Curacao to Panama (part 4) Shelter Bay Marina

We entered the Colon breakwater around 5am under sail. The polluted diesel in the tank made us weary of starting the engine. The fuel filters might clog up at any time. But it was now time to lower the sail and turn the key for final approach into the marina. I called the marina on the radio, channel 74, to announce our arrival. A friendly voice on the other end assigned us a berth and told us where to put the fenders. Our skipper for hire gave the order to furl the genoa and start the engine…

A rattling noise coming from behind the engine hatch unpleasantly surprised us. Our skipper immediately started cursing, god@$@@$ solenoid! We quickly unfurled a bit of jib again to keep some momentum and therefore manoeuvrability. Without it we would be blown on to the rocks of the breakwater. I sailed some figure eights between the anchored container ships. Our skipper dove down into the engine room once again. An occasional, ‘try it now!’ command came from below. To no avail, the battery seemed flat.

There was nothing left to do than to drop the hook (anchor) in the anchorage. We had to figure out how to get the engine started again, we were so close..

Shelter Bay, so close, yet so far away.

It took some wicked McGuiver skills, a role of duct tape and some lightening reflector cables (actually cut up jumper cables). This created a set of jumper cables long enough to reach between the house batteries and the starter battery for the engine. After half an hour of duct taping, the engine rumbled into motion. But no water coming out of the exhaust, that’s bad! Another impeller problem. Ah well, when it rains, it pours.

Our skipper dove down the engine hatch again and wrestled with the brand new water pump for a bit. It took quite some struggles to get the broken impeller out and push the new one in. But our resident diesel magician managed in record time.

It was about 7 or 8am before we finally hoisted the anchor again. We slowly motored into the marina. I saw Linda on the dock already waiting together with some help from the marina. She had just arrived from Macau after staying a couple of days in San Francisco, waiting for us to arrive.

Coming in to shelter bay

We slid into the slip stern to (backwards), tied up the lines and lowered the back platform. We made it! The maiden long haul voyage of Ah Ma. It was an eventful journey with winds, waves and significant mechanical issues. I’m glad the boat will get out of the water here for some maintenance.

Our skipper and I cleaned and preprepared the boat for some time ashore. Removing or sealing all edibles, thoroughly cleaning the showers and toilets and giving her a good rinse. In the afternoon our agent, Stanley, came to visit us. He talked us through the procedure of passing the canal, and collected his fee. Stanley was recommended by us to by Nick from S/Y Fleur. He passed through the canal a couple of weeks earlier. At first sight Stanley seems to be a practical and efficient guy. The next morning (it’s now Monday), we were swiftly processed into Panama by the immigration officers. After this, our deck hand left us and continued onwards on his little vacation. We wished him well on his future endeavours. It’s now myself, our Skipper and Linda, waiting at the marina hotel for the haul out maintenance to finish.

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