The cruising adventures of Sid and Manuela

Sunday, December 09, 2018


ISLA CONTADORA, July 3rd to October.... 2018

This baby was born last year in Contadora

Isla Contadora is one of the many islands of the archipelago of the Perlas Islands in Panama. Contadora was said to be used by the Spanish conquistadors, hence the name, as a stop for taking inventory of booty prior to returning to Spain. It’s mainly a tourist island now with small hotels and BB’s while the workers live on the adjacent Saboga Island with a population of 253. Small Island, when you leave your house in your car or golf cart you can pretty much drive around the island in 5 mintues.

Las Perlas are also famous for the beautiful pearls that were found here but that is all gone.
It’s the cutest island and so clean they pick up trash every morning at 9. A few parrots can be heard early morning and before sundown, deer roam the whole island and the nieques also called agouti are a nuisance. Werner had asked us to bring a BB-gun as they eat his spinach. Sid’s been having fun shooting them in the butt. No worries it does not injure them just gives them a butt burn. They are amazing and still come in, outsmarting Sid, now he gets more and more challenged and more frustrated with them. After all they are steeling the mangoes. I am having a blast watching him chasing and stocking them.
Werner practicing with his new toy
Funny, Giny hated to leave as she was going to miss the mangoes, they are late this year. I don’t know what she did to them but they could not wait for her to leave when they started dropping, I don’t even think they were on the Ferry, Panama City bound yet LOL. Ever since they left Sid picked up 2 to 3 dozen per day for over one months. Freezer is full and mangos are coming out of our ears. Made a Mango Mousse, delish, Mango Pie, Mango Chutney and lots of yummy Mango Margaritas yum (my favorite).

I was taking care of 3 beautiful cats, Elisabeth, Browny and Kitty are the house cats. Kitty is shy and only Giny is allowed to pet here, she wished me luck to be able to pet her at all, she bet that the Agouti’s will sit in my lap before I can pet her. Second day in the house Kitty was all mine. Browny is the independent one and is good in training us to open and close the front and back door for him, rarely does he walk around the house to get back in and what a schmoozer he is. But Elisabeth OMG his blue and little cross-eyed eyes make you melt when he looks at you. Yes it’s a he not a she. When Browny and Kitty arrived as kittens (they are all stray cats) he took them in like he is the mother and earned his name. He is still their mama and he loves to cuddle at any time of the day and can’t get enough. This morning he pat my face with his paw and every time I took my hand away he would grab it, like dogs do. Too cute. There is 2 more cats I have to feed. Some neighbors down the road, had a medical emergency and are since over 3 years in the US to get well and Giny feeds the poor lonely cats, now my job. To which I have to add, the first time Giny took me there the cats were skittish and shy of me so I stepped back so they were less threatened at the same time I backed up in a thick golden orb spider web and screamed of the top of my lung, all I saw was the cats 1 foot up in the air their legs spinning like a cartoon and gone they were. Although Giny didn’t jump one foot high but I got her attention as well while I am running around like nuts getting the web off of me, yikes. I hate spiders, rather have snakes. Needless to say the cats in the week I fed them with Giny didn’t want anything to do with me, now that I have been feeding them while she is gone they can’t wait till I come to feed them. 
A great hunter

Rare moment

Kitty with Mama Elisabeth. 

Always together day and night except when he needs some cuddle time

But dose come and get his cuddle time in with me

He has the funniest poses

My love Browny, spends a lot of time following me 

Slowly we melted into the CLOD life (Cruiser’s Living On Dirt). Funny before Werner left, he and Sid watched a cooking show on TV. So the second evening in the house alone Sid said he was going to cook dinner, wow, I almost fell of the chair and OMG the dinner was sooooooo yummy. 


Yummy, I think I want a TV on the boat!!!!

We also are getting to know Giny and Werner’s friends. Ilene and Adrienne. Both are in the tourism business. Ilene asked me if I would be her snorkel buddy as she mostly has to go alone. We had so much fun and I found several things for her like turtles, white tip shark under a coral, a big clam the size of my hand (man did it make a great appetizer for Sid and I, lots of meat in it), she offered me to do snorkel trips for her for the Spanish speaking folks as her Spanish is very poor. 

Then she invited me to go along a whale watching tour to help her translate and told me right off the bat that from now on when she has Spanish speaking tourists she will let me do the whale watching tour. I had no idea what to expect but I am still in ahhhh and ohhhh over what I experience that day.

