Panama City, Republic of Panama

Thursday January 1, 2009

Well we were laying there this morning going over our list of chores to be done a. before Pat arrives on Thursday, and b. before we leave for the Galapagos. The list is getting shorter, at least we keep trying to convince ourselves of this. We pottered around today, doing a couple of odd little chores then tucked into Adrienne´s chicken soup which she had brought over last night. It was so good we now understand how she ran a successful restaurant. We are trying to figure out how to woo her away from Joe and keep her as our fulltime cook. We are really feeling jaded with the anchorage here at La Playita. There is a small swell arriving from the south west, mixing with wind waves which are wrapping around the point, there´s now 45 boats in the anchorage all jammed in like sardines, and the wake from canal traffic and work boats is almost constant. It´s just not a pleasant anchorage to be in and we have yet another week before we can escape back out to the Perlas Islands. Doing chores in these conditions is very trying and we are constantly trying not to snipe at each other as our fuses grow shorter. It´s certainly good to relax each evening and we need to remind ourselves to have a bit more fun occasionally. Afterall this cruising life is supposed to be tropical islands and coctails right?!!

Wednesday January 7, 2009

In amongst the work load during the last week we actually managed to have a few lovely evenings. Dayle (Parrot Bay) came over one evening and we enjoyed feeding him up. He will be very glad to get back to Olga in Honduras for a decent meal. Then celebrated Joe´s (Blue Bottle) 57th birthday last Friday. We took him and Adrienne out to dinner partly to thank them for all their kindness, partly to celebrate Joe´s birthday and partly to have a meal off the boat. It was a lovely evening enjoyed in great company. Then tonight we had dinner with Rob and Theresa from Yohela who we hadn´t seen much of since they arrived from Ecuador. So we opted for one of a group of restaurants out at the very end of Flamenco which Robin had been eyeing off for a while. We chose Buffalo´s, a steak house and we have to report that it was the best meat we have had for almost six months. The Central American beef usually leaves a lot to be desired. They don´t hang their beef after killing it, and often the cuts are so tough you can crack a molar chewing anything resembling a steak. The usual way to deal with it is to toss it in the pressure cooker and make a casserole which usually ends up quite edible. But a nice juicy TBone just isn´t usually possible. Here was a restaurant however which delivered an astonishingly decent piece of meat and it says something as to how meat deprived we were that we all ordered various cuts of steak and not a crumb was left over. Another very enjoyable evening spent with wonderful people.

Thursday January 8, 2009

ChetakPat arrived tonight at around 11:30pm. He wanders in as large as life to Mi Ranchito restuarant where we were sitting whiling away the hours waiting for him. The entertainment led something to be desired. The girl singing had a very pretty and very accomplished voice however she spent her entire time with either her back to the audience, reading lyrics from a chair behind her, or looking backwards out the windows as if she was waiting for her boyfriend to arrive. She was truly strange to behold and kept us mildly amused while waiting for Pat. The boat was almost organized after the previous two mega provisioning sprees. Most of the major provisioning for crossing the Pacific has been done now with stores of rice, flour, canned goods, spices, you name it filling every nook and cranny that can be found, some truly ingenious, others requiring one to be a contortionist to regain the item. The only thing left to do when we return to Panama City towards the end of the month will be to provision the fresh supplies.

Friday, January 9, 2008

Pat and Michelle braved the last minute shopping today, first hitting the duty free store and supplying up on wine. There is a serious shortage of wine on Warrior these days. Pat wouldn´t have a bar of a wine-less voyage hence hitting the duty free. It turned out to be a very good call because by the time we´d arrived at the supermarket around 2pm to grab bread, onions and milk which Michelle had forgotten the day before, the alcohol isles were all cordoned off. It was Martyr´s day here in Panama City, a day which paid homage to the Panamanian students who were shot down by the Americans when they had tried to raise the Panamanian flag over the Canal. Anyway Michelle managed to wear Pat out dragging him around for three hours in a taxi. He got a good dose of how tiring it is to accomplish anything in Panama City. He kept saying, my god the traffic! This coming from someone who lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Since we are leaving for the Perlas tomorrow, Pat decided he couldn´t leave without taking us out to dinner. So we headed on over to the winebar on the causeway which has great wines and great food. Pat of course couldn´t stop himself from flirting with a table of girls sitting behind us and conned them into a photo with him. He hasn´t changed a bit!

