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Date: 26 Feb 2014 20:53:00
Title: Las Perlas - Islas Chapera and Mogo Mogo

It's rather nice here.

08:35.07N 79:01.17W

We sailed across to Las Perlas yesterday, with the sea trying it's best to impersonate a mill pond, and 10 knots of wind right on the nose. It was our first passage in the Pacific and it's different. For a start, there's no swell! Not on this bit anyway. The Atlantic and Caribbean has significant swell, whenever you get out of the lee of land, but, apart from a feeble attempt at some wind waves, the sea here is flat. There's not enough consistent wind here to generate a swell and from most directions there's not enough fetch to build one.

Secondly, so far, there's no flying fish! Not even a little one. I don't know if this is a Panama Bay thing or the whole Pacific. We shall see. We anchored last night at Isla Contadora, the most built up of the archipelago. We were looking forward to our first Pacific swim but it didn't look too inviting in the bay and indeed, when we woke up this morning, we could hear quite a school of fish besides the boat and all around there were... mullet! Yes, shit fish, here in the P

acific. They looked rather different to the ones in Spain, Portugal and the Canaries: much longer and narrower fins on their sides for instance, but they were without a doubt the Pacific version. That and the sight of a dozen or so jelly fish persuaded us to delay our Pacific swim.

We upped anchor and came down the the channel between the next two islands: Chapera and Mogo Mogo. On the way we enjoyed the sight of hundreds of frigate birds wheeling together above the sea and as I lifted the anchor I saw quite a few bright neon blue glowing dots below us. Our new location is much much better. Chapera is famous for being the location for the "Survivor" TV series. I never saw it but those of who did will know what it looks like - which is gorgeous sandy beaches with tall trees and varied vegetation. We were there early enough to hear the bird song - so much variety! The one that took my fancy was a deep low cooing bird, a bit like a pigeon does in the UK, but he sang "Vooo Do-Wooo". I call him the voodoo bird. As we walked along the beach three spotted eagle rays swam along the shallows. There are low cliffs to one side and the rocks are stunning. Greens and greys in swirling patterns, as if it was frozen in the act of flowing...

We took the dinghy across the channel to Mogo Mogo to picnic, explore and snorkel. I have never seen so many pink shells. The beach is covered with them! Whilst exploring we discovered that the thorn bushes here are savage: once they have you they are extremely reluctant to let you go. One got Phil's hat and, when I tried to extract him, got my hair instead. There was no hope with my hair! We ended up having to leave tufts behind us.

We weren't expecting much from the snorkeling as there's hardly any coral here. Now why is that? Just the other side of Panama there's tons of the stuff yet here there's none! Phil's guess is cold currents coming up from the south. However, we were mistaken: the snorkeling was fabulous. It's rock instead of coral. Beautiful smooth plazas and pavements, criss-crossed with parallel lines running all directions, splitting it into squares and triangles and random quadrilaterals, like those crazy geometric lines papers you get, that you can colour in and find every shape a mathematician has a name for. Leading up from there were wide steps, as regular as you please, taking you to heights that looked like lego base boards, after the kids have finished making houses and smashed them all down, so some are five bricks high, some three, two, one or none, all random. Quite wonderful to see. Amongst these were plenty of fish, not bright ones like in the coral reefs, except for a huge blue topped angel fish, but plenty to watch with the familiar sergeant major fish adding flashes of colour.

And our first Pacific swim? It was lush!

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