September

Two days after transiting the canal I left for Ecuador. One of my good friends was getting married so I found a cheap plane ticket and decided to go and be there for the wedding. Before leaving, we moved the boat to the other side of La Playita, to an anchorage called Las Brisas. This is the anchorage you’d like to be if a) you are on a tight budget and b) you are fit enough to climb into some dodgy docks. In La Playita you have to pay $35 dollars a week to dock the dinghy in the marina. We found that those 35 dollars were better spent on paw paws and bananas then on dinghy fees and that’s why we moved. See photos below to understand what I mean about being fit…

I had a great time in Ecuador; spent time with my family, went to my friend’s wedding and got to wear some borrowed high heels that I couldn’t walk with, and that’s why instead of dancing all night, I spent most of the time sitting down but completely impressed by the shoes the other girls were wearing and the amount of makeup they all had on! The bride was beautiful and I was so glad to be there to see them get married.

I was also there for International Coastal Clean Up Day, so we got together with Paula, a friend that is starting her own project called Mi Playa Limpia and we cleaned up a beach called El Pelado with the help of some volunteers from the Red Cross. This, I did the same day of the wedding, so it ended up being a huge day for me.

Thanks to Cecilia, my friend that is helping me run the facebook page for Mingas por el Mar and also is organizing other beach clean ups in Ecuador while I’m not there, we got to visit a university called Universidad del Pacifico, did a small talk and presented the documentary Bag It. This was my first time ever talking in front of university students and it wasn’t as daunting I as I thought it would be.

Mick spent the 10 days I was away working madly on the boat. Getting around Panama City is easy enough, but it’s still a big city and going into town is always a mission. We got the metro/bus card and with it you can get onto the metro bus and the metro for 25 cents and 35 cents each ride, so it’s really convenient.

I got back to the boat reenergized but found a demoralized and tired Mick. We then spent the following week going to the supermarkets and the market to buy the last of our food shopping hopefully for the year. Ecuador is getting expensive because of the government’s ban on importation and some products are difficult to find. Then once we cross the Pacific, prices are going to double up, so Panama is the best place to stock up for the boat.

During our last days in the city, I got to see an old friend of mine, Santiago, who is Panamanian but lived in Ecuador while studying his university degree ten years ago. He’s now married and has a beautiful 18 months old boy. We had lunch with him one day and he helped us by getting us to a different supermarket to finish our food shopping.

 I also got to meet Ilona, who is sort of an aunt on my mum’s side. She’s Ecuadorian but has lived in Washington DC for the last 25 years. She’s recently moved to Panama City with her husband and youngest son and we got to have lunch with her one day and see the ruins of Old Panama. They were so nice to invite us over for dinner on our last night there and we had a great time getting to know them.

Last thing to sort out was our auto pilot panel which got too wet in Bocas and isn’t working properly anymore. We had to order the part but instead of waiting more days in the city we decided to go explore a little.

Saturday morning we left Las Brisas and headed to Taboga Island which is the nearest island from the city. The place was beautiful and when we arrived there, around 9am we were the only boat there. But by 12 pm , there were like 10 boats and all playing different music, with people dancing, singing, and having fun. We were so tired, that we were happy to just sit around the cockpit, jump in the water and observe the party people around us.

The next morning we sailed to Las Perlas Islands, which lay 30 miles from Panama City. We arrived at la Isla Contadora around 4pm and before we reached our anchorage it started to rain. We looked up and saw whales. There was a mother and its calf lifting their tails, jumping and swimming around the boat. It was a great welcoming sight to the islands.

Isla contadora is the most developed island of Las Perlas. It has several houses and resorts, so in the morning we walked around the island, explored a little and the next morning we sailed to isla Espiritu Santo. It was a nice sail and we saw a few more whales, not quite as close as the one on the first day, but still nice. The area is full of life, lots of bait fish around and it’s just so stunning. When we arrived at Espiritu Santo we thought we were definitely going to be the only boat around but to our surprise there was not only another boat but two.

We soon realized one of the boats was Manfred’s, a nice German, solo sailing, that we met before crossing the canal and that had left Panama City a couple of weeks before, planning to stop in Las Perlas on his way across the Pacific, but he hadn’t managed to find any good weather to start his passage so was still at Las Perlas. The other boat was a couple from Canada who have been living in Panama for a few years now and come to Las Perlas to spend a few weeks away from everything. There were really nice too.

We ended up staying 3 nights in Espiritu Santo. It was an amazing area, so peaceful and green, with fresh water streams and empty beaches. The sad thing was the amount of rubbish on the beach. We think it was due to the recent full moon and the big tides, because there was so much of it and it was stinking muddy plastic pieces that looked like they had been under the mud for a long time up a river or somewhere and just came out due to the big tides. We picked up so many bottle tops and they have been the hardest ones so far to get clean, really disgusting!

After those nice relaxing days, we sailed back to Contadora area and while we were passing one of the islands, we saw a familiar boat anchored; it was our Irish friends, Amy and Shane, that we had met before crossing the canal. We were so happy to see them, so we pulled next to them to say hi and talked for a bit. We said we would continue on to Contadora to check internet there and would be back at the end of the afternoon to have a proper catch up. We were so disappointed when we were back at the end of the day and Amy and Shane were gone! (Apparently it got really bumpy so they decided to move on and sent us a message that we never got, so we were so sad to have missed them and it remained a mystery what had happened to them!)

We spent a few more days in Las Perlas, moved to another little island for the last two nights, saw a few more whales and decided to go back to Panama City and hope for the best about our parts.

At the end, everything worked out really well. We only spent three days in the city, picked up our part and did some more shopping. It was good to see Manfred (the German solo sailor) again; he had found a French couple with sailing experience that wanted to cross the pacific with him so we got to say good bye to him, knowing that he was now fully ready for his passage. On Saturday 17 October we left the city for Santa Catalina.

Author: Isabel Romero

founder of Mingas por el Mar

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