Fish and Bananas
September 15, 2017
We ended up staying at Isla Contadora a lot longer than we originally anticipated. We left Panama City with a decent amount of provisions and a couple hundred dollars in cash thinking that we would go out to the Perlas Islands for a week or so and then return to Panama City (only a day sail away) to replenish. But, we liked Isla Contadora so much that we ended up staying for over three weeks!
The little island has some beautiful homes that are weekend/vacation houses for the wealthy in Panama City, but during the week the island is pretty sleepy. Some of the workers take pangas over from Isla Saboga next door to work in the few shops on the island. On the weekends, sportfishers and power yachts come in from the city, and private planes land at the small airstrip on the island to bring in the weekend crowds (which is really not that crowded.)
The anchorage on the north side of Isla Contadora is in a bay surrounded by Islas Saboga, Pacheca, Bartolome and several other small islands making it a pretty protected anchorage. As all of the islands are pretty close together, it gave us lots of places to go exploring in the dinghy. The island was also pretty convenient with a couple of stores that had basic provisions such as rice, butter, eggs and the occasional fruits and veggies brought in about once a week. There was also a gas pump at one of the stores where we could replenish the gas for our dinghy and the generator we use to run the watermaker.
The provisions at the stores were quite a bit more expensive than in Panama City, but that makes sense considering that they have to ferry them in. Gas was $6/gallon, more than twice what we paid in the city. As there are no banks or credit card machines on the island, we burned through our cash pretty quickly.
Even though we ran out of cash, we just weren’t ready to head back to the city yet and still had more islands to explore in the Perlas. We have lots of dried and canned goods on the boat as well as some frozen meat in the freezer. So, we figured we could make do for a while before we have to leave the islands and head back to Panama City to load up the boat for the trip to Ecuador.
One reason we thought we could keep going without heading back to provision was all of the fresh fish that we have been catching. Trolling through the islands we have picked up several really good size sierra (my favorite). And, Mike has gotten really good at spearfishing. He’s been able to pick up lots of really good size snappers, which always make a nice meal.
Mike has been teasing me that I need to try out his speargun and get a fish. But, I just don’t think I have the hunter instinct in me. I LOVE to eat fish, and I don’t mind cooking it at all, but I get a bit squeamish when it comes to killing the fish. Especially the snappers. They have these big eyes that just stare at you when you pull them out of the water. I can’t help but look at them and wonder what they are thinking. Mike usually gives them a “sorry, buddy” and then dispatches them quickly by putting a knife in the top of their head. I usually have to look away. I feel a bit sorry for the fish…until it ends up on my plate.
With no cash left, we weren’t going to be able to buy any fresh fruits and veggies (if we could even find them) to go with our fish. But, another boat told us that they found wild bananas on a little island called Isla Bartolome. Mike really wanted to go find the bananas. So, we took off in the dinghy with a machete and went in search of bananas.
After hacking through quite a bit of vegetation, nearly circling the island, and being careful not to disturb the brown boobies who were sitting on nests on the ground all over the island, Mike finally found some wild banana trees. It’s a good thing he is tall, because he had to jump up with the machete to hack off the bunch of bananas. He was pretty excited about our lovely little bunch.
The bananas were tiny and green. We hung them up in the cockpit wondering and hoping that they would ripen. After a few days the bananas slowly started to turn yellow and we tentatively took a bite. These tiny bananas were so sweet and just perfect! As the bunch started to ripen more, we ended up eating bananas all day long. They were so good that we actually went back and got another bunch.
We’re still in the islands now. We moved down farther south to Isla Pedro Gonzales. We were going to go down to the next island called Isla San Jose. But, we heard from another boat anchored here that the military was doing something down on that island for the next month and they were actually escorted away from the island. So, we think our plan is going to head down around the tip of Isla Del Rey, the biggest island in the Perlas, sometime in the next couple of days. We may not have any cash to continue our island adventure, but we know that we will at least have fish and bananas to eat!