Sunday, February 28, 2010

In Search Of?

S/V Aspen – March 1, 2010 – Log #31
Position: 8 degrees 18.0' N 79 degrees 54.25' W
(Isla Del Rey, Las Perlas Islands, Panama)

In Search Of?

We finally pulled our anchor out of the muck that entrapped us at
Balboa, Panama. Admiral Maria was not happy with the dirt, mud and
smelly things that came aboard with the chain. It took us nearly a week
to get rid of the smell with the help of quite a bit of bleach, comet
cleanser and even Febreze.

Checking out of Panama was quite an experience. We needed a fumigation
certificate, port captain clearance, immigration stamp and our papers
that indicated we had already checked in and out of the Caribbean side,
Panama Canal Zone and lastly the vital non-renewal cruising permit that
was about to expire in 3 days. All of this only took quite a bit of
payment to the right officials and visits to the nondescript offices
inside well guarded areas. But now we are legally able to leave Panama
aboard Aspen.

You have probably already read about our Tsunami incident so we won't
repeat that again. Instead we will describe what we have been doing so far.

We are following in the footsteps of Paul Gauguin, the famous
impressionist painter who sought the idillic life in the South Pacific.
Gauguin spent time in Martinique, that beautiful island in the eastern
Caribbean where we visited his house and garden near St. Pierre. It was
that visit that inspired at least one of us (Steve) to find out more
about Gauguin. Maria doesn't seem quite as interested in Gauguin since
he was fairly hedonistic in his lifestyle! But Steve searches on.

Anyway, we sailed to a small island called Taboga just off the coast of
Panama. Gauguin spent 2 months on this island of flowers recovering
from the diseases he contacted while he worked on the failed French
Panama Canal project. Yellow fever sounds right!

We visited the ruins of the hospital where he stayed and became healthy
again. But Taboga had an even more famous person as a resident.
Francisco Pizarro lived here for quite some time as he developed his
plans to conquer the Inca empire in South America. We know what
happened there!

So here we were, following in the footsteps of Pizarro and Gauguin in
the Pacific! We were both very impressed when we saw Pizarro's house
that sits adjacent to a very pleasant Spanish courtyard. On the
opposite side of the courtyard was the hospital where Gauguin stayed.
The history of this area is incredible.

But the winds said it was time to depart Taboga so we sailed south to a
string of islands called the Las Perlas Islands (Pearl Islands). These
are a series of islands that are very remote and mostly uninhabited,
except for half a dozen small fishing settlements. The fishermen from
these settlements come out to Aspen displaying their catch of the day,
lobsters and fruits that they have to sell. So we bought 4 lobsters for
$10 this time and had another feast!

The fishermen also have pearls to sell, hence the name the Pearl
Islands. It seems that Pizarro also visited these islands and captured
a king's ransom in beautiful pearls. We think that Pizarro must have
taken all of the pearls because the ones that are left are very very small!

Anchored off another of the islands, Isle del Rey, we took our dinghy up
a small river and enjoyed the calls of many birds that lined the silent
banks. Parrots screeched and tropical birds whispered to us as we
drifted silently by, pushed by the current.

There was a TV show that was filmed here a few years ago. It was called
Survivor - Las Perlas. It was filmed on one of the uninhabited islands
that is right next to the most populated village in the archipelago. We
guess the film crew needed more amenities than the survivors!

The weather here is HOT. And HUMID! Luckily the sea is crystal clear
and refreshing when we get too overheated. Steve was able to use his
SCUBA gear as he worked on the bottom of Aspen. Changing zincs and
scraping the barnacles off is much easier with a tank than with a
snorkel! Maria also thought it was easier because she didn't have to
revive an oxygen deprived captain Steve when he finally surfaced from
all his work this time.

We hear the Rally boats that are spread among the islands on the VHF
radio, getting ready for the sail to the Galapagos Islands, our next
destination. It will be a journey of about 930 miles as the whales swim
(crows don't fly out here).

Captain Steve has calculated that we have enough fuel to motor about 600
miles. Admiral Maria is quick to point out that maybe there might be a
problem with that? Arrrrrrrrr says Captain Steve, we are a sailing ship
so up with the main and out with the jib - those white things that
usually just hang there waiting for wind. We will let you know how it
goes out there!!

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Steve and Maria

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