for that reason we only used a short scoop when we anchored. With the wind perpendicular to the direction we sat the anchor, the anchor “re-anchored” during the blow, making the distance to the closest boat a little too close. Before noon we pulled the anchor and went back to the original place where we let out more chain and set the anchor in the direction of the strong wind. We don’t feel comfortable if we haven’t sat the anchor using 50% revs on the engine, giving us a straight chain to the anchor and can really judge if the bottom has good holding.
A Dutch Malö 43 that we had seen among the ARC boats out in Las Perlas came to the anchorage and anchored close by. Because we know that the ARC boats are half way to Galapagos by now, we understood something was wrong. Björn took the dinghy across and asked if we could be of any help. They had ordered a new forward lower shroud, broken during the crossing of the Atlantic, and that was supposed to arrive tomorrow. A rigger was engaged to do the repair.
Back in Moon all cockpit winches got an overhaul, easy as we had used TEFgel on all screws when we did first maintenance of the winches in Malaysia when we bought the boat and had a big job making them as new again. All winches were fine and only in need of cleaning. Dirt in the grease has to come off, not to damages shafts, gears and bushings.
Before sunset we went ashore for a walk and had dinner on the restaurant we used two times before.
14 February Wednesday La Playita
During the morning VHF-net we announced our pilots from Alaska through BC and down to San Diego if somebody was heading that way. An American HR 46 was interested and soon Moon was a bit lighter. Ten books, that we most certainly don’t need in the future, use a huge space on the shelf, a space that we really don’t have.
After breakfast we did our planned trip to immigration to get our tourist visas. When we arrived to the office we understood that due to the Carnival that ended yesterday, they didn’t open the office until after noon!
Ok we took a bus to the big Mall to use the time waiting for them to open. Busses in Panama City go in circles so when the bus driver nodded when we asked about the Mall he was correct, but first the bus drove a tour in the northern suburb. Using our phone with GPS we soon understood we were approaching the Canal. We had planned to visit Miraflore locks next week, and now we were there by accident. Being cruisers we are used to change plans when circumstances change….
We jumped off the bus and walked a mile to the lock and got a presentation of the canal while two big ships were in the locks. The prop wash behind the big ones was impressing when they went out of the lock, something to remember when we are there next week.
The reason for us to see the locks was to “calibrate” the rumors we listen to and be able to compare with our experiences from locks in Sweden, Holland and Scotland.
Going back we could catch a bus just outside the canal and jump off that bus two blocks from immigration where we showed up shortly after one o’clock. Everything seemed to be ok until they wanted us to fill a form with fingerprints and photo. We had our thumbs with us… but no photos.
Out again and walked to a nearby drugstore where they could provide us with passport photos.
Back to immigration, it took only half an hour, and then we could pay $105 each to get our stamp and three months visa.
Going back to Moon we did some grocery shopping before the bus to Amadore/Flamenco.
Back in the boat we soon took the dinghy back into the marina to postpone our invitation to the Dutch Malö, because it was cruisers dinner at the Pizza restaurant just outside the marina.
There were cruisers from all three anchorages in Balboa. Several had heard our call for line handlers and we were offered help from three boats. We also discovered that several boats spend years here in Balboa.
Happy for having those offers we went back to Moon for a good night sleep.
15 February Thursday La Playita.
Nice temperature thanks to the good breeze over the bow.
Nomad, the HR 46 that bought our pilots came with some jerry jugs and we took the dinghy into the marina twice and filled our port water tank full and the starboard one became half full. Hopefully we don’t need more water until it is time to transit the canal. Annika then went in the process filling water to the marina and did the laundry.
We called the canal office and asked for an update of our date for transiting the canal. Every time we call we get a new date, this time two days earlier. We have soon to have a fixed date to be able to making arrangements with line handlers and stock up on food and water.
The afternoon was spent in Nomad the. Annika installed materiel on their computer while we exchanged experiences from our cruising over some beeers. They had recently left Canada east coast, our next goal, and we were of course curios about their experiences.
