04 – 12 June 2012
The San Blas to Turtle Cay
Moving on from the wonderful San Blas island group was something that just had to be done, we were low on food and out of money – the time had come. The winds were light for our 35 mile trip along the Panamanian coast but there was a 2 metre swell running, kicked up by some strong winds blowing once again off the top of the Colombian coast. We motored some, then sailed some then motored some more – rolling from side to side as we went, not ideal but the swell was forecast for a few more days so we just retrieved our “sea legs”, wobbled about and got it done.
We arrived around 4pm at our destination for the day Green Turtle Bay, a tiny indent of a bay around a headland in between a couple of reefs. As we dropped the sails we really had second thoughts, the anchorage was listed as having all round coverage but with the swell running it really didn’t look like a safe option. However, we knew that a small marina had recently opened with a hidden entrance in the south east corner of the bay, but we had no US dollars and we had heard they had no facility yet for taking credit cards, hmmm. Then a dinghy came whizzing out from the invisible marina entrance and offered us a free berth for the night - how good is that !!. We followed them in through the narrow gap between the reefs and tied up in the small newish Turtle Cay Marina.
What an unexpected treat to be moored in a marina again and to just step ashore and go for a long walk, something you can’t do in the San Blas because all the islands are so small. We walked across the small headland and back along the way we had just come, a wonderful long sandy beach with plenty of breakers rolling in, yes it had been rolly out there! Sadly above the high tide line was the now familiar sight of rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish all quite well camouflaged here by big logs and driftwood – what a mess. Maybe it’s time we took a trip back down the west coast beaches of New Zealand for a reality check but I really can’t imagine there is anything like the amount of litter that is now commonplace over here, we certainly hope not.
We just stayed the one night at this marina in the middle of absolutely nowhere, we didn’t even spot a road to it although guess it was hidden in the jungle somewhere. The staff were friendly and very helpful and there were works going on to get the facilities in place for the marina to be fully operational in the very near future. (Excellent free wifi already working)
Turning South to Isla Grande and Isla Linton
We motored once again in glassy but wobbly seas along the coast to the end of the “flat” bit at the top of Panama, before turning southwest towards the entrance to the Panama Canal. Our next stop was to be Isla Grande, famous for an excellent surf break during the trade wind season. As we approached the anchorage the swell was still rolling under us so we gave it a miss and headed south another mile or so to the next option of Isla Linton.
What a great spot, surrounded by rain forest with all round protection and absolutely flat water. It was no surprise to find the anchorage busy, but there was plenty of room for us and once we were securely anchored we hopped over the side for a cooling dip (are there crocodiles here?) commenced happy hour and sat back to listen to the most amazing jungle noises in stereo surround sound. When Skipper mentioned he could see a camel onshore I thought the heat had finally got to him, but there it was, along with two Shetland ponies grazing at the waters edge – not quite what we were expecting to see as our first “jungle wildlife”!
We stayed a few nights in this very laid back place, the small village ashore had a very dark and gloomy grocery store, so dark you could not actually see what was on the shelves, but most of them were empty anyway - but in fairness the power was out. We found this out when we went to a cruisers and backpackers bar on the waterfront (basically the only other business in town), it had wifi, but of course it wasn’t working cos the power was out – Welcome to Panama, I suspect it is something that we will get used to over the following months! We spent some of our last dollars with the mobile vege truck, enjoyed some bush walks then eventually lifted anchor and motored the last 10 miles to civilisation at Portobello - (but not as we know it!)