The jump from Isla Gamez to Golfito is about a hundred miles... too far to make in one day. Friends had told us of a passable overnight anchorage at Punta Balsa, on the east side of the Burica Peninsula, on the very western edge of Panama.
It's 35 miles from Isla Gamez to Punta Balsa, so we left in the early morning, motoring north around Isla Parida. Again, virtually no wind. In heavier conditions, the way north and west around Parida might be risky due to relatively shallow water (15' deep). Some of these areas would break in heavy seas. Even though we've had less than 10 knots for nearly a week now, there is still a 6-8' long Pacific swell.
We have not been 'off soundings' in so long that Dave thought our depth sounder wasn't working. But the area between the islands in the Bay of Chiriqui (where we've been for the last week) and the Burica Peninsula gets very deep--1500 feet deep.
We were only about a mile off the waypoint we'd been given before we finally 'found the bottom' at 500 feet. It still didn't look like we'd find any protection from the considerable swell rolling in. But we kept on going in.
The bottom came up rapidly, but was still at 80 feet a hundred yards from the waypoint. We went in very slowly and finally, we found the little pinnacle... it shallowed up to about 20'. We motored around in a cloverleaf to make sure we had plenty of swinging room (the tidal range is still about 10' here). We finally dropped anchor in about 25' at half tide. The swell had dropped off in the last quarter mile, due to shoals that extend from the point just south of us. We could see heavy breakers
for quite a ways out from shore.
During the night the conditions changed from 'really rolly' to 'not bad', as the current and wind changed. The current runs along the shore and reverses with the tide. For about 6 hours during the night, with no wind, the current held us beam to the swell, and we rolled like heck. But the wind was zero and we knew we were stuck well to the bottom, so it wasn't dangerous, just uncomfortable.
We have only seen one other cruising boat during this whole trip, and only a couple fishing boats. We are in the 'skip zone' for the Panama Pacific net, so we can't hear the friends we just left in Panama.
We are looking forward to getting in to Golfito, where there is a fully protected anchorage, and reportedly a small cruising community.
We left our spot in the Contreras early in the morning, and motored in mostly calm winds to the Secas.
The guidebook shows about 4 anchorages on the NE side of Isla Cavada. What we found was that the sketch chart is not very accurate as to depths. Each bay with an anchor in it shoaled up rapidly, and we could never get in all the way to the anchor. And the chartlet is just a little off (the features do not all match up). Our raster chart was no more accurate. So we carefully felt our way around and ended up right where our friends on Carina and RDreamz told us to anchor. They also found the other
anchorages too shallow and too confining.
In each bay, we saw one mooring in the exact best spot to anchor. Just inshore of the mooring is where the bottom came up fast. So pick a spot just outside of the mooring.
The northern anchorage, where we ended up, is off a pretty little sand beach with palm trees. We anchored near a rocky pile (we could see it on the depth sounder and just barely make it out from deck). Dave managed to pick out a nice sand spot in 20' of water. The anchorage was passable in the mild conditions we are experiencing... a little rolly, but not too bad.
In the morning I snorkeled the whole area, and did find some live coral and tropical fish just inshore of us, but the water was disappointingly murky. Friends passing thru here a few years ago mentioned snorkeling and finding clear water here even during rainy season. But not for us this time.
We also did a little gunkholing in the dinghy. The resort here looks deserted. We met one caretaker fishing off the floating dock in the southernmost bay. He said the resort is closed until December 15.
We spent all Saturday here, and expected to be inundated with weekenders by Saturday afternoon. We did see 2-3 small sport fishing boats trolling around the island, and 2 of them anchored overnight, but away from us. They were gone at first light.
We left the Secas at about 10am. The wind as usual was about 2 knots from the SW, so we motored most of the 20 miles. Toward noon an onshore breeze developed and we were mostly sailing for a little while.
The guidebook mentioned that cruisers favored the Punta Jurel anchorage at Isla Parida. There is a small resort there that welcomed cruisers. So that is where we planned to stop. But on our way in, we passed close to Isla Gamez, and that looked just beautiful.
We went on in to Punta Jurel, and put the anchor down for lunch (we were starving by then). Either the resort is no longer functioning, or it is in sleep mode for rainy season. The beach looked junky (buckets and things scattered about) and not like it was being maintained as a resort. We could see one building in the trees with a guy sitting on the porch, but no other signs of life.
