Saturday, May 6, 2017

San Blas Islands, Panama and how we got here

We were sorry to say goodbye to our Cuban harbourmaster Jorge. He’d given us currency, transport and repair advice from the moment we arrived. On the VHF, as he guided us to an anchorage, he said: “Don’t worry, you can ask me anything you like! I’m not single, but I AM available!!!!”

So, from Cuba, head south for 700 nautical miles between Jamaica and Haiti and on across the Caribbean sea, and you’ll find  the beautiful San Blas Islands, politically part of Panama but run as an autonomous region by the independent Kuna people.

The Kuna come out in their dugout canoes to sell you their handcrafted ‘mole’ appliqué designs. We paid their officials a cruising permit fee of USD20 per person and USD20 for the boat. They asked to see a photo of the boat! and took photos of our passports with a cell phone. All very gentle and civilised. (nb no English spoken but they seemed to understand my basic Spanish)

Our passage was very bouncy and uncomfortable for the first 2 days and nights.  The seas east of Jamaica are shallow and confused in places. We had vigorous easterlies for the first two days and nights, with 3 reefs in the main and a handkerchief genoa.

As you can imagine, chaos inside the boat. We all pulled together really well, with watches of two hours on, six hours off. Frequent flying fish, curious birds, and dolphins on day 3. 

The Rumpus arrival tradition continues. Torrential rain greeted us in Porvenir.
This little island has  a short airstrip and a couple of administration buildings with a few national guard cadets, some local women, and if you’re lucky an immigration official. Our first night at anchor we had extremely heavy rain and thunderstorms at 3 am. All hatches closed, all electronic equipment into the oven (does that actually work?) and all manky clothes and towels outside for an extreme rinse. What a great way to get the boat and all our gear clean and fresh again!  Pots, buckets and bowls outside to collect the rain and top up the water tanks.

Thursday (our day 2 in these islands) and we have motored east to explore. There are 352 islands in this group, mostly completely uninhabited. This is tropical island bliss.

Rumpus is anchored in a lagoon among stunning islands, with the sea roaring on the reef. We’ve snorkelled on a beautiful nursery reef, cleaned the Cuban oil stains off the side of the boat and Rupe went exploring. Paddled round the island and soaked up the beauty.

Rupe met the couples on the other two boats in this perfect spot. They’ve  been here for 20 years (!!!!!!!) They rarely move! We bought lettuce, tomatoes and avocados from the local produce boat. Tomorrow, back on track westwards towards Panama where we have to wait for a spot in the queue to transit the canal. The adventures of Rumpus continue.

Sarah conning through the reefs

The Wild Things on Rumpus! 

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