Our time at Cocos Island
30 April 2012 | 06 19'N:83 33'W, 200 miles from Panama
Photo: spotted eagle ray
Our time at Cocos Island was very nice. It is a very lush tropical island, steep sloping, of volcanic origin but older than the Galapagos and with a well developed soil layer, thick with vegetation. Discovered by the Spanish in 1526, just a decade or so after Magellan became the first European to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific. From the end of the 16th century, Cocos Island was a travel stop, refuge, rest and storage area for the pirates, corsairs, and whalers who sailed the Pacific coasts of the Spanish America. There are persistent legends of still-buried treasure on this island, though exploration of this sort is prohibited. Rainfall is heavy, with about 30 feet of precipitation per year. I think about one of those feet of rain fell during our time there... The island is managed by the Cocos Island Marine Conservation Area, and has several resident rangers in two encampments; there are no other residents or settlements. Diving is said to be some of the best in the world, with warm, clear water and lots of fish species including plentiful hammerhead sharks. We, not being certified divers, were restricted to snorkeling, which was still quite nice though we failed to see any sharks greater than a 4 foot white-tip. We hiked the two rugged paths on the island, seeing the descendants of pigs left by mariners of centuries ago. There are a few commercial dive tour boats that come here from the mainland with paying customers, and an occasional sailboat. It was on the recommendation of our Galapagos agent Antonio that we came here, and it makes the journey to Panama only slightly longer. It is a mystery to me why Cocos Island is not mentioned in the many writings on the Panama-Galapagos passage, as it is a beautiful place to stop and break up the passage. There are of course no supplies of any sort available here, visiting boats must be fully self sufficient. We would definitely like to come back, with dive certification in hand, probably with some prior arrangement with one of the commercial dive operators.
We are underway now, motor-sailing towards Panama keeping a close eye on the fuel gauges. The wind is light and we are often surrounded by great rain squalls, though they usually do not produce much wind. We have milked those storms for a couple of engine-free sailing hours, but otherwise, with less than 5 knots of wind typical, we just don't have enough books on board (or food) to sail the distance. ETA Panama is sometime Wednesday, where it may be necessary for us to wait two weeks to get arrangements to cross the Panama canal. If so we will visit the nearby Las Perlas islands of Panama.