Once we left the shelter of the break wall in Colon, we were welcomed into the Caribbean Sea with no wind. But we were stoked to use the new Beta in these conditions. There was a fun square chop the whole way to Portobelo! That’s 20nm of bashing! With the old Yanmar we would have only been able to make maybe 2-3 knots, coming almost to a complete stop after the larger swells. BUT, BUT! With the new beta, we were able to keep our forward momentum and speed! I mean we were doing 5-6 knots into 6 foot square chop! We LOVE THE NEW BETA BEAUTY!
So we motored over to Portobelo, and we were saddened to see all the vessels washed up onto shore, in the shallows and just the tops of masts from those which sank from hurricane Otto. It was reported that over 70 knots of wind blew in Portobelo, causing a lot of damage. We were in Shelter Bay when the storm came through, we were ready for the 70knots of wind, but it never got above the high 30s.
Anyways we mad our way in, keeping an eye out for sunken ships, we dropped the hook in the middle of the pack. The old forts and ruins are beautiful. We were upset that our first anchorage in the Caribbean was in brown mucky water, but then again it is the rainy season, and it was raining, a lot. Apparently during the dry season the bay does have pretty blue water.
Our new friends Jez and Susie from Joy of Shamrock came into the bay after us. They timed their anchoring perfectly with a white out squall! They anchored in some very heavy rain, while Jon and I watched them from our dry companion way. We knew they were coming into port to get some food as they were out. So we invited them over for some fresh home-made pizzas.
We headed into town to check it out. We were all in need of some fresh veggies and luckily for us we had the phone number for the local Veggie truck guy, Julio! We scheduled a time and place to meet so we could stock up on the fresh greens!
Jon and I also needed to renew our Mariners visas. Apparently this task was going to be an interesting one, as no one really knows the rules, the laws, which office does what and so forth. It was around December 10th and our visas were up on the 26th. The immigration office in Portobelo would not renew our visas early, we had to come back on the 23. As that was the last Friday before Christmas, and they would not be open on Monday the 26th, and you can not be late. We then asked if there was an immigration office in the San Blas and if they could renew our visas. They said yes, hands down no problem. Okay, to the San Blas we go!
So we left Portobelo and made our way 7miles up to a little slice of heaven called Playa Blanca. We scooted in beyond the inner reef, to a spot just big enough for maybe 2 boats. And we found bliss. We stayed in this bay for a few days, then decided to keep moving up. We did stop long enough to have a small photo shoot. For those of you that have been following us for a while, you may have noticed I have lost some weight. I am very proud of what I have accomplished, so Jon and I set off to have a bikini shoot. I mean after all 40lbs is a lot of weight to lose! So this is me showing off, because I can 🙂
Next was Linton Bay. It was here that we were informed that the immigration office in the San Blas islands is a hit or miss adventure. We heard that the office was not renewing visas and making people check out of the country instead. Then we heard, yes they are issuing but you have to pay the $105 fee again. There was also just the straight no, that the office is closed. None of those options sounded good to us, so we decided we would hang in Linton till the 23rd, catch the bus for $1 back to Portobelo and get our visas renewed there, where we knew it could be done 100% and without hassle or scams.
Our sail to Linton was a great one, we motored out of the reefs at playa Blanca, raised all the sails, killed the fuel lines, then tacked out. Once we were clear of the outer reefs we tacked back in lining up perfectly with the entrance into Linton Bay with the wind behind us. Holy cow, there were so many boats in the anchorage. We kept to the back of the pack, which made for long distance rowing, but nothing we could not handle.
Jon got right to work on changing out the cutlass bearing. I don’t know if all HC33s are the same way, but we have access holes in our deadwood that allow us to push the cutlass bearing out without coming out of the water, or removing the shaft. We did have to remove the newly installed prop, but in a short afternoon Jon had everything replaced, and boy is Prism’s propulsion system smooth! Sexy.
Joy of Shamrock came into Linton a few days later. We spent the evenings drinking, eating and playing dominoes and trying to convince them to come to the San Blas with us, but they were set on heading up towards the Virgin Islands, they were just waiting for the right weather window. We were sad to watch them go, but hope to see them again in an anchorage somewhere along the way.
