Dinghy Dock at Linton Bay

Sailing to Linton Bay

We had been “off the grid” for 12 days. It doesn’t sound that long, but try not watching TV, listening to the radio, or being online (no chats, texts, emails, news updates, Instagram, Facebook, nothing). As romantic as it might sound, it was really hard. There are a few options to get some wifi, but they all included leaving the San Blas islands. We could do a downwind run to Carti, broad reach to El Provenir, or beam reach to Linton Bay.  Linton Bay won out. But first we had to say farewell to Wayne who was being picked up from Carti.

We were all up early awaiting Wayne’s panga ride which was scheduled to arrive at 730am. They arrived promptly and carried our Wayne away.

Wayne leaving in a panga...heading home.

Wayne leaving in a panga…heading home.

We took this opportunity to do laundry, clean up the port side of the boat, and catch up on some laziness. We wasted the day away, but we did make a plan to head to Linton Bay to get fuel, provision, and find a sim card. Always good to have a plan.

The next morning we got up early, checked out the weather report, and discovered that 2 other sailboats that we knew were heading to Linton Bay as well. We deflated and stowed the SUPs, put the bean bags below, and readied the boat for her 45 mile day.

The winds were blowing pretty strong at 25-30 knots and a squall was predicted so we double reefed the main and the jib. The first few hours were great as we sailed along at 8-9 knots, beam reach, and 2-3 meter waves. As the winds slowed we shook the jib out completely and surfed the odd rogue waves that periodically gave us a bit of a push. The waves stayed big with some cresting at 4 meters, rocking the boat in an odd pattern, but the wind stayed strong enough for us to sail.

It was not the best ride with the funky winds, but it was good to have the sails up and the boat moving with canvas. We were escorted by a rather large pod of exceptionally big dolphins. They were a frisky bunch, showing off their best lords of leaping skills. Kept us entertained for well over a half an hour.

We arrived into Linton Bay around 1600 with the sun low in the sky and reefs all around us. We carefully motored into the bay and found a spot to drop the hook in 10 meters of water. Pretty deep water for us as we like to have 7 to 1 scope on our chain. We have 100 meters of chain, so it is doable, just a little out of our comfort zone. As we were anchoring, our friends Dave and Mary from “Wandering Rose” welcomed us with a frenzied wave.

Linton Bay Marina with haul out equipment in background with orange straps.

Linton Bay Marina with haul out equipment in background with orange straps.

We were finally able to get a signal off the GoogleFi phone so I checked emails, attended to some business and answered a few urgent requests. We decided it would be best to go ashore to get some intel so we dropped Sweetie in the water and headed ashore.

A quick stop at “Wandering Rose” provided some good information on the local pub, internet access, trash, and bus schedule. We headed up to the “bar” which is not much more than a floating barge with some chairs, tables, grill, and cooler. None the less, it had wifi.

Linton Bay Bar in front and marina office that ran out of money mid-construction.

Linton Bay Bar in front and marina office that ran out of money mid-construction.

Dinghy dock or panga dock.

Dinghy dock or panga dock.

We saddled up to the bar, ordered Matt a $1 beer and clicked away. Some other friends from “La Vie” arrived and gave us more information on local towns, provisioning, and safety. Not long after, Barry from “White Shadow and “Adventures of an Old Sea Dog” joined us.  Evidently, the bar was low on beer, had no food, and little ice.  So the bartender shut up shop, told us to lock up and left.  A party in Panama for sure.

This funny painting was in a lovely gallery.

This funny painting was in a lovely gallery.

This cracked me up - branding at its best

This cracked me up – branding at its best

MARKETING AT ITS BEST:

Love that the local stores carry some American brands.  And of course cheaper brands of the same cereal…wonder about the taste and quality?

Puerto Escoses Huts

Puerto Escoses, Panama

We woke up in Puerto Escoses to an incredibly beautiful sunrise over the tree top covered hills, in calm waters with birds chirping and some other mysterious animal noises. (We later discovered they were howler monkeys) It is so serene here, this could easily become our new favorite bay.