Back in Moon we got ready for a walk ashore, but stopped at the Dutch Malö, waiting in the marina for the rigger. Annika solved their problems with a new Raymarine plotter and we had a look at the broken shroud. Didn’t look good, but probably caused by improper handling while rigging the boat. The mast had been down at least three times during the years and eventually some bending had introduced a fatigue weak point where the swage ended. More than six strands were broken just at the edge of the swage! The other three lower shrouds looked ok, another reason to think about mishandling while taking down or rising he mast.
They have to speed up as their friends in the ARC have already arrived at Galapagos Island. Maybe they have to sail straight to Marquesas…. ARC has a great speed around the globe!
After sunset we finally had our walk. Looked at some menus but decided to have a late dinner in Moon.
16 February Friday La Playita anchorage
Almost no wind during the night. But the temperature was ok using no blankets.
But when the sun came above the horizon it soon became very hot.
Before noon we got some clouds and same relief.
In the afternoon we even got some rain! Our first rain since one day in SF in October. The squall lasted only half an hour and after that we took the dinghy to Kokopelli, a boat that promised us to be line handlers, for a chat about details doing that.
Later we took the dinghy ashore to pick up a Cuban Pilot that was given away very convenient.
We had dinner on our “normal” restaurant close to the marina.
17 February Saturday La Playita
Almost no wind during the night, but in spite of that we had good temperature down in Moon. Annika called the Canal office after breakfast to ask about date for transit and noted that Moon was too low to be rafted to the Tug we saw in the lock Wednesday. We didn’t get a new date.
Annika continued to document all our tracks over the years which cruisers love to use when they are in difficult areas with uncharted reefs, such as Fiji.
We changed oil in our gear box and could leave the used oil from the engine and the gearbox in the marina, something they was not allowed to do in Mexico!
Moon is bit by bit getting ready for transiting the Canal.
We have to buy bottle water for the advisor! That tells you something about their ideas about the distributed water in Panama. But it’s similar with cruisers. Some hazels with expensive bottle water and the storage those need, while others like us use the distributed water if it taste good and drink the water we have in our tanks.
Being on an anchorage like this for weeks with water around that isn’t very good for the water maker of course calls for other solutions. The marina charge you if you go in with the boat and fill up, but you can use jerrycans in the dinghy to get along. Moon has almost 1000 liters and we normally can manage two weeks without filling. But in this humid heat we shower too much and are running low after two weeks. We borrowed some jerry cans and got 100 liters that hopefully will keep us running until we go in to the marina and fill up diesel and water before transiting the Canal.
Our new Dutch friends didn’t get their shroud last night and came out and anchored today. The marina charge them $86 per day and that’s too much only waiting. On top of that the wind cools the boat better out in the anchorage when the boat turns into the wind.
18 February Sunday La Playita
Clouded in the morning, but it only lasted an hour before the sun fried us from a clear sky.
We had breakfast under the tent in front of the mast, where we spend most of our outdoor time.
Annika continued with our tracks, a really time consuming work, mainly because of different software over the years.
We tried our own lines for the locks. We will use the recommended technique for shorthand handling we learnt many years ago in Swedish and Dutch locks, using blocks at the bow and bring the line back to our main winches in cockpit. We will for the stern line have use for our aft deck winch for the first time!
The windlass was dismantled, cleaned, serviced and greased before assembly.
During the afternoon we had some gust in the anchorage, making it almost chilly!
We had a walk ashore late afternoon but dinner back in Moon.
Week 8 19 – 25 February 2018 La Playita, Balboa – Portobelo, Atlantic Panama 70nm
18 February Monday La Playita
Very early start to get to town around eight o’clock. We were going to help a friend currently in Thailand to pay his satellite phone membership, bought here in Panama a year ago. Of some reason they couldn’t get the Swedish bank to transfer payment to a Panama company.
When that was done we were too early for the big mall. We instead took the bus to the central bus terminal and from there another bus in to the new city of Panama City. Strolled for an hour among the very high buildings with scattered old small houses in between.
