Road Trip in Nicaragua

Catarina Viewpoint, Nicaragua We left Snowaway at Marina Puesta del Sol while we did a five day land trip. Last time we were in Nicaragua we only toured around the marina so we wanted to see what the country has to offer. We hired Nicaragua Adventures and we developed a personalized tour with Pierre that included a car and driver and an English speaking tour guide. We were impressed with the service they provided and our guide Eduardo was amazing.
On our first day they picked us up at the marina at 9 am and we headed toward Granada. We stopped at Masaya Volcano National Park to see the still active volcano. The Spaniards baptized the volcano “La Boca del Infierno” or “The Mouth of Hell”. We had a walk around the crater to see the views and watch the volcano vent gases. Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua
TukTukWe went to Catarina Lookout overlooking the Apoyo lagoon, about 520 m above sea level. We walked through the streets of Catarina and bought some fruit at a street vendor and watched the local tuctuc taxis pass by. And we visited a ceramic manufacturer in the village of San Juan de Oriente.

We spent three nights in Granada a lovely city founded in 1524 on the shores of Lake Nicaragua.

Karen cloud forest, NicaraguaOrchid, NicaraguaOn our second day we visited the Mombacho Natural Reserve and its tropical cloud forest. We walked the trail around one of the craters to see the diversity of fauna. Unfortunately even though we went up in the morning we did not have the incredible views of Granada and Lake Nicaragua that can sometime be seen because of the clouds; I guess that is why this area is called a cloud forest! More than 800 species of plant life can be found here, including bromeliads and orchids. We were thrilled with the beauty of the many orchids we saw.

tricolouredheronPurple Gallinude, NicaraguaIn the afternoon we took a boat ride on Lake Nicaragua exploring some of the 365 small isletas (islands) that had been created by an eruption of the Mombacho volcano thousand of years ago. We saw lots of birds, some new to us, including the purple gallinude and the tricloured heron.

Pacific coast of Panama

Sailing to Punta Mala, Panama The trip from Las Perlas to Benao on the mainland is about 88 NM. Our plan was to round Punta Mala (Bad Point) in daylight hours because this is a major point for big ships heading to the Panama Canal and it can get congested. The currents are strong here and can cause unusual sea conditions.
puntamala1We had the anchor up by 5 minutes past midnight and had a great sail across to Punta Mala; we were often sailing at over 7 knots and peaked at 8.1. We were anchored in Benao by 2 pm. Two hours later we felt like we were on a roller coaster; the swells were huge! We had a wet motor ride across to Punta Guanico where we spent a quiet night.
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The next morning we motored up to Naranjo, a lovely little bay. Along the way we had the fishing line out. Richard caught a delicious Spanish mackerel off Punta Puerco but also lost his favourite lure when a huge dorado broke the 80 lb test line!

On January 4th we planned to sail to Isla Cebaco and we actually got to sail for a few hours. When we got there the bay we wanted to anchor in had moorings in the side we needed to anchor in because of the wind direction; the other side was open to the swell. So we headed over to Isla Santa Catalina. We found a great anchorage there and even had dolphins play around us as we set anchor.

Seagull at Bahia Honda, Panama Our next stop was Bahia Honda. We had heard lots of cruisers talking about how lovely it was there when we had sailed south in our last boat Sol Mate. We anchored off Isla Talon which has a small community on it. We went to shore to buy some bread and were met by the local police. He gave us a tour of the community but the 2 stores there did not have any bread; we thought we had more provisions on board Snowaway than was available there!

bahiahonda3
We were surprised that there were no other cruisers in the bay. We did have a few visits from locals; one came to sell us fruits and ask for batteries and cookies for his children.
One of our favourite times is watching the sunset and is one was beautiful.

Dorado, Panama On January 6th we motored over to Granito de Oro (Gold Nugget) off of Isla Coiba, a marine park. On the way over Richard caught a dorado, our first dorado in 5 years! It is nice to be back in the Pacific; we have caught more edible fish so far this season than in the last 5 years in the Caribbean! We picked up a mooring ball and snorkelled around the island. The water was pristine and the fish were plentiful. We were visited by park officials who told us the cost to stay the night on the mooring ball was: $20 for the boat, $10 per person and $30 for the ball. We decided to move to the bay near the park office and anchor for the night. Richard was taken by the park officers to the office were he was told that the cost to stay for a night in the park was $100. We had planned to stay for a couple of nights in Coiba but decided the cost was too steep.
granito_karenThe next morning we headed for Isla Cavada in the Islas Secas (Dry Islands).Again the bay we had planned on anchoring in had moorings so there was no room for us. We found a pleasant bay to anchor in and had a nice snorkel in that bay.
Next we were off to Isla Parida to prepare for the overnight to Costa Rica.
We have enjoyed the Pacific coast of Panama but we have found it a bit isolated. There are almost no cruisers and the local communities are small and isolated.

