|Welcome to Paradise!|
Welcome aboard! We’re in the beautiful Las Pearlas Islands, Panama!
We fully provisioned Windfall with supplies in Panama City, and then had a wonderful 7 hour sail to the Las Perlas Islands with flat calm seas and a nice fresh breeze to fill our sails.
|I wouldn't let her back aboard till she was finished cleaning the dinghy!|
Windfall is currently resting at anchor right beside tropical Mogo Mogo Island 35 miles off the Panama coast where they filmed several parts of the “Survivor” TV series. The white sandy beach lined with coconut trees is beautiful beyond words…you must come see it with us!
|Our colorful spinnaker flying !|
We spent 3 days peacefully anchored at Mogo Mogo. One afternoon we took Blondie (our Walker Bay dinghy) to the beach on Mogo Mogo and did a much needed scrubbing inside and out. Yes, even in “paradise” there are needed chores that must be done…but, of course, the location sure makes a difference.
Day Four- We raised Windfall’s colorful spinnaker sail and set a new course for Isla San Telmo to see the famous 1860’s submarine washed up onto the little deserted island. We couldn’t have asked for a better day to sail…sunny skies, smooth mirror seas, light winds - perfect for our huge spinnaker to add color that gorgeous blue Pacific water!
Isla San Telmo sits in a rocky area, too shallow for Windfall’s 7 ½’ draft, so we dropped anchor in a well-protected bay just a couple miles away. The bay has two streams flowing only during high tide. We dropped Blondie into the water for an evening dinghy exploration up one of the mangrove lined streams. We timed our arrival as the 15 foot tide was rising, with our motor shut off we listened to the songs of the colorful birds hidden among the mangroves.
|Gilligan's Las Perlas Island..Panama style!|
We spotted several young men motioning us over to a beach….They shout with excitement as we turned Blondie to the beach, “You want Bananas…Pineapples…Papayas”, they shouted. We
|Island boys gathered some island produce for Windfall|
asked “Cuanto cuesta?” (How much) for 12 bananas, and one young boy quickly shouted “One dollar each!” Eyes rolled as his friends all laughed at the thought of paying a dollar a banana as they knew he was excited to speak in English and meant a dollar for the whole bunch of bananas.
Within minutes five boys ran off into the jungle to fill our new grocery list. Oh my! Here they came with three LARGE stalks the length of your leg and completely filled with bananas, and papayas, but no pineapples….Ok, we’ll take a sugar cane stalk too. Not a bad trade for five dollars (one dollar each). They asked for a ride back to the beach…sure! Hop in! We had seven of us in Blondie as we slid up to the nearby sandy beach. The boys shouted to their friends so they were sure to see them riding in the dinghy with the Gringos! The boys were friendly, fun, and all had great smiles. We quickly returned to Windfall to drop off our bounty fruit and returned to the beach with some baseball hats for the boys.
|Luckly, the dryrot is ABOVE the waterline!|
|Built in 1860.....just needs a little elbow grease and sealant.|
|Yes, it was very cool to find the submarine. You can Google it and read about it's history.|
To see the submarine sitting dry on the beach we need to arrive at the next low tide at 12 noon tomorrow, otherwise we’d have to snorkel or dive to see it, but we want to see it entirely on the beach. The submarine has a long history including being the inspiration for Jules Vern to write 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It was designed with a hole in the bottom for divers to enter (with pearls in hand) and return to the bottom in search for more pearls. The submarine was thought to be haunted because the divers all died (including the submarine’s inventor!)…this was before they knew “The Bends” was the reason for the deaths. The submarine was eventually left deserted on the beach of Isla San Telmo for over 150 years for the crew of Windfall to discover.
|Nancy hard at work! Whew!|
We spent a couple days in the secluded bay with the night sky filled with stars that sparkled across the water till the moon rose and illuminated the islands with its magical silvery light.
We raised anchor at 6:30am (Yes, Nancy CAN get up that early!) and set a course to an area known simply as “The Darien Gap” - 45 miles of sailing.
The Darien Gap
The Darien is truly a wild and unexplored area with several large mangrove lined rivers reaching miles into the remote jungles of the Panama/Columbia border. The Darien Gap is so remote it is a natural blockade against drug runners who cannot travel through its rugged, mountainous, and remote swamps and jungles that span from the Caribbean to the Pacific side of Panama. How remote you ask? It’s so remote even the famous Pan American Highway ends at the town of Yavisa Panama, and then begins again 150km further in Columbia. This break is known as the Darien Gap – or literally the end of the road! The guide books say if you go hiking and get lost no one will come looking for you!…and that your last days on earth will be exciting filled with many snakes and scorpions to keep you company! Gulp! Hey Nancy how about a jungle hike! Nancy? Now where did that girl go??? Nan-ceeeeee!
