Thursday, September 19, 2013

Killing Time in Panama

With two weeks to kill before the delivery of our new anchor chain, we left the San Blas and Kuna Yala with no particular place in mind.  But we did need fuel so our first stop about 30 miles away was a very small marina called Green Turtle Cay.

In no big hurry, we had ideal conditions to perfect our motor-sailing-with-the-awning-up technique.

When we arrived at the marina, we had to wait outside until one boat left so we could enter.  The entrance isn't big enough for two boats meeting head-on.  Later the owner explained the marina was dug out of a swamp area and all the pilings and docks built before the entrance to the Caribbean was excavated.

It was a tight squeeze but after fueling, we wedged Moonshadow diagonally into a space for a 30 footer.  Finally, we could get off the boat and walk!

We headed out looking for the sloths and monkeys that live in the adjacent jungle...

... but all we saw were these leaf-cutter ants hard at work.

Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant

The marina has a nice restraunt and bar right on the beach.  This is where we hung out with Aussie friends we'd met in San Blas.  Scott and Tracey live aboard Yollata, a beautiful catamaran with their adorable children William and Molly.  

We really enjoy meeting cruising families with young children, learning how they manage schooling and raising kids on the water, and seeing how well adapted the kids are.  Molly loves making sand castles in her princess dress while Will is a champion crab catcher and fisherman.


We had read about an anchorage called Playa Blanca so checked it out.  What a treat!

With Moonshadow's 62 feet and 150 feet of chain out, there is only room for one boat to anchor so we were lucky to find this cove empty.  We stayed for five days and later returned for two more. 

 This spot was just beautiful, and very well protected.

Of course, there's nothing to do but admire and take pictures of the beauty...

... or swim, read, nap...

... anything to fill the day and kill time while waiting for the sunsets.

We love sunsets everywhere we go, but when we're all alone, they seem somehow more special.  

The active atmosphere above Panama makes the sky at dusk really interesting.
So there's a duty to capture and share the sights!

The thing about sunsets is they're like snowflakes... no two are exactly the same.

It's our favorite time of day

Some colors fade to grey and black, while others are just beginning to have their moment.

Even after retiring below, the beauty finds a way in.


We were out of food, beer, and most everything else, except rum.  (Moonshadow never runs out of rum!)

So we motored over to Portobello.  We'd stopped here on our way to Bocas del Toro, but hadn't done a full inspection so after hitting the grocery store and visiting the yachtie bar "Cap'n Jacks", we hiked around all three of the old forts.

These forts were built to protect Portobello from attacks by pirates like Sir Francis Drake, Henry Morgan and others. 

Every part of the bay can be hit by cannon fire from these forts so no enemy ships dared enter.

Nevertheless, Henry Morgan sacked Portobello by landing at a nearby cove and taking the town by land.  Once he overthrew the forts, he loaded his ships with loot and ransomed the town under threat of burning it to the ground.

Deb is always straightening up!

Years after Morgan's attack, all three forts were rebuilt.  Now there are forts in the hills above so defenders can attack any bad guys that make it into the main fortifications.

Ya think people were short back then? No wonder Magellan called the 6' tall Patagonians giants!  Despite warnings, Cap'n John bumped his head on this portal that even cute little Deb has to duck to pass through.

Back aboard, Deb attends to the little chores, like making pill packets with our meds and vitamins.  

Venus, Spica and a Moonshadow over Portobello


Next we explored the Rio Chagres.  With his buddy Jamie, John had taken Moonshadow up this river that flows from the Gatun Lake, created for the Panama Canal.  Set in a tropical rainforest, it is such a special place John wanted to share the experience with Deb.

We anchored in a quiet bend in the river about 2 miles up from the Caribbean surrounded by a lush 50 meter high jungle canopy and all it's occupants.

It gets very still on this river and the sights and sounds are mesmerizing.

You can spend hours just looking around.

We quickly realized were were intruders in a natural habitat for many animals that we could see and hear.

Swallow-tailed Kite

This cheeky swallow wasn't fooled by our inflatable snake.

By far the loudest sounds on the Rio Chagres are the howler monkeys.  First one monkey will start, then a chorus of monkeys hoot and howl in unison.

How many howler monkeys can you find?

When thunder or rain approaches, these howler monkeys begin to voice their concern (or complaints).  Other times, they seem to be calling out to others who answer from some distance away.

Living hundreds of feet up in the jungle canopy and with their strong arms and tails they leap from branch to branch without fear.

While enjoying this group of howler monkeys on one side of the river, we heard some rustling in the trees across the river and found a family of white-faced capuchin monkeys including an infant clinging to mom's back. 

Unlike the howlers, who seemed to care less about any noise coming from Moonshadow, these guys stopped and cast some anxious looks when we whooped to get their attention.

white-faced capuchin monkeys

Still more wild animals on the Rio Chagres

More friends from San Blas, Tony and Anne of the catamaran Pavo Real and Philip and Julia of the 39' sloop Diva joined us in Moonshadow's cockpit for a fun afternoon and evening of Mexican Train and sundowners.

After two days our San Blas friends moved on to Bocas del Toro, leaving us alone on the river. With our chain delivery still three days away we  decided there was no place better to hang out and kill time than right where we were, the beautiful Rio Chagres...

...where time can move so slow you feel like... well like a sloth!