Shelter Bay was the closest thing I have experienced to living in a nursing facility. Organised radio schedules each morning, organised games, organised swap meets, get together dinners, bring your own instrument for sing alongs and field trips to watch the birds. If you like organised- you would love Shelter Bay. Sailors by definition are not people who like to be herded or arranged but there was plenty of scope for those who like to be left alone.
Yet this is the most social we have been at any Marina.
I Wondered Why This Marina Was Different To Others
Perhaps unlike any other any other marina I have been to, all the boats come in and stay for at least a week, as it takes this amount of time to ready your boat and do paperwork to transit the canal. Most of the yachts are people like us getting ready to transit the Canal and set sail across the world’s largest ocean. The other contributing factor was boat owners would befriend other boat crew and swap time to share and save on line handlers.
Shelter Bay Marina itself is out of the way, up in the far right hand corner as you enter the Panama Canal entrance, a long way from anything. Just getting to the main town of Colon requires effort, time and money. Central to the Marina, is the restaurant and bar. Run like a Faulty Towers Motel, we were surprised by the general feeling of disorganised chaos and poor service. Our Marina neighbour who has lived in Shelter Bay for more years than he cared to discuss, laughed when we quizzed him on the restaurant, he said soon we would get used to it.
Service in Panama is always friendly, at times totally chaotic and rarely effective. The locals seem happy though so I suppose this is what’s important.
Shelter Bay has a large population of permanents residents with the majority being American. This is the first place I have met “loud Americans”. People you would hear before you see them. Take Dan for instance. A shortish older man, with a rugged solo sailor look about him. All of Dan’s clothes were dirty, though he did explain there was a method in his approach. According to the world of Dan by wearing his clothes to the point of them almost standing up on their own he fits in with the locals of Colon, his risk of being mugged is thus reduced. It was a system I will never emulate, even if Colon is a dangerous hole for tourists.
Dan is a big American, I am not talking about his height or size. Dan doesn’t really talk with you rather he talks at you, LOUDLY. In the first four minutes of meeting Dan I got to know his views on how Obama is wrecking America, Australian is just another state of America, how when, not if, the towel heads invade the entire world, how we all need to carry big guns, and that the worst thing the U.S has ever done was to give back to Panamanians the Canal and Iraq to the Iranians. Dan was straight from the casting couch of some US reality TV show that shows Americans as loud and opinionated. Yet big Dan was a nice guy. Ever helpful he shared a cab and escorted me to the dodgey dangerous side of Colon as we both tried to get our passports stamped. Dan was super friendly and always happy to say hi and engage.
The more I get to know Americans the more I like them. Although I can’t agree with a great deal of what Dan said, I appreciate people who are straight up and down. With Dan and many Americans there is no bullshit. The honest integrity of folk like Dan is refreshing, even if I still can’t fathom how anyone can seriously vote for Donald Trump. Yep Dan was my first Trumper.
Our time at Shelter Bay felt like a holiday before we crossed from one Ocean to another. Having a swimming pool helped, as did meeting many great people heading in the same direction as us. On the radio call out each morning there was a call for skilled people that may offer to do paid or honorary jobs. My beautiful smart arse Captain said he was a swimming instructor and offered lessons. Of course he was taken up on the offer, he thoroughly enjoyed it, the lessons he gave and the people he met. He had a hoot!
I can see the future nursing home in front of me now…………….
“Such A Lovely Place”
For the 10 days I lived in Shelter Bay the Eagles song Hotel California would often swirl around in my head. I kept hearing the words “You can check out but then can never leave” I wondered if there was some strange spell, that made so many travel to this point but for whatever reason stay on. I am pleased to report that Miss Catana did say goodbye, I knew that if we stayed too long I would end up playing dominoes, and doing happy hour in the pool for the next three years even though I really wanted to leave.
PLUS Most Important Of All – I will never forget Shelter Bay as it was here I finally worked out what it is I want.
Let Me Introduce Dan # 2
It was only in my last post I shared my thoughts regarding crew to cross the Pacific. The Captain was a definite No to crew and I was a maybe.