Tides here in Panama reach 20 feet and with strong currents that can test the best of boats. Windfall has a large solid bronze 26” three blade propeller that was put to the test against the Darien currents. With our 80 horsepower diesel running at 2200 RPMs we made a proud 5 knots of speed against the 3-4 knot tide. At one point when the tide changed directions we made an amazing 11.1 knots of speed! Whoa Windfall…Whoa!!
|Another beautiful Panama sunset Ahhhhhhh.....|
We met with friends, Blake and Sonny (from Seattle) aboard the catamaran “Slow Mocean” at a huge turn of the Boca Grande river with the town of La Palma about 4 miles in the distance. We dropped Windfall’s anchor in 35 feet of river water – so when the 20 foot tide goes out we could have 15 feet of water safely under Windfall and not be sitting on dry sand! We were aboard “Slow Mocean” for sundowners, sipping cold drinks, and toasting the evening away...and if we listened closely we could hear Howler Monkeys in the distance. Oh, and there will be no swimming in this area due to the many Crocodiles…none spotted yet…but, the key word is YET!
The next day we took Windfall to La Palma to explore the town. As soon as our dinghy
|Hey! Look at that!|
reached the boat ramp a woman from Immigration was waiting for us to “check in”. Within a couple minutes she was pointing out the stores carrying the items we needed. We needed to buy a phone card to purchase more time for the phone and Slow Mocean asked if we would pick up a $25 card for their phone as well. After visiting three stores we had our phone card but only $15 of cards for Slow Mocean…it seems we cleaned the town out of phone cards.
La Palma is a nice little town of 5,200 people and surprisingly even several taxis. Nancy and I even got to witness a “La Palma traffic jam” of three taxis right on the main street…the ONLY street! As we walked admiring the new government type buildings we were welcomed with warm smiles and many greetings of “Buenos Dias” (good day), and the store clerks were very friendly and helpful to fill our needs…and correct our Spanish grammar with a cheery smile.
We stopped at a small café and enjoyed a delicious lunch of chicken with rice, cabbage salad, and a small cup of bean soup…a pretty good deal for $3 each.
Soon it was time to push our dinghy down the boat ramp and head back to Windfall, sitting safely at anchor at the end of town.
Our plans are to continue up the Rio Cucunati in search of indigenous tribes, trade for their handmade items, and hopefully see monkeys, crocs, and three toes sloths.
Windfall did its “Good deed” this morning as 4 people paddled to our side and asked for a tow to La Palma. How could we refuse? Soon our new friends were aboard Windfall with their cayuca
|Locals we gave ride to, she has a monkey for a pet!|
(boat) in tow and full of yams fresh picked from their “Finca” (farm). They told us a story that they have a 2 year old monkey and they treat like a child! The woman, named “Leddy,” rocks it to sleep in her arms like a baby and even gives it haircuts! Their farm grows yams, beans, potatoes, and sugar cane and we were invited to come see them whenever we come back to the anchorage. They much enjoyed the tour of Windfall and we even got to work on our Spanish along the way.
Tonight finds us anchored at a very remote river in the Darien providence in a river named Cucunati with spotting only one Crock…so far! We can hear many pairs of parrots squawking as they fly overhead on their return to thier jungle nests for the evening. Slow Mocean is at anchor a few hundred feet ahead in the darkness of the night jungle while Windfall is about to watch more copied TV episodes of Two and a Half Men….Ahh...technology.
Today we went on a dinghy trip around some of the mangroves and inlets to see what “critters” we could find. As we approached one area we heard loud birds, with the motor off we stopped and
|Nancy loves our dinghy adventures...and so do I !|
|Toucan in the tree !|
|It's only 60 feet up!|
Back aboard Windfall the water was very calm with light wind…time to climb the mast to install a couple Halyard Restrainers (these help guide our lines that hold up the sails). Hey, it’s “ONLY” 60 feet above the water….Well, that’s what I kept telling myself! With my climbing harness securely strapped on, and Nancy below keeping a tight hold on the safety line (hopefully), up the mast I went. A 5 gallon bucket was hauled up on another line to carry the drill and other tools needed for the jobs. It’s a little daunting hanging from a line 60 feet in the air with your wife testing her knot skills below to tie you off and literally “leave you hanging”…well, at least I hope she’s been practicing! I can safely say I don’t believe I evolved from an ape…otherwise, I would have really enjoyed climbing that mast and swinging from side to side and front to back! I have to admit I like repelling down the mast with Nancy lowering me with the rope wrapped around a big winch…just a hint for anyone about to do this…be SURE to praise your wife (a LOT) BEFORE you climb that mast – Otherwise, it may be a faster trip down than you expected!
