Destination: Shelter Bay, Panama

by • December 16, 2016 • Destinations, olderComments Off195

Panaroma of Shelter Bay Marina. Credit: DeVerm CC BY-SA 3.0

This marina and boatyard offers some of the best facilities in the whole of the western Caribbean for the complete gamut of boats from live aboard cruisers to superyachts of up to 200ft length and 25ft draught.

It’s an ideal destination as a useful stop-off point or refit location for yachts bound from the eastern Caribbean islands towards the Pacific Ocean via the Panama canal. The marina is set in a naturally sheltered lagoon, little more than six miles from the Gatun locks at the eastern entrance of the canal. It’s only three miles across Limon Bay from the city of Colon, although by road the distance is some 45 kilometres.

The on site boatyard has been recently revamped and now includes a covered area of some 5,000 square feet – the only facility of its type in the western Caribbean, although prices can be higher than some eastern Caribbean yards. The 100 Tonne Travelift can haul yachts of up to 28ft beam and 8ft draught. On shore facilities include a chandlery, bar and restaurant, plus small hotel, convenience store, gym, laundrette, pool and wifi.

On approaching the lagoon it’s vital to avoid the shoals to the south of the approach channel – some charts show as much as four metres depth here, buy in reality it appears much shallower and yachts occasionally sustain damage through grounding here. Night entry on a first visit is therefore not recommended.

The country is not affected by hurricanes, but the rainy season is hot and humid, especially in October and November, when significant rainfall may be experienced. It’s also important to stay abreast of the security situation, particularly in the main towns, where it’s best to use taxis at all times, and not to anchor in remote bays with no other yachts. Shelter Bay’s tranquil location has 24 hour staffing and security, and is next to the Panamanian Coast Guard base.

The marina is right next to the 14,000 acre San Lorenzo National Park, where there’s spectacular walking on offer. There are also plenty of local destinations to explore by boat, making this a viable place to base a yacht in the longer term. For instance, the Rio Chagres is just 11 miles southwest from Shelter Bay, where there’s a popular anchorage amid virgin rainforest above the sand bar at the river entrance. A 70-mile passage heading east from the marina will take you to the 340 islands in the remote San Blas archipelago.


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