26 April – 05 May 2012
We made landfall at Isla Pinos, Panama after our overnight passage from Isla Tintipan in Colombia. There is no outlying reef so it was a straightforward entry around the island, into the shallows of the bay, anchor down, breakfast, a very quick dip – mindful of the possibility of crocodiles!!! and then a well earned sleep after our unplanned beat to windward. We had a couple of visitors paddle by in their ulus (dugout canoes). The first caller came to collect USD10.00 (US dollars are the official currency of Panama), we had been told that some villages charge a fee for yachts to anchor, it’s per stay not per night so reasonable enough especially if you spend longer than one night. They provide a receipt, duly stamped by the local “authority”. Our second visitor was David who spoke some English and was the local “tour guide”. We arranged to meet him ashore the following day for a look around the village and to help repair his machete!
Next morning was very overcast, not ideal weather for reef spotting but we were eager to get to some clearer water and be able to swim and walk around without our “protective clothing” on! We headed off, taking things slowly until visibility improved. Eventually the clouds cleared away and we spotted a gorgeous little sandy cay, the quintessential desert island, white sandy beach, five palm trees, fringing reef and all the size of a postage stamp. We checked the charts and decided to head towards it for a coffee break and shore excursion. From Balvenie it looked like an absolute paradise, we dropped the dinghy and went ashore.
It seems that paradise is hard to find these days. Plastic rubbish has taken over the world and on this teeny tropical paradise there was a selection of all shapes and sizes of pollution. I am sure most of it has come many miles, across the Caribbean over the outer reef and then found a lovely little sandy spot to rest – until time ends. We are passionate about the pollution problem we constantly see and try and eliminate it whenever we can. Had this been a comfortable overnight anchorage – it was very rolly – we would have tried to burn all this and cleaned up the beach, but I’m sure another batch would arrive in the next strong winds. What we need are products that are biodegradable and an education programme worldwide to increase peoples awareness. Anyway enough said, for now, needless to add – paradise was not found.
The water was clear and cool and we enjoyed a quick dip and snorkel before moving on to the flat anchorage at Mono Island.
It was a beautiful spot, a tiny offshore island next to the mangrove lined mainland. Normally we love to go exploring up the mangroves but paranoia has set in with regard to the no-see-ums, we just couldn’t risk getting any more bites or we might just both go crazy! Again we were the only yacht, where have all the cruisers gone? A couple of canoes stopped by returning from their gardens and asked for cold drinks, we treated them with fresh baking too but were horrified when they just threw their drinks cans overboard when they had finished. Oh well at least they rust and decompose.
Again we just stayed one night, the bugs weren’t bad as there was a breeze but the waters were again murky as we were so close to the mainland so no snorkelling and just a quick dip ashore off the sandy beach.
We had a big day and moved 10 miles east (my sort of day hop) to a group of several islands just a little further offshore to the anchorage of Snug Harbour. This was not your desert island type of paradise but it was truly a magical spot, flat water, islands all around, some cute sandy beaches, turtles in the bay, visits from playful dolphins and starfish resting on the seabed. Just beautiful.
At last we had found another cruising boat, a young couple from Norway who we spent a couple of enjoyable happy hours with. We stayed 4 nights, we had bread, coconuts, avocado, potatoes, bananas and limes delivered by dugout canoe (but our change never quite made it back!!!). We filled our water tanks to overflowing with 2 days of torrential rain, surprisingly they weren’t consecutive days, we had a night then day of thunder and lightening storms, often right over the boat and certainly not good for our nerves watching fork lightening sizzle the waters around us, then we had a beautiful sunset followed by a spectacular day with hardly a cloud to be seen. All the laundry was done, ropes were rinsed, sails dried out, Balvenie sparkled in the sunlight. Then just before dawn the thunder storms returned and hung around all day, we have never had such hard rain for so many hours, I’m sure it was starting to soak through the teak decks and cabin top, an imaginary mist filled the air below. Late afternoon it stopped, the water tanks were overflowing again and slowly we dried out, retrieved all our electrical appliances and gadgets from their “safe havens” in the oven and microwave and life returned to normal.
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