Las Perlas, Panama To Ecuador
Saturday 9 January – Wednesday 20 January, 2016
Before heading to Ecuador we got to spend a few days in Las Perlas again with dear friends Bill & JoAnne from the S/V Ultra that we had traveled a lot with over the last 4 years. They were line handlers on another friend’s boat transiting the canal to the Pacific, and we picked them up at Balboa Yacht club and were under way by 8 AM. Motored in calm seas over to Las Perlas Islands & anchored off Isla Bayoneta by 3:30 to enjoy a nice swim then a relaxing evening on the boat. The following day we went exploring, to a rock reef that gets submerged at high tide and to several nearby beaches. Wednesday another boat anchored nearby drove his boat onto a mud flat and waited for low tide so he could clean his boat’s bottom out of the water. We had just been talking about how this would be a good place for careening a boat with the huge tide shifts. It was cool to watch him do this. JoAnne & I went back to the nearby beach to burn trash while Bill helped Steve clean the bottom of our boat in the water in preparation for our trip to Ecuador. That afternoon we went over to anchor by Isla Chapera and snorkeled. Tuesday over to Contadora where I dropped Steve, Bill & JoAnne off on shore to go walk & see some of the island. All back to the boat for lunch then a dinghy ride around to north side of the island to drop Bill & JoAnne off for their Ferry ride back to Balboa in Panama City. We were really glad to have this time to visit with them before they head east and we head west.
Wednesday we put the boat back in order for a passage, stowing things we leave out while at anchor. Steve made a few meals to heat up underway, caught up on emails and called family letting them know we were finally making the voyage to Ecuador.
Thursday morning we were underway at 7:45, in calm seas with light winds. By 9 we had enough wind to sail and it was a beautiful start. By 4 the winds died down and were directly behind us, so we rolled up the sails and motored enjoying a beautiful sunset dinner. By 10 the winds picked back up and we were able to sail all night and most of Friday, which was another beautiful sunny calm day. By 3 we rolled up the sails and motored all night and all day Saturday in very calm seas, going through the doldrums in the Intra-tropical Convergence Zone, where the trade winds from the north meet the trade winds from the south, resulting in no wind. Taking advantage of the calm seas, we topped up fuel from our spare drums on deck, joking that we could water ski and wishing we could go for a swim. Steve even made a few more meals with some veggies that needed to be used up. It was strange being underway with windows open. Saturday afternoon clouds started to form and move over us, no beautiful star gazing that night. When Steve got up at 1 for his shift, he decided to take advantage of the wind we now had and turn the engine off. We put just the genoa out and the wind angle had us bashing into waves, even though they were only 3 + feet it made it really hard for me to get any sleep, by 4 I asked Steve to make it calmer and we reefed the genoa and turned off course to make for a little calmer ride.
Sunday morning we had overcast skies and some rain during the early morning hours and more later in the day. We had been heading west / southwest and now were starting to head more south. Seas still only 3 feet +/- but not in a smooth rhythm so we turned off course looking for a smoother ride. I went down to try to catch up on the sleep I missed the night before. Steve had to wake me for a few minutes to come up on deck in case we needed to use the VHF radio as a 25 ft fishing boat was heading directly towards us. We were a long way off the Colombian coast but these small open boats go out far ! NO problem as they passed behind us heading towards land. Wind is on the nose so we continue to motor with the main up the rest of the night.
Monday January18th at 5:15 AM we crossed the equator !! Now we are in the South Pacific Ocean.The day clears to another sunny calm day, we take advantage and top up with fuel again, these extra drums of fuel are coming in handy, as it is allowing us to motor when conditions are not good for sailing, making our 5 day passage a 5 day passage instead of a 7 – 8 day passage.
As night time approaches and we are only 15 miles off the Ecuador coast we put the sails up, as we do not want to run over any fishing nets with the prop spinning. Steve gets to tack a few times trying to keep the sails full as he slowly passes some lighted floats and many unlit fishing boats. By the time I come up for my watch we have cleared all the obstacles and roll the sails up to motor onto course.