Had coffee and then continued walking towards the old town, now an UNESCO heritage. We are happy we decided to pay this place a visit. Although being a “tourist trap” with ridiculously high prices it was worth the effort. Being Monday and before lunch time there were actually not many tourists and we managed to avoid restaurants with tripled prices compared to our restaurant out at the marina in La Playita/Flamenco.
On the old defense wall to the sea were lots of small stands where they sold must have things to the tourists. Most of them were Cuna Indians selling Molas. Although nice, the asked prices were very high. It seems that especially American tourist don’t mind these prices and very often even tip on top!
We found a nice lunch bar and had lunch and a beer. The neighbor charged three times more for the beer. How is that possible? I mean it’s obvious that they overcharge you and why should you choose the more expensive one? After that good meal we continued north out of the old town looking for the supermarket we saw on the map.
Suddenly a police was calling us from behind and came almost running. We were not supposed to continue, and looking a bit further we understood his concern. We were at the border of the poor part of Panama City and the police was from the Policia Tourist that tries to protect tourist from being hurt or robbed. We told him we were only going to visit the supermarket three blocks into the suburb. He looked at us and saw no cameras, no watches and now jewelry. “OK you will probably be fine” and he let us walk into the dangerous are. In the supermarket we saw only people from the poor neighborhood and we thought the prices were adjusted accordingly.
Coming out of the market we took a taxi back to the marina, not to stretch our luck too much…
Back in Moon Annika called the Canal and suddenly was offered a transit on Wednesday instead of Sunday.
We had to come back on that offer because our line handlers were occupied on Wednesday.
Soon we had three new ones and we called back and accepted Wednesday.
Now we were even more thankful for our trip today to the old town. With this new schedule we would have missed it otherwise.
We cleaned the boat and stored things away to be able to have three night guests already tomorrow night because the transit will start already at five am early morning Wednesday.
We took the dinghy ashore to visit the chandleries in Flamenco to buy filters, oil and check out if we could use the fuel dock in the Flamenco Marina to fuel up and take on water. Flamenco Marian is cheaper than La Playita Marina and has a fuel dock that is much easier to access with a long keeled boat without a bow thruster.
Back in Moon some more work to make room before we went to bed.
19 February Tuesday La Playita.
After breakfast we weigh anchor and motored around the peninsula to Flamenco Marina where we got diesel, water and petrol for the dinghy.
Back at our spot in La Playita anchorage we took the dinghy ashore and then the bus to the big mall for last minutes stocking up. We were supposed to feed six people (which turned out to be seven!) during eventually two days (which turned out to be one day).
If we are lucky we can get through in one day. If not we have to anchor in Gatun lake and another night in Moon for the line handlers. The advisors never sleep in the boat, only eat and drink. We hope our early start will get us through in one day.
Back from the mall with lots of bags and our two backpacks heavily filled with food.
There was no wind at the anchorage making the temperature very high in the sunshine.
Before six pm we took the dinghy into the marina to meet our line handlers at the restaurant.
After dinner and two dinghy tours out to Moon we soon hit the beds to be able to wake up to the planned early start.
20 February Wednesday and the big day Balboa – Shelter Bay, Colon 49 nm
The wakeup call came twenty minutes before five o’clock, but Annika called Flamenco traffic control before we pulled the anchor.
Now we were scheduled to meet the advisor at buoy number six an hour later. Buoy number six was only five minutes from our anchorage, so instead of pulling the anchor we had breakfast. We now also heard the name of the boat that was going to transit together with us and soon in the dark we saw its navlights when it came out of La Playita Marina. Very relaxing to notice that it was a sailboat in similar size as Moon, good because we are certenly going to raft together in the locks and that is always easier with similar boats and size.
Quarter past six we were together with Taurus, a Contest 50, at buoy nr 6 waiting for our advisors. They came shortly after our arrival and they were three!
We got two advisors, one being a trainee. The trainee, a young woman, seemed to have a bit of trouble accepting that Annika was the captain, but very soon she was ok with that and we had a very pleasant day together. Hector, the ”real” advisor was a very relaxed man that had no problem being in the background, only supporting the trainee.
