Cruising Independence
  • Rick D.

July 16th 2019 Shelter Bay, Panama to Portobello Harbor, Panama

We’re finally off on the first part of our adventure, not just trying to get to where our adventure begins!


We left the safety and security we had found in Shelter Bay (as well as the restaurant and swimming pool) and started down the Western Coast of Panama towards the San Blas Islands (called Kuna Yala or Guna Yala by the indigenous natives who have lived here for hundreds of years). Suddenly we’re back in the ocean, with light winds and large swells rolling us uncomfortably as we motor sail into the dying breeze. Finally the wind picked up and we were sailing down the coast, with tall mountains beside us.


Our first stop on the way is the ancient harbor of Portobello, a deep, safe harbor discovered by Columbus in 1502 with the ruins of several old Spanish forts around its perimeter. This was the harbor through which tons of Spanish Gold and Silver flowed to the Spanish Empire and Seville. On one side is a rather poor village, with a handful of small bars, a restaurant or two and a nightclub playing popular music in Spanish at a VERY high volume. We found a very small family owned waterfront restaurant and were able to tie up the dinghy. The food was quite good and we met a family who was chauffeured over by panga from an exclusive vacation compound directly across the harbor.

The next day we toured the fort ruins and hiked around the vacation compound to a beautiful lake. The inland hike was truly through a rain forest… all that was missing was the music from Jurassic Park!


That night we pressed on to reach our goal, the first of the San Blas Islands in Kuna Yala. After sailing all night we needed to actually slow down to arrive at daybreak so we could see our way into the reefs at the edge of Chichime Cay in the Eastern Lemon Cays.

Shelter Bay Marina - at the entrance to the Panama Canal in Colon.

The Shelter Bay Pool

Portobello Harbor from the top of the fort.


Cannons trained on Independence and another cruiser!

Gang plank over the moat into the fort.



The rain forest lake above the resort.


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