Las Perlas Islands - Isla Contadora 08 37.046N 079 02.244W

Mike and Liz Downing
Thu 4 Mar 2010 03:38
Finally left Panama City at noon today and are now anchored behind the Isla Contadora in the Las Perlas islands, 35 miles to the south east of Panama City. The first 3 hours we flat calm and we had to motor, but then the wind came up and we had a lovely little sail at 7 to 7.5 kts for the next 3 hours. We haven't sailed since we arrived in Panama at the end of January.
The plan was to explore the islands here while we wait for good weather to head for the Galapagos, but it is starting to look good this weekend, so we will have to make a decision - do we stay here and hope for another good weather window to come along, or go. Good weather would be good winds from the northern sector for 3 or 4 days, a narrow ITCZ to cross and then south easterly winds for a couple of days. We haven't worked out why the engine is still running hot (tried all the obvious things. We  are fairly certain the propeller is over pitched and that is contributing to it, but suspect there is also something else going on), so the thought of motoring 850 miles is a bit concerning. If we can get a few days of 150 miles per day under sail, it will make us feel a lot better.
A group of 5 boats are all going in the same direction across the Pacific in roughly the same timescale and we've set up an SSB radio net to keep in touch and swap weather conditions.
We've bought some more fishing gear and have significantly down-sized. The stuff we already have (but haven't used) is all a bit big and we only want to catch smaller fish.  If we hook anything over 10lbs we want the line to break!   Now we have this we will try fishing once well clear of the coast.
Mike came through the canal for the 3rd time on Sunday/Monday as a line handler for another couple we know. Going up the locks on Sunday to Gatun Lake was a nightmare. Strong winds, big ships and tugs going in all directions, emergency closure of the locks at Gatun (to let an ambulance get across) just as the yacht raft was approaching the lock, incompetent line handlers on one of the other boats, incompetent canal advisers, broken ropes in the locks, it rained and we went through the Gatun locks in the dark - arriving at the lake at 22.30! The second day, going across the lake and down to the Pacific was much better. A few more pictures will go on the blog when we next find good wifi. We have no idea when that will be.