28 Feb 2019

28 February 2019 - Puerto Villamil, Galapagos

We decided to stay one more day in La Isla Isabela as we are enjoying it so much, and so we booked ourselves onto a kayak tour this morning and toured around Los Tintoreras, a group of small islands next to the anchorage. We paddled across the bay and tied the kayaks up to a buoy in a small cove. As we went overboard, the first thing that we saw was a huge stingray below us.

Before long, we had come across three very large turtles too.

And the ubiquitous inquisitive seals ...

We swam around for quite a while, sort of expecting to see a shark, but very relieved that we did not! One of our friends messaged us yesterday to say that they had reset their anchor in Santa Cruz (the next island we are visiting). Nicky dived over the anchor to see that it was well set and a shark that was about the same size as her came up behind her and bit off part of her flipper. Nicky kicked at the shark with her other flipper and the shark went away, leaving her very shocked and anxious to get out of the water! We won't be swimming off the back of the boat when we get there tomorrow. Incidentally, the anchorage where we are now had an 8 metre Tiger Shark swimming through the other day.

We then continued on our tour and came across a family of three Galapagos penguins.

It was a great way to interact with the wildlife, and now we feel that we have seen a lot of Isla Isabela and what it has to offer. We will leave here first thing in the morning, heading for Santa Cruz via Isla Tortuga (the remains of a caldera which has left a crescent of land with a deep water crater). We'll take lots of pictures as we go by.

The weird thing is that in less than a week, we will be setting off on the longest leg of our odyssey. As yet it hasn't really registered on the panic scale, we hope it will be a happy journey without incident. We know we will have to motor through the doldrums to find the trade winds, and then we will fly the Parasailor as much as we can. Speaking of the Parasailor this is what it looks like on Tumi.

27 February 2019: Puerto Vilamil, Galapagos

Our meal last night as guests of Felipe at the Iguana Crossing Hotel was lovely … delicious food, a stylish setting and great company. What a treat and it underlines what friendly and hospitable people the Ecuadorians are.

This morning we hired bikes to cycle the 12 kilometre round trip to the Wall of Tears, an iconic folly dating back to the 1950s when Isabela was a penal colony. The prisoners were put to work building this giant wall as punishment, and judging by the temperature today, it would indeed have been punishing labour. The cycle trail tracks the beach through the Galapagos National Park, undulating through the dry forest across the domain of iguanas and turtles. We saw plenty of the former (they really are ten a penny) and none of the latter but plenty of smelly evidence of them! Say no more …..

There were a number of viewpoints along the route, Tunel del Estero (an ancient lava tunnel through which red hot lava flowed into the sea), Cerro Orchilla (a rocky outcrop/hill with stunning views over both the coast and inland)
and finally a sweaty hour later we crested the final hill to reach Muro de los Logrimas (the wall of tears).

On our return trip we stopped off at La Playita, a deserted beach for a cooling dip in the surf. Heaven! And later for good measure we went snorkelling with the sealions at La Perlas. We're now back on board, shattered and saddle sore but happy!

27 Feb 2019

26 February 2019: Isla Isabela, Galapagos

We had to motorsail over to Isla Isabela there yet again being no wind. As dusk fell and with our steaming lights lighting up the bow, half a dozen boobies, of the blue-footed kind this time, circled looking to roost but we chased them off: The mess last time from our overnight visitors wasn’t something we wanted to repeat. As a friend has pointed out, even the boobies out here have political leanings, either red or blue! Arriving at just after 8am we had to wait three hours for the immigration official to collect our paperwork and then we were good to go.

Isabela is the largest of the islands in the Galapagos and is shaped like a seahorse. Being on the western fringes it is one of the newest Islands and is still volcanically active, having five volcanoes along its spine. It only has 3000 inhabitants centered around one small town called Puerto Vilamil, named after the chap who initially colonized the island. A sand main street lined with tour operators and small restaurants greets you, all very low key yet friendly. Flamingos inhabit salt marshes just behind the main street, their plumage being the most beautiful shade of pink, contrasting against the brackish water and blue skies. Quite how they balance on one leg while asleep, wobbling with the breeze, is beyond us but they do!

