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May 24, 2018 – Portobelo

Quietly at anchor the Picton Castle is surrounded by still waters and the dense jungles of the Isthmus of Panama. Thick abiding jungle. Early this morning while enjoying a cup of yesterday’s (and most excellent) coffee sitting by the teak wheel box all the way aft on the quarterdeck in the cool dawn, all was not silence. Howler monkeys were having their morning exercises or what ever they do while they howl just around break of day. Quite loud they are. Maybe they are just grumpy when they wake up. I know the feeling. After a spell they seem to stop howling for some reason. From time to time a long line of white birds fly in single file across the bay, rising and swooping much like an easy roller coaster. Elegant and graceful. Three or four wooden dugout canoes, called cayucas, paddle out into the middle of the harbour – for fishing it seems. Early morning mists linger and lay wafting between the patches of jungle, giving dimension to what otherwise seems just dense impeneratable green everywhere.

The gang is up aloft loosing sail to dry, to dry at least a little, before it needs to be stowed in advance of the afternoon downpours. Then one of the watches will head out for practice in the long boat. Some folks are ashore and more to follow. After explaining that Colon was one rough town, possibly on the to-be-avoided list a couple of us went off to check it out anyway – the fascination with such things cane be overwhelming. Those returning agreed that Colon was one rough town. Not that far away by sea, only 16 miles or so, it takes about an hour to get there by surface transport. This being best exemplified by the local buses. These buses are very colourful affairs. They seem to start out as what was intended to be a school bus, maybe retired, maybe new, cannot tell, but all or most all in good shape. But then they are tricked out in all sorts of wild embellishments. Crazy paint schemes. Outrageous extra lights, blinking and otherwise. Some look like the space ship landing in “Close Encounters”. Loud pulsing music pours out as they barrel down the narrow ‘highway’ through the jungle towards the delights of the big city.

In addition to our world wandering barque in this harbour we have about 30 yachts in Portobelo. At least ten of which are certified derelict. You can see that this is so due to their being aground and tilted on their bilges, sunk or otherwise wrecked. Another ten look as if their owners went ashore for a loaf of bread but caught a plane instead. Maybe the remaining ten are active cruising vessels. Also, just this morning a huge 190′ long ketch rigged yacht (named Twizzle) came to anchor. With 200 foot high masts, that’s a Tall Ship. And a cool looking local built coastal trader came to anchor as well. Built of heavy wood and about 60′ long and in active trade.

We are told that the fishing is good where we are.


The crew are learning to row


Rowing practice in the monomoy, our double ended longboat


Locals paddling a canoe as the morning mist rises


Many different kinds of vessels in the harbour at Portobelo

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