Isla Taboga & Las Perlas Panama
Sunday 25 October thru Tuesday 2 November, 2015
Sunday is a beautiful sunny day and Steve makes the decision to go to Isla Taboga as planned. He ran the engine and the alternator looked to be charging the batteries, so he thought we would be good to go. The generator was still leaking coolant and would need to be looked at. So we were underway by 9:30 motoring out the channel next to the Amador Causeway with Panama City in the background. Isla Taboga is just 12 miles away, we can see it just have to go thru the big ship anchorage to get there. We are entering Taboga’s anchorage by 11. I tried to reach the mooring company on the VHF radio with no luck, but there were several unused moorings so we picked a big sturdy one and tied off.
We knew with the 15 foot +++ tides landing the dinghy on the beach was not a good option and the dock was not supposed to be used until after 5 when the last ferry left. Water taxi’s were supposed to be available so we started scanning the shore and water looking for one. By noon we finally flagged one down so we all went to town for lunch and to walk around a little.
Carol checked into her hotel and told them she would be bringing her luggage later. We had a nice lunch at Calaloo Beach Fish Bar & Grill. We should have worried a little when we saw our water taxi man driving around town in his golf cart, but we thought we would be able to find another. Youngest brother Walter was going to be on the 4:30 ferry back to Panama City, so he needed to get back to the boat to finish packing up and get back to shore by then. So by 3 we started to look for a ride back to the boat, this is slow season so NO ONE was around to bring us back. Walter goes walking to town looking for someone while Carol calls her hotel to see if they can help. We are a week early for when the tourist season begins and water taxi's would be all around. Carol's hotel finds someone who comes to us on the dock to confirm we still need a ride, then goes and paddles out in a kayak to the one boat with an engine and comes to pick us up. Walter back from his search in town just in time. Back at the boat, we have the driver wait while Walter gets his belongings and brings him back to the dock to catch the ferry, a hectic good-bye to him as he goes to see the sights of Panama City.
We launch the dinghy and mount the motor so we can bring Carol & her luggage to shore later after dinner as we enjoy the beautiful full moon rise over the anchorage. Steve & Stephen take Carol to shore, Steve staying with the dinghy while Stephen helps Carol get her luggage to the hotel, which while close to the dock is of course up a hill.
Monday, Steve and Stephen are going to see if they can find the leak on the generator. The alternator is back to NOT working properly so we need to find a way to help the solar panels keep the batteries charged. Steve drops me off at the dock where I meet Carol to do more Island exploring. We walk across the beach leading to Isla El Morro to hike the trails. Knowing of the huge tide swings we were aware that we should not take too long. Carol knew it was low tide earlier, but we were not sure how far into the rising tide we were. We had to wade back across in thigh high water with waves coming at us from both sides, luckily it was not any deeper and we did not fall as Carol had her phone & NOT waterproof camera in her purse. A reminder for better timing in the future as big tide swings are new to us. We dry off, go by Carol's hotel where she changes I check with Steve on the boat to see how things are going, not so well. Steve had talked to Chuy the guy that runs the mooring company and he gave Steve a # for Skeeter who lived on the island that could maybe help trouble shoot the problem. Carol and I do a little more island exploring before Steve takes a break to come pick us up to go out to the boat. We learn that the guys have not had a good day, the leak on the generator is underneath and inaccessible it will need to be lifted to be fixed. Afternoon swim off the boat then cleaned up for dinner on shore. Steve stays on the boat, getting ready for the following days’ work assignment. Carol, Stephen & I go to Carol's hotel for dinner and again have a beautiful view of the full moon. We are joined at our table by several geckos wanting some leftovers. Did not realize how much they like sugar as they were fighting over the cheese cake crumbs.
Tuesday we run over to wave good-bye to Carol as she is on the 10:15 ferry back to Panama City where she will meet our brother Walter at the airport for their flight back to Texas. The ferry drops her off at Balboa Yacht Club where she meets our canal agent Erick. I had been in communication with him since our transit and arranged for him to meet Carol to pay for our tow, not realizing he did not have our credit card on file.
Back on the boat Steve & Stephen start to work on the alternator. As with all boat projects, getting the parts & tools out is ½ the job, transforming the salon into a work area. Things go well until it is time to solder, then not so well. Talk to Chuy again and he knows of a place in Panama City that can work on it as you wait.
NEW plan, Steve will take the Wednesday morning 8:45 ferry back to the mainland & be met by taxi driver, Roosevelt, to drive him to get the alternator fixed then catch the afternoon ferry back to the island. While Steve is doing that, Stephen & I take the dinghy and go explore the shoreline around the island seeing the backside coves and do some swimming and snorkeling. Back to the boat for lunch, and a message from Steve saying he will be on the 3 o’clock ferry out of Balboa. I drop Stephen off at the dock so he can do more sightseeing of the island since he has been working on the boat for 2 days, and plan to pick him up at 5. I meet Steve at the dock as he gets off the ferry and he gets the alternator reinstalled and it appears to be working.
