Heading to La Playita at sunset.

Isla Taboga and the inevitable Return to La Playita

Located 7-miles off the coast of Panama are the Taboga islands.  Isla Tabogo  was called “Island of Flowers” when it was under Spanish rule.  They used this island as a base from which to loot the riches of Peru and the South American Continent.  Later, it became a notorious pirate hideout.  But in 1840, the island became the headquarters for the Pacific Steamship Navigation Company.  Then during the French Panama Canal construction, a hospital and sanitarium were built and the island was used to to treat workers with yellow fever.  Today, the island is a wildlife refuge across its 8km perimeter.

There are several hiking trails around both islands but unfortunately there is no easy way to get to shore.  There is one good anchorage between Isla Tabogo and El Morro which is supposed to be protected. Arrow below points to the anchorage.

Map of Isla Taboga and El Morro

Map of Isla Taboga and El Morro

We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and decided to watch the wind, waves, and current before going ashore.  The anchorage is full of commercial moorings and one large commercial dock that brings lots of traffic.  Finding an anchor spot was challenging as we did not want to be too close to a mooring.  We found what we thought was a good spot and endured the small incoming rolls.

IMAGE: Isla Taboga behind El Morro and below is the town at Isla Tabogo with the sun illuminating it.

Isla Tabogo behind El Morro and below is the town at Isla Tabogo

Isla Tabogo behind El Morro and below is the town at Isla Tabogo

The tide varied by 5 meters (yep, 15′) so we put out enough scope to cover high tide.

Boats that have returned to La Playita and their reasons why:

  • Itchy Foot – Rigging
  • Nomad – Navigation equipment
  • Shannigans – Electronics
  • Sugar Shack – Delayed deliveries
  • Moon Rebel – Electronics
  • And a few others who have escaped my memory
Birds enjoying a day at the beach

Las Perlas Archipelago: Part II

The beauty of the Las Perlas Archipelago is that if you don’t like one island, you can easily move to another. Isla Pedro Gonzales was lovely, but with the odd rubber smell and loud music we decided to move to a new island. Isla Viveros lies only 8-miles away from Isla Pedro Gonzales so we motored on over. Our friends on “Breakaway” told us to stop short of Isla Viveros at a set of small islands called Isla De Feunche.

At first, it looks like 3 small islands, but in reality, it is one island. During high tide, the rocky path  between each rock is covered by water, but you can see the path during low tide. Sunsets were stunning here!

The beautiful islands of Isla de Feunche

The beautiful islands of Isla de Feunche

Another blissful island, isolated, serene, gorgeous, and full of wildlife. We had it all to ourselves and enjoyed every minute of it! We took the SUPs out and paddled to the main island and enjoyed the beach, skipping rocks, collecting treasures, and playing with the fish.  This is a gem in the Las Perlas Archipielago.

IMAGE: Top Sugar Shack at the anchorage by herself, Middle: Our SUPs hanging out by a tree, Bottom: Matt watching the stingrays in the shallow water.

A day at the beach...

A day at the beach…

You can almost make it around the entire island…

IMAGE: Top: Matt claiming a spit of sand & a heart rock, Middle: Climbing over rocks exploring the island, Bottom: Me on my throne and rocky shore.

Isla de Feunche

Isla de Feunche

We received word that our batteries arrived earlier than we expected so we had to rearrange our Las Perlas schedule a bit. We were heading to Isla Bayoneta forcing us to leave our little piece of paradise – we loved Isla De Feunche!

Bayoneta is sandwiched between Isla Malaga and La Vivienda. We heard that it was a really pretty, quiet island. It was a nice anchorage, but with another boat already here we decided to go somewhere else. Way too crowded. (Yes, we are a bit spoiled)

We had a few choices of where to go next. We could return to Contradora where we’d have wifi (always good), go to the Eastern side of Mogo Mogo, or go to a new island called Isla Pacheca. As we motored north, we decided against Contradora as we had already been there. We swung into the new anchorage at Mogo Mogo which was pretty but crowded with 4 boats. So, we continued on to Isla Pacheca.

