Posted on June 8, 2017
By the time we leave to transit the Canal, we will have spent a total of 28 days at Shelter Bay Marina over the course of two and a half months. That’s the most time we’ve ever hung out at a single marina, or a single place. We’ve split it up—a week here, a week there—but it’s still a heck of a long time.
That’s not to say we haven’t enjoyed it. We find the marina to be well-run; the staff is helpful and knowledgeable, and they’re set up for long-term cruisers who need a pit stop. We know the free shuttle to Colon intimately, down to the bridge-over-the-locks versus wait-for-the-ferry route options. We can find all the weird-but-important stuff at the El Ray grocery store (coconut milk), and know what we shouldn’t bother to look for (whole wheat flour). We’ve had a surfeit of clean laundry.
Our days at this marina have been pretty routine. We all seem to be sleeping in; maybe it’s the security of not worrying about the anchor, wind shifts or waves. Breakfast is relaxed and occasionally elaborate—we’ve got plenty of groceries and stove fuel, and there’s a small store at the end of the dock if we’re low on eggs. The kids and their designated adult head to the air-conditioned lounge around nine o’clock and take over a table near an electrical outlet. By noon, school is wrapping up; wifi and wanton screen time is creeping in. Lunch, reading, cleaning the boat, repair projects, and pool time fill the afternoon. Dinner tends to be eaten in the cockpit; being tied to a dock doesn’t give much chance for the breeze to blow the heat out of the boat, so it’s generally pretty sweltering down below by evening.
Because so many folks hang out here on a long-term basis (one boat full-time for four years, one for seven), there’s an organized calendar of activities on the wall just outside the bar. When we were here in April, there was something going on every night; despite the slower pace, as boats leave for the rainy season, there are still potlucks and open-mic nights and movies showing on a regular basis. We haven’t completely plunged into the social fray, but F is practicing up to join in with the musicians next Saturday, and we’ve met most of the regulars. Just like Georgetown, there’s morning yoga—this time led by a voice on an iPod—and Mexican train dominoes; there’s also an organized nature walk into the jungle, and daily water aerobics.
Many, many people come to this marina to haul out and fly back to the states for four to six months. This has resulted in four boats offloading groceries to us over the course of one week. We can’t decide if it’s because they read our blog and see how closely we track expenses, or if they just want to feed our kids; either way, we now have six separate packages of butter, three open jars of red pepper jelly, four ketchups currently in operation, and exotic luxuries such as powdered instant iced tea with lemon and cans of Coca Cola. What I really need is a dish that can use up pickles; we just don’t have room in the fridge for them all. I’m thinking potato salad with some of the bacon (two open packages) and lots of mustard (five open jars or packets).
We’ve also had the pleasure of finally meeting a boat whose blog we started following in our long-ago land life. Full Monty is on their way back to North Carolina after six years of sailing, primarily in the Pacific. At last, it was our turn to say—you know, I know all about you, we’ve followed your blog!
Finally, things are looking good for our transit. We’ve been in touch with a guy who rents lines and fenders, and it looks like we should have this covered for about $100. More importantly, we’re all set for line handlers! Our sign on the notice board outside of the office was spotted by an engineer on a small cruise ship at the marina, in for repairs. Les’ parents have retired to Panama, and are keen to go through the Canal; they’ve even managed to secure a third person for us. Not sure who’s more excited, them or us. Panama Canal, here we come!