Monday 1st February
I am almost embarrassed to post the pictures of the San Blas, so photogenic were these islands littering this part of thePanamanian coastline, that we couldn’t stop clicking our cameras. The rough sail down was definitely worth every rocky moment. I apologise in advance.
Sitting in the cockpit anchored between two islands at the eastern end of Holandes Cays the views are stunning. Straight out the back is blue, blue sea stretching ten miles to the mountainous mainland shrouded in the haze. To the right is the palm covered island of Acuakargana the shore of which lies behind a long coral reef, the water is extremely clear and warm. We had a great snorkel amongst the pretty coral heads and the shoals of Blue Tang. In contrast was the guy we came across with his loaded spear gun (spear fishing is prohibited in the San Blas) clad in army camouflaged wetsuit with three unlucky reef fish tucked in his belt.
Back in the cockpit to the right is a tiny sand bank just exposed above the waves, that is surrounded by crystal water of multiple shades of the turquoise that I simply love. We seem to have finally arrived.
In front of us is Waisaladupat a slightly larger island again thick with palms and mangroves around its shore. It had an irresistible white coral, sand beach completely surrounding it, so just before dusk we took the dingy ashore and walked its perimeter. The shore was strewn with fallen coconut palms exposing thier amazing root systems, tendrils of which in some cases still clung to the sand in a last ditch attempt not to be washed out to sea. The trunks were often covered with small crabs using them as a bridge above the tide. Otherwise the islands were surprisingly rather devoid of wild life, the sea contained less fish than expected and in the sky there were pelicans, whose fishing antics are always fun to watch, but not a lot of other bird life.
We had spent a night in two other equally beautiful anchorages. On each of the islands we have found huddles of small wooden huts roofed with palm fronds, these belong to the indigenous population the Guna Indians whom despite an airstrip connecting them to the rest of Panama and the continuous stream of yachts, continue to preserve thier culture and traditions. They seem accepting of all the visitors but we did feel a bit strange landing and walking on thier islands rather as if we were traipsing through thier gardens.
We were frequently visited by small groups of Guna that paddled out in sturdy dugout canoes to sell us lobsters. We had only been anchored for about ten minutes before we had a large specimen onboard ready to go on the BBQ, at the back of the boat and very delicious it was too. Other canoes are full of local crafts, including the appliquéd squares of fabric intricatly embroidered called Molas, Sheridan and I spent a very pleasant hour choosing and negotiating a few to buy as souvenirs.
Navigating the shallow archipelago was not as difficult as we had imagined, the passes through the coral were relatively deep and wide and the colour changes indicating the depths of the sea bed and position of the reefs easy to see from the bows of the boat. Looking back at our track on the electronic charts we were glad to have been warned to ‘eyeball’ navigate, it indicated we were anchored on top of the island and we had entered the lagoon by motoring directly across the reef.
We said a sad farewell to the soft white sand and turquoise seas on Sunday, as tomorrow we have our inspection with the officials for the Panama Canal hoping for a transit on Wednesday, a very different but no doubt equally fascinating experience.