Finally the trip feels like its started, with Kuhela ready and stocked with food to get us to Colon, crew on board and good weather predicted we pulled anchor and said goodbye to Bocas del Toro. There was not a hint of swell as we motored out into the open ocean and with a light wind blowing we began motor sailing for our first destination on this trip, a small island along the way that I’d wanted to get to for quite a while. We sailed all day and in the late afternoon a spec of land appeared and grew into an island, tall trees standing right at the waters edge as though dipping their feet in the ocean, small patches of beach and a gentle swell pushing up against a small sand bar. Coming around the southern corner we saw the anchorage and a surprising number of yachts, about six all up, and we motored in and anchored a little away from the main group. It looked amazing, and we couldn’t get the dingy and dive gear in the water fast enough.
We stopped by “TAMATA” to see Matt and Kate who we will be cruising a bit with in the Pacific and after getting the run down from them we headed off to go explore ourselves.
There is a lagoon the runs the entire length on the eastern side and you can make your way up inside the reef, passing little beaches and inlets and weaving your way under overhanging trees and over small sandy bars as you pick your path through. There are many passes that you can duck out of the lagoon from and if you anchor anywhere near these the water drops away to deeper ground and the fish life is amazing. On the first dive to check the anchor I was startled by an octopus, who materialized into form from the bit of rock below me and disappeared in a cloud of dark ink. Next was the eagle rays, the large trigger fish and the schools of trevally all showing up one after the other to have a look at the funny looking things that had just invaded their world. Quality fish were here too to be invited back to the boat for dinner, scored some decent snapper for dinner and saw some good-sized cubera as well, but they were always very flighty and the one time I had one close enough for an easy shot, my gun jammed. So good to be in the water diving and exploring some new ground, the potential here is amazing, I wish I had the time to explore it properly.
We were supposed to only stay one night and then head on to Colon, but didn’t take long to change that decision and ended up spending a couple nights anchored up out there. The biggest issue normally with this place is that the anchorage is not very protected from the prevailing swell and wind, but we scored it and there was not really any swell to speak of and Kuhela rocked gently back and forth, you could see what it could be like though as even with minimum swell we did have an uncomfortable sleep one night when the wind came up. It felt so good to be out exploring again, like all the work and stress of the previous few weeks simply melted away the moment the anchor hit the seabed and the first dive left me feeling cleansed, happy and alive. Been good having Kim and Thor out here too, everyone is settling into life on board and good to be able to share this experience with friends. Like I have mentioned before, this is something that I am realizing is one of the things I enjoy the most. At one point at the very start of this journey I did consider doing it alone, to learn and challenge myself, but now I truly know that I learn and grow and enjoy the experience more if I have crew to share it with. It’s a good lesson to know.
All too soon it was time to leave this little paradise and head to Colon and on to the Canal. The timing for getting through was not looking too good though as the one of the sailing rallies was just getting to Colon with lots of boats waiting to go through, and to top that off it was carnival this weekend, so good luck trying to get people to work. We headed off regardless as there was a little weather predicted and had a good trip down, taking about twenty hours to reach there. We had great wind for the start and end of the trip and that feeling of shutting down the engine and hearing and feeling nothing but the wind pushing you forward is something that is my greatest joy in sailing. Its almost painful having to turn the engine back on after have the silence invaded by noise. I did make a little misjudgment on the way down and should have motored a bit further north to give myself a good angle for the run down to Colon, but with the option of sailing on hand I took the chance and headed just south of east and then had to motor sail to point my way back upwind a bit to get to colon. We got there easily though and Kuhela did a great job, delivering us to the breakwater at Colon just after daybreak. Sitting alone on watch the previous night, stars sparkling overhead and a trail of phosphorescence streaming from the stern was simple magic, it reminded me of why I am doing all this.
We got in, dropped anchor and phoned the agent who will be handling the proceedings and paperwork through the canal and in a couple short hours we had been measured and signed the necessary paperwork to go through and were waiting for an ETA on transit. Not bad at all. Things were looking like it was going to be a lot quicker than I had expected. then the email came, any mail that start with dear captain Josh is always one to look out for. With The Blue water Rally on and Carnival on the cards for this weekend it is now an estimated ten day wait to transit. This throws a bit of a spanner in the works and were in the process of thinking through what the plan will be for while we wait. The weather has picked up and is blowing quite strongly from the north, and will be for the next week, so this limits where we can go as well. But I'm just rolling with it and it will work out somehow in the end, could be worse, at least were on our way. Stay tuned to find out how the adventure unfolds.