The islands of Las Perlas were an overnight sail from Panama City, and it was there that we caught up with RAFTKIN and PELIZENO properly, and New Zealand boat DOL' SELENE. Las Perlas are so called after the vast quantities of pearls that Spanish conquistadores Gaspar de Morales and Francisco Pizarro stole from the indigenous King Toe, ultimately toppling (Toe-pulling?!) the regent and enslaving his skilled pearl divers. Queen Mary Tudor of England’s 31 carat “peregrina” pearl, presumably a gift from her erstwhile husband Philip II?, came from these islands. "Peregrina" means pilgrim, and that described us too, on our last stop before nature-worshipping in the Galápagos. We sailed up to the south of Las Cañas, a gem of an island and the safest anchorage in the islands apparently. It was utterly deserted, maybe the fact that it was a weekday helped as apparently the locals like to pop over from the mainland at the weekend.
It was in Las Perlas that Xavier had planned to clean the algae and barnacles off the hull that had accumulated in the Caribbean. As we anchored up, we realised with a lurch that there were a ton of jellyfish bobbing around in brackish water, thick with algae bloom. Great. Xav donned a shortie wetsuit and dived in with a wooden spatula. It was like something from "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here", and came as no surprise to learn from Sarah in Italy that the version of the series over there is filmed on these islands, as is the UK programme "Survivor". Five hours later, with bee-stung lips, and swells over any exposed extremities, Xavier had a pristine hull.
Meanwhile I took the kids into shore on the kayak (Francis and Catherine with me, Isabelle nipping in with RAFTKIN's Hayley and Megan). The water by the shore was clear to swim in, with a fun surf, we even saw a stingray in there having a ball. The beach was a treasure trove of nature, home to a bat cave, hermit crabs, ghekkos and iguanas, and a rock pool that served as our own private thermal spa to relax in. How the other half live, eh Skipper?!
The following day Xav joined us, and the kids held their summer Olympics, racing on the beach, around obstacle courses. While they did so, Xav carved a huge message in the sand, and later got out the drone to reveal the message. Happy Anniversary to Anne and Paul, his aunt and uncle who would be celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary at Easter that weekend all the Van Hees family. Easter is always a big deal in Xavier's family. For over a decade now we have been going to the family reunions once a year that bring together the families of all seven siblings on his mother's side of the family, and last year we hosted the gathering (numbering close to 100 people) in London. We love Anne and Paul dearly, and it was their daughter and son-in-law Marianne and Tom who came out with their, daughters Ella and Aline, and sailed with us on LA CIGALE from Portugal to Las Palmas in Gran Canaria last year, setting us up for the Atlantic crossing. We would really miss them all at Easter this year, but thanks to the joys of technology at least were able to let them know we were thinking of them and share some pearls from our journey.