The Wounaan Indian Village
|Nurse Nancy at her best! I'm very proud of her!|
|A new stuffed toy is always welcome!|
|Hefe (Chief) "Alfredo" with the hat on.|
|Nancy is very popular with the village people|
|My new name is Saaaa-mm!|
|Hey! There's Windfall in the background!|
|Wounaan girls in traditional dresses|
|We had 9 kids aboard Windfall !|
|Welcome! Come on aboard!|
We anchored a few miles up the Rio Sucia, the Wounaan (Whoo-Nan) village of Cana Blanca is about 3 ½ miles further by dinghy where the water gets too shallow for Windfall. Meeting the Wounann Indians is one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had. Not sure exactly where to go, what mangrove stream to follow, or what we’d find was a true adventure. After taking a couple wrong turns we finally found several “paraguas” (Par-aguas - dugout canoes) along the shoreline and the trail leading to the village.
Not knowing who to go to, we asked a child to direct us to the chief, or Jefe (Heaf-ay). We introduced ourselves to Alfredo (the Chief) and offered gifts for the children and a few items for the men and women of the tribe.
Soon we were surrounded by friendly Wounaan children. With permission of Alfredo, we began unpacking our gifts, handing out one by one to the smallest children first. As quick as the soft furry stuffed animals came out of the bag the littlest of hands were filled with furry treasures and immediately held to the sides of their faces…the soft bears, lions, and assorted stuffed animals are now loved more than ever by the kindest little hearts.
Our gifts included items such as knives, hooks, and fishing line for the men, soccer balls for the boys, and much welcomed, and needed, items for the women such as scissors, sewing needles, and much medication creams and bandages. They informed us that they have only seen one doctor in who knows how many years and Nancy’s medical training was more than welcomed and appreciated by the entire village. The gifts are not meant for them to feel that their way of life is any less meaningful than ours, but given as helpful tools to continue their way of life made easier and/or healthier.
The Wounaan’s are known for their skilled basket weaving. When Nancy brought out a silver (plated) ring to offer the crowd, one young man was ready to trade with a small detailed basket about the size of a fist. “Matrimony,” he asked Nancy as he offered the basket in exchange. I couldn’t help but shout from behind the crowd, “Es Mi Esposa!” (That’s MY Wife!) Everyone laughed…Ahh, humor is a wonderful thing. I must say the basket is exactly what Nancy treasures and is now placed proudly among her displayed items aboard Windfall. The beautiful basket is woven so tightly it can hold water, I can’t imagine how many hours it must have taken to weave the tiny and colorful pieces, the thickness of the basket’s sides and bottom are about a 3/8ths inch thick!
One man was teaching Nancy a few words of the native Wounaan language ie: Water=Do
ALL the children walked us the dinghy as we were leaving, they were interested in our dinghy – which was something new for them to see…an inflatable boat! Well, ALL the kids wanted a ride, so before long the dinghy was filled with several trips made up the river. Oh, and that night TWO crocs
|"Crocodile Nancy" on patrol!|
were spotted 200’ from Windfall! (Gulp!) I offered Nancy $5…CASH…if she would swim to shore and bring back a stick as proof! Hey, what do you know….that couch is pretty comfy after all! Ha Ha
Day Two at the Wounaan Village
The morning began with 4 boys in their dugout calling from across the river to get our attention; they are shy and didn’t want to come directly to Windfall without an invitation. Sure, come on over! Soon, the boys were aboard for the nickel tour…two bathrooms with toilets, three showers, running water, a kitchen, TV, and music from the stereo - Van Halen’s song “Panama” was a big hit with them! We gave them some small gifts as they helped us load the dinghy for the trip up river to the village. To save time, they rode in Blondie with Nancy and me as we towed their dugout (no motor) back to the village.
We returned with more gifts and many photos, printed on waterproof paper, of the village families and children - which was a huge hit with everyone! I found it best to give the camera to the kids and let them take pictures of each other as these were some of the best photos. For the Chief’s daughter I printed a large photo with her and her four children, you could almost see the tears in her eyes of appreciation. I have to admit, it’s the smallest of things you do at times that makes the biggest impact, not only for yourself, but for those around you.
