The first sunrise of the first day of the new year was a good one. Somehow, the idea of a fresh start in a new year is always exciting. Now, I want to use that time well!
I am still taking it easy and staying on the boat until my face heals up a tad more, so I was not out and about today.
However, the rest of the crew was anxious to get off the boat and stretch their legs. Sarah, Z, and J went down the causeway to meet their yachtie friends at the park. The girls always enjoy finding other kids to play with.
Dave went to Albrook Mall. He likes to get some lunch at the Food Court and it is a safe place to walk around. He is not much of a shopper, so the displays in the stores do not even catch his eye. Of course, if he does have a specific thing he is looking for, he has laser focus.
I have mentioned how nice the public buses are to ride. The buses are clean and the schedule has buses stopping often enough that we have never spent too much time waiting for the next bus. I put up two bus photos taken last week when all us ended up sitting in the back seat of the bus on our way to the mall.
After school this morning, we all decided to get off the boat and go have lunch at the mall. After lunch, Dito and Sarah headed for the metro station and Z and J stayed at the mall with us. Dito and Sarah were going to Mailboxes, Etc to collect the Iridium Go Dave ordered for the boat. They also had some packages waiting for them there, too.
While they were gone, the rest of us at the mall walked around looking for waterproof backpacks. We have seen a few of them in different stores, but still did not find what we had in mind. Of course, our strolling through the mall sort of looking for something was designed to get everyone walking and to pass a little time.
We went to the Outdoor Store and actually found a waterproof backpack that we liked...the backpack and the price! Dave and I each got a backpack that can hold a reasonable amount of stuff and then lay very flat for storage.
Once our purchases were made, we headed back to the food court where the carousel is located. We had promised Z and J they could ride the carousel, then have ice cream. That is what Babas and Gagas do sometimes!
Once Dito and Sarah returned to the mall with the packages, we all headed for the bus terminal, so we could head back to the boat. I am guessing Dave and Dito will not rest until they get the Iridium Go up and running.
Dave and Dito stayed up late last night working on setting up the Iridium Go. The is a weather forecasting system, a course routing system (based on our GPS position), and a communication system that uses satellites. We can use it anywhere in the world. This morning while the rest of us were doing school, they were still working out some of the details that eluded them last night.
I put up photos of the Bridge of the Americas, showing the bridge in different kinds of weather. One of my strongest memories of living in the Canal Zone in 1974-75 was seeing that bridge almost daily. I was fascinated by the idea that one side of the bridge is where North and Central America end and the other side of the bridge is where South American begins (geographically speaking). I saw the bridge again when we transited the Canal in 1995. I really never thought I would see it another time in my life. I will admit I cannot get enough of watching the natural light on the bridge and watching the ships passing in and out of the Canal under it. This has been a special stop for me...full of good memories of days gone by.
Dave, Sarah, Z, J, and I rode the bus out on the causeway today. We got off at Isla Perico near the park. There are several restaurants in that area and we wanted to eat before we went to see the animals at Punta Culebra.
We ended up purchasing food from different restaurants or kiosks in the area. I had a cheese arepa combo meal. Dave ordered a papa horneado con queso y chorizo (baked potato with cheese and sausage on top). Sarah, Z, and J ate Korean food. There was a large variety to choose from.
After lunch, we went to meet friends, other yachties with kids, at the entrance to Punta Culebra. This nature center is made up of a collection of animal exhibits sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute. These exhibits feature animals found in Panama. One exhibit has aquariums of water animals and plants found in the Atlantic Ocean along side an aquarium with water animals and plants found in the Pacific Ocean.
The Fabulous Frogs of Panama exhibit made frogs one of my new favorite animals. I discovered that frogs eat millions of mosquitos. I am all for fewer mosquitos! We visited the sea turtle pool, touched a sea star (large star fish), walked on a rainforest trail, and saw wild sloths sleeping in the trees.
The area is small, but scenic. Located on a small peninsula reaching out into the ocean, we could see the ruins of buildings. The signs told us that long ago, there were quarantine buildings located there. These were used when someone was sick when they wanted to enter Panama. The people would be sent to Quarantine until they were well. Looking over the beaches that appeared at low tide, we could see ships moving through the Panama Canal.
What else could we do on the first Pancake Sunday of the year? I made “2020” pancakes! Actually, that was the kids’ ideal!
In the afternoon, Dito got all of us together in the salon to record a song called “Adventure”. I hesitate to say he wrote it, because the lyrics are the word “adventure” sung to a catchy tune 13 times. Maybe the correct word is he “created” it. We had a lot of fun making the video, because the lyrics were easy to learn and the tune was fun.
I was happy to do something besides worry about what the dentist is going to say about my broken tooth tomorrow. I am nervous about going to a new dentist, but also grateful I am getting something done about it tomorrow.
The day ended with a pastel sunset reaching across the sky.
Going to the dentist has always been stressful for me and I tend to psych myself out long before I actually get to the appointment. This time, I am so grateful that I could find a dentist...who has good recommendations from other yachties online...who was willing to see me within a week of my calling for an appointment...who has an office located 3 bus stops from the one nearest me. I am so grateful that all of these things make going to the dentist pretty easy, so, I decided to take some deep breaths and just do it!
Dave and I left for my appointment 1-1/2 hours early, because we never know exactly how long it take the launch to come to take us to the dock and how long we will have to wait for a bus at the bus stop. This also gave us time to walk to the office after we got off the bus.
Everything went smoothly and we arrived at the dentist’s office about 50 minutes early. Plenty of time to fill out the paper for their files and talk to the receptionist. I saw the dentist about 15 minutes earlier than expected. Within five minutes he looked at my broken tooth and said he could fix it, no problem. Wow! He did the preparation, then put resin on the tooth to fill in the missing part. He was a tooth artist. The color match is great and the shape of the tooth is just right. I am so happy with the results!
