Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cristobal/Colon, Panama

S/V Aspen – December 1, 2009 – Log #21
Position: 9 degrees 22.1’ N 79 degrees 57.0’ W
(Cristobal/Colon, Panama)

We sailed west from the San Blas Islands for 10 hours to an anchorage 62 miles away called Isla Linton. This is a fair anchorage with quite a few boats anchored around the bay. We anchored between the island and the mainland of Panama so this was our first time so close to the isthmus itself.

On the small island of Isla Linton there is an abandoned house with a place you can tie your dinghy up and go ashore to explore. It seems that there are many monkeys on the island and they like to visit with you when you dock your dinghy. However, they expect food and if you don’t have any food or you run out of food while feeding them they become aggressive and will attack you. These are some really nasty monkeys!

So with that in mind, we decided to stay on Aspen and get some sleep instead!

The following day we sailed to the Panama Canal Zone and the city of Cristobal/Colon. One mile from the massive Panama Canal breakwater we announced our intention to the authorities at Cristobal Control that we wished to enter into the man-made, continent-sized harbor.

Our conversation with Cristobal Control went something like this:
Aspen: Cristobal Control, Cristobal Control this is the sailing vessel Aspen, over?
Repeat this 6 times and finally someone answers…

Cristobal Control: Sailing vessel, please state your position and intention

Aspen: This is the sailing vessel Aspen, we are 1 mile from the massive breakwater with the enormous waves crashing over it and we intend to enter the channel.

Cristobal Control: Sailing vessel Aspen, you may proceed through the breakwater and enter the channel but be advised there is traffic in the area

Aspen: Thank you. I will follow the gigantic cargo ship, Chilean Reefer - who is directly ahead of me, through the breakwater as I am surfing down these huge waves

Cristobal Control: silence

Admiral Maria: Not silent – Captain Steve, why are we going behind that big ship?

Captain Steve: Because he is bigger than us and I am letting him go first

Admiral Maria: $*&%$#, do you have to get so close to the breakwater?

Captain Steve: Yes because I am trying to avoid the very big ships that are trying to run us over

Admiral Maria: %&^@*#$!, well can’t you go any faster???

Captain Steve: No

Following that experience we were safely behind the massive breakwater and once again in calm water, motoring through the hazardous anchorage area where they keep the really nasty ships that carry explosives, oil, gas and nuclear waste. Arrrrrrrh!

Shelter Bay Marina is our destination, on the far western side of the harbor and within the boundaries of the previous US Army Base called Fort Sherman. The Marina sits within a vast national park, now that Fort Sherman has been abandoned (by Jimmy Carter). But we will once again have WIFI and temporary shelter from the storms that sweep through this part of the Western Caribbean. Welcome to Panama!

Sail on sail on Aspen…

Steve and Maria

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