The best part of San Blas is the beaches, the Kuna’s ( the local natives), the crystal clear water, the people we meet, snorkeling, lobsters, fishing, sailing, etc. Ok, so that’s most of it…. The NOT so good part is the lack of cell service and connection good enough to post on the blog!
Apologies to everyone who has been following us for our adventure, but the service is soooooo slow, that we couldn’t get a post complete.
So just to catch up:
Jim and Blieu were with us for almost 6 weeks. We enjoyed their company very much, but they had to get back to Missouri in August to continue their work. They own a company called Tan Through Swimsuit
I wear their suits everyday, I love how they dry quickly and allow the fabric to not leave tan lines. They make both mens and ladies stuff and I highly recommend taking a look. So it was an early morning departure from Portobello for Jim and Blieu. We look forward to sailing with them again as we enjoyed many lobster dinners, jungle walks, and donuts ( Blieu’s favorite part of the day) with the two of them and their wonderful sense of humor.
Darren and I stayed in Portobello for a few weeks while doing some repairs and maintenence, and trying to catch up on some chores and “real” work.
Portobello is a history rich town. Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502, during his fourth voyage. It was chosen as the Caribbean transshipment center because of its magnificent harbor and convenient location.
It became one of the most important sites for transferring South and Central American riches. From this port, tons of gold and silver flowed to the commercial capital of the Spanish empire, Seville. Ruins of the solid fortification can still be seen today.
The wealth of Portobello was a strong temptation for pirates like Henry Morgan, and is known to be the resting place of Sir Francis Drake.
Many cruisers use Portobello as a place to anchor and reprovision. It’s simple to go to the closest town of Sabinitas on the bus, a $1.25- 1.5 hour journey. Portobellos wide open anchorage and close vicinity to Colon and its amenities make it a safe place to stay. Colon is one of the most dangerous cities in the Americas, and staying as far away form there as possible is desirable by many cruisers. The colorful busses with their chrome hubs and often pimped out stacks and other accessories, and their LOUD LOUD music make each bus unique.
There are often gatherings and functions on shore at a small cruiser friendly “hangout” called Casa Vela, run by Ray and Brigitta, former cruisers. One day we were treated to a fish smoking lesson by our friends Stuart and Stephanie, of Matador. Stuart makes fantastic smoked fish!
The Church of San Felipe is in Portobello as well. The Church is home to the Black Christ of Portobello, a wooden statue of of Jesus of Nazareth. The statue has become Holy and worshipped because of the miracles they attribute to it. Every October 21, the festival of the Black Christ of Portobello is celebrated with people walking from as far as Costa Rica to be part of the celebrations.
We had visitors in September from Canada and England. Kelly’s sister Rhonda joined us from Canada for 3 weeks, and Deb and John, who are Darren’s sister and husband from England joined us for two weeks.
None of them had spent much time aboard a boat before, let alone a sailing boat. So before they left their respective countries and as guests usually are, they were loaded up with lists of things to bring us. Spare parts, parts that had broken, goodies, and licorice!!!
They arrived to Portobello after being picked up by an arranged taxi driver and arrived in the late evening.
We spent a couple of nights in Portobelo and introduced Rhonda, John and Deb to the Panama jungle before making our departure towards San Blas.
A bit further up the coast is a delightful little place called Linton Bay and one of the best anchorages on the coast between San Blas and Colon. There is a small island, which used to be owned by a scientist who researched the behaviour of Spider Monkeys.
The one square mile island is now inhabited by only three Spider Monkeys who enjoy watching people visit when the creatures invade the abandoned house near the anchorage in the afternoon looking for attention.
There is a mangrove tunnel from Linton bay to another marina area called Panamarina. Dinghys can make it through the narrow covered channel, getting a glimpse at the monkeys and sloths on a good day. You have to look pretty carefully for the sloth, although they stay in the same tree for most of their life, only coming down once a month for bodily functions, they can be difficult to spot. We were lucky.
We spent a few weeks over the last few months in both places while doing more repairs, and provisioning. These seem to be our major activities lately. Living on a cruising boat is not all fun and games, and many days were spend fixing, repairing, cleaning, and finding parts. The ocean environment is a harsh one and Mother Nature takes its toll on anything that is exposed to the salt air.
After Visiting these two places we made our adventure back to San Blas. We spent the weeks snorkeling, fishing, swimming, enjoying the beaches, visited with other cruisers we met and endured “Chocosanas”. San Blas has a wind phenomenon called something-de -pollo, which means the ass of the chicken. It is a quickly developing cold system that whips winds up quickly sometimes reaching 60 knots followed by torrential rain and lightening. They come quickly without warning from the southeast often juggling boats around like checkers.
It can make a peaceful anchorage into a shuffleboard in an instant, and we always hope we are on our boats when they happen. Luckily its usually in the middle of the night or early morning hours when they come through.
At 6am peaceful morning, in Green Island Anchorage, one hit us and the 5 boats in our company, suddenly and fully. Our buddy boat, Matador was struck with a lightening bolt that damaged every bit of electrical equipment on their boat in the bat of an eye. The puff of black smoke that billowed from their masthead after the deafening CRACK of the bolt sent our senses scrambling. It’s a heart pumping, adrenaline rushing, and Steph and Stuart were shaking for days afterward.
When lightening is that close, you really do feel it on your skin… the hairs stand up and tingle, and you can feel the energy in the air for minutes afterward. Every year dozens of boats in San Blas area have their entire electronic inventory wiped out by lightening strikes.
Its an amazing how the Kunas usually know when one of these blows is coming and we were awakened on the worst of them by the blowing of the a horn made from a conch shell, to warn of the impending storm coming. Rhonda decided that she wanted this horn, and went to buy it off the Kunas the next day. Unfortunately Canada Customs took it from her when she entered Canada.
Any anchorage you go to, the local women will come to your boat and try and sell their wares, whether it be Molas, or bracelets. We have made friends with two of the most famous of them, Mola Lisa, and Venancio. We have had both of them on the boat for tea and visiting along with purchasing some of their famous Molas.
Well it finally came time for our visitors to leave, we sent Deb and John home to England, and Rhonda home to Canada. It was a sad parting as we never know when we will see Deb and John again, although I think they had a good enough time onboard that they will be back.
For weeks with John aboard, we tried and tried to catch a fish. We trolled, and jigged, casted and speared,.. and came up dry most times. Pity we did not repeat our luck like the last time on our way back to Portobello ……Wham! Wham! Wham! Three in a row as we sailed thru a Tuna school! Holy!!
Hopefully this fishing keeps up for the next while as we spend more time in Panama and Kuna Yala.
Watch for our next post with Nephew Bill aboard, more fish, and Colin’s return!!!