As we lifted the anchor at Barbecue island, a ray, around one metre wide,
jumped from the water three times. Wow! Had I realised there had been one so
close, perhaps I might not have swam around the boat.
We moved to the anchorage at Chichime island on Friday afternoon. From just
one nautical mile away from our destination, there just didn't look as if
there was a passage through the reefs although a narrow one was shown on the
The pelicans look just amazing as they fly from reef to reef and across the
islands. They stand on the reefs and dive to catch fish.
Apart from the ray, I haven't seen while snorkelling, any fish larger than
the size of whitebait. When we walked around the island of Chichime, a Kuna
woman was sitting in a boat working on a fish which was huge. It must have
been 6 feet long and was at least 18 inches wide. There was also another
large fish on her boat which was dwarfed by the bigger fish.
The current here in Chichime is so strong that one has to be determined to
swim against it to move forward otherwise the best one can hope for is to
remain in the same place.
Opposite where we are anchored, on the island to our portside, there are two
huts on the beach. On the starboard side there is a large hut and adjacent
to it, the framework for another, currently adorned with clothes, drying in
Had a party on the beach at lunchtime on Saturday, food was pot luck and
each boat brought a contribution. The food was very tasty and varied.
Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and some people partied on until well
into the evening.
Sunday we moved to Banedup and were surrounded by small, almost deserted
islands. The water was much shallower here and there were a great many reefs
As the water was not very deep, the snorkelling was much better. The sea
bottom was littered with starfish, some over eighteen inches in diameter.
The night before we left Banedup, Pili and Bob went ashore to dine. A family
who lived on the beach were very enterprising and offered overnight
accommodation in a hut for $6 US a night, various day trips and meals.
Supper was booked for 5pm and they ate an excellent meal of barbecued
barracuda and rice, cooked in coconut milk, for the grand sum of $3 US. The
family disappeared while Bob and Pili ate their meal but returned to chat
when the meal had been eaten.
It was soon apparent that the family wanted to prepare their own supper so
Bob and Pili returned to the boat soon after 7pm, just in time to watch us
eat our supper of steak and mushroom pie, roast potatoes, crystabel (a
vegetable local to St Lucia) and sweetcorn.
Tuesday morning we left the anchorage soon after 7am and sailed to Isla
Linton. The boat was almost completely surrounded by land, which is heavily
wooded, very green and wonderfully undulated. The scenery was stunning.
We took the rib ashore hoping to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables but
there were none. We did manage to buy some cartons of UHT milk to sustain
our heavily reduced stock.
Based on experience gained over the last few years as well as the Atlantic
crossing, I had allowed one litre of milk per day and expected there to be
plenty remaining when we reached Panama. To my horror we had used twice the
volume of milk that I had anticipated and were in danger of having to resort
to the powdered variety.
The local people were very friendly but appeared to be extremely
impoverished. There were two shops but neither had much variety of produce.
There was a great deal of rubbish in the vicinity of the beach.
The next morning we left the anchorage soon after 7am and sailed to Shelter
Bay, located on the Caribbean side of the Panama canal.
We were deliberately arriving early as Pili had decided that she wanted to
return to Spain in time for her sisters birthday on the 23rd. There was also
a 50% chance that by making ourselves available, it was possible that we
might be able to transit the canal with the first group of rally boats.
We arrived at Shelter Bay around noon and went to the fuel barge but
although this had already been cleared with the marina office by rally
control, when we arrived we were advised that there was no fuel and that we
would have to come back later.
We readjusted our fenders and found a pontoon, almost opposite the fuel
barge, where we were able to tie up alongside and connect to water and
Pili and Bob immediately left the boat and caught the 1pm courtesy bus into
town to try to book a flight home to Spain for Pili. When they returned,
around 4pm, Pili had a provisional booking for a flight around 10pm on the
21st. All five of us then had to go to immigration to check the boat and its
crew into the country and although we had been warned that we would be
charged an additional $25 US to cover the overtime worked by the officials,
this didn't happen.
Next day Bob and Pili hired a car and went sight-seeing while Dick and I
caught the courtesy bus at 8am, which took us to a shopping mall, on the
outskirts of Colon.
The bus, which carries 29 passengers, was full when we set off from the
The jungle grows right next to the roads although the edge had been cleared
by at least a metre.
We crossed Gatun lock without incident and soon arrived at the shopping mall
with a supermarket which opens 24 hours. Most of the other shops did not
open until 9am or even 10am.
We had intended to get a taxi back from the supermarket but Dick was so
delayed buying new shorts and two cool-bags, that the bus arrived to take us
back to the marina. Fortunately, so many people had already gone back by
taxi that there was actually room available, for the huge amount of shopping
purchased by the remaining passengers.
On the return journey we were delayed 40minutes at Gatun lock as we waited
for ships to transit.
Pili's flight was not confirmed so she was unable to leave before 10pm on
the 22nd January. This should get her back to Spain around mid day on the
23rd, her sister's birthday.
Friday night the marina arranged a barbecue, $10 US per person, excluding
Saturday morning we went to the fuel barge and filled both tanks and the
three empty jerry cans, with diesel. Petrol, to replenish that used, running
around in the rib while we were cruising the San Blas islands, was not
From the fuel barge, we moved to a different pontoon where we will remain
until the 27th January when we are scheduled to start our transit of the
There is definitely a benefit being here. We no longer have another boat
rafted alongside and the water pressure from the shore runs is now adequate
for us to be able to take a shower.