Pat being a devil as per usual!

Espiritu Santo, Las Perlas, Panama

Saturday, January 10, 2009

We got underway late this morning, lifting the anchor around 11:30am. We figured we´d just make it into Isla Contadora by dark. Were we ever surprised. We cleared Flamenco Island and the wind immediately filled in and there it stayed for the entire sail. We averaged a good 8.5 to 9 knots the entire trip and reached Espiritu Santo just on dark, 17nm further than Contadora. Pat was whooping it up having the time of his life. He chided us on just how nice it is to sail Warrior, and just how good we really do have it. We sailed straight for Contadora, cut through and around Isla Pacheca, noted all the yachts crammed into the small anchorage in Contadora and decided it was a good plan to keep on going to Espiritu Santo. As luck would have it, there were only three boats in the anchorage when we arrived at, which was a nice surprise considering there were 15 boats in here just two weeks ago. We dropped anchor and Dayle (Parrot Bay) came on over for a drink and to catch up with the Chetak Pat guy. They´d not seen each other since La Cruz in Mexico, almost two years ago.

Pat being camera happy is demanding mega photos of this trip!

Sunday January 11, 2009

We woke up this morning to find Parrot Bay was already well and truly beached. Dayle is careening the boat every day to redo his bottom paint. Today´s task was to sand and prepare the port side bottom. The tides are extra high at the moment giving him a good solid 6 hours of work each day which is good enough. Then when the tide comes back in he drifts off the sand beach and reanchors for the night. He has done it many times before, being an intrepid fisherman from those frigid Alaskan waters up north and hence has it down to a fine art. Lauren Grace came by and offered us a Sierra Mackeral which they had caught. How can you say no to fresh fish so you guessed it, fresh fish on the menu for dinner. We are still managing to do a chore a day even with Pat here. We will eventually work him to the bone.

Monday January 12, 2009

Michelle got in some guitar practice early this morning and then began work on cleaning up the rust gathering momentum on the rails. Pat went fishing and caught to great snapper for dinner, and then the boys went snorkelling for a couple of hours. Pat is beginning to take on the shade of a overdone lobster but he´s enjoying himself. There will be no sneaking back across the border into Canada though with that tan. Dayle popped over for drinks and snacks, having accomplished getting the bottom paint on the port side of the boat. The old girl is beginning to look very smart indeed. Robin got some work done on repairing our leaking front hatch.

The intrepid fisherman

Isla Iguana, Darién, Panama

Tuesday January 13, 2009

Pat woke up this morning at the crack of dawn and I swear he slept with the camera because there were pictures of sunrise, and Dayle getting ready to careen Parrot Bay.

Oh yes there´s more photos!

Today the consensus was to head on over to the mainland and explore some river estuaries of the Darién Province. First stop will be Isla Iguana at the entrance to the Gulf of San Miguel. As per usual we got underway quite late, and Robin was chomping at the bit by the time we got the anchor weighed. But first the guys wanted to try out one of our spare jibs, actually a 150% genoa which Robin wants to use running downwind and so down came our usual jib and up went the genoa onto the roller furler. Then we had to go say farewell to Dayle as we won´t be seeing him again. He is headed back to Honduras after he finishes painting his hull, which will put a big smile on his girlfriend, Olga´s face.

Parrot Bay getting a makeover

Finally around 11:00 am we were off, managing to do 4 knots in about 6 knots of wind. It´s a 30 nm jump over to the mainland and it was to be an incredibly slow trip; the wind didn´t really freshen the entire day. Nevertheless we had a really nice day. We stopped the boat and had a swim. Boobies dropped by for a chat. We caught a dorado, and we got to practice a night time entry into Bahia San Miguel against a 3.5 knot current. We stuffed the Dorado and threw it on the BBQ and it was waiting in readiness for us to arrive at the anchorage but that last feat was proving a tad difficult in the 3.5 knot current against us. We finally had to admit defeat and anchored off to the side in 50 feet of water until the current subsided with the low tide around midnight, then we upanchored and continued on around to the anchorage at Isla Iguana, finally arriving at 1 am. We all immediately fell into a coma after that effort.

