As it so often happens, our intended one-week stay at Shelter Bay Marina has turned into an almost month-long one.Yeah, yeah, I know… We meant to stop here just long enough to have the boat thoroughly cleaned and waxed, take care of a few quick projects, and scuttle off to the San Blas Islands soon after.
So, what happened? A combination of things, but mainly the weather is to blame: strong winds and biblical rains lasting for whole days were enough of a good excuse for staying. We decided to wait out the rainy season gratefully and safely tied up to a dock. Hopefully it’ll be over soon…
I really hoped to be celebrating my Birthday in San Blas, but… No point leaving for the islands only to be miserable, tolerating nightly anchor watches and zero visibility… Oh, well.
I guess if I have to turn 50 somewhere, this is a good place as any.
Actually, it’s a very interesting place. Shelter Bay Marina is nested in what was once known as Fort Sherman, there’s a whole lot of history packed in these surroundings. More on that later… First let me show you around.
This Marina is pretty nice; there’s a pool, a great restaurant, a fabulous air-conditioned lounge with tons of books and computer hook-ups, a small gym, laundry facility and service, a small but well stocked grocery store, a small chandlery with a surprising good selection of basics. There is a very busy boat yard and lots of space to put your boat on the hard.
It looks about 95% occupied right now, and this is the low season; there are plans for expansion to accommodate more boats. There’s a good turnaround, boats come and go, and some are left here for months while the owners travel home.
A portion of the Marina is devoted to big boats and luxury yachts; we couldn’t resist the temptation and went for a stroll in the “High Rent” district…
We like admiring floating pieces of art, but I’m happy to say that I am still very content with what we have.
It’s quite the International place, too!
After a long time of meeting almost exclusively fellow US citizens and Canadians, we are delighted to be interacting with people from Britain, Spain, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, England, Israel, Canada, Norway, and many other countries.
English is spoken here with a variety of accents, my own blending in beautifully!
French is often heard, and even Italian. As a matter of fact, there’s a contingent of about a dozen Italian boats surrounding us: I was so happy to hear my “other” language spoken that I had to raise our Venetian flag!
Almost the entire Marina staff speaks perfect English, so my awful but useful Spanish has been tucked away until further notice. Now it’s time to polish up French, if I can remember what corner of my brain it’s hiding in!
Funny story: just a few days ago I was in the Marina office and this guy walks in. I felt compelled to greet him in French, and he happily returned the greeting in the same language and started a long monologue that ended in a question… I looked at him with a sheepish expression and in what turned out to be perfect French replied “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French, I’m actually Italian and my husband is American.”
The look on this guy’s face was priceless! He didn’t know if I was making fun of him or just being plain rude… Surprised myself, I put a hand over my mouth and in English said “Shit, where did THAT come from?”. He understood that, he laughed and we started a conversation – in English. Crisis averted.
So as it turns out, if I don’t think too hard I can sputter some French… I hope to improve while we’re here!
We took quick stock of the immediate surroundings. Forget about long walks and excursions, torrential downpours can and will surprise you at any time. So we just walked to the breakwater, a little past the Sherman Lighthouse, to look at the views.
It could be nice if it weren’t for the dark greyness all over. We could see the town of Colon on the other side of the Bay, the lively Caribbean Sea that right now is more mud-colored than blue, and the very narrow entrance into the Marina.
We couldn’t walk much further that day, as the waves were breaking high on the path. Before we could turn around and return to base, the skies opened and downloaded on us.
Our very first drenching! Better get used to it, as there will be many more to come before the season is over…