Thursday we are underway by 9 AM heading to Isla Contadora in the Las Perlas Archipelago. Part way there Steve is monitoring the battery charge and while it did fine Wednesday and earlier in the morning it now appeared not to be charging. We actually turn around and start back to Panama City, when Steve turns the engine off and restarts it and the batteries look to be charging again. So we turn around again and continue on to Contadora. Arriving on the south side anchorage by Playa Cacique by 3:30. Greeted by a bunch of empty moorings we again tried to reach someone on the VHF radio but no response so we found a sturdy one and tied off to it. Stephen swims into shore to see if he can find any info from the Perla Real Inn / restaurant in front of us. Very nice people but no info on the moorings. Steve cooks dinner on the boat.
Friday, even though we checked the mooring, we were close to rocks on a lee shore so Steve did not want to leave the boat unattended. Plus he wanted to see if he could find a reason for the batteries not getting a full charge even though the alternator is now working. Steve gets us close to shore at low tide where we get out of the dinghy and wade in holding our belongings in dry bags above our heads. Stephen & I rent a golf cart and drive around the island seeing pretty much everything in 3 hours. Beautiful villas that we think must be multifamily homes, but learn later they are all just single family homes. It is the weekend and we are surprised how many small private flights are landing bringing people to the island. We check on the ferry service for a possible trip for Stephen to get back to Panama City for his flight on Tuesday. Most people just use golf carts or ATV’s but there are several cars & trucks on the very small island. While visiting Playa Larga we see the beached “cargo” ship on the beach being loaded. This beach is also where the ruins of the Hotel Contadora Resort are, a once very posh resort. The ferry that use to bring guest to the resort also sits abandoned on the beach. Back to the hotel by our anchorage for a late lunch before Steve comes into pick us up. It is now high tide so we have to swim out a little beyond the breaking waves before getting into the dinghy. A fun day for Stephen & I. Friday night the moorings started filling up with power boats over from Panama City.
Saturday winds shifted more out of the north east so we have a nice calm anchorage and bay. Stephen & I take the dinghy across to Isla Chapera where we find several great snorkeling spots, the coral not so great but the fish population is the most I have seen in a while. Every time we went to a new spot we fell off the dinghy into huge schools of fish, several different kind, and they were not afraid of us as they just swam with us coming so close like they were checking us out. As we were circling the island we saw the S/V Mandala, the boat that we came thru the canal with. An Aeronaval boat (maritime authority) was alongside with 2 uniformed guys on their boat so we decided not to stop to say hello. We stopped nearby and swam to shore seeing some different looking starfish, learning later that the Pacific does have different ones. Great shells, sea glass and smooth stones were plentiful. This Island as well as several others was used for one of the Survivor episodes and was privately owned but the owner was arrested and his island seized by the government. So I guess that is why the Aeronaval guys hang out in the area. Returning to the boat after a great time to see how Steve was doing checking on the battery problem. He had spent the day isolating each battery one at a time to see if one was bad and drawing the rest down. He found one that was bad, so disconnected it and our battery charging ability improved. A lot more power boats sharing the anchorage with us Saturday night.
Sunday we left the mooring to go over to one of the coves we were at with the dinghy on Saturday to anchor. By the time we got over there a lot of power boats were already there, the day before we saw only 3-4 boats today there were 10-12. They were all together in one cove and we found a great anchorage in the next cove over. Steve finally gets off the boat to have a day of fun, a little cloudier today then what we have had. We took the dinghy back to many of the same spots we were at the day before but very few fish today. Different tide time so maybe that had something to do with it ? Stephen & I could not believe the difference, and of course today I have my underwater camera :(.
All the power boats left as the sun was setting heading back to Panama City or Contadora leaving us with the island almost to ourselves except for the Aeronaval boat and crew down in the next bay, but they never stopped by our boat.
Monday we head back to Panama City, bringing Stephen back for his flight out Tuesday afternoon and to get the generator fixed. We had been extremely lucky weather wise with only one small shower during our transit and a few other small ones in the middle of the night during his 2 week visit to Panama. On Monday, we were surrounded by clouds and one storm caught us for an hour we had heavy rain while motoring back to Panama City. It cleared in plenty of time to have great views of the skyline, and off in the distance we got to see a dolphin show as a pod were jumping out of the water and having fun. Stephen had made a hotel reservation when he thought he would need to take the ferry back when we were staying in Las Perlas. Even though we were now also returning to Panama City, he kept the room. After 2 weeks of boat showers, deck showers and even a rain shower he was ready for a real shower and a big bed with A/C. We anchor at La Playita go in to the dinghy dock to get a taxi to bring him to his hotel. Stopping by the marina office, we see if there is a slip available knowing it will be easier to get the work done at a slip and we won't have to worry about charging the batteries. They have a slip for us, so Stephen goes on to his hotel while we go back to the boat to get ready to bring her into the slip. Once docked and checked in with the marina office we get cleaned up and ready to meet Stephen for dinner. He takes a taxi back out our way and we walk down the road to meet him and find one of our favorite restaurants called Beirut to have a great last Lebanese dinner together.
It was great having family help us with our transit thru the canal and Stephen helping with boat repairs. Having extra time to visit with them afterward was fun, just wish we did not have so many problems, but that is part of our life and why our plans have to be so flexible.
Link to Pictures; https://picasaweb.google.com/103931849054358791487/IslaTabogaLasPerlasPanama?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCNSgk9Gt28CUEg&feat=directlink