The photos I used today are the sunrise this morning reflecting on a crude oil carrier entering the Canal. The sunset last night was lovely and gave the Bridge of the Americas a special glow, too. The photo of the yacht club launch and the sunset was taken when I realized the driver was going out to take a photo of the same sunset I was admiring. I held up my phone so he could see it when he went by while II was taking my photo. He held up his phone to show me he was going to take a photo of the same thing.
Now that my dental work is done we can make a plan to head to Las Perlas.
We did school this morning, then had lunch. After lunch everyone did whatever “”getting ready to leave” meant to them. Sarah and I spent time doing an inventory of what provisions and supplies we had on board and how much there is of each thing. Our shopping list for tomorrow evolved as we wrote down what things needed to be restocked or topped up.
We have made a “To Do Before We Leave The Balboa Yacht Club” list, so everyone knows what has been done and what still needs to be done. Dito, Sarah, Z and J went to town to do a coupe of things on the “To Do” list. After that, they planned to meet up with another boat family with kids at the park. Dave and I stayed on the boat and used the time to get some online time while we still have WiFi.
One of my favorite things to do here on the mooring is watch the ships coming and going in the Canal. I take so many photos of the ships and the supporting group of supply boats, tug boats and pilot boats, etc. I have decided I want to share a few of my “ship photos”.
Today, I put up a tug boat working behind a huge green ship carrying containers. The tug boats are there to help the ship steer and stay in the center of the Canal. During the transit, the Panama Canal Pilot (or 2-3 pilots if the ship is one of the Super Max or Panamax) are giving instructions not only to the ship’s captain, but also to all of the tug boat captains who are behind or along side the large ship. The pilots also communicate with the mule drivers (the mechanized trains holding the ropes from the ships on each side of the chambers).
I am still amazed how many containers these huge ships are carrying, so I showed the back of the green ship to give an idea of how wide and high these ships pack the containers. We were told that a load master is in charge of computers that know what each container weighs. The computers make a stacking plan for the containers so the weight is evenly distributed.
We need to provision for our trip to Las Perlas/the Perlas Islands. People who have been there advised us to provision well before going. Sarah and I have counted the paper towels, Kleenex, bathroom tissue, the cereal, the tortilla chips, tortillas, etc. We have gone through the pantry and refilled everything that needed it...syrup, honey, jam, flour, sugar, brown sugar, tinned fruit, retried beans, black beans, etc. We made our shopping list.
We formulated a shopping plan. Sarah, Z, J, and I went into the grocery store and got two shopping carts. Sarah and Z went off in one direction. J and I went in another direction. In a short amount of time, we managed to fill both of those carts. We contacted Dave and Dito, who were in another part of the mall. They came to the grocery store while we were checking out. Everyone helped pack the carry bags we brought with us. We went outside with one of the store employees (who was keeping a close eye on those two shopping carts) and she helped us organize two taxis. Half the people and half the groceries went into each taxi..
Twenty minutes later the taxis were dropping the people and groceries at the top of the ramp that goes down to the Balboa Yacht Club dock. One of the young men there at the top of the ramp had a flat cart. We hired him to carry our groceries on his cart down the ramp and out to the end of the long dock where we catch the launch that takes the people and the groceries to our boat.
Everything went smoothly. All that was left to do was put it all away!
We did school this morning. Dave said he needed to go to the two hardware stores at Albrook Mall, so I said I would go, too.
Of course, since we were going to the mall anyway, we thought we might as well eat lunch there. After lunch, we went to the Do It! Store and to Novey Hardware. Dave found what he wanted and that was that.
It is really nice to have the provisioning out of the way for awhile. Getting everything, then having to find some place to put it can be very time consuming. Now that we have done all of that for the moment, I had time to work on something else. Dave helped me move photos for my blog from my Google Fi phone to the Apple MiniPad I use to write the text on. Sometimes it all goes smoothly and sometimes not so much. Today it was going well, so I was able to make good progress.
Since I did not want to post photos of the hardware stores, I have used a funny sign I saw at the entrance to the Albrook bus terminal and two more Canal shots today.
One photo is of a Holland America cruise ship that has just exited the Canal. We see quite a few cruise ships coming through the Canal. Another photo had National Geographic written on it. We saw the ship entering the Panama Canal.
I find all of these ships fascinating as they go literally by EXIT ONLY. I like seeing the different kinds of ships and seeing where they are registered. Some of the names are interesting, too. I saw one the other day named “Royal Hollyhock”. I cannot imagine where that name came from!
We did school this morning, making sure we were done by 1045. We had to meet two of our yachtie friends at the Metro Station at 1130/11:30 a.m.
Sarah, Z, J, and I left the boat on the launch, got to the dock,, walked to the bus stop, and rode the bus to Albrook Mall. We had time to grab a snack at the panadaria/bakery in the bus terminal before we met our friends in the Metro Station.
We rode the metro, then got off and went up to the street level. From the station we walked about 20 minutes on two or three streets and through an alley market selling handcrafts. Finally, we arrived across the street from this big building with a beautiful painting on it. The vegetable and fruit market.
The produce was very clean and well displayed. I loved how colorful the vegetables and fruits were! We made the majority of our purchases at one table.
Once we finished our shopping, all six of us walked back to the Metro Station and rode back to Albrook Mall. We parted ways with our friends. They were headed for the grocery store to do their final shopping before they returned to their boat. Tomorrow, they are hauling up their anchor and beginning their sailing trip to Hawaii. They reckon it will take them 42 days at sea to get to Hawaii. Wow! From there, they plan to sail to Alaska, then to French Polynesia. You never know! We may cross paths with them somewhere down the way.
