Blog 13, Las Perlas. 08.35.02N 79.01.20W

David Batten
Wed 10 Feb 2016 20:00
Sunday 7/02/16.  08.30 and anchor up then full mainsail up as we motored through the shipping anchored in Panama Bay. Wind was force 2/3 and we headed for a safe and easily accessible anchorage off the southern end of Isla Viveros. This seemed to be a reasonable distance to make in a day without giving us too much distance up to windward back to Isla Contadora for preparation for the sail to the Galapagos.  By the time we cleared all the shipping, we had the genoa out and were enjoying a broad reach south towards the Northern Las Perlas, then the wind died so we motor sailed as we did not want to be approaching the anchorage in poor light, but it returned from the NNE, 20 to 25 knots, giving us some very fast sailing in quite a rough sea.  As we approached the Southern most part of Isla Bayoneta and the shoals and reefs off Bayoneta and Viveros, we dropped the main and proceeded under genoa alone until we made the turn north towards the anchorage and motored in, with more water under the keel than Bauhaus’ guide suggested we would find.  Aliena was already in the anchorage, as were a mass of pelicans and a local fishing boat.  A very pleasant spot, if somewhat rough with wind and currents, as we could not get really close in, but we had a pleasant evening walk, with parrots, a hawk, a lovely Ringed Kingfisher and plenty of small birds for company, followed by a good long swim back to the boat with Jane on standby in the dinghy to rescue anyone if needed. 
Monday 8/02/16. After a leisurely breakfast, we left Viveros at low tide with lots more rocks showing and pelicans fishing, heading for an anchorage off the south eastern end of Isla Casaya under genoa and motor, no distance as the crow flies, but about 9 miles around the rocks and reefs and shallows.  With waypoints from Bauhaus transferred to the Garmin, we join Chillie B in the anchorage just as Lydia left to go to Viveros.  Once we had anchored after a minor marital about communication skills between the Skipper and Skipper’s wife, it proved to be a beautiful spot. There were pelicans all round us, some other yachts just visible on the east side of Bayoneta, between Isla Vivienda and Isla Malaga. This would be too shallow for us with the keel down. After a bit Aliena joined us.  Anthony was clearly in need of a long walk, so it was dinghy to the shore and a walk along the beach for most of the crew, while Anthony took off with a packed lunch, binoculars and cameras.  As it was, we all saw lovely a Yellow Crowned Night Heron and a Bare Throated Tiger Heron and literally hundreds of sea birds.  Anthony had an adventure all of his own, being bowled over by waves in a strong current in a channel somewhere on Viveros, which unfortunately made his camera malfunction, but the hearing aids survived.  We were just getting worried about him when he appeared, so the Ship’s Boy took him back in the dinghy while the rest of the crew enjoyed an evening walk on the beach.  It is not for this blog to relate what happened to him next, but suffice it to say, we were most grateful to Aliena’s skipper and Chillie B for rescuing him while we tried to make out what was happening on board from on shore before making for the dinghy with more haste than we would otherwise.  We are sure that he will not risk such a severe ticking off from the Skipper’s Wife again, so all is well that ends well.
Tuesday 9/02/16.  A really bad day and one for the confessional.  We discussed staying put, going back to Viveros to join Lydia or going North as per our original plan to be nearer Contadora, as we had several important jobs to do before setting off for the Galapagos.   With hindsight, we should have stayed or gone to Viveros as what we actually did as it turned out was just awful.  We were hard on the wind past the south end of Bayoneta and when we tacked, we were enjoying a good sail up to the channel between Isla Mogo Mogo and Isla Santa Catalina.  The anchorage between Isla Chapera and Isla Mogo Mogo looked really busy, so we decided to go to the channel between Isla Gibraleon and Casaya, which was described in Bauhaus as a smooth anchorage in all winds, to be entered on a low, rising tide, which it was.  The original then route was plotted for going around the northern end of Isla Chapera and then into the anchorage, but the Skipper found a short cut channel between Isla Mogo Mogo and  Isla Tembrillos on Bauhaus’ guide, with 6 meters at low water springs.  We turned to the east and headed for a waypoint that put us between the two islands according to Bauhaus’ guide which should have been in 6 meters.   Horror of horrors, the echo sounder started showing 6 meters, then rapidly dropped to 4 then 3 and then we hit a rock, still apparently in the channel and even worse, when we reversed to go back where we came from, but being at the mercy of a strong current, we hit another rock and then seemed to be in a field of rocks.  The Skipper immediately raised the keel and we did miraculously free ourselves, but not before shattering the nerves of the Skipper’s wife, who was at the helm and giving the rest of the crew a proper fright.  We then followed the original route to the north of Contadora and anchored between Two Fish and Zoom. This was a truly horrible experience, which has left an indelible impression on the Skipper’s Wife who will not allow any more risks of playing amongst the rocks in short cuts through poorly surveyed waters in the future and who is insisting that the keel be inspected, all bilges having been checked already.  She is now looking forward to the corals around the Pacific Islands with even more anxiety!