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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Upriver to Puerto Mutis

July 27, 2014

We left Isla Gobernadora at about 9:30 am as we wanted to head up the San Pedro river on a rising tide.  We were headed for Puerto Mutis to do the official check in paperwork for Panama.  We’ve heard that it will save us hundreds of dollars to check in here rather than in Panama City as we had originally planned.  But the river is shallow in places, so you don’t want to do it on a low tide.  But at the same time you don’t want to do it right at high tide because if you do get stuck, you don’t want to be high and dry as the tide goes out either.  A rising tide is best to ensure that if you get stuck, you can wait for the tide to come in and get yourself unstuck.  This turned out to be a good move.  For one thing the charts weren’t particularly accurate on where the river bed lay.  So in places the charts told us we should have been in 10 foot water (under our 6 foot keel) and we were seeing only a single foot.  Wanuskewin was following us because their keel is a foot deeper than ours, and they actually felt themselves hit bottom and drag through the mud a bit in one spot.  When it gets that shallow, you go super slow, so if you do hit the mud you won’t damage the boat, and you won’t get dug in too deep so you can reverse off.  Outside of the rapids in Canada, Dave says was one of the trickiest helmsman exercises he’s ever done.  In large part because he couldn’t let the autopilot steer us up the river and had to hand steer for much of the way.

When we arrived, we discovered that anchoring was going to be tricky too because of the shallow water.  The tide here moves up and down 9 foot, and the river current switches directions when the tide goes in and out.  So you are going to swing full circle twice a day around your anchor.  So you have to make sure that the entire anchoring area is sufficiently deep.  We anchored in 11 feet of water at high tide, which would have given us 2 foot below the keel at low tide, but after we let the anchor chain out we were sitting in 6 feet of water, which would have put us lying on our side at low tide.  So we had to pull up the anchor and try again.  In the end, at low tide at 11pm we were in 2 feet of water.  Wanuskewin actually touched bottom a bit at low tide, but they were fine.  This whole exercise was weird for us because normally we anchor in 30 feet of water and the whole idea that a foot or two matters is sort of scary.

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