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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Las Perlas islands

We are currently located in the famed Las Perlas islands of Panama. We spent Monday and Tuesday nights in the flat calm but trash laden inlet between Islas Cana and del Rey. We were stunned by the amount and variety of plastics covering the high tide line on the beaches and floating by the boat at each tidal change. It was so bad that we had to keep an eye out for waves of stuff coming by when we bathed off the boat. And snorkeling or swimming were out of the question because it was too creepy.

This continued as we passed Espiritu Santo, where there's a calm anchorage in a larger pass between islands, and on into the hook at Punta Matadero on Isla del Rey where we spent Wednesday night. We saw all shapes and sizes of plastic buckets, jugs, containers, baskets, toys, shoes, and furniture. It was a shocking sight which we did our best to ignore as we took beach walks with Sarana in the afternoons. The islands are incredibly beautiful and each one is unique. Some rocky islets remind us of the Pacific Northwest and other islands are studded with white sand (coral) beaches, looking like everyone's version of a tropical paradise. There are all kinds of interesting rock formations in beautiful colors, and the look of each place changes with the tides as beaches and rocks appear and disappear.

On Thursday we continued north to Isla Contadora where wealthy Panamanians own vacation homes; there are expensive resorts; and most importantly they sell beer, and a modest and dearly priced selection of groceries. Best of all the supply barge had arrived that very day with fresh fruits and veggies, so we bought tomatoes and a delicious pineapple to last us until Panama City. The beer drinking was cut short when the sky turned black and white caps began forming in the anchorage. Of course we'd left all the hatches wide open so we raced back to the boats (four total because we'd met up with old friends from Honduras and Mexico) to raise anchor and move around the corner to a more protected side of the island.

Yesterday morning we dinghied out to Isla Bartolome for some snorkeling on the low tide. It was a bit of a rough ride in the wind and current chop, but it was well worth the effort. The snorkeling was really just above average but it seemed stupendous to me after such a long dry spell. And the island itself is a small gem with white beaches and exposed rock ledges at low tide. We made a quick circumnavigation of it on shore, and it's worth a return trip with a picnic lunch next time. We've seen little to no garbage on the beaches up in this area which is a huge relief.

This morning we sailed an hour to anchor between Islas Chapera and Mogo Mogo where a season of "Survivor" was filmed. After snorkeling off of Mogo Mogo we walked a bit on Chapera where there were two obviously cleared areas. Although we searched the woods/jungle we found no other "Survivor" relics, but there were three young guys tent camping and spear fishing on the island, living their own survivor reality vacation.

This is paradise. There are more boats than we've seen in a month but it's fun watching them come and go. There are so many islands and anchorages to choose from that it's easy to imagine spending a year here (except for the dreaded rainy season). We still have to get to Panama City tomorrow for engine parts and food but we hope to be back out in the islands by Christmas.

Linda and John