Early in the morning the 21/5, after filling up the tanks with diesel and water, we sat course towards Isla del Ray, the largest island in the Islas Perlas group. 8:00 – 16:00. 60.7 NM,
We drop anchor between Isla del Ray and the small island Isla Espiritu Santo. It was a beautiful place almost magic, and I jumped in the water immediately. There were a strong current to be aware of but very refreshing. The next day we worked hard al three to clean the hall. Lars scuba, I snorkel and Ivar from the dingy. I also cleaned the bow from the dingy. We enjoyed looking at the big bird, pelican, flying and diving very close to Alexandra. The sundown was beautiful in the quiet environment.
The old city in Panama is quite charming during day time. We had a Saturday mid day walk threw Casco Antigua, Plaza Bolivar, Plaza Catedral and Plaza Herrera. Al over you could by the Panama Sombrero and Kuna Molas. In late afternoon we find a fresh, new tapas restaurant with a free cerveza for the first tapas. It tasted great.
At the anchorage north of the pier we had an excellent view of the beautiful bridge, Puenta de las Americas over Around us we have a lot of different kinds of working boats that can produce great waves when they come and go. It was supposed to be a quick stop here in Panama but after 21 days we are still here. We have had a nice and informative meeting with ”Panama Karsten”, a Dane that help cruiser to get a round here and Galapagos, at Balboa Yachtclub. To get around here you use a taxi and you have to learn how to bargain. We have been around the city getting things done and provisioning three times. Now, 3/5, the ICOM is open for HAM channel. The fresh water pump has new drive belt, 18/5, and an extra gas tank is bought. Anchor winch and a pump for the cooling water are ordered from the US and should be delivered today. We are still waiting for the camera lens to be repaired. Heat and mosquito have made it tough here once in a while but a lot of good food and drink on board and a breeze make it bearable. People are nice and friendly here. Only one of the taxi-drivers has been bad. Also, good information on the 8:00 o’clock cruisers net have been helpful. We got gas that way, 6/5, with a communal taxi-driver that took al needed cruisers tanks to be filled up. Gas cost the same as our part of the cost for the taxi. The watermaker is not being used here because the water is not good enough. We have been over to the cay once, 13/5, to fill up water tanks. It is not easy to get a hold of one boy for and one aft but Ivar managed to do that. Alexandra is to big to swing around so therefore 2 boy attachment.
Also a tour to the huge Albrook centre were I finally find a vacuum cleaner. One day we walked out to Flamingo island to look for equipment and passed by a huge colourful building that turned up to be a Museo de la Biodivercidad (2013 Frank Gehry).
While waiting for the winch to arrive Lars and Ivar took the dive compressor up and filled the tanks with air.
Just now the Panama agent for Marine Warehouse Florida USA, Atoro, called to inform that the anchor winch will be delivered to Balboa in half an hour, 19/5!!! Happy time except there were no pump. Lars is now occupied with taking the old winch out and putting the new up. It is tough work in the heat. Ivar put sun-cover up and it helps a lot.
The 20/5 Lars connect power to the winch and immigration at the harbour and we took a taxi to Isla Flamenco to visit customs. If we had not gotten help from the, very nice, taxi-driver to speed up the procedure, we never had reach back to the harbour to pay the fee before closing time and after that immigration once again. Now we were al set to sail, early in the morning, on the 21/5, to Islas Perlas.
After practise going threw the channel with a Catamaran we, and our to very professional line holders, Sebastian from Chile and Gabrielle from France, sailed out of Shelter bay to the Flat 14:30 26/4 2016. There we waited for several hours for our supervisor to arrive. Alexandra was chosen to be in the middle and that was good. That meant that our adviser were in command and that was good. We had a French Alubat Ovni on the right side and a German single hand sailor on the left side. The first 3 locks we went up was the most difficult part but there were no problem. In the Gaton lake we launched the anchor and I took an unplanned swim when supposed to wash my feet in the sweet water. At 6 in the morning the new adviser, Edwin, arrived. He was an officer and had worked on a dredger for 26 years, so his English was good. We sailed approximately 20NM to the last three looks with The Mirraflore look at the end. At a proximately 16:00 we were anchoring in Balboa, Panama City. Good luck to the young couple and we hope the sailing tour to Ecuador goes well.