Both our advisors seemed a bit worried when we showed them our Swedish way of handling the ropes to the wharf. Through the cleats and back to a winch, making it possible to give and retrieve the lines without releasing them from a cleat. The comment was “we will see how it works in the first lock”. We used the system with great success through all six locks, while the hired line handlers on Taurus had quite a problem with the “normal” Panama Canal way, loosing ability to keep the lines stretched at all times. Of course it helped us to have our own nice lines… and not the bulky polypropylene (25mm one inch) lines that most yachts hire for the transit.
We were very lucky not having a big ship in the lock together with us. We transited the upward locks together with a square rigger from Mexico, a tourist boat and three tugs.
Coming into the first lock in Mirafloor, the crew on the Mexican ship was on all spars singing, much appreciated by the many spectators standing on the balconies of the information building. Quite an unusual transit. There must have been a special ad somewhere for tourists, because when we visited the lock a week earlier there were not ten percent of this number and that was in the middle of the day!
Thanks to all these circumstances, not to mention the easy handling of our two shorelines (the other two was handled by Taurus), the day became more of a day out instead of a work day for our three line handlers.
When we had done the three locks we disconnected from Taurus and started the run through the canal and across Gatun Lake. We had to be in time on the other side before they turn the traffic to go the other way. Seven knots was the required speed and that is more than a knot faster compared to our normal long time speed. The Contest with its big turbo engine had of course no problem. We adjusted our revs from 1400 to 1600 and then we could surprisingly easy keep up with Taurus. We sent some grateful thoughts to Max Prop and our new four bladed big feathering propeller installed this spring.
Half way across the lake we got headwind and Taurus lost speed. Moon had to rev down not to hit their stern! Now we were even more impressed of our new propeller and of course our naturally aspirated 65 HP Perkins Sabre!
When we had half an hour left for the lock we understood that we could get through if we hurried up a bit. We speeded up and that inspired probably Taurus to do the same. Just outside the lock, where a big ship was waiting for us, we rafted in almost full speed and entered the lock in front of the ship.
Just as the monkey fists flew through the air the big ship was pulled into the lock. What a difference to be in front of a big ship instead of behind. No prop wash what so ever. The Mexican square rigger was alone in the parallel lock.
Coming out of the locks into Colon Harbour and the Atlantic we got gale force head wind which made the trip to the Flats, where we were to leave our two nice advisors, a salt sprayed one.
Then we were to find a spot to leave our line handlers which in the north easterly gale wasn’t that easy. After two attempts we had to go to Shelter Bay Marina, where we arrived just after sunset and moored behind the breakwater pontoon among the superyachts.
After some mistrial we found a taxi that for $100 could bring them back to Flamenco in Balboa.
It was a relief to be alone and have a shower on the pontoon.
We had been seven people in the boat the whole day, and these persons had to be supplied with food and drinks all day. Fun to test that Moon could have seven people seated at a table in the cockpit without Moon sitting to heavy on the waterline, in spite fresh water around us.
We will probably, in spite the high marina fee, stay in the marina until the wind has settled a bit and then continue to Portobelo to check out from Panama.
21 February Thursday Shelter Bay Marina
We had a nice wind through Moon the whole night and slept very well after our extra long Wednesday. The wind was still strong from NE and we had the bow in that direction.
Went in to the marina office as soon as they opened and got a normal slip in the marina and bow to the wind again. Annika moved Moon easily to the new slip and then we started the project cleaning up the boat and all lines.
Laundry had to be done and all the red brown dirt that had accumulated on deck and everything else outdoors during our stay downwind of Panama City had to come off using a broom and lots of fresh water on deck.
All lines that had been used during the transit were soaked in freshwater. All sheets, furling lines, running backstays and preventers that were impregnated with salt and red brown dirt were also included in the process.
We hadn’t hired any lines or fenders, Moons ordinary eight fenders and shorelines was more than enough for a safe and easy transit. We didn’t use an agent and what we have understood here in Shelter Bay the waiting time for transit is not effected by having an agent or not.
