We didn’t really know what to expect from a place called “Big Corn Island” — the reactions of folks in Panama to our next planned destination were pretty varied (“where?”, “why??”, “is it safe there?”, and my personal favourite, “good luck!” <– what is that supposed to mean?!?)… but boy oh boy have we been pleasantly surprised 🙂
It was 2 nights to get here, and the second half was pretty rolly… but as soon as we tucked in behind the lee of Big Corn, everything smoothed out and I could see the bottom in 50 FEET of water! Kind of scary actually 😉 But also very cool!
We dropped the anchor in 19′ of water. Within 25 minutes, the Port Captain was zipping out in his panga and doing circles around us. I tried to put out fenders to welcome him aboard (we weren’t really clear on if this was an official port of entry or not — the Raynes guide said it wasn’t, random blog searching said it might be, and the truth is that it is an official port of entry to Nicaragua), but he didn’t want to come aboard — he just wanted us to move in closer to his dock so we would be more protected from swell.
“2 metros! Hay 2 metros de fondo!”, he assured us… but the idea of anchoring in 6′ when we draw 5′ was not so pleasant! We compromised by anchoring in 12′ (sorry dad — I know this breaks the 4-fathom rule but I also didn’t want to fight the Port Captain!!).
This at least meant that Jon got to cross 2 bucket-list items off:
- Jon could see the anchor on the bottom after we’d set it, and
- He swam down and touched the anchor and was very satisfied to see how deeply the Spade had buried itself already 🙂
Does this make us newbs? Maybe — but excited newbs nonetheless!! Anyways, I’m getting distracted. I’m trying to tell you about how wonderful Big Corn Island is 😉
Having assured that we were anchored in a more comfortable place, the Port Captain took us ashore in his genormous panga to do our paperwork. He had already called Immigration, so they were waiting for us in his office, and the Transit Authority, who was also waiting, so we didn’t have to wait for anyone. Not only that, but the friendly man from Immigration personally escorted us to every office we needed to visit, including the bank! Here’s the breakdown of fees we paid:
- $40 USD to the Port Captain for our Entrada
- Equivalent of $25 USD in Cordovas to the Port Authority, paid to the bank
- Equivalent of $42 USD in Cordovas to Immigration
- $25 USD to the Port Captain for our Zarpe
After checking in and connecting with Maureen (my great friend who has awesomely come to sail with us for the next couple weeks!), we found ice cream and groceries and were ready to cab back to the dinghy (which the Port Captain had generously allowed us to tie up at his dock, where his guys were carefully watching both the dinghy and Brio for us). With great luck, we found the taxi man Ricky.
Ricky had one other passenger in his cab, so we started with a detour to the other side of the island. When Ricky found out we hadn’t toured the island, he offered to give us a tour.
“How much would that be?” Maureen asked.
“I don’t rip you off, baby, only $10 and I give you a full tour of da island,” Ricky replied in his smooth rolling Creole.
“Hmm, we want to be back to the boat by dark so we only have an hour,” I piped in.
Without skipping a beat, Ricky shouted “Oh, okay, then I can rush it!”
A full rushed tour of the island for $10? We were in 😛
And true to his word, Ricky gave us the best rushed full tour for $10 I’ve ever had.
And while he drove us around, he kept us entertained. “You know how I look so young? My sweetheart is 19. And our baby is 7 months old. I fired my ex-wife so life here is easy.”
He pointed out the names of different features — the North end of the island, called “Northend”, the little hill we passed, called “Little Hill”, the long beach on the coast, called “Long Beach”, our anchorage on the South West side of the island, called “Southwest Bay”… I might actually be able to remember the names of the landmarks around here!
When he found out that we were on a sailboat, he excitedly exclaimed “oh, the sailboat in the bay! I saw that yesterday. The last sailboat we had was more than a month ago”.
As we explained that we had sails and an engine, his smile really grew. “Oh shit man, you’ve got it made! The freedom of the seas, a map, a GPS, you can go anywhere!”.
I couldn’t agree more, Ricky 🙂
Great blog Leah. Really entertaining! Take care of my sis for me… 🙂 And have a great time!
Thanks Erin — Maureen is the cheeriest crew we could dream of, and so much fun to have onboard!!
Love your blog. We are thinking of visiting the Corn Islands on our sailboat. Do you have any advice or more to say about your visit? Do you have waypoints you could share? Do you recommend any anchorages? Would you stop there again?
Thanks so much for the kind words!! We would definitely stop in the Corn Islands again — it was probably the most “off the beaten path” that we ever felt in the Caribbean. Not that it’s really off the path, but small things like locals telling us we were the 7th boat to visit that year, the port captain personally picking us up and driving us around to check in, etc. My only regret is that we didn’t take the time to visit Little Corn island too! I’m going to email you a few more details so this doesn’t go on forever 🙂
Wow. This is incredibly helpful. We are currently in San Andres island… not far from Big Corn. We want to sail there next but have had a difficult time figuring out if we can enter and do paperwork there without going to another port of entry first. You don’t be chance have the contact information of the port captain there you could pass along? I see your blog was a while ago now and would love to make contact before we arrive to see if anything has changed?
Many thanks in advance.
I don’t have contact info unfortunately, but he came out in a panga even before we’d anchored. His office was right ashore off that little cove (not in town). Hope that helps and would love to hear how you like it a few years later!
Thanks so much. I will let you know!