paradise of Western Panama. Remember, you can find corresponding pictures by clicking on the Photo Album button
above. And don't forget, you can always look at our previous ramblings by clicking on the archived Journal Entries
(above) and the corresponding archived Photo Albums on the Photo Album page.
of Ecuador and is a huge city built high in the mountains at an elevation of over 9,000 feet above sea level. As you can
imagine, the crew of Southern Belle were huffing and puffing as we tried to acclimate to an elevation that is just a
tad higher than that of New Orleans. We spent three days exploring Quito and the surrounding area. Quito has a
great Old Town area with many beautiful churches and elaborate Government buildings. We also took a drive into the
surrounding countryside to visit Volcan Pululahua, where you can look down into the crater which is now used for
agriculture. You can also hike down into the crater, but we opted to just view it from the overlook. Joshua might
have been able to handle the hike, but Melinda and George were winded just from walking to the overlook from the
car. While on this drive about we visited a small town where the Equator passes through. Many years ago a French
survey team marked the location of the equator here in Ecuador and the government erected an elaborate monument
and park which is almost a town in and of itself. Unfortunately, thanks to modern technology and the invention of the
Global Positioning System, they now know that the Equator is actually about a quarter of a mile away from the site of
the elaborate monument. Some enterprising locals have built a small, but very impressive museum on the site of the
actual location of the equator. We were skeptical at first, thinking these locals were just trying to steal the
limelight from the giant monument and park complex, but after taking the tour at the museum we were convinced that
we were standing on the equator. The one thing that convinced us more than anything else was the draining water
demonstration. Our guide took a portable sink and placed it right on the equator line, filled it with water and placed
some small leaves afloat on the surface of the water so we could easily see how the water would move. She then
pulled the plug and the water drained out of the sink without swirling (neither clockwise nor counter-clockwise).
Next, we moved the sink approximately 10 to 15 feet into the southern hemisphere and repeated the process. The
water drained and formed a clearly defined clockwise whirlpool. Then we moved the sink about the same distance
into the northern hemisphere and the water formed a clearly defined counter-clockwise whirlpool! Amazing but true!
So before you go making fun of the French for incorrectly plotting the location of the equator, remember they did
the original survey over 200 years ago and only missed by less than a quarter of a mile.
Since we were carrying so much luggage (6 huge bags full of gear we bought in the USA), we opted to take a 30 minute
flight to the town of Manta rather than the cheaper 8 hour bus ride over rough terrain. In Manta we were met by a
driver from Puerto Amistad Yacht Club who took us back to Southern Belle in Bahia de Caraquez after our long hiatus.
It was sure nice to see Southern Belle bobbing on her mooring ball just off the clubs dinghy dock. We moved
everything aboard and started the process of cleaning and stowing. It took four solid days to get everything ship
shape, but it was wonderful to be home again. We spent the next two weeks preparing Southern Belle and ourselves
for the long ocean voyage back up to Panama. Joshua spent his days getting back into a school rhythm and then playing
with his buddy Gregorio in the afternoons. On December 17th we said goodbye to the wonderful folks at Puerto
Amistad and headed out to sea.
We always feel a little nervous at first when heading out for a long passage. Will the sea be kindly? will the boat hold
up? did we bring enough food? etc., etc. But after a few short hours we all gained our sea legs and it felt good to be
on the move again and heading for new, exciting and exotic ports. We left Panama along with 3 other boats that were
heading for Panama. Even though we lost sight of each other after the first few hours of the first day, it's nice to
know that others are out there with you in the wide open ocean. We all checked in with each other daily at 0900 and
again at 1800 via HAM Radio. Two of the boats (Iwa and Villisar) headed for the Perlas Islands in the gulf of Panama
while we and Encore headed over into Western Panama. Buzz and Maureen on Encore are still buddy boating with us
here in Western Panama. Buzz & Maureen sailed around the world 20 years ago on their previous sailboat, so as you
can imagine they are a wealth of knowledge for us newbie-cruisers. Our crossing to Panama went smoothly and only
took 4 days. The first day was total sail, but after that the winds died out and we had to motor-sail. We hated to
burn up all of that cheap Ecuadorian diesel fuel, but at least the seas were totally calm.
Our first sight of land was Isla Jicaron and the much larger Isla Coiba just to the north. We decided to pull into Isla
Jicaron and stay there for awhile if it turned out to be nice. We were not disappointed. The Island is beautiful! We
anchored on the north end off of a beautiful white sandy beach. The beach is lined with coconut palms and flowering
trees and has a lovely fresh water stream that drains out into the ocean. The jungle is so thick you can't walk into it,
but standing at the edge you can hear all of the exotic birds and the howler monkeys calling to each other. It was
wonderful to stroll along the beach smelling fresh flowers and looking for shells. Encore showed up the next day and
we both stayed at Isla Jicaron right through Christmas. Other than a quick visit by the Panamanian Navy for a safety
inspection on our first day at the Island, we did not see another vessel the entire time we were at Jicaron. The Navy
guys were very nice and polite. Joshua had fun checking out their guns. He must have asked them each a hundred
questions concerning their weapons. We think they finally left to escape the inquisitive child.
After Isla Jicaron we visited Isla Canal de Afuera, Bahia Honda, Isla Medidor, Bahia Dona Juana, Bahia Muertos, and
Isla Seccas. After over 2 years of exploring the western coast of Mexico, Central America, and South America,
Western Panama is the most beautiful cruising ground we have yet to visit. The Islands are beautiful, the water is
crystal clear, the people are very friendly and helpful, and the fishing is great. Some of the highlights are as follows:
Panama. In the gulf we will visit the Perlas Islands and spend some time there before heading to the metropolis of
The above photo was taken At the location where the Equator passes through Ecuador. Until our next update we wish
you all fair winds and following seas!
|Ecuador to Western Panama