Getting out of Panama was starting to feel like one of those dreams where you just never quite get where you’re trying to go.
The weeks went by, antifouling, waiting for a rigger, waiting for the Watt & Sea, installing it, waiting for the canal transit date, provisioning, last minute jobs.
Living in a marina, which is not our natural habitat, using our shore-vehicle fleet: two folding bikes and a skateboard to get the three of us out to dinner.
Finally the morning arrived for us to cast off the lines and sail away.
How different can it be? Another stretch of tropical sea, a few miles from the one we just left.
But it is different. We are now entering the largest expanse of ocean on the planet.
Let’s see, the first difference is that there is no wind! At this time of year the trades blow reliably and strong on the Caribbean side, but over here they are light and fickle. Caribbean Panama sees plenty of cloud and passing rain squalls, over here it’s blue skies.
We motor away from the Panama City skyline with zero wind, past the last of the anchored ships and all the canal traffic, out into the smooth blue world with a low long swell sliding under us.
The beginnings of a breeze reach us, we hoist main and gennaker, turn off the engine and we are ghosting along at windspeed, 4 or 5 knots in silence. The simple pleasure of feeling Escapade under sail again at last.
Large numbers of rays are swimming past, great packs of 20 or 30 at a time, close to the surface. They look like mantas, but small and golden brown. Haven’t seen those before.
A few spotted dolphins join us briefly, but they are distracted by the rays, ambushing them in what looks like a feeding frenzy now astern.
The skies are full of sea birds, wheeling above shoals of fish. The sea is full of life! Whales surface close by, my new fishing lure attracts a nice bonito for our lunch. (And dinner).
By now the wind and boat speed are creeping up to 9 knots as Jemima tiller-steers us round Isla Pacheqilla, the northern most of the Perlas, our first Pacific island. We sail on to Isla Pachequa, furl the kite, drop the main and anchor off a white sandy beach, densely covered by the colonies of pelicans, frigates, cormorants and egrets. The pungent scent of guano wafts over the bay!
Tides are not really part of life in the Caribbean, except perhaps to time the best current for a trip. But anchoring here needs to be carefully calculated, there is a 5 metre range, Dawn is consulting a tides app for the first time in years. Get this wrong and we could wake up sitting on a rock.
Now humpbacks are breaching, bottlenose dolphins slowly cruise by and the air above us is dark with birds. So yes, it all feels new and different. The plotter shows this anchorage is still only 45 miles from the Caribbean, but we are floating in a whole new ocean.