Month 5 to 27, 2005
Balboa, Panama City, to La Libertad, Ecuador

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An other shitty day in Paradise

After a few days in Balboa including some sight-seeing trips around Panama City we motored in calm seas and no wind to the Las Perlas Islands 50 nautical miles south. As the name implies, pearls have been harvested in this group of 220 islands. Here the Spaniards found the famed, 31-carat pearl known as "La Peregrina" that was given to the Queen of Spain. In pre-Columbian times Las Perlas Islands were ruled by an Indian king whose main occupation was pearl-diving. Pearls were used as ornament and to trade with. Most pearls in the world were collected in these waters. However, we found the waters not at all as clear as those in the Caribbean.

This club was destroyed during the US invasion
to bring in Noriega. Today youngsters use the
walls as a jumping off tower (right).

On the island of Pedro Gonzales we met Leonides, who has a house on an other wise empty, beautiful palm fringed beach. He told us that he is 85 years old and has two wives on the mainland, but prefers to stay here on the island at a distance from them both. He gave us a bag full of citrus fruits and a stalk of bananas. One day we vent for a walk in the fishing village by the same name as the island. There were no other foreigners around.

Expensive fishing ships


Our final destination this season was in Ecuador, just south of the Equator, with flight tickets to Europe from Guayaquil at the end of the month, and time begun to run out. Unfortunately the winds, that had been constantly from the north for the past weeks, had now changed to constant south-westerlies, i.e. "right on the nose" (so what else is new?). We waited for a week, hoping for change, but it was now the rainy season and the pilot charts for the month of May show 82% of winds from south to south-east. Finally we had to get under way, regardless of the weather. Short stopper waves, adverse current and 15-20 knots of wind on the bow produced uncomfortable conditions while we tacked south, motor sailing.

Sarah and Dave with refreshments at Pedro Gonzales.

Scorpio under surveillance among fishing vessels

The advise is to stay at least a 100 miles off the Colombian coast to avoid drug traffickers, but also stay at least 60 miles away from the Malpelo Island, some 200 miles outside of the coast. Sailing vessels have encountered problems with the fishing community working around this Colombian island. In the year 2004 there were also four reports of piracy incidents.

On the evening of our second day out, a medical emergency situation developed aboard and we had to steer for the nearest port, where assistance was available. Unfortunately even the closest one, Esmeraldas in Ecuador, was almost 300 miles distant, and it took us 2 and a half days more to get there.

Floating shack in Esmeraldas fishing harbour

Fishmarket vendor at Esmeraldas

Our patient was admitted to the Navy Hospital and was well taken care of. Esmeraldas is off the regular path of sailing vessels and the Port Captain did not really know how to handle our case. Consequently we experienced some "interesting" and lengthy sessions in his office. If Esmeraldas is mentioned at all in any cruising guide, it is to advise cruisers to avoid the place, which is considered dangerous. However, we did not feel threatened at any time in town (after all, we had experienced the dangers of Colón in Panama) and in the harbor we were anchored next to the navy vessels and under constant surveillance of guards carrying AK-47 machine guns.

Latitude   0º00 = The Equator,
and a letter to King Neptune

Cheers! Henrik, Sarah and Dave.

Four days later we started on the last trip of the season from Esmeraldas to La Libertad 250 miles further south. On this passage we passed an other cruising mile stone: the Crossing of the Equator. Tradition dictates certain ceremonies for this event, among them a letter of introduction to King Neptune together with a coin from the previous port etc. We also asked him protect us from fishing lines and nets, but apparently His Royal Highness was not entirely pleased with us because the next morning we got a fishing line around the propeller. For the second time within a month I had to use my Scuba gear to free the propeller. In the Gatún Lake it was because of barnacles (see previous report), but this time I used a knife instead of a scraper.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and half a day before we arrived safely in the Marina Puerto Lucia at La Libertad the winds and seas calmed. A few days later Scorpio was on the hard and the crew on its way to Finland for our traditional summer vacation.

This report ends the 2004-2005 season. The adventure continues in the autumn. Hope to see you back aboard then.

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