Posted by: catamarantwooceans | January 11, 2015

More Sailing in Panama–part 2

1.1.15 – Thursday – The wind blew all night long; a band of strong northeasterly winds developed about a hundred miles north of our planned route. It would surely affect us. Out of the port’s breakwater the seas were steep and short and the wind right on the nose. We were going to Isla Linton, on our way to San Blas and it was five and a half hours later that could relax after a rollercoaster ride. According to the sailing guide, Isla Linton, which is a private island, is inhabited by a tribe of monkeys. People are taken there to see them, often feeding them, so when they stop, the monkeys get angry and bite.

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2.1.15 – Friday – It blew hard all night long… A normal cruiser would have waited for the wind and seas to calm but we were limited by our schedule and decided to leave, knowing full well that the going would be rough. We motored through the channel between the mainland and Islas Linton and Grande. Passing the latter into the open ocean, we were welcomed by four meters swells, on which the boat climbed and fell incessantly. We did not give up fishing, trolling all the time.

After about 20 miles the seas moderated somewhat, we were motorsailing with the main in first reef, unable to open the jib with the true wind at less than 30 degrees off the bows. The front trampoline was going in and out of the water and at a certain point Doron noticed that two of the webbings’ stitchings became undone. "We’ll sew them in San Blas" he said. To give you an idea of the sort of trip we had I will divulge that none of the crew wanted to have lunch, a rare phenomenon on "Two Oceans".

All the time we were looking anxiously back at the fishing rod, hoping for it to bend, signifying that a fish was caught. It finally did and Doron took it to reel the fish in. "It’s a big one" he said "sail as slowly as you can". The fish gave strong resistance; 15 meters away we could see it. A shark! It was caught by one of its fins. Doron pulled it up the aft stairs and in a combined effort we released it. Three miles to Chichime, our Kuna Yala landfall, another fish was taken, this time a medium size Sorrel mackerel.

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Entering the Chichime bay eight and a half hours after leaving Linton we were back in Paradise; calm waters, coconut fronds waving in the wind – bliss.

Doron, making a round of the boat, found out that a rope in the starboard trampoline broke, resulting in the loss of seven slides, the small plastic parts connecting it to the boat’s structure. Another thing to fix.

3.1.15 – Saturday – It blew all night long again. Not long after Doron and I woke up it piped up to 30 knots. We noticed that we were dragging the anchor so we lifted it and motored to southwest of the southern island of Chichime, which was better protected. So what now? The plan I formulated the evening before called for going to the Holandes Cays. That would be motoring against the wind and seas; so perhaps stop in the Eastern Lemmons? Finding it hard to decide, we flipped a cogot too close to in and it directed that we sail to the Holandes.

We had the wind at 30 degrees to our course and the 22-25 knots wind plus the chop it raised made us go at 4 knots maximum. The moment the distance to destination showed 8 miles, the idea of bearing away and sailing, doing what we refer to "The Tack of the Day" came up. Gili hates tacking but Doron and Tova were all for it. We opened the jib in first reef and sailed about 40 degrees off our required course; we were going much faster than with both engines against the wind and we had fun! Our track brought us close to the Naguargandup group of isles and reefs so we changed tack to go back north. "What are those two islands at 11 o’clock?" Doron asked. They were the western Holandes and I was quick to look at the guide and discover that they afforded good shelter as well as nice views.

In half an hour we dropped our anchor in the lee of Waisaladup, where the wind dropped to less than 10 knots and the sea was calm. That position differed from the one recommended by the guide; it was at 09 35.704 N 78 46.397 W. It didn’t take long for the sea and air show to begin. A turtle raised its head to look at us, shoals of baitfish rose into the air in flight from small tunas, which in turn jumped to incredible heights, perhaps escaping a bigger predator. Pelicans were quick to join the melee, diving for their share. Doron entered the competition, putting two relatively small baited hooks in the water.

The first fish he caught gave a fierce fight and turned out to be a bone fish; that species is not tasty and the specimen was released. Next, he took out a remora, an ugly sucker fish that uses a vacuum organ on its back attaches itself to sharks and other big creatures, living off crumbs.

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This one was released too. After a swim ashore, where we found a small village on the upwind side of the island we returned for the continuation of the National Geo show. Doron’s third catch was even more bizarre. the pictures will tell the story.

