Golfito into western Panama and on to Panama City

March 2006


Tuesday February 14, 2006

Sunday at 1:30 AM we awoke to move on to Golfito, Costa Rica.  With a cup of coffee into us, we upped the anchor and were underway with a full moon overhead.  It was a pleasant trip with almost no wind but with a contrary current so we made slow time in calm seas.  We still made it to the anchorage in the daylight helped, finally, by a favorable current and tail wind in the Golfo Dulce.  Yesterday was a planned rest day, but Bill decided to do a "minor" project by replacing the very rusty mild-steel cotter pins in the in the dinghy wheels.  Well … 5 hours later after, much hammering and drilling, he had the four pins replaced with good sailboat stainless steel ones.

We finally got into town today.  We enjoyed a restaurant lunch and then picked up some much needed groceries.  We spent the evening hours visiting with other cruisers on the nice new deck at the Land-and-Sea yacht club.


Sunday February 19, 2006

Last night we went to dinner with Les and Diane from Gemini and enjoyed a nice visit with friends from our days in Mexico.  They had spent the last two years in the Caribbean and are on their way back north to Mexico again. 

Over the last few days we have almost finished restocking Lanikai with food.  From every trip into town we return with full packs and we make at least one trip a day so that Bill can use the internet link.  Unisys came up with another bug that they have requested his help on.  Bill has also finished up our tax returns for 2005 and they are ready to upload, but he needs to take his computer in to do that and so far he has been only carrying the tiny one - so that he still has room in his pack for food!  Late afternoons we have spent in at Land-and-Sea, enjoying a few beers while visiting with any other cruisers that happen to be around. 


Saturday February 25, 2006

Another week in Golfito and the boat is stocked up ready for a month or so in the islands of western Panama.  Bill got our taxes filed and fixed several computer bugs for Unisys.  Last evening the musicians in the cruiser crowd got together at Land-and-Sea to make music.  The less musically inclined of us just enjoyed listening!! 

This morning is check-out time as the Aduana is closed on Monday and we plan on heading south with the outgoing tide Monday afternoon.

Later:  Immigration was closed today but will be open on Monday and the Aduana will be closed on Monday.  But the lady at the Aduana was nice enough to handle that part of our paperwork today so that we can complete the check-out on Monday.

Bill started up the water-maker today as we are getting very little rain.  It took some effort to clean out the hoses after 3 years of sitting, but with only one minor hitch, our old Pur 35 started up and made us over a gallon of water in just under an hour. 


Wednesday March 1, 2006

We are anchored at the Islas Ladrones off the coast of western Panama.  The water is clear and the snorkeling is wonderful.  We left Golfito with yesterday’s high tide, as we missed the tides on Monday.  Much time spent waiting in Immigration and at the bank to get Lanikai and us checked out of Costa Rica.

After we got the hook down here, the instruments turned off and the dinghy overboard, we took off to check the good snorkel spots.  There were lots of fish and corals growing on the rocks.  We dinghied around the big island at high tide to view the many caves and holes thru the rocks but the surf came thru too rough for us to try to take the dinghy thru any of them.  Many birds nest on these small islands and lots of bat rays are jumping in the bay.  It is a very pretty spot but the north winds can raise quite a swell, so one night is enough here and we will be off toward the mainland tomorrow after a morning snorkel.


Friday March 3, 2006

Well, Thursday, we missed our morning snorkel at the islands as we woke to north winds blowing right in the opening.  The winds were not the problem as they were only 10-15 mph, but the waves that they brought up caused us to up anchor and move onto Isla Parida.  Of course the winds died completely an hour out. 

Bill got my kayak overboard and I paddled around the anchorage for about an hour and then we both covered the area in the dinghy with camera this time.

Today we gathered up fins and masks and went out hunting for a good snorkel spot.  There were plenty of nice places that we jumped in the water to explore but the water was not very clear with visibility of only 5-6 feet.  We did find a spot on the south side, near our anchorage, that had slightly clearer water and lots of coral heads with brightly colored tropical fish swimming among them.


Monday March 6, 2006

Saturday we moved around Isla Parida and anchored in a little nook near Isla Gamez so that we could explore snorkel spots that we had enjoyed when we were here three years ago. Yesterday we got out in the dinghy and went exploring with our snorkel gear.  The water was not real clear but we did enjoy several of the nearby reefs which were abundant in colorful fish and some coral heads.