A beautiful beach stretches for miles from the town running west, pristine white sands with intermittent black volcanic rocks and turquoise seas. Very striking. We stumbled on a stylish boutique hotel and enjoyed lunch there yesterday, admiring the panorama in front of us. We got chatting to the owner and he has invited us for dinner tonight.

This morning saw us up bright and early in readiness for a tour to the largest volcano, Sierra Negra. We were collected from the pier at 7am and travelled 30 minutes or so inland, climbing some 600 meters. As with San Cristobal, once we left the shore and its immediate hinterland the vegetation surprised us, so lush and green. The islanders grow tomatoes, bananas, yams and oranges, all for island use with the exception of the oranges which are exported to Santa Cruz. It’s currently the winter here, hot and humid with quite a lot of rainfall but is dry and arid in the summer season.

After being dropped off at the national park ranger station we started the climb up to the crater of Sierra Negra, a pleasant walk through the countryside with spectacular views back down to the coast. Fortunately for us there was quite a lot of cloud around which meant we didn't bake in the sunshine. Our first view of the crater was breathtaking … a circle of lava surrounded by verdant green cliffs. It is vast, over 14 kilometres across, the second largest crater on the planet, and last erupted only in June 2018 making it one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos.

We walked a mile or so along the rim, marvelling at the power of nature, before peeling off on a trail that drops to another volcano called Chico, passing fumeroles from the last time that erupted in 1989. Before long we dropped down from the generated region into a lava field from that last eruption, a lunar landscape of jagged rocks, lava tunnels and mini-craters, predominantly black but with areas of red where iron is present, yellow for sulphur and white for magnesium. This inhospitable terrain stretches for miles and we must have walked several of them! What an incredible experience, a real highlight of our trip so far.

As on San Cristobal, fur seals and sealions abound, and there are even more marine iguanas than we saw before. One road junction is aptly named Iguana Crossing, there being more iguanas crossing there than cars! Far more, a steady stream heading from the beach to the mangroves and back again.

Isabela is also home to the Galapagos penguin, a small penguin that came up with the Humboldt Curent from the South Pole and has adapted to life in these hot temperatures. They're agile little devils, whizzing through the water at great speed, seemingly at one with all the seals and sealions in the Bay.

24 Feb 2019

24 February 2019: San Cristobal, Galapagos

It's proving hard to keep up to date with blog posts … a combination of so many interesting and new things and crappy internet, both WiFi and via a local data package but we'll keep persevering!

We went on the hunt of marine iguanas today at Punta Liberio on the south-eastern corner of San Cristobal. And we found quite a few of them relaxing between the black volcanic boulders. Ugly critters, about a metre long. They have adapted to graze on algae in the sea and snort to expel salt through their noses. And there we thought they had colds!!

The coastline is starkly beautiful, black rocks in the main with pristine white sand beaches in-between, all backed by dry forest habitat (scrub and cactus) and the ocean on the other side. We ventured into the sea off one beach to go snorkelling … so many varieties of fish, some as long as 40cms or more. It was pretty good visibility and Paul took some amazing video footage but it's a bit big to upload until we can find decent WiFi. The highlight was happening upon a giant Tuttle resting on the sea-bed, probably 1.5 metres long. He wasn't at all perturbed as we swam by him, just carried on grazing.

We're heading to Isabella overnight tonight, apparently the jewel in Galapagos’ crown. It's looking like it will be another motorsail, hey ho, we're still in the doldrums!

23 Feb 2019

22 February 2019: Boqueria Moreno, San Cristobal, Galapagos

Seals, seals, seals, everywhere! Within 2 minutes of anchoring we had several inquisitive seals swimming around the boat, snorting darkness while they assessed whether there was anyway they could get on board. Fortunately we had the bathing platform raised so their search was in vain, unlike friends who have a catamaran with steps down to the water who returned to find five seals asleep on their cockpit cushions! Cute but rather smelly ....