The anchorage north of the pier were filled up, at the time we arrived from the channel on the 27/4-16 and we were directed to a mooring on the south side of the pier. Around us we have a lot of different kinds of working boats that can produce great waves when they come and go. It was supposed to be a quick stop here in Panama but after 21 days we are still here.
Getting on land we have to take the, free of charge, harbour water taxi. Also washing clothes and showering is posible and for that we have our own keyset. Short time after arrivel we had a nice and informative meeting with ”Panama Karsten”, a Dane that help cruiser to get a round here and Galapagos, at Balboa Yachtclub.
To get around the city and getting things done and provisioning you have to go by taxi and you have to learn how to bargain. Here we got the HF radio ICOM open for HAM channels by an ICOM specialist. Thanks to Hans B for giving and Jens T for bringing the radio. The fresh water pump has new drive belt and an extra gas tank is bought. Anchor winch and a pump for the cooling water are ordered from the US and should be delivered today. We are still waiting for the camera lens to be repaired by a cannon specialist.
Heat and mosquito have made the stay here tough once in a while but a lot of good food and drink on board and a breeze make it bearable. People are nice and friendly here. Only one of several taxi-drivers has been bad. Also, good information on the 8:00 o’clock cruisers net have been helpful. We got gas that way with a taxi-driver that took al needed cruisers tanks to be filled up. Gas cost the same as our part of the cost for the taxi. We have been over to the cay once to fill up water and diesel tanks. The watermaker is not being used here because the water is not good enough for desalination or bathing in for that coarse.
Just now, 19/4-16 13 PM. the Panama agent for Marine warehouse, Atoro, called to inform that the anchor winch will be delivered to Balboa in half an hour!!! Happy time except there were no pump! Restorder? Unbeliveble. Lars is now occupied with taking the old winch out and putting the new up. It is tough work in the heat. Ivar assists and put sun-cover up and it helped a lot. Late sundowner and Lars have mounted the winch and the motor. Electrical wiering remain to do tomorrow as well as clearind out of Panama. So hopefully we are leaving Balboa saturday morning at 4 AM for the Pearl Islands, Isla del Rey.
Early in the morning 13/4 we left Portobelo for to sail to Colon and the security check at 9 o’clock on the Flat, an anchorage, close to the Panama channel. Alexandra was measured to be 14.88 (In 1999 14.6) and passed the check to go through the channel.
We sailed to Shelter Bay Marina and Alexandra came on the hard the 20/4 and just after that Ivar arrived from Denmark. Ivar was unlucky coming to work in the heat (34°C) on Alexandra rinsing and painting the hull.
Cruisers net in Shelter Bay was very good arranging pot-luck diner, music and dance evening, helping us to get line holders and informing us about the bus to Colon and Panama situation. Thanks Sue. The old fort Sherman in Shelter Bay was used of the Americans to protect there interest until 2000 when the Panamanians took over there own channel. In the jungle there lives monkeys. We were lucky to come to see one.
The 4/4, after a difficult manual hosting of the anchor by Lars off cause, we sailed of to Panama and a picturesque anchor bay not far from Colon. The coast of Panama is beautiful with dangerous cliff islands so you have to navigate properly. At 15 hour we past the Farallones, so beautiful and scary and after that we could soon enter the Portobelo bay. We took the dingy in to Casa Vela and got a,, so much needed, cold beer that we did not have aboard because of pump problems. We got lots of information from Birgit on were to go and get cleared in to Panama and so fourth. Also Vela was a meeting place for al sailors so information gets around quickly. Clearance next day at the good English speaking harbour master and a tour by noisy bus to Colon the next day, waiting 6 hours for the cruising permit, and then Lars had a show with pumps running the cooling water to the 3 compressor to cool fridge, refrigerator and freezer for several days and several pump shift. We could run the watermaker so I could run the washing mascine. Also, nice grilled fish with home-made garlic bread on Sunday at Vela, with a lot of sailors. The little town had four Chinese owned food-market and to bakeries but the Panderia was the greatest. If you needed cash you could by dollars for 10% in the 2.end Chinese boutique by the bus station.