We are very pleased to notice that our increased speed during the crossing of Gatun Lake didn’t increase the diesel consumption notably.
We spent most of the afternoon in two Norwegian boats arriving from San Blas.
Had a simple dinner in Moon as we had the food we bought to feed seven people during two days.
22 February Friday Shelter Bay Marina
Continuing the work with cleaning the boat.
Annika made copies from our tracks in Pacific to give our fellow cruisers from Norway and Finland.
During the afternoon these were delivered and installed while rest of the crews had a beer or two together with the rest of the crew from Moon…
We had dinner at the restaurant together with our German friends from the canal transit.
23 February Saturday Shelter Bay Marina
Still 20 – 30 knots from NE and we have a nice temperature down in Moon.
When the rest of the deck had been cleaned after breakfast we installed all lines along the cap rail that had been removed not to interfere with the line handling in the locks.
Annika helped Taurus with their SSB which had problem to communicate with their PC.
Björn went to the yard to see if the Swedish Malö Rubicon was ready for launching after new antifouling. The antifouling was done but there was some problem with the windlass and that had not progressed according to plan. Some plates and little more from Moon fixed it and Rubicon was splashed after noon.
Finally we had time for a walk where we saw small monkeys and three ant eaters – small ones. Later Lisa and Johan from Rubicon came to Moon for a sundowner. The crew from one of the Norwegian boats came also over to have a look at Moon and suddenly we were eight people looking around in Moon.
When they were pleased, we sat down and had a beer with Rubicon. Lisa and Johan really needed that after a stressful final of their hardstand.
After our sundowner we had dinner together at the restaurant.
24 February Sunday Shelter Bay – Portobelo 21 nm
Not that strong wind during the night.
After breakfast we delivered a hard drive full of copies to Rubicon and said farewell also to the Norwegian boats. Then we drove out of the marina into the fresh north easterly wind. Hoist a reefed main to stabilize Moon in the swell. Portobelo was only a few degrees out of the wind!
Motored into the swell all the 21 nm, but thanks to the design of Moon it was not too uncomfortable. Half way we decreased the angle to the swell ten degrees and came closer to shore where we finally got some protection from land. The final five miles was quite ok.
Three hours after we left Shelter bay we took down the main and motored into the bay where Portobelo is at the head.
Nice wind from shore over the anchorage and some clouds. We even got some rain, but only drops.
But what an odd place! Several sailboats aground and some on anchor seems to be abounded, although we later found out that most of the boats had cruisers or live aboard, even the abounded.
Why are we here? According to information it´s possible to clear customs, something that is hard to believe when we look at the shore line of the ”town”. We will check it out tomorrow.
Week 9 26 February – 4 March 2018 Portobelo, Panama East Coast
26 February Monday Portobelo
Björn has since a couple of days felt a flue coming and that kept us in the boat all day.
The bay is more or less completely protected from swell, except from pangas transporting people from town to the other side of the bay.
Nice breeze from shore keep the temperature down, but still above 30C. Sitting without shade is not to think about! Sometimes we even have clouds with one drop or two.
We have northerly winds for the coming week, so waiting out the flue is not a problem as we have to wait for the next weather window to go to Cuba.
27 February Tuesday Portobelo
Björn’s flu is still getting worse.
Rain showers today, aömost enough to get Moon free from salt spray we got Sunday coming from Colon. Too much wind in the squalls to be able to hoist the sails and get them cleaned as well. The climate is very different from west coast Panama. East side has much more wind, clouds, rain and sometimes even thunder.
We got company this afternoon when four guys from the marine police paid us a visit and checked our paper. Very friendly and one even spoke some English…
28 February Wednesday Portobelo
No rain this night. We have the dinghy still on top of the forward hatch, but with rain and wind, the rain still find its way down to our bed.
