We spent almost two weeks anchored off Isla Naranjo Abajo, peaceful and generally settled tucked up behind the reef. With no internet connection to distract us we managed to get a few jobs done on Joy including replacing all the PVC windows on the sprayhood and bimini giving us clear vision for the first time in a couple of years. The old PVC had deteriorated in the sun so much it had become cloudy and brittle and split in a few places. All done for less than $50.
Torrential rain and thunder storms continued almost daily, the water in the anchorage has been dirty brown as a result with numerous logs and trees floating on by.
Our last part finally arrived from Warehouse Marine so we sailed back to Shelter Bay to collect it and fill up with fuel, catching a delicious mackerel on the way to top up our food stocks. Diesel was a good price at US$2.35 a gallon (and tax-free), despite our fuel gauge not working accurately we weren’t too far off our estimate and with a full tank the needle stayed on three quarters before dropping briefly to a quarter full! This was the first time we had topped up since Curacao a year ago.
We met a nice couple, Jon and Shannon, on a beautiful Hans Christian sailing boat called Prism during our time berthed in the marina, they were busy replacing their engine. On Sunday we joined up with them again in Portobelo, 10 miles further east from Naranjo Abajo, after a nice sunny sail we approached the large bay at Portobelo just as a thunder storm descended from the mountains, soaking us to the skin. The bay is open to the west and the north-east swell wraps in just nicely sending boats horsing, bucking and rolling. Our soggy spirits were soon lifted when Jon radio’d to say that Shannon had just made pizza and we were invited over for dinner. A real welcome treat as we were literally down to our reserve of tinned spaghetti and meatballs!
The small town is a convenient place for provisions, numerous chinese mini-markets and ferreterias (hardware stores) so we managed to restock and get some insulation to help improve our freezer as we have a bad condensation problem. The heavens opened yet again whilst in town and we sat under cover for an hour outside one store waiting for the torrential rain to ease, we even bought an umbrella. When we got back to the dinghy dock we had more in our bags than we had bargained for, we had seen a small cockroach running around in our pack of lemonades. So as Jez ran the dinghy around the bay emptying the rainwater out (so full of water the fuel tank was floating on its side), I took the packaging apart to get rid of the hitch-hiker, but as each bottle came out there were dozens of baby cockroaches nestling in the plastic grooves on the bottom. I must have looked a real sight stamping and jumping on the things, they were crawling everywhere, up my legs and over our other shopping. When Jez returned we rinsed each bottle in the dirty murky water before putting them in the dinghy. As I headed off with all the packaging and bags to find a trash bin (not something easy to find in this town) Jez fought them off as the ones washed off tried to climb up into the dinghy.
Legend has it that Christopher Columbus named the port ‘Puerto Bello’ meaning ‘beautiful port’ in 1502. Sadly 514 years later it is not living up to its name. From the 16th to 18th centuries it was an important silver-exporting port and was captured several times by privateers and then the British before the Spanish recovered it in 1741. The ruins of the Spanish fortifications were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, perhaps a little too late. In amongst the numerous abandoned boats at anchor rubbish floats on by, the main road through the town has litter scattered all along the roadside, as if a bin lorry crashed and overturned. The effects of Hurricane Otto are also clear to see in Portobelo, this bay suffered some heavy damage and although some wrecks have been recovered there are still 14 that I can see from Joy. Today we watched as a small yellow yacht, pictured below, was dragged off the shore and refloated.
After a night of dominoes and rum, Prism headed off to their next anchorage en route to San Blas. We are staying in Portobelo for another day or two to finish our freezer improvements and catch the bus to Sabanitas for more supplies as we may head to San Blas too.