Sarah, Z, J, and I headed for the food court to get something for lunch. Guess who we ran into there...in that huge, noisy food court...Dave and Dito! After everyone had lunch, we split into two groups to do some very last minutes shopping. Dave and I went to buy telephone cards and the club crackers I forgot to buy yesterday. Dito, Sarah, Z, and J went to buy the Lebanese/miniature cucumbers we can only find one place in town. Everything else is done.
We are leaving for Las Perlas tomorrow morning!
First thing this morning, Dito, Z, and J rode in the launch to carry our trash bag to the garbage area. As soon as they came back to the boat, we released the boat from the mooring and headed out into Panama Bay. We passed a huge black and red car carrier ship going the other way in the channel (the ship was entered the Panama Canal to transit).
Friends of ours were anchored out by the end of the causeway, so we went by their boat to say “See you later” (They are planning to come out to the Perlas in a few days.). Next, we went behind four very large modern tuna fishing boats that were anchored out.
Once clear of all the ships coming and going through the Canal, we were out in blue water and the wind came up nicely. We actually got to sail most of the eight-hour trip to Contadora Island. There was an occasional assist from the engines, but mostly quiet, smooth sailing. We were all talking about how much we had missed the sailing and moving the boat. Panama City was a fun and useful stop for us, but we all agreed we are ready to get back to the out island lifestyle of beaches, swimming, snorkeling, etc.
We arrived and anchored off Cacique Beach on Contadora Island In the Perlas Islands at 1630/4:30 p.m. Dave let the anchor settle in, then turned the engines off...and the starboard engine’s oil pressure alarm started screaming. He finally got that engine turned off, the access to the engine open, and Dito was down in the engine room in no time. There was still some daylight left and they wanted to make the most of it.
Dito discovered the engine’s pressure transducer was leaking. I have no idea what that means, but those are the words Dave gave me to describe the problem. Fortunately, Dave and Dito keep lots of tools and general materials that you can use to “fix things” on a boat. Having the right tool for a job makes all the difference...and they had exactly what they needed to fix the problem. Two hours later, after consulting their engine guidebook, comparing the two engines and finding one small thing that was different (that thing was the problem), digging out bags of tools from storage, and then finding the tools they needed for this job...the job was done. We were glad this problem happened at Contadora Island instead of on our passage to Galapagos or from the Galapagos Islands to the Marquesas Islands!
The Archipelago of the Perlas is named for the large pearls that have been found around these islands. There are more than 90 islands with names and 100 small islets without names.
In 1513 Vasco Nunez de Balboa had discovered the Pacific Ocean and claimed it for Spain. Days later, he heard about near-by islands that were know for pearls. He did not go there but he named the islands, “Las Perlas” and claimed them for Spain, too.
Isla Contadora (“Counting House Island) was the island where the pearls were kept until they were ready to be shipped to Spain.
Having spent the last few weeks in the Panama City area, being out island again is refreshing. That does not mean that we did not enjoy our time in Panama City, but we do different kinds of things in different places.
As I already mentioned, sailing here yesterday on a smooth sea made all of say how much we had missed the actual sailing. Today, we agreed that we have all also missed going by dinghy to a beach and spending time there enjoying the sand and the water.
Everyone was ready in no time to go to the beach. Z and J packed up some small containers and scooping utensils. Once they arrived at the sandy beach, Z started digging a deep hole and J started packing the containers with sand and turning them upside down to form shapes. The rest of us took turns taking a walk and staying with the girls.
The hotel with the high, pointy roof had the biggest beach area and the most people hanging out there. Someone said there is a bar and restaurant inside the building, too. About 1600/4:00 p.m., The Perlas Islands Ferry that goes between here and Panama City regularly, appeared and picked up almost all of the people on the beach. Obviously, the people were day-trippers and they had paid for a day pass at this hotel’s beach area.
Another eye-catching hotel was painted white and had domes on some of the buildings. That architecture reminded us of the Greek Islands. The green trees and red flowers really stood out against the painted white building.
We read in our travel book that Contadora has an airstrip where small airplanes come and go. The island itself is 1 sq kilometer in size. There are paved roads. People walk or rent golf carts or ATV’s. We are thinking about walking over to the other side of the island tomorrow.
There are 12 good beaches on the island. Day sailing, snorkeling, and diving are popular with the tourists. From July to October each year, humpback whales migrate through this area, so whale watching becomes very popular during that time.
These islands seem to be uninhabited except for the Aero Naval station on Chapera Island. The Aero Naval is similar to the National Guard in the USA. They do security work at ports, airports, and borders. They assist in national emergencies. They are posted all over the country of Panama and on outlying islands.
The difference between low tide and high tide on the Atlantic side of Panama is 1’-2’. Compare that with the difference between low tide and high tide on the Pacific side of Panama 16’-20’! We are having to adjust our thinking when it comes to deciding where to put the dinghy when we go into shore.
There are beautiful sandy beaches on the islands here, but low tide is the best time to enjoy wide soft, sandy beaches. Many of the beaches almost disappear when it is high tide. We are having to coordinate our beach explorations with low tide.
After lunch, it was beach time. Once we got to the beach, we discovered someone had hung two swings from a large tree leaning out over the beach. There were lots of shells scattered around, so Z and J picked up some shells to add to the boat’s shell collection. They put some shells down on the beach again immediately...hermit crabs were living inside them!
There are six other boats anchored in the channel, too. The sunset took on an ethereal look with dust in the air making the photo look like I have a very dusty camera lens. That is actual dust in the air that has been transported here from the Sahara Desert. The upper level winds carry the reddish dust far and wide around the world.