Staying at anchor for days makes it necessary to charge our batteries. We need to charge little more than one hour a day to keep our batteries happy. But that only gives us 80% capacity and in the long run much sulphated batteries with less and less capacity. To at least minimize this problem, we once a week charge the batteries to 100%, either by shore power or, as here on anchor, we use the little 1000watt Honda. We start the 100% charging with running the engine alternators and when we have reached 80% (when the charging is below 15 – 20 amp (24volt)) we shut down the engine and start the Honda inverter/charger. Because it has an economic mode, the Honda run at revs that produce watt’s used by the 220 charger and not more. It’s almost on idle after a short while when the charger put less than 10 amps into the battery bank and runs ”forever” on a litre of petrol, much more economic than running the main engine for the same charging.
We put the little Honda in the dinghy behind Moon and practically don’t hear it. Using this regime we have still good capacity in our Start/Stop Varta batteries we bought in Japan three years ago, in spite heavy use in a boat without propane, solar panels or a wind generator!
After noon we took the dinghy to a jetty where we seen most of the dinghies in the bay tie up.
It was a German couple that came here six years ago and stayed, now running a bar and a small sail repair business.
We walked through the village and found four groceries, two having a decent stock. Also found two quite big hardware stores. Found Immigration and the harbour master office. We need both when we are ready to leave for Cuba. Bought some vegetables and walked back to our dinghy where we had a beer chatting with the owner of the bar.
Back in Moon Annika had a swim and cleaned the waterline in the 27C water.
Björn´s flu is still going strong!
1 March Thursday Portobelo
A day with mainly indoor work. Björns flu has started to change, giving him lot of though coughing.
2 March Friday Portobelo
The night became a tough one for the sick patient! Lots of coughing that continued throughout the day. Annika has started to feel something similar to Björn´s first indication of the flu! Doesn’t come well with our intension to leave early next week.
Yesterday one of our neighbours, a big Spanish Yacht, re anchored after having lost its holding.
Now we saw the empty boat slowly move downwind among the anchored boats. Annika took the dinghy ashore to try to alert the crew, sitting in the bar. When she came ashore, they had noticed the emergency and took their dinghy to the boat to re anchor.
Björn had full entertainment looking close by at their attempt to get a new grip for their little anchor.
The boat, 60+ foot, had same model of anchor as Moon, but at least one size down! They used very little scoop and no wonder they had to try several times. After eight attempts they put a snubber to the chain and that’s it!
As long as we are not to leeward we have nothing to worry about, but it’s odd that people have big expensive boats and cheap, bad ground tackle: Combined with no good routine for anchoring this is very bad. As we always say “the biggest danger about anchoring is other boats!”
Annika use the shore trip to get some groceries.
3 March Saturday Portobelo
The flu has culminated and we hope Annika will stay well. Annika is working with web, e-mails, but Björn don’t need any work! Even if the flu has started to go away, the ambition to do anything in the heat hasn’t come back.
In late afternoon we saw a swallow sneak into the back of the sail cover.
Open it up we found lots of grass, leafs and feathers gathered in one place, obviously a nest in progress. It was completely dry and we could easily just blow it away. But we were surprised that all this in only a few days when we have been in the boat all the time.
4 March Sunday Portobelo
Björn is on his way back to normal, but Annika has started to cough.
The question is if we are ok enough to start a 5-6 days sail to Cuba this coming week.
A weather window seems to be developing Wednesday….
Week 10 5 – 11 March 2018 Portobelo, Panama – Bahia de Nombre de dios, Rio Terrin 20 nm
5 March Monday Portobelo
We don’t see a possibility to start north this week. Björn is a bit better, but Annika has started to show signs of the flu. But there is seldom anything bad that hasn’t also a good effect.
We have finalized TWO new albums, one covering Mexico and one for Panama including our channel passage.
We have also done a long postponed work, organizing and rewriting our old logbooks from start, and they are now published under logbooks. Amazing how many pages we have been writing over the years.
Late afternoon we made a dinghy tour ashore to get rid of trash and get some photos of the town to the Panama album. Found some apples to our breakfast porridge too.
The dinghy dock belongs to the German couple and their friendly beach bar and restaurant. It’s very easy to sit down and have a Balboa beer before going back to the boat.
