Posted by: catamarantwooceans | February 13, 2017

Sailing back to Panama City

7.2.17 – Tuesday afternoon – I dinghied to town and found the Port Captain office. It was lunchtime and the Jeffe (chief, boss) would be back at 1300. I used the time to walk around town, bought some fruit and also found hot peppers, which they call here “chombo” and elsewhere “habanero”. A nice feature in town were the wall-paintings on the various shops, here’s an example.

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The balloon says:”How much can we achieve with a smile”.

Going back to the Capitania I found the Jeffe sitting outside with his men. When I inquired about necessity of paperwork, he waved his hand disdainfully, “we don’t care about it here, you can go anywhere in the area with safety, no problems”. That’s the approach I like! “how about internet?” “Maybe in the Pharmacy, which is a bit far away”. I thanked the guys and went back to the boat. By that time the tide started ebbing and my speed over water gauge showed 1.3 knots. I started up and motored a mile and a half to the north, to an anchorage recommended by the guide between Isla Boca Grande and Isla El Encanto, a very quiet and protected place.

8.2.17 – Wednesday – I woke up very early ( 4 a.m!) and used the time difference to call Gili and Shimon who is the friend joining in a few days. Sunrise made a spectacular scene.

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After breakfast I began washing the boat. With the sun up and the temperature and humidity so high, it was really tiring, but it had to be done! A Nobel prize will be given to the man who’ll invent boat building materials that rejects dirt.

My destination for the day was less than seven miles away, just a starting point for Thursday’s sail to Las Perlas on the way back to Panama city. I thought of going out with the tide, but as the clock showed midday I lost patience and went out. So I had a two knots current on the nose for a while, no big deal, I needed to charge the batteries anyway. I planned on going to Punto Buena Vista, thinking that the wind would be from the north; strangely it was from the south-west so I went to the anchorage near Isla Cerdo (pig island, not kosher) and found it to be quiet nice, with three little rocky piglets on its southern point.

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I took the SUP and paddled around those, enjoying the sea birds on and around them; there were pelicans, cormorants and a flock of small birds, perhaps a kind of petrels, flying in a big formation and acting more like a swarm, rising a diving as a cloud over the surface.

In the evening I started the starboard engine to charge the batteries and did not see water coming out the exhaust. Hey! I just tightened the belt a few days ago, maybe even too tight – I confessed to myself. I let the port engine do the charging and went into the starboard engine room. The belt looked fine and somehow I put it into my head that the problem lay with the water filter; I took it out, rinsed it under the tap and put it back. Started the engine – all seemed fine. Why am I telling you this? Read on!

9.2.17 – Thursday – With forty miles to go to Canas in Las Perlas, I wanted to use the tide to give me a boost out of the San Miguel gulf. High water was around 0300 so I decided to go at five a.m. Woke up started the engines and… no water out of the starboard engine. I thought I’d go out on a single engine and check it later. The current was quite strong, more than two knots as I went forward to lift the anchor.

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                  Before I even started moving

I commenced going around Isla Cerdo; it was very dark as the moon has already set. Looking around I saw a few small lights shining on the water; OH OH, FISHING BOATS! I didn’t plan on those! It was difficult enough to see their nets in daylight – completely impossible in the dark. I was still in shallow water and simply retarded the throttle to idle and re-anchored. It was 0530 and I was determined to fix the starboard engine before daylight. I entered the engine room, on a closer inspection I found that the water pump belt was ruined and had to be replaced. In order to get to that belt you have to remove the other belts and it all that took almost an hour. The moral of the story: things just don’t fix themselves, I should have seen the belt’s condition the day before and not be surprised at 0500 in the morning.

So out we went (Two Oceans and its humbled skipper) on completely flat and glassy sea, starboard engine operating well and giving speed of around 5 knots in the water and the tide doing its marvelous trick. Look at the SOG on the plotter.

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                                     Effortless nine knots

A few fishermen were trying to get the big fish, but I evaded them and got out of the gulf unharmed.

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Out of San Miguel the current subsided but still added two knots most of the way. I anchored in Canas’ northwestern anchorage, ate Pizza that I made on the way and went for a well deserved nap. In the evening a sport-fisherman boat came into the bay. That was the first pleasure craft I’ve seen since leaving Panama City seven days ago.

10.2.17 – Friday – After a restful night I was ready to play with some real sailing as the forecast promised good wind. I went out through the narrow pass between Canas and Isla Del Rey and sailed northeast on on port tack. The wind was unstable in both direction and velocity and at one point, when it went below 8 knots, I turned directly to Contadora, my target for the day, motoring on one engine. A flock of pelicans flew near the boat and I was quick to run inside for my camera to take their picture.

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Around 1000 the wind came; after letting me enjoy sailing in the right direction at 7 knots, it increased to more than 20 true, making for more than 25 apparent. I put the main in first reef but left the full jib. When we were less than two miles from the anchorage the sea state worsened, probably the effect of the tidal current. I can’t remember hearing the sound but right before my eyes a big tear opened on the forward part of the jib. Immediately I bore away until the main blanketed the jib and furled it all the way.

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               Taken two days later when we took the sail down

I turned back to anchor, my mind whirling with thoughts. Anchored, took a deep breath and called Mike Barker, who had helped me with the fiberglass repairman. Of course he knew the right man and would make the contact for me. So tomorrow I will go to Panama City, which was the original plan, probably motoring, maybe I’ll be able to use the jib deeply furled. In a way I was – glad is not the right word – perhaps content that it happened here and not on the way to Ecuador or Polynesia. Now the jib will go to a sailmaker who will repair and strengthen it.

11.2.17 – Saturday – At 0630 the light was good enough to go out. Initially the wind was less than 15 knots and I was motoring with the main in first reef, too close to the wind to use sail only. I passed the time reading accounts of cruisers who did land trips in Peru, in the same places Gili and I want to visit. Looking out from time to time I noticed a grey cloud approaching; it didn’t seem threatening at all but suddenly it blew 32 knots and rained. I released the main and waited a few minutes until it passed. Checked the maximum value the gauge recorded: 35.9 knots!

As I approached the La Playita anchorage the wind blew 20-25 knots. I figured I’d better put out two anchors in tandem and did it but my final position was too close to a 44 catamaran. I decided to relocate. The wind blew so hard that once the aft anchor, to which I tied a fender with a trip-line, came up, I had difficulty in taking it in and decided to throw it into the water and to collect it later with the dinghy. As I backed to go to another location I could not see the fender. Does this mean I lost that anchor? I’ll go later with the dinghy and try searching for it dragging the dinghy’s anchor on the bottom.

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