The northerly winds are blowing steadily 15-20 knots in Las Perlas. The anchorage between the two islands did not provide as much protection as we hoped it would. Our boat was in constant motion all night. This morning we studied the charts and decided to move 7 miles to Isla Casaya, because it appears to have a more protected anchorage.
The 16’-20’ tides in the Pacific demand a whole new level of focus as we are moving the boat from place to place among islands. Small islets, rocks, spits of land, and beaches disappear with the high tides and reappear with the low tides. As we wended our way through islands, reefs, and rocks noted on the charts, Dito was up on the first spreader looking at the water ahead and around us so we would not have any surprises.
We anchored the boat on a low tide with 4’ of water under the keels. The incoming tide soon raised us up. When high tide happened, we had 18’ of water under the keels.
We went in the dinghy to the beach that reappeared at low tide. There were a few shells on the beach, but mostly the water had smoothed small pieces of colored rock into interesting shapes, then left them on the beach until the tide takes them back out again.
A huge number of birds flew through the area all at the same time. The huge group of birds included several different species of birds, but they all seemed to be “fishing” for their dinner. Fish were jumping and birds were going after them. For about 10 minutes there was a lot of noisy bird calls and splashing water. Suddenl as if a signal had been given, the birds all flew away in groups of their own kind.
We also saw a local fishing boat today. There were three crew on board. They are using nets to fish. They put out their huge nets attached to white floating balls across areas of open water. The fisherman come back hours later and pull in the nets and see what they have caught.
We looked at the charts and saw that we could move around the nearest headland and find another beach. We thought about it, then decided to go for it. We did have good protection from the wind last night, and it looked like we could find good protection in the next bay over on the same island.
We brought up the anchor and motored for about 15 minutes to the next bay. When we anchored, the water was on the shallow side, but still acceptable. As we watched over the next hour, the water level went down lower and we decided we did not want to stay and see how low the water would go.
There were three boats anchored across the big bay from us, so we decided to go join them near Isla Malaga. We found a water depth we are comfortable with as well as protection from the winds that continue to blow.
At low tide, we went to a beach on near-by Isla Vivienda. This beach was framed by big boulders at each end. The sand was very granular and hard-packed. Small smooth stones and large scallop shells were laying along the waterline and it low spots on the beach. Crabs, large and small, were scurrying into their holes as we came their way. Dito, Sarah, Z, and J climbed on the boulders. Dave was taking photos and I was looking for seashells.
I still cannot believe this beach I was walking on today has a “double life”. Half of the day, when the tide is high, that land is completely covered by water and is the bottom of the ocean. The other half of the day, when the tide is low, that same land is completely uncovered and a “secret” sandy beach appears.
After we did school this morning, Dito, Sarah, Z, J, and I got in the dinghy and headed for a beach two miles away on the west side of Isla Bayoneta. The cruising guide says it is a beautiful beach where large cowrie shells can be found.
Dave did not go with us, because the two other boats that were anchored here with us moved on to another location this morning. Since we are the only boat here now, Dave did not want to leave the boat unattended and be so far away from it.
With plenty of gasoline in the gas tank for the dinghy, we headed out. To shorten the trip over to the beach, we went through a cut between Isla Vivienda and Isla Bayoneta, then on around to the west side of the island. We knew we were leaving on a falling tide, but we were able to go through the cut without a problem.
When we arrived at the beach, we could not believe how long it was! There were very few sea shells on the beach. There were some sea shells at the back of the beach on the tide line. The only cowries we saw were about one inch long! The sand was soft and powdery and the view was truly beautiful. At the far end of the beach, there were at least ten turtle nests near the edge of the rainforest. The tracks in the sand told the story of the mother turtle digging a nest for the egg, then the smaller tracks of the baby turtles after they dug their way out of the nest and headed for the ocean.
Sitting on the pontoons of the dinghy, we ate the picnic lunch we brought with us, then got ready to leave. As we returned to the closest end of the cut between the islands, we had a surprise waiting for us. At low tide, the cut is totally dry...just like the beaches! We had to backtrack and go around the bigger part of the island.
As we came around the larger part of Isla Bayoneta, we realized one of the rock outcroppings we had seen from the boat at low tide was much larger than we expected. We decided to investigate. A whole islet (that is what they call unnamed islands that only appear at low tide) had appeared complete with a sand spit beach. This sand was rather coarse and the grains were large, but it was a beach! The birds that were on the beach squawked at us. They did not appreciate the company on their beach!
As we left this beach, we went by the beach we were on yesterday on Isla Vivienda, not far from where the boat is anchored. We decided to make a quick stop so the kids could swim for a while. That is how we ended up going to three beaches in one day.
Seriously, we are not having a competition or trying to see how many beaches we can go to in a day. I know it sounds like we are making a big effort too break some kind of record, but we are not. When we go to one beach, then see another one “just over there”, our natural curiosity takes us there. Each beach we have been to has been unique. The sand itself is fine or coarse, soft or packed, white or tan or black, has sea shells spread around or none at all, has large rocks defining its boundaries or hardly any rocks are visible, has rainforest trees growing right up to meet the high tide line or has little foliage near the sand. No two beaches have been alike. We like discovering what is special about each one.
We closed up the boat and all of went in the dinghy today to circumnavigate Isla Malaga. We left on a falling tide and soon realized we had let the tide “fall much too far” today. The cut between Isla Malaga and Isla Bayoneta was wet, but much too shallow for us to pass through in our dinghy. We turned around and went to the deeper water around the small island of Isla Malaga.
