Shelter Bay Marina

Tags: Fort Sherman, Panama, Shelter Bay Marina, hiking, sailing

Date: May 14, 2021

The plan for our trip to Panama was to put the boat in storage at Shelter Bay Marina and then head back to Mexico. This would allow us to continue our sailing trip after the rainy season. We spent several days working hard to prepare Amanda for a long stay on land. We removed the sails, bimini and everything else from the outside of the boat to keep it away from the weather. In the rainy season, the humidity is the big challenge and the rest of the year it is the UV radiation from the sun.

After all the preparations, we were finally ready to have Amanda lifted out:

As mentioned before, Shelter Bay Marina is close to the entrance to the Panama Canal. The history of the construction of the canal is long and complicated, with the French starting in 1881 but failing. In the end, the Americans succeeded and it was officially opened on August 15, 1914. From 1903 to 1979, this meant that the United States occupied 8 km of land on each side of the canal for total of 1,432 km2. This included military bases at both ends to protect the canal. The base on the Atlantic side was called Fort Sherman and included 93 km2 of land. The base had several batteries with guns of different sizes to protect against enemies from the sea. About half of the land was jungle.

From 1979, the canal was controlled by Panama and the United States together and in 1999 full control was given to Panama. Fort Sherman included a small port with access to Bahia Limón (the bay at the canal entrance), and part of that port has now been turned into Shelter Bay Marina, which is a very popular marina for leisure boats planning to transit the canal. Our plan is to spend some time in Panama before going through the canal, but the marina is still a good place to be.

The jungle part of the military base ended up being used by the US military for jungle training of its troops. The area is now a protected area which meant that we could walk right from the marina and into the jungle. There is a big road leading from the marina to an old Spanish fort called San Lorenzo:

A Yellow-headed caracara (bird in the falcon family) on the road:

After walking for quite while, we turned up a smaller road:

A viewing platform left by the Americans:

Nice view of the jungle from the top:

The size of the giant bamboo plants keeps impressing us, so here is another classic photo of Felicie next to one:

We didn't make it to the old Spanish fort, but here are some pictures of the batteries close to Fort Sherman and the marina:

It looks like the buildings have just been left to nature after the Americans left.

Felicie is looking a bit worried as we are walking through the jungle:

After about a week at Shelter Bay, it was time to leave. Saying goodbye to Amanda on the hard:

She is in good hands: a dehumidifier has been installed to keep the inside dry and we get a report every month with pictures to make sure everything is fine.