We also ran back into Sv Sirena. Chris and Shawna had spent the last few weeks out in the San Blas and are in love with it. They just needed some more food and fuel before heading back out again. I agreed that more food aboard Prism would be smart too, so we all took the bus into Sabanitias ( I think that is what the town was called) to stock up one last time. We made a stop in Portobelo again just to see if they would renew our visas a little early. They said no. So we stopped at a little restaurant and attempted to upload a video. Once the video said it was going to take more than 4 hours we decided to leave, as we still needed to get back to Linton Bay.
Chris and Shawna invited us over for Christmas dinner, if we could make it out there in time. We said our “see ya soons” and they headed back to the islands. The next day Jon and I took the bus back over to Portobelo to get our visas renewed. There was no hassle and no trouble getting our Mariners visas for another 3 months. $10 later we were walking through the little town and looking for once again a place to finish uploading our videos. We decided to try out Captain Jacks, which is a hostel, bar and restaurant. While we were sitting there enjoying our beers we remembered that our friends on SV Gaia (been sailing with them since Mexico), were anchored in Portobelo, so I sent them a text, told them where we were and that they should join us. 15 minutes later we were all enjoying cold drinks and catching up. Once again our video would not finish its upload in time to catch the last bus back to Linton. As it turned out, we already had missed the bus, but lucky for us so had 2 other cruisers. So we split the cab fare back to Linton which was only a $1 more a person than the bus. While in the cab the other cruisers told us that the Padi Dive Resort called Panama Reef Divers has good internet. Okay, I was sold, as a Padi professional diver I was stoked to talk with the staff. We even dropped off 4 of our 6 scuba tanks to be Hydro tested for only $40 apiece! That’s way cheap, plus they take care of all the transport and will hold on to our tanks for us till we come back through Linton in a few months! I’m sure your thinking, “um Shannon you’re in clear water with no scuba tanks?!” Well there is no scuba allowed in the San Blas Islands. It’s lame, but we are obeying the rules, and practicing our free diving skills. It took 2 more 3 hour days to get the video uploaded, the dive shop had internet and although it was not fast, it was still the fastest we had found. So while Jon did the video, I updated the last blog.
We left for the San Blas Islands on the morning of Christmas Eve. We weighed anchor at 6 am and started our bash. It was a bash but we made amazing time. We cheated though, we motored sailed still making tacks though, the motor was just to help punch through the high seas. It was a wet ride, but comfortable. We sailed 70nm and still made it out to the Holandes Cays with the sun in the perfect spot to guide us into the reef protected anchorage called the Swimming Pool.
Holy Cow, we now have really landed in paradise! I have a feeling I am going to be saying that a lot now. Anchored in about 9 feet in the clearest water we have ever seen. Jon and I were in the water so fast I’m sure it looked like ghosts sailed Prism into the anchorage.
We had X-mas dinner aboard Sirena, I cooked a turkey ( first ever aboard Prism) that came out great, thank you Chris and Shawna for buying and prepping the turkey. I think there was about 10 people for dinner, and we were all very fat and happy by the end.
We have made new friends with a young couple from New Orleans. Tate and Danni on SV Sundowner. They also make videos for YouTube that are up to date!! Check them out here SV Sundowner YouTube, or here Sundowner Sails Again We have decided to buddy boat with them and have already been in one of their videos. I can tell already we are going to have so much fun with these guys!
Jon has started editing season 2 of SV Prism episodes, we are really excited about the footage and hope people will enjoy the new season. I’m going to try to stay up to date on the blog as much as I can, but it’s hard to stay in, write and edit when it is just so freaking beautiful out side. Luckily today it’s blowing 25+ knots out there and we are hiding inside for the new few days while this blow does its thing.
The water here is clear and amazing, and I get to see sharks, like every time I go snorkeling!! Clearly I was having shark withdrawals, cause I see a shark now and I just want to spend all day with it. Anyways, Tate from Sundowner is an amazing free diver and hunter, so we have been eating a lot of fresh fish!!
Danni rallied the cruisers together that were anchored out in the Holandes to have a New Years Party on the beach. We all got in our Dinghys ( well Jon and I hitched a ride with Danni and Tate as Falkor no longer has a working motor, and rowing was not an option) and made our way out to the little island between the anchorages. It was so fun to meet new people from all around the world! I can’t even believe we made it to midnight either! It was one heck of a party, and the dingy ride back was one for the books. 4 drunk cruisers in a 10ft portaboat navigating through the reefs with only one flashlight= priceless.
Jon and I are in love with the San Blas Islands, we have only started exploring, there is so much to see and over 600 islands! It’s a good thing we have over 8 months to be here!