The anchorage itself was OK, but nothing special. So after a quick crew conference, we voted unanimously to go back out and anchor off Isla Gamez (only about a mile away).
This turned out to be a beautiful anchorage--the best so far on the Pacific side of Panama, in our opinion. Nice holding in heavy sand, a gorgeous beach with palm trees ashore, some wind to keep us cool, and very little swell. I could have stayed here for a week or more.
There were a couple of local boats picnicing at the beach on Sunday when we arrived, but they were gone by sundown. We had the whole place to ourselves all day Monday. We swam into the beach and found some coconuts. We burned our trash at low tide on the beach. There is supposed to be good snorkeling here, but again rainy season has rendered the water very cloudy, with only about 8 foot visibility. So we didn't even bother.
We got the usual evening heavy rain, with a little wind. But we were sheltered and secure. A very nice anchorage (this time of year).
We totally skipped Isla Coiba, which is no longer a penal colony and is now a national park. Until recently, there was a reasonable fee to stay for a day or two (something on the order of $10-$20 per night). But cruisers who arrived in Panama City just before we left said that they were asked for $100/day to stay there. ($20 pp per night, and $60 for the boat for the first night, and $40 for subsequent nights).
We wanted to go check it out for ourselves, to see if it really was that outrageous. But we're getting short on time and we just decided we'd skip it. I wanted to go, confirm the fee, and leave immediately (in protest) to make a point. But it seemed a little ridiculous to go to that extent (it's 2 hours motoring to get there, and 2 hours to get anywhere else).
So we went directly from Bahia Honda to the Contreras, going around the south and west end of Isla Medidor. (Someone had warned us not to go through the narrow slot between Medidor and the mainland, saying the currents and waves were nuts there).
We found a nice anchorage in the deep bay on the north side of Isla Brincanco, approximately where the Bauhaus guide indicates. The sketch chart, when used with the GPS and Sea Clear to plot the boat on the chart, isn't exactly accurate. But it is accurate from a visual standpoint. The best anchorage IS west of the prominent rocks, but the location that that plots in Sea Clear on the sketch chart is just EAST of the rocks.
We didn't get to do any exploring, because it started raining soon after we dropped anchor, and poured all night long. There were 2 fishing boats that came in late in the day and anchored in the NW corner of the bay. They were gone at dawn.
This island group is supposedly part of Coiba National Park, and we'd been warned by others that we might get asked to pay a fee to stay there. Our strategy was to resist paying and cite weather and just an overnight stop. With the dinghy up on deck, it's not too hard to argue that we didn't plan to go ashore. But the weather was so nasty that I think all the patrol boats wisely stayed in port. We never saw a soul. There is nothing that we could see ashore... one small beach and 2 palm trees,
and then heavy vegetation everywhere else.
On our last night in Bahia Honda, the heavens just opened up, and it poured all night long. The first hour of pouring rain is nice... it fills the water tank, washes the salt off the boat, etc. The next day, we left Bahia Honda in the rain, and sailed in the rain, and then it poured all night long again. Yesterday, it only threatened most of the day, but everywhere we looked were low black clouds. After 3 days of it, we are shouting ENOUGH!!!
Taking a close look at the weather map (http://weather.noaa.gov/pub/fax/PYEB11.TIF), I see that the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone has been sitting right over top of us again. Hopefully it will move a little south or a little north and leave us alone.
I see a gleam of sunshine in the Eastern sky this morning. The low black clouds that have surrounded us for the past 3 days have broken up some. Hopefully we'll get a sunny day today. (and by 11am, we'll probably be complaining about how hot it is! :) But we sure need a day of dry weather to chase the damp away.
The comments we heard about this bay seemed unanimously wonderful. The West Coasties all said "Better even than Bahia Santa Elena in Costa Rica." Since we haven't been to Bahia Santa Elena yet, we couldn't relate. However, our own reaction is WOW!
After nearly 2 weeks of rockin and rollin at the Flamenco anchorage in Balboa, and then 4 days of tenuous rolly anchorages, this is REALLY NICE.
Bahia Honda is a really deep bay where you can get total protection from the swell and the wind. And amazingly, it is very sparsely developed and so our anchorage feels very remote. We heard a waterfall ashore after the rain last night, and howler monkeys and various birds, too.