Bartholome island, with a beautiful beach but only at low tide, beach disappears at high tide

Contadora in background

If you look close you can see a whale wash

Blue footed boobies
2 whales

2 weeks into our house sitting Jim and Melania came for a weekend.

It was funny day one at 4 we took them to the beautiful beach and had just enough time to pose for a photo when it started to rain and lightning bolts hit close by. 

Rain coming

So we did another attempt for the beach the following day, this time we were able to enjoy the water as well. There was a minute shore break but was too rough for Melania with her bad knee so she elegantly walked on all four out of the water onto the beach LOL.

We had a wonderful time with them but time went to fast and before we knew it the weekend was over and they were back on the ferry returning to Panama City. I think they enjoyed it as well. 

South side of Contadora from runway

Playa Larga, the biggest beach on the island

Not safe to anchor especially in an Easterly

Souvenir store next to Icea  Cream/Coffee Shop next to Dive/Fishing Shop

I have to add when we were in Contadora on our boat before we knew we were house sitting so we made plans for them to come over stay in a hotel and Melania wanted to know what the better way was to get here Ferry or Plane. She is deadly afraid of Ferry rides so told her the ferry is definitely more economical and did send her a photo of a plane that just flew in. they are small plains so I sent her the following 2 photos.

After seeing photo 2 she wrote: OMG did the passengers survive. I laughed so hard and wrote her back that it was not a crash but that is where the runway is. They decided to come by Ferry LOL
A couple months later one passenger plane managed to run off the runway

Luckily the brand new truck was in the way to stop the plane to run off the road down to the beach

Originally the plan was for Jim, Melania and Ida with sister to come, Anita joined the group, but it fell through. Anita made it 2 weeks after Melania’s visit, she came for a few days but ended up staying 11 days.  

Before Anita arrived I told Adrienne that she was a teacher at the Canal Zone and since Adrienne has been here over 20 years she said, I bet we have a lot of friends in common. She came to the airport to greet Anita. Of course I invited Adrienne for dinner and these two girls  had a blast and sure enough they know all the same people. Small world. 

The next afternoon we met Adrienne for a swim, cocktail, bubbly time on the beach.

Happens that one of Adrienne's friend showed up on his fishing boat and so she came by the house at 6:30 we needed to go with her to meet her friends for a sunset cruise on his boat. The surprise was that Tim and his buddy both were ex-students of Anita. 

Look at the grouper Tim caught, we got a huge chunk out of it

Great reunion

Ilene needed to check out the jungle trail on Saboga Island for the cruise ship that are coming in December until March so we combined a whale watching tour with a tour on Saboga island and jungle trail.

Saboga is quite a bit bigger than Contadora and has a fairly big size village, 2 bars (lacking on Contadora), a church and several stores but they didn’t look any better than on Contadora. The jungle walk, well, from all the jungle walks we have under our belt from a 1 to 10, it’s about a 1. Not much to see, definitely no jungle just a normal forest, but the beach at trails end is amazing. 

Saboga Island

Steep steps up to the village

We made it

Spectacular view over to Contadora

Interesting papaya tree, they usually only have 1 trunk

1 of the 2 bars where the ladies are standing

"jungle" trail

Alex our guide

Abandoned properties 

Resort only open from November to April, French owned

Owners have 7 Salty German Shepherds 

another beautiful Saboga Beach

Back at Executiva our swim beach

Whatever you do don’t want to get the flu, we did and we both were sick for 2 weeks and a persistent cough lingered after week 4. I was getting better but Sid was not. So took him to the small clinic here. La Doctora did tell us it takes more than 4 weeks to get read of cough. She did ask if he had a fever, he answered on and off but without a thermometer it’s hard to tell. So she checked it for him but also listened to his lungs and said that he needed to go on Antibiotics his lungs were full of mucus.

Nasty stuff I tell you and it does not help both being sick. Seemed like everybody on the island got it and the maid Marta’s mom ended in hospital in Panama City for 4 weeks with a bad pneumonia. Marta said the hospitals in Panama City were full with flu patient. Just 3 days before we got the flu they offered free flu shots here, we declined, probably a good thing as it takes 2 weeks to work, could have made it worse. 

I suggest to Giny while in the States to get the flu shot, as everybody here is sick. So they did, good thing, that’s when I found out it takes 2 weeks for the shot to work, so they extended their stay for another 2 weeks. 