The first beach we came to was on Isla Bayoneta. This beach was not wide but went back at an angle fairly far. There were lines of shells spread out across the beach...beautiful pink and white scallop shells, orange scallop shells, yellow scallop shells, just to name a few. There were trees making shade on the beach that made me wish I could of hang a hammock and taking a nap. Of course, knowing that beach will disappear in a few hours turned that idea into a scary scenario! That nap would not be a long one!
The second beach, on north Isla Malaga, was a short way across the water from the first beach. Here we found large boulders and rocks on the beach, but no sea shells.The rainforest met the sand at the high tide line.
We headed for a second beach on northern Isla Bayoneta. This beach had a definite slant from the rainforest at the back edge. There were rivulets of water running down the sand from the top of the beach. I think this was water draining from under the sand that had saturated the sand at high tide.
Dave, Dito, Sarah, Z, and J hiked over some rocks to go around the corner of the island. They discovered thousands of cormorants sitting on rocks in the sun to dry their wings. We left the beach when they returned. As we were heading back to EXIT ONLY, suddenly the sky was full of those thousands of birds. They were flying over and around the dinghy to another location near rocks on the shore of Isla Casaya. We have never seen anything like that! 99% of the birds were black cormorants. The other 2% were white herons and brown pelicans with yellow heads.
Dave and I got out of the dinghy at the boat. Dito, Sarah, Z, and J took the kids over to our “neighborhood beach” on Isla Vivienda, so they could go swimming. That is how we went to four beaches in one day!
I repeat that we are not in a competition, but we are into exploring and seeing as much as we can in the time we spend in Las Perlas. When we left the boat this afternoon, we had no idea we would see all of these beaches, because two of them were hidden by a huge rock outcropping.
We moved to Isla Viveros today to see if we could find another protected anchorage with new beaches to explore. We did find the beaches, and the island did protect us from the waves rolling in, but the swells were still curving around the corner of the island and keeping us rocking and rolling on board the boat.
After lunch we dinghied in toward a small beach to the right of a large pile of rocks. As we walked on the beach, we soon realized there was another small beach in another direction...and a third small beach behind the second one! This was also the first time we came across the patterns in the sand created by the mingling of white sand and black sand.
When we finished looking around at these beaches, we got in the dinghy and moved on down the coastline of the island to the next beach (number four) we could see...a black sand beach! Another surprise! The black sand was very fine, while the white sand was more coarse.
The fifth beach we visited was covered with dry white sand out of the water at and wet black sand in the shallow water. Walking on the wet, packed black sand felt like walking on a rubber mat that was two feet thick and bouncy.
We have also noticed some of the sand near the surf line is soft, reminding us of quicksand. Your foot is sucked into the sand, but you can easily pull it out. I steered clear of those areas and did not experiment to find out how big the area was.
It was Pancake Sunday today, so the shape of the day was Xs and Os...kisses and hugs! After breakfast, we decided to head over to a small island we could see in the distance.
When we turned up to anchor in the protected area of the small island, the water around us was very still compared to what we just left behind. The tide was falling and a beautiful beach was right in front of us. Some charts call this Isla de Fuenche and another chart said Isla Plantanal.
There was one other sailboat anchored near us. When we went into shore after school and lunch were done, we met the family from the other boat. The Canadian crew included the parents, a young boy and girl, and Grandpa was visiting.
The kids had a great time playing together on the beach and in the water. On the beach...while the adults sat in the shade of the trees, the girls worked on a “crab-itat”. They made up a word to describe the sand enclosure they made for the hermit crabs they collected on the beach. Using supplies from the beach, the girls made a bridge with twigs, shade with leaves on a twig, shells upturned to hold water, and ramps for climbing. The hermit crabs were very active. Some of them actually burrowed into the wall of the structure and went to sleep. Others started digging and did not stop until they made a small tunnel and escaped!
Out on the water we all took turns using the kayaks and paddle board that part of our crew paddled into shore. Z has grown into that blue kayak we bought back in Florida and has become very adept at moving it through the water. J tries hard to keep up, but her arms and legs are just a tad short.
We enjoyed yesterday at this beach so much that we decided to stay another day. The protection from the swell is really good, so we get the refreshing breeze blowing through the boat without much movement on the water.
The crew from the other boat anchored here called on the VHF this morning to tell us they were going to go into the beach for a short time, then they would be leaving. Most of our crew got on the kayaks and paddle board and headed into shore to join them. The three girls immediately started working on rehabbing the crabitat. It had suffered a little water damage since yesterday.
We all agreed this beach has been one of our favorites in Las Perlas. The water is some of the clearest we have seen, there are shade trees around the beach, rocks and reef reach out like arms on each side to keep the swell from sweeping in, there are enough shells to keep me looking for something interesting, and it is a great area for using the kayaks and paddle board.
People who do not go cruising often ask me what I do all day. I did not go into the beach this morning, because today was one of those days where I had so many things I wanted/needed to get done, so I will tell you what I did all morning...I washed up the breakfast dishes, then since we are running out of bread, I mixed up some bread dough so I could wash up those dishes, too. We did school, and while we were doing that, Dave did his and my laundry. He does the washing and wringing out (that is the hard part for me), and I hang everything out to dry. I stopped doing school for a few minutes and took my laundry assistant, J, out on deck and we hung up the wet clothes. Then, we went back to doing school. After school was done, I made enchiladas for lunch. After cleaning up after lunch, it was time to take down the dry laundry, and fold it.
Usually, all of these things do not happen on the same day, but they did today. Also, with full disclosure, I must say Sarah would have made lunch today if I had asked her to. We usually take turns fixing lunch, but she would have been happy to make lunch on “my” day if I said I needed the help.
So, when someone asks me what we do all day, I want to say, “You may not believe this, but...”