This evening we tried their Pizza. Homemade and very good.
6 March Tuesday Portobelo
Same procedure as last night, meaning Björn is a bit better but Annika is worse.
Weather a bit overcastted but warm and humid. Late afternoon we took the dinghy to the bar for some internet and a beer. Their wifi is much faster than our cell phone out in Moon.
7 March Wednesday Portobelo
Björns cold is status quo. But Annika have hopefully reached the ”bottom” during afternoon and night. The whole day became a grey day with rain off and on. Only 26C but very humid.
We really need to get going north!
8 March Thursday Portobelo
Annika has really started to cough and hopefully that means that it has started the long return . Björn is still coughing after ten days!
Some rain during the night which means that we have to close the hatch. It soon becomes hot and humid if we don’t wake up and open again. This is extra fun when you have a flu!
The passage to Cuba is an upwind tough one, not something to start with a crew weak from flu!
We do have to wait and hope for next weather window.
The boats in our bay are all, more or less, waiting for the passage to the Pacific and their waiting time seems to be the same as ours from the other side. But everyday some boats are leaving.
It’s an unusual mix, 12 out of 20 are from France! We have never met such dominance. Not so fun as people from France seems to avoid other nations, or is it only Swedes? But we have some nice exemptions from the role even here!! Rain off and on the whole day.
Afternoon and evening was spend in the bar/restaurant with internet, beer and schnitzel.
9 March Friday Portobelo
Rain this night again. Annika is still coughing and Björn is still not really ok.
Weather check. It looks like a possibility to start our trip north beginning of next week, both the weather and the flu seems to agree. At least we can start for some days going east to gain better angle to the north as the wind in the beginning of next week seems to be west of north.
This made us go into town and check laundry, harbormaster and immigration. We do have to check out of Panama before leaving Portobelo. Bought some vegetables before we went back to Moon..
In the afternoon we left two bags with laundry in town before we checked out and got our Zarpe for Cuba.
We spent some hours in “our” beach bar with internet and beer.
Our Canadian friends came from Panama city with lots of bags. We helped them out to Jabiroo next to Moon and later we had a sundowner in their cockpit. The beer was “half cold” because the fridge had stopped working. Annika stepped down in the big locker where the compressor is and restored the minus cabling and the fridge was happy again.
We had dinner at the beach bar/restaurant. A special made pizza from Annikas receipts. Chicken, banana and curry. It will be on the menu as ”Moon Pizza”. Very good.
10 March Saturday Portobelo
Rain much of the night an Annika is feeling a bit better. Björn almost ok.
Cleaned the boat to be ready to leave tomorrow.
After lunch Annika cut the long hair on Björn before we took the dinghy to town. Got some last minutes frozen stuff and vegetables, and of course got the laundry.
Rest of the afternoon we spent with internet in the beach bar. There will be fewer possibilities to do that until we are in US.
We had our Canadian friends over for a sundowner before it was time for a shower and dinner in Moon.
11 March Sunday Portobel – Bahai de Nombre de dios , Rio Terrin 20 nm
No wind at all during the night and without a fan we had probably not survived!
Our colds are better but still some remains.
After breakfast we took the dinghy to the bar to leave a big, a little worn out, Swedish flag.
Back in Moon to secure the dinghy on deck and then retrieve the chain, a time consuming process as it was not clean after two weeks on the bottom. Used the wash down pump to clean the chain and that worked ok even if it took its time.
Funny enough, the chain had almost five meters, around twenty meters from the anchor, where it was yellow and looked gold plated. Had this something to do with the Spanish gold??? But sure there was some metal in the ocean floor that contributed to this phenomenon.
We left Portobelo around nine and drove by Isla Linton and Isla Grande to Bahia de Nombre de dios where we anchored for the night early afternoon behind a protecting reef. Except for the reef the wind have no disturbance and we hope to have a fresh air through the boat the whole night.
We will probably move further east towards San Blas before we start north when the easterly wind comes in by the end of next week.
Remember there are two albums on the web to examine.
Annika & Björn