Here in Panama, to know at what point you are in the tide clock, and what your high, and most importantly, your low, point is, is fairly critical. Many people coming through the canal from the Caribbean side to the Pacific, have to adjust their thinking straightaway, as the tides on that side are fairly benign. We thought we had it right, figuring in the 6-8’ mark, but nope, we didn’t. I blame it on the men. They are always overestimating size (yes, THAT’S what I’m referring to) so in this instance I figured that if they were all anticipating an average 7 foot tide, then we were safe at allocating 6 feet, or even less. Of course in this one instance I was proved wrong (first time this year).
Along with 3 other boats; Rio Nimpkish, Gosling and Iris, Ron and I, with our friends Sam and Nancy Cockrell aboard, had planned a mini expedition up the Rio Sabana, located in the Darien Province. This region of Panama, to the southeast and bordering Columbia, is known to be the wildest and least explored of the country. Indigenous peoples are still living within the untouched jungle, as they have done for centuries, and over 900 bird species have been recorded there. Seven major rivers, and untold tributaries and estuaries spread out from the Gulf of San Miguel, some 70 miles southeast of Panama City, and offer an opportunity to get off the beaten track. Several days earlier, we had explored the Rio Sucio (Dirty River) and were now in search of a village that was known to produce beautiful native baskets, some commanding pretty impressive prices in the tourist stores in the city. In an artisan’s shop in La Palma, the Darien’s provincial seat, we had been told that the baskets she was selling were from a pueblo called Boca de Lara, or Puerto Lara, so we thought it might be fun to go to the source.
|Isn't the orange part land?!|
Meandering up the river, we spotted crocodiles, Toucans, some sort of Parrot, and heard lots of Howler Monkeys. We really wanted to see a Harpy Eagle, the purported largest of the raptors (up for debate) but as they don’t make any noise when away from the nest, we weren’t hopeful. Although initially quite wide, after 15 miles the river narrowed down to a few boat lengths across, and after passing a few thin spots, we decided to anchor in 8 feet of water (Sundancer draws 5.5 feet).
|Exploring with friends|
|But still no mosquitoes!|
The village was just around the next bend, according to the kids that came out in their cayucas to greet us. Everyone tumbled into their dinghies for the 5 minute journey to Puerto Lara, and the awaiting baskets.
|Is that thing alive?!|
|Hard at work|
|Only Harpy we saw, but it's now onboard|
|Living on the banks of the Rio Sabana|
So….back to my rude behavior. After our successful venture into town, appies and cocktails were offered aboard Sundancer. Things were going swimmingly, until……they weren’t. We needed to raise the waterline, and without horses aboard, people were thrown off.
Apparently, we were actually the boat with the least amount of issues. Two of the others got back home, to discover up to a 30 degree heel. Sailing is FUN!!!
At one point, I saw the depth gauge read -1.1 feet, but I didn’t have the heart to take another picture. It was determined that the next low tide was going to be another foot lower, so we needed to make a break for it, once the tide switched enough for everyone to start floating again. Unfortunately, that meant a midnight-thirty departure. Good thing we dropped breadcrumbs on our way in, as someone had neglected to turn the street lights on.