Return to Panama
Monday November 6, 2006
We had to get up early on the exit day from Bahia de Caráquez to catch the high-slack tide at the bar. December is the end of rainy season in Panama and the beginning of rainy season in Ecuador. The winds are still from the south in November so we are heading off to Panama and the Perlas Islands to enjoy the water before the winds change, with the season change, to northerlies. The anchor was up and we were underway just after first light Thursday morning. Here in the tropics there is almost no twilight so within 15 minutes it was daylight. The sky was its usual morning overcast as we followed our inbound track back out. Crossing out we were mostly in 12 foot deep water or deeper but rounding the point off the town it was only 9 feet with at least one blip at 8 feet. It shallowed up again briefly as we turned away from the beach and headed off shore.
We motor-sailed north to the very rolly anchorage behind Cabo Pasado about 25 miles away, but the water here was clear and clean. While anchored, Bill restarted our watermaker and made 12 gallons of fresh water. The watermaker had been “pickled” soon after our arrival off Puerto Amistad in Bahia de Caráquez, as the water in the river mouth there is very silty. Bill also cleaned the domestic raw water strainer. It contained lots of silt, barnacle pieces, fish scales and tube worm skeletons. Serious Yuck! Friday afternoon Soy Libre (with Andy, Marianne and Andrew) on board arrived at the anchorage. Our dinghy was in the water as we had used it as a base for swimming. After Soy Libre got settled, in the late afternoon, we dinghied over for a visit while enjoying popcorn that Marianne had made.
Saturday morning, but not early, we upped the anchor for the passage to Panama. The first two days of the trip we enjoyed a fast reach in light winds with all sails set. The engine only ran when the batteries needed charging, about 3 hours a day. We had sun the first day, but after that the clouds filled in and we had them with us the rest of the trip. Monday morning we jibed the boat to a new heading to reach the Perlas Islands. The wind was dying and after the jibe, it soon died to zero. It was not many hours later that we entered an area of rain squalls that were with us for the rest of the voyage. Some of the squalls produced sailing wind, others stole what little wind we had. If the jib was not up already when a squall hit we did not go out in the downpour to raise it. We ended up motoring much of the rest of the trip.
We sailed past a large turtle and enjoyed several visits of dolphins including a very large pod that stuck with us for about an hour.
Landfall was in the dark, off of Isla San Jose. It was an anchorage that we had a track into that we could follow having anchored there last March. We followed our old track in dropping the hook at 2:30AM Thursday morning. At this season the anchorage is extremely rolly and uncomfortable, so at first light the hook was again up and we headed over to Isla del Rey. It was pouring rain as we raised the hook, but the sun came out as we approached the island making for a pretty picture of the island. By noon Thursday, the hook was again set. We anchored in a relatively calm bay just north of the southern tip of the island. The sun was with us all day and we took advantage of it to dry out somewhat.
Friday November 17, 2006
We were awaken shortly after midnight by rain. It took us awhile to wake up enough to know that we were getting wet. We had left the boat wide open when we went to bed with a star covered sky. We got Lanikai closed up, but not before we had plenty of water down below. The day was sunny again with a nice breeze, so all dried up before the next night and we set up for rain before going to sleep Friday night.
Today was a day of repairing things. I repaired and replaced grommets on the main sail that holds the slides into the sail track, several had torn out. Bill helped pound the grommets for me, after he had changed the engine oil and cleaned or replaced the fuel filters. We enjoyed an afternoon swim to clean up and got to use our new cockpit shower to rinse all the salt off.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
We dinghied to shore this morning and climbed up to the World War II landing strip. It is still in fairly good shape with grasses slowly creeping in from the sides. We walked to the west end overlooking Isla San Jose. Back toward the middle of the strip was a wide asphalt path off to the south. We hiked along it - most of the time thru tall grass that was taking over. Wading thru more grass we discovered the cement slabs of several buildings; only two buildings had any walls left. Just past the ruins we found a nice overlook point, looking over a small islet just off shore. The sky was mostly cloudy and we had a few rain showers on our hike making for pleasant walking conditions. We returned to Lanikai in time for a late lunch after which Bill pulled out his computer and I took off in the kayak. The clouds and calm water made for a pleasant 1 ½ hour paddle followed by a nice swim. I swam over to Soy Libre where Andrew and Andy were also in the water. The cockpit shower got another use as I again rinsed off the salt.
Sunday November 19, 2006
Bill spent much of the day typing on his computer. I took off in the kayak for a long paddle, covering much the same area as yesterday so not much new to see but great exercise. After lunch we both took off in the dinghy for snorkeling and exploring. We dinghied around the corner to view the south side of the island and could see where we had hiked to on Saturday. We checked out three of the reefs. The one off the point had lots of fish but scared me off when I encountered a school of very large fish - probably tuna. We then moved in to the bay side of the point and enjoyed viewing the smaller pretty tropical fish before we returned to Lanikai for a rinse and sandwich.
Wednesday November 22, 2006
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, as we discovered when Doreen talked to her dad last night on the ham radio.
Monday afternoon - after another morning snorkel and a kayak paddle, we upped anchor and moved across the bay.
We are now anchored off Rio Cacique and a new spot to explore. It rained much of yesterday although the clothes that I washed in the morning mostly dried in the breeze between rains. Bill and I stayed on the boat not even launching the kayak or dinghy. Bill spent many hours at his computer and I read and cooked.