All in a days work!

Boca Grande, Darién, Panama

Wednesday January 14, 2009

We rested well this morning, feasting on porridge for breakfast since the chef had gone on strike and refused to cook any more fish. You just can´t get good crew these days. Around 11am we had done all the chores we could lay our hands, watched the procession of fishing pangas slowly fighting upriver in the current towards Rio Congo and deliberated over why they just didn´t wait for the tide to change and finally upanchored and headed for the Boca Grande which forms the mouth of the Rio Tuira.

Trying to capture the river current and Robin´s idea of completing chores

We had a number of options as to where to stop depending on the conditions but finally opted for the anchorage right at the top of the bend in the river where the Rio Lagarto joins the river mouth. It was a serenely beautiful anchorage, mostly out of the raging river swell. Mist rose off the river after a brief heavy shower of rain further adding to the ambiance. The boys immediately dropped the dinghy in the water and fishing line in tow, headed up the Rio Lagarto to do some scouting. A panga load of locals zipped passed them and disappeared up one of the muirad small estuaries branching off Rió Lagarto and despite a dedicated search they just couldn´t figure where their village was located. Michelle stayed behind and took a leisurely shower, played the guitar, did a few odd jobs and generally took time out. They returned an hour later empty handed. Fortunately we aren´t yet out of fish so there was still fish on the menu for supper.

La Palma, Darién, Panama

Thursday January 15, 2009

We had to wait out the tide this morning again before moving the boat down to La Puntita, just past the township of La Palma where we could leave the boat while going ashore. Pat was out of cigarettes and was literally chomping at the bit to get to town. We teased him mercilessly all morning, and he took it all the ribbing like a real champ. Robin installed a new fan in the galley for Michelle this morning which has definitely put him in the good books.

The town of La Palma mainly consisted of one street along the waterfront with a few more houses dotted up along the hillside. We took the dinghy ashore and were astonished to find ourselves knee deep in mud trying to get the dinghy on dry ground. After washing off we climbed up around the cliff and down into the town.

The cliff path and view from the top

We stopped at some stalls and bought tomatoes, bananas, oranges and then the boys sniffed out a verandah set right on the river where they served ice cold cervezas. Pat chatted up the waitress of course. We need to find him a girlfriend, then again I think we were saying that about him a few years back. We stopped by a house which advertised creol food and were fed with sopa de carne and a spicey chicken, rice and lentils dish which was excellent. With Pat stocked up on enough cigarettes to sink Warrior, we made it back to the boat, this time avoiding the gooey mud. Soon we had a visit from a canoe full of women and it turns out they were from the small group of huts which could be seen a little further down river. Otilio Tovar, a Wounaan originally from the Rio Congo lives there where he has created the little village, called Cavima, which houses his extended family. The women were soon pulling out gorgeous hand woven baskets and carvings and it was hard to choose what to buy and what to leave behind. The sad part is you can´t really take a lot of this stuff back into Australia so if we do buy anything it will probably be given away as a gift somewhere along the way. Anyway we had fun with the women for the next half hour and after selecting a few items they went merrily on their way. How they keep their balance in those narrow canoes is beyond belief.

A few more snapshots

Rió Sabana, Darién, Panama

Friday January 16, 2009

We got up at the crack of dawn so as to take advantage of the last of the incoming tide to get up the river Sabana. The currents run to about 3.5 knots at mid tide which means we really can´t get far if we have to work against them. We decided to take a detour and check out Estero del Rió Iglesia, one of the numerous estuaries that run into the Sabana River. We seemed to hit a lot of shallow water on the way in and were wondering how we were ever going to negotiate our way back out later today at low tide but it proved to be easier as you could clearly see the course of the river. The low tide exposed muddy banks which were kind of making Robin claustraphobic. We cruised up the river, passed by a trading post which looked very busy and dropped anchor where the river started to break up into numerous small islands which sit high and dry in the mud at low water. The boys dinghied up and around a few of the small estuaries but again returned with no fish! Slackers.

