Final days in the Las Perlas islands

Later on Thursday afternoon we started looking at routes to the Galápagos Islands. We were conflicted because although experienced circumnavigators we have spoken to and Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes say the best way is to head down east of Las Perlas island chain to an island – 300 miles SSW – called Malpelo which should be left to starboard and run to the Galápagos from there which potentially gives a better sailing angle; the currents are more favourable; and it keeps us away from the Panama Canal main shipping lanes. It also means we take the shortest path across the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone – commonly known as the doldrums). But our PredictWind weather routing package – which is well respected and used by many a professional sailor – suggests we take a straight rhumb line shot at it. So we debated the pros and cons and have decided to go with the Cornell route….only time will tell whether this was the right decision. Friday morning we were up early and planned to just pop around the corner to anchor between Isla Chapera and Isla Mogo Mogo – the island used by the survival TV series with Bear Ghrylls. Well…we didn’t like the look of the anchorage so decided to continue on. The sea was pretty flat and we had to motor sail due to the lack of wind. We watched big fish flying through the surf as we frightened them by our shadow and even saw two mani mahi jumping like dolphins. Is that why they are also know as dolphin fish? Richard started fishing and had one bite but no catch…better luck next time. We passed Isla Elefante to starboard – which actually looked more like a turtle than an elephant – and turned into the anchorage at Isla Canas having covered 25 miles. The pilot guide says this is a scenic island … we disagree. It was scrubby all around and the water was very dark – neither of us fancied revisiting the hull cleaning here! But we were very productive getting the outboard cleaned up, covered up and stowed away on the rail and did some varnish ‘keepers’. Dink also got another patch – hopefully the last one. During the evening a few fishing boats went by and they were very interested – but wouldn’t acknowledge us. Hmmmm….so we decided to deploy all security measures when we turned in for the night. Seriously if we had known these anchorages were so inhospitable we would have stayed in Contadora and left directly from there. This morning, Saturday, we got up early again and were relieved that we had got through the night without being boarded – not a good idea to be the only boat in an isolated anchorage in this part of the world. Interestingly the smell of this anchorage in the morning was lovely….with a hint of spice. We picked up anchor and motor sailed in very light airs towards Isla del Ray. We had identified an anchorage at the bottom of the island that would be a great place for our final departure from Panamanian waters. We motor sailed in light airs again – at the lowest revs to minimise fuel use – and we went slowly enjoying the sights of the pelicans and boobies swirling around us. There was quite a lot of flotsam in the water and then we saw a big black rubbery thing….sadly we think it was a dead seal. Oh yes and one unnamed rock on the charts turned into Skull Rock for us….when you see the photos later you’ll understand why. (There will be no photos until we get back online.). Anyway we got our anchor down in Punta Cocos and had a cold drink. Then half an hour later the AeroNaval guys – with guns – turned up and told us to move away. They hovered while we picked up anchor and tracked us until we were far enough away from their base. The other two anchorages were off a village – not sure about that – so we opted instead to go to Rio Cacique. We finally had anchor down again at just before two having covered a huge 18 miles LOL. We quickly did another varnish coat of the keepers and got ready to go into the very dark and murky water. The nutrients here are so plentiful that visibility is no more than five feet. Richard kitted up to dive and I snorkelled above him while he cleaned the bottom of our hull – it was important I was in the water too to make sure he remained safe. I was, however, a bit worried about crocs coming from the gloom!!! The hull didn’t have many barnacles but we seemed to have picked up a lot of little unknown bugs clinging to our hull….and they bite! So wasn’t a pleasant experience. Thankfully we survived and are hoping for the cleanest hull award when we get to the Galápagos. Oh yes and we have been joined by another yacht so we are not the only ones here tonight. Phew…. We have now checked weather again and although there are a few no wind days forecast there is a breeze for the rest….so we are leaving for the Galápagos tomorrow morning. Don’t forget to watch our progress on the tracker and I’ll blog along the way to let you know how things are going. Bye for now Jan