Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New photos: Wild Islands of Western Panama

The pristine beauty of Islas Secas, Panama


Well, Espiritu passed her haul-out and hull inspection as well as rig inspection with nary a complaint here in Panama City.

                   I figured if Mike the rigger trusted Espiritu enough to climb her all the way to the top, then the least I can do is trust her strength when we head to sea again...whenever that may be.

        I was surprised at my emotions when Espiritu was hauled out here at Flamenco Marina in Panama City. I felt almost maternal towards her. After all, she took a bullet for us. And not only did her rigging and mast survive the lightning strike, her hull passed the inspection as well. No exit wound.

    I felt so proud of her. And as we lowered her back into the water after the haul out quick check of the hull, I felt a renewed surge of inspiration and hope that we would -- we WILL -- sail her again. We will take her through the canal, and to the Caribbean! Because she's a strong old girl. Regal. She wants to sail again. So we will nurse her back to health (her "internal organs" -- the electronics -- are nearly completely fried) and we will continue on. Because Espiritu has not given up! And neither will we. :-)

  As we've been stuck here at the dock in Panama City with our wounded Espiritu, it's hard to believe that it was only a month ago that we were sailing across the wild islands of western Panama.

                             THE ISLANDS OF WESTERN PANAMA -- JUNE 2012

Chris and Howard explore the largely uninhabited Isla Parida

The island featured a trail meandering through a giant grove of fig trees


                             Western Panama and its islands are largely uninhabited.
                               90% of the population of the country is in Panama City.
                                But the islands aren't completely uninhabited...

A young indigenous girl walks onto the beach as our dinghy approaches her small family compound on Isla Parida

         Three brothers live on the island with their families. Fortunately for me they spoke Spanish,
 so we were able to communicate simply. They graciously welcomed us into their homes for a visit.

Check out those eyes. Wow. 

     As they are very isolated here and rarely get to the mainland, we brought them some canned goods, personal care items, candies, a few picture books and toys for the children.

     In return, one of the brothers opened fresh coconuts for us with machetes. Believe it or not, this was our first time drinking fresh coconut milk on this adventure. It was delicious. I drank all of mine down in true chug-a-lug fashion, and I paid for it with two days of abdominal cramps. But it was worth it!

   After we drank our coconut milk, one of the brothers walked over to a lagoon bordering their hut and whistled, as if he were calling a dog. We waited. He whistled again. And then, from the other side of the lagoon, his two "pets" came in response to the call of their master:

              Yep. Two alligators came swimming up to us. We stood back, mesmerized,
                   as we watched him beckon them up onto the beach for a tasty treat.

                  He tossed them live crabs, which flailed wildly as he picked them up from the
                        beach and tossed them into the mouths of these ancient creatures.

            Just up the beach was family #2. They had recently given birth to a newborn son.

           As you look at this photo, note the lagoon just behind us...which contained their pet alligators. Well, if Mom felt comfortable enough to turn her back to them, then so could I. I wondered about the safety of the baby around them, though. Obviously they would never leave him on the ground unattended.

                         I was incredibly touched that Mom let me hold her newborn son.
                    The warmth, gentleness and graciousness of these families moved me deeply.

We took one last look at the lovely Isla Parida, then pulled up anchor and headed on

We needed diesel, so we headed to the tiny village of Bahia Honda

"Sittin' at the dock of the bay, wasting time..." Life is slow here, and the fishing is good.

        This Bahia Honda boy models his donated United Colors of Benneton t-shirt. Fortunately neither he nor his family reads English. But seriously, Benneton -- what in the hell does this mean? JOKE?   Anyway -- what a photo, huh?

 Weirdly, there IS a Panamanian beer named "Soberana." I asked about it, and as best I can understand it, it's sort of a light beer, for ladies.   Hmm. Anyway, needless to say, it's not a big seller. LOL...

Time creeps by at a leisurely pace here. Nothing happens quickly.

Next stop: Isla Cebaco. 25-50 villagers live on this island.

Fishing, of course, is their mainstay. These nets hanging neatly to dry after a day out at sea
 have an almost theatrical affect of shadow and light.

Our Canadian buddy boats I Yam What I Yam and Swift Current rest in the anchorage


The old and the new, coexisting in harmony (we hope)

             Howard marks his territory: "In the name of the great province of British Columbia, I claim this spot for the great country of Canada!" And being Canadian, he said "Please." And "Thank you."

They had the sweetest little church here. The priest only comes from the mainland
 to the island every 4th or 5th Sunday for mass.


This site on an isolated beach proves that contrary to popular opinion, apparently Crocs do NOT last forever

                 After visiting these idyllic islands, it was time for the long night passage around the ominously named "Punta Mala" (Point "BAD") and then rest up at Isla Taboga, just offshore from Panama City.

Chris catches a few zzzzzzz's protected by our lee cloth. This was a rough, blustery passage,
with countless close lightning strikes and 35 knot winds.

Isla Taboga is a favorite weekend getaway for harried Panama City residents

           The town was adorable but when we visited on a weekday, it was completely dead. Not unlike Avalon on Catalina Island back home, it springs to life on the weekends when visitors arrive.

       This mural on Isla Taboga portrays both the Catholic and nautical traditions of this place.  I had to chuckle, though, at the apparent contents of Mother Mary's right hand: are those shopping bags?   ;-)

Check out the grouper this fisherman hauled in!


There are few happier sights for cruisers and locals alike than the fresh fruit and veggie truck!

This Isla Taboga beach would be full by saturday when the tourists arrive

     This strange cloud formation over Isla Taboga was an awesome if mildly anxiety producing sight. A storm blew through not long afterwards and we were forced to leave the anchorage, which was too small, too deep and not secure.

    We pulled anchor and headed to Panama City, where we remain while Espiritu gets nursed back to health after her lightning strike.

    Sometimes in our modern society it feels as though the earth itself is spinning at a different speed and rhythm than much of the human race. We feel dissonant and out of whack -- and it happens so fast that the acceleration of confusion is alarming.

                            I want to find the Rhythm of Life, and fall back into step with it.
       We were able to do that while exploring the wild and beautiful islands of Western Panama.

        It's harder to do when we're in modern society, and dealing with real life. But it is always possible.


  1. Love reading your blog, Leif says Hi, you don't know me, but I say Hi too. We sailed with Lynn and Howard in the Sea last year, such nice folks. I hope your electronics get repaired and that you can continue your great adventure. We just bought a new boat so we can join next year. Safe travels, Lisa and Leif Beiley

  2. Beautiful pictures, Liz! We're so happy Espiritu's hull and rig are in good shape and that you guys are hanging in there. Take care! Hopefully we'll be down in your neck of the woods soon.
    -Nicole and Aaron
    s/v Bella Star

  3. Hey love looking at ur blog. I live in georgia US and I want to become a short term missionary in the panama islands mostly the pearl islands. Do u have any info about the pearl islands and the native villagaes? U can contact me through face book at derrick urban. I also absolutely love the sea. Haha.