Day 142, Year 1: Last Day in the Las Perlas Islands

Day 142, Year 1: Last Day in the Las Perlas Islands
Date: Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Weather: Beautiful
Air Temperature: 83 degrees F
Water Temperature: 68 degrees F
Location: Rio Cacique, Isla Del Ray, Las Perlas Islands, Panama

Early this morning, all of us here in the anchorage (Aqua Magic, Calypso, Windcastle, and Windbird) got into our dinghies and headed toward shore and into the Rio Cacique (pronounced Ca-see-kay). It is a tiny little river and we rode the surf into the rocky entrance. The entrance is high and dry at low tide, but this morning it was just about an hour before high when we entered. We motored part way up the river (more like a creek) and then cut the engines and paddled so we could enjoy the sounds of nature. Mangroves line the banks, and although we didn’t see much wildlife, you could hear the calls, and sometimes screeches, of birds. If we had been doing this in Florida, I would have been on the lookout for alligators, but that is not one of the inhabitants here.

When we returned, a decision was made to head into Esmeralda, a local village a couple miles from where we are anchored, to get our diesel fuel cans filled. We wanted to be sure we have as much fuel on board as possible for the trip to the Galapagos as there is likely to be little or no wind. Margaret and Patrick from Aqua Magic went in their dinghy and Mark took Sylvia from Windcastle with him. She thought she might find something in the little village store she could use, and since I was not in need of anything, I stayed behind on Windcastle and was “on watch” as Doug was diving underneath his boat to do some maintenance. They were successful in getting the fuel cans filled and enjoyed a very interesting village. The huts of the village start right above high tide on the beach and extend some distance back and up the hill. Huts are tin roofed but bamboo walls predominate. The stores (there were two) were all concrete, and there was a well constructed concrete sidewalk up through the village to the main store where they bought fuel. As they landed the dingy on the beach dozens of kids came out to pull the dingy up on the beach and then offered to help carry the fuel jugs to the store. Mark was glad for the help as it was quite a hike. On the way they saw women separating a light colored grain (looked like rice) from the chaff by tossing it in the air and catching the rice in a slightly concave wooden tray. At the store the diesel was dispensed from a variety of plastic jugs of various sizes. It cost $2.50 per gallon. How does that compare to prices back home these days?

Once he returned, Mark spent the rest of the afternoon helping Doug with his boat maintenance. I returned to Windbird to check-in with Herb on Southbound II to get weather advice for our trip. I was successful in connecting with Herb and he was able to tell us about a current that we can take advantage of tomorrow as we leave the Gulf of Panama. We check in every morning with the Panama Pacific net and get a weather report, but it was comforting to hear Herb’s voice and get his advice on setting our course. We will continue to check-in with him as long as we can hear him. It is amazing to me that we can still hear him here. Canada seems like a long way away here.

During the late afternoon, I used the water left behind from melting ice in the cooler that we have on deck to wash clothes, clean the cockpit floor, and to wash down the bottom of the dinghy once we took it out of the water and placed it on deck. I think this need to make sure everything is absolutely clean before leaving on a passage is something I inherited from my mom. I don’t see others doing this, but for me, it is a must. We also bought some fresh fish from a panga that stopped by and Mark had to clean that and prepare it for freezing. It was well past dark before we stopped all of our cleaning and preparation for leaving, so dinner ended up to be Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup, fortified with extra chicken and left-over rice. That’s probably the first time since our passage from Norfolk to St. Martin that we didn’t have a “properly” cooked dinner. We were tired and easy sounded good. I know that at least part of the trip to the Galapagos, if not all, will be on quiet seas with very little wind. I’ll have plenty of chances to cook as we make this passage.

We plan to start early tomorrow, so it is definitely time to turn in for the night. Although we have been in the Pacific for almost three weeks now, tomorrow will be the first day of our first Pacific passage. We can’t wait.

060308 Day 142 Panama–Trip Up the Rio Cacique and to Esmeralda

Day 141, Year 1: Final Preparation for Galapagos Crossing

Day 141, Year 1: Final Preparation for Galapagos Crossing
Date: Tuesday, March 7, 2006
Air Temperature: 83 degrees F
Water Temperature: 68 degrees F
Location: Rio Cacique, Isla Del Ray, Las Perlas Islands, Panama

We are still here in the Rio Caciques anchorage off the east side of Isla Del Ray, Las Perlas, Panama. I named yesterday’s log “The Land of the Pelican” and it is certainly that. Today there were more than 200 pelicans sitting beside our boat. They looked as it they were just taking a rest between fishing, and indeed, I think that is what they were doing. I’m so glad we stopped here and have been able to enjoy this special place. Tomorrow morning near high tide, we are going to take our dinghy into the Rio Cacique. Supposedly you can turn off your engine and ride the tide in and enjoy the sounds of the birds and other animals along the shore. After that, we plan to dinghy down to the village of Esmeralda. It is a fishing village and we are just interested in how the people here live.