As much as we enjoyed being at Isla de Fuenche/Platanal, we are all agreed that we want to see as much of Las Perlas as we can while we are here. That means we need to keep moving, so we can visit many of the anchorages found around the islands.
The distances between the islands are fairly short, so, it does not take much time to move to a new location. Most of the islands we have anchored by have had only few people or no people living on them. Sometimes we shared anchorages with a few other boats, and sometimes we have had the whole anchorage and beach to ourselves.
When we anchored at Playa Grande today, we were the only boat there. Soon one ketch came in, then here came a catamaran, and later, another ketch put down an anchor. Two of the crews were from the Seattle area, but they did not know each until they met at an anchorage in Mexico. The other crew was from Argentina. Z and J were happy there were kids on two of the other boats. One girl was their age! Soon, the girls were busy dragging palm fronds to a spot on the beach for the teepee they were planning to build. The girl’s older brother helped the girls stand the palm fronds on end and secure them.
We met all of these people on the beach this afternoon. Everyone has their own story about how they ended up here on this beach today. I always enjoy hearing those stories. The other stories I find interesting are why people choose the name they have on their boat. Some of the names are obvious words related to the sea and sailing, like “Sea Star”. Some of the names are clever, like “The Office”...as in “they are at the office”. Some are words no one recognizes in any language. Turns out they took letters from everyone in the family’s name and made up a boat name. There is always a good story about the boat name.
We left Isla Pedro Gonzales at high tide today. Even moving around at high tide, we were sometimes passing through areas of 18-20 feet. Can you imagine what the depth of the water is at low tide? Fortunately, the charts we have seem to be correct and we have found good places to anchor exactly where the chart said they would be.
We had a very calm night in the protected anchorage at Isla Pedro Gonzales last night. After breakfast, it was time to decided what we were going to do today...stay or go.
The people we met on the beach yesterday were all planning on moving on today. The little girl who played with Z and J yesterday begged her mom to let them play together again today before they left. Her mom talked to Sarah and they agreed to meet up on the beach this morning around 1000 so the kids could play together.
Having made those arrangements, we needed to start school a tad early and get today’s school work done before it was time to go to the beach. I was happy to do school early and finish by 1000, but I did point out that at 0815.8:15 a.m. the tide was about as low as it would go, and that was the exact time I needed to be on the uncovered rocks near the beach looking for moonstones. I told everyone last night I wanted to look for moonstones at low tide after I heard the boy on one of the boats found some last night. I could not do both school and moonstones.
I am grateful to Dito. He was wanting to type on his book manuscript as he does most mornings while we do school (he is writing a science fiction novel). He said if I would do school so J could go to the beach and play with her new friend, he would go on the paddle board over to where the beach meets the rocks at low tide and look for moonstones for me. I agreed to that. About an hour later, Dito came paddling back to the boat with several moonstones for me! Moonstones are pieces of a quartz rock that have been rounded by the motion of the sea pushing the rocks around in the sand. If you hold them in front of a light, they are translucent.
I will enjoy the moonstones, but I will especially enjoy the memory of Dito taking time to go search for them and find them for me.
We woke up at Isla Ambon this morning and around 0930 was low tide. We all got in the dinghy and headed out to explore the area. The ocean was revealing all the near-by beaches. The one that caught our eye was a sand spit that joined the beach on the island with a large rock outcropping. We pulled the dinghy up on the sand near the outcropping and immediately started crossing on the sand spit to the beach. Today’s photos were all taken on or near the sand spit. We were there exploring for about a half hour when we realized the tide had started coming in and the middle of the sand spit was disappearing quickly. We all made sure we made it back to the sand by the dinghy quickly.
As we motored back to EXIT ONLY, we went by both of the other two boats in the anchorage and said, “Good morning”. We have met both boats in other places in Panama. The people in one boat are from Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, and the people on the other boat are from Canada and England.
Back at the boat, it was time to move. Sarah made lunch and I punched down and shaped the bread dough. Dave and Dito started up the engines, brought up the anchor and we headed out. Our destination was Isla Coronado.
We were headed to Isla Coronado, because two “kid” boats our junior crew (Z and J) knows well are both there right now. There is a girl and boy on one boat and a boy on the other. All of the kids are close in age and enjoy playing together.
We have heard through the coconut telegraph that there are two grocery stores on the island of Contadora. Dito and a friend from another boat walked to the closest store yesterday. Took those young guys about 15 minutes of walking to the first grocery store. The other grocery store is another 5 minutes farther.
I decided I wanted to go check out the stores for myself and told the crew last night I wanted to go this morning. Turns out, everyone else except Dito wanted to go, too. Always good to get off the boat and stretch our legs and it is fun to see new places, but knowing there will be ice cream “somewhere out there” is inspiring, too!
After breakfast this morning, we started school earlier than usual, so we would finish earlier than usual and could go shopping before lunch. Dito took all of us into shore in the dinghy and we met the folks from the other boat on the beach. The four kids and five adults started up the paved road that ends right at the beach. The travel book describes the island well...”the island is small, but hilly”. That is a perfect description of the walk we did today.
The first supermercado we came to after 20 minutes of walking was Super Mercado Contadora. We did a quick walk through and decided we would stop there again on our way back. We walked about 10 more minutes and found a second supermercado. The second one had a small enclosed “cool” room where the eggs, fruits, and vegetables were displayed nicely n baskets.
We bought a few things, then continued about 5 minutes more to the other side of the island. There was a hotel right on the beach and the small airport building was located near-by. It was time to turn around and retrace our steps to the first supermercado. They had a few different things on the shelves...and ice cream! We paid for our purchases and headed back to the beach.
