Friday, May 30, 2008
This great key hole anchorage is a short distance west of Sapzurro in Panama. The local Kuna village is Anachuna and altho we were not solicited by the villagers as in most Kuna Islands, we did pay our $10 visitors fee. We were joined in this beautiful bay by one of the coastal trading boats.
It was here that Doc learned to tow the dinghy. He is a source of constant joy. Well almost constant!
At 4pm, on a dark and gusty afternoon, with reefed main set for the night passage we departed Isla Fuerte. Planning a 14 hour passage across the 83 miles of open water to arrive at the sleepy little bay of Sapzurro on the Columbian/Panama border. We could not slow down! We let out the sails until almost flogging and still we were doing better than 8 knots over the ground. At this speed we would arrive at 3 am…on a lee shore, in the dark, trying to navigate unfamiliar water into an unfamiliar reef ringed bay.
Short of sailing backwards and putting out an anchor to slow our passage, we arrived two hours ahead of schedule off the rocky cliff lined shore of the Columbia/Panama border. Hove to in the dark ahead we could just make out three large fishing trawlers hauling their long nets passing in front of us. We made our way thru and saw the faint harbour lights of Sapzurro Bay.
Passing by the lights into the bay there was not a light anywhere. We slowed to a crawl and almost ran broadside into one of three coastal trading boats at anchor. Luckily, it was not long before enough of the dawn allowed us to find our anchorage and we settled in. Arriving in the dark is not recommended!
Sapzurro Bay is inaccessible by road. It is lined with jagged hilltop jungle vegetation. It is also a border town for Columbia and Panama. There is a steep well-worn path up thru the jungle and Kaija and Doc trekked to the top of the hill. The two guards, one from each country welcomed them and registered Kaija’s visit. Doc settled into the coolest place he could find after the long hot ‘grind’ up the hill.
The Bay is lined with beautiful white sand beaches. On the windward swept side, the constant rolling waves are filled with fresh flotsam from lands afar. The opposite side of the bay is a ‘mui tranquil’ setting and an ideal place for locals and visitors to gather in the cool sands and clear calm waters. Here we met Carlos and family, dog and pet pigs.
In between these sandy beaches lies the quite well organized small village of Sapzurro. Each house is well turned out and many have quite architecturally pleasing accoutrements. Here we met Chile speaks better English than we do Spanish and a good friend of our friend ‘Dennis the Wild One’. Chile was ever so gracious during our stay. We purchased a small piece of local art from ‘Miriam’ and enjoyed a wonderful dinner complements of the sea prepared at a local restaurant where we chatted with a Cindy and Bob from Walla Walla We. They were visiting their son and so impressed with the people and the place, as were we.
We also met S/v Enata from Norway, Lucky and his wife and their 6 month old baby, as well S/v Ahnri from Sweden with Heidi and husband. So with Kaija being from Finland we pretty much had the ‘Scandahoovians represented.
Along with all this good news and fun, of course there must be a little pain. Gary insists on a clean engine compartment, and after each run he makes sure it is. Upon checking the engine compartment we discovered a large amount of transmission fluid evident throughout the engine compartment. What a mess!...We cleaned it up and checked everything and double checked and couldn’t find anything evident. We restarted the engine and immediately saw this ‘jet’ of transmission fluid spraying from the gearbox cooler. We shut down and Gary grunted and groaned and finally got the unit off the engine block. It was upon closer inspection we realized that over time a small hole, the size of a pin, had developed in the casing. This was not good news, and we were facing a major dilemma as we are already nursing our tranny along, and this meant turning around and sailing back into Cartagena with a non-functioning gearbox cooling system. With not many options in store, Gary invoked the ‘dremmel’ rule. When nothing else will do, get Dremmel!. He pretended he was back at the dentist and performed a dental procedure of some sort, enlarging the hole from the inside enough to provide sufficient space for the bonding material we carry aboard called Marine-Tex (this stuff is good!). Long story short, when re-installed, it all worked, and as Capt G is fond of saying…”It’s Alllll Good!”.
This is a place less travelled. We heard about it from fellow cruisers and as we prepared to leave this wonderful little bay and both agreed that this is a place you could spend a lot of time.
Islas Fuerte is located 20 miles off the Columbian coast 40 SW of San Bernardo. It makes for a good sail with the NE trades.
Along the way we saw only two other boats. One was a fishing trawler anchored in deep water and just covered with birds. It was an interesting site. The other boat first seen on the horizon was coming straight toward us, exactly on our reciprocal course. There was something familiar even at a distance, Gary recognized S/v Pangea with our friend Captain Tristan whom we met months earlier in Cartagena. We had lost contact with him and as luck would have it, here we are, miles from anywhere, sailing right past each other. It was a ‘grey poupon’ moment.
After abandoned attempts at ‘rafting’ due to the afternoon swell, we settled on radio contact. We used the VHF and ‘caught up. After a great chat, we set sail and watched Tristan sail in our wake into the horizon.
Two hours later we arrived at Isla Fuerte. This anchorage was pretty much as Tristan had just described, having just spent a ‘rolly’ night. We confirm his findings.
We were greeted by a ponga with a group of local fisherman. They saw that we carried a spare outboard motor. They wanted it!. Over the next couple of days they tried to ‘acquire’ it. It was friendly enough and some cash was offered. It was yet another good reason to have our chief of security ‘Doc’ aboard to discourage any ideal hands of those passing close in the night. A few days later another vessel in the anchorage was boarded and ‘lost’ their outboard. This is not a place we would recommend.
This is an ideal quiet water anchorage with good breeze tucked in behind a breakwater peninsula that extends a mile south and requires a good safety margin to get around. Once inside along the white sandy beach you will find a delightfully quiet anchorage. A great place to rest after a long passage or use as a staging point.
This is a picture postcard anchorage located at the east end of Isla Tintipan. With its white sandy beaches stretching westward ending at a small resort where you can find a cold drink and plenty to eat.
After a lovely 4 hour sail along the Columbian coast, we entered Baru Bay. Thru a narrow entrance past a unique ‘in the water restaurant’, with an overflow of happy bathers splashing and enjoying themselves, we found our friends Sonny & Kay on S/v Valentina, along with Gene & Brenda, S/v Queen Mary and Steve & Mary, S/v Barefoot. They were awaiting a weather window to Cartagena and left the following morning from whence we came.
We spent a few wonderful days in this bay and Doc and Gary soon met Roberto & family who kindly permitted access to their land. He took them to the top of a neighbouring hill and introduced them to his friend Robinson who was the caretaker of a stunning modern home with a 360 degree panoramic view that was priceless.
Roberto’s wife was able to use some galley/kitchen items that Kaija had recently replaced in Cartagena. These wonderful people are kind, humble and generous of themselves and it is a joy to be with them.