Sunday, June 26, 2011

Contadora

As we continue to explore the Las Perlas islands in the Panama Gulf, we pulled anchor and motored as there was no wind and set anchor at beautiful Contadora Island (N08°38.076' W079°02.120') about 3.5 hours later on June 24th. We decided to treat ourselves and go out for a nice supper to celebrate my late birthday and Jordan's early birthday. Upon arriving to shore, we discovered the most beautiful beach that we have yet to set foot upon in all of Panama.

How to describe this fabulous golden sand???

We walked to a nice restaurant and discovered that lobster was listed for $40. What a difference from the fabulous lobster that I had at Boca Chica for only $7.45! But we each had a great meal and a very enjoyable evening out with a beautiful calm starry night, watching the bright fireflies flit around.

The following day, we went ashore once again to walk around the island, which we covered a great deal of. We found only a couple of grocery stores but lots of restaurants and hotels/resorts. We also saw a lot of high-end homes as this is where many folks from Panama City have a second home. We can see why as it's a very tranquil island plus it has an airplane runway with regular flights just up from the beach and ferry service from the City.

Sunday morning we had great snorkelling right off the boat. We saw white coral (kind of resembled brain coral) and regular reddish coral. Plus 1 very long needle-nose fish and so many coloured fish. A real bonus was spotting 2 rays swimming below us - 1 was quite large - and we noticed that they followed us for a bit as we swam around.

1 of 2 rays - Wow!

The wind really blew strongly all night. We kept checking to see if our anchor was holding and it seemed to be doing great.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Las Perlas

After motoring for the entire 1.5-day voyage from Naranjo Cove, the wind finally started to blow - 5 minutes before anchoring! We are now in the group of about 200 islands called Las Perlas. Our first stop was at one called Isla del Rey, which is actually the largest of the Perlas, where we set anchor at 14:00 (N08°13.896' W078°54.186') on the 21st of June. There was only 1 other boat here, a rather large commercial boat.

The island has 2 small villages and several beaches. We noticed an unusual sight - a barge on shore. The tide had gone out and it was high and dry but not before the surf had manoeuvred it crossways to the waves...


We went for a walk the next day by an old airplane runway. Looking down at the beach, it was so different than the other side of the island which was smooth and sandy. The beach area on this side was covered in large rocks and crashing waves.

Later, back at Sea Turtle, we watched as the barge successfully made it off shore and motored away. Just in time, as then it began to rain and continued all throughout the night with thunder and lightning.

On June 23rd, we continued our travels with little wind from behind. So up went the spinnaker, then finished off with the genoa to the anchorage 5 hours later, dropping the hook without even turning on the motor. We anchored at beautiful Isla del Espiritu Santo (N08°25.811' W078°51.347').

There were only 2 other boats here, 1 a catamaran and 1 a trimaran, both being from Germany. We went ashore and walked the sandy beach, trying to find a trail that the German couple had told us about but to no avail. But we did admire the beautiful flowers hanging from the trees along the beach.

Yes, another sandy beach!

Once again, it rained during the evening, confirming it is the rainy season in Panama.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Naranjo Cove

We left Isla Cebaco (Panama) a little late yesterday, not till 13:00, which meant we were a bit short on time to reach our next destination about 5 hours away. We started out motoring but as the wind picked up we decided to see if it was strong enough for a fast sail. Unfortunately, we were only doing about 3 nautical miles so we turned the motor on again after about half an hour so we wouldn't be arriving after dark.

Jordan hooked a large fish but the darn thing managed to escape from his hook. We set anchor at Naranjo Cove (N07°16.339' W080°55.472') at 17:45 on the 19th. The surrounding hills were very pretty and even though several areas had been logged they were covered in green grass or foliage. We once again had the bay all to ourselves with the exception of 1 house on shore. The swells made the anchorage rolly as we did not set a stern anchor this time.

We pulled anchor from Naranjo Cove bright and early at 06:30 for an overnighter. Jordan had a line trailing when he got a strike. What a fighter this fish was. After a long struggle, Jordan finally landed a yellow fin tuna, with enough meat for 8 meals.

Finally, yellow fin tuna!

