Tag Archives: sailing a catamaran

We all have our vices.

Journey from Las Perlas to La Playita

Up and away we go, time to leave Las Perlas.  We have a 45-mile journey back to the next anchorage, La Playita.  It was eerily quiet, with flat, flat seas and a strange haze all around us.  Our wind indicator pointed to our location which meant we had no sails up. But, with 2000 RPM’s we were averaging 7 knots of boat speed.

Eerily still and hazy on the way to La Playita.

Eerily still and hazy on the way to La Playita.

A small pod of 5-6 dolphins came to play with us for a while.   They did not stay long on our journey, but they made a big impression.

Dolphins swam with us on the way to La Playita

Dolphins swam with us on the way to La Playita

I took this picture of my reflection in the water while we were underway, that is how still the water was on this trip.  I am laying down on the tramp, you can see the mast behind me.  Pretty cool.

My reflection on the water while underway.

My reflection on the water while underway.

We were all enjoying the large amount of wildlife around us, tons of birds, dolphins, sting rays, turtles, fish, and whales.

Heather enjoying the wildlife in the Pacific.

Heather enjoying the wildlife in the Pacific.

As we approached La Playita, we were accosted by huge cargo ships, car transports, and mega yachts.  The commercial vessels are waiting to transit the canal or they just transited the canal.  And evidently, La Playita is home to many, many mega sport fishing boats and mega yachts.

Large cargo ships & yachts in La Playita anchorage.

Large cargo ships & yachts in La Playita anchorage.

There is a beautiful view of Panama City as you approach and leave the La Playita anchorage.  Bottom photo is La Playita anchorage.

View of Panama City and La Playita on the bottom

View of Panama City and La Playita on the bottom

There was no wind when we arrived to the La Playita anchorage so all of the boats were facing every which way.  Great!  We found a spot close to a few familiar boats and dropped the hook.

We enjoyed a little leisure time, each doing our best to cool off as it was stifling hot with the lack of wind.  Not getting much relief, we headed to shore to grab some lunch.

On the way to the dinghy dock, we saw Barry from “White Shadow” who told us which restaurant had the best wifi.  Now we have a destination, which is always good.  We easily found the dinghy dock, unloaded, and went on our way.  I stopped by the marina office to pay the dinghy dock fee ($50 per week-OUCH) and met the others down the road.

We walked by a mini market, Abernathy (chandlery), and a few tourist traps before we found the main road.  There is a row of restaurants, but we headed toward a pizza place called La Eskinita, where we enjoyed a cool breeze while overlooking the marina.

We did a little window shopping as there are tons of tourist stores, found a great ice cream parlor and a café with decent wifi.  All the important things in life.  We ran into Johanna from “Iriss” and she showed us another place with decent wifi called Hacienda.

We all have our vices.

We all have our vices.

It was late in the day when we headed back to the boat.  On our way, we stopped by “Kokopeli” (Brian and Mizzy) who were hosting “Nomad” (Tom and Susan) for sundowners.  We chatted a bit and headed on.  We had not seen these boats since Portobello.

Since we ate so late in the day, we were not hungry for dinner, so we served cheese and crackers and left-over pizza.  It was a rolly night as the fishing boats, tankers, and pangas go by at crazy fast speeds.

The next morning, Heather, Michael, and Wayne packed.  It was time for them to head back to the states.  We transferred Heather’s great photos from her camera to our phones, made breakfast, and chatted until we had to make our way to shore.  Omar, the taxi driver who picked up Wayne would pick up our group and take them to Tocumen airport.  It has been an amazing journey and we were thrilled to have them on Sugar Shack.  Always sad to say “goodbye.”

Matt and I wandered around the little town to get the “lay of the land”, headed back to the boat, did some laundry and tried to stay cool as it was a hot one.

Wildlife in the Pacific Seen in First 2 Days:

  • Whale spouts
  • Dolphnis
  • Stingrays
  • Jelly Fish
  • Variety of Birds
  • Turtles
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
Heading to Puerto Velero.

Puerto Velero to Puerto Obaldia

The weather forecast estimated between 1.6 and 2 travel days which gave us a huge window to guess our arrival. Puerto Obaldia is not a good anchorage and should only be used as a day stop. We wanted to arrive Puerto Obaldia in the morning so we could clear in and head to another anchorage for the night.

First thing in the morning we decided to replace our wind vang which had lost its cups during the previous night’s storm and was not working properly. So, we hoisted Matt up our 70’ mast to replace it with a new wind vang. Now we could see the wind speed and direction. What a novel idea for a sail boat!

As we were leaving the channel, we were chased down by the Armada National. They instructed us to follow them back into the bay where they could board our boat out of the swell. Great, we headed back into the bay, put out our fenders, and got our documents out. Technically, we should have had the yellow flag up and called this a boat repair stop or safety stop. The Spanish/English language gap made it a little exciting. Matt showed them our broken wind vang and pointed up the mast. The guard obviously wasn’t a friend of heights and returned a wide-eyed gaze and asked if Matt had gone up there. They searched our boat, checked our paperwork, called into their boss and informed them we had a boat repair – an hour later we were on our way.

