Posted by: catamarantwooceans | February 14, 2009

Back to Panama

6.2.09 – Friday – Time and again I see that sitting at anchor for too long makes you soft. Looking at the  forecast I saw bad winds and seas on both sides of our intended route. The actual area between Golfito and Puerto Armuelles in Panama seemed OK but I got cold feet and decided to postpone our departure by 24 hours. Instead, we invited Ran to come along for a fishing trip. No fish,so we had lunch at a local “Soda”, that what they call the typical small restaurants here. Back at the boat we decided to sail out at night so as to arrive during the Panamanian authorities working hours. At 2300 we said goodbye to Golfito and motored, for there was no wind, south towards cape Burica, the border between CR and Panama.

7.2.09 – Saturday- With an almost full moon lighting the scene we sailed south. The sea was calm and everything was fine until the starboard engin water pump decided to give us trouble. Doron replaced it’s belt but strangely enough the water flow coming out of the exhaust was less than usual. We operated that engine in lower RPM. In the days to come Doron spent a lot of time in the engine room, changing impeller and checking all the components but nothing rectified the problem. We think the pump is worn out and needs to be replaced. We anchored near the Puerto Armuelles dock and very quickly had the full complement of Panamanian Officialdom come to Two Oceans. After checking us in, I had to go ashore with them to make the necessary payment. Alltogether 175$, 40$ of those for overtime (Saturday).In the after noon, we both retired for a nap, but our sleep was cut short by swells getting bigger and bigger and making the boat roll unpleasantly. At one point we both sprang out off our cabins, looked at each other and agreed that the was no way we could stay there for the night. The problem was that the closest possible anchorage, Isla Parida, was 31 miles, or about 5-6 hours away. This meant entering it at night but since we had the full moon and trusty GPS plotter on our side we thought it was safe. Before leaving Doron reeled in the fishing line he left in the water and to his surprise saw that the was a small creature on the hook. I recognised it as a stingray and when Doron moved his hand closer to it in order to release it from the hook, I told him:”Careful, it has a dangerous sting”. Doron started to reply but then shouted out in agony and surprise as the ray’s barb hit the palm of his hand, which immediately became red with blood. “Suck it and spit it out, it’s poisenous” I cried. During the last Israeli “Survivor” program, shot in the Las Perlas island in Panama, one of the contestant was hit by a stingray, lost consiousness and had to be evacuated to hospital.

The Sting

The Sting

All this was on my mind as I bandaged Doron’s hand and tried to assess his condition. He suffered a lot of pain and his face became chalk white. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out a way of taking him ashore in case the need to see a doctor arises, a thing that could have been difficult and dangerous considering the sea state and the rusty, broken stairs of the town’s dock. Fortunately Doron got slowly better and I was confident we could sail on.By then it was already 5 pm and it was clear that we will not get before midnight. I cut the stingray loose and we were on our way. The next hours we sailed against rough seas that slowly calmed down as we progressed to the east. We had some high winds that requiered reefing and a few minutes later almost no wind at all and engine work. At 0150 we glided into Ensenada Los Negros in Isla Parida and dropped the anchor. Although very tired, especially Doron, who still felt some pain in his hand even after taking medication, we were high on Adrenalin and did not feel sleepy in the least. I took out the special 1975 Glenmorangy single malt whiskey that my friend Moshe brought aboard, we took a sip each and crashed.

8.2.09 – Sunday – No long passages today! We just sailed to the other side of the island, found a peaceful anchorage near a small island covered with palms. Swam ashore and walked around and then to the boat and fishing. Doron had something cutting the line time and again, pulling it and bending the rod. At one time he fought it for more then 15 minutes. We were almost sure it was a shark and really just wanted to see and maybe take it’s picture. But again – what ever it was – broke the line and disappeared.

