To Shelter Bay Marina


As soon as we cleared the final Gatun Lock, we served up a nice plate of Spaghetti to Larry and the rest of the crew, who had worked so hard, and helped us so much throughout the day.

As he ate, Larry directed us to continue on down the channel until we got to a place near Colon, called "The Flats", where he radioed an ACP boat to come pick him up. After having me sign his logbook, which I proudly did, we all bade Larry goodbye as the ACP boat pulled up next to us and he jumped across the gap to it. The boat bumped us a little, threatening to bend one of the stanchions and toss Larry, but it was no-harm, no-foul, and they quickly reversed their engines and pulled away into the fading light.

From there it was only a few more miles to Shelter Bay Marina where we had a slip reservation. Frank directed me to cross the channel and run parallel to it, just outside the line of buoys which mark it. Then as it grew dark, we picked our way among the ships at anchor and the various buoys, until we were lined up on the entrance to the marina. We tried calling the marina on the radio to confirm our slip, but all the workers had gone home for the day, so no one answered. Fortunately for us, though, a fellow cruiser on "Totthill", had heard our VHF call and replied, volunteering to go out and guide us into the slip.

With Frank on the bow, spotlight in hand, and the cruisers in the marina showing the way with another spotlight, we made our way through the narrow entrance of the channel into the marina at about 6:30 pm. I eased RHAPSODY into the slip and in a few short minutes she was tied off and we were safe and sound "on the other side". We had contacted Luis the taxi driver, the night before, and asked him to meet us here so that he could ferry our crew, as well as our rented lines, back to Panama City. We had also called him before entering the Gatun Locks, but he was a running a little late.

So, the Captain and Admiral served up a round of tots (Tequila or Rum, whatever your preference!) and we all drank toasts to each other and our successful passage. Since Luis was going to be about 1/2 hour late, I suggested that we break out the guitars (I had mine, Frank had brought his, and Joe had brought his ukulele) and have a quick "farewell" jam. So we did, going through some of the tunes that we had worked out in our weeks together, but also doing some new-to-us, sentimental, going-away songs as well. Luis showed up at the end and even sang a song or two in Spanish while using the cockpit table as a makeshift percussion instrument.

It was a little sad, yet also extremely happy and proud moment when it was finally time for our crew to leave. Promises were made to stay in touch and email addresses exchanged. As they gathered up the lines and hopped off the boat, we thanked each person, Frank, Joe, Ed, and Ed, as well as Luis, profusely, one last time, and big hugs were exchanged all around.

After everyone had left, we sat down and had another couple of celebratory tots, and re-heated and dished up our own spaghetti dinners. We were full of good feelings of friends and accomplishment as we ourselves wound down for the evening.

Once again, we had done it! We had sailed RHAPSODY from San Diego, all the way down the Mexican West Coast, traversed the Gulf of Tehuantepec, braved the Papagallos winds, been to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and spent almost 4 months in Pacific Panama. Now we had another feather in our cap - we had brought our boat safe and sound, through the Panama Canal!