Posted by: catamarantwooceans | January 31, 2017

Sailing in Las Perlas

21.1.17 – Saturday – The anchorage near La Playita marina is not very calm. Some unidentified vessels passing by made waves that had us rolling too much. In the morning I took the crew ashore to go shopping. I went into the office to pay for the privilege of entering the marina with the dinghy; in 2008 the daily charge in Flamenco marina was about 5$, now I was asked to pay 18$! I argued that I was only going to use the service for four hours and had it reduced to 7.64$. One wonders how they arrived at the sum. To stay in the marina would have cost us 150$.

I met Mike Barker, who came to check my standing rigging after a broken strand was discovered in one of the intermediate stays. Mike knows how to tell a story. A New Zealander in origin, he spent part of his youth in Fiji, where his father was Chief Justice and also the rabbi of the Jewish community. As a lad of fifteen he dated the daughter of the Fijian prime minister and whenever they went out they were followed by two burly body guards…

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Lately he had an accident, hitting a cow while driving his motor-bike; the cow perished,he was injured, only the bike came out unscathed.

I hauled him up the mast and he checked all the wires and fittings. All, except the stay that started it all were found to be in satisfactory condition. When we come back to Panama City in February he would replace the stay.

Just as I brought him ashore, my guys came back from their shopping trip. We had lunch and then Yossi and I tackled the starboard engine problem which did not want to go into gear. We found out that the cable moving the gear lever was damaged; we pressed the cable back into shape with a stainless steel band and that did the job. Unwilling to stay another night at the rolly anchorage, we motored over to Taboga seven miles away. Just out of the bay, with ships anchored all around, a flight of pelicans was hunting. We let out our trolling line but no fish was taken. Approaching Taboga, we decided to go between the island and Isla Urava. Through the narrow passage between the islands we went, circumnavigated Urava and then went into Taboga anchorage. We found free space in which we could anchor without interfering with the many moorings we could see there. Although I checked the holding by throttling back at considerable power finding the boat stationary, later in the evening we dragged anchor and had to relocate, finding a mooring close to the small island called Morro.

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Yossi and I went to town in search of two desired items – tomatoes and internet Wi-Fi. None were found; the town looked deserted and we went back empty handed.

22.1.17 – Sunday – We woke up to a clear, beautiful day. Gili complained that there was loud music from shore up to 4 a.m, so maybe night-life starts late in sleepy Taboga; all the others slept well and heard nothing. We left our mooring to go to Contadora in the Las Perlas. Once out of the mooring field I set a course towards the islands and connected the autopilot; instead of keeping the heading it turned sharply to the right. We noticed that the heading on the display was almost 180 degrees off the true one and that the sign for “calibration needed” appeared. Looking at the Raymarine manual solved the problem; yesterday, before we sat for our steak dinner, we moved the new outboard, which we did not yet commission, to a place near the instrument panel to make place for the grill. The ferrous material of the motor made the autopilot compass go haywire. The moment we moved the motor away everything went back to normal. Writing this I understand I neglected to mention that the outboard was delivered by Arturo Romero, Marine-warehouse representative in Panama, on Friday as we came to the Playita anchorage.

We arrived at Contadora in the early afternoon and I saw that in the last eight years they made some changes. There were a lot of moorings and a local motor boat owner said we could take one. Once settled on our mooring we prepared the new outboard for operation. It is a Yamaha four stroke 6 H.P model; its manual (82 pages long) tells you how to operate it and the “first time operation” is a chapter of great importance. The motor comes without oil and fuel (it has an integral fuel tank) so you have to fill those. But what about gear oil? Is the fact that it is not mentioned a guarantee that there is oil in the gearbox? Why can’t they say that the factory filled the gear with oil? To make sure we opened the drain screw and the oil level plug, found out that there was oil in there but replaced it anyway. The motor ran just fine; now I have to get rid of the old 8 H.P, I’ll  just give it away keeping its prop as a spare.

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23.1.17 – Monday – Main task for today was getting potable water. We already consumed our port tank – 250 liters – in four days. There is no place on the island to which you can come with your boat and fill up. The only option was to buy five 5 gallons tanks, which were brought to Mar Y Oro bar near our mooring. With the improved water situation we motored three miles to anchor in the channel between Chapara and Mogo Mogo islands. We swam and paddled our SUP in spite of a relatively strong current. As the sun went down Yossi started fishing. His fishing style is holding the rod in his hands all the time and when a fish bites – he jerks the rod up. I suggested a different way: throw the bait in, put the rod in the holder and wait for the fish to call you when it is caught. I demonstrated by catching a nice fish.

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Yossi followed with a bigger snapper; we’ll have to stop fishing, we have enough.

24.1.17 – Tuesday – The first thing we did after breakfast was clean the boat. Then we took the dinghy to a reef between Chapera and Mogo Mogo, anchored and snorkeled. Not a very pretty reef but still we did see a few nice fish, a turtle and an eagle ray. We planned to go to Pedro Gonzales island, where there is a fishermen village of about 500 people. We figured that in a village of that size we would surely be able to get water. The wind was very light so we motored, stopping for lunch on the west coast of Bayoneta island, where large cowries can be found according to the guide. The sun was so hot that the thought of strolling on the beach did not seem inviting and we continued to our final destination of the day.

