The rally's time in Panama is sadly drawing to a close, but for the 26 World ARC boats, it’s been a great place to spend a few weeks exploring. Their journey has taken them via some beautiful - and often deserted - islands in San Blas. It included a private audience with a village chief of an indigenous tribe in the Chagres National Park. And for many it’s been a huge tick off the bucket list, as they transited the infamous Panama Canal on their boats.
Reflecting on San Blas, John Lovett from Crazy Horse said, “We enjoyed some of the best snorkelling ever at Holandes Cays. What a great experience.” Jane Ogilvie from Dilema, was so taken with Coco Banderos islands, she described them as, “Picture-postcard perfect.”
Some participants enjoyed lobster dinners, cooked for them by the local Guna Yala, creating incredible memories of dining by candlelight with their toes in the sand. While one boat skipper sought permission from the island chief to run a film night. They set their projector and screen up on the beach and the film was enjoyed not just by their crew, but also the Gunas living there too!
Amid boat jobs and provisioning taking place while at Shelter Bay Marina, the marina manager, JuanJo Boschetti threw an impromptu party for rally participants. A fun and happy evening was had by all as the rum punch flowed - mixed to the yellow shirts' special recipe - and everyone gathered, excitedly chatting about their forthcoming transit across the Panama Canal.
This year, due to the water shortages in the Panama Canal, the World ARC fleet staggered the transits with all 26 boats going through the Canal within the intended 11-day window.
World Cruising Club’s Managing Director, Paul Tetlow said, “This is a huge achievement, representing the close connection World Cruising Club has with the Panama Canal Authority and the comprehensive communications managed by Rally Control and Roy Bravo, our agent. The transit schedule was always going to be a different this year and we were grateful for the understanding of the World ARC crews and their trust in our team of ‘yellow shirts’ to get the job done on time."
It’s clear from the many photos posted by rally participants on social media that, they’ve all had an amazing time. As his boat entered the Pacific Ocean, one skipper summed up his Panama Canal transit as “a phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Another huge hit was a specially arranged tour to the Embera Tribe Village. Set deep within the rainforest of Panama Province in the Chagres National Park area, access to the village is via boat, and involves a 30-minute journey to the top of the River Chagres in handmade dugout canoes.
Following a warm and hospitable reception from the tribespeople, the village chief spent time explaining the history, culture, and traditions of the village, happily answering many personal questions. Culminating the visit, the women of the village put on a show and later invited the audience to dance with them. It was an incredible and honest insight into a traditional tribal community.
An additional popular excursion was a five-hour trip around old and modern Panama City by bus, followed by a walking tour of Casco Viejo (the old town).
There's just time now for one last Panamanian adventure and the chance to explore the charming islands in Las Perlas, located 30 miles out of the city. A great place for the skippers and crew to catch their breath before beginning their sail to Galapagos. The pretty island of Contadora is also the place for the World ARC prizegiving and finale party.
So many amazing memories created. Doffing the hat to Panama and its famous palindrome:
A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama