Pirates, Forts and Black Jesus – Sailing Portobelo

Portosmello.  That’s how fellow sailors described our destination.  It seemed a harsh nickname for a place that once enticed the most infamous pirates.  Looking at Portobelo today, it’s hard to believe this was once the greatest Spanish port in Central America.  Now, it’s famous forts are surrounded by a sleepy Caribbean fishing village that’s a little rough around the edges.

sailing portobelo

Most of the area is a World Heritage site and the big natural harbor is perfect for cruising sailors like us. The guide books will tell you Portobelo can be seen in an hour by foot and that isn’t an exaggeration.  There is only one main road that runs through the village. So, it’s as simple as start at one end and make your way to the other.  But why rush through?  We figure Captain Morgan spent 14 days ransacking the city…we owe it at least a week.

Well, I can’t say we found any lost treasure at the forts, or on the bottom of the sea, but we had fun trying!  The whole area feels like something out of an Indiana Jones movie and given the motivation, I’m sure there is treasure still waiting to be discovered.

exploring portobelo panama

S/V Curiosity in Panama

sunsets at anchor

Pillaging Is Bad, Forts Are Cool

It’s funny how different our Hollywood and animated versions of pirates are versus the real deal.  Gold and treasure attract some seriously bad characters…especially when it’s all piled up in one place waiting on transport.  It’s hard to imagine all the war, thieving and murder this town experienced on repeat during the 17th and 18th century.  A gruesome past for such a beautiful site.  The most amazing part…here we are centuries later walking the same grounds and looking at the same coral stone walls. The canon fodder has been replaced by quiet and calm, providing an idyllic place to reflect on the past and look towards the future.

sailing and exploring portobelo panama

historical forts of panama

sailing and exploring portobelo panama

historical forts of panama

historical forts of panama

sailing and exploring portobelo panama

sailing and exploring portobelo panama

historical forts of panama

sailing and exploring portobelo panama

Black Jesus

Cristo Negro was something we had never heard of before coming to Portobelo.  It’s a wild tale that has become a huge annual festival, and has functioned this area’s religious center for centuries.

christo negroAccording to legend, a black slave was fishing in the town when he saw a large object floating in the water. He dragged the mysterious object ashore and unwrapped it to find the Black Christ.  The locals saw the statue’s appearance as a sign that Jesus was with them, because a plague that was sweeping the area seemed to disappear with the figures arrival.

Ever since that time, Black Jesus has been in the Iglesia de San Felipe.  Each year to honor the miracle that was the arrival of Black Jesus, pilgrims hike for miles into Portobelo, wearing ceremonial robes and crawling on hands and knees for the final mile to the church.  He is carried across the short distance where the original figure was dragged from the sea. It’s said to be an incredibly slow-moving procession with strange stunted steps before the Christ is returned to the church at midnight.

Fun Fact: Black Jesus’ clothing is changed twice a year.

Fair Winds Dale and Justin

Our first ever crew call was for a 4-week opportunity to join us aboard Curiosity and experience the sailing lifestyle.  Dale and Justin were on board for 4 months!  They are true adventurous souls we we’re proud to share our home, and a long slice of our journey with them.  It was sad to see them go but we have new guests joining us soon, and they have new adventures ahead!

Back at Red Frog Beach and marina in Bocas Del Toro, we were docked next to a beautiful sailboat named Dances With Dragons.  The skipper, Wayne was a salty solo sailor who mentioned he was looking for someone to join him for a while.  He enjoyed being solo but was ready for some company.  We mentioned we had two Canadians on board whose time with us was coming to an end, yet they wanted to continue sailing if an opportunity presented itself.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect!  Dale and Justin spent some time getting to know Wayne and a plan was made: they would board s/v Dances With Dragons in Portobelo!  So, their adventure continues, and you can always see what they are up to on YouTube.

sailing and exploring portobelo panama

Stay Tuned

Next up we drop the hook in Linton Bay, take a crazy road trip into Panama City, say goodbye to Dan and Jason shows us how NOT to install an inverter.

Sailing Report

To see our full map with interactive pins, click here:

Portobelo Map

  • Dates: 9/28 – 10/8
  • Anchorage:  The bay at Portobelo has lots of room and the holding is good.  We would get some swell and chop when the wind picked up but nothing too bad.  We did have about 15-30 knots during our stay.
  • Cell & WiFi:  Claro and Masmovil both worked well here.  Wifi in town is in and out, sometimes it works great and others its dial up speeds.

Gear Used In This Video

Sailing Specific Gear

Snorkel Gear

Underwater Cameras



Spear Fishing


Cameras Used to Capture This Video

Full Review Of All Our Camera Gear:


Thank You!