We are the only cruising boat here. We've only seen one other boat in the last 5 days of traveling, and they were headed the other way. From listening to the SSB nets, it seems nobody moves anywhere in the Panama/Costa Rica area this time of year.
We left Isla Cebaco about 10am yesterday, and headed NNW toward the coast. We wanted to sightsee the coast a little on our way to Bahia Honda. It is a beautiful and wild coast. Not much in the way of habitations evident here. Our Panama road map doesn't show any roads in this area. And there is no cell phone service at all.
We did check out Puerto Escondido, the next bay to the SE of here. Tao 8 told us it was a very nice anchorage. It did look nice, but we are glad we carried on to Bahia Honda. Puerto Escondido is a typical semi-exposed swelly anchorage compared to here.
Soon after we dropped anchor, we were visited by Domingo, a talkative old guy in a cayuca. We had heard about Domingo from other cruisers... He and his family live across the bay on a finca (farm) and he can supply some fresh veggies, and also can hustle gas, diesel, and 'dry goods' from the town.
Domingo talked a mile a minute in Spanish, and we only half followed everything he said. But he did invite us over to his house, we will probably go for a visit this afternoon. He mentioned there were children there and suggested we could bring some cookies and maybe school supplies for the kids. Later we were also visited by one of Domingo's sons, Kennedy. He was looking for fishing line and lures. His opening line was "You have a very nice boat, mucho dinero". Dave told him he would look
and see if there is something he could spare. I don't think we should just give stuff to anyone who asks. But it's hard to say no sometimes, when we have so much and they have so little.
We had all 3 chart programs (SeaClear with the Bauhaus chartlets, Nobeltec with Raster charts, and MaxSea with older CMap charts) up and recording our trail as we came in. The Bauhaus chart is still the most accurate, except we found at least one shoal (5' or less at mid tide) where he has a 6 meter sounding. CMap and the Raster charts seem to agree with each other pretty well and are both off positionally by about .2 miles. Our raster chart says it is WGS72.
In the Bauhaus Guide it is the '6' (meter) depth indication, due north of the eastern edge of Punta Miel and SSW of Isla Levin. (on our raster chart, which has depths in fathoms, it's where the 3 1/4 spot is).
It's at 07-45.096N 081-32.515W. We were exploring at low-rising tide (about +2 feet according to our tide chart) and trying to find an anchoring spot in one of the bays as you come in, on the west side. We could see the one spot that is noted with 1 meter indications in the first bay, and went around that and into the blue area on the north side of the first bay. By the time we got to reasonable anchoring depths there, that seemed to too confined to anchor in. So we carried on around the point
to the north of it, outside the blue shading, to go into the next bay. We were RIGHT OVER the 6 meter depth indicator when the depths went from 30' - 15' - 5' in one boat length. I am not sure we touched, but we backed right out of there, nosed out a little further and tried again, and got the same. So then we went way around the point.
We ended up a tiny bit east of the 14 and 10 meter spots in the westernmost bay, at 07-45.124 and 81-32.800W. There is a narrow shelf here that is anchorable depths, a small beach at low tide, and waterfall we can hear ashore to the south of us. A little wind comes over the low spot in the hills to the SW. There are no obvious habitations in this bay, but we did see some guys get dropped off by lancha in the low spot to the SW...not sure where they are going, except maybe to hike across the low
spot for a lancha to Isla Medidor, where we have heard there are some very large foreign residences under construction.
In the last blog post, we had just rounded Punta Mala. We actually turned the motor off and did some sailing that morning. However, soon after we finally shut the motor down, true to form, the wind went light and on our nose about an hour later, so we had to turn the motor back on. I think I need to add 'miles actually sailed without motor' to my monthly progress log!
As I keep telling Dave, we'd actually sail more if we weren't trying to go everywhere and do everything.
So picking up from yesterday's blog... the destination yesterday was Benao or Punta Guanico, about 10 miles apart just a little west of Punta Mala. Benao is open to the southwest, where both the wind and waves are coming from this time of year, so we weren't sure it would be a good anchorage. But friends had said you could tuck up way in and it's OK in mild weather.
