The jump from Isla Gamez to Golfito is about a hundred miles... too far to make in one day. Friends had told us of a passable overnight anchorage at Punta Balsa, on the east side of the Burica Peninsula, on the very western edge of Panama.
It's 35 miles from Isla Gamez to Punta Balsa, so we left in the early morning, motoring north around Isla Parida. Again, virtually no wind. In heavier conditions, the way north and west around Parida might be risky due to relatively shallow water (15' deep). Some of these areas would break in heavy seas. Even though we've had less than 10 knots for nearly a week now, there is still a 6-8' long Pacific swell.
We have not been 'off soundings' in so long that Dave thought our depth sounder wasn't working. But the area between the islands in the Bay of Chiriqui (where we've been for the last week) and the Burica Peninsula gets very deep--1500 feet deep.
We were only about a mile off the waypoint we'd been given before we finally 'found the bottom' at 500 feet. It still didn't look like we'd find any protection from the considerable swell rolling in. But we kept on going in.
The bottom came up rapidly, but was still at 80 feet a hundred yards from the waypoint. We went in very slowly and finally, we found the little pinnacle... it shallowed up to about 20'. We motored around in a cloverleaf to make sure we had plenty of swinging room (the tidal range is still about 10' here). We finally dropped anchor in about 25' at half tide. The swell had dropped off in the last quarter mile, due to shoals that extend from the point just south of us. We could see heavy breakers
for quite a ways out from shore.
During the night the conditions changed from 'really rolly' to 'not bad', as the current and wind changed. The current runs along the shore and reverses with the tide. For about 6 hours during the night, with no wind, the current held us beam to the swell, and we rolled like heck. But the wind was zero and we knew we were stuck well to the bottom, so it wasn't dangerous, just uncomfortable.
We have only seen one other cruising boat during this whole trip, and only a couple fishing boats. We are in the 'skip zone' for the Panama Pacific net, so we can't hear the friends we just left in Panama.
We are looking forward to getting in to Golfito, where there is a fully protected anchorage, and reportedly a small cruising community.