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We are LOVING Shelter Bay Marina. It’s a great place to hang out with other cruisers, stock your boat, and wait for your turn to transit the Panama Canal.
From a sailing standpoint, it is extremely sheltered. We’ve had a few windy days, but even then, the water is flat calm. It doesn’t feel like we are on a boat. In fact, David’s planning on working on our generator exhaust thru-hull while we are here, which is just BARELY above the water.
For amenities, the wifi (obviously the most important one) is ok. There is a restaurant, pool, hot tub, nice shower facilities, sail loft, gym, laundry, haul out facility, mini-mart, and lastly, a shuttle.
The shuttle is probably the second most important. There isn’t a chandlery, but at least once a week Max Industries brings a bunch of stuff and sets it up on a table for sale. They also take orders to be delivered next time they come by.
We have made a few trips to Panama City. We traveled once for a doctors appointment, and then once to be tourists.
The area surrounding Shelter Bay is a jungle. One morning, we heard these crazy noises that sounded like dinosaurs. Turns out they are howler monkeys! There are also Capuchin monkeys, parrots, and a wide variety of unusual mammals.
My favorite part of being here is the socialization. All of the cruisers here seem WAY more friendly than normal. We meet new people every day. In fact, it’s kind of hard to go anywhere without stopping to chat with someone. There is a cruiser’s net (7:30 am on channel 77) and everyone monitors channel 74. Weekly events are organized, ranging from a movie night, to nature walks, to 5 o’clock happy hour. Several nights David and I mixed ourselves a cocktail at 5 and walk the docks, chatting with people we meet along the way.
I think this has to do with the fact that we are mostly all on the same trajectory. Shelter Bay Marina has two rallies here (OCC and Pacific Puddle Jump). Most people are waiting to do the Panama Canal. They are looking for line handlers, or looking to be line handlers, and are mostly heading to the coconut milk run. Odds are pretty good we will run into a lot of these people again.
Speaking of rallies, we joined the Pacific Puddle Jump, which is a free, very loose rally. Conveniently for us, they had a send-off party here on March 6th. The event featured representatives from Tahiti Crew (an agent service in Tahiti), Tahiti Tourism, Latitude 38, and Whangarei Marina in New Zealand. This best part was when they overviewed the three main archipelagos of French Polynesia (The Societies, the Tuamotus, and the Marquesas). Not that we weren’t excited to visit them before, but now we know so much more about what we get to look forward to.
On Saturday the 5th, three of our line handlers arrived; Sara (who you will remember from Canada), her boyfriend Trevor, and his friend David K. Today, Sara, myself, Trevor and David K went for a hike through the jungle nearby and to the San Lorenzo Fort. We probably walked 14 km…and we got a ride back to the marina. We saw a sloth, a ton of birds, and at least a dozen howler monkeys. As I said, you can hear the monkeys from the marina, but hearing them on the walk was even wilder. You can listen to the howler monkey here if you have never heard one before.
Now, our guests are relaxing by the pool. David is re-bedding the generator exhaust (which is still leaking after he fixed it in Grenada). I have plans to go to the grocery store tomorrow. Our last line handler, Hans, arrives tomorrow as well. We first met Hans when we did our Helia test sail at the Miami Boat Show, and then he spent Thanksgiving with us in La Rochelle.
Wednesday, we begin our own transit of the Panama Canal. We will not have wifi, but we will be posting updates via our Delorme InReach which will post on our Facebook page. Stay tuned for all the excitement!
The best cruising guide to Panama is Eric Bauhaus’ The Panama Cruising Guide. We bought ours at Shelter Bay Marina 2nd hand.