Less than a mile from the anchorage I happened to look to the left and thought I saw a breakwater. Using the binoculars confirmed that there was some sort of a small port, we could even see a motor-yacht inside. We came in and to our surprise saw a modern marina, docks all finished and a central structure in the build.

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We tied to a dock and I went straight to the water tap. I was absolutely sure that when I open it there would be no water and was delighted to be wrong. Being the man I am I went looking for someone to get permission to take water. The workers in the site told me to look for “seguridad” – security. I went in the direction they pointed and found nobody. I turned back; we’ll only take some water and leave. As we were filling up a guy with two handheld radios came along. I explained our need and offered to pay for the water. The man contacted somebody in the office to get instructions. “They have to call Panama City for that”. time was passing and my patience evaporated. After waiting about twenty minutes I had enough; I took out some money and wanted to give it to the guy. He did not want to take it without his superiors authorization. “Sorry” I said “We’re off” started the engines and motored away. That marina, which is called Pearl Island, is at about 08 24.6 N 79 05.4 W – a superb, well protected location.

We rounded Zacardilla point on the north east of the island and anchored in a bight south of it. It was completely calm, not a breath of wind. A local boat with three lads came over to offer their wares – three dead iguanas, which are considered a delicacy around here.

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“No, thanks” but we did buy two Pipas, drinking coconuts.

As dinner was prepared the wind came, blowing from the north into the open anchorage at 17-20 knots with some gusts in the lower twenties. I gave the anchor more chain and the boat held position.

25.1.17 – Wednesday – The night was not a pleasant one. the 20 knots winds made waves and the noise was not beneficial for relaxed slumber. In addition, Gili suffered from leg muscles cramps which interrupted our sleep even more. Right after breakfast we motored about 6 miles to Viveros island, where we had absolute protection from the northwest to the northeast. The island is rumored to be developed by a real estate company but we saw nothing of that; there was no path leading from the beach to the interior and no telephone reception in the area at all. In the late afternoon we took the dinghy ashore, walking on a sandy patch connecting a rocky outcrop to the island when the tide is low.

26.1.17 – Thursday – A sailing day! We left the anchorage opening full sails and ran south with the wind behind us. We actually tacked downwind to be able to take the jib out of the blanketing of the main. Fishing was back on the agenda and this time we put a new lure to the test. Normally I use a Rapala which sells for about 20$ a piece; lately I bought lures from the Chinese online shop Ali Express. I purchased the most expensive ones they offered – a ten lure pack was 43$ including shipping. Would they do the job? Five minutes after being lowered into the water we had a strike. Yossi brought the fish close to the stern but it released itself. Another five minutes and another strike – a skipjack tuna. We don’t like them so it went back to sea. Five minutes more and another skipjack was caught. The lure proved itself to be effective.

We kept on sailing to the southern tip of Isla Del Rey, turned around the impressive Punta Cocos, where we lost the wind, continuing towards Esmeralda village. we had a shopping list and a plan regarding our old Yamaha 8 H.P outboard. From afar the village looked like a typical fishing village with many pangas on shore and satellite dishes on every roof.

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As we approached our intended anchoring spot a man came by on a dug-out canoe. He said his name was Rambuietto (if I got it right) and offered bananas, papaya and lemons which he had on shore. He also promised to take us to the supermarket. We met him on shore after lunch.

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I took him aside and told him I had a present for him – my old outboard; although in need of repair it was still working and could be of value to the man. He took us to the “supermarket” which was a small shop in one of the homes. It was a colorful place but apart of cooking oil they had nothing we wanted.

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He took us to another where we got some potatoes and eggs. Vegetables were not to be had in that village. Frankly, it looked decrepit and dirty but the people, especially the kids, were smiling, happy to converse with us. The women made an effort to look good. Here’s an example.

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Shopping over we took Rambuietto to Two Oceans, loaded the old motor, the fuel tank with a good quantity of fuel and brought him ashore. He was happy and so were we; after all we got some bananas and a papaya!

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                              picture taken by Esther

With two and a half mile to go our night anchorage near Rio Caique, I towed the dinghy behind us. The moment the anchor was down and holding we jumped into the dinghy and motored into the river. It was high tide so we got in easily; the river was pretty and surprisingly we saw a spotted eagle-ray a long way inside “flying” in the river’s shallow water.

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                                     picture taken by Gili

Back at the boat Gili and I went for a long swim, had a very good dinner of spicy fish in coconut milk and called it a day.

27.1.17 – Friday – After a short project of house cleaning we went out trolling. Our final destination of the day was very close, the anchorage south of Punta Gorda on the east side of Isla Del Rey. After taking in two skipjacks and releasing them, we turned to our chosen anchorage. We anchored at 10 meters, unable to check the anchor by diving, had pizza lunch and went for a nap. When we woke up we saw that the wind in the bay was unstable in direction and that we may have dragged a bit. “Let’s go to Canas” I said, “The guide says that the anchorage behind Isla Canas is probably the safest in the Perlas”. That decision led to a situation in which bad luck and insufficient information caused considerable damage to the boat and changed our plans drastically. We hit underwater rocks.



  1. Sorry to hear that hopefully the repairs go quickly.

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