Day #1 in Portabelo

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This morning I decided to make granola. I began mixing the ingredients, and commented that I wish I’d remembered to purchase coconut flakes at the grocery store. The next thing I knew, Jonathan and Aidan were on a mission. They cracked open and peeled down a coconut for me, and brought it in and grated it so I could add it to the granola. What sweet man creatures!

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The girls continued to work hard on our friends boat, and when we were all done with our projects, we tossed up the dock lines and set out on a 3 hour sail to explore Portableo. At first winds were light so we motored, but a short ways into our voyage they picked up, so we raised the main sail and unfurled the jib. It’s quite magical moving across the water powered by the wind.I had a little cruising buddy visit me while we were underway..

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Portabelo was established during the Spanish colonial period, and is located on the northern end of the Isthmus of Panama, and was used as a center for exporting gold and silver in the mid-eighteenth century. Pirates came in and plundered the city which was said to have so much gold stashed that silver overflowed into the streets.

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I was determined to catch a fish, so I sprayed the lure with WD40, just like the fisherman told me to, and let the line out far beyond Tanda Malaika. He told us that WD40 has fish oil in it, and the fish are attracted to the scent, but after our entire voyage with empty lines, I became convinced that there simply are no fish left in the sea.

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As we entered the bay at Portabelo, Jude and I sat at the bow talking about the many pirate ships that had sailed these very seas. We imagined the calls on board as men prepared to fire cannons at Portabelo’s forts, hoping to steer free of incoming cannon balls. As we neared land we could see the forts standing tall and proud, holding on to every last bit of strength and structure as long as they could. Many sailboats lay at anchor, and periodically a dugout or panga would appear as they moved from one area to the next. An old abandoned sailboat lay to it’s side in the water. What a peaceful, beautiful scene.

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After anchoring we climbed in the dinghy and made our way over to shore. We pulled up in an area where we saw three other dinghy’s tied up, and climbed out. Several people were sitting out on a veranda, and we made sure it was okay to leave the dinghy where it was. They welcomed us to Portabelo with friendly smiles and asked where we were from. After chatting for a minute, we asked if they knew where Captain Jack’s was, because we’d heard that it was a good place to eat dinner, and it ended up that Captain Jack himself was sitting right there, and told us where it was and that the food served there was quite delicious.

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We walked through the first fort we came to, and felt excitement as we imagined men loading cannons, calling when to fire, keeping fires burning to light the fuze, and cheer when they were successful. The walls were built of rock and large pieces of coral, and cannons lay exactly where they had been left 250 years ago.

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People in town were happy and moved about selling things, cooking, chatting in groups and hurriedly making their way home. Brightly painted school busses with massive pipes at the rear, transported people around. Their hooters were loud as they made their way through town.

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A beautiful church stood tall in the middle of town, with stained glass windows and wooden beams spanning across the ceiling. Many candles had been lit and several statues of a black Christ and white Mary, where overlooking the neatly arranged pews.

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We came across another fort, which had many more cannons, and stretched along the far end of the bay below the town.

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We found Captain Jacks around 5:30pm, and by this time we were all hungry and hot. We were informed that the cook hadn’t come in, but a replacement was taking his place for the evening, and he knew limited dishes on the menu. We all ended up ordering Hawaiian Burgers or Asian Chicken burgers, and after over 2 hours, were served our delicious meals. Captain Jack stopped by our table and welcomed us, and apologized for the long wait. Though we were hungry, we assured them that we didn’t mind, and had been enjoying each others company. When we received our final bill at the end of the meal, they had only charged us $20 for all 8 of our meals. Danny left the waitress a large tip for her sweet service. Her name was Elena, and she thought Aidan was the cutest little man child she’d ever seen.

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Since it’s cooler in the evenings, Portabelo came to life the later it got. Bands came out to perform and people congregated in the parks.

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We made our way back to Tanda Malaika with full bellies, and the creatures took showers in their swimsuits out on the stern with the outside shower. We all got comfy in our berths for the night and looked forward to our adventures for the next day.

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