PANAMA - AUGUST 2006 After the Las Perlas Islands, Jerry, Conceicao and I sailed to Panama City to await the arrival of Sean from LA. We were given an end tie at the Flamenco Marina, nice but no shore power. Not feeling well, Conceicao took a room at the Country Inn for a couple of nights. We found a good rigger at the marina and had him help us get the screecher halyard back up and then found a machinist in Panama City to make a new bow sprit, which put the screecher back in operation. We topped off the fuel and propane, cleaned the boat, toured the city, shopped, ate really well, and just basically had a few good days in Panama City before picking Sean up at the airport. We spent one more day showing Sean Panama City and finishing up a few things before heading north towards Punta Mala and then on around to Isla Coiba and on into Pedregal to pick up Rick, Wes and Brian. The plan was to pick those guys up in Pedregal, at which time, Jerry and Conceicao would leave the boat for a week of inland traveling. With light to no wind, we motored all the way around Punta Mala and on to Punta Benao which was reported to be a good surfing spot. We anchored for the night and then went to shore the next morning to look around. Not much there but a small surfer hangout with a few tents and some hardcore surfers. The surf was ok but not great so we ended up just watching. Sean did some body surfing which was fun. With not much going on there, we headed on to Isla Coiba for some snorkeling. The anchorage at the north end of the island and next to Isla Ranchita was great. The water was clear and the seas calm. There were turtles and fish everywhere. It didn’t take long before we had some white tip sharks swimming along with us which was really cool. Sean wasn’t sure what to think about swimming with the sharks at first, but I gave him the thumbs up and we just kept on going and pretty soon the sharks left. When we were back to the boat, Sean said he was a little nervous at first but then realized the sharks weren’t really interested in us so he relaxed and didn’t worry much. Isla Coiba is definitely one of the great treasures of Panama. It was formerly a penal colony and housed many prisoners until the mid 90’s when it was shut down and the island was declared a national marine park. We went to shore where the prison facility was located and were greeted by about a dozen former prisoners who decided to stay after the prison was shut down. It seems as though the authorities in Panama decided to let these guys stay and help out around the place. I’m not to sure what they do around there, but they do seem like a fairly harmless nice bunch of guys. Anyways, it made for an interesting day. The next morning we went over about a mile or so to another cove for some snorkeling, where we found dozens of lobster and lots of fish to look at. Really a beautiful place. After another nice day, we headed off towards Pedregal with a planned stop at the Las Secas Islands which were right on the way and would make a nice place to stop over and avoid having to make an all night run. The Secas were pretty, but not much to do. The water wasn’t very clear and the weather not much better. In fact it rained a good portion of the time we were there. Oh well, it did make a good resting place for the night. We arrived at the at Boca Bravo river mouth late the next afternoon with stormy looking weather approaching and a fairly large swell breaking all around the channel entrance. We had first tried to enter the river up the coast at another entrance which would save us a lot of distance, but the waves were breaking all across the entrance making it impossible to tell where the deeper part of the channel was located. Not wanting to end up on a sand bar we went to Boca Bravo which was only a little better. With evening fast approaching and stormy looking weather on the horizon we decided to hurry and get on in. We picked the best looking spot where we were fairly comfortable with the water depth and made a run for it. About half way in with tremendous current and rough water, we looked back and saw a large wave closing in that there was no way of getting away from. Everyone held on and next thing we knew we were surfing down a large wave with almost 18 knots of boat speed. What a ride! After this brief, but intense few moments, we were back in smooth water and shortly after in a very nice anchorage a short distance up the river. The next morning was very calm and peaceful and so, of course, Jerry was up on the front deck doing his yoga at sunrise. After listening to the Howler monkeys and having breakfast, we traveled about 10 or 15 miles up the river to Pedregal. It was a very interesting and beautiful trip up the river, at times it felt like we were headed into the Amazon. There were occasional little huts built along the river and tucked into deep jungle, we couldn’t believe anyone could actually live there, but they were. They seemed very