WARC week 3

Dick and Irene Craig
Sun 24 Jan 2010 15:33

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 chart.
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 the breeze.
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 to avoid.
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 electricity.
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 marina.
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 drinks.
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 available.
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 Panama Canal.
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.