Thursday, January 7, 2016

Return to Las Perlas

Return to Las Perlas

Sunday 22 November – Wednesday 23 December



We spent 4 + weeks exploring the Las Perlas Islands under almost ideal conditions.  Two overcast days where we did not go swimming, and one night we had a small short shower where we had to close the hatches.  The first week we had a few days where the winds kicked up the wave action so landing the dinghy on the beach was not possible, but we could just swim off the boat.  We are still amazed at the 15 + foot tides on this side, so a lot of the pictures are of the same place one at high tide & the other at low.  The tides also brought strong currents so we could swim in place behind the boat.  The snorkeling was not very good, with all the tidal swings the water has a lot of sand floating so visibility was poor.  There were a few good spots, and times when we would see a lot of fish around the rocks.  Many times we would be sitting in the cockpit and hear huge feeding frenzies and see the water erupt with activity.  Rays were everywhere, jumping and swimming nearby.  Birds singing, pelicans fishing.  After the full moon on Thanksgiving, the star gazing was fantastic, some very pretty sunsets.  Definitely one of the more relaxing cruising areas we have explored.


Leaving the marina felt great, we arrived back at Contadora around 3:30 Sunday afternoon, picking up a mooring we realized later a little too close to the runway for the small planes arriving and leaving the island.  I am sure they were surprised to see us also.  We moved to another one further away the following day, but as we went to check them first the dinghy motor died.  After rowing back to the boat Steve was able to diagnose the problem of a screw holding the float valve in place worked its way loose and the float valve was off.  Fixing it took a couple of hours bringing the motor back on board to do the work.  Just another day in paradise.  Staying at Contadora a few days with good internet as Steve made sure the parts we needed were ordered.  A few power boats around & one other sail boat came into the anchorage. 


Next stop back to Isla Chapera, where we had the island to ourselves to spend Thanksgiving, watching the beautiful full orange moon rise and talking to family back in the US.

Friday 11/27 over to new anchorage, east side of Isla Casaya, no other boats around, but a few local boats from a small village on the nearby island of Isla Casayeta.

Saturday 11/28  over to Isla Bayoneta, where we are still receiving internet from Contadora 8 miles away.  There are 2 other sail boats here with a single guy on each, we visit with them learning a little about the area.  Easy to visit other islands and bays with the dinghy from here.

Tuesday 12/1 over to Isla Viveros, anchor on south side, a beautiful bay but the swell works its way into the anchorage, making it quite rolly.

Wednesday we head over to the other side of Viveros and anchor in a little bay on Isla La Mina, nice and calm.  We are across from the north side of Viveros, where we see several houses.  They are trying to develop it like Contadora, but we are still the only ones around.  We took the dinghy over to the big beautiful beach on Viveros but the seas were too rough to land the dinghy on this day.  We enjoy another beautiful day at this perfect little anchorage.

Friday 12/4 we start making our way down the east side of Isla del Rey, the biggest of the Las Perlas islands, anchoring first between Isla del Rey & Isla Espiritu Santo.  Another perfect isolated anchorage.  A few spots where the snorkeling was fair, staying here 2 days.

Sunday 12/6 move down to Isla Canas, another island off the east side of Del Rey,  Anchoring up in a small bay, then explore by dinghy.  A beautiful afternoon until sunset when the no-see-ums came out.  This was our first and only encounter with the biting insects, it was a rough night. 

The next morning we took the dinghy to a near by village to see if they had and fruits or veggies but no luck.  Back to the boat to move to another anchorage as we did not want to deal with biting insects again. 

Monday down to Punta Gorda off Isla del Rey, shortly after we anchored 3 young men & their dogs  stopped by on their way from shore.  Not sure if they were trying to sell us iguana or asking us for $ to anchor, either way we said NO.  We had read that here, as in many Caribbean places the locals eat iguana, that and that cock fighting still happens.  We were concerned that the anchorage might be too open to the swells, but when we came in it was not bad so decided to stay.  Later in the night the winds picked up and shifted from north to east so put us on a lee shore, it was a sandy shore but we still did an anchor watch that night.

Tuesday morning we went out to a reef to snorkel, but a huge black cloud (no rain) moved in just as we arrived and the seas were a little too rough so we passed going to walk the beach instead then back to the boat and moving down to the next bay Morro San Juan,near a river to go explore.  Our first attempt to enter the river it was too much at low tide, we wanted to go in at a rising tide so we could just drift up the river.  The waves were crashing over the rocks near the entrance and only a few inches of water in some spots.  To dangerous to try to enter, so back to the boat to wait and about ½ hour later we were able to make it in between waves.  A nice trip up the river past the mangroves then back to the boat to go over to Isla San Telmo.  Known for its “mysterious” sunken submarine.  A very interresting story behind it as the FIRST submarine built during the civil war !!!   Try this  for the story.  The water visibility not the greatest but still very cool to see this 150 year old dive submarine.  Not an overnight anchorage so final stop for the day is at Rio Cacique on Isla del Rey in the Bay of San Telmo.  And we have another sailboat in the anchorage.  Go check out the river entrance and stop by the other boat to say hello.  Plan on seeing the river the following day.

