Starfish Beach, Pigeon Creek, and Crawl Cay

Since we were out of the marina, and the local weather was really nice, we decided to take RHAPSODY out for some explorations. We spent the next 5 days working our way around Bahia Almirante, re-visiting some favorite spots and discovering some new ones. Also, since it had not rained now for almost 2 weeks (woo hoo!) we were almost out of water and needed to make some more ... something you don't want to do in the dirty town-marina water.

So from Bastimentos, we went up to Starfish Beach, which we had visited in January with Chris, where the clean water from the Caribbean comes in around the Punta Drago of Isla Colon. Dropping anchor in nearly the same spot as before, we were with 3-4 other boats, mostly from the marina, out doing the same as us.

From Starfish, the next day, we tried a couple of places on the north tip of another island, Isla Cristobal. First we went into a place called Bamboo Bight. Now learning to navigate among the coral reefs, we made our way into this 200 yard-wide passage into a mangrove cove about 1/8 mile in diameter. There were 5-10 simple wood & tin houses and structures on the shoreline around the cove. It was nice enough, but we really wanted to get some place more private, so we worked our way out the bight and around to the next anchorage, called Pigeon Creek.

Pigeon Creek turned out to be very nice. Oddly, it's one of the closest anchorages to the marina, yet we've never heard anybody talk about it. In plain sight of the masts of the marina across the bay, you enter between the isla's shore and a mangrove island. We later figured out we could have anchored anywhere, but we continued about 1/4 mile up this narrow passage between island and shore until it opened up into this pretty little circular anchorage a few hundred yards in diameter. We anchored pretty much in the middle.

At the end of the bay, in the "bubble" formed by the mangrove island, there is a small gap between it and the shore, perhaps 10 yards wide and only a few feet deep. Over this gap, a lusty current flows into and out of the little bay. The gap is large enough to take the dinghy through, which we did, and just on the other side is a field of coral heads forming a further outlying reef. In the evening, a cayuco (dugout canoe) came through the gap selling lobsters, of which we purchased 4 nice ones for $10, and made a wonderful dinner of them that night. All in all, a nice little place with one exception.

In the morning when we woke, the Chitres (no-seeums) were intense! Small enough to get through the screens on our windows, we woke to the little critters biting on any skin not covered by the sheet in bed. Note however, that either we've gotten used to them, or these are not a particularly virulent form of no-seeums, because we rarely get the welts we used to get anymore. It was still uncomfortable tho, so we didn't waste any time pulling up the anchor and getting out of there!

From there, we motored to Crawl Cay ... the far southern tip of Bastimentos Island that forms one of the only passages from this side, Almirante Bay, east to the other side, the Caribbean, and south to Bahia Chiriqui. This Cay(Key) is well known as a choice dive spot, as the cool waters of the Caribbean sweep in through this pass and feed an extensive coral field. It's kind of a tricky passage, but I had some waypoints from a cruiser friend, and we had no problem getting to the anchorage just behind the isleta, protected from the "outside", but overlooking the "inside" reef.

It was the first time we had been snorkeling in a long time. We went directly off RHAPSODY and swam about 50 yards in front of her to a reef just off the island. I didn't bring the underwater camera, as it was not spectacular, but it was pretty nice. There were purple & orange tube coral, sea cucumbers, and an abundance of small fish. The visibility was perhaps 30' in some places, but less in others due to the current sweeping through. In the distance, perhaps 500 yards away, there were 4-5 pangas ferrying tourists from Bocas for snorkeling and diving. They came and went throughout the day, but disappeared completely by 2:00 p.m.

For lunch, we took the dinghy around the island and went to the restaurant where the tourist-snorkelers gathered about, drinking beer and swimming off the dock. The food was so-so, they ran out of beer (but still had ice and rum), but nonetheless it was a pleasant way to spend a few hours in the sun. After our lunch, and after the tourist Pangas had left, I took the dinghy out to their far reef spot for some more snorkeling. The coral was somewhat better here, the water being deeper than next to the island, so the coral was larger and better developed.

On Friday morning, the next day, with our water tanks full of freshly-made RO water, we decided to head back to the marina. Threading our way back from Crawl Cay, using our incoming track as guide, we entered the marina channel before noon, and did the tricky maneuver to get RHAPSODY into the dock, including a small grounding incident, by noon.