Hallelujah, I made it. After 33 days at sea, sailing 5,457 nautical miles, I pulled in to Shelter Bay marina in Colon, Panama, at 3am local time and tied to the dock. Whew!
As much as I would have liked a boring end to the trip, with calm winds and seas and a daytime arrival, none of that was to be for me. The winds have blown 15-20 knots for the last two days, and instead of dying close to shore, they increased. And after two days of blowing, the wind waves and swells were up to 6 feet, with occasional 8-footers thrown in, just to see if I am paying attention.
The approach to Colon starts about 20 miles out, when all the big shipping traffic, in and out, starts converging. I took the sails down at 10 miles out, as I was going too fast and needed more control over speed and direction. Dozens of ships anchored outside the breakwater are lit up like christmas trees, making it especially hard to see the dark ships- and those are the ones that are moving, showing only 2 white lights and a red/green.
I made it to the entrance without getting run over, surfed into the relative protection of the breakwater, and headed just a few miles to the right to the narrow marina entrance, with a cross wind still blowing 22 knots. I pulled in to the first vacant slip as instructed, barely missing a few multi-million dollar mega yachts as I drifted sideways down the fairway, and finally got a rope on a cleat.
I think all the big wind and waves of the last few days, rocking and rolling the boat like crazy as I sailed downwind, was designed to ensure that I walked like a drunken sailor when I first stepped off the boat. And it worked! Trying to walk down the wide stable concrete dock was challenging, and I must have looked drunk.
I’ll go through immigration and customs later today, and tomorrow the boat will be measured for the canal, I’ll pay some fees, and I should get my transit date by the end of the day. But that’s the next chapter in this story. For now, I just need some chocolate and some sleep…
4/16 4am 9.22.12N 79.57.01W 5457nm gone.