Thank you for being a part of our journey!  We’re able to share these adventures because of viewers like you. If you like what you see, check out our Say Thanks page to learn about different ways you can help keep the videos and posts flowing. You’ll notice most ways don’t cost you a penny but make a big difference to us…and for that, we thank you!

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (34)

  • Marc Montero

    And just like that, Dale and Justin are gone! Wow….weirdly sad. I had a chance to chat with each of them for a short bit in Fort Lauderdale when Sean and I met y’all down there and things were hectic and everyone was new to everyone so it was more like a business meeting. They seemed super nice, young, excited and slightly bashful. After watching them on your videos since, they opened up a little more but not that much… that the Canadian in them? As always…I continue to watch your videos and fantasize about sailing with you two. Half because I want to get to know you two better as you are super fun people, and half because I want outta here! The more personal you and Nikki get with your videos the more attached I get. (I know this has a lot to do with the Texas in you! I lived in Dallas and worked in Carrollton for 12 years and one of my favorite bumper stickers while I was there said “I’m not from Texas but I got here as fast as I could!” You two embody that. Keep up the good work, be safe, have fun!
    Marc, Denise & Sean

  • Howard Brooks

    Always enjoy your videos. Thanks for sharing.

  • Nice! It reminds me of visiting Mexico. The people are wonderful, the places not as clean as we are used to in the United States, but lots of fun nonetheless! Safe travels and hubby and I will continue following you on the high seas.

  • Alan Solomon

    Another great video. Congratulations on all the awesome and wonderful times you have on board Curiosity. I originally started watching you guys June or July, 2017. I am not sure how long it has been. I typed in Wild Bahamas searching for wild nature in the Bahamas and Gone With The Wynns popped up. I have seen a couple other Websites/videos on sailing different places but yours is way more superior than any others on many fronts. I do have 1 question, I could look but, i didn’t. Is Panama half way around the world for you?
    I will miss Dale and Justin and I don’t even know em and I never even met them. Funny how that happens.
    Anyways, Awesome video Nikki and Jason. Thank you, Happy Sailing. Looking forward to more.

  • Tim Nagler

    Did you guys happen to go to Isla Grande while on the Caribe side of Panama?

  • Hey! We recognize that place! Thanks for the memories. 😉

  • Richard Skaff

    Thanks once again for sharing your experiences in video. Some amazing footage and sunsets!

  • Mary

    Beautiful sunset!!

    You really got lucky with clear water after that rain!

  • Roger B

    Thank you for another very informative video journey in Portobelo. The history is very fascinating. We will miss Justin and Dale and, obviously, they were destined for more sailing adventures.

  • Billy Bob

    I’m sure you are aware by now you guys are lucky to be missing all the nasty cold weather here in North America…Ridiculous cold temps setting all kinds of records..

  • Steve

    Love following you guys, since the rv days. Intend to follow in (some of) your footsteps! Be safe and have fun!

    • Amy

      I agree, you have become like family!

  • Norm Stoysich

    You two are most interesting! While watching this video I was thinking, how about a question and answer Wensday? It has been a while since a QnA. Fun questions like, does anything unexpected come up with the anchor? What is more beautiful, the sky at night or the ocean floor? How about a sit down round table with some locals ( after a couple of beers) sharing what their lives are like? I know you two have gone vegetarian but it may be time for a cheeseburger? Thank you for sharing the adventures.

  • Rob Franks

    Very entertaining video, once again. You manage to capture the spirit of your locations, making them inviting. Were still waiting for a video of going through the canal. Take it easy. Happy sailing!!

  • Wendi Bloedorn

    Happy New Year Wynn’s! So happy to have Sunday Funday back! Your photography and videos are great and I really appreciate the depth of history you provide at each of your anchors. Keep up the awesome adventures.

  • Ateve

    Hi guys,

    Your latest video is great. Sorry to see Dale and Jadon leave. Do they have a blog or Facebook so I can follow their next adventure.m? I noticed that Dances with Dragons does not have a YouTube or Facebook site. Keep the videos coming and safe travels.

  • As always another Great video, Great place, Keep up the good work love watching.

  • Leanne

    Hello from Arctic Michigan! It’s been in the single digits for over a week and while my family enjoy snowmobiling and getting outside it’s damn cold!! I have followed you since you drove around in your motorhome and I love your adventures! I hope to sAil or boat one day soon! Happy trails

  • Jerry C

    Always look forward to following your adventures and receiving your weekly updates. Thank you.

  • George Hofmann

    So exciting to see Dale and Justin heading out for phase two of their journey! Great video, subjects, photography and commentary.
    I was just looking at some YouTube videos about the progressions in 360 degree cameras and new drones coming or on the market. Would you or do you have people that forward that type of information to you and is their any interest?

  • Doug Fletcher

    Love watching your whole crew and the adventures you go on. Patti and I still keep our farm in NC Florida running with alot of sweat and hard work. Jason I share you passion for solar.


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