We Q-flagged through the San Blas and needed to check into Panama, so we sailed to Puerto Lindo and took a slip at the new marina. We went to Portobelo to complete immigration and had a little time to look around. We visited the famous Cristo Negro in the San Felipe church, visited a cool fort, and gained an understanding of the troubles we saw when we arrived in the San Blas Islands.
We sailed into the Linton Bay Anchorage and dropped anchor. We tried several times to set it, but we kept on dragging. On our last attempt, it was dark and we were out of options, so we just dropped the anchor without setting it — and hoped there would not be a strong enough wind to make us drag. We set our anchor alarm in a tight radius and refused to leave the boat. So what was the problem? Why couldn’t we get the anchor to set?
Most of our cruising experience was in the Eastern Caribbean where the anchorages were 10-25 feet deep. We have 150 feet of chain; only 150 feet of chain. We were advised that 150 feet would be plenty. Maybe that person never imagined we would live to sail beyond the Eastern Caribbean. Anyway, this anchorage was 45 feet deep. In our sailing lessons, we were taught to put out a scope of 7-1. In 45 feet, we would need 315 feet of chain for 7-1! We did understand that in deeper water you can anchor with less scope, because the weight of the chain hanging down will help hold you in place. However, we were barely 3-1 with our 150 feet of chain. We did have rode, which was a mess from twisting (a whole different story), and we used some of that this time. The problem is that the rode doesn’t add to the weight and by putting out light rode, we no longer have as much chain weight hanging as it is allowed to lie on the bottom.
So what is the correct solution in this case? Well, we didn’t drag over night, but it was a sleepless night because we were so worried about it. We had to come up with a better solution, especially since we had to leave the boat to go to Panama City to pick up our son. Our final solution? Move the boat into the Linton Bay Marina and tie up to the dock! We’ll figure out deep anchoring later. Chances are we will end up replacing our chain with a longer one. As we understand it, some anchorages will be really deep.
Customs was located in Linton Bay Marina Boatyard, so we started the check-in process there. We also paid for our cruising permit at the customs office, spending $185 for a six month permit. Immigration was located in Portbelo, so we needed a bus, taxi, or rental car to get there to finish checking in. The marina car was already reserved for the next two weeks, but the lady at the marina office knew someone who would rent us their personal car.
This car was something. It was a little Toyota Corolla that was lowered, had all the windows tinted dark (including the windshield), had the headlights and taillights replaced with blue and/or strobe lights, and had speakers that filled half the trunk. Our sweet ride was all pimped out just the way he liked it.
Our road trip began and Portobelo was our first stop to complete the check-in process. Immigration was quick, easy, and cost-free. Next, we stopped by a really cool looking fort, Fuerte Santiago de la Gloria. The fort was in good shape other than all the vines and moss growing on the stones. You could tell that Panama gets a lot of rain.
Panama was an extremely important Spanish stronghold where all the wealth found in the Caribbean (such as gold from Mexico and silver from Peru) was stored and transported from to Spain. Francis Drake sailed into Portobelo to try to steal the Spanish wealth.
I find it really interesting to visit these pieces of history.
The fort overlooks the bay where Hurricane Otto recently caused so much havoc.
Panama had NEVER been hit by a hurricane, but Portobelo experienced 70-80 mph winds in Hurricane Otto. Three people died, four were missing (not sure of an update), and 19 boats were sunk or washed aground. I’m sure more suffered damages. We met people who lost their boats and others who were trying to get theirs repaired. Other areas in Panama experienced losses as well, but Portobelo was the hardest hit.
Everywhere we looked in the bay, we saw boats sitting at unnatural angles.
The waves lifted the boats 12-15 feet up and sent them so far aground that no one knows how to get them back in the water. So sad! Hurricane Otto was a late in season hurricane hitting land on November 24th! Our insurance allows us to leave our hurricane safety zone on November 1st. We were very fortunate we stayed in Colombia much later. Otto crossed from the Caribbean to the Pacific at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border. It was the first hurricane to hit Costa Rica in recorded history as well (since 1851). Nine people died in Costa Rica. (Otto developed later in the season than any Atlantic basin hurricane since Hurricane Epsilon in 2005. It was the latest hurricane to form in the Caribbean, supplanting Hurricane Martha of 1969 in the record book.)
Portobelo seemed whole for the most part. There were some buildings crumbling down, but they looked like they may have been that way before Otto. Some of the buildings looked very old. This one had a Caribbean map painted on it.
Portobelo was divided by a creek passing through it.
The roads were bridged across it. It probably helps with drainage during the rainy season, but it was also a likely source of garbage washing out to sea. As we drove around we noticed heaps and heaps of garbage in some places and garbage strewn about in others. Apparently, Panama does not have the infrastructure to handle all of the garbage. We noticed this in other countries, too, like Thailand and India — as well as some islands. Prepackaged foods and other product packaging that have recently become so popular have overloaded these countries with garbage. The only method of garbage disposal in the San Blas Islands is to burn it. All this garbage around mainland Panama washes out to sea when it rains, especially in big storms. This explains why the San Blas Islands were so inundated with garbage when we arrived on the heels of a storm. Such a sad state of affairs! The government really needs to step up on this!
This guy was strutting his stuff down the street.
This old building was the Spanish customs building. I saw people going in and out of it, but I’m not sure what it is used for now.
Before continuing on to Panama City, we had to visit the famous Black Christ Church. Cristo Negro was located in the San Felipe Church, instantly recognizable now by its white and lilac colored exterior. It wasn’t always painted so brightly.
People were praying the Cristo Negro and leaving coins, jewelry, and other items at his feet. We asked that he keep us safe on our drive to Panama City. Next up, we get a brief look around the capital city, Steve from Slow Flight makes a major purchase, and we pick up our son, Devan.