Las Perlas, Panama

Shells on Mogo Mogo, Las Perlas, Panama We left Panama City early on Christmas day to sail to Las Perlas Islands in Panama Bay. There are about 200 islands in the Perlas with very few people living there. It is a great cruising area and we planned on spending a few weeks here.
Of course there was little wind so we motored all the way; however we were not too disappointed as it gave us lots of time to enjoy the dolhins that came to visit. We saw more dolphins on that sail than we saw in the 5 years we were in the Caribbean!
mogomogoOur first night we anchored between Isla Chapera and Isla MogoMogo. This is where one season of Survivor was filmed. There was only one other boat anchored here so it was very peaceful. We saw lots of rays jumping out of the water, we walked the beaches and we enjoyed snorkelling along the shores. The tides a very large here, they can be up to 20 feet, so there is a lot of current. Snorkelling was easiest near slack tide!
Sunset over Espiritu Santo, Panama We motored a few hours south to Isla Espiritu Santo and anchored between it and Isla del Rey. There were a couple of boats there and a few more arrived over the next few days. Our time was spent swimming along the shores and walking the small beaches.
On December 30th we headed around the south end of Isla del Rey to anchor off of Rio Cacique. We took the digny up the river to see lots of birds and enjot the peace and quiet. When we got back to the boat, 3 boys paddled over to sell us some bananas and the biggest papaya we have ever seen!papaya
On New Years Eve we actually sailed, rather than motored, over to Isla San Jose and anchored off Ensenada Playa Grande. We spent New Years day walking the beach and snorkelling the several rocky areas of the bay. We enjoyed watching the wild pigs come down to the beach, I guess even pigs enjoy walking the beaches!
We left at midnight on January 1 to sail back to the mainland. Richard had to pull the anchor while dozens of fishing bats buzzed around his head!

Snowaway’s Panama Canal Transit

Line handlers for the Panama Canal TransitWe started our transit of the Panama Canal on December 22nd. Our line handlers, a wonderful family from the catamaran “Laeta Loco” Paul, Laura, Casey and Adam, arrived at 11 am and we departed the dock at 11:30. We were anchored in the “Flats” by 12:15 to wait for our advisor to arrive. Astro arrived just before 2 pm and we quickly pulled anchor and headed for the Gatun locks.
Baltic Pride, PanamaWe rafted to the port side of the catamaran “Dutch Treat” for the transit of the 3 Gatun Locks and behind the tanker Baltic Pride. That put us on the side of the locks where the water entered; that created a strong current and we were very busy managing the lines. No pictures were taken during our time in the Gatun locks as our advisor would not allow it.

At a mooring, Gatun LakesBy 4:30 pm we were through the Gatun locks and spent the night on a mooring ball with the cat “Domek” on the other side of the ball.
At 6:45 am on December 23rd Ricky, our advisor for the next section of the transit, arrived. We left the mooring within minutes of Ricky’s arrival and headed to Pedro Miguel lock. We had lots of discussion about how we would transit these 3 locks but we ended up again rafted to Dutch Treat as we headed to the Pacific Ocean.
Karen & Richard, Panama Canal Transit It was much easier going down, less current and there was no tanker in the locks with us just one other catamaran. It was almost relaxing as you can see we had time to enjoy entering the Pacific Ocean on Snowaway.

Paul and Adam, Panama

We dropped off our line handlers and the tires and ropes at the Balboa Yacht Club by 2 pm and we were anchored on the east side of the causeway by 3 pm.
We spent Christmas Eve anchored off Panama City restoring Snowaway to sailing condition so that we could head to Las Perlas.

Another walk in the woods

Cooper, Panama We have had a couple of days with almost no rain. We are just about done all our boat jobs and are looking forward to testing out the boat. Keith from Lyman Morse arrives on the 10th and the marine surveyor is coming out on the 12th. Hopefully we can resolve all the outstanding issues with our repairs and head off sailing shortly thereafter.

We took the dog of the executive chef from the marina’s restaurant for a few walks. Cooper seemed a bit bored and was happy to walk along with Richard.

Toucan, PanamaMonkey, PanamaWe were lucky to see another type of toucan, we believe it is a keel-billed toucan based on its colourful bill, and several howler monkeys on our walks. We have heard the howlers alot while we have been at the marina but this was the first sighting of them. It was fun to watch them eat and move amongst the trees.

The traveling adventures of Karen and Richard