Today we again took off to snorkel, choosing some rocks and small islets to the south but the water was much rougher and not so clear, so we just explored.  We returned later in the day without fins but with camera this time and photographed some of the pretty little islands.  Late in the afternoon the rolls started to pick up along with the northerly wind in the anchorage so we upped the anchor and moved to the south eastern anchorage on the island, a very protected little nook.


Wednesday March 8, 2006

The north winds blew much of the day yesterday but it was quite calm in the anchorage.  We again took the dinghy out exploring but did not get much past our little bay before the waves got too much for us and our little dinghy; so the day was mostly spent reading and relaxing on the boat.  Bill is also making improvements to his photo album program again.

Today we relaxed on the boat taking a late dinghy ride out exploring.  The wind and waves were down so our plan is to continue on SE in the morning.


Friday March 10, 2006

We moved on to the Islas Secas yesterday.  It was a slow motor-sail into swells, current and light wind.  Guy and Debra, of Elan - friends from our summers in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, are the overseers at the resort that has been built here since our last visit three years ago.  It is a very exclusive resort and since Guy and Debra had a short break with no guests and no workers, we went ashore to visit them and get a tour of the place.  It is very nice - and should be for the $1000 per night that is charged for the cabins there.  We sat and visited until 9:30 PM on the deck that is used for entertaining the wealthy guests, with a great view over the bay.   Debra seems to be really enjoying herself entertaining the wealthy guests, but for Guy it is too much like work - but he seems to enjoy looking back at the progress since they started helping with the project three years ago.

The water here is clear and we went out for a wonderful snorkel soon after the hook was down yesterday and again for many hours today.  Lots of fish, even some big ones and the coral heads are green, pink, brown and many colors in between.  With the smaller bright fish swimming among the coral heads it was quite beautiful.  Several great reefs were inspected and found to be beautiful but we had to watch the currents around some of them.


Sunday March 12, 2006

We moved again yesterday and are now anchored in Bahia Honda.  Soon after we were anchored we were approached by a cayuco and met Kennedy.  He sold us a nice papaya and some platanos, two of them were really large.  His father, Domingo, stopped by later in the afternoon and we had a very nice visit with him.  He said that he could get us some gasoline.  The family has a farm on the shoreline.  Many of the farmers are selling out to rich “gringos” that want to put in hotels and resorts, but he has been here 27 years and has no plans to sell out.  Yes, he can provide us with fresh fruit and vegetables. 

Today for Bill was to be a minor fix-it day but with little success.  The water-maker started to leak big time yesterday so Bill dismantled it and replaced many O-rings but it still leaks.  He also worked on the fuel leak in the genset with - maybe - better luck and he checked and topped off the battery water.  I went for a late morning kayak paddle and was the go-fer getting tools and parts for Bill when he was tied up in the cramped quarters.


Monday March 13, 2006

Bill discovered that his genset diesel leaks were still with us.  He tried several other plans to stop them and ended up removing the plastic T that he had just put on in Golfito….back to the old fuel set up.  It ran nicely but with the sun coming in the window just right he noticed smoke in the engine room and now thinks that our mysterious hard-starting situation may be bad piston rings; something to check on and repair in Panama City.  The oil was changed in the main engine and Bill had the afternoon free to type on his computer while I took the kayak out for a long paddle around some of the islands in the bay.  Yesterday I discovered bugs in the rice and today the new bag of flour purchased in Golfito was also full of weevils.  I sifted all the flour and both the rice and flour are now in the freezer for a few days to kill off any remaining bugs.


Wednesday March 15, 2006

Yesterday we dinghied over to the little town on the island.  There are quite a few homes up the hill and in the little canyons; some are very nice cinder block structures and others look like they were just tacked together with metal and boards.  We landed at a one of the local bars that was out of service and undergoing reconstruction.  Since the town idiot was standing around watching the workers he offered to show us where the school was and off we went.  The school is on top of a hill along with the water tanks and was quite nice, although we were too late in the day to visit with the students.

Domingo came to the boat later in the day and brought us a bunch of red bananas, a pineapple, one ripe coconut, several plantains and some small round papayas that needed to ripen for three to five days.  We purchased the lot for $3 and a bar of soap.

Our plan was to up anchor and move onto Isla Coiba - which is a national park island - but as we were readying Lanikai for travel, two sailboats entered the anchorage.  We decided to stay for another night and visit with Nueva Vida and Isla Encanto, the two new arrivals.


