Panama city to the Las Perlas Islands and onwards to the big blue sea

Graham Shaw
Thu 7 Apr 2011 11:35
Two minor points which Gray missed out on the previous blog - whilst in one of the locks, a line from the shore side ended up under our keel, ( this was one of the monkeys fist heaving lines).  This was due to the line handler on the lock wall not really keeping a eye on what he was doing, this could have become a serious issue, but with the calm nature of Captain Gray all was resolved quickly.  The second problem was when our starboard engine decided to jam in gear as we were rafting up, again Gray was very cool, as always, and fixed the problem quickly.  Thankfully we have two engines so we were not left high and dry.  Just another point as a onlooker, the advisors we had were very good, but we must all remember they are advisors - if you hit your boat it is your problem, even if under their instruction, so an even balance is what is required going through the locks.  If you think your boat cannot make a manoeuvre the advisor wants you to, a consultation is required.  Also if you are not happy in a situation, then comment should be made.  Communication as always is important, I feel we were lucky with our advisors, and our super linehandlers on the boat, and the other boats we were rafted with knew what they were doing.  It is all pot luck who you end up with, and sometimes it is not ideal.
We decided to wait for a decent weather window for our next trip, so stopped at Las Brisas for a day or so.   This anchorage just south of Panama City had a number of boats doing the same passage as us, and a number of boats that have got there and never quite left.  There is a net on VHF 74 at 8am every morning with all the usual small community boat stuff.
On the second night at this anchorage, we were awoken at 3am by a loud bang.  Both Gray and I jumped out of bed thinking we had been hit by a boat.  We arrived on deck with no boat in sight, but clearly the noise came from somewhere, so we started looking about the boat, then realised the dinghy had parted from one of its lines from the davits.  Gray was a little confused about this, but assummed the line was so weak and sun damaged it just parted.  We lowered the dinghy into the water and tied it on to the rear of the boat.  Whilst doing this Gray came across a float on our back steps, we assumed it had washed up onto there.  The next morning in daylight a further inspection of the line was made, and it became clear that someone had cut through the line. Us coming up on deck, or the loud bang, caused him to jump back into the water and swim off.  He clearly used the float to swim to us, and in his rush to flee he left it behind.  I think the most worrying thing about this incident, is that we were completely unaware someone boarded our boat, and might have been under the boat when we came on deck.  Thankfully the bang and us arriving on deck scared him away, but sometimes this is not the case.  A little more caution when stepping out of our locked salon will be taken next time.  Thankfully we are now headed for South Pacific islands, where crime is almost unheard of.
After this incident we moved, more into the middle of the anchorage. As we had been the northen-most boat, we were a easy target, and also our boat is very easy to board from the water.  Lessons learnt, and luckily we did not lose the dinghy.
We decided to set off to the island of Contadora in the Las Perlas islands, which are a much safer and prettier place.  We stayed there for two nights which was lovely. Lucas had a great time on the beach, and we managed a tour of the island.  I think this is where the wealthy people from Panama City go for weekend breaks.
The wind was not improving much, but nor was the long term forecast, so we topped up with fuel and head out into the blue ocean towards the Galapagos Islands.
On the first day out we managed to catch a skipjack tuna - this what you buy in a can in the supermarket, and I have to say it tastes lovely fresh - followed by the biggest fish I have ever caught, a dorado.  What a beautiful fish, so colourful, such a shame to cut it up, but of course it tastes beautiful.  Lucas was so excited about catching the fish, and wanted to be in on the gutting and filleting, and still wanted to eat it.  So we have lots of fish now and have pulled in the lines, as there is no more space in the fridge and freezer.  I had been to a "fishing clinic" lecture while we were at Shelter Bay Marina, and I think it is now paying off. Or is just luck?
We are now motoring towards the Galapagos.  There are lots of dophins visiting us day and night so we are not alone.  At night it is quite spectacular, with the phosphorecence kicked up by the dophins making them look like torpedos in the water all around the boat.  This is a first for me, and is a beautiful sight.  I'm still looking out for whales though!

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