Posted on August 4, 2017
Turning the corner: northbound
Well! That was a longer-than-expected departure from the blog!
Our family headed back to Las Perlas on the third week of July, and promptly dropped off the map with a fair lack of cell coverage. We have been, in a word, remote. One beautiful anchorage after another, but with not so much as a tienda in sight, never mind a cell tower. Even the military base we passed, on the south tip of Isla del Rey, failed to connect us with the wider world.
We’ve spent out time avoiding whales—in some cases, literally stopping the boat to keep from hitting them; hanging out with a cherished few other kid boats for a couple of nights; working our way around the southern peninsula of Panama; and learning about swell.
Persistent swell from far-flung ocean storms has been on our radar since we underestimated the impact of waves on our Beaufort-Charleston run. We get pretty accurate wave info from Predict Wind, and we pay attention to both the wave height and the distance between waves. But waves in the Pacific are different from Atlantic waves, and we’ve found ourselves caught out by building swell that makes awesome surfing conditions, but poor anchoring.
On our run from Isla del Rey past Punto Malo, we had such great breeze and current in our favor that we thought we might get around the entire peninsula in one long overnight trip; but we soon ran into strong headwinds and waves that had us ducking behind Punto Guanico around 3:30 in the morning. The next day, after a leisurely pancake brunch, we pulled up the anchor to try and get a little more protection from the swell closer to the point. Instead, we were confronted with two huge sets of waves rolling towards us! Fortunately, the anchor was already up, and we beat a hasty path out of there.
Our quick exit meant pushing on through the continuing headwinds and waves of the previous night, to finally anchor in the rolly little bay at Ensenada Naranjo around midnight. One more push to find a calm anchorage the next day, on the north side of Isla Cebaco, and we could finally recover.
The stretch of Pacifc coast of Panama that we’ve been traversing is incredibly beautiful. We’re reminded of Hawaii, with steep, verdant mountains rising sharply up from the ocean, and huge waves rolling along rocky shores. We’re not the only ones monitoring the waves; this area of Panama is filled with surfers. We’ll continue on along the more protected bays and islands, avoiding the spots where the waves stack up, on our way to the menagerie of Costa Rica.