Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Paradise Found!

In my opinion – I am a traveler more than a sailor - the main reason to have a sailboat is to visit out of the way places that are interesting, attractive and only accessible by boat. The San Blas islands in Panama surely fit that description. The culture and lifestyle of the Kuna Indians is unique and the uninhabited islands are picture perfect with tons of healthy palm trees, white sand beaches and clear water away from mainland Panama. There are hundreds of places to explore, above and under water and even though one might think “If you’ve seen a couple of these pretty islands, you’ve seen them all”, Mark and I are certainly not sick of the view from our cockpit yet!

Apart from the usual chores and little jobs, our days are filled with reading, swimming, snorkeling, walking around little islands, relaxing and sailing the flat waters between destinations. The distances are as short or as long as we want and the wind has been steady every day. Most days are sunny with a temperature of around 82°F (28°C), ideal for visitors, but a bit chilly for us, actually. We usually sit in the sun for a bit, before diving into the sea for a shower or a swim. All around us, we see monohulls and catamarans with charter guests, family and friends. The San Blas is sure a great area for a vacation of exotic bliss!

How does one get water, food or power in this primitive area of the world? There is a town called Rio Azucar, where faucets “on the street” have running water 24 hours a day (which the villagers are very proud of) and where cruisers can bring their boat or jerrycans to the dock to buy potable water. Or, you can take your dinghy three miles up the Rio Diablo near Nargana/Corazon de Jesus to catch clean upriver water in jerrycans and jugs. Chicken, eggs, fruit (like pineapples, limes and sometimes bananas and apples), and vegetables (like cabbage, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, carrots and sometimes celery, christophene, breadfruit, zucchini and eggplant) are available in Nargana. In the diverse anchorages, Kunas sail, motor or paddle by in their ulus with the catch of the day (lobster, crabs or fish) or other staples like beer, coke, milk, wine in boxes or eggs. If you are very lucky, the “veggie boat” pays you a visit with a wealth of healthy produce. Unfortunately, this delightful sight has only appeared once to us in a month.

Mark and I got lucky in a different way, with the arrival of Matt (an old friend from St. Martin) and Hilary on the catamaran Mojomo. Hilary, a chef on mega yachts, needed to “practice” her cooking skills and we were totally out of food, so that was a great combination and coincidence. A couple of fun and tasty evenings lasted till the wee hours! We are still catching up on rest and therefore will not be able to do much more than relax and sleep the coming days…

Brain coral under water (photo courtesy of Axel Busch)

Mark and Liesbet on tiny "Two Palm" island

Kunas getting ready to sail back to their village from the off lying islands

Coco Bandero

Caribbean BBQ lobster dish on Irie

Succulent steak dinner with Matt and Hilary on Mojomo

Egg and milk delivery...

New York Style pizzas - with a skimpy ingredient list - on Irie

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