Jamaica to Panama
The forecasted northeasterly wind arrived a few hours after rounding the western side of Jamaica. And with the wind now behind us, Maria and I set the sails wing-on-wing (something we haven’t done since crossing the Atlantic) and gently rolled our way onwards towards Panama throughout the night.
But by the time the sun rose, the wind had shifted to the east. So we rolled in the genoa, lowered the whisker pole, and reset the sails onto port tack. And that’s the way we stayed for the rest of the journey to Linton Bay.
Later that morning, a pod of dolphins arrived to play in Lady Jane’s bow wave. This was great entertainment for us – and them. They stayed over half an hour and took turns to pair up and cross our bow from right to left. It was quite a show.
Before setting off from Jamaica, we heard salty tales of yachts being battered and broken through high seas and heavy weather. We experienced none of that. Although the sea state wasn’t slight, it wasn’t nausea-inducing either. The winds stayed light enough for us to carry full sail all the way, and strong enough to get us to our destination within our estimated time of four days.
On Saturday 2nd February, we arrived in Panama. Our Odyssey Sailing friends on A Capella of Belfast, and Krabat (who we hadn’t seen for a year) were already at the anchorage at Linton Bay, and we parked just behind them in 10 metres of water.
Linton Bay is probably the best place to clear in for sailors wanting to visit the San Blas islands, which are approximately 40 miles from here. There’s a small customs building near to the marina that issues cruising permits for Panama, and the immigration office is just a 30-minute bus or taxi ride away.
And the marina at Linton has fuel, water and a small shop inside the petrol station to restock on essentials – especially beer.
After a five-minute dinghy ride to the marina, I headed off to Customs to get the cruising permit, then joined Maria and our salty sailing friends from A Capella and Krabat at the local restaurant (a shack in the car park) $205 lighter.
And later that evening, we joined Julian and Patricia and Bill and Moira onboard A Capella of Belfast for a mini-reunion. It was great to catch up.
A Capella of Belfast and Krabat left the next day for San Blas. But we couldn’t go anywhere until we had cleared immigration. And for that, we had to wait until Monday for the office to open. In any case, our good friends onboard JaJapami were due to arrive on Sunday, and we hadn’t seen them for over a year.
On Sunday night we joined Jan Dirk, Jana, Paul, Michel and Jelle (acting as crew) for dinner onboard JaJapami. And despite it being a year, it seemed that only weeks had passed by since we last saw them. The conversation flowed as fluidly as the wine.
On Monday morning, I asked the marina office to order a taxi to take us to the immigration office in Portobello. Jelle wanted to take a look at the town, so he came along with us – this was especially helpful to us because he speaks fluent Spanish.
Tropical forest surrounds the road to Portobello. And it’s beautiful. The colours subtly change at almost every turn of the winding road until it finally gives way to an urban landscape shortly before reaching the town.
Portobello itself is a bit run down, but it has a magnificent old Spanish fort used to defend the harbour during the colonial era. We spent almost an hour looking around the place before Jelle called the taxi driver to pick us up.
The immigration process was simple enough. The only odd thing was having to go to the pharmacy to copy our papers and passports. When we brought them back to the immigration office, the officer made a copy of one of the copies using her photocopier. Figure that.
On Tuesday we refilled our diesel tank from our jerry cans, then refilled the cans at the fuel dock. And that evening we went for dinner with the JaJapamis at a small restaurant run by a Dutch guy. The food here was fairly good, but the memorable feature was the bats literally hanging around on the Brazilian flag.
As convenient as Linton is for boats, we wanted to move on to spend as much time as possible in the San Blas islands. So, early on Wednesday morning, we set off in a brisk wind and lumpy sea towards Porvenir, the gateway to the San Blas Islands. The photograph below, taken by Jelle from JaJapami shows just how lumpy that sea was.