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
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
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:
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
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.
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
At the eastern end of the bay is a sunken fishing boat or pelican residence.
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
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”
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”
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
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
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
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
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
Each night we were gifted with a beautiful sunset. This doesn’t suck!
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
Stay tuned for more on the Las Perlas Archipelago ….
Sugar Shack Visits the following Islas within Las Perlas Achipelago:
The longer we stay at the La Playita anchorage, the fewer boats remain. Our friends on “Quantum Dink” Dale and Justin (who are crew “Quantum Dink’s” owner, Kevin) left for Australia. They will stop at the Solomon Islands which will be over a 50 day sail. They are young, energetic, kind, and fabulous. Check them out on YouTube channel “DJsDives”.
Dale and Justin from DJs Dives
We had a very sad farewell to our good friend Barry known as “Adventures of an Old Sea Dog” who is heading to a new marina. His boat “White Shadow” will remain safe while he heads back to Europe for several weeks. Not sure when we will meet up with him again, but we hope it is soon. We’ve had many a good laughs, lots of beer, and great times with Barry!
Barry Perrins from Adventures of an Old SeaDog
Lots of people had told us about a huge veggie market in town. So, we took “Uno Mas” on an adventure to find it. We picked up dozens of fruits and veggies all for under $25 (see Facebook post on details).
Fresh Veggie and Fruit Market
Fresh Fruit & Veggies from Market $25
Matt trying to make new friends. Unfortunately, the shop owner was not too happy with him so close to his lady. We might not be invited back to the La Playita Anhorage after today….
Matt making friends…
Easter in Panama was a little different. They celebrate Good Friday as their Holy day and consider it far more important than Easter Sunday. In fact, they have a law that prohibits the buying, selling and consumption of all alcohol from 12:01am Friday morning to 11:59pm Friday night. That law also includes the prohibition of sex and boom boom music. We stayed on the boat to avoid temptation. I spent Easter Sunday at St Mary’s Catholic Church, behind a very imposing non-denominational church called Balboa Union. It was a bit confusing as everyone pointed to this big church as the Catholic church, but after walking around, up the hill and in the back, you will find this lovely little Catholic church nestled in the trees.
Balboa Church posing as my Catholic Church, but in reality, just dwarfing it.
Spring is here and Panama is blooming! You can find red, yellow, orange, pink, and purple blossoms all around town. And yet I desperately miss the beautiful blue bonnets of Texas.
Blooms in Panama
We had several beautiful sunsets and sunrises to pass the days away…
Sunsets at the Anchorage
We have been waiting on two deliveries. One package arrived which contained our windlass spare remote and new foot controls. The other package is a pallet of our house batteries. We learned that they will not be here until mid-April, so we are out of here…off to Las Perlas for a week.
La Playita Anchorage Pros:
Great dinghy dock
Wifi (sort of “borrowed”)
Lots of cruisers
Access to several restaurants, transit system, and chandlerries
La Playita Anchorage Cons:
Dinghy dock costs $52 per week
Water is really, really dirty
Anchorage is rolly
Lots of traffic from fishing boats, ferries, and charter boats