We did school this morning, because we did not have school on Thursday morning. At the same time, Dave ran the water maker and Dito took took three jerry jugs in the dinghy to go find gasoline for the dinghy engine. It was a busy morning for everyone.
By lunch time, everyone had completed their tasks. School was over. Dave had filled the water tank and the miscellaneous buckets we fill for laundry water and use for a freshwater rinse-off after going to the beach. Dito was back with 12 gallons of gasoline. He found the yacht club dock (but never saw a yacht club, because there is not one there) and asked the man at the far end of the dock for gas. The man said there was not any gas. Dito said he only needed a few gallons...12. The man said, “OK”, and sent his helper to fill the three jerry jugs from a gas pump. The man said, “That will be $64.” Dito told him that he only had $60...and the man took it and said, “OK”.
There photos I put up today are from our walk to town yesterday. Our main mission was to find a grocery store, and we found two super mercados, island style. There is an airstrip on the island where small planes and helicopters come daily, bringing tourists and residents to the island. The end of the airstrip is on the south side of the island where we are anchored, so we watch the planes come in and land. The airplane photo was taken at the north end of the airstrip on the other side of the island.
The next photo is a funky road sign pointing out where to find all of the beaches located on different parts of the island.
The last photo is of our group walking on a paved road on the island that goes up and down over the hilly landscape. We were with friends from another boat, the parents and their two young children. I liked the line of kids walking in the culvert!
We planned to head south from Isla Contadora this morning, but when we woke up, we saw the whitecaps dancing across the water and felt the winds pushing us around at anchor. We decided we would wait until after breakfast and make a decision about leaving.
There was another reason we did not go rushing off this morning. Last night, Z and J went to a sleepover with their friends on a boat anchored near-by. We all knew this family from Shelter Bay Marina and the kids have played together often in Panama City and their parents became friends, too. These folks originally planned to sail with us in Las Perlas, but had to change that plan due to some boat work they are planning to do. They were able to come to Contadora for a few days, so we came back to Contadora to meet up with them and friends on another boat. All three of these boats have kids on board that are close in age and like to play together.
Dito went over in the dinghy to pick Z and J up mid-morning. They had a wonderful time with their friends and were sad about EXIT ONLY leaving and heading south. They were also just a tad tired. If we stayed at Contadora another day and night, Z and J could rest, then still have one more afternoon at the beach with their friends. Everyone seemed happy with that plan.
The two families met on the beach in the afternoon. The parents and kids stayed on the beach, while Dave and I decided to walk to the closest grocery store. There are no sidewalks, so we were walking on the narrow paved road that up and down and around the hills of the island. We had to get out of the way when we heard vehicles coming. There are a few cars and trucks on the island, but the majority of residents and tourists were driving golf carts or ATVs. The road meanders through a rainforest and it was fascinating to see the tall trees with long vines coming all the way down to the ground. We even saw a deer foraging for food in the trees.
Speaking of food, I put up a photo of the small fresh produce shelves in supermercado #2 the other day. Today, I put up a photo of the produce table in supermercado #1. All supplies for the island arrive by boat or airplane.
The winds blew hard enough to keep the white caps moving by all day. Everyone enjoyed spending another day on Isla Contadora!
We did get up and leave Contadora after breakfast. Our destination was about 3.5 hours south, off the eastern coast of Isla del Rey, the largest island in Las Perlas.
After all the wind drama we had yesterday, today the wind was very light and we motored most of the way. We did try to put up a sail but there was not enough wind to keep the sail filled.
We headed to Isla Espiritu Santo, because we had heard the area was very beautiful. Of course, we think everywhere we have gone in Las Perlas has been scenic, so we wanted to be sure and go to this island.
We arrived at Isla Espiritu Santo and anchored after lunch. Unfortunately, the tide was coming in, so we could see only slivers of the beaches as the water covered them up to the high tide mark near the trees.
The good news was the water was warm and fairly clear where we were anchored. Dave and Dito decided they were going to clean the bottom of the boat. Being on a mooring in Panama City for a month had given time for a lot of growth on the hulls. Barnacles were everywhere...on the props, on the rudders, on the keels. They had a little unexpected help from some local fish...we had a green plant, that looked like a beard, growing on the back edge of the sugar scoops and some fish in the anchorage came and ate it all off of both scoops! If only there was a fish that would knock off all the barnacles!
After consulting the tide tables, we figured out that tomorrow we can do school, eat an early lunch, and 1200 noon will be a good time to go exploring in the dinghy. It will be the end of low tide, so we can explore the beaches.
I mentioned our plan for today in yesterday’s blog entry. We did school, had an early lunch, put the dinghy in the water and took a ride around Isla Espiritu Santo (it is a small island).
Our first beach stop was on the opposite side of the island from where we are anchored. There were only a few shells on this beach. There was one area near the tree line where someone had cut down a tree and made a cayuco (hollowed out the tree to make a boat). The boat was long gone, but the tree stump and the pieces trimmed from the tree trunk were left behind to tell the story.
We also saw a large tree with spikes covering its trunk. We have been told that these are the kinds of trees where termites like to build their nests. Evidently, the anteaters do climb trees to get to termite nests, but they will not try to climb tree trunks that are covered in spikes.
Dito flew the drone today, so I can share a photo the drone took of the beach where people careen their boats. This particular beach is discussed in the local cruising guide and is recommended as a flat beach made of firm sand without rocks in the sandy area where you approach the beach.
“Careen” means we would take EXIT ONLY to that beach area as a high tide is falling and we would put anchors out to hold her in place as the tide went out. The boat would settle onto two keels on the sand. This access to the keels allows us to scrape the hull and adds coat of bottom paint if we want to do so. As the high tide comes in again, the beach disappears, the boat starts to float, the anchors are taken back on board, and you start the engines and move into deeper water to anchor.
