The Sail Maker, Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

April 05, 2018  •  Leave a Comment


The Sail Loft is a fascinating space, covered in graffiti from boat folk, wanting to leave their mark. I walked round the building on our first evening at Shelter Bay Marina, zooming in on pieces that caught my eye. That evening, logging onto Facebook, I saw a message on the "Women Who Sail"  group from a cruiser in New Zealand asking if the graffiti initiative in Shelter Bay was still going, and if anyone was there at the moment who could share photos of it. What were the odds? I was more than happy to oblige.

Then one day taking the minibus into Cuatro Altos to do our large provisioning shop, I ended up sitting across from April, who has been running The Sail Loft for the past couple of years. Actually, she was the one to take the idea on board and persuade the Marina that graffitiing the building would turn it into an attractive feature for those passing through. April had a fascinating journey into sail-making. From Canada originally, reading ecology, she ended up in the UK working with primates and reptiles in London Zoo. She was therefore able to reliably inform me that the local crocodile that turned up to Catherine's party was, in fact, a caiman. For years afterwards she taught as a science teacher until she and her husband decided to start planning to go sailing. They were living in Brighton at the time, and April decided she would like to have a marine trade under her belt, as an engineer or electrician, but as a woman found it impossible to get any of the businesses to hire her as an apprentice. Finally a sailmaker agreed to take her on - maybe the sewing involved was seen as a more transferable skill for a woman! Over the years April gained the reputation as an excellent premium sailmaker and eventually her clients persuaded her to set up her own business. For the last two years now, having been travelling, she has been running the Sail Loft in Shelter Bay and is preparing to hand it over to fresh blood, and start sailing again. Once again I found myself inspired by the "can do" attitude of women who sail that I meet on this journey. 


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