Heavenly Days – Sailing, Diving & Boatloads of Fish
It’s been spectacular, but the time has come to move along. We’ve provisioned up, have our zarpe (that’s boat lingo for departure clearance) and we’re heading out of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. There are 170-nautical miles between us and our next region of Panama. Before we officially say adios Bocas, there are a few tiny islands we need to check out first.
This region of Panama is famous for it’s massive array of coral and underwater life. And wouldn’t you know some of the best dive sites are right along our route!
Whaddya think? After all that, our eyes lite up like Christmas bulbs when we finally got to put out the genoa and kick off the engines. Talk about icing on the cake!
The sailing lifestyle is full of extremes and is certainly not for the faint of heart. Some days it seems nothing goes right, everything is broken, and mother nature is out to destroy us. But…then there are days like these. Heavenly days with calm seas, wind in our sails, epic diving and boatloads of fresh fish. Past woes melt into the horizon with the sun and all we can think about is how incredible life is today.
Here’s the scoop on our two underwater exploration sites for anyone headed this way!
When we sailed over to Salt Creek a few weeks back we thought we were in the National Marine Park, so you can understand our surprise when we first hopped into the water. There was zero visibility and the reefs weren’t too impressive. This time we’re anchored 3 miles southeast in Cayos Zapatilla and we’re welcomed with clear water, soft sand beaches and what appears to be an extremely healthy underwater world. The islands are uninhabited, the waters are protected, there’s no fishing or spearing and we didn’t see any trash. This is definitely our kinda place.
We found the elk horn coral and lots of sea-life mid-way between the two Zapitilla cays (Zap 1 and Zap 2 as the locals say). For the awesome swim through caves we dropped the anchor on a patch of sand off the east side of Zap 2 and we swam north past the break. What was supposed to be an hour of snorkeling easily turned into five…so much for taking time to lounge on the sandy beach!
We’re still not 100% clear on pricing here, we were charged $10 per person for our one day. We weren’t charged extra for anchoring. When we visited the Zapatilla park office in Bocas Town they said the cost should be $10 per person and $20 for the boat and we could stay for 3-4 days without paying additional. Sadly, we only had time to spend one day here. Our winds and sea-swell were predicted to be extremely light which meant prime conditions for SCUBA diving at our next stop: Tiger Rock.
We read that Tiger Rock is one of the top dives in Panama, but it’s nearly impossible to visit as a tourist. It’s a tiny underwater mountain surrounded by deep ocean, so anchoring is a challenge. If there’s any swell or wind, the sea state can make it impossible for smaller boats to make it out and the visibility drastically goes down. Then, there’s a steady 1-2 knot current that rips past Tiger Rock that could cause a diver to get swept out to sea. But, we did our research and planned our sail to make sure we had the best conditions to dive this rarely-visited gem.
- On the charts we scouted a sub 100’ spot to anchor immediately south of the unnamed island with the tower on it. (We have over 200’ of chain and 200’ of line so anchoring in these depths wouldn’t be a problem for a calm afternoon anchorage.)
- We arrived 1.5 hours before slack-high tide to minimize current flow.
- High tide was close to noon, so the sun would be directly overhead for maximum visibility.
- Winds and swell have been minimal for 48+ hours allowing any floating sediment to fall to the sea floor providing optimal underwater clarity.
What an amazing dive! Considering this is our first big dive from the boat it was a little nerve wrecking. In the end our planning paid off and we were all rewarded with a spectacular 360-degree wall dive and a dinner fit for kings, go team lion fish! This experience reminds us yet again: Don’t let fear hold you back from exploring…if you plan well, anything is possible.
There is an anchorage about 5 miles away in Laguna de Bluefield, and we considered sticking around for another day, but the excitement from this dive had us even more stoked for our next stop: Isla Escudo de Veraguas. Chatter among the local sailors is that its the best kept secret in Panama.
Dale and Justin (aka DJDives on Instagram and YouTube) are our first Patreon’s aboard and now we’ve welcomed Dan! We offer up crew opportunities to our Patreons as a way to say thanks for their support, and allow others to experience this unique traveling lifestyle with us for a short stint.
To see our full map with interactive pins, click here: gonewiththewynns.com/map
- Dates: 9/23 – 9/25
- Nautical Miles Sailed: 48 nm (16.2 nm to Zapatilla, 8.1 to Tiger Rock, 24.1 to Escudo)
- Anchorage: Zapatilla was an excellent anchorage, sandy bottom and well protected. There was a $10 per person park fee.
- Cell & WiFi: There is no cell phone reception and no services as its an uninhabited island. We used our Iridium Go for weather updates and communication: bit.ly/PredictWindIridium
Wondering what ____ was in the video? We’ve listed most everything below but if we missed a gadget, piece of gear or tidbit of information you wanted to know about let us know. Drop us a note in the comment box below!
Our Pre and Post Sail Checklist – gonewiththewynns.com/curiosity-pre-post-sailing-checklist
Sailing Orientation – Stay tuned for a post on this subject.
Sailing Specific Gear
- Quatix 5 Watches (super smart watches that also connect to our auto pilot and boat data while underway): https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/quatix-5-marine-watch
- Chartplotter: Garmin 7612xsv Multi-touch
- iPad Mount at Helm: http://amzn.to/2fT84PG
- iPad Pro http://amzn.to/2d9Oopf Sailing Apps Used:
- iNavx (Chart app we were using to help find the dive site): http://bit.ly/2vGgC51
- Garmin Bluecharts with Active Captain: http://bit.ly/2tgnRmA
- Iridium Go and Predict Wind for weather and communications: bit.ly/PredictWindIridium
- Portable Floating VHF w/GPS: http://amzn.to/2hwEoK7
- Mantus Anchor: http://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/mantus-anchor
- Sony RX with Underwater Housing: http://amzn.to/2xG43rn
- Sony Action Cam: gonewiththewynns.com/product/sony-as300
- Go Pro 5: amzn.to/2unZpQp
- Underwater Filters: http://bit.ly/sandmarc-dive
- Monopod/selfie stick/Floater: http://bit.ly/sandmarc-gopro
- Underwater Lights & Grips: http://bit.ly/big-blue-lights
- Aqua Lung Dive Computer/Regulator Set: http://amzn.to/2eUaBKM
- Hammerhead Free-Dive Mask With Camera Mount http://amzn.to/2d5C6SB
- Hammerhead Free-Dive J Snorkel: http://amzn.to/2cjh3dV
- Nikki’s Sporasub Freediving Fins: http://amzn.to/2kIYmlf
- Aqua Lung Dive Computer/Regulator Set: http://amzn.to/2eUaBKM
- Atomic Mask: http://amzn.to/2uuqsZf
- Omer Snorkel: http://amzn.to/2uxCjEb
- Omer Freediving Fins: http://amzn.to/2kIhljK
- Hawaiian Sling Spear: http://amzn.to/2hIBfHb
- Cut Resistant Gloves: http://amzn.to/2uxZWfM
- Fishing Reel (our rod isn’t online): http://amzn.to/2v8bQPu
- Induction Plate for Cooking: gonewiththewynns.com/product/induction-burner
- Pressure Cooker: http://amzn.to/2B5MchZ
- Tortilla Press: http://amzn.to/2uUpnux
Cameras Used to Capture This Video
Full Review Of All Our Camera Gear: gonewiththewynns.com/camera-gear-review-2017
- Sony A7ii: com/product/sony-a7ii
- Rode Mic: https://bhpho.to/2hUNFA8
- Sony 24 – 70mm f4 lens: com/product/sony-24-70
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