On the first day after our crossing of the Panama channel we decide to relax, sleep long and the activity of the day is visiting the mercado de Mariscos with Lilian an Hanspeter.
There is a lot going on, and after having Ceviche and Fried fish we stroll through the Parque Cinta Costeira, where a concert for the youth is attracting a lot of people.
Then it is getting serious, we have long lists of stuff that we plan to get done in Panama City. The broken notebook and the satellite telephone are at the beginning of the list, but soon we realize that we won`t get them fixed. Well, for the phone we walk three times up to the shop until it is clear, that in Panama it will not be fixed, after all. So on our fourth visit we pay 50 % more than in the US or in Europe for a new one and it also takes 3 hours until it has the right software and works finally…
And every single day we take the bus to the city, which costs us 25 cents each, even if it takes two hours to our destination on the other side of the city… We visit the discovery center on the “Tumba Muerto”, the Pesqueros close to Panama Viejo, the Albernaty on the Transistmica until we really know how to get our way around by bus or metro in Panama City. We find a few items on our list but we have the impression that even more we did not find…
Of course, we look for some things that are too “European” like a lithium accumulator, fins for swimming or even electrical equipment with 230 V connection, well that really is asked too much…
Then after one week we finally start with the food/drink supplies, I checked before hand the prices of several stores and made an overview of what to get where. Unfortunately in the moment of buying often these items were not there any more, I had to learn…
We chose the Megadepot for the stocking up with bulk food like rice, flour, sugar, spirit, wine and beer and toilet paper as well. They deliver to us the next day and thanks to Martin we get the stuff on board in only two dinghy rides. It takes me a couple of hours to fill the food in the plastic bottles, a good way to keep eventual bugs in and others out 😉
Then the Carnival weekend is approaching rapidly and since we don’t want to stay another week in Panama City we decide to stock up with fresh food on Thursday before Carnival.
This is perfectly done in the Abastos agricultural market where normally you get the freshest produce in town. I buy a trunk full of fresh fruits and vegetables, the last possibility in the next 6 weeks, for sure!
On Friday we take a short break from the shopping and visit Johann Schauer in the Baru Panama Brewery. Johann welcomes us warmly and shows us through the whole production. I am more than happy to get the smell of the brewery in my nose and wearing my safety shoes, safety glasses, warn west and even a helmet kind of makes me feel at home ;-). The production is in a very good shape and we see a great and living example of DCS and 5 S in the brew house control room.
On Saturday and Sunday we fill up our diesel and water tanks, go a last time shopping, do one more washing machine and finally, on Sunday afternoon we thinks we can go now to enjoy the Carnival in the city.
On the way there we stop for another Ceviche de Langostino at the Mercado de Mariscos together with Ellen and Martin. Then we enter the Carnival area through the control point at the Cinta Costeira, and we are checked thoroughly each of us in a separate queue. Only then we realize that all the people inside are going the opposite direction, out of the Carnival area.
Why do all the people leave on Sunday afternoon at 3 pm? Soon afterwards we know – because they have to! When one of the guardians also wants us to leave the next possible exit we ask him why – “ because the water throwing is now finished, everybody goes home now, then in a few hours you can come back again”
A bit frustrated we go back to the Mercado de Mariscos, have another beer and ceviche and try our luck 1.5 hours later – then we see all the people queuing in front of the entrance and decide to skip Carnival in Panama City…
The next morning we peacefully sail the almost 40 miles to the Isla Contadora, one of the first and for sure the most touristic but also developed in the Las Perlas islands south of Panama City.
After the two weeks of abnormally high swell from all the traffic in La Playita we really enjoy the little swell here. Also the water and the air is massively cleaner and if we still wouldn’t have so much work, we’d relax for sure.
But well, while Reto is working on installing the lightening protection, I have to work my way through the far too quickly ripened fruits. This time I had them stored completely in the dark but they ripened so fast as never before in my storage net which is in the sun a great part of the day.
