Making memories.

It really is that grey.

4th January 2023

Rio Chagres, Central Panama – Marina Carenero, Docas Del Torro, Panama via Playa Raya, Playa Azul & Bastimentos, Bocas Del Torro, Panama

Some memories are burnt into your mind because of the joy in making them, unfortunately the opposite is also true. After the joyous memories of the wildlife in Ria Chagres we’ve now got some painful memories after ‘sailing’ from central Panama to the Bocas Del Torro.

We always knew that the trip west from the San Bas was going to be painful. On this coastline the easterly trade winds turn to the west and all the water that is blown for 1000 miles has to go somewhere and that somewhere is east along the coastline we were traversing. Infront of us we had 150miles of upwind work and into 2 knots of current. This was going to be slow and painful.

Leaving the Rio Chagres the pain was almost instant. Motoring along the river we watched our speed drop to a snail’s pace and worryingly saw a small tsunami behind us. We’d managed to get ensnared in a fishing float, far from help and in a river that is known for its snapping alligators. The float needing freeing and there was only one way to do that.

Thinking that the sight of Iain’s peachy white body would be a stark defence from any alligators fierce snapping jaws, quick as a flash he dropped his shorts, ditched his underwear and jumped in ‘tackle out’. Diving down to the bottom of the rudder the line was freed and the float popped up like a cork from a bottle, then with worrying ripples* sighted near the riverbank his exit was even quicker than his entry.

Making our way out into the open ocean the real pain began. Nothing wanted to let us go west. The wind pushed us backwards and the tide was trying to drive us the wrong way. We watched the coastline slowly pass by, unlit marks crept past, and lit, but uncharted, marks felt almost stationary. Just to add insult to injury, the comforting light of Cerulean grew fainter as they used their waterline length, mighty engine and all their skill to inch away from us.

As the grey dawn lifted around us the pain was going to continue as our planned stop at Isla Escudo was off the cards. Waves were rolling in to the anchorage, crashing on the stony foreshore and threatening to ruin any vessel that was foolhardy enough to brave the conditions. Our trusty engine to pushed us on and we punched more tide until the placid and still waters of the Bocas Del Torro welcomed us.

After many hours of slow painful motoring, we stopped and the surroundings made it all worthwhile. Frigate birds flew high above us and local fishermen dropped nets in the shallows, the sun had peeked its way through the clouds and its rays were kissing the high hills and lighting the headlands. We knew however that more pain was on the way.

Throughout the night Ruffian was lashed with rain and we knew that in the morning instead of shorts and bare feet the more appropriate attire would be our long underused waterproofs and seaboots. With Cerulean overtaking yet again, and plummeting our spirits, we continued to make our way north. Not even hot soup, which should be confined to only northern climes, could take our minds from the dampness, the slowness and the unrelenting upwindness.

Like all things all this finally came to an end and there was only 1 more painful activity to complete; entry into a tiny marina, through an uncharted bay and into a space barely big enough for poor Ruffian.

With our eyes glued to the depth sounder we gingerly approached the marina and towards our tiny spot. With just inches below the keel and as we were nearly in someone’s front room, where we could see what they were watching, smell that they were eating and hear what they were saying, we made our final turn. As you’d expect of Fiona’s expert driving things went flawlessly; Ruffian slipped into her berth, stopped right on cue and every line was tensioned perfectly.

With Ruffian safely tied up and under some watchful eyes she can now rest while we change countries to perform a ‘visa run’. We might also seek some therapy to put the newly formed painful memories behind us. **

* These could have been from tiny little fish, little diving birds or even Ruffians wake, but in Iains mind they were the precursor to a thrashing spinning prehistoric creature finding its lunch.

** We automatically get a 90 day tourist visa to visit Panama, but those days are nearly up and a quick visit to Costa Rica would reset out visas.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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