Tag Archives: islands

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
Hotel Olas with dinghy dock out front, $2 beer and decent wifi.

Passage: Colon to Bocas del Toro

This post  missed the insertion into the blog – it was supposed to go live 4/7 so it is reeally behind.  Bocas del Toro are in the Atlantic side, part of Panama…but still a good post.

We completed our work in Shelter Bay and decided to sail to Bocas del Toro.  Since we have three weeks before our transit date it does not make sense to spend that time in the marina (even though it is really nice) when we can spend it exploring new islands.

Bocas del Toro is a province of Panama comprising many islands off the Caribbean coast and just 30 miles from Costa Rican border.  Christopher Columbus discovered this area on his 4th and final voyage in 1502 and was anchored in the same bay that Sugar Shack dropped the hook.  In the 19th century, several people migrated here bringing their slaves to avoid taxes including the Scottish, English, Knapp’s from Jamaica, and the Shepherd family.  For more history on the Bocas, visit this site.

Our dock neighbors, “Ka Lani Kai” at 50′ Catana, were short one engine and had to be hauled out.  It would be much easier for them to maneuver with us gone so we decided to leave around noon.  We originally planned on stopping at the Rio Chagres, a fresh water river, before heading all the way to Bocas del Toro.  That was the “plan.”

With Matt at the helm, we left the marina as I started to stow our lines and fenders.  We had (4) lines holding us to the dock and 4 of our large A4 ball fenders and 8 of our F4 tube fenders.  I wanted to stow them before they got wet, not such a good idea.

Heading out of the marina into the breakwater, between the “explosive anchor markers” and the sea wall was like being in a washing machine.  The seas were coming from every direction, the wind was howling, the boat was banging on each wave causing huge splashes.  And where am I?  At the bow, on the tramp, holding on to the netting with one hand, and the fenders with the other.  Not my brightest moment. I returned to the cockpit soaked to the bone as Matt said “how was your bath?”  Not the way I anticipated starting this voyage, but the fenders are all stowed.

Our destination is 145 miles away from us and for some reason we got our timing mixed up. Matt had said it would take 18 hours to get there and that stuck in my head.  If we had done the math, we would have known we were way, way off.  We usually use 5 knots as our average speed which would get us to Bocas del Toro in 29 hours.  Even if we averaged 6 knots an hour it would take us 24 hours,

The forecast showed good winds for our passage, but they were going to die down over the next few days.  We set the main and jib with one reef, after the hour it took us to get out of the marina, motor 3 miles out of the channel, and clear the breakwater.

It was a great, fast sail in the beginning, we had 18-25 knots of wind, 2 meter waves and an average speed of 7.5 knots.  With our good wind and the prospect of no wind over the next few days we decided to skip Rio Chagres and do that on the way back to Colon.  At dusk, the wind started to slow down so we shook out the jib and carried on as night descended upon us.

Matt made dinner and as I cleaned up he took the first night shift 2000-2300.  The winds slowed down considerably and he brought the jib in.  On my shift Matt only slept for about 30-40 minutes before waking up again.  The winds had shifted and were now on our nose making our main sail useless so we brought that down as well.  Motoring along at 2,000 RPM, head into the wind we should be making 5 knots.

But wait, we weren’t!  Off the peak and down a wave we would average 3-5 knots, but in the trough and up the wave we would average 1-3 knots.  It was pitch black at night and we could not see what was causing us to slow down so much.  Sure, the waves were big, but 1-3 knots, come on?

Around 0400 Matt checked the pilot charts and realized that we were in a strong easterly current that was pushing us in the opposite direction we wanted to go (it was in cahoots with the wind).

We arrived to the Bocas del Toro channel around 1430 and what a welcome site it was.  Several islands surround the Bahia Almirante, including: Isla Colon, Bocas Town, Cayo Bastimentos, Cayo Nancy, and Isla Christobal.  Our friends on “Wandering Rose” were anchored on the southern tip of Bocas Town so we motored around the huge reef and anchored our ship.

Bocas del Toro Town, or just Bocas Town is at the southern tip of Isla Colón, in the Caribbean Sea.   Bars and restaurants fill the waterfront making for a colorful photo.

Bocas Town waterfront view.

Bocas Town waterfront view.

We were exhausted, but felt the need to go ashore and explore.  The dinghy dock at Hotel Olas was pretty easy to find as the hotel is a bright yellow.  Our friends Dave and Mary, “Wandering Rose” were there interneting away. They gave us a few tips about the island before we set out to explore.  It was close to 1800, the sun was setting, on a Sunday during carnival.  We did not expect to see many stores open, but we were surprised.  The town was starting to stir, locals were putting on costumes, and music was blaring, as we explored the small town.  We did not stay out long as we were hungry and tired.

