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Finally, Some Good News out of Panama

December 12 - Shelter Bay, Panama

The Marina Bay facilities look to be world class.

The Winship Family of the Alameda-based Crowther 33 Chewbacca report that finally there is a 'real' marina being built in the Panama Canal area. They are referring to the Shelter Bay Marina, which is located at the former site of Fort Sherman at Limon Bay just behind the breakwater that protects the entrance to the Panama Canal from the onslaught of the Caribbean Sea. This used to be the jungle combat training center for the U.S. military's Southern Command, and it's just a few steps to the real wild stuff.

The first boats are now in their berths at Marina Bay on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal.

Forty-eight berths are already in place, with the first boats already having been welcomed to the not-yet-completed facility. Some 160 more slips are planned. Vessels to 225 feet and 25-ft draft will be able to be accommodated, and the facility is being built to meet or exceed all U.S. standards.

Shelter Bay is located beneath the hurricane zone. In fact, the U.S. weather service in the Canal Zone says they have never recorded winds in excess of 59 mph.

According to the Shelter Bay Web site, "A true Caribbean port, our water is clear, the monkeys visit, the beach is nearby, and the forest is breathtaking. In short, it's a great place to visit even if you don't need a thing for your boat. The 14,000 acre national park which surrounds us is home to more than 700 species of birds. Two beaches and a great reef complete the picture."

An aerial view of Fort Sherman, with the airport runway, prior to marina development. Notice the jungle, and in the lower left, the breakwater that protects the Panama Canal from the onslaught of the Caribbean Sea. The lighthouse was built by the French during their failed attempt at building a canal.
Photos Courtesy Chewbacca

In addition, there will be a boatyard, including a lift that can haul catamarans of up to 33-ft of beam, and a five-acre boat storage yard capable of accommodating 200 boats.

We expect that Shelter Bay, at a crossroads between the Atlantic and Pacific, and not far from the San Blas Islands, will be a major success. More in the January issue of Latitude 38, which will be published December 30.

As Expected, Newport 41 Petrel not Really Missing

December 12 - Alameda

At the request of the Coast Guard Search & Rescue, on Friday we asked people to be on the lookout for Giles Findlayson and his San Diego-based Newport 41. A friend had reported him overdue.

Less than 24 hours later, the Coast Guard received a call that Giles was fine, and was seen a short time before dropping somebody off at the Puerto Vallarta Airport.

Such false alarms are common.

Santa Rosa Island to Become a Recreational Retreat for the Military?

December 12 - Channel Islands

We doubt it. But Representative Duncan Hunter of San Diego Country is proposing that 20-mile long Santa Rosa Island, the second largest of Southern California's Channel Islands and part of the Channel Islands National Park, be used by the military for "morale, welfare and recreation operations." Oh yeah, and Special Operations Forces training, too.

Representative Lois Capps of Santa Barbara, whose district includes Santa Rosa Island, isn't all that enthusiastic - to say the least - about the proposal. "All Americans should have access to the Channel Islands National Park, not just top military brass, members of Congress, and folks who can afford thousands of dollars to go on private hunting trips."

What we can't understand is why Rep. Hunter thinks the military needs yet another of the Channel Islands. They've already got San Clemente Island which, because it's 150 miles to the southeast, has a much better climate for R&R than does Santa Rosa Island, which is only 30 miles from notoriously windy and rough Point Conception. As any sailor who has spent much time at Santa Rosa can tell you, the island might have some great surfing, but it doesn't have salubrious weather.

The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers Was Nasty this Year

December 12 - St. Lucia

"Anyone who says the ARC, the 2,700-mile rally from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia, is a piece of cake has got to be kidding," says John Pearce, skipper of Om Shanti. He ought to know; he's sailed across the Atlantic 27 times. "This latest trip was the most exciting, frustrating, and demanding crossing that I have ever done."

Despite the fact the ARC is many times harder than the Ha-Ha, it still sells out, with 225 boats every year.

Malaysia to Enter the 2011 America's Cup

December 12 - Pulau Duyung, Malaysia

It's hard to believe that the world's most populous Muslim country would be interested in an America's Cup attempt, but that is what's being reported. Apparently the government wants to turn the country into a major sailing hub, and will build five big sailing centers to develop the sailors of the future. The National Sailing Academy will be located at Pulau Duyung, with other complexes at Johor, Pahang, Sabah, and Sarawak.

The America's Cup effort - Russell Coutts and Peter Gilmour are being mentioned as possible skippers - will help promote sailing in Malaysia. It's been reported that $130 million U.S. will be set aside for the run at the Cup.

Ellen MacArthur and B&Q to Asia

December 12 - The Far East

Speaking of the Far East, Ellen MacArthur and her record-setting 75-ft trimaran are headed to Asia, where their objective for 2006 will be to establish a series of fully crewed sailing records in Asian waters. It will all start in late March, and will include stops in Japan, five major Chinese ports, and finish in Singapore.

No doubt her sponsor wants to raise its profile in the East, China in particular. It must have something to do with booming growth.

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