Oh, what a long, tedious and somewhat bumpy trip: a total of 284 miles in about 42 hours. Not our worst, but not our best by far. Maybe because it’s been seven months since we last did an overnighter, but we both feel quite fatigued after two nights on watch…
Leaving Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, Panama on Feb 7th at 14:30 we make our way out of the breakwater sneaking through the anchorage area, between the many cargo vessels waiting for their Canal transit, and set course straight for our destination, Isla Providencia.
It‘s a very lonely trip. During the whole time we never encounter one single boat, ship, and vessel whatsoever.
For company we have flying fish all around and the occasional small pod of friendly, playful dolphins delighting us with their antics above and below water.
The only contrast in color to this vast blue expanse is supplied by the large quantities of Portuguese Man ‘O War, the adults very noticeable with their hot pink or purple translucent fin, the babies just a shimmery sparkle in the water.
I just recently read about these strange creatures and the only detail I memorized is basically “stay the hell away from them”! They’re not a single organism, but a colonial organism made up of many zooids and have tentacles typically about 30 feet long although some have been observed to be up to 165 feet long!
Yuck… I hope I never encounter one up close… But if you’re intrigued enough, go see here for more detailed information.
During the second night we pass Isla San Andres, the other Colombian island, bigger and more developed than Isla Providencia. Even at a 30 miles distance the glow of nightlife is still quite visible.These two islands are only 55 miles apart from each other and belong to Colombia, although they are situated about 150 miles off the coast of Nicaragua.
Eventually we reach Isla Providencia and safely make our way into the calm, protected Santa Isabel Bay. It’s an easy entrance with a channel well marked by lighted buoys, with a very unique and convenient landmark perfectly aligned with the channel.
The landmark in question is officially called Split Hill, but we soon learn that the locals call it “Morgan’s Ass” with more than a little irreverence…
The infamous pirate Henry Morgan used Providencia as a base for raiding the Spanish empire, and rumors suggest that much of his treasure remains hidden on the island. Many parts of the island are named after Morgan. I say, he must have been quite a hell raiser back in the days, as we found many sites built up or burned down by him all over this stretch of water…
By 14:30 on Saturday Feb 9th we’re comfortably anchored along with another handful of vessels.
Tom has already contacted via radio the local clearing agent, Mr. Bush, who is waiting for us on the main Plaza to welcome us and process our paperwork.
Tired and bleary-eyed, we go meet him. What a character! Very friendly, organized and efficient, he welcomes us to his island as he walks us to his nearby office.
The island is very colorful, very clean –not a piece of trash to be seen anywhere-, everything looks quite new. The locals are a joy to meet. People make eye contact with a genuine smile, many greeting us with a heartfelt “welcome to our island!”.
Tom is ecstatic, I am thrilled. When you say hello to someone, you get a smile and a greeting in return! No one is a stranger, here.
We’re almost overwhelmed: after seven months of the mostly grumpy and reserved people of Panama, this is quite a refreshing and certainly welcome change!
The island is quite tiny with narrow streets, so the main means of transportation are mopeds, small motorcycles and some golf cart-looking vehicles. Very few full sized cars, here!
Everyone is zooming around, up and down the island’s hills; soon we learn that it’s perfectly normal to carry your whole family on a small moped, the tools of your trade or even your whole business! Most of the taxis are motorcycles as well… Just hop on, Mon!
Oh, I can’t wait to be fully awake, rested and ready to take on the Island! I fully expect hundreds of picture opportunities.
But for now, formalities pleasantly completed, we’re going to take it easy.