We got to Benao about noon, and went in to have a look. Conditions were probably about as settled as you'd ever get during rainy season along that coast. Where the Bauhaus guide had an anchor didn't look that good... too exposed to the SW winds and southerly swell. But on the west end of the bay, there was a spot where one or two boats could anchor up and be a little more out of the wind/swell. (Approx 07-25.675N 80-12.205W) The bottom looked OK on the fish finder. But we did not stop. We wanted
to go a little further so our next day wasn't so long.
So we carried on to the Punta Guanico anchorage, about 10 miles further west. We stayed close in to sightsee along the coast. (watch out for fish buoys crossing the bay, but I think they are long lines, not nets).
Approaching the spot where both guide books said there was an anchorage, it didn't look very calm. But we crept in closer and motored up and down the coast a little, and found a fairly nice spot that seemed tranquil. (07-19.709N 80-20.773W) Since the tidal range is 'only' 10 feet here, we anchored in about 15' deep at mid tide. The bottom was very good holding.
We heard howler monkeys in the trees in the late afternoon. We could see the town further north in the bay, and hear music coming from a cantina (it was Saturday night), but weren't really interested in going in. A open fishing boat passed us in the early evening, going out to fish for the night. We saw 3 lights out near the point all night long, and they were still there when we left in the morning.
I found out later that the long low island to the north of our anchorage (Isla Cana) is home to one of the most prolific nesting grounds for the Ridley sea turtle, and it is nesting season. It would have been nice to have explored a little, but we are running out of time, and didn't want to lose this weather window to finish the most difficult part of the passage.
The next morning, we again got up at 5am and motored out and headed westward again. The Guanico anchorage had turned out to be very peaceful. But during dry season, with northerly winds, Benao might have been a better choice.
On our passage from Guanico around Punta Mariato we experienced the worst of the current-against-wind conditions that people told us to expect along this coast. We had a 1-2 knot following (westbound current) and light westerly winds and a large SW swell. The current made the waves very steep and close together. We buried the bow several times, even though the wind was only blowing about 5 knots. The worst part was the last 10 miles approaching Punta Mariato.
With the following current (and the motor on) we made very good time and rounded Punta Mariato around noon. Though our original plan was to head for Ensenada Naranjo for the night (#4 on our chart), we decided we had time to check out that anchorage and go all the way on to Isla Cebaco. So we stayed in close around the point, and went up through the slot between Isla Roncador and the mainland (in a heavy rain shower) and poked our nose into Naranjo. Again, it looked like, under the current conditions
(light SW winds and mild southerly swell), it would be an OK overnight stop. The swell does find its way in there, but gently so, and it looked like a good bottom for anchoring. Anchor spot approx 07-16.437N 80-55.510W
Then we carried on NW to Isla Cebaco, the SW corner, to an anchorage also called Ensenada Naranja (note that this Naranja ends in 'a' and the other one in 'o'). I did not number this one on our chartlet, but it is roughly due south of spot #5.
We had some decent sailing winds the last 2 hours, but since we'd decided to push on all the way to Cebaco, we had to keep the motor on to keep the speed up, so we could make the anchorage before dark. It looked like, in the SW conditions, that the traditional anchorage in the SE corner of the bay would be totally exposed, so we needed time to try to find a good anchoring spot.
We first went to the west side of the bay to look at what appeared to be on the chart, an anchorable spot with more protection. But it is not a designated anchoring spot in either guide book. And we agreed. It just looked too small to us, and maybe rocky on the bottom. Not near as anchorable as it appeared on the chart. It might be worth trying if you had more time to fool around.
So then went to where both guidebooks had the anchor, on the east side of the bay. We found some protection from the swell, but, as it appears on the chart, it is pretty much totally open to the southwest. We found about 6 moorings around the spot where the guidebook shows the anchor. Carina had told us that during the winter months, there is a fuel barge stationed in this part of the bay, and it's a popular stop for the sport fishing boats to get fuel and overnight on their way from Costa Rica
to Panama. Carina hadn't mentioned the moorings, though. But the fuel barge doesn't arrive until the winds change to a northerly quadrant, when the bay is well protected. Now, no barge, and all the moorings are empty--we were the only ones in the bay.