Tomorrow will be our last day in the Las Perlas as we plan an early departure on Thursday morning for the Galapagos. We will have a full moon during our passage and will cross the equator as we get close to the Galapagos. We will probably cross the equator a day or two after the full moon on March 14, but it will still be a very special experience. Today Mark finished his varnishing job and I worked on the provisioning end. I had invited Sylvia from Windcastle over today to learn how to make bread and we did that and more. We were able to make 3 loaves of banana bread using the over ripe bananas from our banana stalk, 4 loaves of Handley whole wheat bread so that each of us will start our trip with 2 loaves, and we made a loaf of Wheat Germ Bread from the KISS Cookbook that was quick, easy, and delicious. We (meaning Aqua Magic and ourselves) had dinner aboard Windcastle tonight and we all sampled the new bread recipe. It was a big hit, and I have copied the recipe for Windcastle and Aqua Magic. We all agree that we will probably be making more of this easy bread during our crossing. I’ve copied the recipe below for anyone interested.

After our adventures tomorrow morning, we will double check everything to make sure we are ready to leave for the Galapagos. We had one fatality today that we will have to deal with. Our solar shower bag on the back of the boat has developed a leak and a faulty spray nozzle. Without this, we have no outside fresh water wash down, and this is really necessary when snorkeling. We have to figure out a fix for this, but otherwise, I think we are ready for take off. I’ll report in tomorrow night to let you know if we found other things that must be done before we leave.

060307 Day 141 Panama–Rio Cacique Anchorage, Las Perlas

Day 140, Year 1: The Land of the Pelican

Day 140, Year 1: The Land of the Pelican
Date: Monday, March 6, 2006
Air Temperature: 83 degrees F
Water Temperature: 68 degrees F—Back Down Again
Latitude: 08 degrees 18 minutes
Longitude: 78 degrees 54 minutes
Location: Rio Cacique, Isla Del Ray, Las Perlas Islands, Panama

We moved today from Espiritu Santo on Isla Del Ray to Rio Cacique on the same island. We started out motoring, but then had a great sail with the winds behind us. As we approached the new location, it looked like there were white caps in what was supposed to be a calm anchorage. As we got closer, we saw that the “white caps” were really just the splashes caused by diving pelicans. These guys are like little dive bombers, and there are SO many of them. When we were sure the anchor was secure, I just sat for a long time watching the show. This place must be teeming with fish. There are local fishermen who work this area during the day and they stopped by our boats this evening peddling the day’s catch. We are going to buy tomorrow and try to freeze some if we can.

Sylvia and Doug from Windcastle are here, as well as Patrick and Margaret from Aqua Magic. There is also another US boat from Seattle named Calypso. We have not met them yet, but maybe tomorrow. Windcastle, Aqua Magic, and ourselves plan to depart here on Thursday morning for the Galapagos, but until then, we are all working feverishly to get our boats ready. We are lightly sanding and doing a couple of coats of varnish on the teak trim on deck. We put 15 coats on during the summer, and so far it is holding, but we want to try and keep it that way. This requires a couple of maintenance coats every 6 months or so. Doug is also doing varnish work on his boat, but he has a great deal more wood trim that we do. Aqua Magic is doing a little engine work. The main bolt that holds on their alternator broke and fell off today, so they are working on that problem. Tomorrow, I am going to teach Sylvia how to make bread, and in so doing, I will make a couple of loaves for each of us to start out our trip. It will be a busy day.