The bay is packed with seals and sealions, all playing in the water and sleeping in the shade. Myriad red-legged crabs litter the rocks and black iguana wander around the place. Frigate birds and blue footed Boobies circle above us and spotted eagle rays and turtles are swimming lazily by. A veritable treasure trove of wildlife.

This morning we have strolled along to the Charles Darwin Interpretative Centre and learned a lot about the man himself (he departed Devonport in September 1831 and arrived here in December 1835) and his theories on evolution. All very interesting .. for example thirteen species of finches now live on the island from an individual breed.

Our visit to the Charles Darwin Interpretative Centre was very interesting and gave us a good understanding of the struggles over the centuries to colonise these islands. Most ended in failure with the hard climatic conditions the settlers faced putting paid to many initiatives … sugar growing, sulphur extraction, cattle raising, tortoise oil … the final one being used for street lighting apparently. A number of species, including the giant tortoises, were hunted to almost extinction but fortunately survived. In the early century a penal colony was established on Isabella island, and a harsher environment is harder to imagine. It closed in 1954. And Baltra island has been used as a stratgeic airfield over the years given it's proximity to the Panama Canal. It's now the Galapagos islands main airport.

Pollution, in particular plastics, is a major concern for the islands and it was lovely to see the fun way children are being educated about the importance of recycling … a blue-footed booby made entirely of recycled plastic.

A trail from the centre led through the countryside (think volcanic rocks, cacti and indigenous trees and plants) to a local beach recommended for good snorkelling so off we went.

It wasn't the easiest of entries/exits from the sea over rocks but we managed it and snorkelled for a while … lots of fish but the highlight had to be swimming with a seal that most definitely played to its audience. It was within a few inches of Paul and he got some great video of it which we will try to upload. All was going well until he was bitten by a fish! We then retreated back to the beach.

23 February 2019: Boqueriza Moreno, San Cristobal, Galapagos

We've had a fantastic day today land touring the
highlights of this volcanic island. We kicked off in the Highlands at El Junco crater lake, the only natural fresh water on the island and part of the national park. It was quite a pull up the hill to the crater but worth it for the views from the top, even though it was an overcast day (that was a welcome relief from the intense heat and sun!).

The topography and vegetation reminded us of Dartmoor in many ways which, of course, has a volcanic past as well.

Our next stop was the giant tortoise breeding centre where we got up close and personal with these ponderous beasts. They are reared in semi-captivity to safeguard against extinction, and can live to well over 100 years old. Interestingly the sex of the young depends on the incubation temperature, warmer for females.

After an hour or so learning more about the breeding programme we moved on to Puerto Chino beach, reached by a fifteen minute trail through dry forests of scrub and cacti. The beach itself was lovely and we scrambled up the neighbouring rocks to spy on blue footed boobies … but there was only one!

22 Feb 2019

21 February 2019: Las Perlas to Galapagos

Wednesday 20 February 2019

We crossed the equator at 06.07 this morning and all got up to watch the momentous event and give our gifts to Neptune and Poseidon.

Our overnight visitors are still on board and as the sun rises are busy preening their feathers presumably in readiness for a day on the wing. There was a bit of squabbling in the night as they jostled for position but they soon quietened down again.

With 60 miles to go there is a big, lazy, slow swell to the ocean now that Tumi glides up and over. Still not much in the way of wind and what there is is on the nose so we continue to motorsail. We should arrive at San Cristobal, the eastern most Galapagos islands and our port of entry, before nightfall all being well but won't be allowed off the boat until customs and immigration formalities are completed tomorrow. Apparently five or so officials will come on board, checking for compliance with the very stringent requirements about bringing in foodstuffs, recycling, eco-friendly detergents etc while divers will inspect the hull for any barnacles or other organisms attached to it. Hopefully we will have a clean bill of health: we had professional divers clean the hull in Panama City (and Paul and Dan also gave it a quick once over before we left Contadora), and we've peeled the onions and garlic, removed the eyes from the potatoes, frozen all meat and cheese, juiced the limes and cleaned out the fridge. Phew!

