070122; 1546 UTC,
Isla Casaya, Islas Las Perlas, Republic of Panama
N 08 degrees 29.5' / W 079 degrees 01.9’
Bucking tradition and superstition (for one never sets sail on a Friday), we dropped our mooring at Balboa Yacht Club just as dawn broke on Friday, January 19, 2007 and pointed our bow SE towards Islas Las Perlas in company of Mira, a Crealock 37, friends Jan and Dwight aboard. Our crew was ready, except possibly Jake, who sneaked underneath the dinghy and shot us looks of disgusted disbelief, presumably for being underway yet again. Our intended destination was Isla Bayoneta, 45 miles away, which would provide a safe haven from the predicted strong winter north winds.
Our plan for the next few weeks is to circumnavigate the lovely archipelago of Las Perlas, with a possible side trip into the Darien province, before returning to Panama City to intercept a consolidated shipment of boat parts from the USA. Our visas expire February 20th and should we be delayed in Panamá we will be required to renew for the one allowed instance, a process that takes a week. We love Panama City but it was beginning to wear on us as well as costing us more money than we wanted to spend. Just keeping Carina on a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club was costing us about $14 a day.
Panama City reminds us of New York City, whether traveling in a section that looks like 5th Avenue or Avenida Central, reminiscent of Harlem. One thing that is definitely different are the Polica National patrols; two unsmiling, small-of-stature but muscular young men on "dirt bike" type motorcycles. With their Darth Vader blacked out helmets, flack jackets and olive-drab uniforms, the rider holds a Uzi with his finger on the trigger guard and the driver weaves in and out of traffic.
Winds were slow to develop on departure day but by 0915 we spotted whitecaps in the distance and we were soon on a beam reach flying along in a "fresh breeze", winds in the low 20s with gusts over thirty knots. During a lull, Jake shot out from under the dinghy tied on deck and made a beeline for the safety of the V-berth.
Winds shifted a bit over the day but for most of our trip, they were at or behind Carina's beam, making for a fast run even against an incoming new moon tide. Because of the tide, which was opposing the wind, the seas were steep and a few vertical whoppers slapped Carina's quarter and washed down the cockpit and the on-watch crew. All in all it was a great sail and we felt exhilaration at being underway again and out of the city where living and shopping cost us dearly.
Rounding Isla Bayoneta as the sun began to sink lower in the western sky, we were soon fighting a strong current and wind as we furled our sails and motored towards our anchorage amongst invisible but extensive reefs. Inside the bay formed by Islas Bayoneta and Casaya, we quickly determined that due to the wind's direction relative to the islands, our intended anchorage off Isla Bayoneta would put us on a lee shore amongst rocks should our anchor drag. We altered course and anchored further east against the western shore of Isla Casaya.
We have been here for three nights now, enjoying the brilliant stars and intense quiet broken only by the shrill calls of oyster catchers who scurry back and forth when nearby reefs become exposed at low tide. Until today our only visitors were three small dark indigenous men in a wooden lancha who came motoring up clad only in wet underwear. Having been diving for seafood they offered to sell us their catch of four small spiny lobster, which was a difficult offer to refuse, so we struck a deal: three Cokes and some cash for the lobster.
Yesterday we launched our dinghy and anxiously got into the water searching for fish and also for nurse sharks who reportedly use this bay as a sort of nursery at this time of the year. Unfortunately the water was murky amongst the reefs and shallows and though we saw lovely powder pink coral, we saw few fish and no nurse sharks. Today we'll pull anchor again and seek out another cozy spot for further exploration.
Sus amigos del velero Carina,
Leslie, Philip and el gato supremo, Jake
Isla Casaya, Islas Las Perlas, Panamá