We set out from San Diego on November 19, 2015 with the thought that we would go to Panama. On May 26th after 189 days and 3,256 nautical miles we pulled in at La Playita Marina in Panama City. Oh ya, we made it!
This last leg was part luck and part frustration. The lucky part was with the weather and not getting tangled in a long line. The frustration was having to pass by many pretty anchorages to stay lucky with the weather.
While in Costa Rica the weather was really unsettled with thunder storms occurring daily. When a break in the storms appeared, we quickly checked out of the country and set off right at dinner time enjoying the fresh breeze after being in the hot marina for a few weeks. We crossed into Panama at midnight and had a lightening show with no rain the entire night. The next morning we encountered the first of many long lines put out by the Panamanian fishermen. Apparently fishermen in Panama do not expect boats to be sailing out on the ocean since they don’t hang around to warn off unsuspecting sailors. There was little to no wind so with the engine running luck was on our side several times as we spotted some of these lines within seconds of running them over.
With storms in the area, we decided to stop and anchor our second night at Isla Cebaco. It had been a long time since we were able to enjoy eating outside watching the sunset with a cool breeze.
We had thunder but the storm passed our anchorage allowing us to keep the hatches open all night. We were up early the next morning for the final overnight leg to Panama City. We knew Punta Mala is reported to be the single most congested point in North America and the Pacific due to shipping traffic going to and from the canal. It also experiences extreme currents that would be going against us and our arrival there would be around midnight. So to fuel us up, Gary spent an hour in the galley cooking up a delicious paella. Right as we sat down in the cockpit to eat, the skies opened up. Ugh!
As we were nearing Punta Mala, we were at the southern most point Sereno II will be in the Pacific Ocean at approximately 07 08’.876”N latitude 080 43.410”W longitude.
Overlooking another quick downpour of rain, getting the jib sheets tangled, choppy seas, and a drop in boat speed from 6.8 knots down to 3.7, rounding Punta Mala was not bad. Only one ship passed us and he was twenty miles away. From that point we didn’t see any ship traffic in the shipping lanes leading to the canal for another 10 hours. We envisioned something like the I5 freeway in LA at midnight! Had me thinking we screwed up on our navigation and we were in the wrong bay. So while sailing through Panama Bay was a bit more laid back then we imagined, the skies were clear and it was a beautiful day. That is until we were ten miles out from the canal zone. Thats when the clouds rolled in and we got rained on long enough to get us and the boat wet. It was a bummer because we missed out on a great view of the Bridge of the America’s and the downtown skyline.
Upon entering the canal region you must contact Port Control to seek permission to enter. After we were granted permission to head to our marina, we set a course in the general direction we needed to go still an hour away. Thirty minutes later Port Control hailed us to make sure we knew we were heading on the wrong side of the causeway. We still hadn’t made our final course adjustment but we quickly did so. Felt a little creepy having someone watching our every move.
Before we left Golfito the boats from the Clipper Around the World race came in to fuel up on the Seattle to Panama leg. There are twelve boats total and we saw six. The crew were varied in age many with British and Aussie accents. We had hoped to see them out on the water but I’m sure they set a course for speed while we were setting a course to stay out of a storm brewing offshore.