After five days in Marina de Pesca, and filling up with diesel, we left Cartagena for to sail to San Blas Panama in the afternoon the 23/3-16. We started going for motor threw the bay of Cartagena and sat the Jib when we were out. It was a lot of wind and it got more during the evening so we rolled in the jib and sat the stay-sail. We had six hours with winds up to 46 knots in the gusts and both of us just hold on there for six hours. Alexandra and the autopilot did well but we got wet several times when water from big waves entered the cockpit, and that is very unusual when sailing Alexandra. It was the high wind from the side making high waves. Early in the morning the 24/3 we had landfall and soon we were anchoring at Hollander Cay, San Blas, a very beautiful island with high beautiful palm-trees and a reef with fresh corals and fish to snorkel around to see.
Because of having bad stomach we stayed at Holander for several days. Yesterday we were fresh enough to get a long time and good snorkel tour on the reef taking pictures and enjoying the beauty of the corals and fish before we left for the next island, Cocos.
Coco Bandero Cays is not far away and also very beautiful. Mooring between to palm-tree islands. We came there the 29/3 and stayed for a couple of nights. We did not find any corals but very beautiful sea-stars and a few fish. The water was 31° C. We saw the kuna men harvest coconuts and how they made steps on the tree to get up and fetch them.
Eastern Naguargandup Cays, alongside Canbombia (Morbedup) island is not far a way, just one and a half hour sailing trip the 31/3. It was difficult though to find a way to the anchor place but after going a little back and forth we now moor close to the island. The island is inhabited by a kuna family and we have had several visit from them. Yesterday we bought a chicken fish (very hard skin like shell so Lars had to get some tools out of the tool bag) from to brothers living on the island. Today to kuna men, sailing around in there traditional, cut out wood log, canoe, managed to sell to small lobsters to us for 6 US$. We also had a kuna boy visiting sailing around in his traditional canoe. He was happy to get a snorkel set from the “toy” cradle. The water temperature is 31.7 and the air 32°C and no wind so very hot. Therefore, after investigating the environment in the water for fish and coral that turned out to be less then before, we actually enjoyed cleaning the water line (Maria) and the under water hull (Lars) to cool down. If we cant sail Alexandra with the speed of 5 knots threw the Panama Canal the Canal authority can give us a law speed penalty so important to clean the hull!
After having to launch the anchor during the night because of a 180° wind shift we were, in the morning, on our way to Carti island, the largest Kuna village, to moor. It was an extremely hot day and unfortunately no wind so motor sailing. From the anchorage we could see three Kuna island close to each other and there was a lot of activities. Boats were coming in and out transporting kunaer on there way to work on the main land, school, visiting other island or just home. Before we left the next day we visited one of the 3 islands and passed close to the others. It was obvious that the kunaer cleaned the path for the tourist to go but also discouraging to see al the garbage around the islands and how easy it can fall into the water and pollute the water too. Very fine traditional houses they had though mixed with houses made of whatever they could get hold of.
The final stop in San Blas was Lemon Cays and we came there 3/4. We hoped to find some reef there with corals and fish. We had some difficultly to find the proper entrains but after several tries we ended launch the anchor close to an island prepared to have tourist from he main land. Lars was not fit for swimming so I swam over to a break in the water and hope to find a reef but find seaweed on sand and nothing else. In the evening we sailed in ad visited the centre and had a beer for our last dollars in the bar. There were kunas in al ages. Old women in traditional clothing, a young women in modern clothing and al in between. They al rested after the day tourist have been transported back to the mainland. The men washed the safety-jackets used by the tourist and hang them op to be dried. We were the only people from outside except for a European sailor in a catamaran that had been in Kuna Yalla for several years. Next morning we wanted to explore the water and make sure we had not missed reef with corals and fish. We took the dingy out to the “reef” and so corals, quite nice, but no fish. We hang on to the dingy and free-dived with the current to Alexandra in the bay. Now we were ready to leave this secluded area and go for Portobelo, Panama.