We left Costa Rica in the company of SV Serendipity in the late afternoon, bound for Panama on a promising stiff breeze with sails up in all their glory. Of course, that breeze died out after an hour and made us mostly motor for an overnight passage to Panama. It had been two months since we’d been underway, so we were feeling a bit rusty but everything went fine and the lightning stayed at a respectful distance (for a change). Our destination was Isla Parida, which has many anchorages to choose from. Upon arrival we started to circle the island looking for the ideal spot. We tried anchoring in one cove, but with nearly 20-foot tides here, you have to be fairly conservative. The water was a little thin where we were at and just a quarter mile away we could see Isla Gamez. Even from a distance you could tell it was one of those places you see in the sailing magazines. So we popped over and dropped the hook with SV Serendipity. SV Taking Flight showed up soon after, all three of us being out of Washington State. (Although we’d met them as far back as Mexico and spent a good deal of time with them in El Salvador.) Serendipity and Taking Flight spent a few days there, but we had a really hard time leaving and ended up hanging out for 8 days, sitting around doing a whole lot a nothin’.
Island Gamez is a small uninhabited island, not very wide and maybe a quarter mile long. The north side is lined with a white sand beach and the south side looks out to sea and the other islands in the group. There’s not a building to be seen, just the way we like it. When you run out of entertainment options, you break out the hammock. It’s good for you! I saw a sign outside a hammock store once that said an hour in a hammock adds a day to your life.
While I was dozing in the hammock, my thoughts drifted off to friends CB and Tawn on SV Palarran. They are fellow Hans Christian owners from our marina back in Seattle. In a few months, they’ll be making the incredibly irresponsible decision of quitting their jobs and heading off cruising themselves, first around Vancouver Island and then south till the sun hurts. Over beers while we were back home visiting in October, CB brought up our post about us reaching a goal of landing on 100 islands. Then, he has the gall to tell me that they intend to land on 101! This mean-spirited act of spite will not stand. Our achievement will not be diminished and sullied by these people. Irritation mounted at these thoughts, to the point that I was roused from my hammock. I found Nicole and let her know that island conquering was back on.
The rules for island conquering are simple:
The island must be exposed at high tide. Additionally it must have vegetation growing on it prior to the conquering (moss, mold, or mildew does not count, it needs to be at least grass or some form of leafy vegetation)
The island must still be an island at the lowest ever recorded tide
The island cannot be classified as its own continent (sorry Australia)
Captain and crew must stand on the island with both feet for any longer than 2 seconds (one person at a time can do this to accommodate islands that are too small for two people, or islands where it’s not possible to land the dinghy)
Anyway, other than that, the time we spent on Gamez was very relaxing. One day we were visited by a guy in a panga named Carlos. He lived on the island next door and at one point asked us if we wanted any fruit. We said sure! The next day he came by and gave us a bunch of fruit.
We offered him money, but he wouldn’t take it and was more interested to trade for it, so we asked what he wanted. (Well, not we, Nicole handles all our conversations in Spanish.) He asked if we had any milk. We did, so we traded for a liter tetra pack of milk. It seemed like a lot of fruit for fruit for $1 worth of milk, so we asked if there was anything else we could give him. He asked if we had any chocolate, and we had some good stuff from Trader Joe’s so we hooked him up with that and the deal was done.
The next day he comes by and asks if we want any fish or lobster. We said we’d be up for some fish. So he went out to catch some for us, and brought back a nice red snapper. Carlos asked if we wanted it filleted, and we were more than happy to have him do it for us.
On another evening we launched our mobile beach party assault vehicle and headed over to a beach that exposes at low tide. The very exclusive party was only attended by Nicole and I, but that’s because we were the only people around to invite.
Well anyway, this was a great first stop in Panama. But after 8 days the urge to explore began to overcome the urge to relax. So we pulled anchor and headed out, ever onward.