Islas Las Perlas

Tue 17 Feb 2015 15:24
08:37.5N 079:01.7W
16 Feb 2015
After our canal transit we anchored outside the marina La Playita located a few miles from the Miraflores locks and at the last piece of land before heading out to sea.  The skippers of our six boats had to go ashore in order to complete the exit formalities from Panama and when that was over it was time for dinner and bed.  What a day.
Next morning we set off for the Islas Las Perlas – the Pearl Islands – the nearest of which was about 40 nm from our anchorage.  At a speed of 5 kts, that was going to get us there for a late lunch.  This archipelago was once rich in pearl oysters which the Spanish would harvest to add to their treasures.  The island we had chosen to visit – Contadora – was so named since it was the “counting house” for the harvest prior to shipment to the mainland.  The waters here are in marked contrast to the Caribbean whence we had arrived.  Large tides, with associated currents, are a feature as the Pacific tide sweeps into the Gulf of Panama.  Being from Jersey where 10m tides are commonplace, this presented to surprises for us but still it was an unusual experience to have to consult the tide tables when choosing an anchorage and then beware of currents when swimming.  Also we noticed that the water is cooler and so was the air temperature. Contadora is clearly popular with the wealthy of Panama.  There were many large holiday mansions, dozens of fancy motor yachts and planes on the air strip.  Unfortunately going ashore presented difficulties; because of the tides, there were no convenient docks for small craft and leaving the dinghy on the beach meant either carrying it up to the top of the beach or risking finding it floating away when one returned.  Nevertheless it was obvious that these islands offered superb cruising opportunities if we had more time.  One golden beach after another, dozens of anchorages, mostly deserted except for the occasional inhabited island. The waters here are a haven for sport fishermen so we were hopeful to land plenty to eat.  Sure enough, with minutes of casting the hook into the water after leaving La Playita, Elizabeth had hauled in a Spanish mackerel.  After a short consultation we decided it was too small to keep, so back it went – to our regret since we haven’t had much luck since.
After one night at anchor and then a day spent swimming, cleaning up after the transit and final preparations for our ocean passage. We motored around to another bay for lunch then it was time to leave at about 4pm. .  This time it was Lucy that had a fish on the line – a nice sized skipjack tuna and there was no putting this one back.  After that excitement, it was back to the routine of watch keeping and sailing for the next 850 nm.