Despite Portabelo being a port of entry I was having trouble with the formalities. Even after two visits to immigration I still had not been given an entry stamp. They did not like it that my clearance from Jamaica had Curacao as destination as although I had explained and written them a statement with the explanation they would not stamp my passport, saying that I had to visit immigration in Colon. So much as I was enjoying Portabelo I decide to go to Shelter Bay near Colon and since it was the rainy season anyway, thought I might haul out, lay the boat up and go back to UK for a bit. So early one morning, having put all arrangements in place I weighed anchor and set off down the coast towards Colon. Shelter Bay is situated inside the Colon breakwater, which protects the entrance to the Panama Canal so closing it it was busy with many ships, some at anchor and some on the move and permission has to be sought over VHF from the harbour authorities to enter. Permission granted I passed inside the breakwater and motored to the marina, They were ready for me so, straight into the haul out dock. Paper work completed and soon Sea Bear was ashore and shored up in the yard.
The marina had a free bus service which ran into Colon so Monday morning first thing I was on the bus, it was a longer journey than I thought and crossed the canal at one of the Gatun locks. As well as sorting out my entry stamp with immigration I had to get my cruising permit sorted. I’ll not bore you with the details suffice it to say it took me from 09.300 until 14.00, visits to 2 different offices, numerous forms to fill in, photocopies to submit and 2 taxi rides across town. Bureaucracy is alive and well in Panama and there is still a market for tippex. Colon has a bad reputation for muggings and it is not advised for ‘gringos’ to walk in the town, hence the taxi. One good thing though, the women in the shipping office advised me that the fare should be no more than 2$ , outside agreeing with the taxi driver the fare he said well for tourists its 2$ but for locals 1$ I’ll charge you 1$. The drive was interesting, chaotic traffic but I have never seen such a run down City in all my travels, it was a bit shocking really.
A few days later with Sea Bear safely laid up a taxi took me for the one and half hour ride over the isthmus to the airport at Panama City. A flight via Mexico City took me to Heathrow so I’m back in UK for a bit. Be nice to see family and friends again. I’ll return to Panama after the rainy season and am looking forward to exploring it.