The busy trading post and Rió Iglesia

Around 3:00 pm we picked up the anchor, carefully washing off the gooey mud which is a daily task at the moment, and made our way very carefully out of the estuary and back into the main river. We slowly picked our way north for the next three miles until we made it into deeper water and could relax knowing we weren´t going to run aground any minute. The minimum water we saw was 10.4 feet so we still had a good foot of water under the keel. We wended our way up river gazing at wooded hills, some of which were some 1,000 feet high, the occasional sign of habitat the only evidence being coconut and mango trees, and flocks of birds chirping to keep us company. We decided to stop for the night at Islas Bellas, a small group of islands in the middle of the estuary. It was serenly peaceful.

Boca de Lara, Darién, Panama

Saturday January 17, 2009

We managed to wipe Pat out last night with a couple of Warriors followed by a bottle of Warrior Red, the wine given to us right back at the beginning of our journey. We still have quite a number left and they are surviving very well indeed. Anyway Pat piked out and went to bed. It was certainly enough alcohol only for the tough and the fit! We were up for another early start today although at least the sun was up today. We made our way leisurely up the rest of the winding estuary which began to narrow after about 7 miles and finally arrived at the tribal village called Boca de lara on the maps but the locals call it Puerto de Lara. It was just too shallow for us to anchor off the village proper so we turned around and headed back down stream half a mile into a deep pool we had noticed. Robin immediately left in the dinghy to see if he could find they way up the shallow creeks to Santa Fe, a town where we can drop Pat off so he can catch his flight back to Canada. If he can´t go overland then we somehow have to get all the way back down the river systems and then once back out in Panama Bay, an 80 mile trip back to Panama City. At this stage it will be tough to make it back in time for his flight. Maybe we´ll just keep him since he´s been making us great coffee every morning.

We were only anchored about 20 mintues when we had a dugout canoe with three women and a little girl aboard. They came to sell us their baskets and woodwork, and also had some exquisite sculpted figurines done out of tagua nuts. Pat was in seventh heaven because they came in their traditional dress of a sarong around their waste, with bare tatooed breasts on show. They didn´t seem too uncomfortable although mostly you do not see them anymore without their clothes on. Pat talked them into giving him a tatoo which is done using jagua juice and only lasts about eight days. We bought a few wooden bowls then Michelle took them downstairs and showed them the boat, and they were very interested in looking at her needlework. Sadly the camera batteries were dead so Pat didn´t get any photos. He´s still bitching about it! The camera was back in action by the time he dinghied up to the village in the late afternoon but no barebreasted women presented themselves.

Puerto de Lara

Sunday January 18, 2009

Sunday saw a never ending parade of people to the boat, some to sell wares, some to just chat to Michelle since she was coping in a mediocre sort of way with Spanish, and kids, kids, kids all wanting galletas (cookies etc). It seemed like the party was on Warrior. One of the women had brought a half made basket, and one just begun, to show Michelle how they were made. Pat had dinghied up the river earlier this morning and arrived back with three pound of shrimp and for dinner tonight. In the middle of all the visitors Robin decided he had better start work up the mast which caused quite a side show. One of the young boys, José, who seemed to have permanently adopted us, nicknamed him Monkey Man.

Pat cooked up an awesome dish of pasta, shrimp and a special sauce for is farewell dinner and we sat out on deck enjoying the peace and quiet of the evening. Well until Pat demanded some loud kind of music which chased away the river sprites!

