05/06/2008, Isla Contadora
Ed has been conducting Yoga lessons on the fore deck. It is a lot of fun but sometimes he gets a little exotic for his newb students. Our favorite so far is the Ten Tibetans, ten exercises that include whirling like a Dervish.
We headed north today in the afternoon on the rising tide. Our goal was Contadora the one fully inhabited island in the Las Perlas. We have since discovered a large settlement on Isla del Rey, the largest island. That seems to be the extent of civilization here. Contadora is pretty fully built out but it is still very quaint. There are some lovely restaurants that are very romantic but unfortunately the food could get an upgrade by having Denny's cater. There is an airstrip with a couple of commercial flights a day and some beautiful beaches and little hotels as well.
As the tide began to fall the swell on the calm little beach began to get a little interesting. We decided to try our first beach landing with Shooting Star and have dinner at the Restaurant Romantico. I can say several complementary things about the Walker Bay at this point. First it is very light, second it has a little keel that keeps is tracking and third you could drive it right onto the beach before having to pull up the little 8hp.
Shooting Star is a much more tricky affair. First if you stop the motor you lose all directional control. Second if you head for the beach you need to pop up the motor sooner because it is a big 25hp and you are facing away from it to start with when steering. Third there are a lot of expensive bit, like a battery and a console, that don't fair well under water (Little Star had no such issues). Fourth the first wave that comes along once you have the motor up is going to turn you side ways. At this point you are happy that you have 18 inch tubes and only got really wet instead of turtled.
So as we turned sideways Nobu went over, I held onto the outboard, Ed jumped out and Hideko laughed at us. The plan was for Ed and Nobu to jump out and drag us up while I stowed the outboard. Then we would all jump out and haul the boat up on the beach. We got the last part right.
The restaurant has a giant chess set on the front porch, the kind with pieces that come up to you waist. Ed and I had a match while we dried off. It reminded me of my old chess opponent Richard, who is the last person I had played with prior.
When 7PM rolled around we announced ourselves at the restaurant in our wet attire but still tried to look respectable. We were seated and enjoyed a wonderful view of the anchorage and the growing beach as the tide went out. Little Star was a bear to drag on a beach because of the wheel in the keel, nice on the dock, like a Danforth in the sand. Shooting Star was, happily, much easier to drag on the beach with its fairly flat bottom. Good thing because the beach turned out to be quite large at low tide.
05/05/2008, More Sushi
We got underway from Taboga at around 09:30. The sky was pretty overcast and there wasn't a lot of wind. The ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone where the northern hemisphere winds and the southern hemisphere winds meet) is right on top of us and moving south, which means no wind and possible thunder storms. Always nice to avoid the ITCZ unless you're trying to sail against the prevailing winds
We motor sailed southeast to Isla Bayoneta in the Las Perlas and arrived at around 16:00. On the way Hideko caught a nice Mackerel and Ed caught a nice Tuna. It was Sushi for dinner, again, and no one was complaining.
Coming into the Bayoneta anchorage required either really slow driving by the sounder or slow driving by the sound with frequent reference to the Bauhaus Panama Guide. The Navionics charts here are not too bad but still not detailed enough for close quarters work. The visibility in the Las Perlas at present is nil. Ed and I worked on the bottom a bit and you could make things out maybe 5 feet away with a mask. There are also lots of reefs here and they are hard rock, not good for the bottom paint. The tide is critical as well. We snuck into our watery anchorage at high tide and six hours later there were islands around us that didn't exist when we came in. It was a new moon and the tide swing was 17 feet. There was a big rocky island with a nice sandy beach maybe 8 feet out of the water that we could have sailed over at high tide.
We motored in a flat calm from La Playita to Taboga yesterday. Taboga is a little resort island about 7 miles from Flamenco Island at the end of the Amador Causeway. There's a lot of junk in the water not to mention ships anchored as far as ten miles off of the point. It is quite a sight.
On the way in we caught a small black fin tuna. It made perfect sushi for four.
After a nice night in the main Taboga anchorage we took a dinghy ride ashore. Taboga is a weekend spot for wealthy Panamanians and has a vacationy feel to it. There are a few vacation villa rentals, a few hotels and several eateries.
We took the opportunity to hike up to the top of the highest spot on Taboga. It was a 2 hour round trip on a hot day, but it was well worth it. The views of the vast Bay of Panama were spectacular. We could see Panama City in the hazy distance and big ships anchored everywhere.
We walked back into town along the main road, which is large enough for a golf cart or a Kawasaki Mule. We had lunch at a little place along the way which served mediocre food very very slowly. Hideko ordered a Pipas, which is a young coconut. They drill a hole in the top and pop a straw in for you. It was wonderful. We had only had the milk of mature brown coconuts previously. There is a surprising amount of sweet juice in the young coconut and it was nice and cold because they pile the coconuts up in the fridge (not very efficient space wise but great for the Pipas buyers).
After lunch we took a dinghy ride around Taboga. It is a pretty island and very natural outside of the main village. It was fun to be able to blast on a plane with four adults aboard. Shooting Star is fast, if a little bumpy.
Back at the boat we took the afternoon off. Nobu took a nap in the hammock hung between the bows and Ed did some reading. Hideko and I just relaxed and did odds and ends.
It was a nice day and our last in sight of the mainland. Tomorrow we'll be off to the Las Perlas.
05/03/2008, La Playita
We left the marina this morning around 9AM and went around the point to La Playita, the main cruiser anchorage. We had some new chocks made by a Swiss/German guy named Ali. His is a real character. He did quite a nice job on our chocks. We rafted up to his boat so that he could finish the welding and polish things up. We are now anchored out again for the fist time in some days! Nice to be floating free. The rain looks to be closing in so I'm not sure if we'll be of to Taboga or the Las Perlas today but we are on our way all the same.
05/02/2008, Flemenco Marina
Today was our final day to scramble around and finish things up. At the end of the day Nobu filled up the water tanks and we shut down for the night ready to take off first thing tomorrow.
The ITCZ is sitting right on our head (as you can see from the picture) so we may be motoring and getting wet for a day or two.
05/01/2008, Panama City
Tony took Hideko to the Fresh Market today. Wow. We have never had so much food on board. We had to buy more nets. We now have two nets and a bunch of bananas hanging in the cockpit, potatoes and onions in the bilge and a ton of fruit in the pantry. Two days to departure. Nobu and Ed have been a huge help in getting the boat ready.
04/30/2008, The Fuel Dock
The Marina is pretty at night but you have to watch out for beer bottles from the restaurant if it is a wild night.