We arrived at 6.45pm local time (7.45pm Panama time) having averaged 6.843 knots over 129 hours, although 81 of those was motorsailing. Not what we hoped for but hey ho. The last few hours were spent motoring along the coast of San Cristobal, admiring the dramatic geological formations framed by the setting sun.

We're now safely anchored at Baquerizo Moreno and were rather surprised by our welcome committee, a number of rather vocal sealions who all swam over to check us out! We've been advised not to put the bathing platform down as they are rather partial to coming on board!!

Tuesday 19 February 2019

I spoke too soon last night when I was waxing lyrical about the peaceful seas. Not long after I handed the watch over to Dan, we were engulfed by an electrical storm that came out of nowhere and pursued us for hours. Lightning raged all around us, torrential rain certainly washed off the decks, and we were soaked in no time. We put the radar on to see which our optimal path through the storm might be, and it looked as though there was a gap in between two squall cloud formations, but no sooner than we had made our move we were caught in a pincer movement as the two squalls merged above us and we were in the thick of it.

Eventually, we made it out the other side to face high winds on the nose and a current driving us forward which results in steep seas - somewhat bouncy! After a while, things settled down and we have been able to cut the engine and sail again towards the Galapagos islands. Only 200 or so miles to go. Sadly the favourable winds died mid-afternoon and so it was back to motor-sailing once again.

We've got extra crew on board tonight for the overnight passage in the shape of seven red-footed Boobies, two on each of the anchor and port-side pulpit and three on the starboard side pulpit. What a noisy pallaver getting them all settled on board. The early arrivals certainly didn't want to share their roost with any latecomers, extending their sharp beaks skywards at any approach and squawking indignantly. Fortunately calm came with nightfall and the lucky few are now asleep on the bow!

Paul was able to get amazingly close to them … they just looked at him curiously as he studied them.

This will be our last night at sea on this leg of the voyage and it is a beautiful full moon lighting up the sea behind us. With the exception of last night's excitement it's been a benign passage and the crew have handled the watches very well. I do detect a change in spirits today: whether that's to do with the euphoria of the storm, getting into a routine or excitement at our imminent arrival I don't know!

We will cross the equator for the first (and only) time on our own boat tonight. We'll try to capture the moment for posterity!

Monday 18 February 2019

Hurrah! At 7am this morning the wind returned so we gratefully turned the engine off again. Paul was still asleep so I set the genoa and main and we were making a steady 5+ knots with the intention of raising the parasailor as soon as Paul awoke. Now we're sailing along beautifully at approaching 7 knots and keeping everything crossed the wind remains with us as long as possible.

We're the SSB radio net hosts today and have just completed the morning roll call. The further we get away from Panama, the more spread out the fleet becomes but we're doing okay somewhere around the middle. A few of the boats have issues (charging systems, watermaking, sickness) and everyone is helpful with advice and assistance. It's one of the great advantages of being part of the rally. So far all is fine on Tumi but we're not counting our chickens just yet!

This afternoon we sailed (thankfully slowly) through a patch of sea that was literally scattered with flotsam and jetsam, everything from buckets, a hard hat, and flipflops from the plastic side of things to tree trunks, bamboo, coconuts and myriad spars, planks and other bits of wood.

We also spotted a turtle swimming in among the rubbish, maybe picking barnacles off the flotsam to eat, and a small crab on a floating branch heading who knows where. Whether it makes it is another matter but that is one of the ways creatures reached the Galapagos and colonised it. It was also funny to see birds taking a rest on the floating logs.