We poked around and found a bit of room shoreward of the moorings. The bottom is good sand and the anchor hooked up smartly. The light SW wind, blowing right into the cove, at least held us into the swell (until it dropped and went NW after dark). Since the wind dropped, we have been drifting around all night in essentially no wind, sometimes beam-on to the swell. But after the 3rd day of 'up a dawn, going all day', we were pretty exhausted, and slept pretty well in spite of the roll.
Our anchoring position is 07-29.528N 81-13.329W.
Note that on our Raster chart, this point shows as slightly inland. This chart is an old one, with WGS-72 as the datum. There may be a newer version of this chart that plots correctly, but be cautious.
Chart Name: M21582S0 - Bahia Montijo
Source Scale: 1:45000
Horizontal Datum: WGS-72
Just before dark, a Canadian boat named Tao 8 sailed into the anchorage and dropped nearby. We chatted with Larry for awhile, swapping experiences in anchorages. They are on their way from Golfito to Panama City.
The latest project is 'eyebrows' for the dodger.
We have 2 big awnings that cover the whole boat. One goes from the mast to the forestay, and the other goes from the mast back to the arch in the back. However, we rarely put them up because (a) it's a big production to haul out and put up and (b) we never know when we'll get slammed with a thunderstorm and gusts to 40 knots. But having a little sun protection, especially just in front of the dodger and over the main cabin area, would be a good thing.
So we sketched up a design for what Dave calls 'eyebrows'. A relatively short, flat sunbrella awning that we can leave up in fairly substantial winds. I made it in 2 pieces (one strip for either side of the mast). They fasten to the hard dodger top on the outboard side (just grommets and line), and fasten together under the boom at the back, and go forward to shrouds outboard of the mast. They turned out pretty good and we're congratulating ourselves on a good design... something that's easy to put up and leave up in most weather, and gives us some sun protection and some rain protetion.
We finally got all our critical repairs done by last Saturday. Now we've been waiting out an unusual bout of high winds, I think caused by tropical activity in the Western Caribbean. Gosh I miss Chris Parker.
However, I am finally accumulating enough weather links to feel like I have all the weather available to me as a layperson. And starting to feel like I know what is 'normal weather'.
We think we have a window to get around Punta Mala (Bad Point in Spanish) coming up on Saturday/Sunday. So we plan to leave here tomorrow and make 2 day-hops to get positioned for a rounding of Punta Mala on Saturday. All the anchorages we've selected are kind of iffy... open roadsteads that should be protected enough for a rolly overnight anchorage. But we're not sure. The guidebooks don't cover this part of the coast (from Panama City direct to Punta Mala) because, coming in the other direction,
the advice is to go via the Las Perlas islands, to totally avoid rounding Punta Mala at all. But that doesn't make sense for us, because it would add about 90 miles to our windward journey.
So if we get to one of our selected anchorages and it is totally untenable, we'll just have to gut it out, keep going, or go back.
The good news is that it has been mostly sunny and cooler here the last few days. The winds have been really gusty in the 15-20 range. It's a nice change from hot, humid, rainy, and zero wind. It kinda feels like fall.
We've spent some time swapping cruising info with the boats headed into the Caribbean, and info on Panama and Golfito, Coasta Rica for us. Both Carina and RDreamz are headed into the Pacific this season, so we've also spent some time swapping info with them.
I have also been working on understanding the Pacific weather products, so we can figure out weather windows. Unfortunately, it sounds like getting to Costa Rica from here is going to be another nearly upwind and maybe upcurrent slog for 400 miles. Fortunately it's light air season, and we don't have to do it all in one jump.
There are taxis hanging out at the marina parking lot. We met one who was very nice, with a/c taxi, speaks english. Ramon's cell is 6452-7157. It's $30 to the international airport. Ramon will do 'by the hour' taxi $10/hour and he knows most of the places that the cruisers want to go.
There are buses that stop at the marina but as yet do not have any experience taking them yet. We understand that the route here either ends near the Albrook Mall or at Centro Commercial.
Though everyone, including the cruising guides, refer to it as 'the Japanese submarine', we understand that it is really a 1860's pearl-diving submarine.
A marine archaeologist friend of Dave's by the name of Jim Delgado was here in 2001 and thought it didn't look very Japanese-like. He was very familiar with Japanese sub construction after spending years in the Pacific documenting Pacific WWII ship wrecks.
