Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

calamaties, cruiser humor, tides
“You could just say, ‘ the tide went out'” quipped Gunnel,
with her penchant for simple understatement.

“I’d feel much more comfortable if we tied off to a tree,” Wayne conjectured as we dragged our dinghy a long ways up the beach at Las Perlas’ Ilsa Contadora, Panama.  

We’ve seen our dinghy “float” away before without us (click here to read about that misadventure). 

We’ve learned the hard way about 15 foot tidal swings here in Panama (click here for that misadventure) and about being cautious taking tides into account while anchoring (click here for yet another learning experience at our expense).  

Thus we dragged our dinghy a good ways up the beach, threw down an anchor in the sand and added a rock atop for extra assurance. 

cruising life
An all-too-familiar view for us on Journey this year.  
Every time I get in it I wonder if it will be yet another “Oh s—” ride.

Previously, we’d delayed our trip ashore for a bit as we forgot to grab our dinghy anchor and extra line for it.  We compounded our error by stalling out our outboard motor just short of the boat, while the current swept us past the boat.  We had to row back to the boat, not easy to do anytime, less so when there’s four of us in on 10’3″ dinghy. 

Wayne then sussed out what the problem was this time with the motor, which happily(?) was as simple as knocking the kill switch off.  Much quicker to “fix” than the ethanol (“Deathanol” – click here on what not to do with your outboard motor) which we, ummm, errr, forgot and put in our outboard again this year.  Arg!

Back to the beach….

hiking cruising destination ilsa contadora las perlas panama
Along came a spider… We came across
this cool specimen on our Ilsa Contadora
walkabout.  It was BIG!

We “anchored” our dinghy in the sand, and headed out for a wander about Contadora.  I chose Contadora because of the glowing Cruising World report… lovely beaches, caves, etc.  I was on the hunt for the caves* as it piqued my interest enough to recommend Contadora over the other 200  Las Perlas islands to choose from.  Wayne’s folks wanted to inquire about the ferry, which departed from Contadora and was their ticket back to Panama City.

*It is a stretch to call what exists at Contadora a “cave.”  Apparently the interpretation is much broader when seen from the perspective of a three-year-old cruiser than a more jaded adult.

cruising life, cruiser activities, clothing optional beaches
No swimsuit.  No problem.  Playa Suecas nude beach on
Panama’s Las Perlas Ilsa Contadora.

As we headed down to the shoreline near our boat, we noticed a nude beach sign, “Playa Suecas, Nude Beach.  No Voyuers.”   In fact, we did see some swimsuit-less folks on the beach when we came in.  It’s why we opted to beach where we did, to protect their “privacy.”  

Meanwhile, Wayne and I were hot, sweaty and didn’t have a swimsuit on us as we were prepared for walkies, not a swim.  We looked longingly at the beach.

A mere 2 hours or so later we arrived back at the beach where we’d left our dinghy and to our dismay, the “far enough away from the water” view was replaced by a moonscape of jagged rocks between our dinghy and the water.  At that, it was a substantial distance before the water was sufficiently deep the rock-strewn and live coral-laden bottom was safe to bring out dinghy over, much less drop the motor down and run the engine.

 playa suecas ilsa contadora las perlas panama
Wayne, Gunnel and Phil hanging out in the shade
on Contadora while deciding what to do next.

We embraced the adage “a rising tide floats all boats” — especially after we saw a 10 foot tide difference resurgence in the two hours we waited to gas up outside Flamingo Marina in nearby Panama City.

Wayne’s Dad Phil and his wife Gunnel opted to use the time to grab some lunch.  

Wayne and I were unable to resist the lure of a cool dip in Ilsa Contadora’s waters.  It would be an understatement to say we were not at all bothered by a lack of a swimsuit.  

ilsa contadora las perlas panama
These Contadora beach rocks were a striking mix
of pastel mint green and orange.

We were however, thirsty, and as always, I was hungry.  

Luckily, there was an au natural couple headed back to their boat in their dinghy.  I flagged them down.  Turns out, we’d met in Shelter Bay Marina and traveled Panama Canal together.  I thought they were “our kind of people” when we met; little did I know (note – not sure if they are “out” about their nudity so boat and cruiser names are omitted).  With a laugh, they gave me a ride back to our boat.  

I tossed down my trusty kayak, paddle and loaded up a cooler with cold drinks and nibblies, sunscreen, a sheet to use as our beach blanket, my underwater goggles and a swimsuit and wrap for when we needed to rejoin Wayne’s folks (C’mon, even if your parents know you’re a nudist and lord knows they’ve seen us nude from the day one, how many of you would want to hang out with them nude?  Forget about even asking if they want to or not!).

That was the first clear water we’ve seen this year cruising since Florida’s Dry Tortugas, unless you count the water in Muriel Hemingway Marina outside Havana Cuba.  And we’d yet to take any kick-back-on-the-beach time yet this year.  We were told by a local resort employee the waters had just finally cleared from the plankton that muddied its clarity.

Wayne’s folks returned from their lunch.  The water rose enough to dinghy back.  Wayne ferried his folks to some private time for themselves on the boat whilst we worked on eradicating a few tan lines while we swam.

 playa suecas evil tree thorns ilsa contadora las perlas panama
Spikes like the set that embedded itself into
my scalp at clothing optional  Playa Suecas Beach,
Isla Contadora, Las Perlas Panama.

Meanwhile, in heading back to our shady beach “blanket” I managed to thunk my head, HARD on the tree branch that shaded our blanket. It HURT.  Bad.  So I reached my hand atop my head and felt the top woody edge of a 2-pronged thorn.  I tore it out and my hand filled with blood, which also began running down my face.  For those of you who’ve never experienced minor head wounds or been around someone who has, the cuts just bleed a lot.  They may smart, but they look much worse than they are.

However the blood caught the eye of some other nudists, who promptly showed up with some disinfectant, which staunched the bleeding fairly quickly, while sterilizing the wound.  I was grateful as warm seawater offer the perfect petrie dish for bacteria.  Used antibiotic ointment after to promote healing and prevent infection.

clothing optional playa suecas ilsa contadora las perlas panama
Our now properly parked dinghy at Contadora’s Playa Suecas beach.

The rest of our stay on Playa Suecas beach was so blissfully uneventful we decided to spend another afternoon there before we begin the 1,000 mile grind of 24/7 passage through the doldrums to Galapagos.  We realized that despite beginning our cruising in early December this “year” that in the over 2 1/2 months, we’d yet until that day, kicked back and enjoyed some relaxing beach time, with our without our swimsuits.

PS We returned to Playa Suecas beach today and were surprised by a film crew.  They were filming a French “Survivor” segment at the beach and were apparently unaware it was a nude beach.  Didn’t prevent us from having a great time anyway. 

Location Location
We’re anchored off the clothing optional beach of Playa Suecas, Ilsa Contadora of the Las Perlas chain of islands of Panama (N08.37.393 W79.01.870).  All too soon, we’ll be headed off to the Galapagos, and beyond.  The state of our worrisome gearbox will likely be the biggest determining factor, though at the moment, we’re pleased to be “stuck” here.