We are especially concerned about having a clean hull when we leave Panama for the Galapagos in a few weeks, because one of the strictest requirements for going to Galapagos is you must have clean hulls. A diver will be going down and inspecting the hull/hulls of every visiting boat. If the hull is declared “not clean enough”, the boat is sent 40 miles out to sea to clean the hull again, before it can return and be checked again.
The third beach we explored had reddish colored sand. It was a little steep rising up out of the water. While we were there, the tide had turned and the high tide was beginning to come in and hide the beaches again. We had our dinghy out of the water attached to an anchor on the beach when we arrived. As the water level rose, the water was coming under the dinghy and making it move. I was on “dinghy watch”. When the waves came in and lifted the dinghy, I pulled on the anchor chain and made the dinghy come up higher on the beach. After I did that about four times, we all got in the dinghy and left.
I know y’all can tell there is a bigger story there somewhere. Let’s just say, when you see your dinghy moving away from the beach by itself, once is enough. We all will make sure it will never happen again!
The boat was moving today while we had school. The winds were light, so sitting at the table in the salon was not a problem. We anchored off of Isla Canas.
After lunch, we got in the dinghy and headed toward a beach at the south end of Isla Puerco. At low tide, the rocky spit revealed a beach that went from one side of the tip of the island to the other. The windward side had big waves crashing in, while the leeward side (where we were anchored) was calm and smooth. To add to the beauty of the beach, there was a mix of tan and black sand.
Next, we stopped at a beach on the west side of Isla Puerco. There were many pieces of larger broken shells laying around on the beach and in the rocks. At the edge of the beach where the rainforest began, there was one of those thorn trees where the termites like to build protected nests. This tree still had some beautiful flowers on its limbs. I find it interesting that such a “rough, tough looking” tree like this has such delicate flowers.
Our last stop was at a black and white sand beach on Isla Canas. The white sand was higher up on the beach and the black sand was down at the edge of the water. Dito flew the drone and I really like the photos the drone took of the dinghy with Dave and Z by the bow and J and I back by the stern. The drone recorded Sarah, Z, and J drawing letters to spell out “maxingout.com” in the sand, too.
We did school and had lunch, then headed into the beach. Right away we noticed some differences about this beach. One end of it had a channel from the ocean to a large pool of brackish water back by the tree line. On the chart, this water is named the “Rio Cacique”. We had heard you could explore the river by high tide when the banks were full, but we decided some of those crocodiles we have heard about (but have not seen) might like that kind of environment, too.
There were two pangas (metal high-sided open boats with engines) anchored off the beach at the other end. We could see well-used paths leading back into the trees. Evidently, some locals either live here or have gardens that they tend here. We saw the people come and go in the distance, but did not meet any of them.
As we approached the beach, we could see light tan sand near the high tide tree line and black sand near where the surf surged in. There were small white mounds all over the black sand, making it look like a polka dotted beach.
When we investigated the “polka dots”, we discovered they were mounds made by crabs. As the tide goes out and strips of sand are revealed again, the crabs start digging their holes. That is where they will stay most of the time until the high tide brings the water back. There are other marks around their holes that are made by the crabs scraping a thin layer of sand and rolling it into a ball...over and over and over again. We think that is how they find things to eat in the sand.
We have seen some spectacular sunsets in Las Perlas. The one this evening had me “seeing” a fire-breathing dragon flying toward the sun. What do you think? Have I been spoiled by seeing so many magical sunsets? Whether there is a dragon or not, I am grateful for such memorable sunsets.
We left our sheltered bay at the bottom of Isla del Rey this morning and motor-sailed westward toward Isla San Jose. We did well sitting at the table in the salon doing school for the first hour or so, but the wind came up and we were moving to windward...never fun. Finally, we gave up on school for today, put the books away, and put the leaves of the table down.
If you look at a map of Las Perlas, it is easy to see Isla San Jose and the bottom of Isla del Rey are at the southern end of Las Perlas. There are not so many cruising boats down this far. Most people prefer the wide variety of protected anchorages found in the central and northern islands of the archipelago. I think I prefer them, too!
I took a photo of our electronic chart as EXIT ONLY passed south of Punta Coco on our way westward. The current was very strong as it followed the curve of the coast. The swells coming in from the open ocean to the south were getting larger. There were standing waves (caused by wind against current). There were a lot of these “square” (yes, they look squared off on top) waves. We felt like we were blue water sailing. I included a drone photo of a sand drawing from yesterday’s beach exploration today, because it shows EXIT ONLY sailing on a globe with happy faces near-by.
Fortunately, we found a protected anchorage here on Isla San Jose. As we came inside the protection of Punta Cruz, we could see part of a rock house on the promontory. I took a photo from our rocking and rolling boat. We have read in the cruising guide that this is a privately owned island. We are wondering if the rock house belongs to the owner. What a view!
We probably could have gone in on the beach today for a short time, but knowing the island is privately owned and a house overlooks this bay does make us hesitate. It turned out we did not have to make a decision about going to the beach. The wind did diminish today, but the surf on the beach was wild! We could see the surf pounding the shore from the boat. We knew we would not want to risk overturning our dinghy in those waves. We did that once in Thailand on our last trip. We have never forgotten that experience.
Staying on the boat all day is never our first choice, but there are always things that can be done. In fact, today was “water making day”, so that was priority number one. Sarah and I did some inventorying of provisions we still have on board and what needs to be topped up when we get to Panama City. Z and J finished up their schoolwork, played some games, and read their Kindles. In the evening, Sarah popped popcorn and a downloaded movie provided entertainment. Tomorrow, we will find an accessible beach!