As we left the bay for the second time, the wind dropped down to 6-8 knots and the waves were less than 1 meter. Looks like a motor day.

As we were passing Cartagena, the AIS goes off stating that “Sugar Shack needs to notify Cartagena Port Authority when entering or leaving Cartagena.” We were not going there, tried to call on VHF, got no response, gave up.  Then 45 minutes later another message appears on AIS. We called again on VHF, think we heard them tell us to change to a different channel and did. However, the channel was already occupied and conversation was already in progress. Matt tried to explain, in broken Spanish, that we were heading to Panama, not to Cartagena. We waited on VHF 16, got nothing and continued on.

We switched off sitting at the helm randomly until about 1800 when we set 3-hour shifts. I took the first shift 6p-9p followed by Matt, then Wayne. As you know, almost everything happens between 2am and 3am which happened to be just as I was coming on my 2nd shift. A nasty storm was brewing on the radar right in front of us. We got our foul weather gear out, put the eye brow down and prepared for some wind and rain. But as it turned out, the storm parted right down the center and we motored right on through it with only a few sprinkles – not even enough to wash the boat.

Storm parted to let us through with just a few drops of rain.

Storm parted to let us through with just a few drops of rain.

What the storm did bring was a huge wind shift-180 degree. Instead of being a broad reach it was now right on our nose which made it impossible to sail! It didn’t really matter as the winds were still too low to raise the canvas so we continued on motoring. We attempted to fly the jib periodically, but it never filled for very long.

DAY 1 Puerto Velero to Puerto Obaldia
• Total Daily Miles: 142
• Max Speed: 10.9
• Avg Speed: 5.9
• Hours Moving: 24
• Wind Avg: 5-7 knots
• Wing Angle: Broad Reach to Run then shifted to nose
• Wave Height Avg: > 1

DAY 2 OF PASSAGE TO PUERTO OBELDIA:

I love the dawn shift as the moon sets and the sun rises. It is such a great reflection time.

Pretty sunrise on journey.

Pretty sunrise on journey.

Somewhere during late morning, we received a hitch hiker. Not sure if it was a huge moth or a butterfly, but it flew right into our cabin and perched on our shelf. I gently tried to scoot it out the cabin door, but it ended up flying out the front hatch, around the cabin and back in through the cabin door! What. So, I tried again and this time it flew down into the office. I opened the small hatch in the office and gently nudged it out the window – again only for it to fly right back into the cabin. Well, clearly, she needs to rest from her long journey so we will let her be for now.

INSERT IMAGE OF BUTTERFLY

Large moth or butterfly?

Large moth or butterfly?

Several hours later, Matt urged the butterfly to leave (not so gently) and she repeated the same process, out a window and back in. Finally, we got smart and closed the main cabin doors and shooed her out but not before she tried to get back in several more times. As she left, a huge moth arrived and perched on the sail bag. This did not seem to bother us as much as she was outside and up high. She stayed with us until the next morning.

We raised the main and attempted to fly the jib, even though the wind was still on our nose. Mostly to no advantage.

Give us wind please.....

Give us wind please…..

We alternate between sleeping, eating, or reading, while not on shift.  Anything to pass the time.

Passing the time on a passage.

Passing the time on a passage.

The wind did pick up, but it stayed on our nose which did not help us get there any sooner.

Good wind, but right on the nose.

Good wind, but right on the nose.

Watching the time of arrival on the GPS can be an emotional rollercoaster. One minute it says you will arrive in daylight and the next minute it says you’ll have to bob around in circles for 12 hours till the sun comes up. We soon realized that we were not going to arrive Puerto Obeldia in the day light so we changed course and headed to another bay that had better anchoring, Puerto Carreto. We arrived just as the sun was setting, dropped our anchor and sat down when we noticed a small hand carved dugout coming our way. The welcome committee stopped by to say “hello” and welcome us to Panama. He handed us his line, and promptly jumped on the sugar scoop (whoa).  We both tried to communicate in our broken Spanish as he was a very nice Kuna Indian.

Puerto Carreto has a very small, primitive, ultra-traditional village in the northern corner of the bay.  Television, filming, and photography are banned.  Visitors are expected to leave the shore before dark, even though the villagers  are very friendly. Since we did not have documents to go ashore, we stayed on the boat.

In retrospect, we should have left Puetero Velero much later in the afternoon to try to arrive Puerto Obaldia in the morning – but hindsight is 20/20. Luckily, we were able to change course in time to arrive during the day light to another safe anchorage.  Had we waited until later in the day to change course we would not have been so lucky.  Puerto Obaldia will have to wait one more day for us.

DAY 2
• Total Daily Miles: 57
• Max Speed: 10.9 (from yesterday morning)
• Avg Speed: 6.1
• Hours Moving: 9
• Wind Avg: 15
• Wing Angle: Nose
• Wave Height Avg: >1 meter

Land a ho! Puerto Velero.

Land a ho! Puerto Velero.

Puerto Velero.

Puerto Velero.

See our next blog post to continue our voyage to Puerto Obaldia.