Panama Canal Transit Preparations
20 March 2018 | Las Perlas Islands, Panama
We have been out in Las Perlas Islands for 10 days, an archipelago where only one island has groceries. Yesterday we found a smattering of picked over vegetables in a cooler, large unripe pineapples, and green pears. We departed empty handed and ordered hamburgers at a restaurant next door. Nothing tasted good. But perhaps the 2 nice restaurants at resorts would have good food if you ordered the right thing. Visiting the resort where the sky divers had repacked their chutes and ordered food from a patio restaurant, we were no longer welcome. No trespassing signs and cables had been put up across access to the beach I guess you needed a wrist bracelet with the name of a particular resort. But we enjoyed walking along the inland roads bordered by jungle trees with hanging vines, counting the abandoned houses set for removal when a new development would be built. (Houses along the waterfront are lovely, white stucco with red tile roofs and shady verandas, nice gardens with bouganvilia draped along walkways and over verandas.) Upon approaching the beach where we had left our dinghy, we found the sky blackened by hundreds of Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds, and the sea shoulder to shoulder with those paddling, all fishing the millions upon millions of little minnows in the surf and shallow water, trying to school and keep away from all the birds including diving Terns and Cormorants. We observed open water with black swaths, swarms of the little fish wondering where to go and how to stay away from the birds. We had never seen anything like this before. The tide had gone way, way out while we were ashore exposing bands of rocks we had been unaware of. The surf pounded the shore as swells from the currents and boat traffic came ashore. (Since it was Sunday, there were lots of boats at anchor here.) We managed to find a lull and get the dinghy out into the water, the engine quickly started and back to Julia Max, a little wet, but no one minded that. After dark, while talking to your family, Jenna, Bill noticed white clouds in the water streaming by Julia Max in the dark water, lit up by phosphorescence. We shined a light on them and discovered more millions upon millions of fingerling fish heading out away from shore, finally, no longer harassed by the birds. Along with the fish floated what we finally decided were strings of fish eggs about to hatch enveloped by a jelly-like substance. They looked like dead eels with yellow spots all along the side. Apparently this phenomena continued all night as we were still seeing the egg strings floating by in the morning. The fish accompanying them were bigger, deeper, maybe 4" long and fatter, still in huge schools. Imagine what it was like bringing up the anchor this morning with a jelly-like substance covering 180' of chain? Good sport Peter put on George's gardening gloves. They had to wash it all off the deck too! While motoring to Tobago Island, an injured juvenile Laughing Gull settled on our bow pulpit. He stayed for at least an hour, allowing us to photograph him and sit nearby until his parents finally came to find him. A few of its tummy feathers were bloody. We hope it will survive. So what is left in the larder? We still have a pound of hamburger and some stew meat in the freezer, but with 4 hungry mouths to feed and limited refrigerator space, there's nothing else now other than an old loaf of bread, 10 lbs of potatoes, 15 eggs, one zucchini, and a few onions. Oh yes, and 3 Hefty Bags full of garbage! We have managed to eat quite well, actually. We had leftover chicken casserole for dinner with cooked carrots last night; bacon, eggs, and fried potatoes for breakfast. The 30 lb bag of juice oranges was finally dispatched last night. Most of my stores of canned fruits and vegetables are gone too. I had spent $500 on groceries before leaving on the 9th, plus really cheap but excellent quality produce at the farmers market: 60 eggs, 2 watermelons, celery, lettuce, zucchini, cucumber, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, all for about $20. On March 23rd, I expect to repeat the same grocery purchase. We will be feeding 7 adults during the canal transit, lunch at least, then dinner and breakfast and lunch the 2nd day. But I have to plan for our Caribbean segments ahead, and grocery shopping will be limited after leaving Panama City. George has some engine work to do, today having found the raw water pump not working as well as it should to cool the engine. Probably has some of that jelly from the fish eggs stuck somewhere in the system!