We are finally starting to see sea life once again. Today we spotted a whale, 2 sea turtles, and dolphins. We also found the Southern Cross in the stars this evening, a guiding beacon for sailors since ancient times in the Southern Hemisphere, represented by 4 bright stars depicting a cross.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bahias Honda/Cebaco

We returned to the private Isla Cavada (Panama) as we can get internet there and have spent the last 2 days cleaning, airing out, and removing any mildew growth. What with the humidity being so high, it's become necessary to wipe the boat insides with a mix of vinegar and water or bleach and water to keep a check on the mildew. So far, nothing damaged or destroyed - just a lot of scrubbing.

We left on June 16th for Bahia Honda in the rain and anchored around 10:00 (N07°45.821' W081°31.615'). Along the way, Jordan caught a couple of the untasty Skipjacks but released them. Haven't been having too much luck in the fishing department lately.

Kennedy, a local, rowed over and offered to trade fruit for other goods such as a flashlight, batteries, Canada hat, etc. Jordan offered to try and fix Kennedy's broken home generator.

On the 17th, we dinghied over to Kennedy's place. He and his family have a scenic piece of property and a well crafted house, still in the works, which will be beautiful when done. Unfortunately, the generator needed a new piece which could not be fabricated so Jordan was unable to fix it. But we made our trades after a lot of picture taking and pleasant visit. So nice to have fruit once again!

Jordan and Judy with Kennedy, his wife and 1 daughter

We also dinghied into the village on a nearby island and discovered it to be much larger than we had expected. But there was only 1 tiny store that sold only a few basics and junk food so we were not able to stock up with much. The village also has several houses, a tiny police station, and a school.

We pulled anchor at 09:45 on June 18th and motored with glassy smooth seas. We were able to sail for a short period, but then had to motor again.

At 1 point, we spotted a whale lazily swimming across the water at our stern. Jordan released 1 Skipjack and unfortunately lost 1 Dorado. Still waiting for that fish catch! We anchored at Isla Cebaco (N07°2.392' W081°13.377') at 16:00 where we also needed to use a stern anchor. Nearby was a sport fishing boat rafted alongside its mothership Cebaco Bay.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Islas Secas

Time for more exploring, so we looked at the charts and decided to take the 4-hour trip to the group of islands called Islas Secas on June the 12th. We anchored at 14:00 (N07°59.190' W082°01.768') in beautiful clear blue water in front of a private island called Isla Cavada. There are 5 to 6 yurts here which we were told rent out for $600 per night. (Basically, a yurt is an elaborate tent-like portable home which can be set up easily anywhere.)

1 of several white yurts on Isla Cavada on top of hill 

The next morning, we moved to the uninhabited Isla Pargo, about 45 to 60 minutes away. There was no one else anywhere in sight and we had the island and anchorage all to ourselves! Isla Pargo is not a privately owned island so we were able to go ashore. With a high tide, Jordan timed the waves for a dry dinghy landing on the white sand beach.

White sand beach of Isla Pargo - part of Islas Secas group of islands

We then hiked a trail (Jordan a little farther than me) through the dense jungle where the beach at the other end of the island was black and pebbly. Back at the beach where we landed the dinghy, Jordan picked up some fresh coconuts from the ground.

Hearing the start of thunder, we headed back to Sea Turtle and jumped in the ocean for a glorious cooling-off swim with time for a quick shower to rinse off the salt water before the brief rain started. Jordan then cracked open one of the coconuts and we drank the delicious "water". He also cut out all the coconut meat which we gorged on and finally put the rest in the fridge for later.

Did you know the water from a coconut is one of the healthiest drinks available from nature, being full of electrolytes and antioxidants? It has been said that it has even been used as an intravenous hydration fluid in war times and some developing countries where medical saline was unavailable.

All alone, white sand beach, a hike through the jungle, fresh coconuts, a swim in the warm clear blue ocean. Did I mention where we are? Hmmm. Oh yeah, still in paradise!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Back at Boca Chica

After a great weekend, we were once again back at Sea Turtle in Pedregal where over a few days we did some boat chores (replacing the broken bilge fan and finishing the teak bookshelf). We also went into David and watched a couple more playoff hockey games at a sports bar called TGIF - yes they have them here too - short for Thank God It's Friday.

