Posted by: catamarantwooceans | November 10, 2008

Las Perlas and more

30.10.08 – Morning brought me from the high of the crossing to the lowest of the lows – having to deal with the holding tank again. I’ll spare you the gory details but just say I hope this time it is fixed. Geoff, a man out of a trimaran in the bay came to collect the tires we used for the crossing. I had a telephone call notifying me that the parts for the mast, which Richard the rigger imported for me, arrived and will reach the marina around noon. I went into Flamenco marina to wait for them and for my friend Itzik, who flew in late last night. Itzik came as planned but the parts were delayed time and again so we went back to “Two Oceans”. This marina is not catamaran friendly. They normaly charge a yacht the size of ours 1.75$ per foot per day. Cats get special treatment – the price is doubled! Any time you go with your dinghy into that marina you have to pay 5.25$. Excessive! Itzik and I thought about doing a land trip by a rented car to Boquete in the north, 7 hours drive from Panama city. The question was  – when? The initial answer was: tomorrow! But where shall we leave the boat? Marina Flamenco – too expensive;Right here in the bay? All alone and unattended for 3 days? And assuming we get to shore in the dinghy – where do we keep it? We then thought about Balboa yacht club, having inexpensive moorings as a good option. I called them on the phone and the man on the other side said there was no problem, we can come at all hours, there is always somebody there.

31.10.08 – At 0730 we were one mile to Balboa yacht club and called them on the VHF. To our surprise we were told that they had no free moorings! The fact that somebody said just the opposite only 13 hours ago made no impression or difference. Helm hard over to the left and back towards Flamenco island. On the way we looked into Playita anchorage where we saw a few moorings. Nobody answered on their published channel so we simply took up a free mooring. A few moments passed and suddenly a voice came on the radio. “Sorry, I do not have free mooring for you!”. So what now? Itzik had the right idea:” Let’s postpone the land trip to my last days in Panama, this way we will be able to do everything with no pressure”. So we dinghied to the marina (5.25$), resrved a car through the web and then took a taxi to the Rey supermarket near Albrook airport where we bought all we needed for the days ahead. Destination today: Taboga island, easy 7 miles away. The gods, of course thought otherwise and as we were taking the anchor up a huge cloud came and heavy rain started falling. I am accustomed to standing out in the rain so I just thought of it as of a shower or a swim and continued at the helm.
Reaching the island the rain abated. We entered the bay and anchored in the company of “Stravaig” the trimaran that took the tires we crossed with and a Prout catamaran named September.



1.11.08 – Morning came with a grey cloud cover. Shall we go ashore or set sail to Las Perlas archipelago immediately? The latter was decided upon and we set sail, wing and wing, with the jib supported by the spinnaker pole. I made a big ceremony out of puting the trolling lure in the water. At one point we had a visit by a pod of dolphins, who stayed for a few seconds and left, probably to go on hunting. After about two hours the wind became light and the port engine went into action. I went up front to disconnect the pole from the sail and as I was coming back I noticed that no water came out of the exhaust. I throttled back, started the starboard engine and then the “water temp” alarm sounded. I shut down the engine with a sinking feeling. Normally this means a faulty pump impeller and the need to replace it. I had bad memories of sweating in the engine room working on the raw water pump. I dreaded the idea of doing it again. I decided to wait until we got to the anchorage. We continued and almost all the time we could see flocks of sea birds hovering over the surface, feeding on the scraps that the predator fish left. When one group was right in our way I alerted Itzik:”That’s our chance”. Sure enough the reel sang and I pulled out a fish I call “juvenile Wahoo”, a nice four man meals. Everything we did acquired the title:”First”. First Pacific island, first Pacific fish, first technical problem etc. I was happy this happened now and not in the canal locks! As we came closer to the island group, we passed near Isla Pacheca on our way to Contadora. The guide book recommends an anchorage on the south, makes sense for the northwesterly wind that we had. Coming into the bay, though, we noticed big swells rolling and breaking ashore. An alternative anchorage “which the locals use” was indicated on the northwestern shore. Going with the moto:”The locals know best” we dropped our anchor there. I then, reluctantly, entered the engine room to tackle the water pump problem. Luckily for me I did the right thing and first checked the belt tension. I found that the belt was very loose and so was the one of the one of the alternator’s. Tightening the belts is a child’s play compared to removing and installing the water pump. I did it and then, not without anxiety, started the engine and went to look at the exhaust pipe. What a relief! Water flowing normally! Lesson learnt: just as I check oil every predetermined hours – I must check the belts tension at a fixed time, like every 50 engine hours. While I was enjoying myself in the engine room, the wind changed direction to the north, the only sector the anchorage is open to and also became stronger, making the sea unpleasantly choppy. The time was 1645. Darkness falls quickly in the tropics so if I wanted to change location – the time was NOW. Back to the southern side of the island we went, surprised to find a great number of moorings where the anchorage should have been. We figured that they were all private so we went a bit further west and anchored. As we were having our dinner, we felt the boat swing and face south. The wind has backed to the south! Let’s hope the anchor does not drag!