Hotel Olas with dinghy dock out front, $2 beer and decent wifi.

Hotel Olas with dinghy dock out front, $2 beer and decent wifi.

PASSAGE TO BOCAS DEL TORO:

  • Total miles traveled: 145 miles (+3 miles out of the breakwater)
  • Total travel time: 27:23  (less 1 hour to leave breakwater)
  • Overall trip: 5.3 avg
  • Max speed: 12.5
Sugar Shack in Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro: The Bastimentos Island

The water in the Bocas are clear, but green.  Not the beautiful blue or turquoise we found in the San Blas Islands.  There also was an unpleasant odor where we were anchored near Bocas Town so we decided to find a new place to drop the hook.  Our friends on “Wandering Rose” headed over to Bastimentos earlier so that is where we decided to go as well.

We stowed all of our tools that were out for various projects, rolled up the rain shades (as it has been raining a lot) and prepped the boat for a short 4-mile motor.  Even though it is not very far to this new island, it is along a path riddled with reefs and mangroves.  We had all of our charts up (GPS, Navionics, and Bauhaus) and made our way safely to a new, more secluded anchorage.

Isla Bastimentos is one of the larger islands in the archipelago and home to the sleepy town of Old Bank, the Salt Creek indigenous community, and the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park. It is also home to the Red Frog Beach Resort and Marina.  It is said that this island has some of the most stunning beaches of all the Bocas islands.  But they are all on the windward side facing the sea. Which makes for great surfing, but bad swimming.

Getting to the Red Frog Beach Resort and Marina was a short dinghy ride through a mangrove forest that makes you feel a bit like Indiana Jones discovering a hidden village.  We left late in the afternoon and had only planned on staying ashore for a few hours.  Upon arrival, there is a nice little dinghy dock and a resort worker asking for $5 per person to enter their establishment.  What, I have to pay money to spend money at your resort?  Well, ok, since we get wrist bands and can use them over the course of several days.

Red Frog Marina

Red Frog Marina

It is a rather large resort with several beaches, a marina, zip line, small market, and many places to eat.

Red Frog Marina and Resort.

Red Frog Marina and Resort.

Along the way they had these beautiful trees with roots that resembled mangrove roots.  Anyone know the type of tree this is?

Beautiful tree - do you know what it is?

Beautiful tree – do you know what it is?

It was a short 15-minute walk to The Point Beach Restaurant and look out point. The Point Restaurant was really nice and elevated to give you a sweeping view of the beach and ocean.  They served tasty island drinks and food, but it was a bit overpriced (beer was $2.50).

Photo on left was this pretty little palm tree growing out of the rocks.  Photo on right is The Point restaurant and photo below are the crashing waves on the beach.

The Point Beach at Red Frog

The Point Beach at Red Frog

Evidently, they are experiencing harsher weather conditions than normal as the waves were huge.

We worked on a few more projects as the rain stole our days ashore away. Our rain shades were working great but there are two small corners that are exposed.  These two open bimini corners allow the rain to come in and it makes our cockpit all wet.  It was challenging to create a pattern, but Matt was relentless.  We tried and tried and nothing seemed to work so we will have to keep at this project.

The dinghy fuel tank cover was another project Matt made early in his sewing career.  It was fine, but we wanted to add pockets and fix a few things, so we remade it in red.

Fuel Tank Creating a Pattern

Fuel Tank Creating a Pattern

We made two large pockets in the front and back that will fit two sippy cups each.  The flap on the top is where we put gasoline into the tank and the side has slight openings for the straps that lock the tank to the dinghy (see white cable at bottom of image).  Yep, we have to lock the fuel tank to the dinghy to prevent it from walking away.  Completed and on the fuel tank.

Dinghy Fuel Tank Cover

Dinghy Fuel Tank Cover

The wind instruments have been a major pain in our A$$!  We replaced the wind indicator at the top of the mast, but they still are not working properly.  Sometimes they show the wind direction, but no speed, while others they show the speed and no direction.

Matt first went up our 70′ mast to see if the wind instrument was working.  Which did not seem to be the case.  He is working on the windex which is in front of the mast just below the two wind indicators which are a top the mast.

Matt up the top of our 70' mast.

Matt up the top of our 70′ mast.

Before we spend $500 for one instrument (we will need 2), Matt wanted to see if switching them would work.  Nope!  Looks like we will order one replacement to see if it works and if it does, we will order another and replace the port side instrument.

Wind instrument repair?

Wind instrument repair?

PROJECTS WORKED IN BASTIMENTOS:

  • Sewed new dinghy fuel tank cover
  • Worked on wind instruments
    • This is a work in progress, need new instruments which Wayne is bringing
Sugar Shack in Bocas del Toro

Sugar Shack in Bocas del Toro