Las Perlas Archipelago

Three weeks ago we sailed to the Las Perlas archipelago off the Pacific coast of Panama. After transiting the Panama Canal and spending a week anchored off the city, we just wanted to “get away” and find some lonely corner of the ocean.

We sailed through the night and before sunrise were off the Isla Pedro Gonzales. We anchored in a bay well protected from winds from all directions. We dinghied to a pontoon and were firmly but politely told that everything except the village is private and sent on our way. We visited the only village and bought a dinghy full of fruit straight out of the jungle. Originally the seller literally filled our tender with more fruit than we could ever eat. We laughingly explained that there are only two of us and took most of the produce back out. That night we visited the private marina and drank an amazing Mohito in the bar – which was open just for us; the only guests. It was depressing to compare the poor village with the luxury just across the bay but a world apart.

taking the dinghy upriver looking for waterfalls

Next we sailed further south to the (also private) island of Isla San Jose. We anchored off a long sandy beach and saw almost nobody for four days. One day we rowed to the beach and waved to four locals on a neighbouring hill just to prove our social skills are still functioning. Trying to get back off the beach through the waves was challenging and ended with a dinghy full of sea.

Heading back north, we threaded through the hidden reefs and rocks to anchor in a tiny bay off Isla Bayoneta. At low tide we took the dinghy through a channel between the islands and plotted a safe route through the rocks. At one point we only had twenty centimeters below us. When we reached the anchorage beyond the channel we saw a familiar looking catamaran with a Brittany flag and were invited for coffee by Marc and Sylvie on Iroise who we know from the Canal transit. Later, at high tide, we took Artemis along the same route with a comfortable two and a half meters of water.

Our next stop was off Isla Viveros. Here developers have built roads and laid electricity to each plot so that rich people can build nice holiday houses. There are a few houses but overall an air of decay. It looks like another great idea that isn’t working. At least there is a functioning beach club and the day before Heidi’s birthday the swedish boat Bengt appeared with our friends Elizabeth and Wim on-board. The result was a long birthday lunch (with a few drinks) followed by Curry (and more drinks) on board Artemis.

River scenery

We traveled to Isla del Rey and anchored off the small township of San Miguel. The plan was to find some jungle trails for the mountain bikes. On foot, we followed the only track out of town and in to a dense tunnel of foliage. It looked promising but less than a kilometer later it stopped at the towns airstrip. Here there are no trails; everyone travels by boat. On the way back we stocked up with fresh fruit and a few other essentials – as well as a six pack of Coke which cost as much as everything else together.

Another few miles along the coast and we found cruisers paradise. A well protected anchorage behind the island of Isla del Espiritu Santo. No swell from any direction. Jungle in all directions. Beaches and even a fresh water stream. Pelicans, fishing bats at night, jumping fish and even a dolphin. Bengt is anchored nearby and we are definitely “away from it all”.

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