On this evening's SSB net we discovered that one of the boats with charging problems (batteries overheating and smelling) have turned back for Panama despite being halfway to the Galapagos to get spares/repairs made. Hopefully they will be successful in getting things sorted quickly and be able to rejoin the rally but potentially they could be the third boat to have to drop out so far with problems. It really underlines what a massive undertaking this all is and how readily it can come to an end unexpectedly. We hope that Tumi and her crew cross this massive ocean safely and without incident.

Sitting in the cockpit on watch tonight we are blessed with a full moon to light our path as we head southwest. The seas have turned a magnificent blue colour again, much more in tune with our expectations. The water is warm, and very calm, slight swells lift the boat from time to time, and the whole scene is a delight to behold. The skies are scattered with clouds, it is beautifully warm, and there is just enough of a breeze to power the sails as we motor on through the night. If only engines were silent...

Sunday 17 February 2019

It’s been a mixed bag of a day today, We had to motor for 22 hours yesterday as we are in the doldrums and the winds have been very slight. None of us like motoring, the sound of the engine is intrusive in our otherwise peaceful sailing with just the gentle hiss of the water passing under the boat, and so when the winds kindly picked up for us this morning at 10:30 to a level where we could break out the big blue parasailor, we duly did. The more practice we get, the slicker the sail is set, and within minutes we were able to turn off the engine and get back to the peace and quiet.

We had the fishing line out all day to no avail, so we ate yesterday's catch for lunch which was accompanied by a nice salad nicoise. Who says we don't eat well on passage? Last night during the fleet radio net, we heard that Raid had caught a 185cm 40kg Wahoo and if anyone was in their vicinity they were welcome to a few kilos of fresh fish. We don't want to catch anything near that size, but we keep trying to get that elusive Mahi Mahi. Our time will come!

The winds dropped back to zero at 16:00 hours and we took the parasailor down for the night. Here we are again, motorsailing, trying to find the best favourable current to give us an extra knot or two to get to the Galapagos islands a little quicker.

We are noticing that when the winds die down the temperature rises significantly. Keeping cool is an art form. Thank goodness we have the bimini to shelter us, or we would simply fry.

Saturday 16 February 2019

We've been at sea for 24 hours and have managed to sail 152 miles in the relatively light airs, thanks largely to the Parasailor. Quite pleasing really but the forecast for the next few days as we approach the equator and the ITCZ (inter tropical convergence zone, formerly referred to as the doldrums) is for almost no wind. We've already decided we'll start to motorsail as soon as our speed over ground drops to below 5 knots. At the moment we are being helped along by almost a knot of current, all for the good!

We've heard in the past that the best time to fish is early morning and evening. Well it looks like there might be some truth in that as hot on the tail of our catch of a tuna yesterday evening, around dusk, lo and behold we caught another this morning before breakfast. Once again Paul reeled it in and Dan got to work despatching it and filleting it.

Having four on board transformed the night watch experience with us all getting a reasonable amount of sleep. Hallelujah! We could see other rally boats throughout the night but the fleet soon disperses and so they will slowly disappear from view.

Sadly we lost the wind at lunchtime so took down the Parasailor and switched the engine on. Having looked at the forecast for the next few days it looks like we'll be motoring the rest of the way which is a real blow … noisy, expensive and boring! Oh well, we're all in the same boat.

Interestingly, not long after we started motoring, we noticed large swathes of the ocean were a rusty brown colour. We need to find out the cause next time we have internet.

Friday 15 February 2019: Bye Bye Las Perlas

Tradition has it that sea voyages shouldn't start on a Friday but here we all are on our way to Galapagos! Maybe this voyage officially started on Saturday 12 January in St Lucia and this leg is just a continuation of the bigger trip. Let's hope so!

Yesterday was a day of preparation … laundry, cleaning, provisioning, food preparation etc … and then a quiet evening watching a movie with a glass of wine. Very well deserved.

The God of winds delivered enough wind for us all to limp over the starting line at 11am this morning. We had decided to hang back and raise the Parasailor to cross the line at the back of the fleet and five hours later that is where we remain, at the back of the pack!! There's still a long way to go so it doesn't really matter but obviously we hope to overtake a few boats along the way.