Really pretty anchorage, no other cruising boats, pretty little beach, and well protected from the sea. When we arrived, there were several fishing boats cleaning their days catch, but as the afternoon progressed, more boats arrived. Not a big deal as we knew they would leave, but there was a horrible fish smell and tons of birds.  The birds are wonderful, but the bombs they leave are not.

Isla Pacheca beautiful, but a place where local fisherman go to clean their catch.

Isla Pacheca beautiful, but a place where local fisherman go to clean their catch.

We spent more time cleaning under the boat. Matt got the hooka out and cleaned the Starboard hull (below the waterline) and replaced both sets of small zincs which were shot to hell.  Image below shows two small zincs and one new in the middle.  We got our money’s worth for sure.

Old and New Zincs

Old and New Zincs

While Matt was under the boat, I scrubbed the teak on both sets of sugar scoops. We had applied several coats of stain over the years. It was time to strip the wood back and either reapply the stain or apply an oil to protect the wood from the harsh sun. First step, is cleaning the dirt and stain out of the wood.

We got up early, pulled anchor, and were on our way by 0600. Our goal was to be at La Playita by 12n which would give us 6 hours to travel the 40+ miles. We will collect our batteries, clear out of the country, do laundry, and a few more provision runs. Hopefully, we can get out of there within a few days.

The Las Perlas chain has been a delightful experience!  So many beautiful, tranquil, and untouched islands.

Passage from Las Perals to a Playita:

  • Uneventful, luckily
  • Few dolphins came to play with us
  • No fish jumped on the hook
  • No whale sightings
  • Very litle wind
Rio Cacique Adventure with "BreakAway"

Las Perlas Archipelago: Part I

The Las Perlas Archipelago were calling to us, but we were stuck in a routine and had a hard time getting motivated to leave.  It was a decent anchorage, we had lots of cruiser friends around, knew the transit system, and all the best happy hours, and wifi spots.  But, Sugar Shack was a disgrace!  She was incredibly dirty from all the muck in the water and it was truly embarrassing.  However, the water was nasty and neither Matt nor I wanted to get in to clean the boat.  Over 3 weeks later…

First things first, pressure wash the chain and bridle as it comes up to try to remove one layer of growth.

Pressure washing the anchor chain

Pressure washing the anchor chain

The 44-mile trip to Las Perlas Archipielago took us about 5.5 hours.  We were able to fly the spinnaker for about an hour before the winds completely died and forced us to motor.  But, like our previous trip, we saw lots of fabulous sea life.  The first time we made this journey (with Wayne, Heather, Michael, Stacy, and Gene) we saw whale spouts.  But this time we actually saw  a bit of the whale’s body and their huge tales.  Plus, there are lots and lots of birds.  I love it when they take up residence on a floating piece of wood.

Birds hanging out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Birds hanging out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

During our last visit to the Las Perlas Archipelago, we visited 3 islands: Isla Contradora, Isla Chapera, and Mogo Mogo.  We had planned on returning to this area as there are over 220 islands that make up this archipelago.  Unfortunately, we only have 10 days to explore the Las Perlas Achipelago as our batteries are scheduled to arrive mid-April.  We decided to start at the southern end of the chain and slowly work our way back toward the northern end.  So, we headed to Isla Del Rey, the southernmost island in Las Perlas.  The 33-mile trip took a little under 5 hours to motor (zero wind).

Originally, we were going to anchor at Concholon Bay, but we changed our minds once we arrived, as it was really rolly.  It took us less than an hour to round the tip of Isla Del Rey, arriving at Punta Cocos.  This bay had a stunning, extended beach and an old Navy outpost.  Not long after we anchored, friends on “Breakaway” arrived (we had not seen them since La Playita several weeks ago).

This crazy ramp moves with the tides (low tide below) and leads up to the Navy outpost.  The small Navy boat is at the dock while the large Navy boat is below.

Ramp to Navy Facility and Navy Boat Keeping Us Safe

Ramp to Navy Facility and Navy Boat Keeping Us Safe

At the eastern end of the bay is a sunken fishing boat or pelican residence.

