We arrived in Panama last night after 5 days of sailing from Jamaica. We have had better long sails. Leaving Jamaica we were close-hauled in big lumpy seas and it took us a long time to round the eastern corner of Jamaica; we then had a current against us and some very light winds. We managed to use all sail configurations – wing on wing, spinnaker and code zero and of course main and jib. So much choice these days! Approaching both Panama and Jamaica is certainly dramatic and we could see the mountains some way of the coast. Jamaica was a convenient stopping spot as opposed to a destination in its own right. Port Antonio marina is tiny but known to be secure and well located.
Port Antonio in Jamaica is definitely colourful, and Julian reckons that you can get high just walking down the street as there is that much dope being smoked. While I do not think we were in any great danger, the hustling proved annoying and at at times difficult. These guys are good and hustling ranged from thoroughly unpleasant to eccentric, to charming. We were certainly charmed, and are now owners of a little bowl of dubious quality which will remind us of Jamaica. I guess we will just get used to it. Buying at the fruit and vegetable market was also a challenge and I am quite certain we were always on the wrong side of the negotiation – these guys saw us coming! On the plus side the fruit and vegetables were of good quality and we had some new things to try. It is hard to know if Port Antonio is the “real” Jamaica but it was certainly not on the tourist trail. It was scruffy, endless shacks, dead cars and rubbish, numerous stray dogs, continuous noise, people playing dominoes, drinking and dope smoking everywhere. The plus side was the street food and we did have some excellent jerk chicken and festivals which are a sort of fried banana dough.
In the marina we were a select few – one chap from Florida was on his second circumnavigation and on his way home, and Peter Smith and Marlyse on the mighty KiwiRoa who were great company. Peter had built KiwiRoa himself, is a font of knowledge and has sailed in all the very tricky places in the world. The yacht was amazing and very tough. Peter also designed the Rocna which is a great bit of ground tackle and the one we use. Peter was generous with his advice and Julian now has an even longer job list!
We were thrilled that our friends Bill and Moira on Krabat arrived in Panama in the morning after six days sailing from Bonaire. They had an interesting time anchoring and managed to find someone else’s lost chain and anchor! The neighbouring boats were delighted – Bill and Moria less so!
It is extremely exciting reaching Panama, and we very much look forward to exploring the San Blas Islands and surrounds, before heading to Colon and the Panama Canal.