After 10 days of disconnected bliss cruising in western Panama we arrived in Panama City with quite a lengthy to-do list. Boat projects and provisioning to prepare for our crossing to the Galapagos took up most of our days, leaving little opportunity to focus on writing a summary of our stay in the country. Now that we have some time on our hands, we’re trying to catch up.
Leaving Costa Rica, an overnight passage brought us to some of the most isolated islands and anchorages we’ve seen since Alaska. Isla Partida with its white sand beaches and Isla Cavada with its perfectly clear water for snorkeling were wonderful stops. Daily thunderstorms became our norm, although we’re still far from comfortable with them.
We enjoyed two days in Bahia Honda, a remote bay with a small village on the island in the middle. There we met Domingo and his sons, Nelson and Kennedy, with whom we traded for tons of fabulous local fruit. We swam ashore to watch howler and spider monkeys in the trees overhead. And we loved the perfectly calm water and serene setting.
As we made our way from Bahia Honda toward the Bay of Panama the calm waters turned to a sloshy mess, resulting in a very uncomfortable passage. Added to that was the fun of dodging behemoths as we crossed the Panama Canal shipping lanes in the middle of the night. Arriving at Isla San Jose in Las Perlas islands first thing in the morning, we dropped the anchor and promptly slept until afternoon. We spent three nights in Las Perlas before making the 6-hour bash the rest of the way to Panama City.
Arriving in Panama City by boat is quite a sight to behold. There are literally hundreds of boats in and around the anchorage – pilot boats and tugs to usher the big ships, tankers, cargo ships, work boats, ferries, fishing boats, sailboats, tour boats, even the Sea Shepherd boat… you name it, it’s either anchored here, getting underway to transit the Panama Canal, or picking up speed after exiting. We chose to take a slip at La Playita Marina for the time we spent in the city, mainly for the convenience factor as we had much provisioning and running around to do. We’re glad we did as we ended up having to tackle a couple of repairs on the boat that required specific skillsets, and the dockmaster, Jose, was a huge help in securing the necessary resources. An added bonus was the neighborhood sloth that liked to sleep on the electrical box in the parking lot.
In between trips to the mall, markets and auto parts stores we did manage to have a bit of fun, as well.
Panama City is a lively, growing city with good parts and bad parts – luckily, the cabbies educated us on both to keep us out of trouble. We had a good time exploring Casco Viejo (the old quarter) and sampling some of the great cuisine the city had to offer.
After nine days, equipment checks and repairs were complete, provisions were bought and stowed, scuba and propane tanks were filled, and it was time to move on.