While carrying all the papaya and bananas up into the cockpit I swear and ask Reto “can’t you google on how to store fruits?”. Few minutes later it is clear for me: biiiiig mistake! I store paw paws, bananas, avocados and passion fruits, which are all releasing Ethylen (like what I know of tomatoes and apples but didn’t know of the others) together with everything else. The most sensitive for ripening are the bananas and pawpaws themselves, but also the citrus fruit do suffer from the Ethylen and ripen much faster than normally!!!
So to all sailors buying fruit for a longer passage – google it and have a look at what you can put together in a storage before you do a large shopping!
In our case it now means a lot of Banana marmalade, cake, dried banana and paw paws, smoothies and last but not least we start a rum pot which according to Reto “is for christmas together with Vanille ice cream 😉 “ Lets see how we get the ice cream on board…
In between the work we visit Contadora, a peaceful island, but because of the long carnival weekend quite full with tourists.
In the Chinese Mini market we are happy to see the gas bottles that we still want to change, but a bit surprised about the island increase from 4.50 to 10 US the filling…
Taking the wrong beach for the dinghy almost gets us or better Reto wet – the tide is rising so quick, that even though it took us quite a sweat to carry the dinghy up the beach, when we come back the way to get there is almost cut off by water…We are still not that much used to tides of 5 meters!
Now, another time getting gas, finishing the blog and soon we are ready to leave for the almost 4000 miles sail to the Marquesas.
Are we excited or afraid? Well, first of all so far we didn’t have much time to think about it. Second, the wind prognosis at least in the beginning now seems rather calm, so maybe there will be rather passages of hot and calm condition, rather than too much wind and wave?? We will see…
In any way when our radio or sat phone messages to the blog work, we post an update every now and then to keep you informed whats going on out there!!
And in the end it goes fast! Our She San is through the Panama Canal and is now in the south of the bridge of the americas and surrounded by many small but also even more large ships.
We are impressed but at the same time we have to get used to the new situation… The water is rather cold and turbid, the swell from the surrounding traffic is more than annoying, even for a catamaran, the fees for the dinghy are hilarious (54 $ for one week only to be able to put the dinghy on a pontoon in the marina and disembark) and the first two days looking for fixing and replacing equipment left us really disappointed…. but well, nevertheless we are happy to be through and look forward to discover the pacific in the near future 😉
But let me go back to the end of my last blog in San Blas when my parents Heide and Pete are leaving…
Soon after we also have to say good bye to Guna Yala and especially to our cruisers friends, who we don´t expect to meet in the pacific soon.
Good opportunity to do so is the birthday party of Arthur, he becomes 4 years old and Elaine and Peter have been baking the whole day long.
Next to the whole Guna family of the house next to the Pura Vida of course a lot of crews come to congratulate, bring presents and eat the delicious pastries and cake. Especially cute are the girls of Arthur´s age with their Mola dresses and their mamas and grandmas dressed in the traditional way due to the occasion.
The next morning we have an early start at 5 am because of our 75 miles trip to Colon. We anchor in the flats, a large area marked with tons next to the container terminals and the canal because we have appointment to get measured the following day between 8 and 11 am. Well, we are the last of the four boats present to be measured, and when we are finished at 2 pm he advises us that now it is too late to go for the payment at the bank.
So we go early next morning with the dinghy to the other side of Colon, leave the dinghy in the Yacht Club and catch a taxi on the street in order to go to the Citibank. We find it funny because the Citibank is located not far from our anchorage, but just not reachable from there…
We engine back to Puerto Lindo and in the evening after 6 pm we fix our canal transit date to the 10 of February, which leaves us 3 weeks of time. In order to prepare we reinforce our cleats with stainless steel plates and some fresh layers of polyurethane, fill up the diesel and look for crew who helps us as line handlers.
For the transit of the canal every small vessel needs next to the captain 4 persons as line handlers,
so we need a minimum of 3 other persons.
We write to ask some friends in the morning and the first ones to show interest are Martin and Ellen from the Acapella. We immediately drive with the dinghy to the Panamarina and find out that it is feasible even though they will just return from the Netherlands few days before.
The same day after having a great Goulash at Hans´restaurant Casa X we get to know the Swiss couple Lilian and Hanspeter from the Whisper and within minutes they also are happy to come with us.