9.2.09 – Monday – The night was not a good one for me. The wind came straight from the open, unprotected,corner of the bay, blowing at 15-18 knots. No holding problem, but my sleep was disturbed. In the early morning the wind went away, so we had to motor out, with the mainsail all the way up in hope a good wind will come shortly. When light wind started we unfurled the jib and kept motoring along to Isla Secas, 20 miles away. At a certain moment we both noticed a change in the colour of the sea ahead. Strong wind? Jokingly we decided to reef the main and even before we finished the drill the wind hit ferociously. The numbers on the speed dial climbed rapidly. 22, 25, 28 and then over 30 knots. We had our hands full reefing both sails and when the wind rose to 35 knots – took the mainsail down. With the wind came the waves and the going was unpleasant to say the least. Looking ahead we saw no respite from the conditions. Remembering that the anchorages of Isla Secas are open to the northeast, the direction this strong wind came from, we decided to turn back and hide at the protected west side of Isla Parida. 45 minutes into the new course, right at the spot the big wind came – it went away! We felt foolish creeping slowly forward with just a small area of the jib on such calm seas. Looking back we thought the conditions moderated. Should we try sailing to our original destination again? Why not? We could always run back with our proverbial tails between our legs. Cautiously we opened the sails to first reef and set course to Isla Secas. Aeolos,the wind god, lashed at us again but this time we were ready, reefed and sailed on. After about 30 minutes the wind abated, became variable and for the last 10 miles of the trip allowed us to sail leisurly on our way. We even set the trolling gear. Closing on the island, we had to pass between two small islets where the bottom rose from 35 to 10 meters. “That’s where I expect a fish” said Doron. And presto! A fish! This was a big,nice 3.5 kg trigger fish. Those have tough, leathery skins that you peel off and delicate taste that we were to enjoy later in the evening. 

Doron & Trigger

Doron & Trigger









After anchoring we both entered the water, not for refreshment but for scraping the barnacles still left on the hulls hurting our performance. Another yacht came in later in the evening and anchored far away, the full moon rose majestically. The island’s resort showed no lights and was probably deserted. We were left in our solitude, hoping that the wind will cooperate and let us spend a peaceful night in this beautiful bay. Just before going to bed I took a look around. The moonlight revealed some wavelets breaking on our starboard, no more than 20 meters away, meaning there was a shoal over there. Also, as the wind changed direction we got too close to a mooring that probably belonged to somebody, perhaps a fisherman, who might come back during the night and find a catamaran blocking his place. We have to move! Half an hour later we were safely anchored in relatively deep water and went to bed.

10.2.09 – Tuesday – When we left Isla Secas it was low water and we could see the place where the little waves appeared last night was high and dry. Reassuring to know that you did the right thing. Light wind had us sailing towards Islas Contreras, 15 miles to the southeast. The northern of the two had an anchorage that was too deep and we continued to Isla Uva, the southern one. These islands are part of the Parque Nacional de Coiba, a big marine park. We tried going ashore but the jungle was so thick we gave it up. Hopefully we will be able to walk ashore in Coiba tomorrow. By the way, we have no communication with the outside world as there is no cellular reception and trying to use the Iridium Sat phone a metalic voice kept saying:”Only emergency calls are allowed”. Is calling my mother or Gili considered an emergency?

11.2.09 – Wednesday – Our destination of the day is the island of Coiba, once a penal colony, now a nature reserve. We went out using the startboard engine with it’s problematic water pump so we only used low power and advanced at 3.3 knots. Doron is watching the trolling line all the time complaining that he has bad luck in that department. Today his luck was going to change big time. Close to 11 o’clock the reel sang, Doron started taking the line in and at the end of it was a beautiful Mahi Mahi, golden skin and raibow coloured dorsal fin. It weighed 5.5 kg – I can tell, because finally I have a scale on board.