The general weather has been a mix of rain, heavy at times, and sunny but humid days. The music is mostly accordion with a Latin styled vocal and rhythm. Catching, but most songs are too much alike.

We made our way out of the inland waterway on Thursday June 9th, as we followed the same 52 waypoints in reverse, and at one point felt our keel touch the bottom.

 Remote estuary casa

We anchored once again in Boca Chica on Friday and our plans are to head for Islas Secas tomorrow on June 12th...

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Jack and the teak stock

Our friend Jack of SV Moonraker is here in Panama involved in a teak plantation and invited us for a tour. He picked us up at the marina on June 3rd and drove us 2 hours back to Llano Grande (N08°04.656' W081°08.026') which is near Santiago - the closest town to the teak facility. For 2 days, he gave us a rundown on the business and tours of their different plots. One plot, way back on a muddy 4-wheel drive road through the jungle, had a small river running through it with beautiful waterfalls and teak trees, tropical trees, and foliage.

Beautiful, peaceful, and exhilarating setting

Jordan and Jack amidst the teak trees

Jack, being an ardent Canuck fan, found a little open roadside bar that had satellite channels and the playoffs where the local caballeros (cowboys) whet their whistles with 50 cent beer. So with Jack and his workers, we all went to cheer on our team Vancouver. One of the workers had no clue what hockey is about but dutifully cheered for "Bancoumer". It was lots of fun given the unlikely venue with loud canned accordion music playing and trying to keep track of the puck amidst the flies buzzing around and on the TV screen.

Jack also drove us to Boquete where we stopped for lunch (on our way back to Pedregal) as this place is reputed to be fabulous. Perhaps that is why we were disappointed. We were expecting too much and were disappointed when we were there.

Jordan picked up a fan to replace our broken bilge fan at a used car dealer and we later stopped at a roadside fruit stand that was loaded with everything and we of course stocked up!

Bananas, avocados, tomatoes, carrots, melons...

As for Panama in general, we have found it to be a very clean and safe place. There is no garbage lining the streets as there is in most places in Central America. Of course, there were places that had the usual security bars on windows, etc. but it did not seem to be the usual practice. I was amazed to see all the "live" fences. These fences were built out of tree limbs - that were still living and continuing to grow as tree-fences.

And as our souvenir of our great weekend trip, Jack gave Jordan some scrap teak from which Jordan built a small bookshelf for Sea Turtle. We will think of SV Moonraker and her crew every time we use it! And he also sent us home with 4 mangoes the size of footballs from his plantation which we thoroughly enjoyed!

PS Sorry we missed you Meagan but we just couldn't make it in time!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Up the estuary

With 52 waypoints from previous sailors plugged into our GPS, Sea Turtle and MV Hobo headed out May 31st mid-morning for Pedregal (near David). It would be a 5-hour trip winding through the mangroves, past an open bar with cresting waves, and skimming over shallows in the estuary. A few places gave us barely a foot under the keel and the depth sounder showed 1.0 m in a spot, the depth that our keel touches. This estuary is tidal with as much as 3 m between low and high.

We prudently planned on making our way on an almost high and flooding tide so that if we ran aground, the rising tide would lift us off. That gave us only about a 2-3-hour tide window so needless to say, we had to break up the trip and anchored about half way for the night and resumed the next day to our destination. At one point, we discovered that we plugged in a wrong coordinate for one of our waypoints that tempted us to run into the mangroves until we stopped and figured it out with the help of some local natives in a dugout with a faltering outboard.

At about 15:00 on June 1st, we dropped the hook (N08°21.881' W082°26.358') beside the Pedregal Marina and in front of the office of the harbour authority and waited till they rounded up the various officials for our Panama check-in. Four of them came to the boat and in a friendly and professional manner had us all done in about an hour, however they didn't have one of the forms for our cruising permit so would have to finish that up on Monday.

Dirty water of the estuary - no watermaking here!

Pedregal Marina is at the end of the road about 8 km from David which is the second largest city in Panama. The taxis are cheap and David has everything you need - modern grocery stores and malls, even a Do It center hardware store. We took advantage and stocked up on stores and supplies.