Monday January 19, 2009

Pat had to leave us yesterday. He still wants to do a couple of things in Panama City, like tour the Canal and go for a joy ride on the train to Colón. We were not going to make it back to Panama City in time for his flight on Thursday morning as we´ve traversed so far upstream in the Darién. We tossed everything moveable downstairs and locked up the boat in case the maraudes of kids should decend upon us while we are gone and we didn´t want them to hurt themselves on anything. At the village, River Sabana splits into two, the Rio Lara to the west and Quebrada Tumagantí to the east. We took the west fork and meandered up river for about an hour and finally arrived at Santa Fe. It was a gorgeous morning for it, and we managed to disturb and catch a glimpse of quite an array of birdlife which nevertheless proved too elusive for the camera lens. We arrived on the muddy river bank at Santa Fe, walked up a beaten track past a small hut that housed the local woodcarver and his wife. He proudly showed off the various native woods he was working with, some purple black, others very light in color. Sadly the only name Michelle remembers is cocobolo, one of the light reddish woods with a beautiful grain.

Dinghy Ride up the Rió Lara

We walked Pat up to the bus stop and made sure there would be a bus available for him today which would whisk him away to Panama City, then we left him at the mercy of the locals and went in search of gasolina. Just as we were walking off it began to drizzle so we stopped down the hill at a small workshop and asked the guys where we could buy gasolina. It turns out the Bombero (Fire Brigade) where everyone often buys fuel was completely out so they organized a taxi for us to take us out into the country to a farm house. Once there, the guy siphoned 5 gallons of fuel into 5 plastic gallon bottles and filled up our jerry can. He also had 2 stroke oil on hand so and after the exchange of not very much money for fuel and oil we were back in the taxi and in short order back at the side of the muddy creek. We never expected to go driving around the Darién countryside in a swanky new taxi especially considering the roads were dirt tracks. As we wended our way back downriver the drizzle turned into a steady downpour and by the time we reached Warrior an hour later we were frozen solid and soaked through. We arrived home to find kids waiting for us and were glad we had locked up the boat so they couldn´t get into anything and hurt themselves. Because of the rain they had traipsed mud from one end of the boat to the other so finally after feeding them, we sent them all home to the village and Michelle began washing the boat. It continued to rain most of the afternoon and evening so we hunkered down and snuggled inside reading books and having some quiet downtime.

Gathering Rain Clouds - ut oh

Tuesday January 20, 2009

We awoke to a river completely covered in mist this morning. You could barely see the river banks. As it began to clear it was as though we were sitting in the middle of a fantasy world, and you could easily believe you were the only ones around. Not a sound could be heard anywhere. Even the birds were still napping.

After breakfast we dinghied up to say good by to the village, and then began the task of wending our way back down river. The tides are almost at the neap so we were worried and rightly so as we saw 10 feet of water in a few spots at the top of the tide. Nevertheless we made it safely back to Islas Bellas today and decided to rest here and attempt the more shallow water at the entrance to Rio Sabana mañana. We put Robin back up the mast yesterday to finish work on the new steaming light and two new deck lights being attached to the underneath of the lower spreaders. The old lights kept getting smashed by halyards and we decided to redo them. A couple of locals in one of their signature dugout canoes came by and were amazed to see him up the mast. This kept them entertained for 30 minutes and Michelle managed to answer all their questions. Then they were off downriver for a night of fishing. We didn´t quite get finished so it will be a journey back up the mast first thing tomorrow to finish up.

Wednesday January 21, 2009

Monkey man went back up the mast this morning and just as he got organized at the spreaders the wind kicked up. Between the boat rocking slightly in the chop and trying to deal with 1/16 of an inch screws while dangling in mid air, well you can imagine the language was slightly colorful on Warrior this morning. Michelle managed to get him back on deck in one piece, then we up anchored and began our second leg of the journey down stream and out of the Rió Sabana and back into Boca Grande. We decided to head around through the cut, fondly known to the locals as Boca Chica, and anchor off some islands we´d passed by on the way in, Islas Bolanges. Well it turned out not to be such a great anchorage, the depths going from 50 feet to 10 feet in less than a boat length, so we scouted along the shoreline till we found somewhere to drop the hook. The tide range at the moment is only 7 1/2 feet, less than half the range of when we entered the bay but there was still a 2 knot current running past the boat. The weather was inclement again today with rain showers all around us but we managed to dodge most of them. Tomorrow we will head back to the Perlas.