After encountering the sub on the beach while on vacation, he researched it some more and after spending time here again in 2002 and 2004 with several friends, including Larry Murphy formerly of the National Park Service, he eventually established that it was a "lost" pearl-diving submarine, 'Sub Marine Explorer', built by a German engineer in 1865. It is one of only 5 surviving submarines built before 1870. Read about the find here. Jim Delgado, the archaeologist, is a former historian with the US National Park Service, and is now the director of the Vancouver BC Maritime Museum. He and Dave worked together in the Pacific in the late 1980s, documenting Japanese wrecks.
To sum up the history of the Sub Marine Explorer... a German engineer, Julius Kroehl, built the sub in 1865 to do pearl diving in the Las Perlas islands. But they didn't know about 'the bends'... a problem that occurs when breathing compressed air at deep depths and then surfacing without properly decompressing. The boat arrived in Panama in Dec 1866 and did make several successful pearl dives to deep depths, but by Sep 1867 the engineer and all the sub operators died of 'the bends'. The next/last documented attempt to use the sub occurred in August 1869 when over a period of 11 days it recovered $2K worth of pearls (a LOT of money in those days). But again, soon after, all its crew died of the bends. The sub was then was abandoned, apparently beached on San Telmo and left for good.
The Bauhaus Panama guide book mentioned the sub, but only that it was a Japanese sub on the north side of San Telmo. So we got on the VHF and got a waypoint from s/v Carina. Our Tides & Currents 3.0 program seems to be pretty accurate, and it indicated that low tide was about noon. So we set out from the Punta Cocos anchorage (S end of Isla del Rey) and arrived right about noon.
The sub was clearly visible on the beach at low tide, but would be covered at high tide. It was shaped like a fat cigar and is pretty large. I am amazed at how well-preserved it is after sitting in salt water for 150 years. We took a zillion pictures and will post some here as soon as we get internet.
Sub position: 08-16.896N 078-50.743W
Our anchorage: 08-17.050N 078-50.801W (day anchorage only, in settled weather)
There is an uncharted rock/reef outside/north our anchored position that was visible at low tide at APPROX 08-17.136N 078-50.815
On a settled day with a fast dinghy, you could also dinghy to see the sub from the Punta Cocos anchorage.
We left Taboga about 8:30 for the 40 mile run to the Las Perlas islands. We had chosen an anchorage on the north coast of Contadora, because someone told Dave that there was good diving there. The guidebooks talk a lot about the winter weather, but they don't say much about the summer weather. And we don't know the normal weather patterns here.
We had a nice day motoring across. We trolled two fishing lines, and did get several hits, but all the fish we pulled in were Bonito, which aren't very good eating.
When we arrived at the anchoring spot, it looked OK. Here again there were moorings in the anchorage, but also a couple of anchored cruising boats. So we picked a spot between empty moorings and anchored in 25'. Checking my trusty electronic tide table, we were at high tide, with a 15 foot tidal range. That means that at low tide, our 25' depth will shrink to 10' !!!
During the evening, dark clouds started to build. We had a pretty good lightning show after dinner. We were a little apprehensive about what the weather might bring during the night. But the weather held until early morning, when we really got hit... hard rain and lots of lightning and thunder very close by. We filled our water tanks and put the valuable electronics in the oven. Fortunately, no direct hits from the lightning.
The forecast was for strong SWly winds, and we were a little exposed to the SW. We heard a couple of boats on the net talking about Isla Pedro Gonzales. We remembered reading an SSCA letter from another cruiser saying that Pedro Gonzales was the best anchorage they'd seen on the whole west coast of Central America.
So when the rain let up, we set off for Pedro Gonzales.
We arrived on Sunday afternoon, and understandably, the harbor and the beach was pretty full of power boats from Panama City. As far as we could tell, everyone was on a mooring.
We hadn't thought to ask anyone about Taboga specifically, though we had gotten several tips from some new friends on Rhapsody on where to go in the Las Perlas (Pearl) Islands. The only cruising boats we could see in the harbor looked unoccupied. Where there were no moorings, it was over 50 feet deep (at high tide). Even the outer harbor had 4-5 large (about 200 feet long) Tuna boats.
