s/y Nine of Cups
Islas Perlas & the Darien Rivers
July 2008
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Anxious to "get under way", we decided on a quick 10 mile motor-sail to Isla Taboga. We used Eric Bauhaus' The Panama Cruising Guide as
our reference. Unfortunately, where the calm anchorage close to the beach used to be was now a mooring field. The anchorage further out was deep
and rolly, but certainly acceptable for a night. It poured during the afternoon so we never went ashore. Our German friends, Brit and Axel aboard
"Hello World" followed us, went ashore briefly and returned. We all agreed to leave the next morning. We  headed to Islas de las Perlas (Pearl
Islands of "Survivor" fame). This archipelago is comprised of 100+ islands located about 30 miles off the Pacific coast in the Gulf of Panama. The
most notable of the islands is Contadora which is built up for tourist/resort trade. We opted not to visit. Instead we headed to Isla Bayoneta which
appeared to have a protected anchorage and offered "an interesting beach with cowries on the west side" of the island. We moved to Punta Cocos
and then, anxious to get to the rivers, motor-sailed to La Palma, capital of the Darien province.
We could see a squall approaching just
as we were about to turn into the
anchorage at Isla Bayoneta.
Waterspouts were dipping from the
clouds, but the squall passed quickly and
we found the anchorage most delightful.
A.long dink ride brought us to the west
side where we found cowries, but not
too big and not too many. We
celebrated 4th of July here with "Hello
World". No fireworks, but a rousing
rendition of "The Start Spangled Banner"!
We had visited  and enjoyed Punta Cocos
on our last trip. It is protected and very
calm. The tidal changes here are significant
...15'+. Big change from the Carib.
A local anole climbs in the rubble of
the rackline on shore.
Wild hibiscus were profuse and the spider
lilies were uniquely beautiful.
A seed pod lays solitary in the sand. We
found lots of
sea beans and introduced Brit to
these interesting curiosities on shore.
Thousands of hermit crabs scuttled
along  the shore.
Last time we were here, there was an Armada
station. Now abandoned, only the ruins remain.
David walks along the shore beachcombing
for treasures.
The contrast of bright red berries on
gray stone and brown sand caught my
We left Punta Cocos early and with the help of
the rising tide made it into the little anchorage of
LaPuntita near La Palma by late afternoon. It
didn't take long for the local Embera and
Wounaans to realize they had some sales
prospects anchored nearby and several visited in
the next couple of days. We laughed remembering
that Brit was originally concerned that she
wouldn't have the chance to see any baskets. She
soon had lots and lots of baskets aboard...and so
did we!

A day in LaPalma town (lost photos...ugh!) and
we were ready to head up the Rio Sabana on the
rising tide. The river is a lovely tributary off the
Rio Tuira and Bauhaus' guide provided excellent
advice and chartlets. We anchored off Islas Bellas
in a calm, peaceful setting.
We only chose one thing, but it was  a
unique, square-shaped, finely woven
basket by weaver Cristelo Cheucoromo.
We paid $60 plus a NY Yankees ball cap.
Fair trade we thought!
In a matter of minutes, we had a huge
choice of baskets, masks, jewelry,
carvings and tagua figures to choose
from. Not easy decisions!
At left, Cups  is content anchored in mirror-glass
waters. Above, Brit sits on the bow ready to drop
the anchor as Hello World arrives at Islas Bellas.
Up river about 5 miles was the tiny
Embera village of Puerto Lara.
We were met as we came ashore and led to the
meeting hut. The clanging of the gong above,
signalled everyone to bring their wares to show us.
A large hornet's nest hanging down from a
dead branch over the water required some
quick maneuvering as we didn't spot it until we
were nearly under it.
We got the dinghy stuck in the deep mud as we
tried to get closer for a good photo of this
roseate spoonbill above.
Birdwatching and identifying was a good
part of our enjoyment on the river. White
ibis above.
Little blue heron poses majestically for
a quick shot.
After a couple of days, we moved down
the Sabana and up the Rio Iglesias not far
away. Nine
of Cups and Hello World
anchored in the Rio Iglesias as cormorants
take note.
Lucky for us we didn't proceed any
further up the river as the locals had
placed nets across the river to catch fish.
We dinghied around until we found what
looked like a small beach to land and got
some directions to the tiny town of
LaQuimba from a helpful fellow salvaging
wood from the water.
We found a cantina serving very cold beer.
The heliconia was strikingly beautiful.
Oops...got caught in her underwear!
Time for the long, hot walk back to the
Practicing for an upcoming cockfight.
Hundreds of butterflies fluttered around
these brightly colored flowers.
The tide had receded when we got
back to the dinks and oh what mud! I
suggested mud wrestling, but no takers.
Gunkholing in the dinghies was an
everyday pastime and most enjoyable.
Lots of birds, but no other animals.
A great egret takes to wing.
Hundreds of green shelled snails clung to  
tree limbs in the tiny estuaries.
The petrol station..just go up the river and
when you see the CocaCola sign, that'll be
the place...and it was!
At $5.60/gallon, it was lots of work to
dispense diesel manually. First it was  
pumped into a pail from the 50 gallon
drums with a handpump and then hand
poured via a large, leaking funnel into our
jerry jugs.
Cups and HW anchored off La Palma.
Travel along as we head back down the Rio
Tuira and started our trek south along the
Panamanian coast to
Puerto Pina, our last
stop before heading to Ecuador.
Check out Hello World's website
Main Street, Puerto Lara