Welcome to Panama! Golfito to Islas Parida and Gamez

After our 9 days in Golfito, it was time to leave Costa Rica. Last night, after we had checked out of Costa Rica and gotten fuel, we had a great going away dinner with friends from several other cruising boats that we have gotten to know. When the alarm clock went off at 3:00 am, we were both a little groggy so it took us until almost 4:00 before we had the boat ready to go and slipped our lines. We chose our early morning departure, once again, to minimize our exposure to the regular afternoon thunderstorms, planning on making Isla Parida, Panama, sometime in the early afternoon. The exit from Bahia Golfito was not particularly difficult, but it was still dark when we left, so we were happy to have our GPS track from the way in to follow as we motored our way out of the bay.

As the sun rose about 6:00 am, we were well out of Bahia Golfito and making our way across the Golfe Dulce towards the border between Costa Rica and Panama. We had originally debated going directly from Golfito to Puerto Armuelles, the first port of entry in Panama, to do our check-in process. We had heard that checking into either Armuelles, an industrial port that requires a 30 mile taxi ride to the town of Fronteras to visit Immigration, or into nearby Pedregal, a port situated many miles up a dangerously shallow estuary, was more hassle than it was worth. After discussions with several other cruisers, the consensus was that Panama was pretty laid back and that it would be all right for us to island hop our way down the coast to Panama City and delay our check in until that time.

We put a line in the water, ever hopeful of catching the big Dorado that we just know is out there waiting for us. The day was breaking warm and clear, and by 8:00 it was already getting hot, in the mid-80's and slightly humid. As the wind came up a bit, we put up the sails and got a boost of a knot or more as we motored out around reefy Punta Burica and into Panamanian waters for the first time. By noon we hadn't even a nibble on the fishing pole, so we pulled the line in and just made our way peacefully across the Gulf of Chiriqui towards Isla Parida, passing our time reading books and talking about our plans for (surprisingly sunnier) Panama.

As Isla Parida, and the smaller island of Santa Catalina, came into view, we set our course to go in between them to the anchorage at Ensenada los Negros on northwest side of Isla Parida. However, when we got into the anchorage at about 2:00 pm and spun a few circles looking for a good place to drop the hook, two things made us decide to bypass this anchorage. First, there were several signs on the beach that said "Prohibido: Propriedad Privada", or "Private Property", which meant that we would not be able to go ashore and explore. But more importantly, there was quite a bit of refracted westerly swell making its way into the anchorage and we thought it would be too rolly for a comfortable night's stay.

There are several other potential anchorages on Isla Parida, including the cove at Punta Jurel on the north side. Also in our mind was the fact that we had gotten an email from Jim on RENAISSANCE, who had already been here, and had given high marks to the anchorage at Isla Gamez, just off of the northeast side of Isla Parida. So we powered back up and made our way out of Ensenada Los Negros around the northern end of Isla Parida looking for a better spot.

As we came around the north end of the island, the anchorage at Punta Jurel looked pretty nice, but in the distance we could make out Isla Gamez and could see that it would be a well protected anchorage and so decided to go there instead. By 4:00 we had made Isla Gamez, and boy were we pleased with what we found. As we dropped the hook, both we were filled with the feeling that we had finally found the island paradise we had been looking for.

Golfito to Isla Parida