Finally we saw a dinghy coming out from shore to a power boat on a mooring. They looked like cruisers and not locals. We idled over nearby and asked them about anchoring and/or mooring. They recommended we call 'Libre' on channel 74 and ask about a mooring. We called a couple of times, but didn't get an answer. Then we heard Rhapsody, back in Balboa, calling us and telling us to go to 77. We still aren't quite sure exactly why, since Libre was close ashore somewhere, but Rhapsody (8 miles away)
could hear Libre answering us. So they relayed for us and directed us to a mooring.
Later, Chuy and Susan from Libre stopped by in their dinghy. They are a cruising couple from California who have put down roots at Taboga, and they now run 'Taboga Island Moorings'. You can call or email ahead for a mooring at 507-6442-5712 or firstname.lastname@example.org. They also do 'boat sitting' for people who need to leave the boat for a little while.
We didn't go ashore. It looked like a small town with a resort atmosphere... there is regular ferry service to Panama City/Balboa, and cell phone service, and even wifi. It's very popular with the Panamanians on the weekend, but gets a little sleepy on weekdays.
It was a nice enough anchorage, but a little rolly (our mooring was pretty far out). The only really bad thing was that the tuna boats ran their generators and lights all night long.
We have looked on all the used sail sites on and off for the past 2 years, and have been unable to find a used sail that would work. And by the time you buy it used and have it modified to do what we want with it... We talked to a few sailmakers at the last St. Pete boat show, and got some quotes. They were pretty expensive (in the $2000-$4000 range), so we put off doing anything.
But as the price of diesel fuel has been rising, and as we've been motoring around in light winds all summer long, we finally justified the expense by talking about cost savings at approx $4.50 per motoring hour here in Panama and probably more than that out in the South Pacific.
So with the ability to ship stuff to Panama pretty easily via Marine Warehouse, we went ahead and ordered a new Code 0 from Dave's favorite sailmaker (SuperSailmakers in Ft. Lauderdale, a Doyle loft). We took delivery of the sail in Colon just before we left... didn't even have a chance to get it out of the bag, though.
Finally, sitting on the mooring in Balboa, Dave hauled it out and he and Jim Yates (one of our visiting line handlers) rigged it up and got it rolled onto the furler.
With great anticipation, we rolled it out on our way to Taboga. It seemed the conditions were perfect... light winds on the beam.
It lasted about 10 minutes before the wind came up a little and broke the block at the top of the mast. Rats! And with the rise in wind came a wind shift... on our nose again.
The next day before we left the mooring, Dave found a replacement block and went up the mast to replace the broken one. (The cheek broke).
But on our way from Taboga to Contadora, the wind was almost on our nose the whole way. And, the distance was 40 miles to the closest anchorage, so we couldn't afford to stay out there messing around with sails all day. So we motored again. But we did notice that the lower attachment point of the sail, on our anchor tray, as far forward as we can put it, wasn't working out as anticipated. (the tray was lifting off the frame as we tensioned the luff).
So yesterday, hanging out at anchor at Isla Pedro Gonzales, Dave and Ron and Jim engineered a cobbled-up fix to the problem. I was busying doing other things, but there were sawing and drilling noises coming from the workshop. I'm sure Dave will explain the final solution when we have it working well. About dusk they seemed satisfied that what they had whipped up would work for now.
We are hoping to be able to sail today. We have 20 miles to go to the next anchorage.
A few facts:
- Only moorings there (no room to anchor right in this spot) - $22/night plus 5%
- Wifi available in the mooring field
- Free lancha, so you don't have to put your dinghy down
- Nice bar and restaurant
- BYC stands by on VHF 06
- The local cruisers are on VHF 74 and there is a net 8am every day except Sundays
- The HF net on this side is the Panama Pacific Net on 8143 USB, at 9am local time
We had to leave by Sunday afternoon, because Dave opted to check out of Panama at the Colon Yacht Club for Costa Rica (with intermediate stops), when we left Colon.
It was either that or check out of Colon for Balboa and have to check out of Balboa (another expense) later. What we didn't know when we made that decision was that we'd have to check out of Balboa, immigration-wise, within 48 hours of getting our Zarpe in Colon (or face a fine, or have to check back into Balboa). We were hoping the Balboa Immigration guy would let us stay til Mon morning, but no such luck.
So we left BYC yesterday and sailed 9 miles SW to the island of Taboga.