Panama City- prepping for the big push!

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Author: Miranda

After relaxing in Las Perlas for a few days, it was time to head back to the long to-do list that awaited us in civilization.  We jumped back into readying the boat, provisioning, and finishing up all those important items that you just must do before you even think about crossing the world’s largest ocean.PC part 2-4

Let me share with you the intricacies of our pre-passage to-do list.  Are you beside yourself with excitement?  I know I am.

First of all, our drogue was towards the top of our MUST-DO list.  We decided that after spending money like it’s going out of style, we’d save some bucks by making our own drogue.  The boat didn’t come with one, and after some research, we realized the general consensus is the series drogue is the best option out there.  After finding the plans on, we figured we were up for the challenge.  I don’t really want to know how many hours of my life I’ve devoted to this device who’s purpose is to slow down a vessel that averages little more than my own despicable jogging speed, but let’s just say it’s been many hours.  Very. Many. Hours.

Cones had to cut from fabric, webbing attached, sewn into a cone shape, spliced into our 3-strand nylon rope, then the final touch- eye splices were added to each end.

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But it’s done!!  Glory be to all things holy, it is done!

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General maintenance, like servicing our winches and lubing all pulley tracks, is beyond important before all the wear and tear your boat takes while at sea for weeks.

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Liza has become our weather guru, and she’s put in many hours researching weather patterns and how to download the correct documents via our SSB radio, pactor modem, and airmail software.  No small feat!

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Our boat has required a few major projects amongst the basic preparations, one of them included getting our portable generator working for those windless, sunless days at sea.  Sounds easy, but when you factor in having to do wiring in this position:

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it’s not such a quick job.

We’ve fixed leaks, added more lighting, sewn up holes, made a cover for our dinghy motor, done plumbing, bought spares for anything and everything we think might break, contacted agents in the Galapagos and French Polynesia, filled our diesel  tanks, our gasoline tanks, our propane tanks, and finally finished the list with the grocery shopping…

Oh, the grocery shopping!  We’ve set out to stock our boat for four months of provisions, which required no less than four different grocery store runs.  We started at, you guessed it, Costco!  (well, the Panamanian version called Pricemart) Filled up three carts full then, we, very sillily, proceeded to the general supermarket just down to street (Riba Smith), without making a stop back at the marina in between.  Filled up another three carts full. Both the packing boys at Riba Smith (yes, we needed two) audibly laughed at us when we open our trunk and they saw just how full it already was.  But we managed.  Pete drove and Liza and I packed ourselves in amongst our groceries.

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I have never in my life seen a car more jam packed full of food!  God knows where it will fit on the boat. Looks even more menacing organized on the dock. Denny has the most important stash!

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But, of course, we found some time to have fun!  Casco Viejo and mojitos!  Great combo.

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And, we took a day to escape to nature in the Parque Nacional Soberanía, only 20 kilometers from the city.

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Sadly, we bid farewell to Jeanne and Denny.  They set off to explore a few sights outside the city and, probably, escape our grinding to-do list of tasks that we put them through during their stay on the Tayrona.  😉

We’ve filled our last few days with trips to the fruit and vegetable market…

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…and attempting to find space for said fruits and veggies on the boat.

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 We spent our final day in the city cooking up our first week of meals while on passage and getting checked out of the country.

Well, here goes!  Galapagos here we come!

Panama City, part 1

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Author: Pete


Well I was hoping to like Panama City more than Colón, but while the city itself is nicer, the anchorage kind of sucks. It’s packed and every five minutes a tug, pilot boat, or tourist barge throws enough wake through the anchorage to knock things off tables and annoy the piss out of you after a while. Also, the area has 4 or 5 meter tides, and heavy current associated with them. Everyone’s boat reacts differently to wind and current, so at some point in the changing tides various boats are feathered in different directions and don’t lay nicely threatening collisions.


Our first night a holler yanked me out of a deep slumber and I was on deck and fending off a boat before I was actually awake. Pulled in some chain and stayed up watching the boat doing a devil spiral like our wind generator. In the span of an hour the boat swung stern to wind, right across our stern, spun at the end of its chain, caught the wind with its hull and sailed through to the other end of its chain before flipping back around and being carried by current back toward us. Freaky. I slept on deck with one eye open.

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Shipped Liza and Felix off to see their friends and do some surfing.  Also brought the dinghy motor in to be service by Manuel, who works for Tohatsu motors.  Our dinghy has gone from annoying to completely non-functional in the past few weeks and rowing in the hot Panama sun has been less than fun.

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He started it up, as best one can do that these days, and diagnosed a ruptured fuel pump.  We left the motor with him and took off an hour later bound for Las Perlas!  The Las Perlas island chain is located a nice 35-mile sail from Panama City, and it was a great way to escape our less than desirable anchorage in the city.


Pretty good sailing with Mom and Denny in 15 knots of wind on a broad reach. Never thought I’d be able to share this experience with Mom. Thank you Scopolamine patches.God bless pharmaceuticals. Also cool to hear Denny’s sailing stories.

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About two hours in we got a bit on my new squid lure! Denny and I hauled in a 5 pound tuna! My first catch (that I landed)! Finally!

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I think I’ve been using lures that are a bit too big. It was an exciting catch, and then we set to work intoxicating the fish with a shot of alcohol in the gills and a knife to the brain. Sometimes I feel like I’ve had a knife to the brain when I’ve been passing too much alcohol through my gills too. Impressive to see how many little squid and sardines were in this guy’s stomach.

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The wind died along the way, so we motored to Pacheco, the northern most island, arriving just before sunset. The wind then picked up and the current ripped through the island cut. Plus it smelled like cormorant poop. I made the call to move one island south despite the oncoming dark.   I’m glad we did though we had to maneuver through a mooring ball field before anchoring south of Contadora.

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In the morning we moved south again to the cut between Chapera and Mogo Mogo. The name of the island was worth going in itself! We even got to dig out our spinnaker and try it out along the 5-mile trip.

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Found ourselves a tall sandy beach to swim to and lounge in the shade. Eventually we made a game of throwing crab apples at crabs the scuttled along the beach. Then after smelling the apples and finding the pleasant, Miranda took a bite of one. It tasted like sweet apple, so we all followed suit with a small nip each. A few minutes later our mouths were all fiery and scratchy. Stupid move. It went away. But stupid move.

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Really interesting to deal with the big tides. Didn’t sleep hard again as we spun and feathered in weird ways all through the night.


Bagels for breakfast! It’s interesting what sort of American goodies you can find in Panama thanks to the canal. I worked on the rudders and wired the LEDs for the new inverter. Took all morning, of course. We got suited up and snorkeled right around the boat. Couldn’t go far with no motor for the dinghy and high current. But we had great sea life despite the bland, sandy bottom. Five or ten big stingrays worked the bottom, and troops of puffer fish doted on them as they fluffed the sand. Two long, green eels free swimming on the bottom, a party of 100 starfish, schools of jacks and other fish all added to the fun. The water was surprisingly cold! We’ve been spoiled in the Caribbean!

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Cocktail hour, dinner and cards on a calm starry evening rounded out the night.


Motored back from Las Perlas in calm seas back to the crowded, rolling, annoying anchorage of Panama City. Did my dissatisfaction come out just then? Spending a week prepping the boat for the push to Galapagos. Exciting times and a lot of work ahead!