Since we have two weeks “spare” time, we pack our backpacks with the hiking shoes, sticks and raincoats and start off into the mountains.
Well the start is a bit difficult, we had planned to take a taxi together with Vivi and Felipe from the Carapitanga who have a flight to Brasil. But the road is blocked by a demonstration, so the taxi driver prefers to stay in Portobello and do nothing… We get help from the marina and a lift to the other side of the road block, walk through it and take a taxi on the other side…
After three taxis and one bus we arrive in Albrook and since we would like to buy a new camera we have to immerse into this huge shopping center, oh my god. After the peacefulness of San Blas it is a great cultural shock for us – too many people, noise and especially so many goods that no one really needs… in San Blas I was already happy when the vegetable man came by at least every two weeks…
Next challenge is the bus to El Valle de Anton, on the way up the hills Reto almost wants to get off, since in every curve the tires are making noise and the fully overloaded bus seems to loose its traction on the road…
Once there we happily move into the room we have reserved with Victoria which turns out to be a house for ourselves. We enjoy it and especially the hot water, the television and the warm blanket…
Our first hike leads us up and over the mountain called “India Dormida” and at a certain point of the walk towards it I realize it really looks like a sleeping woman!
With the walk towards it through the half of the valley we have nicely enough at the end of the tour and especially I am happy to relieve my feet from the hiking boots until the next day!
The next morning we hike up the Cerro Cara Iguana where we are almost blown off the top. On the way down we see our first snake, good that we could see her well and stop accordingly.
In the afternoon we visit the El Nispero Zoo and find some interesting animals, unfortunately sometime in some quite small cages.
Then we take the 3 busses from El Valle to Boquete and make it in 9 hours to the little city surrounded by mountains in the north of David.
We like the size of the city, there is a lot going on, but it is not too big.
The streets are full with many indians who find work in the numerous coffee or vegetable plantations, but also quite some tourists are wandering around.
We check in to one of the backpacker hostels which is clean but just a bit too busy for us. The next try is not busy but also not clean, then finally we find a place we feel comfortable in.
Boquete is at almost 1100 m above sea level and has an awesome climate for hiking during the day. The nights become pretty cool, so after a year in the Caribbean we have to get used to wear sweaters again.
We do several hikes, starting with the beautiful “lost waterfalls” hike. We are surprised to pay 7$ per person, but when we see the path leading up the jungle to the 3 waterfalls we understand that quite some maintenance needs to be done there.
Also, it is private property like almost everywhere, so it is the right of the owners to charge the tourists who want to hike on their property.
On the next days we hike the hills on the other side of the volcano – there the paths are hard to find and on the top hikers are not really welcome on the private property.
We walk the pipeline trail with nice vegetation but one rather unspectacular waterfall compared to the 3 waterfalls.
We take the bus and walk to the hot springs and walk up to Palo Alto via the butterfly farm- the family owned garden “mi jardin es su jardin” seems to be closed to the lack of the gardener…
Finally we hike the Quetzal trail back and forth. On this trail we are supposed to see Quetzals and we are actually lucky, right in the morning we hear and see one of the colourful males.
This hike of 14 km and 1000 m is just ok for us, so in the end we are not disappointed that we didn´t take on the challenge to hike the volcano itself which with 1800 m and 28 km. Without any skies to go back down again this would be a bit too much on our knees on the way down…
After 8 days in Boquete we take the bus back to Panama City and enjoy one day of sightseeing.
We have a look at Panama Viejo and the Casco Viejo, but especially we enjoy the Mercado de Mariscos and eating the ceviche in the bars around the corners (but sometimes it is important to check out the smell of canalisation before sitting down…).
On Monday morning we purchase a roll of 183 m of rope for our She San that we use for the canal and catch the buses back to the Panamarina.
We have 3 days left to redo and strengthen the davids for the dinghy, do the inspection of the mast, wash 15 kg of laundry, fill 500 l into the water tanks and make the swimmers ready for our 4 guests / line handlers.
On Friday, the 10th of February at 7 am Ellen and Martin and Lilian and Hanspeter come on board and we sail from the Panamarina to the flats in Colon.
