After waiting out the affects of Hurricane Otto, we left Santa Marta, Colombia, for the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama. We heard a lot of good things about the San Blas and really looked forward to seeing them. Unfortunately, our first impression was not a favorable one. Friends and the Guna (pronounced Koona) people helped to change our opinion, though.
Sailing away from Santa Marta, Colombia, we put up the gennaker and enjoyed the calm while it lasted — which wasn’t long. Hurricane Otto really stirred things up and it isn’t known to be the calmest passage anyway. After figuring out our gennaker and getting it all furled up nicely in the ABCs, we waited too long to furl it in this time. At 17 knots of wind, it was too much to furl the huge sail, so we had to drop the halyard and pull it down. Now it is all a mess again and we have to wait for very light wind to raise it and furl it again. Ugh!
Occasionally we have hitchhikers come aboard while we are sailing. Birds are common and, during migration times, we are visited by colorful warblers. We did have a warbler briefly come aboard but I didn’t get a picture of it. This dragonfly made the entire journey from Colombia to Panama.
Dolphins played at our bow for at least 15 minutes on our way to the San Blas Islands. They are always so much fun to watch. I need to figure out how to film them from under the water while we’re under way. I tried with the GoPro, but the pressure of the water just pushed the camera all around. Hmmm….
We crossed to San Blas with Steve on Slow Flight. You can’t tell in these pictures, but as we neared the San Blas we were accosted by huge logs and trees in the water. There was so much debris that it felt like an obstacle course. We arrived in the early morning during a nasty storm. Fierce rain and lightning punished the islands as we watched from the outside. We were in no hurry to proceed into that mess and waited a couple hours for the storm to pass by.
Once behind the protecting reef that calmed the water around the islands, we saw garbage and debris everywhere. The water was disgusting. This wasn’t what we heard about the San Blas. This was not water I wanted to swim in. I’d dive in and come up with plastic wrappers in my hair and would have to push bottles and filth out of my way to swim back to the boat. No thanks! The anchorages were full of boats and the water was too deep to comfortably anchor in. It took hours before we finally settled somewhere and we were already looking forward to leaving.
But we met up with Jason and Brita from Blue Moon and we decided to stay. Besides, our son was coming to visit for the holidays, so we really couldn’t leave. Maybe the trash and debris was a result from Otto? Maybe it would wash out soon? But it was at least two weeks since Otto had passed. Did another storm wash it all out to the islands? I mean, it was so bad that I dubbed them the “San Trash Islands.”
Determined not to dwell on it any further, we looked around at the islands. These were the picturesque tropical islands we expected to see throughout the Caribbean. Most of the Caribbean was desert until we reached the Windward Islands, which became more green and rainforest-like. But these were the white sand beach and palm tree islands epitomized in the movies and on postcards.
We had a rough night. Dave and I always set our anchor — hard! Therefore, when we woke up the next morning and Blue Moon was no longer next to us, we wondered why they moved. Then we noticed Slow Flight was now next to us. What the heck? We looked around and found that we had dragged a long way before rehooking near Steve. Wow! How lucky that we didn’t hit anything or go aground! We found another spot to anchor and, again, set the hook hard. Dave dove on it and looked good, but now we were nervous. So I kept an eye on things while the guys all gathered on Slow Flight for their traditional morning coffee. The guys need their guy time.
Anchored closer to an island now, I could see just how beautiful the islands are. But the water was still trashy, so I still did not want to swim.
Our friends, Wade and Hodges on Coco de Mer, were at Banedup, so we all moved over there to visit with them. This area had less garbage in the water than the “Swimming Pool” area, but still had a lot of debris and large logs. Panama must have been hit hard to lose so many trees! We loved this spot. This restaurant made for a great hang out.
It was made of all wood that must have been placed by hand. Just gorgeous!
And the locals were very friendly. Jason was smothered with some over zealous puppy love. The restaurant owner spoke gently in Spanish with me, easing me into practicing the language I’ve become so rusty at speaking.
We drink whatever the local beer is. Here the beer was Balboa, a Panamanian beer.
We had such a good time, that we stayed until after sunset. I’m so glad we did. This shot of the sunset over the island and anchorage with the full moon out is probably one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken — and I took it with my iPhone! Click on it to expand it. What do you think, worthy of printing on canvas? I am considering it.
We returned to our boat to find a trawler nearly anchored on top of us. All night long they left on their super bright under water lights and a deck light, all of which shined right into our boat. I don’t understand it, but at least they moved further away the next day.
This is a view of the restaurant we were at. The guys took the dinghy over to see if they could score some lobster for Dave’s birthday dinner.
We caught a dorado on the way to the San Blas, which we tossed in the freezer whole. So Dave cleaned the fish and four good sized lobsters.
We also had some tuna, which Steve made into sushi rolls. We dined in style with good friends for a great birthday celebration for Dave. Next up, we get to know some of the local artisans and see their amazing crafts.