Friday, July 30, 2010


Where do I begin on this one? Panama is absolutely fabulous by boat. I am trying to picture how we would vacation here by land and I think it would be a bit difficult if we were expecting a resort experience. I have yet to see a large resort complex and love this place for it. My dad and sister just left after a two week visit and we treated them to all manner of local experiences. After a $.25 pp bus ride toward the city proper, we walked to Casco Viejo. This is an area of recently refurbished, but very old historical buildings including churches, houses, businesses and a theater. After that, it was off to a local fonda (restaurant) which set us back all of $17 for the seven of us including drinks. One torrential downpour and another bus ride and we were back to the boat. We opted to take our first sail the next day and ended up motoring over to Isla Taboga in 26 knots of wind and driving fun at all really. From there it was off to Las Islas de Las Perlas with our friend Greg, who sailed over on his boat Sweet Dreams. Only 35 or so miles from Panama City are about 200 islands that boast beautiful beaches, clean water and very local villages. Isla Contadora is a weekend retreat for wealthy panamanians and has a nice calm anchorage. The town has a few small stores and not much else. We introduced my sister to snorkeling, which was an instant hit. After this, we hopped around several other islands looking for towns and snorkeling spots. The next town was really a few houses with nothing else. Brady and I tried to strike up a conversation with little luck, but saw some local women shredding coconut for "coco rice". We headed back to the boat and a few hours later were visited by two young boys offering a container of coco rice for us to try. I donated some gas for their return trip and Brady gave a necklace as a gift for their mother. The hospitality and graciousness of these folks is impressing me daily. Our best stop by far was Isla Pedro Gonzales. We met another local kid on the beach who seemed to be enthralled with the gringo visitors. It turns out his mother was killed in a fiery bus crash, that left him scarred as well. With our new 15hp outboard, I towed our kids, my sister, Greg, and our new friend Juan David behind the dinghy on both the boogie and surfboard. I think we may have made not just Juan David's day, but possibly his life up to that point. He may still be smiling. In return, he rounded up a 25 lb. tuna as a gift and offered to show us where to dive for fresh lobster. Greg and I jumped at that opportunity and found the best snorkeling experience of our trip.

Around the Northeastern point of the island, we snorkeled in about 25 feet of water and saw thousands of fish, a beautiful starfish, manta rays, 5 sharks (four bottom feeding nurse sharks and a white tipped reef shark), and lobster. If that wasn't enough, we saw a whale about 100 yards away playing in a pile of floating trash of all things. We coasted up a little closer and killed the motor to watch. I suggested that we get in the water to get a better look, but Greg was not to savvy on that plan so I went solo. The next thing I heard was, "Troy, it's getting pretty close!". Out of the deep blue about 25 feet in front of me emerged a giant humpback whale headed in our direction. My bravery gave way as well and I made haste back into the dinghy. The whale headed away when Greg fired up the motor and we hurried back to get my dad and the girls for another round of snorkeling. Two weeks flew by and we had to get back to the city, but we all visited the Miraflores Locks Museum to learn about the canal and watch a ship head through the locks toward the Atlantic. One cruiser pizza night later and my dad and sis were off again to Colorado. Back to normal for us as well with laundry, grocery shopping, and boat projects to be done although we treated ourselves to a grand mall experience complete with Taco Bell and a movie before resuming school for the ladies. Oh, and Brady needs feedback on the blog. Think of sad Brady face and post a comment or two please :) Until next time...Troy