Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018
On Monday May 21, with much excitement among the crew, we arrived in Portobelo, Panama around 1000, set the starboard anchor and went in to clear in around 11am. In every port Picton Castle visits, the ship needs to “clear in”, meaning that we check in with customs and immigration officials to make our official entry into the country, complete any necessary paperwork, and pay any necessary fees. Customs and immigration in Portobelo were very cordial and accommodating, and it took no time before we were finished and we could send the off-duty watch ashore after a refreshing and cooling all hands’ swim call. For the on-watch it was domestics and then hanging up the main deck awning, which helps keep off the hot sun, and, in Monday’s case, the rain.
In the early afternoon a heavy rain storm broke out, complete with very close thunder and lightning. It made the air nice and cool, but knocked out power to the town. That didn’t stop the crew from exploring the local ruins of the forts built here back as early as the 1500’s, complete with cannons that were just too heavy to move; or seeing the big Cathedral here, which houses the famous statue of the “Black Christ”, which was found on the shores of the town’s harbor. There are a few legends as to how it arrived there, but no one knows for certain and so it remains a mystery to this day. Every year in October, there is the Festival of the Black Christ, which draws in thousands of people to witness the changing of the robes that the statue wears.
The crew also found cool coconuts to drink along with fresh, sweet mangoes and pineapple to snack on, sold by friendly vendors on the street. The rain didn’t last long, though, and the afternoon faded into a nice, comfortable evening. Hammocks were strung up on the aloha deck, blankets and mattresses covered the hatch and the crew fell asleep with the distant glow of the lights from the city of Colon, a short 18 miles away, in the background.
Tuesday May 22 dawned cool but beautiful, with scattered morning clouds, and exotic birds skimming across the water as mist arose from the surrounding jungle. After a breakfast of oatmeal, pears, muffins and chocolate chip muffins for our gluten-free people, the captain mustered all hands on the quarterdeck to prepare the crew for moving the ship to a better anchorage. After heaving up 200 feet of chain, the ship was moved a bit closer to town and once again the starboard anchor was set, with the port anchor on standby in case of dragging. So far with 300 ft of chain out we are holding beautifully.
After the anchor was set it was time for the day’s off-duty watch to go ashore and light ship’s work to continue from the day before. There is spot painting of the topsides, overhauling of the port breezeway head, painting links on the anchor chain and general cleaning, which seems to be never ending. Such is life on a ship such as ours. So far the rain has held off for now, although more is expected in the forecast – it is the beginning of the rainy season, after all – but with the rains come welcome cooling breezes, and it keeps the bugs at bay. For the time being, all is well in this little corner of paradise.