D&M 2

D&M 2








It seems that every day the wind gets up around midday. With a light westerly we tacked to the entrance of Santa Cruz bay to anchor for the night. Still no connection to home! As we sat in the cockpit I looked aft and saw a brown head advancing across the bay. At first I thought it was a turtle but the binoculars revealed it to be an Iguana. The bay is at least half a mile wide, so it was surprising seeing the creature plod on to shore. A few minutes later a motor boat was sighted moving in our direction; The park rangers! They were three and one of them asked permission to come aboard. After some pleasantries Elionso explained that anchoring in the park has a fee. For our 38 foot boat he wanted 60$ plus 20$ entrance fee for each of us. I knew that payment was requiered but this was rediculously high and according to the guy it was for one day only! A typical Central American solution was achieved by the ranger pocketing the 60$, waving the 40$ but not giving a reciept. They also advised us that Playa Rosario, just to the north is better with the westerly wind. So anchor up and we went there, a little pissed off with the whole episode. Playa Rosario turned to have nice jungle view all around, with howler monkeys doing their thing, clear water but strangely  – no fish at all. The highs and the lows.

12.2.09 – Thursday – We started early to Bahia Honda with the hope that we will have some telecommunication there. Entered the large, beautiful bay under sail in the light wind, circled the island in it’s middle, where the village is located and found an anchorage in the westernmost corner, not far from a monohull. As we were preparing to take the dinghy to the village, a local man in a cayuca arrived. He was asking for cookies for his kids,got some and left in the direction of the mono. We also took the same way, bringing the man on the mono some of the Mahi caught the day before. He was David, from Vancouver, and when we understood that he was by himself on the boat we invited him to come for dinner. On to the village, to give Doron a taste of the life the locals lead here.

Drying fish in Bahia Honda

Drying fish in Bahia Honda









We passed by the Policia, where a smiling, gun totting policeman greeted us and said:”The local police will help you with anything you need” We also bought some groceries and motored back to “Two Oceans”. Doron started removing the husks off some coconuts that we had on board when he suddenly uttered:”Somebody stole our rod and reel!” We did not even consider locking the boat and certainly not putting our fishing gear inside every time we leave her. I was very, very disappointed and angry. Remembering the policeman’s words I motored back to the village and without having too much hope reported the matter to him. I have a spare rod but not a reel so there will be no trolling for a while. Bahia Honda is the calmest anchorage ever and we had a very good night sleep.

13.2.09 – Friday (the 13th) – Doron is leaving the boat tomorrow, going to Panama city to fly home. We decided to reach his point of departure, Puerto Mutis today and make the necessary travel arrangements well in advance. First we sailed about 20 miles past Santa Catalina and Gubernadora islands and then another 20 miles up the Rio San Pedro. Luckily we arrived with the tide rising, so we had the current assisting us with 1.5 knot, which was nice considering the 22-25 knot headwind that was blowing. The down side to that was the chop resulting from wind against tide condition. The river bed is always changing, the electronic chart unreliable. We followed the charts in the Panama Cruising Guide as closely as we could and still saw 1.6 meters depth for a while. Reaching Puerto Mutis was a relief. We anchored with the wind fighting the tide, thinking of the muddy bottom, we put down an additional CQR about 10 meters behind the main Delta anchor. I plan to go Santiago tomorrow, so better make sure the boat does not drag. We to the dinghy ashore and walked around. A small place with a lot of restaurants and bars. We later found out that there were about a 100 inhabitants in the village and that all the establishments mentioned catered to tourists. 

14.2.09  Saturday – We took the bus into Santiago, 1.10$ fare, a dozen stops on the way and 45 minutes ride. A diving guide I met at the dock in Puerto Mutis told me where Icould find fishing gear. Santiago is the fourth big city in Panama, noisy, Lots of traffic and – Speigel store, a sort of Home Depot. We have trolling equipment again and shall not starve!

That´s it;  I´ll publish this and ride back to the boat.Yaron, Gili´s brother is coming tomorrow. Adios Amigos!


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