Well this may [or of course may not once I get going] become the least wordy blog yet. We are about to leave for a long road trip in Ecuador and Peru but it is a while since I posted an update and I don’t want all you guys to forget us.
It is also important that I tell you about the lovely Las Perlas Islands and the short “circumnavigation” of them that we did a couple of weeks ago.
The Perlas Islands were given their current name by the Spanish when two conquistadores defeated the indigenous king Tio, stole a large amount of his pearls and enslaved his divers. The 31 carat “peregrine” pearl belonging to Mary Tudor came from these islands.
To get there we left La Playita anchorage [Panama City] at 7.30am on 15th Feb for what we expected to be a 7-8 hour journey to the nearest island of Contadora. We had perfect weather and “flew”, averaging 6.2kn and arrived at 1.25pm. A splendid sail.
There we were greeted by friends [“Peking” and “Nirvana Now”] telling us drinks on the beach had been arranged for 5pm…..
Contadora is the most developed of the Perlas Islands and a favourite weekend destination for Panamanians – particularly sports fishers. Hence the anchorage was a bit crowded [yup this is crowded!] …..
It would have been nice to have been able to take the 3J’s to these islands as, though still a bit murky, the snorkelling was better than James, John and John found on Isla Taboga following our canal transit. The waters become murkier at this time of year as they cool, making conditions ripe for plankton etc.
Still, I was able to see a few shoals of fish…
From Contadora we went to Isla Casaya where we spent a couple of nights watching the tide changes.
You are probably now thinking that things must have come to a sorry state if we find watching tides rise a fall a pastime. But, it is just great for us to be doing anything at anchor after so long in Shelter Bay and tides are something we have to study again – there is a significant range in these parts [6m/18ft]. It is something we haven’t had to consider for the past two years.
At one low tide we took the dinghy out and came across an interesting current just off one of the points. It looked as though the water height in the background was about 6” lower than the calmer water in front.
We also found more tranquil places like this small hamlet on Isla Casayeta……
We did see very good use made of the tidal range and lovely sand at this anchorage…..
However, we didn’t wait around to see that. “Peking” returned to an appointment with a wind generator fixer in Panama City and we, with Dawn and Randy, sailed off to find pastures new.
There was little wind so we decided to try out the asymmetric. As usual there was some head scratching and untwisting as we tried to figure out exactly how it goes….
But, it didn’t really look right and we noticed that we couldn’t get the snuffer right up and realised there was “something funny” going on at the top of the mast. A later trip round the boat in the dinghy taking photos from various angles revealed a semi frayed halyard. The halyard has always been a bit too big [it came with the boat] but, as we have rarely had conditions suitable for flying this sail we haven’t really bothered. We realised that going across the Pacific is going to be a different matter – so we bit the bullet and have bought and fitted a new halyard – Mike’s splicing has come on a treat!
Our next stop was further down the island of del Rey – the anchorage at the mouth of the Rio Cacique.
This might be a good time to tell you that we are now the proud owners of a Racor filter – which filters water out of fuel whilst it is being filled from either a pump or can. Much of the fuel in e.g. San Blas, Portobello and, we assume the islands in the South Pacific will come from places like this so we want to do as much as we can to supplement the pre filter and filter system we already have which filters dirt – but not water. We don’t know how good these things are but any port in a storm!
The local people were really friendly and helpful and glad to see a couple of boats stop by. These cheeky chaps went away happy because we gave them a can of cheap cola each…
…. we had already planned our day and another 15 miles beckoned to take us to the SW of Isla San José. With hindsight I wouldn’t choose this anchorage again [Ensenada Playa Grande] – there is a much nicer one on the NW of Isla Pedro Gonzales to the north of San José but, for anyone going out of the Gulf of Panama wanting a final night at anchor before setting out for Ecuador/Galapagos/Marquesas/Costa Rica then its not a bad place to stay
However, we didn’t know that at the time and the cruising guide said there were caves to explore on the point so we took to our dinghys again…
….only to be disappointed. Some people might take their dinghy in to these caves – maybe at a different tidal state – but it looked pretty much like climbing into a washing machine on full spin to us!
Isla Chapera is possibly the best known Perlas Island – though you might not realise it. It is apparently the island used in the “Survivor” series. As I didn’t watch that series I can’t comment but it was certainly an incredibly beautiful anchorage….
We then said goodbye to Las Perlas having spent an excellent 10 days there. Unfortunately our sail back to Panama City did not match our sail out. There was no wind at all – not a bad thing – but it did mean the engine on all the way. Still, we made several gallons of water.
Back in Panama we have immersed ourselves once more into the cruising community at this side of the canal. It is much more active with an excellent daily [except Sunday] cruisers net on Channel 74, a pizza night on Thursdays and Dim Sum on Tuesday mornings. Yes, Dim Sum….
We have also been culture vultures when we visited the beautiful old theatre ….
….to listen to concert performed by firstly by “Duo Bellona” [a guitar and a flute] and then “Ensemble NYC” [guitar and cello]. Not the kind of thing we would want to do all the time but it is good to experience something different once in a while.
As yet we haven’t visited the newly opened Bio-museum which is only a short stroll along the causeway from the anchorage. If the inside is anything like as interesting as the out it will be worth seeing….
So, the words tumbled out after all – sorry, but hoped you enjoyed my ramblings and the photographs of the lovely Perlas.