060306 Day 140 Panama–Rio Cacique, Land of the Pelican

Day 139, Year 1: Happy Birthday to Me

Day 139, Year 1: Happy Birthday to Me
Date: Sunday, March 5, 2006
Air Temperature: 82 degrees F with 15 knot winds in the anchorage
Water Temperature: 70 degrees F—Coming Up Slowly
Location: Espiritu Santo, Isla Del Ray, Las Perlas Islands, Panama

Mark surprised me this morning by hanging our Happy Birthday banner just outside the cockpit. We have had this banner for 20 years and have used it aboard all 3 of our sailboats. After I was served a great breakfast, we listened to the net, did some work on the boat, and then got ready to go snorkeling. Just as we were getting into our dinghy, one of the boats in the anchorage went motoring by waving and telling us that they would see us in the Marqueses. Remis, the fourth boat in the anchorage, had decided it was time for them to leave. We had not met the couple-German woman, Swiss man, Hungarian dog, and French boat-but Doug and Sylvia had. They cannot stop in the Galapagos because they have a dog onboard, so they have a very long trip in front of them. We wished Remis a safe passage and then got into the dinghy and went to check in with Aqua Magic. Doug and Sylvia from Windcastle came over as well, and then we all took off and landed our dinghies on the beach. We walked through the trees and vines to the other side of Espiritu Santo. Just as we were getting into the water, Doug warned us about the stingrays in this area. Someone on Contadora had told him to be on the lookout, so we shuffled our feet as we walked into the water. Unfortunately the water was cloudy and there was very little coral and no fish to be seen. I did swim over 2 stingrays as I headed back into the beach and was very careful as I got out of the water. We tried a different entry, but still there was very little to see, so we gave up and headed back. To get back to where we had started, we either needed to snorkel or walk over the rocks. I chose the rocks, not wanting another close encounter with a stingray on my birthday-or any day for that matter.

Aqua Magic and Windcastle came over for dinner around 1800 and we all thoroughly enjoyed Mark’s cooking. He had hoped to grill salmon steaks, but it was just too windy to grill. He had to cook the salmon steaks on the stove top, but regardless, they were great.

It is supposed to be very windy for the next couple of days, so we are thinking of moving a little further south on Isla Del Ray tomorrow morning to a more protected anchorage. And then we are actually contemplating leaving the Las Perlas as early as Thursday to start our voyage to the Galapagos. It is very nice here, but we are all getting anxious to get to the Galapagos. We have enjoyed our time here watching the bird life. There are the very graceful pelicans flying in formation, skimming the top of the water, and then plunging into the sea. And then there are the beautiful white egrets that fly overhead and the Magnificent Frigates which soar in the sky high above us. There are also black butterflies that are decorated with neon blues, greens, oranges, and yellows that constantly fly over the water, visit us on the boat, and then continue on their way. There are beaches everywhere and jungle-like trees and vegetation lining the shores. All of this adds up to a very subtle beauty that surrounds us. It would be easy to stay here for a much longer time, but the South Pacific calls us.

060305 Day 139 Panama–Espiritu Santo, Las Perlas

Day 138, Year 1: Uninhabited Espiritu Santo

Day 138, Year 1: Uninhabited Espiritu Santo
Date: Saturday, March 4, 2006
Weather: No Wind
Air Temperature: Not sure, but it was hot with no breeze today.
Water Temperature: 69 degrees F
Latitude: 08 degrees 25 minutes
Longitude: 78 degrees 51 minutes
Location: Espiritu Santo, Isla Del Ray, Las Perlas Islands, Panama
We traveled from Contadora to Espiritu Santo off Isla Del Rey in the Las Perlas islands today. It was only about 14 miles, but we had to motor the whole time as there was no wind today. Since the fuel we are presently carrying must get us all the way to the Galapagos some 900 miles away, and since we will be traveling through the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ better known as the doldrums) for much of the way, we motored slowly today to conserve fuel. There are no fuel stops between here and there! We carry enough fuel to motor the whole distance if needed, but it is still wise to conserve. We arrived here around 1530 and shortly after we anchored, Sylvia and Doug of Windcastle, came to visit. We had heard from them on the net this morning and learned that they are not going to mainland Ecuador as planned, but will be leaving the Las Perlas and heading straight to the Galapagos as we will. It will be great to have both Aqua Magic and Windcastle close by as we head out.

We are in what I call “sweet and sour” land in terms of air temperature. We have an almost constant 70 percent humidity and when there is a breeze blowing on you, you feel almost cold in the evenings and at night. But when there is no breeze blowing on you at night, you are hot. The same is true during the day, but you never feel cool during the day, just comfortable with a breeze and hot without it. Somehow at night, we go from cool to warm to cold to hot, and then we start the cycle over. One of our problems is that we have very poor circulation down in the main cabin of the boat. All of our hatches open backwards and let minimum air flow below deck. Tomorrow we will begin investigating how we can remedy the problem. As we head further west, it will get hotter and there will be less wind than we have had to date, so it is definitely time to do a little problem solving.

