Panama, Day 2

Today was a day of many experiences, starting with our first boat dive of this trip. We loaded up our gear at 8:30 and jetted out to Drake’s Island, named after the infamous pirate Sir Francis Drake who rumors say was buried in a lead coffin not far away. We were uncertain what the visibility would be like, after having to deal with some silt on the previous night’s dive, but broke out a in relieved smiles when we moored in 35′ of water and could see quite clearly down to the sea bottom, and grinned even more when we jumped into the perfect, 83F water. Our first dive took us around a large circular reef, where I saw the biggest spiny lobster of my life (I swear his antennae measure a good foot long, alone!) as well as a mating pair of french angelfish and a juvenile spotted drum. After lunch (and the first of what promises to be many warm tropical downpours,) we headed back to the other side of Drake’s Island for a wall dive. Drifting along in a pleasant little current, we spotted a moray eel, more octopus gardens (but alas, no cephalopods yet,) and more exquisite specimens of coral; it’s quite remarkable how, for a coast with a significantly silty seabed, the coral just flourishes around here–not quite as abundantly as some pacific locations I’ve been too, but in size, some of the individual organisms give Hawaiian coral a good run for its money. The reefs here are definitely about quality, not quanity, and it’s been a pleasure so far to dive them.
But not all of our Panama trip is about diving! After our second dive, we hopped in a van and heading into the historic town of Portobelo, where we explored a 19th-century spanish fort, built out of local coral, as well as a local church that houses a giant carved statue of Jesus know as the “Black Christ” (for the dark wood used in the scuplture) that is annually paraded around town, carried on a platform supported by 80 men! Always eager for “authentic experiences,” we sampled the local soft drink of choice, which was (quite accurately) described as “moxie, but slightly more palatable”…definitely an aquired taste, that one. Upon returning to Octopus Garden, I attempted to maintain my run of victories at the pool table, only to be dethroned by none other that Terrence himself (don’t believe for a minute his claims of being “inexperienced” at pool.) Oh well, tomorrow holds the promise of a 18th century wreck dive, more excellent cuisine, and (hopefully) a shot at redemption at 9-ball.