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It was a big shark, snout looking like that of a nurse shark but the forward seemed to be much wider and the tailfin upper part – very long. As far as I remember nurse sharks are grey and this one was golden brown. We estimated it to weigh close to 200 pounds and could not understand how it was possible to bring it up with the light gear that we used. This one, of course, was let go too. Doron feared that he would not be able to provide a proper meal for the crew. Have no fear! As the evening wore on he got two fish that were steamed with ginger, soy sauce and jalapeno, served on rice and bok-choy with garlic. Great meal!

Doron says that every time he sails with me he has a horror story to tell. In Trinidad the dinghy was flipped over by a wave as we tried going ashore. In Pacific Panama he was hit by a stingray and suffered great pain. Here’s the current one: One of the fish he caught had the hook so deep it was impossible to extract. We decided to take it out when cleaning the fish later. I took the fish to clean and forgot all about the hook. At dinner Doron worked on that fish’s head, eating every tasty morsel; he suddenly put his hand into his mouth and showed us the hook that he was close to swallow. "This could have been ‘The Revenge of the Snapper’" he said.

Good night and sweet dreams, guys!

4.1.15 – Sunday – The weather did not change for the better; high winds and choppy seas. We were looking for a place that would be protected from both and found it in the eastern Holandes, just before the area known as "The Swimming Pool".

Before leaving we undertook the day’s repair, which was fixing the engine shut-down solenoid. That apparatus, when energized, pull a rod  that cuts the fuel to the engine. That rod is held in place by a rubber housing. Ours broke and the rod went out too much prohibiting normal operation. Trying to glue it or use duct tape to hold the torn part in place were fruitless. Doron looked at it and came up with a solution. He put a key ring around the rod with two wires that let it go back the required way and limited its forward motion to the exact position needed. The man is a great trouble-shooter.

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Reaching the eastern Holandes, we entered a narrow channel between Sand Island, which is just a 15 meters long sand patch barely rising above the surface, and a reef on which waves were breaking. We motored towards Caobos Cay and found shelter in its lee. There were only three other yachts in the bay, from which smaller inlets and channels led into the the island and through the reef around the it. We did a nice tour with the dinghy, noticing an interesting Brigantine anchored in the bay between Ogopiriadup and Banedup ( I’m just playing with those names, they are not really important). An hour later it went out under sail; a magnificent sight.

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5.1.15 – Monday – We started the morning with a sewing operation. Some of the stitching on the webbings that hold the trampoline to the boat’s structure became undone and Doron and I took turns sewing them manually. Think of passing a needle through three layers of webbing; not an easy job.

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That finished we decided to leave the comfort of our anchorage and proceed to Coco Bandero. The wind in the anchorage was below 15 knots; we knew it would be more outside but none of us was prepared for the conditions outside. Wind 25 knots, nothing alarming, but the waves were really ugly, coming from the port and breaking against the hull and drenching Tova, who was sitting on top of the port hull.

Once we turned to sail behind the reef of Coco Banbero the ride became much easier. We entered the anchorage, put our anchor down and were dismayed by the fact that it was not calm in there. Small waves entered the bay and made us roll a bit. We didn’t fancy rolling through the night so after lunch we motored to Green Island, less than 3 miles away and entered the reef enclosed lagoon behind the island. Finally tranquility!

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Doron, true to his habit, put some bait in the water. An hour before sunset fish started to get hooked. Plans for dinner were adjusted with every fish caught; when the quantity was small he planned on Caviche, more came and we changed to fish lightly fried in butter with a side of fried rice.

At a certain moment he declared an end to fishing and was on his way to take the equipment out of the water. At that same time the rod bent almost to the shape of an inverted U. Doron started reeling in, saying that such pressure probably meant a shark. As the shape became visible we were all left gaping in disbelief; what we saw was a two and a half foot turtle, on top of which a three foot remora stuck itself. Our hook was caught by the remora and we couldn’t imagine how the turtle got into the picture. As Tova and I tried taking photos of the action in the fading light, another remora attached itself to the turtle’s back. The line broke and the whole entourage disappeared. None of us saw anything like that in all our years at sea. Simply incredible!

6.1.15 – Tuesday – We decided to stay another day in Green Island. In the morning a cayuca came along side on our starboard side; those were fruit vendors. As I came to talk to them I noticed that the plug of the water filling port on that side was missing. We bought pineapples and bananas and then tried to think how that plug disappeared. The first thought was that after I filled up in Shelter Bay marina I somehow forgot to reinstall it. Usually when I fill up I keep the plug as well as the winch handle that closes it near the mast. Forgotten there it probably fell off the deck when we were motoring east on the rough sea. The thing is, we’ve been on the forward deck so many times during the last few days and none of us noticed the absence; not very likely. So did someone came in the dark of night and pinched it? not very likely either. It will stay a mystery forever. Luckily I had a spare.