Espiritu Santo is a small island just off Isla Del Ray. It is uninhabited except by birds and what sounds like a monkey. Tomorrow after the net, we will take the dinghy to the island and walk across to the Gulf of Panama side to snorkel. The anchorage between the Isla Del Ray and Espiritu Santo is beautiful, but because it is a fairly narrow cut, there is a lot of debris in the water that appears to be trapped here. It is not water that you feel you want to jump into, so we are hoping that on the other side of the island things will be different. Tomorrow evening, we are inviting the other 3 boats in the anchorage to Windbird for dinner to celebrate my 59th birthday. Mark had hoped to catch fresh fish today to have for tomorrow’s dinner, buy all we caught was our own prop. We forgot to bring in the fishing line when we got here to the anchorage, and when we backed down on the anchor, the line wrapped around the prop. Inviting or not, Mark had to get out the snuba gear and dive down to clear the prop. He was able to salvage the lure and didn’t loose that much line, so all is well. We will just have to have salmon steaks from the freezer tomorrow night.

Day 137, Year 1: Preparing Windbird for Crossing to Galapagos

Day 137, Year 1: Preparing Windbird for Crossing to Galapagos
Date: Friday, March 3, 2006
Air Temperature: 79 degrees F
Water Temperature: 69 degrees F and Rising Slowly
Location: Contadora, Las Perlas Islands, Panama

Today was supposed to be a day of rest and relaxation, but somehow that didn’t happen. After listening to the morning radio net, Mark repaired the tears in our spinnaker that happened while we were in the Caribbean. I helped by moving all of the fresh food baskets off the v-berth so he could get underneath to get the sail out. While moving the food baskets, I discovered that the eggplant was not keeping as well as I would like, so I decided to make ratatouille to freeze for our crossing to the Galapagos. As always, one thing leads to another. Making ratatouille requires others veggies, so I had to dig those out as well. I’ll list here the fruits and veggies we have stored for the trip to the
Galapagos. I thought you might be interested in what we are carrying and how we are storing things. I’ll list those here and let you know how the long term storage goes.

50 key limes-each wrapped in aluminum foil
2 mangoes-wrapped in tissue paper
1 papaya-prepared and stored in the refrig
4 cantaloupes-stored in a plastic crate
70 oranges-in hanging bags
1 stalk of bananas (approximately 75 bananas)-hanging in the v-berth
15 Granny Smith apples-individually wrapped in tissue paper
2 pineapples-stored in a plastic crate
4 heads of iceberg lettuce-stored in the refrig
1 head of Romaine lettuce-stored in the refrig
30 large potatoes-stored in a plastic crate
12 red and 24 yellow onions-stored in a plastic crate
3 cucumbers-individually wrapped in wax paper
4 large and 24 small green/red sweet peppers-individually wrapped in wax paper
6 small summer squash-individually wrapped in tissue paper
35 carrots-stored in a plastic crate
3 heads of white cabbage, 1 head of Chinese cabbage– stored in a plastic crate
1 daikon radish– stored in a plastic crate
4 small egg plants-stored in a plastic crate
4 small heads of Bok Choy-stores in the refrig
1 small head of cauliflower and 2 small heads of broccoli-stored in the refrig
2 bags of baby carrots-stored in the refrig
1 bag of okra-stored in a plastic crate

Later in the day, I started preparing dinner. We had invited Margaret and Patrick from Aqua Magic over for an Indian curry dinner and I wanted to try and make an Indian bread, so I had to start early to try this. During the dinner preparation, Mark got out the Creative Zen (like an Ipod) and set it to play jazz music that Heather and Jed had recorded for us. We had great fun listening the selected music. It was great to think of them as we listened, but I have to admit it made me just a bit homesick. Good thing they are meeting us in the Galapagos.

Mark was in the cockpit during this time, and I heard him make the call for dolphins in the anchorage. These dolphins are more like little whales in terms of their water antics. They jumped and breached their way between boats and put on quite a show.

Tomorrow morning we move on to another island, Isla Del Ray, and will stop in the Espiritu Santo anchorage. If the water quality there is good, there should be some good snorkeling. If so, it will be great to be back in water again.

060303 Day 137 Panama–Contadora Anchorage, Las Perlas