A PERIPATETIC JOURNEY
not all who wander are lost
The Shelter Bay Marina is surrounded by the ruins of the American occupation (ended in 2000) of the Panama Canal Zone. The Canal Zone was a 5-mile wide swath of land on either side of the canal from the Atlantic (Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean. Nature is taking over, and we often took walks through the abandoned buildings and bunkers that surrounded us. The boat kid gangs also loved to roam the area. As we walked along the overgrown paths and trails, we were amazed by the diverse bird species, including finches, parrots, toucans, and oropendulas. The oropendulas are large birds that build nests suspended from the tops of palm trees. We were very fortunate to be with our good friend and expert birder, Arliss Ryan, from the the boat Corroboree. She spotted and identified many of the birds we saw in the forest. Arliss, if you ever read this, please feel free to correct/add to our bird identifications!
We were hoping to see howler monkeys on our walk through the forest. We could often heard them from the marina and had heard them before when anchored in Puerto Lindo, but we had not seen any. Not long after setting off on one of our walks, we began to hear the howlers. Howler monkeys are the loudest of all land animals; their calls can be heard from up to three miles away. It is not just the loudest land animal, but the second laziest (second only to the sloth), spending up to 80% of the day resting in the treetops. Adults can be up to 3 feet long with prehensile tails of up to another 3 feet long. We walked in the direction of their calls and soon were rewarded with a sighting of a troop of howlers, including a female with a baby in a tree just above us.
On the way back to the marina, we saw a smaller (and quieter) capuchin monkey up in a palm tree. We were hoping to encounter a sloth, as they are regularly seen in this area. We spent about 10 minutes under their favorite tree, but did not see one this time or on any of our walks in the area.
At the end of January, Brian went through the canal on our friends' boat, Blue Zulu, as a line handler. Since he'd end up on the Pacific side in Panama City, we decided to join him for a long weekend in the big city. There is a railway crossing the isthmus of Panama from the days before the canal was built. It is still in operation, providing passage between Colon and Panama City for tourists and people commuting between the two cities for work. Our friends on Element had also been planning a weekend in Panama City, so we took the train together. Once we boarded the train, we received snack boxes and a cup of coffee. Beer and cocktails were available at the bar, so we settled in to enjoy the trip across Panama.
We arrived at Shelter Bay Marina a few weeks ahead of schedule. Although we planned to return to the San Blas for a couple more weeks, our Panama Canal agent advised us to come to Colon as early as possible because the schedule was filling fast. Before a boat can be placed on the transit schedule, it must be measured by a canal official and that can only be done in Colon. We were hoping to transit in early February, so decided to follow his advice. Once we were measured, he secured a transit date of February 8. With less than a month to go, we had a lot to do: provision, schedule a brief haul-out for bottom cleaning, prepare the boat for the canal transit and for the Pacific crossing, get Galapagos entry paperwork in order, find line handlers for the transit, have our mail forwarded to the marina, and of course continue boat school.
McGlynn family 5 (Isla, Marin, Eoin, Kendall, and Brian) sailing Counting Stars