Taboga and the Las Perlas
Taboga is only 8nm from Las Brisas anchorage, but we found that with the wind already picking up from the north east, Brisas was becoming uncomfortable, making it too dangerous to lift the large outboard from the dinghy into the sail locker where it is stowed. We therefore sailed round to Las Playitas dinghy in tow, briefly anchored to retrieve both outboard and dinghy, and then sailed to Taboga through a multitude of anchored ships waiting to transit the Canal. We arrived in the late afternoon and anchored under the lee of a headland.
We were fairly close to the ferry dock which caters not only for the ferries to and from Las Playitas, but also the workers from the seafood processing plant on Isla Tabouguilla, a couple of miles to the east. The traffic was almost constant, and with the swell kicked up by the north easterly, it was unfortunately almost as uncomfortable as at Las Brisas. We therefore decided to cut short our stay and move on to Isla Contadora in the Perlas Islands early the following morning.
The islands got their name when two Spanish conquistadores robbed a large amount of pearls from the indigenous King Toe. In 1515 they defeated the king and enslaved his skilled pearl divers. The 31 carat “peregrina” pearl of Queen Mary Tudor of England came from these islands.
The archipelago consists of 18 islands, nearly all with beautiful sandy beaches. The major difference when compared to the Caribbean is that there is a tidal variation of up to 5 metres, and with it some strong currents. Consequently the water is far from crystal clear, and there are many jelly fish that dispense painful stings, and tiny critters like shrimps with claws that bite. We last came across these in Brest!
Isla Contadora is to the north of the archipelago, and is a holiday island complete with airstrip. The water was clear enough for Bob to dive on the hull and carry out a final clean before the passage to the Galapagos. Our draft is 2.2 metres, and to clean the underside of the keel and the propeller and shaft necessitates the use of a diving cylinder. While snorkelling together later we espied Spotted Eagle Rays. This was exciting because we could see the bottom where they were swimming and because the last time we had seen some was in Green Island, the San Blas but didn’t take any photos. So not wanting to miss a second opportunity, Elaine remained on the surface watching them, and Bob returned to Pipistrelle for his underwater camera.
The island is the most developed in the archipelago, and is a favourite weekend destination for holidaymakers from Panama City. It was Carnival weekend when we were there, a 4 day national holiday, so the anchorage was crowded with power boats from Panama.
A local walk took us into the grounds of what had been a very large hotel complex, originally built by a Colombian who was killed in a plane crash, and then allegedly bought by Abramovich, who lost interest. All the fittings have been stripped out of every room, leaving just a very large number of shell apartments. Here we spotted an iguana, and a very large flock of pelicans in the shallow water of the bay.
It was at Contadora that we also discovered the genoa Profurl unit, fitted 14 months earlier in Martinique, had developed a major fault, enabling the bearing outside the extrusion to ride up, so that the drum is ½ “ above the level it should be. With the help of another cruiser, Jon from Aquila, and drawings emailed to us by Profurl’s UK agent, IMP, the sail was removed, the bearing and extrusion also removed to find that the extrusion below the lower circlip had been cut right through by wear. There was therefore nothing holding the extrusion in its proper place. After more discussions by email and phone, the whole assembly and sail was replaced, as we all deemed it safe to sail 900 nm and replace the unit in the Galapagos! (More of that in a different blog.)
We then had a gentle sail (using the genoa!) to Mogo Mogo, an island that had been recommended to us by friends. The rip tides here were almost alarming, and we anchored again closer to the shore shortly after our arrival.
We joined our German friends Bernd & Elli on Elbe, and Kevin & Roz on Santana (from Darwin) for a BBQ on the beach late afternoon the following day. Kevin supplied the portable BBQ, we each provided our own food and drink. That and the company were excellent, and watching humming birds in the trees above us delightful.
We decided we had time to visit one more island before our passage to the Galapagos, and sailed to Isla Viveros, some 15 nm further south. The bay to the south is well protected, enabling Bob to refix all the insulation to the spreaders that we had used for the Atlantic crossing. This had protected the mainsail from considerable damage that other cruisers had suffered. Sailing in the Pacific is potentially the same, mostly downwind, so we felt it worthwhile to make the effort.
Here we met Aquila again and enjoyed a very pleasant hour or two on board with Jon and Geraldine over sundowners and reminiscing about South Africa, where they come from. They are sailing direct to the Marquesas, so we’ll have more opportunity to catch up later. Our friends Booker and Dave also arrived on Tortugita. We had first met them in Panamarina, later in the San Blas with Helen and Brian and again in Las Brisas. After mid-morning coffee on board Pipistrelle, it was a temporary parting of the ways with them, as they move north to Nicaragua, but we do hope they will follow us next year to New Zealand.
We were the last to leave the bay, as we made our way southwards for the first part of our journey to the Galapagos!