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