Thanks to a nice wind from the back we arrive there just after noon, so good time to get lunch, have a nap and wait patiently for the advisor to come on board. Thanks to our first passage of the canal with the Rousalka we know that here in the canal appointments are just an orientation :-)…
Then at 4 pm our advisor Roy comes on board and we quickly realize that he is quite experienced. He waits for the boats that go into the locks together with us, then we go anchor up and follow them. Some delays make us altogether slow down, so Reto even has to put the return gear in, since the wind pushing us makes us too fast.
Just before the first of the Gatun locks we tie up with a 54 ft yacht, but being a Catamaran Reto has the task to do the main maneuvering. Not always easy since our neighbor not always seems to understand well and does the opposite…
We move into the locks with the last bit of daylight and it doesn´t take long that the first of the locks doors is closing – the Atlantik stays behind us!!
Like in a hot tub the water comes in everywhere around us and starts to move and make bubbles and within a few minutes we are lifted up the 8 meters of height of the first lock.
Roy is doing a great job, everything goes well and after the 3rd lock we loosen the lines between us and the yacht, engine over to the huge boy where we attach with lines from the bow and the stern to spend the night.
In the end it took a bit longer than what I had expected, so as a result the pasta is not “al dente” any more ;-( We enjoy the dinner nevertheless and have some beers, wine or rum, depending on preference…
The following morning our neighbor wakes us up with the engine at 6.40 am, good idea because 15 min later our new advisor Larry already stands on board. We immediately start off into the lake Gatun, have breakfast on the way and have lunch just before arriving in the Pedro Miguel locks.
With a thai curry in the stomach we move together with our yacht from the day before, move into the locks and wait until the “tourist ship” comes that is going down with us. We have a cruise ship in mind and are really disappointed seeing that this is only a small ferry together with the total of 4 sailing vessels. Incredible the amount of water that goes down into the Pacific just for 5 small boats like this!!!
When we move into the Miraflores locks we understand from the messages from home that finally this webcam is working. So we are double nervous – we can be seen in the internet and the locks procedure is moving us toward the pacific. Down two more locks and then the doors open – the pacific lies in front of us – wow!
We pass the doors of the locks and probably everyone has the feeling that that was it. But we still have to untie form the yacht. In that moment it happens, the front line is loosened too quickly, too much pressure on the back line, the yacht drifts into a right angle with her heck approaching ours…Reto only screams “kniiiiife” and while I get it and cut the rope through I already hear the noise of our solar panels…then a loud “blopp” – the dinghy of our neighbor must have gotten a hole – the rope is cut and we are finally free…
With this shock in the knees we move south and pass underneath the Bridge of the Americas, we say good bye to our Advisor Larry and move into the anchorage of La Playita to find a place for the night. Unfortunately the ground here is holding not so good so it takes a few tries before we feel confident enough to stay – well luckily there is not much wind in the next days….
Then we toast to each other with the Pacific arrival beers, wine and rum, but soon after Ellen and Martin have to leave – they have the same passage in front of them a few days later!! We continue the party with Lilian and Hanspeter and start to digest the happenings….
Then my little sister Flavia arrives with the water taxi an comes on board in Banedup.
And even though she is tired with the jet lag and a sleepless night in the hostel in Panama city, the first day on board is full with activities.
First thing into the water snorkeling in the small coral garden behind the ship, then we buy some lobsters, snorkel again, have something to eat, repair the surfboard, open a coconut, check out possible surf spots and enjoy the sundowner in the bar on the neighbor island. Once the sun is gone the exhaustion comes quickly and 12 hours later a new day starts…
We cut down a bit in the speed, have a long lunch trying to eat everything that is in the lobster legs and have the tails from the grill in the evening. In between Flavi tries the wave on the outer reef but has to fight quite a bit with the strong current that is out there…
The next day we check out the snorkeling spot around the wreck of dog island, a very picturesque place, but quite full with tourists.
Then we sail half to downwind with 25 knots and 5 meter waves to Puerto Lindo, really a fast ride and we are happy to find shelter in the bay behind Isla Linton and visit Hans´restaurant for a change.