Tuesday morning we are approaching La Libertad, where our marina Puerto Lucia is located. The marina opens at 8 but we were told they seldom answer the VHF radio. We had slowed down to be able to hail them on the radio before entering the small marina basin. On my 2nd attempt they answered in Spanish, we were able to communicate who we were and that we would be at the entrance in 15 minutes. Not sure of her answer we proceed towards the entrance. We see a tender come from the marina and it is a “marinero” (marina employee) to guide us in. He shows us to a spot to anchor right outside the marina first and then ferries us in to the marina office. We get all checked into the marina and she calls an agent to inform them of our arrival and they let us know they will come to check us in at 2. Back to the boat by 9:30 to get lines and fenders ready. 3 marineros come back out in the tender to help guide us into the med moor slip. One of the marineros asks to come on board to help and I quickly accept the offer.
This is the strangest set up for a marina we have ever seen !!!! Backing into the slip, a floating dock and tying our bow lines to moorings in the water. We would need to get on & off the boat from the back so we needed to move the dinghy, which we did not have time to do before coming in, and which of course was all tightly tied down securely from our passage. We are loosely in the “slip” giving us room to get the dinghy down. Moving with the surge a little close to the boats next to us. Dinghy down & to the side we get tied up to the dock and to shore and to the mooring. It takes a LOT of line adjustments as we have to be close enough to the dock to be able to jump off the boat, but not to close as we swing with the surge that we crash into the dock !! Only seeing the pictures can you understand. Once on the dock Steve asks where the electrical outlet is, whoops missing one at this slip. They say it will be fixed the following day.
During all this commotion good friends Bruce & Gina from Dream Catcher come by to say hello, and Gina brings us some of her fabulous baked chocolate chip cupcakes for breakfast. That boost of sugar was just what I needed! We had been in communication with them and knew our time here would only overlap by just this one day so we were very grateful to be able to see them again. They introduce us to Arnold the other live aboard here at the marina who is a resident Ecuadorian and a wealth of knowledge of the area. We made plans for the evening to go for pizza for their farewell dinner and for us to meet some other people, 2 of whom we had met briefly in Shelter Bay and had talked to on the SSB radio. They were a little concerned that customs might not show up to check us in and they are a lot stricter here about leaving your boat before you are checked in. But all 5 officials plus the agent show up at 3:30, and all went smoothly with help from Arnold acting as interpreter.
All cleaned up by 6 the group piled into 2 cars and went to Salinas a few miles down the road for pizza, and then for ice cream afterward. A fun time and great to catch up with Bruce & Gina. Back to the boat for a great night’s sleep for Steve & I.
January 20, Wednesday morning Steve and Bruce talked and decided we will move into their slip when they leave. They had purchased some extra lines to tie up to the docks here and sold them to us at a discounted price, plus they were going to leave their bow lines that were covered with 4 months of water growth and slime behind. This way we could get our lines out of the water and not have them ruined and have electricity. They left their slip at 10, and went over to the fuel dock, an hour later after several goodbyes to folks they got on their way to head north to Costa Rica.
Arnold helped us let the marineros know we would be moving, and we confirmed it with the office that it was okay. Back to our boat to get ready to move !! It was so much fun the first time we were not thrilled about moving again but it was for the best. With the help of the marineros in their skiff pushing us off a mooring line from the other side of the marina caught on our keel. Arnold and another marinero on the dock to all help with lines we were moved into the new slip by 12:30. The electrical outlet is NOT a marine outlet, just a simple wall outlet box on the end of a loose wire, but Dream Catcher was plugged in for the last 4 months without a problem so hopefully it will hold out for 3 more without any problems. Get the water hooked up, and wash the deck of the boat. Unload all items in the dinghy in preparation of lifting it onto the dock to keep it out of the water, also took the cover off to wash and get ready for mending. Dinner on board and another good night’s sleep.
Our first impression of the marina was not good, BUT the people we have met in our short time have all been very friendly and helpful. Even the marina staff who speak no English have been extremely helpful and patient with our attempts to talk in Spanish. We look forward to exploring this area and the other regions of Ecuador.
Link to pictures; https://picasaweb.google.com/103931849054358791487/ToEcuador?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCOyC69OBsNWliQE&feat=directlink