Isla Espiritu Santo, Las Perlas

Thursday January 22, 2009

We were up in the wee dark hours this morning, raising the anchor and heading on out under the influence of the ebb tide, eyes glued to the radar and peering into the gloom in case the radar missed a fishing boat. We just ran the big 150% genoa as there was more than enough wind plus current to send us hurtling out of the bay at 6 knots. In the murky gloom we picked up the very dull flash of a light set to the end of a fishing net and couldn´t figure out which way the net was strung across the river. Finally, less than 10 feet from the net Robin yells hard left and Michelle manages to avoid the fishing net by mere inches. The guys on the fishing boat didn´t even raise their heads. We think they were dead asleep as usually they will come and warn you as they certainly don´t want their nets chopped up in the rudder and props of sailing boats. Daylight saw the wind come round more onto the nose and we fought our way out of the bay and across to Isla Espiritu Santo in some of the worst lumpy seas we´ve seen in a while. The wind increased gusting to 25knots and swung slightly to the west of north. We needed one extra tack to clear the rocks just north of Isla Elefante and then we were inside and anchored. Although the wind was gusting to 20knots in the anchorage we were completely sheltered from those horrible seas.

Friday January 23, 2009

We have been following the saga of one of the other crazy cruisers we got to know in Mexico, Jeff on Sailor´s Run, who decided to sail around the horn, that would be the infamous Cape Horn. For all our family and friends who have worried about us being out on the big blue wobbly thing, this day by day account is a must read. Rest assured we won´t be going anywhere near that Latitude for many many moons to come. You can access the daily reports, just as he sent them in, here and I will leave them up for just a month as I presume Jeff will want to publish his story and I don´t want to ruin his chance of making a million bucks!

The sewing machine came back out today to do some much needed repairs. The sail cover has given away along the top seam, the webbing on the lifesling which is used to winch unconscious people back onboard, had begun to perish in the sun, lee cloths for a few more shelves need to be made as when we heal stuff still goes flying everywhere; well let´s stop here and see how far through that list Michelle makes it today.

Sunday January 25, 2009

We have managed to clear out quite a number of chores the last few days. Robin changed the oil filter, fuel filter, the oil, the transmission oil and checked the water level in the batteries. He also installed a switch on the alternator to turn off charging whenever we need more ooomph out of the engine, as in when we are fighting against currents. Michelle has been sewing, sewing, sewing, did she mention sewing? We have a few more tasks to get done before heading back to Panama. It is so calm here in Espiritu Santo and a great place to work on the boat, even in 20 knots of wind.

Saturday evening we had a fire on the beach, cooked some snags and then burned our rubbish. We got to meet a couple off Trio who hail from Brisbane, Australia. They had arrived in the anchorage earlier that day. Another Aussie boat, Galavant, well half Aussie with Marilyn and her American husband Bruce also joined the beach party. We teased her mercilessly about having married a Bruce and getting away with it for the last 17 years.

Panama City, Republic of Panama

Wednesday January 28, 2009

Arg almost the end of January already. The anchored was raised just on daylight this morning and by 9am we were motoring our way towards Isla Contadora. We had bent our 65% jib on hoping for some decent 20knot plus winds which have been plaguing us for the last week or so but of course the wind gods had a completely different agenda. On the way passed Contadora we hailed September and said our farewells to Hans and Gabby, and hope to see them somewhere in the South Pacific. They are heading to the Galapagos on Sunday. The wind filled in a little bit after Contadora but nothing much over 12knots. We ran with small jib and staysail and amazingly could do 6.5knots in about 10knots of wind with this configuration. Michelle liked it as she felt more in control with the dinky toy sails in place. Warrior´s big sails still tends to intimidate her a bit. The water the last few days has looked like pea soup and it wasn´t any better heading in towards Panama City. We wondered if it was the precursor to a red tide but nothing further was to eventuate over the next few days. We finally made it into La Playita just after dark and wended our way through the completely overcrowded anchorage looking for space to drop the hook. We count over 70 boats in the anchorage now. Hopefully we can be out of here in 7 to 10 days.