Shelter Bay Marina, Ft Sherman/Colon, Panama

Shelter Bay Marina turned out to be a delightful surprise nestled in a national park surrounded by jungle and tranquility, we could work on the boat in the early mornings, then hike through amazing jungle trails with howler monkeys and sloths, then take a dip in the refreshing pool to cool off.

Amazing Pool and Hot Tub

Amazing Pool and Hot Tub

Just before sunset, we’d walk down to the jetty, walk out and watch the ships coming & going from the Panama Canal.  What a treat!

Shelter Bay Entrance is Just Inside the Panama Canal Jetty

Shelter Bay Entrance is Just Inside the Panama Canal Jetty

Shelter Bay Marina was created when the US turned the Panama Canal over to Panama in 1999.  It was formerly the docks of the US Fort Sherman.  Click here for the official Shelter Bay Marina website and contact information. We left Shelter Bay in November 2009 after spending two hurricane seasons, one on the hard and one in the water.

The marina is trying to be a first class, first world marina, but the reality of life across the harbor from Colon, Panama provides extra challenges.  When we were there, most of the time there was no hot water for showers, although it wasn’t a huge deal because it was so hot outside we didn’t really want HOT water, but lukewarm might have been nice.  They were in the process of getting new water heaters shipped in so hopefully that may be resolved.

Amazing, Totally Private Showers with a View!

Amazing, Totally Private Showers with a View!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pricing is definitely 1st world and they charge for every little thing.  It didn’t bother us because we knew it in advance, but some cruisers complained.  Be sure to keep tabs on your bill if you’re there awhile so you don’t get any surprises!  They had a problem with crime but added a fenced yard to keep boats on the hard secure and after that I didn’t hear of any more missing stuff.

Shelter Bay TravelLift

Shelter Bay TravelLift

 

 

 

 

 

Entrance Channel is Protected by the Cristobel Jetty

Entrance Channel is Protected by the Cristobel Jetty

 

 

 

 

Fort Sherman is across the Panama Canal from Colon – providing a barrier for safety purposes since Colon is known as a “dangerous” city.   For the record, we followed local advice for safety, where to go and where not to go, when to take a cab, etc. and never had any problem, never even felt unsafe.  Your mileage could vary.

 

 

 

Shelter Bay Bus

Shelter Bay Bus

The marina provides a bus that goes to the Rey (supermarket) and other Colon locations multiple times a week.  Sometimes a bus trip to Panama City will be offered, sometimes not.  It is expensive to get anywhere via taxi since everyone has to stop and wait for the canal opening – it’s rather common to be delayed a half hour and an hour wait wasn’t out of the question.  Plan accordingly!

 

 

 

Since it’s on the old US Army base at Ft Sherman, hiking the trails can bring amazing adventures … like this overgrown battery.

Overgrown Battery

Overgrown Battery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Complete with this howler monkey, one of a pack (is that what you call a bunch of howler monkeys?  or maybe a troop?) …

Howler Monkey

Howler Monkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The restaurant and bar overlook the marina and make a great place to sip a drink and exchange stories with new friends from around the world — this marina definitely had more international boats than anywhere we’ve been.  And there’s always an air of excitement as boats prep to go through the canal and on to the South Pacific.  Since the Panama Canal Yacht Club closed, Shelter Bay is the only marina in the vicinity, so most boats going through the canal come here.

Shelter Bay Restaurant & Bar Overlooks the Marina

Shelter Bay Restaurant & Bar Overlooks the Marina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a really nice cruiser’s lounge upstairs, complete with a flat screen TV and large book trading library.  The restaurant has mediocre food, but they’re constantly changing restaurant managers and the last one just before we left in November 2009 was better than prior.  One of the challenges for the restaurant apparently is to keep FOOD … so just because there’s a nice restaurant, there’s not always FOOD in the restaurant … another of the mysteries of life at Shelter Bay!   🙂

 

 

 

Comments

  1. David Verschueren says:

    Hello,

    My wife and i are travelling through Central and South America for 1 year.

    In december we will be in Panama.

    I heard it might be possible to travel through the Panama canal and even to Colombia for free if we would help on a sailboat. I heard something like linehandler could be helpful…

    Do you think this is possible? How can we find people who want to consider taking us along? Are there websites or forums for this?

    Sorry to bother you with this, but we have to start somewhere 🙂

    Thanks you.

    Kind regards,

    David & Chantal

    • Good luck! First you’ll need to get to know some cruisers – we spent considerable time in Shelter Bay Marina on the Caribbean side of the canal – it’s the spot boat going through the canal prepare from. And we wanted to jump on a boat as line handlers and go through the canal. But despite all the time we spent there and all the people we knew, we never got the chance. We knew others that did. There are a small number of hotel rooms at Shelter Bay Marina, and it seemed like most cruisers had friends fly in from home to be their line handlers and share the experience. Don’t forget to check the Pacific side of the canal as well – I’m not sure where the boats gather on that side to prepare for a canal crossing, but it might be a possibility.

      I’ve never heard of anyone sailing to Colombia for free as crew on a boat, but anything’s possible. Again, you’d need to get to know some boaters heading that way. We sailed to Cartagena & back to the Sapzurro, Colombia and the San Blas Islands and it was a fairly easy overnight both ways.

      As far as websites and/or forums – I’m not familiar with any, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out there.

      Buena Suerte! Jan

  2. Guys don’t get fool about the photos. The place is for monastery and monks. The boat facilities are good but apart of that, there is nothing. This place is disconnected from the rest of the world. The road to the nearest city is like bombed by aircrafts. Big holes in the middle of the road, very annoying to drive there. There is a complimentary (stinky/garbage) bus that is mostly for the workers at the marina to transfer you to Colon, a real third world city with a free Zone for fools as their products are not that cheap. Due to the location of this marina, a ferry had to be taken in order to bring you to the other side. This ferry takes for ever. Even if you try the other way through the canal locks, there is another waiting drama there. This marina is just for a few days. The boat I work is moored there due to the decision of the owner. If I knew I wouldn’t be here.

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