Daily sailing, quiet anchorages, and much alone time characterized our sail from the Costa Rica border with Panama to booming Panama City. Our route took us down the island chain, from Isla Parida, to Islas Secas. Each afternoon we enjoyed brisk winds for sailing. Our anchorages had few if any other boats. On our fourth day, we came back to the mainland at Bahia Honda, a large well protected bay. That evening a local named Kennedy motored up in his narrow boat with his family and sold us bananas, lemons, and grapefruit. In addition to a few dollars, we also gave him some batteries, powdered milk, and a cookie and coloring book for his young son. Day five found us anchored on the southwest tip of Isla Cebaco. The next day we crossed to Punta Naranjo, a rolly anchorage at Golfo de Montijo’s mouth. Next, we rounded the Azuero Peninsula and anchored in Benao, a surfing beach, and the last refuge before Punta Mala, named for the high winds funneling from the Carribean.
We sailed 90 miles across the Gulf of Panama to the Perlas islands. After nightfall, the winds picked up to 20 knots. Elizabeth Jean bolted forward at speeds of up to 7.8 knots, a new high for us in more ways than one. We slowed down to safely anchor in a wide bay on San Jose Island. During the next few days we made our way north through the Perlas Islands. Our last night, we anchored off of Chapera Island, an undeveloped island used for a season of the reality show Survivor. Eric swam to the beach and felt as if he had been voted on to one of the finest beaches in the world. The following day we crossed to an anchorage near Panama City. The afternoon winds built until we were moving at 8 knots. This exhilarating run to the anchorage brought our two seasons of Pacific Ocean cruising to a fitting close. As we threaded our way through large ships waiting their turns for the Panama Canal, our thoughts turned to our own upcoming canal transit, the final challenge to achieving our season two objective of reaching the Caribbean.
Our Pacific Panama cruise extended from the Costa Rican border to the far left, around the Peninsula Azuero,, across the Gulf of Panama to the Perlas Islands, and finally to Panama City.
Isla Paridas, one of our first Panamanian anchorages.
Bahia Honda. Note how still the waters area.
Kennedy and his family came to sell their wares. Grapefruits and lemons line our gunwales in the lower left foreground. Octavio, Kennedy’s son holds a coloring book we gave him in his lap.
Surf’s up just beyond our anchorage on the Azuero Peninsula where we wait to make our move across the Gulf of Panama to the Perlas Archipelago. The Gulf is the last water body affected by the strong gap winds that marked our passages through the Tehuantepec and Papagayo Gulf. Fortunately we did not need to wait to make our crossing to the Perlas.
We reached San Jose after a thrilling night ride across the Gulf. Our next anchorage was tucked in at Vineros. Chapera, one of the Survivor islands was our last stop before heading to the big city.
Eric enjoys Chapera’s solitude after swimming ashore from Elizabeth Jean.
Stunning sunsets closed each day as we made our way east along Panama’s coast.
Our chart plotter picks up numerous AIS “targets”, vessels at the beginning or end of their Canal transit. All to be avoided.
After our week of Panamanian solitude, sharing waters with these big ships is a bit of a shock.