In 1698, England sent 1300 Scots to Puerto Escoses to build Fort Andrew, but they had a terrible time faced with starvation and disease. Within 2 years, those that were alive returned to Scotland. However, just after they left a fleet of reinforcements arrived who made a second attempt to survive here. They suffered the same problems and Fort Andrew was given up for good in 1702. Today only ruins remain and they are hardly recognizable. Of the nearly 3,000 people involved, over 2,000 died. Gunas from the villages of Mulatupu and Caledonia own plots of land along Punta Escoses and often come over to tend crops.

From our view point, the huts look abandoned except the very vocal animals hidden in the depths of the forest. We took “Sweetie” out to explore the bay and get a closer look at the huts and were surprised to see the depth change rather rapidly. Just a few meters away from where we anchored it was 2 meters deep and you could clearly see that this bay was flush with amazing coral heads.

Huts over the water, uninhabited.

Huts over the water, uninhabited.

Coral heads under our dinghy.

Coral heads under our dinghy.

We took the time to fix our port dagger board which had been wedged in place. We use small pieces of PVC to wedge the dagger board so they don’t rattle. Unfortunately, one got stuck and prevented our dagger board from moving up or down. Matt and Wayne tied a halyard to the top of the board and raised it slowly to get the small piece out and bingo it’s free!

We lifted the anchor just before 10 to leave Puerto Escoses and head toward our next destination, Bahia de Masargandi. This deep inlet is a maze of mangroves and shoals. People from neighboring island, Ustupu work the mountains. They sail over in their dugout “ulu” canoes. We were told that you can ask them to take you for a trip into the remote farming plots and that they make great guides. However, they do not accept monetary payments. Rather they ask you to carry 60 lbs of bananas on your back, through steaming jungle, along winding, slippery paths. No thanx we pass!

The entire trip to Bahia de Masargandi was about 28.6 miles, with the wind on our nose and an average speed of 4.7 (max 7.6). We tried to fly the jib again, but she mostly suffered in a floppy state. So, just past Isla Iguana which is a deserted island, we turned the boat into the wind to stop her and then hopped in the water to cool off. So, we shut the engines off, put a line out in the water, and jumped in. Matt scrubbed the keel coolers and I cleaned up the water line. Quick shower and back on the path to Bahia de Masargandi.

When entering the bay, we had to be vigilant watching for shallow reefs and coral heads. The charts we have, Eric Bauhaus are the best in existence and so far. However we have found that they are not completely accurate. Of course, this is based on only 3 anchorages. Matt has the electronic Bauhaus charts on his iPad and MacBook Pro and we use our GPS and Navionics and they all have shown us on land when we weren’t. Nerve racking none the less.

With this bay, we had to reverse several times to avoid shallow spots. The depth dropped from 13 to 3 meters within a boat length. We anchored behind what we thought was a deserted hut on a small island but later discovered it was inhabited by locals who work the farms.

Summer home? I love it. Fisherman's hut.

Summer home? I love it. Fisherman’s hut.

Matt and Wayne took the dinghy out to test the depth around the boat in case the winds shift and move us into shallower water. We decided it would be best to drop a second anchor to ensure we don’t move over the 1-2-meter area to port.

Matt and Wayne checking depth.

Matt and Wayne checking depth.

We captured a few other pretty shots of this beautiful bay.

Sugar Shack enjoying the solitude.

Sugar Shack enjoying the solitude.

Boys out exploring.

Boys out exploring.

Wayne happy to be out with us.

Wayne happy to be out with us.

Beautiful shoreline with trees and mangroves.

Beautiful shoreline with trees and mangroves.

Different angle of the huts over water.

Different angle of the huts over water.