In the mean time we have been on this incredible island for over 3 months and still absolutely love it. The house is cozy and feels like home. The view from the patio shows part of the ocean through the trees and a couple times I got lucky to see whales swim close to the beach. I thoroughly enjoyed watching 3 deer walk below the patio within 5 minutes of each other. The first female saw me and took off but stopped further down so I watched it eat. The second female saw me as well but didn’t shy away. The buck OMG he was awesome I could here him talk to the females and never saw me until he was in the field when he did he had big eyes.

One morning after leaving the bedroom this horrible odor had taken over the house. First I thought it was the propane leaking but stove was turned off. Sid made some coffee while I fed the cats and as I walked to the TV room to watch news while I enjoy the coffee I asked Sid if he smells what I smell. His smeller is not working at all so he said no but pointed at the box on the inside of the patio door and said, did you put that there? I spend all afternoon and evening catching up on the computer so never entered the TV room. Sid said it had been there since after he got up after his nap in afternoon. He is still recuperating from the flue. Okis, I opened the blue Clorox box and instead of 2 clorox bottles there was a black garbage bag in it. First of all when I opened box, dozens of flies escaped and the odor intensified yuck. When I opened the bag I saw a fish eye popped out from its socket staring at me. I brought the box right away outside to the far end of the patio where vulture were already waiting, must have smelled it all night long. I pulled the fish out and tossed it to the birds. All it was was a 3 foot carcass of a nice size grouper head attached. Guess someone wanted me to make some fish stock. The living room floor had a sticky blood puddle stinking to high heaven. It took a while to get the smell out of the house but nothing boiling vinegar can’t do. Now the question who brought me this present. Adrienne and Ilene both said OMG as it wasn’t them. I had a hunch that it was Richard a local toothless, local. And yes it was him.  

Adrianne’s 2 brothers and sister in law came for a week and the party started. First day one of her brother’s BD was celebrated on the beach. Ilene had us all over for a bacon wrapped chicken leg BBQ, she had been graving for ever since she saw our photos. Since we had the flue it just never happened, so perfect timing.


Sid teaching Ilene

Plus wings and Terrie's wonderful potato pockets

5 days later on the 6th of October we celebrated Adrienne’s BD. She organized a lancha that took us to Isla Chapira which is the island south of us. We had a great time swimming in the crystal clear water, snorkeling. One of her friends brought a jet ski that can do 80 miles an hour. All the girls got a ride with him, that was sooooo much fun. The boys set up a BBQ pit and all day something else was put on the grill, from fish to sausages to fillet to pork ribs. It was fun.

Boys are working on the fire pit

Mogo Mogo Island on other side

The Birthday Girls


Her 2 brothers and sister in law, fun group

 The party didn’t end there, Jessy the guy with the jet ski, him and his girlfriend are house sitting a mansion so we had Jacuzzi time by sunset overlooking the beautiful beach, Saboga island and I couldn’t believe we could see Taboga island and the Skyline of Panama City, it was that clear of a day.
another incredible house

Since Ginny and Werner extended their US trip another 3 weeks I decided I needed to go to Panama City for a shopping trip. I had provisioned for 2 months but we are starting to run out of a lot of stuff, food, coffee, milk and toilet paper and paper towels. Since I just wanted to spend one night in town I decided to take the 9 am flight to Albrook that would give me plenty of time to do all the shopping and return the next morning on the Ferry. Well, we both thought it was a good idea at same time to check on the boat. So I made reservations for 2 nights and rented a car to drive out to San Carlos.

It was a little breezy when the plane took off, it was full too and as I was the first on the little 12 passenger plane I grabbed the last seat on the left, seat wasn’t as comfy looking as the others but you had to squeeze by them plus my seat had lots of leg room. Left the sun was on the right would have been very hot on the no air-conditioned plane. I made a good choice, due to the high winds, the approach to Panama City was perfect for my seat, but see for yourself.
The approach to the Airport was rough and many fearful screams were heard on the plane, I loved it.

By the way with my jubilado discount the flight cost me 59 bucks, not bad, Ferry is 39 one way.


