As I eat the last of the gleaming, golden Dorado we caught in the Las Perlas Islands out on the edge of the vast Pacific Ocean, I can’t help, but reflect on what we have accomplished. The other night Ben and I were watching the Los Angeles Lakers play the Boston Celtics for the NBA Championship title at the Hard Rock Café Panama. It seemed amazing and we both were a little awestruck at how far we had come by boat. We felt like it was just yesterday we were at the Warf Pub in New Port, RI hanging with Billy, Drew and Ray, getting hooked up with 20-oz. red, aluminum Red Sox Red Sox Budweiser bottles. Ty and us watching the Red Sox play New York for the baseball World Series and the basketball season just starting with The Lakers in turmoil and no one, but true Lakers’ fans even believing they had a shot at the title. Wow, all these people we have met and have helped us out along the way and the crazy memories of everything, suddenly seemed so poignant, as we watch all the Latin America tourists who undoubtedly flew or drove here, getting their picture taken in font of the restaurant’s sign and us, but with two new men, arriving here, blown in by good ol mother nature. Ben and I both look at each other and don’t even need to say anything to know how much we both appreciate being able to see the world in such an ancient, yet modern fashion. And the memories are more vivid than ever as they flash through my head and Kobe makes Ray Allen look like a chump, spinning off him for a swooshing fade away jumper.
That has been our form of enjoyment in, Panama City, where the supped up diesel busses rumble and puke thick, black exhaust, nightclubs have $20 covers and non surfer friendly dress codes, and everywhere plays overloud TV and obnoxious Latin Music, with the motto being, if its bad, make it better by turning up the volume. The rest of our time spent getting “Natural Mystic” ready for her great Pacific crossing. Hitting up dozens of stores for the miscellaneous spare parts, ship’s stores, and everything else that will be unavailable or four times as expensive in French Polynesia and beyond. She is all stocked up and ready, charts and sat phones tuned, loaded with food and with any luck we will set out tomorrow for some West Panama surf, before heading out to the Galapagos and then further westward.
But, it hasn’t been all hard work aboard the Natty M. The trip out to the Las Peralas Islands, which are probably most famous for hosting the successful Survivor TV series, was a relaxing blast. The islands are mostly undeveloped and super chilled out, with locals just living by farming and fishing. The African influences of the Caribbean had died out and so too the rhythmic, partying culture that is so prevalent in the Caribbean. Out here marine life dominates, giant flocks of Pelicans and other sea bids are everywhere. Fish strike our hooks with relentless fury and it never seems to grow old, reeling in the tasty sea treats. Bonita, Tuna and Dorado make their homes in these waters and I was able to land a solid Dorado, my first, on our return passage back to Panama City.
We anchored between dense jungle islands where the sea drains out on 20 Ft. tides and exposes hidden reefs and shoals that would ground you high and dry if you didn’t have the proper charts. The channels between islands are dangerously deceptive and what appears wide and navigable, is a trap for the uninformed. A Boa Constrictor, probably washed out to sea, climbs our bowsprit stays from the water and coils up on our bowsprit’s Harken block to dry off. We never did find where that snake disappeared too after leaving him alone and with any luck he’s still onboard, swallowing whole, all the vermin that make it aboard.
The Northern islands of the chain had the clearest water and the spear fishing and freediving obviously good. Big schools of Corbina cruse past, and lots of other edible fish, but with a fridge full of fish fillets already, I resist trying to spear the average fish and never get close enough for a good shot at something I would respectfully take. All the fish and underwater scenery are just silently observed, as I glide past in the brisk currents between islands, with the “Red Rocket” just drifting along above me, as you would never make it back to your boat if you anchored her.
The rainy season rains, combined with the high tides and swift currents sweep giant logs and trees out into the Gulf of Panama making navigation extremely dangerous. The debris is numerous and everywhere and many times ten or 20-foot sections of water logged stumps float only inches above the sea, darkly colored and only visible when you have just seconds to avoid contact. Wherever we go, one or two people are one the bow and a person continuously hand steering around the debris. Sailing would be dangerous at the high speeds and we opted to slowly power for the increased visibility and maneuverability, and the distances relatively short.
Our interaction with the locals was great and what limited conversation skills we had with them was rewarded with gifts of Avocados, fruit and a better understanding of how they live and have lived for a very long time. Their fishing boats would drop small nets in the many little bays reeling in a good haul for their villages and on land crops are cultivated both for local consumption and export. I just wished the locals would have better informed us about how to deal with the giant number of insects that overwhelmed our boat on a couple of nights. Millions of some kind of small fly invaded and proceeded to die in plague proportions everywhere. Cushions, countertops and basically the entire boat needed to be cleansed of the dead buggers, before you could go on comfortably living you life in the mornings, made all the harder by the rain that pasted them to the various boat surfaces, like little specks of black toilet paper.
The weather was basically nice, with occasional rain, the islands relaxing and the days spent… Making up new sports on the empty beaches, like Football Frisbee Attack, or just laying on them doing nothing, but staring upward watching the tropical, fluffy clouds float by, or combing them for their treasures of beautiful sea shells; purple calweries and bright pink clams, just perfect for the seashell collection and jewelry making
They say, “All good things must come to an end” and ours occurred with the departure of Sandor back to Santa Barbara and our return back to Flamenco Marina to get on with the giant task of outfitting our yacht for a Pacific crossing. Sandor had a blast and we did too, he’s figured out his best buddy has a boat just cruising around tropical islands, having fun and I think we will be seeing him real soon again.
With some luck we will be able to keep this blog going while we are out there in the more remote part of the world, where Internet access is not exactly happening at the local palm covered island. We got a sat phone and its working with our computer and it uploads data at a super slow rate of 9kb/s (except its connection cuts in and out a lot). This might make the picture posting thing a bit hard, but hopefully it will be plenty fast for text. So, lets all keep our fingers crossed it works and check the December 1969 Archive for any Sat phone SMS text messages and we will do our best to keep you semi up to date. Cheers – Kyber