Sitting just upriver from the shoals at the mouth, on the western shore, is the little vacation town of Bahia de Caraquez, the sometime vacation home to Quitenos from the capital and a growing expat community of “gringos”. As you might expect, the beach front is riddled with mid and high rise apartment buildings. Toward the south end of town on the water is a quaint restaurant, known as Puerto Amistad, serving north American food and doubling as a marina with moorings to rent. Sailors dodging Panama’s horrendous lightning storms of the rainy season or heading to the South Pacific seem to be the primary constituents of that small oasis on the River Chone. Across, on the eastern shore, by traversing the new bridge or riding the panga ferry is San Vicente and the highway to Canoa, popular surfing spot and ocean beach resort. Heading south down the new highway by bus, one finds the lovely village of San Clemente, pictured here on a hazy gray day. Lots of beach, good seafood restaurants for our lunch time edification and even a bank for ATM services where we were also presented with ice cream cones. Lovely, friendly people, local and expat in a small, quaint setting.
Fresh fish and shrimp abound on everyone’s menu. Rice, plantains, lentils and a fine soup, served first, round out the typical fare. Less than ten dollars almost always feeds the two of us with tasty choices. Local beer is inexpensive and very good. Fresh fruit juices are also normally available, mora, similar to blackberry being our favorite. A lovely way to spend the day, capped off with a scenic ride back to Bahia, through the rolling foothills of the beautiful green Ecuadorian countryside.
Our proposed passage south to Ecuador would be against prevailing south winds and also current flowing north due to our late spring start. Weather fronts, known as northers, originating in the United States and flowing southward across the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea had just about ceased their winter terror. We left La Playita anchorage motor-sailing southwest to await a hoped for norther at Isla Contadura and accomplish last minute preparations for our actual sea passage. We were fortunate in not having to wait too long, five or six days before being graced with a front on or about April 10th.
Nancy had made a few motor-sails back and forth to the Las Perlas islands and one short sail from Taboga Isle to La Playita, but had not yet made an overnight passage just under sail. Ecuador, at a distance of about seven hundred miles would exceed our fuel range by about three hundred miles, so this was not to be a motorboat ride. The weather system allowed us to escape the Bay of Panama, sailing downwind, wing on wing, that is the main sail on one side of the boat and the yankee poled out on the other. Our monitor wind-vane, an ingenious mechanical device, handled the steering chores as we headed south. After two days we lost our favorable slant, but free of the Bay, we were able to reach westward away from the Columbian coast and the unpleasant storm systems that sit there much of the time. Our goal was to be two hundred miles offshore and then head south, leaving Isla Malpelo on our port or left side.
Here I will digress to tell you that Nancy was a trooper all day long…. but come night time she was terrified. Greatly disappointed to hear the Coast Guard would not come to fetch her, she unhappily acquiesced to continuing south rather than turning to beat into the substantial seas generated by the north wind. The good news was we suffered no squalls, high winds or high seas and arrived outside the River Chone ten days later, no worse for wear. Landfall on my birthday was the perfect gift. We anchored off the mouth of the river to await a pilot to guide us across the shoals at the river mouth at slack high tide on the morning of the 21st. Voyage over!
The wonderful phenomena that we experience in the cruising community is the ability to make good, meaningful friends in a very short time. We all are aware that our new found friends will probably be soon departing for parts unknown or known, as the case maybe. The usual “dance” we encounter in the landsman’s life that involves a long process before acquaintances really become friends is missing. Life is definitely a case of Carpe Diem. We all seem to have an unconscious sense of urgency functioning in the back round. It really is a gift to be able to accelerate the bonding between friends. Above, Doug of sailing vessel Rigel, is hoisting anchor and getting underway with his sister and two nieces for Las Perlas Islands before he departs across the Pacific to Easter Island. Nancy and i shared good times, good food, collective chores and wonderful camaraderie with Doug before his successful journey to Easter Island. We also followed his journey through the wonders of shortwave/internet technology and participated in spirit in his sometime “white knuckle” ride across big seas and strong winds. Will we cross wakes again? Always the unanswered question as friends depart across the seas.
After cleaning mold and mildew from our neglected home, and recovering from our red eye flight to Panama, we departed our mooring at Taboga isle and motor sailed back to La Playita de Amador anchorage. Anchored off the lovely marina at Playita we enjoyed our ring side seats at the exit/entrance of the Panama canal, impressive ships coming and going with the worlds commerce seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. We also enjoyed the canoe races from Balboa Yacht Club to Playita and back. Young adults in their prime displaying their strength, agility, and seamanship. After three months of provisioning, boat projects, and Panamanian entertainment and camaraderie, we departed Panama via the Las Perlas Islands enroute to Ecuador for the rainy season. Getting a late start in early April of 2014 we were faced with adverse winds and currents.
For the families and friends of Ron and Nancy. This will be Ron’s attempt to keep you abreast of our travels and random events in our lives. As before, my communication will rely heavily on photographs, with some attempt to become more verbose, something you know I never had a hard time with in person:) Nancy is starting her own blog, heavier on the words she composes so well. You will find a link on this blog to Nancy’s lyrical efforts. Between the two of us, perhaps something for everyone. Sorry we are so late in getting started, but as it has been said many times before… better late than never. Seems like the place to start is in the beginning of our sojourn on the good ship Dawn Trader. Almost two years ago we met on the website “Match.com”. Nancy visited me in Panama City aboard Dawn Trader in February of 2013 and again for my birthday in April of the same year. That summer i put Dawn Trader on a mooring in the harbor of Taboga Isle and went to Florida to earn money, have minor surgery and most importantly, help Nancy get ready to join me in a new life afloat… We returned in December of 2013 and began constructing our life together, first addressing the physical cleanup of poor neglected Dawn Trader, after which, our emotional existence could come to the fore.