friendly, waving as we went by, in the obviously out of place sailboat. We had to go up the river on high tide in order to have enough depth to get there and at times we wondered if we would make it even with the high tide. We did make it without problem and were immediately met at the fuel dock by at least 15 – 20 curious people. They were extremely friendly and helpful. Jerry managed to get us the best dock space in the small town, with shore power run to the boat which generally no one gets. Evidently they don’t see many nice boats here. Sean had to do most of the talking since his Spanish is good. Jerry managed to get his point across with his mix of Spanish and Portuguese. After getting settled in, we caught a taxi for the ride into David, which is actually the second largest city in Panama. It didn’t seem that big as we walked all around the central city area. We had a nice lunch, found the local internet café, did laundry, went grocery shopping and even found the Java Juice Bar for a great smoothie. The next day, Rick and the others showed up just in time for us to get out on the high tide. So off to Isla Coiba we headed. As soon as we were out of the river, Brian and Rick had all the fishing lines out and the fishing began. For the next week, it was fishing everyday. Besides catching several through backs, we caught several dorado, tuna and a sierra, which made for good eating all week. With the story of all the lobster we had seen a few days earlier at Coiba, Rick and Brian were anxious to get there. If it had not been for the night arrival and the long travels to get there, they would have been immediately in the water. First thing the next morning, it was off to find lobster. Rick had bought a hook in Pedregal to put on a metal rod we already had so that they could hook the lobster with it. It was a much sunnier day than before and so we only saw a few lobsters, but they did manage to get 3 nice ones which went along nicely with the tuna dinner. From the north end of the island, we trolled along the west side down to an island at the southern end called Isla Jicaron, where we anchored for the night. This was a bit of a disappointment because the water was not very clear and so not good for lobster hunting or spearfishing. In fact we didn’t see much in the way of fish or coral or anything else. I think there was just too much fresh water running off the island which was clouding the water. We did go ashore for a while and walked quite a ways down the beach while Sean and Wes played in the surf. Definitely a nice beach and beautiful island. The next morning we woke to the Howler monkeys making their loud yelling sounds and after breakfast decided to head across to Playa Catalina for some of the world class surfing we had heard so much about. The trip across to Catalina was good for fishing. We had a nice dorado up to the boat and Rick was back trying to gaff it. Just as he gaffed the fish, the gaff came out of his hand and overboard it went. Not wanting to lose the fish and gaff, he just jumped right in, with the boat still moving forward. As soon as he came up, he realized what a dumb idea this was and was almost in a panic wanting back on the boat as fast as possible. Back on the boat, he said he couldn’t believe he had jumped in the water with blood running down his arm from a cut a few minutes earlier and a bloody wounded fish on the gaff. All he could think about was the story of the tuna we had lost to a shark before we could even get it to the boat, back while Dick was on the month before. He said he felt sure while in the water that there must have been a big shark close by and all he could think about was getting back on the boat as fast as possible. I’m sure that if he had it to do over again, he would let the gaff and fish go. The surf was big at Catalina, at least 2 or 3 feet overhead. Rick jumped in and caught the first wave he saw, which pounded him really hard. Sean and Wes went in with him for an hour or so. We stayed for the surfing all afternoon and the next day. In the evening we went to shore and explored the town and ate a nice fresh seafood dinner. The prices were really right, with the seafood dinner only costing about $4 and the cold Panamas, 75 cents. On the way back to the boat we stopped at a fresh produce stand and bought bananas, avocados, pineapples, potatoes and mangoes for $5. In the morning, Rick took off on a big wave which again pounded him, but this time broke Wesley’s surfboard in half. Oh well, off to Costa Rica, with an overnight stop in the Ladrones Islands and a stop over in Puerto Armuelles for some provisioning. Arriving in Costa Rica, we anchored off a beach that was suppose to be a good surf spot, but the next morning the waves weren’t that good so we continued on to Pavones which always seems to have good lefts. A good day and night off Pavones and into Golfito so everyone could fly home. A fast paced trip, but definitely a lot of fun for all.