Young, neat and tidy Dan #2, lived three boats down from us on Shelter Bay and was travelling with Steve, a solo sailor who was taking Dan to Marquesas. I got talking with Dan and he told me he was looking for a different boat as he wasn’t happy or sure of safety on his current boat with his current Captain. He wanted off and Dan asked to join us on Miss Catana, he said the perfect words to make me speak his language. “I don’t feel safe”.
I am such a sucker for the rescue.
If I see a hitchhiker on the side of the road, I always stop because I know that if I pick them up they will be safe with me. So immediately I said to Dan let me talk to the Captain you might be able to join us. That was it, with some trepidation Dan came to join us on Miss Catana. Even before Dan had joined us I knew in my heart I had made a mistake.
It was too late the words had been spoken and Dan #2 told Steve he was off and on with us.
Dan and Captain Gaz hit it off immediately. It would be hard not to, Dan is a nice guy. He is polite, pleasant, helpful, quick to work with all duties on the boat including the dishes. He laughs at the Captain’s jokes, loves his cooking and the Captain is a nice guy, so why wouldn’t it work. Dan is not a loud though he is American, he has sailing experience and he is nice. Nice is a feature you want in crew. Nice and easy and able to be part of the team. I wasn’t jealous I promise but the two boys aboard were getting on like a house on fire.
Yes it was a Captain Crew Bromance.
I was miserable.
So why was I miserable?
Why was my stomach in a knot? Why was I not sleeping and when I did, I was having bad dreams about Dan and my instinct was telling me I had made a bad call?
The more Dan settled into Miss Catana the worse I became. In my head I was totally freaking out and I felt like a total idiot. There was a drama unfolding but unfortunately at this stage nobody else saw it coming. All including the Captain thought Nice Dan was here to stay.
The Big Flick
Dan and I had to have the classic break up conversation.
Girlfriend, you know the lines: “It’s not you, it’s me, it’s just not working for me but we can still be friends”. Just this time all the words were all true. Both Dan and the Captain were stunned when I broke the news.
Still it had to be done.
On reflection it felt right that Dan joined our boat. He needed to change his current circumstance and I needed to be made aware of what it was I really wanted. Having Dan #2 onboard made me realise what it was.
I Now Know I Want To
Sail the Pacific Ocean leg from Panama City to the Marquesas with just my Captain.
I want to step up to the helm and be responsible for the sailing as is required as number two, no backstop or someone else to share the tasks.
I want to do 4000 nautical miles and say we did this alone.
I want to be able to be naked, make love and live on my boat with total freedom.
I want this once in a lifetime opportunity to do something special and for once I don’t want to share.
Plus I am Happy To Take Responsibility.
If it all goes awry out on the sea, for whatever reason and I regret my decision well that’s just how life goes. If this does happen, my Mum can say I told you so.
However, for now it was my call and the call has been made. The first 4000 + nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean is with a crew of 2 and we are both happy.
Dan was in. Then Dan was out.
Sorry Dan the Miss has spoken. You’re Fired!
(Oops I couldn’t help myself I was doing a Trump)
The Common Denominator
Stop Speed Reading As This Story Has More!!
What are the chances? The boat Dan has a new gig on is called Rhumb Runner a 53 Amel, the owner is English, Captain Chris. We met Chris in Shelter Bay and again in Panama at the yacht club. Chris has two crew, Englishman Paul and American Pat. What we didn’t know was we had arranged to meet Pat when he arrived in Panama City a few days after us. You guys know Pat, Pat #1 from Greece who sailed with the Captain when our daughter was ill and I went home. We didn’t know Pat #1 was with Chris until after we arrived in Panama. We had organised to meet Pat #1 at the bar as it would be my first time actually meeting face to face. So it turns out Dan #2 will be with our Pat #1.
Ahh life has a happy habit of working out alright in the end.
PS It’s a brave person to ignore their instincts and I for one am not that brave….
PS I really mean it when I say I am happy Dan has been on our boat for the past few weeks. Even though the journey is shorter than we all first thought, I think the three of us will be friends for a long time to come. Thanks for being such a good sport Dan, see you on the other side of the Pacific.