Passage to Isla Grande

We returned to Waisladup (in the Holandes Cays of the San Blas
Islands) on Friday. We could not find good swimming or
snorkeling in Kanildup, where we were previously, but we get our
fruits and veggies there. Waisladup is just on the edge of the
Holandes Channel, our preferred passage back into the Caribbean,
and the snorkeling was great when we were their just days ago,
so back we went for our last two days. Unfortunately, we did
not get much snorkeling in. Friday there was a big swell
breaking onto the reef and it was not safe to snorkel or land a
dinghy on the beach. The swell was down a bit on Saturday so we
had one last swim in the Caribbean. Our next swim will be south
of the equator in the Pacific off of one of the Galapagos Islands.

We spent most of the last two days trying to deal with some
recent maintenance issues. We had a water leak from the
watermaker, which once tracked down, was surprisingly easy to
repair. The anchor chain counter stopped working, but a
cleaning of the optics seems to have brought it back to life.
The most trying issue is the sudden failure of the fresh water
pump pressure monitor. Instead of pressuring an accumulator
tank, the fresh water pump cycles continuously when a faucet or
shower is on. I took the pressure sensor apart three times (once
I left a part out) and still cannot get it to work. I was
drenched in sweat each time as I had to kneel between the engine
and generator on the floor of the engine room to take out all of
these little screws. It must have been over 120 degrees in
there. I am hoping that I can get some help fixing it in Canal
area. There seems to be some corrosion in the fresh water system
that is gumming things up.

We are currently anchored between the isthmus of Panama and
the island of Isla Grande, only 20 miles from Puerto Cristobal,
the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal. Our location is N 9
degrees 17.6 minutes, W 79 degrees 34.0 minutes. We left the
Holandes Cays this morning in 18 – 20 knots of wind from the NNE
and 6 foot swells. The passage to Isla Grande was surprisingly
fast and comfortable even though the swells built as we got
closer to the mainland. Coincidentily, the German yacht “Vera”,
who left Bonaire at the same time as us and arrived in Porvenir
at the same time as us, also left for the Canal this morning.
We called them on the VHF early in the morning and they told us
that they were heading for Portobella. They changed their minds
and are now anchored just to the side of us here in Isla Grande.
Isla Grande is a weekend destination for Panamanian and since
today is Sunday, the beach was crowded. There were dozens of
small power boats ferrying people from the mainland, where
there is a road to Colon, and Isla Grande — a distance of 1/2
mile. There were a few jet skis as well. Once the sun set,
everyone was gone.

Tomorrow morning we will head into Puerto Cristobal and the
brand new marina just inside the breakwater below Fort San Lorenzo.
Our reservation at the marina (Shelter Bay Marina) does not
begin until March 7, but the marina has allowed us to come early
and tie up to their unfinished dock until then. This dock lacks
water and power, so it might be a hit hot down below, but at
least we have a place to attend to arranging for the transit
through the canal, provisioning for the Pacific crossing, and
getting our maintenance issues resolved.