SW Caribbean: Colon, Portobelo & Linton, Panama
Travel Dates: April-May 2004 (Updated September 4, 2006)
On This Page: Colon Portobello Linton
(Click on any "thumbnail" to see large photo.)
Green is Good...& Slow Has a New Definition
The lush landscape of the Caribbean coast never ceased to amaze us...nor did the lazy-days pace. Having cruised for four years, we thought we had learned to slow down--but the Caribbean taught us the true meaning of the word. This view of Portobelo shows just how beautiful life can be when you are surrounded by shimmering seas and verdant forests.
The Panama Canal Yacht Club--Colon
Before we could enjoy the splendor of the Caribbean, we had to catch our breath in Colon, a meager city that has somehow escaped all the benefits of being a portal of the world. Exhausted after transiting the Canal with six hardworking (& hungry) boaters, we were looking forward to a couple of relaxing days in Colon. Ha Ha! While at anchor en route, Panama had a terrific downpour and Gemini's crew, provisions & blankets were soaked. Waiting in line for the laundry facilities was an exercise in futility--when along came Stanley the Taxi Driver (Channel 68). He whisked away all six loads and delivered them that afternoon clean, dry and folded--what a guy! Gemini's lines were hung out to dry and we relaxed with a cold drink, echanged Canal crossing tales with other cruisers and admired the handmade baskets sold by Kuna Indians at the marina. Colon had not been recommended as a "garden spot"--quite the opposite, in fact. So as soon as Gemini was back together again, away we went to begin our Caribbean adventure.
Portobelo--A Glimpse of Paradise
We departed as soon as we could for Portobello, an enjoyable daysail. This was our first glimpse of Caribbean "jungle" and, though the town itself was modest, the surrounding hills were breathtaking and the bay was a delightful anchorage. We had dreamed of lush hills like this, but little did we know, this was a mild version of what we would encounter in lesser-visited areas along the Caribbean coast. Some interest had developed in birds during our excursions into Central America on the Pacific side, but hiking up these hills was a joy of discovery: toucans, hawks, hummingbirds and, yes, even extravagant spiders were amazing.
Starting in 1595, Portobelo was fortified by the Spanish with stone walls and turrets to protect its enviable position along the Spanish treasure fleets' "Camino Real". Although the fortifications ultimately failed to keep out dreaded pirates like Sir Francis Drake and Henry Morgan, the structures are mostly intact to this day, giving the town a medieval atmosphere. Pat McGehee, who lives in Portobelo with her husband Dick, has self-published "Portobelo Chronicles", which is a unique collection of history and culture in a town famous for their "Black Christ" Festival. You can even buy a rotisserie chicken from the "Black Christ Restaurant". For some reason, our "whole chicken" only had one leg; this was corrected with a smile--as is everything, we learned, in the Caribbean).
Linton--The House that Roger Built
A short voyage from Portobelo, this calm anchorage provided a view of several lavish homes and a Panamanian vacation island named "Isla Grande". One of the homes was exquisitely built with local hardwood by an ex-cruiser named Roger, who now lives there with his wife Bean and three sloths (names unknown). The island was our first real clue what the pace was like in the Caribbean. A restaurant consisted of a thatch hut with a few tables & chairs and some upstairs doors that may have been rooms for rent, but there was not a soul around. Hungry after our dinghy ride across the bay, we decided to sit down at one of these establishments, and eventually someone did come by to give us a menu with tempting choices of hamburgers, fried chicken and jerked pork. But alas, after 20 minutes, when they came to take our order, there was really only one thing available: fish! Welcome to the Caribbean, mon!
Our journey had just begun, but the rainy season was upon us, so off we go to Bocas del Toro. We were wondering why everything around us was so astonishingly green...stay tuned for the answer.
Go to next leg: Bocas del Toro, Panama
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