Casco Viejo and Panama Canal

Man made island like in Dubai 

Punta Patilla

Paitilla and Balboa Avenue

Hard Rock Cafe the biggest building

You can see the Panama Canal

I headed straight to Sixt where my car was waiting for me. They have been absolutely the best and as a preferred customer I can keep the car the following day, no time. Perfect I drove straight to San Carlos which is a 2 hour drive. What a beautiful and crystal clear day this was, the scenery was incredible.
Approaching the Vista Mar Marina

There was no wind, the water was as flat as a mirror. There she was and all the dock lines still attached to Paradise although a little worn. All looked good, but found the sunshade pocket for baton torn and baton laying on top of bimini. The AC was on, good sign and when I entered there was no smell inside, the boat was nice and cool and I did not see any mold anywhere. Before I left I placed a bowl with vinegar in each corner of the boat, the vinegar was gone so I refilled it with what I had left. Then when I checked the Fridge as I thought I heard it just turn off. It showed 28.9 hmm ok, but then the 28.9 disappeared and just 3 lines were to be seen, hmmm. I looked at the panels and the meter was going crazy. Turned fridge off then on again and now it showed 3.0 degrees hmmm again. I called Sid and sent him a video on whatsapp. The battery charger was not right either so he told me to turn everything off. Did so the meter came to a rest. Turned fridge and freezer on started going crazy again. Told Sid I hadn’t checked on freezer yet, I will call him back. Went outside to check the freezer and when I opened it this Déjà vu oder hit my nostrils. The freezer gave up the ghost. Luckily there was not much in there but it took me a while to clean it up. Turned freezer off and called Sid. He had me turn everything off again then on, except the freezer. The battery charger reset itself and the fridge had no hickups either. Wow, glad I came all the way out here. After adjusting the dock lines I made my way back to PC before rush hour traffic started. There was no time for shopping as traffic can get very heavy so just drove to hotel settled in and went across to the hair salon a friend had recommended (I canceled my appointment at my place was more convenient across the street), man what a butcher job, I almost cried, worst haircut ever, had to go back to him following morning to straighten it out and bought myself scissors and fixed or tried to fix rest.  I stayed at the Principe Hotel which has a sushi restaurant, best sushi in Panama. The special of the day was a pitcher of Mojito for $10, wow, love Mojito and ordered one. If I drink that pitcher alone I am going to be in trouble. After my second one I realized my neighbors were just done with their pitcher so I offered the girls some of mine, sigh saved LOL.

and look at their Margaritas 

I had a full day of shopping the following day and brought the car back by 3. Was going to go to the Albrook Mall but was too exhausted so packed all the goodies up then headed to the Vietnamese Restaurant next door and spoiled myself to a nice dinner and went to bed.

Had to get up early for the 7.30 Ferry back to Contadora.

Vietnamese Beef Soup, incredible flavor

Mustard greens with Mushroom, out of this world
 Yes I know shopping is a tough business, I am sure Sid is very happy not having to go into town LOL.
Ming Xao, was good but had better
A Lufthansa Stewardess sat next to me and was chatting excitedly with me that she was going to Contadora. As we left she said she was hoping not to get seasick. Well she did. I happened to have s ziplock in my bag and squeezed it into her hand as she was fighting her stomach. I have never seen smile bigger than this on a seasick person. She eventually used it and off the boat she thanked me a thousand time, poor girls. It was a rough trip to Contadora. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our CLOD life on Isla Contadora and I think one of the reasons subconsciously is. no matter where  you go in Panama, the streets are littered, when you drive behind a car or bus trash is being thrown out of the windows, even dirty diapers, yes we know they are disposable but not through the car window. The beaches are littered with plastic and Styrofoam, the roads are in bad shape. Coming to Contadora is like going to Switzerland where  you never see trash on the ground. Every house and every corner you find a trash can here in Contadora and every day the trash truck stops at every can and empties it, there is no bad trash smell nor any road littered with just the tiniest thing. The houses are beautiful like you walk through Bellaire and the beaches are clean, thanks to Adrienne walking the beaches every morning picking up trash. After 20 years traveling in third world countries this is the first place it feels like being back in civilization. Contadora’s houses also belong to the wealthiest of Panamanians and they do make sure it stays clean.

Ginny and Werner finally came back and we had a fun 4 days with them before we returned to Paradise in San Carlos.

It’s been way over a months again on the boat with lots of projects and bustling to head back to Isla Contadora. It was a fun time in the marina but you will have to wait for this story in the next Blog.


Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We will see you the next year with our new post. Cheers!