Thursday March 16, 2006

We pulled up the anchor about 7:00 AM and headed across to the north end of Isla Coiba, anchoring in very shallow water over sand off Isla Rancheria.  We started to drop the hook in 20 feet of water but by the time it hit the bottom we only had 16 feet and we backed into 10 feet, very shallow for Lanikai but we are on a big sand shelf and it is low water.  We could see the chain and anchor on the bottom so we jumped over board to check things out and spend some time cleaning the “munge” off the bottom of Lanikai.  There was mostly a light coating of moss but some tiny barnacles had gotten themselves hidden in it.


Friday March 17, 2006

We enjoyed a great day of snorkeling.  First we checked out the nearest reef and it supported many schools of fish; some pretty colored, some small and even several schools of large-ish tuna.  Then we checked out a reef on the outside of Isla Iglesia only to be chased out of the water by the presence of two very large white-tipped sharks.  We moved to another reef to the NW the channel and it too had many many fish but we also encountered another white tipped shark - this one much smaller but we still decided to quit snorkeling there.  By this time we were getting tired, having been out for over two hours, so we returned to Lanikai for a shower and lunch.  While we were out in the dinghy we saw two, very nearby, spotted eagle rays swimming near the surface.  From the deck of Lanikai, we have also seen and heard their jumps.


Sunday March 19, 2006

We moved again yesterday and are now anchored off Isla Jicaron off the south east corner of Isla Coiba.  Since the winds were very light we enjoyed a motor sail the entire way.  As we were approaching the island a pod of dolphins joined us - playing at the bow of Lanikai.  We lost them as we turned into the little nook where we anchored, with only light sea swells turning the corner into the anchorage.

Today just after radio-net time we were greeted with a loud “bonk”.  Seems that Lanikai had drifted over a nearby reef with the change in the winds and the lowering of the tide and we were hitting bottom.  Bill got right on the motor and moved us off with only a second bonk.  I then got the anchor chain up and we moved further out into the anchorage.  Later in the day we checked out this end of the island in the dinghy, discovering many unmarked reefs in what otherwise appeared to be flat sand in all of the little nooks at this end of the island.  Several of the shallows were quite far offshore.  The water was not very clear and a strong current passed thru so we did not do any snorkeling.


Tuesday March 21, 2006

We are underway toward Balboa.  We left Isla Jicaron yesterday morning and are just entering the Gulf of Panama now, one of the world’s major shipping funnels.  We have had nice winds but have mostly been motor sailing to make it easier to avoid the many ships that pass through this area to and from the canal.  At times we have 6-7 ships that we are following on the radar and other times none.  The MARPA target tracking that our new radar has is sure coming in handy!!! 


Wednesday Morning March 22, 2006

We got the anchor down early this morning off Playa Grande on Isla de San Jose, the southern most island of the Perlas group.  The currents in the Gulf of Panama had our over-the-ground speed down under 2 knots early this morning even with good wind and the motor running hard.  When the tides changed we did pick our speed back up to about 4 knots, but word has it that there is always a south-running current in this part of the gulf. 


Friday March 24, 2006

After two nice days anchored off Playa Grande we moved further north today to the south side of Isla Contadora.  There is a small town and large resort on this island.  We are now only about 35 miles from Balboa.  Our trip today took us by several of the islands of the Perlas group some of which are no larger than big rocks, others have small villages or resorts, but all are very pretty.


Sunday March 26, 2006

Yesterday Bill spent much of the day working on the Pur 35 water-maker again, which still leaked after all his work.  I spent the day resting, as the rash that I developed last week was bugging me again.

Today by 7:00 AM we were up and under way to Balboa.  The trip started out in good northerly winds which were “noserly” until we rounded the northern-most island of the Perlas group; then the wind gave us a good push.  We also had a favorable current all of the way into Balboa.  As we approached Balboa we passed thru the big boat anchorage maneuvering around the big ships anchored there.  We are now anchored in the small boat anchorage area at the Pacific end of the channel that leads to the first lock of the Panama Canal.   From our anchorage we get to watch the world’s shipping pass close by our stern as they move up the channel to the first locks.


Friday March 31, 2006

The last day of March and we are now tied to a buoy at the Balboa Yacht Club just downstream from the Bridge of the Americas.  Ships pass less than 250 feet off us as they travel the channel to and from the canal.  There is a steady stream of them – day and night - going both ways and often crossing right in front of us.

Yesterday we went into Panama City to explore the shopping there and returned with full bags.  Bill has gotten his computer connected to the WiFi net here at the marina and now can surf the web from the boat. 

Doreen will fly to the states to visit relatives, especially the grandchildren, on Tuesday and will be gone for 5 weeks.  Bill has a long list of projects to accomplish while she is gone and when she returns, we hope to get off to Ecuador and new places to explore.




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