The Parasailor went up smoothly this time but soon became down again as the wind direction was too tight for the big blousy number so it was back to our regular sails for a few hours until we cleared the southern most Las Perlas island and could turn away a bit. It's now back up and we're starting our big comeback mission, albeit it in very light airs. World ARC fleet watch your backs!!!

This evening we caught a good sized tuna which fed us all very nicely, hopefully there is much more of the same to be had.

The guy controlling the parasailor frayed through this evening, we need to adjust the run of the line to prevent chafe, another little job for the daylight hours tomorrow. In the meantime, we have the (very light) winds behind us and the sail is doing its job well. We have already overtaken several boats and are catching others up too. Maybe another prize awaits?

14 Feb 2019

Valentine's Day, Isla Contadora, Las Perlas

We had a really pleasant evening at anchor in between Isla Chapera and Isla Mogo Mogo a couple of nights ago. When we arrived at the anchorage, there were only two other boats there. We dropped anchor in 5 metres of water and went off to the nearby deserted and pristine beach. The water here was almost clear enough to see the anchor chain on the seabed, so it felt as though we were in a really special place.

In the late afternoon, a few more WARC fleet boats arrived to join us and we invited the crew of TinTin over for drinks.

Yesterday morning, we got in the dinghy and motored across the channel to Isla Mogo Mogo and landed on the beach which was covered in shells.

Debra and I walked barefoot across the island to a totally deserted beach where the opportunity to go skinny dipping was too great to ignore, so off came the swimwear! Well for me at least! The island has been used for the Survivor series and we saw some of the structures that appear on the show.

We had to motor up to Contadora that afternoon in time for the WARC rendezvous last night. The calm waters were full of Rays, tens of them, a real treat.

So last night we attended a barbecue on the beach followed by a prize giving ceremony for the winners of the leg from Santa Marta to the San Blas islands. Surprisingly, "Team Tumi" managed second place in this leg of the race, sandwiched in between a 54' and a 57' boat. We were thrilled and are now the proud owners of a set of Panama drinks coasters to mark the occasion.

We have a skippers' briefing this afternoon to prepare us for the next leg of the race. Looking at the weather forecast, there is going to be next to no wind to push us down to the Galapagos Islands, so we and the other boats will be motoring a good portion of the way. We will be flying the Parasailor as much as possible to try to get some miles under our belts but we are not holding our breath ... perhaps we should be blowing hard instead to get some additional oomph!

12 Feb 2019

12 February 2019 - Las Perlas Islands

12 February 2019: Las Perlas Islands

We stayed on board last night in the same bay as the previous night, had drinks on board Chanto, then retired to Tumi to watch a movie, the Greatest Showman. Unfortunately the sound system decided not to talk to the tv, and consequently movie wasn't presented at its best, so this morning we sorted out the comms pink and replayed some of the music through the Bose speakers. Such a difference! We need to watch it all again sometime soon.

Today we are motorsailing north to join the rest of the fleet, possibly stopping off at Isla Mogo Mogo if there is a space to anchor outside the current in one of the two bays. If not, we will continue on to Isla Contadora and drop the hook there. The winds are right on the nose, so unless we want to zigzag our way slowly (next to no winds here today) we have got the engine running, and used the power to top up the water tanks on the way.

11 February 2019: Isla Del Rey, Las Perlas Islands

It was party time aboard Tumi last night with nine of us in the cockpit enjoying cocktails and wine, accompanied by nachos. A good time was had by all.

This morning we ventured out on two dinghies to the bigger island across the bay and to the small, locals’ village. Much of the waters are uncharted and so even in the dinghy we have to take it slowly, eyeballing our route which is hard in these murky waters, unlike in the Bahamas where the clear turquoise waters make it easy to spot rocks and coral heads.

