A part of Panama that even I could love!  It took us only a day to sail from Panama city to Las Perlas, beautiful winds, calm seas and you could actually see that we were leaving the smog behind.  What a blessing.  Our little Seamonkey was laden with fruits and vegetables, packaged meats, only 2 loaves of bread for Phil (a mistake we realized quite early on) and enough blocks of cheese for an army. 

Las Perlas is a common visiting spot for boats en route to Galapagos or those just getting away from the city.  Because it is so close it makes it really easy to get to.  Phil had carefully picked our anchorages from our Panama cruising guide, a purchase I wasn’t sure about at the time but was so worth it after the sailing we’ve done and the secret spots it let us find.  We sailed past Contdora, the island where most people sail to (closest to Panama city and has a tienda (shop) and facilities and looked over our shoulder to see a fleet of no less than 40 boats all anchored there, we had only just escaped that kind of madness and I wasn’t ready to sign up for another session of “the net” again.  I think Phil knew I needed to be away from people so he sailed me on to a tiny bit of island that had 17 feet of tide.  It is incredible to sit in one spot and watch the landscape shift around you.  The thing that took my breath away was the bird life.  It is the first time we had heard birds (with the exception of the mockingbirds and the damn parrots in a cage at Isla Perico) and it was beautiful.  That first night we lit the bbq, had a beer (not the most delicious as it had been frozen and thawed numerous times, but delicious none the less and enjoyed.  We had arrived at mid-high tide and tiw as amazng the next morening to see an island where there had only been water the day before.  We were woken up to the songs of birds singing on our rigging, and perhaps trying to make a nest in our folded up sail, we might never know! I jumped overboard and that is when we realized, that although we were in paradise it still had drawbacks.  The water was green and as thick as pea soup But worse than that was the state of our boat bottom.  Poor little seamonkey, barnacles almost an inch thick as far as the eye could see, tiny shrimp making a biofilm over everything.  I now understand so much better why people study natural things for materials sciences, those barnacles hung on with a lot of force better even than 5200!  So scraper in hand I went at it.  I was probably in the water close to an hour and when I came out I was as close to hypothermic as I had been sine my childhood swims in Emerald lake.  It is such a strange feeling to be shivering uncontrollably when it is 30 C outside.  I wrapped under a few blankets and when I finally warmed up we went to explore low tide land.  The tiny top of the mangrove bushes near us were now trees standing a solid 10 feet above the water level.  The small breaking rocks that we hadn’t even been able to see the day before was an island.  It was incredible.  We headed to low tide island first; the shells were amazing and the comb jellies, glimmering past us in the water.  Periwinkles, crabs in tide pools, so cool!  Then we headed to the islands that had “land bridges” at low tide.  Where the water had reached was now a scorched desert, barnacles crackling as I walked over them (and felt a little stab of revenge for all that the ones on the boat had put me through).  There was a river that was cut off at low tide with some amazing puffer fish, small fry and other pacific fabulous creature, a solid 10-15CC higher than the water coming in.  I found a beautiful scallop shell to go digging with and my biggest regret was not having a better pacific ID book.  Our last stop was the seashell beach.  It was like the Party beach we drove up to in Barbuda but only with whole beautiful pink shells.  It was beautiful.  A good rest under a tree, past some oyster catchers on a rock that we hadn’t seen on the way back home, one again reminding us of the dangers of crazy tidal regions and then to work on the boat.  These jobs are never done it seems.  Phil spent the afternoon putting our rain water catchment in place after scrubbing the dirt from the solar panels and roof, so gross!  In the meantime a boat with some fishermen came into our previously deserted bay, oh well; it was nice to have the place to ourselves while it lasted.  The next morning we decided to move on to another anchorage, this one featuring a fabulous long beach.  More than that was the bird life.  As we were sailing in we saw a flock of birds, at least in the hundreds fishing.  We couldn’t make out what kind they were but in our bay we saw passing flocks of pelicans, cormorants, terns, gulls, swallows.  It felt prehistoric watching them wheel about the boat and dive to fish.  They were everywhere, huge flocks flying past us, they roosted on some uninhabited islands nearby so that was our adventure for the next morning,  A beautiful picture perfect island,  small rocks and trees covered in white, turned out it was guano.  Palm trees that someone obviously was caring for.  Such a beautiful place.  Our trip to the shore in front of us had a long walk on the beach, but also a road going past so not quite that same deserted magic.  That afternoon we were again in the water scraping away, this time the visibility was even worse, like swimming in mud.  I couldn’t tell if the shrimp were from our boat or just passing along in the water but when I was done I was once again blue, but also covered in shrimp, yuck!  These are not the delicious eating kind, although I would have loved to have my revenge on them with their bigger cousins too.  Time to move on again, we sailed all day nearly 17 miles down to the southern end of Las Perlas to a beautiful anchorage, or it would have been if there wasn’t a huge swell rolling in.  As it was it was one of our harrier “check it out sessions”  Phil the surfer wasn’t happy with the shape of the wave breaking on the beach, I wasn’t happy with the roaring of the surf so in the end after a miraculous U turn we were out of there and looking for another spot to rest.  We had left early in the day so had plenty of time to sail onwards.  We headed west to the last island in the chain and found a perfect spot in paradise.  It is Phil’s favourite anchorage to date, me to maybe.  A huge beach covered in palm trees and green plants, red cliffs.  It is apparently privately owned, but here were no lights that we could see, no traffic to hear, it was heaven.  When we arrived there were three other boats in another part of the bay, but this bay was so huge we still found a spot all our own.  The first night we fell asleep to the sound of surf breaking on the beach.  We spent the next day trying to get the boat sorted out.  Once again, my least favourite thing to do, attacking the barnacles, this time I was learning though and managed to put on my wetsuit staving off the cold!  Phil worked on other bits and pieces around the boat, the list is ever growing and I’m looking forward to the day we can just relax without a kazzilion things we should be working on.  The next morning up again and back to work on things, We had a fabulous field trip to shore though, the swell was finally calm enough to land the Mighty Quinn on that stretch of beach and we walked and walked, found and harvested our first coconuts for eating, saw snake tracks and wild pig tracks and even heard one in the jungle.  It as the wildest place we have been on this trip.  Saw a jellyfish unlike any I had seen before floating past us beneath the portabote, showing us it wasn’t really mud soup water.  We got the watermaker working, the latest bane of our existence and filled our tanks (the sludge left in the filter was amazing).  Managed to husk, grate and toast my first coconut, delicious, although my first attempt at coconut milk left something to be desired.  Then it was onto our final preparations for the Galapagos passage.  Cooking up a storm, pasta, coconut curry and rice, chicken, steak.  Our fridge was loaded.  Phil connected a new system so we can now charge the batteries while the engine is running, installed a see-through shower curtain over our instruments in case of any splashes down below and started to get our fishing gear ready.  The next morning we had a few jobs to finish up with, and didn’t’ rush like the usual 7 am departures, instead we had a really beautiful day and left around 1;30 pm, onto Galapagos

 




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