Sunken Fishing Vessel at Isla Del Rey

Sunken Fishing Vessel at Isla Del Rey

The next morning, we picked up “Breakaway” and headed toward the dock. We had hoped to walk around the World War II airfield and outpost, but the working Navy facilities wouldn’t allow it.  So, we changed course and walked the long and beautiful beach.  Lucky for us as we found a mango tree that had gifted us with several ripe mangos!  Sweet!

Matt enjoying some solitude on the beach

Matt enjoying some solitude on the beach

Later in the afternoon, we each headed to Rio Cacique, the next bay over.  Our guide book mentioned that we could take the dinghy up river.  Just before high tide, “Breakaway” came by to pick us up. A sandbar blocked the entrance so we carried their small dinghy and outboard to the river bank.  It was pretty shallow, but we were able to paddle up river with the current to admire the beautiful, partially submerged mangroves and rainforest in total silence.

Rio Cacique Adventure with "BreakAway"

Rio Cacique Adventure with “BreakAway”

We had sundowners on “Breakaway” and said our goodbyes as they are heading to Ecuador and we are heading back up the Perlas chain.

On the way to our next destination, we passed by Tres Pilares de Arroz (three pieces of rice) which made me crack up!  Who gets to come up with the names of these islands?  Probably the same creative people who come up with nail polish names.

Rio Cacique Adventure with "BreakAway"

Rio Cacique Adventure with “BreakAway”

The next island we motored to was Isla San Jose.  This is the second largest island in the Las Perlas chain and is privately owned.  The owners house is located in Isla De Olega Bay which had one large house and several cabins in the surrounding forest.  In the bay out front were three fishing boats of varying sizes.

Owners residence at Isla De San Jose

Owners residence at Isla De San Jose

We anchored at Ensenada Playa Grande and had the entire bay to ourselves – it was so picturesque.  The water is pretty clear, which meant it was time to clean the water line!  Matt grabbed the scraper and one SUP while I grabbed a scrub brush and the other SUP.  He attacked the outside hulls while I hunkered down and worked on the inside of the hulls.  This was a multiple step process.  First, we got the top lawyer of growth and grime off with the scrubber and scraper, then used a cloth to muscle off the remaining soft filth.  Next, we rubbed “On & Off” which is marine grade hull cleaner to try to remove the yellow tint and bring back the white fiberglass.  We finished the starboard side, but ran out of energy for the port.  Still need to hit the port with On & Off and then she will be sparkly clean.

Cleaning the water line of the boat

Cleaning the water line of the boat

We also cleaned up the stainless on the boat using ospho.  The rust accumulates very quickly which requires cleaning the stainless steel (all pad eyes, stanchions, blocks, locks, and lines) every 6 weeks.  Before and after photos below.

Cleaning up the stainless on the boat

Cleaning up the stainless on the boat

We didn’t spend all our time cleaning, we did enjoy the shore as well.  This was such a beautiful and tranquil anchorage!  The beach was gorgeous, with a tint of red from the neighboring rocks and corals.  The shore was peppered with sea shells and tracks from birds and a gator!

We did have to pull Sweetie up pretty far on the beach and then the tide went out…

Sugar Shack and Sweetie enjoying a piece of paradise

Sugar Shack and Sweetie enjoying a piece of paradise

Image: Top row: red tinted sand and red cliffs.  Middle row: Sweetie on shore and Sugar Shack alone at the anchorage.  Bottom row: delightful untouched beach and gator tracks.

Isla San Jose anchorage

Isla San Jose anchorage

Each night we were gifted with a beautiful sunset.  This doesn’t suck!

Breathtaking sunset

Breathtaking sunset

After a few days we pulled ourselves away from this paradise and moved to Isla Pedro Gonzales.  It was a short 11-mile motor, with no wind.  We anchored in front of the little village which consisted of about 100 colorful homes that housed the 500+ villagers. There was not much to do onshore other than walk around greeting the locals who were trying to enjoy their Sunday afternoon.  We made this a lunch stop without the lunch…

Pedro Gonzales and the colorful houses

Pedro Gonzales and the colorful houses

Stay tuned for more on the Las Perlas Archipelago ….

Sugar Shack Visits the following Islas within Las Perlas Achipelago:

  • De Fuenche
  • Bayoneta
  • Pacheca