2.11.08 – In the morning we went ashore and walked around the island. This is an island focused on tourism with lot of hotels and restaurants. The short runway in the airport is quite busy, small airplanes landing and taking of all the time. Back to the boat, we motored to the pass between two islands, Chapera and Mogo Mogo, rumored to be the location for the TV program “Survivor”. No survivors today, only motor boats with Panamanians enjoying a holiday. We snorkelled on a reef there and saw many fishes and a big sting ray. After lunch, we went out to go to Viveros, about 9 miles to the south. The wind that was forecasted to be from the south tomorrow came a day early. Since the anchorage in Viveros is open to the south, we decided to go to Pedro Gonezales, and island with a small village and some plantations. We dropped anchor in the company of a few fishing boats.

Pedro Gonezales

Pedro Gonezales

3.11.08 – Isla San Jose is a private island and as such arose our curiousity. We went to investigate. The information we had is that apart from the misterious owner, only a couple of Germans are allowed to live there, presumably growing vegetables for the owner and his guests. As the wind was straight from the south and light, we motored south when suddenly a whale rose to the surface, crossing our bows. Seeing a whale is always special and we rushed inside to get our cameras in wait for him to go out for breath. I’m sure he did but not anywhere near us, so no picture… There was a lot of action in and over the water. We could see fish hunting and birds circling above to feed on leftovers. We participated by catching another of those wahoos and put an end to fishing for a while. Passing San Jose on the east we saw the owners house, not a pretentious one, with a structure that looked like a swimming pool on it’s side. Itzik said that if he had a place like that he would have kept a sea plane to commute to and from it. We entered the main anchoring bay, Ensenada Playa Grande, passing a round building built over a cave in the cliff. The guide book says that this is the spot the owner of the island is fishing from, lowering his line right into it from above. The bay is really beautiful but suitable for the regular northerly winds. with the southerly wind we decided to turn east to Isla del Rey, where we found two places of interest: the first Cocos point, good anchorage for the south wind on the southern tip of the island, the second – Rio Cacique, which the guide describes as a “scenic river full of wildlife”, recommending going into it with the rising tide. The bering to Cocos point enabled us to use the sails and that was nice. After some time we heard an engine of a light plane. Looking back at San Jose we saw it buzzing the area of the house. It landed on a small grass landing strip and later took off. so somebody else had Itzik’s idea too. Passing Cocos point we turned north towards the river, hoping to anchor there and explore it. It was two hours after low water, the tide should be going in. We anchored near the river mouth, sheltering partially behind a rocky point. Looking towards the river we were surprised to see that a sand bar was closing the access to it. Shall we wait for the water to go up some more? Frankly, the surroundings were not very pretty; a lot of floatsome in the water and a lot of garbage on shore. We decided to wait until 3 pm and if the entrance will be good we’ll go in and then to Cocos anchorage for the night. If the river trip does not take place – we prefered going north to Isla Canas, separated from Isla del Rey by a narrow channel in which there are “perfect anchorages”. At ten to three we looked at the river mouth again. No way we could go in there in ten minutes, simply not enough water and waves breaking on the bar. So engines started and we were on our way. At 1700 we dropped anchor over a muddy bottom (I dived to check) in an at least as scenic as the river was supposed to be. Only two other motor boats shared the bay and right now it is peaceful and quiet.

4.11.08 – Rain, rain and rain, this was what we got today.Out towards the little island of Espirito Santo, we saw dolphins hunting. We wanted to do some snorkelling there but it was dark, murky water and raining so we gave it up. This is the end of the rainy season and the gods are pouring everything they have. We, in spite of it all, went ahead with our trip back  north to Contadora. The wind was southerly 15-18 knots and we sailed fast on flat water in the lee of the islands. Reached Contadora for lunch. Tomorrow – back to Taboga.In the evening I saw a motor boat that seemed to be searcing for something near the shore. It’s target became apparent when a small whale broke surface vertically and fell down with a splash. This was repeated a few times until all involved got bored and each went on his own way.

5.11.08 – 0710, out towards Taboga. Good wind most of the way so we got to Taboga at 1300. Just as we were planning to go ashore, a big cloud came and dropped it’s load. I decided to shower in the rain and with swimming trunk went on the trampolin and soaped myself. The rain became so light I had to finish in the shower and waste water…Later the sky cleared and we went ashore. The little town has a few simple hotels, the local tienda, shop, is run by a chinese family, there is a sign commemorating the presence of Paul Gauguin, who was working in the Panama canal in 1887 and a old church, the second oldest in the western hemisphere.

Remembering Gauguin

Remembering Gauguin

Back at the boat we tried connecting to the internet and Bingo! We got connection. One of the e-mails I had was from Dani, who informed me of his decision not to join the Pacific April trip. Got to look for somebody else!

The Pacific side of Panama has a big tidal range, evident in this picture I took in Taboga.



6.11.08 – Morning saw us motoring towards Balboa yacht club with two aims: first – try and arrange a mooring there for four days in which we planned to rent a car and drive to Boquete, a tourist attraction in the northwest of the country. Also for December and January, the two month I plan to spend in Isael.If they have available space, I’ll change plans, leave the boat in Panama for these two months and sail to Costa Rica in February. Second aim – fill up water. Sadly enough, they did not have a free mooring in the near future and their working system seems to be no planning ahead.

Balboa YC - Full

Balboa YC - Full

So, we will leave the boat in the anchorage for 3 days for the Boquete trip and go to Costa Rica at the end of this month. We did get water, though, you pay for dock time, 6$ an hour and the water is free. Back to the anchorage on the north of amador causeway, anchored near Ran and a Wharram Pahi 31, owned by Claus, a German young man, who got stuck here for 5, yes! five years!


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