Panama I - Paradise Island, Oysters, Prawn Feast, Bahia Honda
For five days in Golfito it rained so we took advantage of the crusiers club Land and Sea. We tied up to a mooring right off the dingy dock and spent our time dodging rainshowers and hanging out in the large common room watching the rain come down and working on some projects. The walls of the common room are covered with the logo of every cruiser who has passed Golfito, some having painted their name only and others have left beautiful and original designs. Tim told us if we could find the space we were welcome to leave our mark as well and so the result is the new logo Cristina inserted in the header at the top of this page. Another day we took over the room and layed out our dodger and with some plastic and our trusty Singer we sewed in new windows. Now, for better or worse, we can at least see where we’re going!
Facing a long and potentially slow sail out of Golfo Dulce with light winds we left one evening and sailed all night leaving Costa Rica behind and entering the light winds and confused seas of western Panama. We motored in around Isla Partida and anchored in its lee out of the swell and wind behind the small palm covered Isla Gamez. This island is composed of two jungle covered rock hills connected by a sandy stretch of palm tree lined beach.
Here we were joined by our Australian friends John and Leane aboard Red Sky where we both put out bow anchors and backed up right off the sweeping crescent of soft white sand where we dropped stern anchors so we slept aboard listening to the sound of lightly lapping waves on beach.
The waters surrounding the island are clear and full of wildlife. We spent the day swimming and gathering as many oysters and scallops as we wanted, then we speared a fish and as the sun set we sat on the beach cooking our catch over a coconut husk fire drinking cold rumdrinks (thanks to Redsky’s freezer) and watched as the stars came out.
“Ours was the fate of the restless wanderer; the skyline is never an end but only a bound and something – so much – lies beyond.” Miles Smeeton
Having found paradise, we spent a few days here and before the weather turned to change our view of the island, we hauled our anchor and made a smooth 15 mile passage to the Islas Secas, where we anchored in the lee of Isla Cavada. Redsky joined us here and even though the sunny weather turned to rain and overcast we explored the island by dingy and so we met some fishermen who gave us a heaping bag full of prawns which we enjoyed for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Our next stop was Isla Brincanco, where no sooner had we sunk our anchor in the crystal clear water than we donned our masks, snorkels and fins and explored the corals surrounding the bay. We spent only one night here because this is part of a patrolled park, which has reported fees of $100+ per night. The idea of paying steep fees as well as the knowledge that a frontal system would move through the area within 36 hours convinced us to haul anchor early the following morning and sail into the sheltered waters of Bahia Honda.
As we approached the bay under full sail the fishing pole began to sing as line spun off the reel and a fish jumped in the distance. As I grabbed the pole Cristina tacked us over and heaved Bamboleiro too. Our abrupt change of course and then forereaching towards the fish caught her off guard and I reeled in as fast as I could, keeping the line out of the rigging and from going under the rudder. The fish jumped again and we saw the shimmeringly powerful body of a dorado dancing on the water. She jumped again and again as she ran out more line. I fought her for half an hour until I got her close enough to sink the gaff in and haul her aboard. We tidied up the boat (washed the blood off) and continued into Bahia Honda.
Bahia Honda is a huge bay, surrounded by jungle covered mountains, cascading waterfalls and thick lingering rainforest clouds that break to let bright sun light up the bay on instant than the next close overhead and pour down heavy, bouncing rain. In the middle of this bay is a tiny island where 300 people live. Here there are no roads, no electricity, post office, television or any of other modern conveniences we enjoy so freely back home. As soon as we dropped the anchor a villager paddled over in his dugout canoe (cayuko) with a hand carved kayak paddle, and welcomed us, telling us the lay of the land. We gave him some fishing line.
At least once each day while we were sitting in the cabin we’d hear the splashing of cayuco paddles and come on deck to find the smiling faces of children who’d come out despite the rain to visit the gringos. They’d bring presents of bananas, eggs and local foods. In return we gave them whatever food we had that they wanted. They were particularly impressed with apples and apple juice (impossible things to get in this isolated villiage). When we invited them onboard they seemed happy to sit all day watching what we did as we did our little onboard chores, washing dishes, sweeping the floor, braiding colorful string into bracelets. One young man, Filipe, came every day for English lessons!
One day the kids took us for a tour of the island. We got to see the school, met the headmaster and teachers . We were encouraged to see the school was by far the nicest building in the town, with solar panels, bright airy and organized classrooms and a new computer room under construction.
On the fifth day, to the calls of parrots and howler monkeys, we hauled anchor as the sun crept over the misty mountains. We quietly slipped out of Bahia Honda, rounded the corner, southbound, with our eyes open for our next adventure.