Advice for recreational boaters for Panama’s Pacific coast

Guests of GEM Charters enjoy anchoring off Isla Bartolome at low tide. The same anchorage at high tide can be hazardous

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On-the-Water by Ilene Little

Safe boating in the dry season

Guests of GEM Charters enjoy anchoring off Isla Bartolome at low tide. The same anchorage at high tide can be hazardous

Guests of GEM Charters enjoy anchoring off Isla Bartolome at low tide. The same anchorage at high tide can be hazardous.

I asked three professional captain and guide sources to share information that might be helpful to recreational boaters new to boating on Panama’s Pacific coast in the dry season. Each agreed that the predominantly north winds play a major role in calculating boating risks.

Report on Las Perlas

Said Captain Miguel Botero of GEM Fishing Charters, “During the dry season we have the North Trade Winds accompanied by choppy wave action coming from the north. All beaches and islands facing north will have turbulent anchorages and the wave action on the shore will make the water murky,” he said, “so in the dry season anchor, on the south side of islands, and in the rainy season anchor on the north side.”

He also stressed the importance of not assuming that a safe and comfortable anchorage at low tide is also safe at high tide. For example, Isla Bartolome is considered one of the prettiest islands of the Las Perlas Archipelago and is visited all times of the year. Bartolome has two long reefs on either side that act as a breakwater for swells and currents at low tide.

“At high tide, most of the reef is under water,” said Botero, “so you are fully exposed to tidal swells that weren’t there at low tide. It won’t be comfortable to have a BBQ on the boat, and it’s unsafe for people swimming to shore.”

Report on Gulf of Chiriqui

Captain Kerry Leggett of Come Fish Panama warned about the danger of converging wind direction and current this time of year in the water of the Gulf of Chiriqui.

“If the wind picks up and you have the wind coming out of the north and the current coming out of the west, you’re in big trouble. A lot of boaters head to some of the islands here, and they get hammered away – they don’t realize how big the swells can get.”

He explained: “Do your homework on the weather and sea conditions. If you see the wind picking up and you’re out at Isla Secas, start heading home no later than 2 p.m. If not, you could get caught with a huge forward facing swell which would force you to head toward the south of Isla Paridas then come around to get back to Boca Chica.”

Report on Piña Bay

Tropic Star Lodge also reports that rough water is typical of the dry season. Fishing Guide Adrienne Reeve said, “As you get offshore you start seeing the 4ft, 6ft, sometimes 8ft peaks. That’s all as a result of the northerly winds we get this time of year. The fishing is more than good -It’s great, but be safe, plan for the wind and the tides, and don’t drink and drive.”

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One Comment;

  1. Panama Yacht and Fishing Charters said:

    Good advice. Swimmers and boaters need to take extra care on all of the Pacific coast during Panamá summer as the wind is off-shore all day, and gets pretty strong in the late morning until late afternoon.

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