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Pacific Panama: Update on Anchorages

By SY Kiribati — last modified Feb 17, 2014 02:53 PM
We are an Italian family of 3 including me, my husband and our 22 month old son. We have been travelling around the world with our 50ft sailing boat, KIRIBATI, Italian flagged, since 2003. We'd like to give an update about some Panama anchorages on the Pacific coast, that we left a week ago and we're now in Costa Rica.

Published: 2014-02-17 00:00:00
Countries: Panama

We passed the canal from Colon to Panama city with the help of Tito (ph: 6463-5009), who is not an agent but for a reasonable price (230$, including lines and fenders, the international zarpe and his fee) will arrange the passage. He brought us all the stuff at the anchorage in club nautico in Colon (despite other reports, it now appears to be a safe place, patrolled by an armed guard at the entrance), and he came on the other side at Balboa Yacht club to pick up everything. He’s a nice and trustworthy person, and he knows everything about the canal.

La Playita Anchorage

After the transit of the canal, we stopped at La Playita anchorage, despite some advice not to do so. If you manage to come inside the bay (usually crowded) the anchorage is safe and calm, otherwise you’ll find it uncomfortable and rolly at every hour. The price for the dinghy dock is high: 35$/week (for 3 people) and no exception if you stay less. They only discount a bit if you arrive late in the week. We tried to ask for the price/night in the marina: 150$ for the first night (regardless of your length) and 2.50/ft/night for the following ones. There is a marine chandlery here, but it is expensive: we were looking for few feet of 10’’ chain to lock our dinghy and they asked us for 18$/meter. Just walk till the chandlery at Flamingo marina (along the street on the other side of the bay) and the cost drops to 6$/meter.

Isla Taboga Anchorage

We spent a few days at Isla Taboga, 6 miles south of La Playita. There are moorings for rent on both sides of the long touristic pontoon, and they cost between 8$ and 10$/night, depending on the length of your stay. To have one on the left part, ask for Tino. At low tide and during the week the beach is wide and nice, but at high tide it becomes small and dirty, especially on Saturday and Sunday, when hundreds of local tourists crowd the beach, leaving no place to walk. If you spend a Sunday over there, you will experience one of the most loud and noisy discotheques right on your boat: a dj-session goes on till 5 pm, and we had to scream to be heard onboard! The small village is also nice, very few cars running, a well-maintained church and small shops and bars. So our advice is to plan a stop here - but avoid the weekend!

Ensenada Benao Anchorage

We sailed down the Panama gulf to Punta Mala during the night, and stopped on a windy morning at the anchorage in Ensenada Benao (about 110 nm from Panama city). Even with 30 kn gusts from the north, the anchorage is well protected and comfortable, but this is not a safe stop in southerly winds. The wide and long beach is beautiful but unfortunately not easy to land by dinghy because of the waves. The better place to land with a dinghy is the eastern part of the bay, where the small rock island protects most of the swells. Once there, you can walk along the shore to the wooden bar and restaurant of the resort, a place for surfers. Good food at American-standard prices (13$ for a hamburger, 18$ for a juicy fillet). If you have a claro internet key, it works very well here (not the digicel).

Isla Cebaco Anchorage

Another night (motoring, sadly) and we stopped at Isla Cebaco, 77 nm far from Ensenada Benao. Another beautiful place, a well-protected anchorage with a pristine wide beach (both at low and high tide). As with the above anchorage, this bay is not protected from any kind of Southerly winds. There is a fishing club that owns some moorings: you have to call “Cebaco bay” (the name of the boat that manages the moorings and provides fuel, water and drinks) on ch 06 if you want to rent one. But they cost 2 $/ft/night. They sell beers for 3 $/can and fuel for 6.5 $/gallon. You can drop your anchor anywhere outside the mooring area. It’s just a bit rolly, especially during the night, but still comfortable enough. No phone/internet here. A nice walk in the forest crossing a dry (sometimes not) river will bring you back to the beach on the opposite side.

Isla Parida Anchorage

Our last stop in Panama was Isla Parida, about 82 nm from our previous anchorage. This was the best stop in our hopping along the Pacific Panama coast.

There are many anchorages around the island, but we chose the bay on the SE corner of the island, well protected from the northerlies and absolutely calm because of the Isla Paridita protection from the southerly swell. The beaches surrounding the anchorage are privately owned, and a few indigenous families live there. They are friendly and happy to meet boaters. They also have fresh water pipes, where you can fill up your tank with potable water by bringing some food (chocolate, coffee and sugar are the favorites) in return. Some crocodiles live there and the locals will bring you to the places if you ask. We spent most of the time with one of the families, since they had a gorgeous 3 year old girl who played with our 2 year old son on the beach.

They asked us to take pictures of their family, so we took some of them and other families, but our old printer ran out of ink! So, if you plan to pass through there and are still in Panama city (or have a working printer onboard) please contact us (predeborah@gmail.com) so we can send some pictures which you can print and give to them once there! No phone/internet coverage here, but sure you won’t miss them!

Deborah, Marco and Nicolas
SY Kiribati (Italy)

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