Monday, April 6, 2009

Cruising Surprises in Panama

April 6, 2009
coordinates 08 06.573N,082 58.445W
sailing along the coast of Panama

Now that we have broken free of the anchorage near Panama City, life is a little more peaceful and familiar. We were a bit surprised to see the teeming sea life each day such as flipping dolphins, flying manta rays, sea snakes and moon jelly's. The birds perpetually dive bomb for their day's catch as the little critters leap for their lives from bigger prey below. It is nice to be back in the gentle roll of the Pacific swell. No more confused seas and choppy waves, at least until the Papagayo winds decide to pick up. We have had a bit of current flowing both ways at various times to work with but very pleasant conditions for day sails. One overnight passage and we found ourselves nestled in a comfortable spot, Ensenada Benao for a couple of nights. We anchored in 20 feet at low tide and just a hop away from the surf! We have to watch the tides a bit more carefully now that we are back in the Pacific since they can range anywhere from 6 to 20 feet depending on the moon at the time. A twelve foot exchange here with the new moon.

We were so happy to get back in the water and get some serious and fun exercise paddling together. It is strange to see only US boats now that all of our foreign com padres are heading in other directions. And the few boats we do see are heading south, opposite direction of us. We pass on info regarding each travelers needed direction and head on our way. Next stop was Punta Naranjo. A comfortable and flat anchorage we hear. The last one was a bit rolly but that is what one gets when they want to be near to the surf. Swell equals good surf and a rolly anchorage. We'll take it!

The next great surprise was our dear friend Natalie. A sweet young adventurous soul that we met when arrived in Puerto Vallarta nearly 4 years ago. A fluent Spanish speaking American living abroad for a time befriended us and we've been connected ever since knowing our paths would cross again someday. As luck would have it, she happened to be traveling in Central America as we are passing through. She managed to catch a flight into San Jose, Costa Rica, then an 8 hour bus to David, Panama, then a who knows how long a bus ride to Sona, then an interesting night sleep in an interesting hotel, to catch another bus to some tiny coastal town of Santa Catalina, where we found her standing on a beach, picked her up in our dinghy, doused her with sea water and we were reunited. We have been blessed by this renewed friendship and a traveling companion for a week. We've continued to island and anchorage hop our way up the last bit of Panama with her, from Morro Negro to Isla Cavada. We have introduced her to the lifestyle of a boater, she has brought amazing joy and energy to us. Together we have been discovering some of Panama's treasures along the way.

A less desirable surprise was in Puerto Armuelles. Again, the best laid plans... We timed our arrival into the final port of Panama for a Sunday night. Intending to check out on Monday and then be on our way. We had not even finished setting the anchor when the Port Capitan, the Immigration and Quarantine Officers appeared at our boat and boarded us. This does not happen often but is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities when entering a new Port. The unfortunate part is that they insisted we had to check in at THAT moment, which of course on a Sunday meant overtime for them and a lot more money. Even with Natalie's fluent and very persuasive interpreting we were not able to sway the officials to letting us check in the following day as we had planned. Long story short and a quick trip to town, a $36 dollar check out of the country process now cost us $136 and left us with a bitter taste in our mouth. One more official on shore sensing this displeasure didn't want us to leave his country unhappy and offered us a quaint little wooden replica of the "Mayflower" boat as a peace offering. We're touched, though we would rather have our $100 back.

This morning we are back underway and rounding the final point or Punta Burica in Panama and heading for Costa Rica. With great anticipation, we are awaiting the arrival of our newest crew members. Lisa's sister Krista with her whole family are coming for a visit to sail, surf and play with us on the sail boat in Costa Rica. They boys are most excited to visit with their cousins whom they haven't seen for a very, very, very long time!