In order to get diesel and gasoline we go with our canisters to the new station in the Linton bay marina, where we get lucky and also find a good vegetable truck.
In order to get our kitchen gas stocked up again we first walk 45 min to la Guaira, but there the shop is closed. so we take the next bus to Portobello where we find a lot of things in the Chinese market and hardware store.
On Friday morning we bring Flavi to the 5 am bus, she has a long ride ahead to Santa Catalina, a surf spot on the pacific side.
The following day we also take the 6 am bus, the target is to have bought almost everything, when my parents Heide and Pete arrive from Panama City.
Any way it was a good idea to get up early, because after 9 am, the supermarkets are overcrowded, just like everywhere else on a 24 of December…
We get all the goods, suitcases and ourselves with two dinghy rides onto She San and start to clear away the stuff as good as possible. It almost feels like christmas, since half of my parents baggage is for us… so many presents from the whole family, lot of stuff we ordered or they brought for us…
We clear up the ship, have a quick lunch and start off the short ride against the wind to reach the Turtle Cay Marina just before sundown. With all that action it is a bit difficult to get a christmas feeling, but we enjoy the evening anyway.
The next day we fight the other 35 miles against the wind and some 3-4 meter high waves, nothing for really sensitive stomachs.
Also I have to suffer from a slight nausea, but mainly because of the total of 7 fish who decide to bite this day, and they all want to be cleaned and put into the fridge soon after…
The next days we have carpaccio of tuna for lunch and tuna and cera from the grill for dinner 😉
In San Blas we anchor again on our favorite spot in Banedup, next to tourist island and coral garden. The sight is a bit turbid, the current is strong but still we enjoy the snorkeling a lot.
After two days we move west to the Coco Bandeiro Cays, here the swell is a lot stronger but luckily our guests do not mind the shaking of the ship.
Then, going further north to the East Holandes Cays we find back our quite place in the south of
Caobos Cay, which is called the “hot tub” we find out later. Here we enjoy the snorkeling in the adjacent coral garden and around the sand islet. One would never believe that my mom`s shoulder had a surgery only short time ago, she swims like a fish and enjoys it a lot.
The end of the year we have a peaceful dinner on board and go to bed just 15 min before midnight – we are not used to staying up that long any more ;-).
On new years day we go for some more snorkeling and make an island visit to Tiadup, where we buy a mola and a Guna leg bracelet.
For the next anchorage we go to the West Holandes next to Waisaladup, an impressive place.
While we are lying in a long peaceful swell coming from the southwest we watch the northeasterly waves break on the outer reef just in front of us and the turquoise water between the two islands.
The fish are plentiful and the whole day long there is a lot of fish jumping next to the boat. Good place to try to catch some fish and in deed, Reto manages to get two small cero for the grill.
In addition to the colourful reef also the island is worth a visit and after an extensive walk all around we are rewarded with a cool beer at Otilio`s.
For a change we pay the Carti islands a short visit and are welcomed by a rather pertinent old lady who, once boarded on our boat, does not go away before we purchase anything from her. In the end I see that I have to buy something because otherwise she would stay with us the whole day…
Then we visit Carti Sugdup, stroll through the village and visit the Guna museum. In the end I happily stock up our vegetable and fruit supplies in the practical store with the own dinghy dock.
We move back to Banedup and enjoy the last day together with our visitors snorkeling next to the wreck on dog island.
At 9 am it is still quite peaceful, then it does quickly fill up with day tourists. We pay a fee of 3 $ / per person, well, I profit and take a good sweet water shower ;-). We walk around the island and find it nice, but good to be able to go away after an hour…
And much too soon it seems, my parents have to leave and we have no idea of when we will meet again. We remain on the “empty” boat and feel sad and lonely.
But hey, it doesn’t make sense to be sad like this in paradise! We throw ourselves into the necessary work in the boat, clearing up and getting rid of the new areas of mold, there is always a lot to do..
We go back to West Holandes and plan to enjoy a few more days here, before heading back to Puerto Lindo. There we plan to take a few days for visiting the country and going hiking, before we then slowly move our She San towards the pacific…