Wednesday we were off with the timing for the tide and the river entrance was a big sandbar.  Nice walk on the beach then we went back to the boat to wait for the tide to come in a little.  The other boat had a smaller lighter dinghy so were able to carry it over the sandbar and start up the river.   Had to wait 2 hours this time before we had enough water to get in.  Later we went by dinghy to the near by village of Esmeralda to get gas for the dinghy. 

There are only a few small fishing villages in this Archipelago, Contadora is the most developed island and a few of the other islands are trying to build resorts and marinas to expand on the tourist trade.  We are glad we got to see it so undeveloped, but still find it surprising that being so close to a major city that there is not more vacation resorts.

Friday time to move on, passing by Punta Cocos at the bottom tip of Isla del Rey.  We passed on this anchorage as a swell was working its way in, there is a dock to go ashore here for the Servicio Maritimo and they welcome visitors.  They called us on the VHF just to check in.  Rounding the tip of Isla del Rey there are several shoals and the waves were building and crashing around them.  We looked at an anchorage in Concholon Bay on the west side but conditions were too rough to even try to get close never mind try to enter.  So plan B is a nice sail over to Isla San Jose.

As we were approaching Isla San Jose we passed a boat leaving, calling them on the VHF radio to say hi, turns out it was S/V Mandala the boat we went thru the canal with.  Another boat heard us talking and hailed us S/V Sweet Chariot were heading to the same anchorage as us.

Once anchored in the big beautiful bay Ensenada Playa Grande, we went over to visit with them.  They were heading out the following morning heading for Costa Rica.  The water here was clearer but still not great visibility, & the beaches were a little to rough to land dinghy on, but it was still magical.  This is the 2nd biggest island in Las Perlas and is privately owned !!    A lot of tractor work going on around the beach, we could not see any buildings from this bay but were told on the SE side you can see the owners home. 

The generator sprung another leak, this time from the sea water pump seal.  Steve had a spare he had to dig out then take apart all the housing surrounding the generator to be able to access the work area.  Removing it and replacing and reassembly taking several hours.  Then, he found another sea water leak, this time from the generator housing cooler.  The cause was a familiar one, stainless bolts into an aluminum housing that had corroded the aluminum and loosened the bolts enough to allow the box to leak.  Not enough thread left in the aluminum to tighten the bolts, so Steve removed the washers, and the extra couple of threads engaged were enough to seal.  Later back in Panama City, he replaces the bolts with longer ones coated with Tefgel to prevent more corrosion.  Yes, once again boat repairs in exotic places coming true. 

Monday 12/14 we head over to Isla Pedro Gonzalez and anchor in Ensenada Honda.  A marina and resort called Pearl Island are almost complete.  They have a good size village, but we saw a ferry bringing in workers from either the mainland or one of the other island villages.  All the villages we visited the people were very friendly, and they were all very clean, having recycle garbage cans, not a common sight in Panama. 

Wednesday 12/16 we go back to anchor of Isla Mina near Isla Viveros, time to get internet again, even if it is slow.  Weather being much calmer now we took the dinghy all the way around to the marina and ferry dock for the resort.  Walking towards the resort passing some very impressive private homes.  Arriving at the resort they are having an employee party day but welcome us to look around.  Workers live / stay on the island and today family came to visit.  After sight seeing for awhile we head back catching the shuttle bus bringing visiting family back to the ferry as we dinghy back to our boat.  Enjoying our private anchorage and beach at our private island for a couple more days.

Saturday we go back to the resort for lunch, landing the dinghy on the beach this time.  Only a few guest here, not a cheap place to visit. 

Sunday 12/20 we head back to Contadora to get better internet, and check on our supply order.

Tuesday night Steve’s tablet decides to die, making the decision to return to Panama City the following day to be able to get if fixed.  

Wednesday 12/23 at 7:30 AM we say adios to Las Perlas and motor back to Panama City with light winds on the nose and flat seas.  Sighted a pod of dolphins on the way back.  Still looking and waiting for whales.

Picking up a mooring at Balboa Yacht Club by 1 PM, we get the water taxi to shore.  After checking in with the office we head to town to go to the mall and the Samsung store to get Steve's tablet fixed.

After being on our own for almost 4 weeks seeing VERY FEW people and wearing VERY FEW clothes it was quite a shock to go to a mall 2 days before Christmas !! 

Tablet fixed, and a few groceries purchased back to the boat to see another pretty sunset and watch the ships enter and leave the canal while rocking and rolling to the big wakes from passing power boats. 


Link to pictures;

Pictures are not all in order like how I entered them !!!   Not that anyone but me would notice or care.








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