Deserted Island benefits:

  • Abandoned huts, place to stay?
  • Wildlife abound
  • Private bay and watering hole
Dog Island Ship Wreck

Ship wreck in the Lemon Cays

A stunning morning at the beautiful anchorage of Eastern Lemon Cays. Even though there are a lot of other boats here, it is still a gorgeous anchorage. We are surrounded by little islands that are covered in palm trees. The water easily laps against the boat and the shore lulls you into a transe. Its so peaceful and serene and such a simple way of life here. We enjoyed a blissful morning and decided to do a boat chore before exploring.

There was an icky smell permeating from the freezer so Matt decided to defrost it. We stocked the freezer in Aruba. However, we didn’t cook for a month as we were so close to a million amazing and cheap places to eat in Santa Marta. We did not think much of the food that was in vacu-seal bags in the freezer until a week ago. We noticed a funky smell and slowly started finding effected food. A rack of ribs, the tuna we caught a month ago, and some pepperoni. The fish was sad, but we can catch another one, the pepperoni was a bummer but we can make pizza with other toppings. The rack of ribs was heart breaking. Matt makes delicious marinated ribs and finding more ribs in Panama is unlikely.

We had made plans with our friends on “Sweet Chariot” to swim on a wreck at Dog Island, which is a mile away from Banedup. This wreck is a sunken cargo ship that was beached in the late 1950s and now lays in 3-6 meters of water. The ship evidently had a leak while passing the San Blas Islands that was too big to fix or pump against. The captain beached the ship while under full power to salvage the cargo. Some of the cargo, which included rum, reached Colon.  But the remaining part of the cargo disappeared.

It was a perfect place to snorkel with lots of fish, an enormous Barracuda and Queen Angel Fish, too many jelly fish for my liking, and beautiful soft coral. The sea life sure has taken a liking to this site.

Ship wreck near dog island. Photo courtesy of Go2SanBlas.

Ship wreck near dog island. Photo courtesy of Go2SanBlas.

After our snorkel, we spied another huge wreck above the water and decided to go investigate. It is another mile further out toward the Chichime Cays. Even in the dinghy we have to be vigilant about avoiding the reefs and shallow spots. So, we carefully navigated back toward Banedup and made a sharp left toward Sand Bank and Yansaladup.  The Lemon Cays have to be carefully navigated in a big boat or a dinghy.

As we were coming across the sandy spit, we noticed a monohull listing to one side. Oh dear, she ran aground. We diverted to go assist. 3 other dinghies and a panga were already trying to help, but those dinghies only had 9 hp engines and the panga only had oars. Since we have a 25hp engine, we knew could help.

We tried a number of different ways to get this 40-45’ wooden boat named “Wooden Shoe” off the sandy bottom, but nothing was working. More dinghies and two more pangas came to help. We had a few dinghies at the starboard bow and a few at the port stern trying to rock her back and forth – nothing. The two pangas anchored using a small line tied to a 10’ stick that was stuck in the ground (ingenious) and all 4 Kuna Indians jumped in the water. Two had snorkels and could see where she was wedged in the sand. In concert with the dinghies, the Kuna were pulling down on the bow sprit and rocking her up and down. Slowly she started moving, inch by inch until she was off the sand bar.

It was such a relief to see this boat afloat again, but even more spectacular was the jubilant faces of the 4 Kuna who had successfully manhandled this wooden boat. Job well done! The owner, a woman who has been single handing the boat since 1999!  But even for the most experienced, the Lemon Cays can be dangerous.

After that, we resumed our trip toward Chichime Cays where we saw the other wreck. We had not been to this anchorage yet so we were surprised to see a host of other boats all congregated between Uchutupu Pipigua and Uchutupu Dummat. Just past this anchorage was a large ferry that had run aground and was visible to well below her water line. In addition, there was another sail boat aground with no mast or sails visible from where we were. A big reminder to stay alert in both the big ship and the dink!

Back to the boat for a light snack and a swim to enjoy the Lemon Cays.

Lemon Cay Islands we visited or went past on this trip:

  • Chichime Cays
  • Sand Ban
  • Yansaladup
  • Uchutupu Pipigua
  • Uchutupu Dummat