Weather: Sunny Hot light wind from the SW/
Distance: 6 NM
Dinner: Rice and Beans, chocolate Cake
A fire of smoldering embers glows beneath the starlit sky as small waves break upon the pebble beach I lay on. Awaiting the chocolate cake cooking inside a Dutch oven buried on in the hot coals before me, my heart suddenly stops, I hold my breath. Alison, who is with me. Starts to talk, I stop her with my hand and state, there is a boat approaching the shore. It is dark, the boat has no running lights on it is coming closer, my heart beats faster as I think back to the Park Chef Ranger, Santiago Roja’s, and how he stated that what we wish to do is Peligro (dangerous) due to drug runners from Columbia. Now with a small boat just behind the shore break on this deserted beach of Isla De Coiba, Panama; I am wondering just how dangerous this is.
Our day had started good, a beautiful early wake up to a stunning flat calm see gently lapping on the shore near our tent. Allie had to paddle back to the ANAM station (30 mins away) to get her pack towel she left there yesterday when we left. On her return we ate breakfast, then headed on our merry way with the first full day beginning our circumnavigation of Coiba island. Still not entirely sure we had permission or not, but Allie had come back and they had their second chance to stop us, and now were on our way.
The day got hot fast, the water was clear, fish swam below us the color of rainbows while the occasional turtle came to the surface to breath. The folding boats paced along fully laden with 12 days of food and 15 liters of water per boat. It is a joy to be out on the seas independent and free to explore. Finding and river chocked with mangroves we tucked up it for a while to see what we could find; mud flats with crabs busily feeding, tall mangrove roots twisted and black leading to bright green leaves back by towering rainforest. At lunch time we found a shaded sandy beach to hide out the heat of the day under overhanging trees, then again at 3pm we were on our way, counter clockwise around Isla De Coiba.
Afternoon sea breeze was blowing, the seas were a touch choppier, I tried my luck fishing using hermit crabs as bait, got some hits though hooked no fish. Allie was slowing, she is hot, has a sun burnt face and is far from accustomed to the heat of the tropics, finding a good beach we choose to pull in, not sure if pushing on will yield any other options before dark. The coast is far rockier now and the sea becoming more exposed. Coming through small dumping surf onto a black pebble beach, we find a great camp site, with a fresh water creek stocked with large fish. Allie sets up camp I go to work attempting for a fresh fish dinner. Hermit crabs on a hook, I eventually land a small fish, super excited that this one will be the bait for the bigger ones, I am soon really frustrated and disappointed when the big fish swim up to the bait look at it though never take it. Given up before dark I resort to cooking a pot of beans and rice for us. A fresh water wash is a must and after sitting down to our simple yet tasty meal, I then Attempt to bake chocolate cake in our Dutch oven on the fire we had prepped early, lazily in the dying embers we gaze at the stars while the smell of cooking chocolate cake wafts in the air along with the smoke. We began to here a small motor drone away in the distance and after some time we were now faced with some mysterious boat. A bright light comes on and shines onto the beach briefly, it goes out, we hear some talking, the boat turns and the starts to motor slowly. I begin to think logically that “who in their right mind would try and run drugs down the coast in 20 foot boat and 60hp motor?”, from what I know the drug boats are kitted out simply, though are bigger and have real nice fast 250HP motors and by motors I mean there are at least three.
The boat disappears of into the distance and Allie and I both agree that they were probably some Fishing poachers in the Marine park, or they were cops looking for the two crazy gringos paddling the island ( it would be much easier to find us in the day though). They cake turned out well, though a touch burnt, we had our share and went to bed. What adventures will the next day bring??