Today was another rainy day but we braved the weather to go exploring in the dinghy, returning to Lanikai when the rain got too heavy. The next lull in the rain saw us going to shore to hike up the Rio Cacique for a short ways and down the beach before the rain got too heavy again and again we returned to Lanikai to dry out.
Thursday November 23, 2006 Thanksgiving
Another cloudy day, but it did not rain until after 3PM. We did not have the usual Thanksgiving feast but Bill and I took sweet goodies over to Soy Libre and joined them for late afternoon desserts. Earlier in the day I had taken advantage of the no rain and kayaked around the bay exploring around the reefs at low tide. Then Bill and I had taken the dinghy to shore to check out some of the small beaches between the reefs including one with a small waterfall.
Saturday November 25, 2006
Yesterday and today was sunnier with little rain and the sun shinning thru sometime quite large holes in the clouds. In the morning yesterday, Andy and I sailed his dinghy over to the nearby little town. It was a fun sail and the little town was quite cute and very Caribbean in flavor. There were two small grocery stores but little to buy. Later in the afternoon we tried snorkeling, but the water was quite cloudy so we gave up and explored around a small island instead. Today I was up early doing laundry to take advantage of the hoped-for sunny day. While the clothes were drying, Andy, Andrew and I kayaked up the river in a falling tide. It was tough going until we got well into the river and out of the clutches of the outgoing current. It was a pretty trip thru the mangroves but without a water proof camera I got no photos. While I was out a small rain squall came over and Bill brought the mostly dry clothing inside. When I returned to Lanikai the sun reappeared along with a nice breeze so I hung out the damp pieces and put away the dry ones. By the time the next rain passed, all were dry. Since we had been inundated with biting bugs this morning, we screened up before nightfall and hid below.
Thursday November 30, 2006
Sunday we moved on to Isla del Caña. There was no wind for the three hour trip. The new anchorage has many small islets nearby that we explored by dinghy on Tuesday. We checked out the snorkeling possibilities and there are lots of nice rocky reefs but the water is not yet clear enough. We have had rain every day and it has been mostly cloudy. Yesterday Bruce of Fifth Element motored in to the anchorage. He had caught a nice sierra and invited the folks from Soy Libre and us over for dinner. I made a fresh loaf of bread to add to the feast and we had a nice dinner and visit in rolly seas. The wind had switched to the south and although it was light, it brought nice rollers and chop into the bay.
Today we upped the anchor and moved on to Isla Contadora. There was no wind for the trip so it was a motorboat ride all the way. The batteries got topped up and we made water, topping off the tank. The anchorage off the south side of the island was calm, without the roll that we had been experiencing off Isla Caña.
Saturday December 2, 2006
Yesterday we dinghied ashore to visit the little town here on Isla Contadora. We did find a store that sold ice cream in small tubs. We purchased a rum raisin flavored tub and acquired two spoons and sat outside the store and ate the whole thing. The island has several very upscale resort-hotels, a few homes and some ruins of enterprises that never quite got off the ground. There is a runway for small planes that bring in the guests to the hotels and we watched as several small planes landed and took off again. There does not appear to be any plane parking area so the planes seem to stop only long enough to unload or load before taking off again. We seem to be anchored off the back side of the island as most of the facilities face the north and there are two smallish bays on that side with small power boats at anchor.
Today we stayed onboard. It was hot and sunny most of the day and we cooled off with an early afternoon swim. Bill cleaned the prop and some furry stuff off the bow. There was too much current to stay in the water too long. The current here seems to always flow from east to west ,whether the tide is going in or going out.
Sunday December 3, 2006
We moved into Panama City today. It was a great motor-sail the entire way. We had a little excitement when we got to the Balboa Yacht Club mooring field. While we were waiting for the boat to guide us to the correct buoy, Bill lost the steering! It seems that one of the linkages between the hydraulic ram and the rudder quadrant chose right then to unscrew itself. We got the hook down quickly and then managed to back up close enough to a buoy to pick up the mooring by ourselves. When the boat finally arrive we were told that the mooring that we were on would be just fine. So here we are!!! We went into TGI Friday’s for dinner, but not until Bill had fixed the steering linkage.
Tuesday December 5, 2006
Yesterday we got all the check-in paperwork done and lined up Tony the taxi driver for errand running today. He met us at 8AM and we made a quick run of all our stops, returning to the boat before noon with five new AGM batteries, a large roll of light yellow Sunbrella for new sail covers, a bag of goodies from the marine store including a new house water pump, and even some groceries. Bill is ashore now waiting for Tony to arrive with Plexiglas for window replacement and a roll of non-PVC white plastic for the next dinghy cover.
Friday December 8, 2006
Over the last two days we got the new batteries installed and charged up. Bill also got the watermaker and house water pump rewired so that they are on separate breakers and installed the new pump which is much quieter than the old one and also will self prime (the real reason for its purchase). Bill has spent the evenings surfing the web but now has got his computer messed up with a virus or viruses and has spent much of today trying to clean it up.
We enjoy each evening at the bar visiting with other cruisers and have decided to stay here thru Christmas to take a cruiser-planned trip to visit an Embera Drua Indian Village on the Chagres River above Lake Alajuela.
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