Landing ashore we checked with a couple of fishermen that we were welcome and then wandered through the village. It was interesting to see that unlike the Kuna Yala Indians in the San Blas islands, these people had electricity, some street lighting powered by solar panels, and block built houses. There didn’t appear to be a lot of activity and we struggled with the language barrier but they were friendly enough and we bought a few rudimentary provisions in the tiny shop but sadly no pearls. We did notice the filleted iguanas drying in the sun ... didn't buy one of those!

We’re having a lazy afternoon and are joining the crew of Chanto on board for drinks later.

10 February 2019: Isla Del Rey, Las Perlas Islands

Paul dived down on the propeller this morning and finally managed to get the trapped rope free after a lot of sawing away at it with a serrated bread knife. The scuba tank was almost out of air when he finished but what a relief: To be stuck over 60 miles away from the nearest boatyard without a functioning engine would have been very tricky. So, a new day, and another lesson learned.

We’re heading for the east coast of Isla Del Rey to a small anchorage just below a smaller off-shore islet.  Apparently the locals sell pearls on this island so we're hoping to be able to look at a few, maybe even buy one or two!

Interestingly the wind temperature this side of the Panama Canal is quite a bit cooler than on the Caribbean side and even Paul has resorted to wearing clothes! The sun is still hot and the sky blue but sailing along feels a little chilly. Our other observation is the colour of the Pacific … muddy green, and when Paul and Dan were trying to cut the line free they got quite cold as the water temperature is considerably lower. The visibility wasn’t that great either. Hopefully all will improve as we head further west! Muddy brown, cool and cloudy seas are not very tempting for a swim! Oh, and I forgot. It smells a bit like cabbage too!

As we arrived at the anchorage we forgot to bring in the fishing line and it twisted itself into all sorts of knots.  It took us several minutes of team Tumi effort and a lot of patience to unravel it, but we finally managed it without having to cut the line. Another lesson learned, never to be repeated!

9 February 2019: Las Perlas Islands, Panama

We left Contadora this morning with a view to anchoring in a sheltered bay to the east of Isla Cassaya, somewhere which looked perfectly feasible in the cruising guide. However when we were approaching the island we realised that the electronic charts had no detail on them whatsoever and, coupled with the fact we were arriving at low water, we felt very vulnerable so we decided to abort and head for a different anchorage at Isla Jose, some 15 miles south. Having cleared the myriad reefs we set a course due south and decided to fly the Parasailor. Having failed to get it up the last time on our trip from St Lucia to Santa Marta, we were understandably apprehensive about whether this time would work. Paul and Dan worked on the bow and Jackie and I were working the lines in the cockpit. Good news, we got it up, only to discover it was back to front! So down it came, the lines were connected the other way around and it was up again. Fantastic! We flew along at over 8 knots until we approached the anchorage. And then disaster struck. As we took the sail down, one of the controlling lines fell overboard and got wrapped around the propeller. The engine stalled and we realised what had happened.

We had no choice but to continue into the anchorage under sail, where assisted by fellow World ARC-ers we managed to anchor safely. Paul and Dan donned masks and jumped overboard to try to unwrap the line from around the prop. They got 95% of it off, but the final 5% was well and truly jammed and despite their sterling efforts it refused to budge. With the light fading they called it a day and Paul will go down in the morning with his scuba gear on. What a shame to end a day like this.

9 Feb 2019

9 February 2019: Isla Contadora, Las Perlas Islands, Panama

By the time we got organised and left the marina we headed to Isla Taboga, only 7 miles from Panama City and a popular weekend destination for people getting out of the city.

It was a pleasant place but nothing out of the ordinary so yesterday morning we up-anchored and headed for the Las Perlas archipelago.

This chain of mainly uninhabited islands lie 40 miles off the Panamanian coast and were famous for pearls. A few islands still sell them so we'll go and have a look. Contadora is the main island with a small airport and a few shops and restaurants. We popped ashore this morning. It's very pretty with beautiful sand beaches.

We're going to head south to a few of the remoter islands for the next few days but will be back in Contadora by Wednesday.