We were invited to a man’s home where we were introduced to his family and to take a family photo. We were greeted by his family, and their pet parrot, all waiting at the top of the steps. As I was about to take the photo someone behind me shouted “Whiskey!” – This made everyone laugh for the picture. On our way back to the Chief’s home we were stopped by his son-in-law who asked if we wanted a fresh coconut chopped open (for the sweet water inside). Sure! As he handed the coconut (pipa) to me everyone was watching to see my reaction as I tasted the sweet coconut water inside. I slowly tipped the green shell to my lips, carefully tasting the refreshing liquid inside, slowly looked at the crowd and I shouted, “WHISKEY!” Everyone laughed and shook their heads. Humor is worldwide.
Again, as we departed for our dinghy, awaiting at the river, we were followed by all the children. Nancy was surrounded by young girls asking question after question. We decided to ask the oldest girls (10-15 years old) if they would like to see our “Yah-Teh” (Yacht) as they call it.
With parent’s permissions granted, the girls were soon aboard Windfall and inspecting Windfall. Icy cold drinks were served up for our guests, and after the general inspection of bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen it was time to relax. I bought out the laptop computer and showed the pictures (with music) we took at the village – a big hit. But the best part was when we put on the DVD movie “Finding Nemo” – with Spanish subtitles! The four girls sat mesmerized on the couch, sipping icy cold drinks, and watching the movie. But something was missing……POPCORN! I microwaved the popcorn and filled a large bowl…twice! The movie was a hit, as was popcorn, and a nice cold apple topped off the treats (they may have never eaten an apple before-too expensive and not available).
Well, you know it had to happen, the boys couldn’t stand the girls having all the fun with the Gringos, and before long they too were back aboard after paddeling the 3 ½ miles downriver….nine children total aboard Windfall! Whew!
A small boat was spotted coming up the river, “Es Mi Papa,” one boy said, they are returning from La Palma, a 3 hour trip (one way) by boat. Soon, both parents were also aboard Windfall enjoying icy cold drinks with chips for snacks. The father, a fisherman with nets, was interested in Windfall’s electronics…Charts (maps), Radar, and Sonar…”You can see fish under the boat?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied as a small fish showed on the screen. The mother enjoyed sitting on the couch surprised by the comfort and softness of the cushions she was sitting on. No, there are no pads on any wooden benches we seen in the village, or in the boats…I can tell you ”Admiral Nancy” would not stand…err… sit…for that!
We promised Chief Alfredo we would return in 3 weeks with many necessary medications, and more reading glasses requested by the villagers. “We have much suffering without any medical care,” Chief Alfredo said as he shook his head with complete helplessness to cure his people – A true heartfelt statement admitted from a proud man.
|Walking the village trail|
Items are much cheaper to buy in Panama City than the USA, and we have a large list of items to fill of necessary items, whose total cost is what many people would spend on dinner and night at the movies. For Nancy, and myself, instead of a night on the town, which we can do without, we prefer to help someone in true suffering.
We left the next morning with the rising tide, and necessary depth to clear an uncharted reef located at the mouth of the river- now with an exact GPS location on my chartplotter. Entering and leaving with a rising tide will help lift the boat over any sandbar (or…gulp!...reef!) if the boat becomes lodged. Keeping a close eye on the local tide charts, river conditions, and closely watching the depth sounder before anchoring are a must! Before dropping anchor we circle the area to check depths first, it’s no fun to find you’ve set your anchor in the deep water then backed down to shallower depths! Trust me!... (Don’t ask).
I would like to say this about the Wounaan people….They are gentle, shy, and friendly people. They never asked us for anything and accepted our gifts with open hearts and great appreciation for our kindness to their people. We have made good friends with the Wounaan village. They may not remember “Saa-am”…but I know they will remember “Nann-Ceee” when we return!
|Toucan Tours now available !|
Our “plan” is to take Windfall through the Panama Canal sometime late in May and leave it “on the hard” (hauled out in a boat yard) while we return to the US for a few months. When we return we’ll have a few projects to finish before we set a new course for the famous “postcard perfect” San Blas Islands (Panama on the Caribbean side) and further to…….Cartagena, Columbia!! From there….who knows where the winds will take us!
We’ll see you “Out there”!
“Gorillas….Guerillas. Go.... Guer……HUGE difference!” (From the movie “Captain Ron”)