There are a few pelicans on the island. I took a picture of one perching on a coconut frond.


Next to come were the lobster vendors. We were planning on their visit in order to enrich the variety of our dinner menus. A thing that marred our content was the fact that the lobsters guys are taking even the smallest specimen with no regard to the future of the species.The locals do what they deem right and it’s not our duty to try and educate them. After they left us, they erected the mast and sail they have on their small, unstable, dugout canoe and sailed towards the horizon.

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The winds moderated somewhat and blew 17-20 knots.

Doron, who, in addition to his already mentioned qualities, is a good cook; he made a tasty spaghetti with lobster meat and a olive-oil, garlic and white wine sauce.

7.1.15 – Wednesday – We set sail, jib only, to go to Nargana for water and shopping. This time I entered the anchorage near the bridge between that island and Corazon de Jesus. The water man was with us very quickly.

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Once the water tanks were full, we took the dinghy ashore and walking through the two villages collected the things we needed. A funny thing happened at the beer warehouse, to which I was taken by senor Monterro, who seems to be the one authorized to open it; I asked for:"Doce cervecas" twelve beers. Two ladies in the office began making calculations on their calculator and a few guys started hauling out 24 can crates out of the shop. At the beginning I did not think those were related to my request but just to make sure, I pointed to a crate and made a motion of cutting it in two. That made them understand and I helped them put the crates back in, taking my 12 cans. What made them think I wanted 288 cans of beer I cannot imagine.

Out of the anchorage, Doron asks:"Do you want me to stand on the bow and look for shoals?" "No, I’ll just go the way I came in" I answered confidently. Famous last words; in a few minutes we were aground. I put the throttles full ahead and we all stood on the bows. The boat plowed through the mud and slowly came out, the skipper face red with shame.

We were going to Miryadup on the west side of Naguargandup; the wind would be on the aft starboard quarter, the catamaran best point of sail. Wishing to troll, we decided to stay in second reef, and still sailed over 7 knots, passing two monohulls on the way. At that speed we passed a 2 meters spot that gave me a little fright and then reached our anchoring position and sat down for lunch. In the afternoon it was rest time for all, although Doron did not forget to put some bait out. As we all met in the cockpit later the rod bent. Doron felt it was a shark again and it didn’t take long for the same shape we saw in the Holandes to appear. Trying to take the hook out of the creature’s mouth (it is toothless, or rather has internal set well inside its gullet) did not succeed. It broke the line and disappeared.

Later snorkeling to the mangroves; surprisingly very little life there. Back from our swim we had hot tea with lime and honey and then dinner.   

8.1.15 – Thursday – With the wind blowing 17-23 knots, we sailed towards Rio Sidra, a village known for its Molas and their master maker Lisa, who is actually a man. This phenomenon of boys raised as women in families that do not have enough girls is a common practice. However we did not stop there as the anchorage had swell in it. We continued, evading a few reefs and shoals, to Gaigar, a bay close to the mainland, surrounded by mangrove clad islands, giving very good protection from the strong northeasterly.

9.1.15 – Friday – A lot of cayucas appeared in the bay in the morning, some of them under sail. It is amazing that they manage to keep those canoes upright.

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At 0900 there was good light and we left the bay, looking out for uncharted reefs and sailed to the eastern Lemmon cays. With just 8.5 miles to go, most of it against the wind, we played the tacking game; we felt sailing a few tacks was preferable to bashing against the wind and waves under power.

Once anchored I made good my promise to serve pizza for lunch. Doron, aided by Tova, went back to fishing. When Tova held the rod, another of those sharks got caught. Later in the evening Doron got one too. Although we try to take the hook out, they are so heavy, that even though their movements are relatively docile, it’s hard to keep them stationary. So the line breaks and the creature is left with a sort of piercing, not really harmful to its way of life.

This is our last night in the Kuna Yala; tomorrow we set sail to the west with one night stop before we get to Chagres

While we’re having fun on the boat things are happening in the world. Terrorist attacks in Paris, horrifying massacre in Nigeria – were is the world heading? Every happy hour we have Doron says:"Peace on earth" but it doesn’t seem to work. Apart from that, the weather in Israel turned nasty and our home is plagued with water leaks. Gili has to combat this by herself and I feel frustrated by not being able to help.



  1. new year, new adventures. be well.

  2. Glad to see you are still having fun.

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