Thursday, August 30, 2012
When Mark and I returned to Irie in the pretty San Blas islands, our fresh water tank was barely one third full. We were thinking of ways to solve this “issue” ahead of time, while hoping the standing water would still be good enough to drink after two and a half months. But, it is the rainy season in this part of the world right now, so we decided we’d have no problem filling up our relatively small tank, while diluting the water that was already in it. Before we left, it rained – very hard –every other day or so, with spectacular lightning and thunder as a backdrop. It would be easy to collect our needed water supply.
The day we arrived, we caught the end of a massive rainstorm, ourselves, with luggage, but we just missed a big collecting opportunity. A few days later, enough rain fell to clean our roof and decks and to fill our sun shower. Now, we could at least rinse off after our salty showers. In the meantime, our water supply in the boat dwindled down. Every evening, we prepared the cockpit, the jugs, and our two collecting systems for the anticipated downpour. Instead, we saw massive clouds dunking rain along mainland Panama, while the outer anchorages (= here) stayed dry. We became even more careful with the water from our tank, only using it for cooking and drinking. Mark suggested I’d drink beer for a while, to save water, but even that is not enough reason for me to drink that unpleasantly tasting beverage!
Mark and I made plans to take Irie to a small village called Soledad Miria, where they supposedly have fresh water from the mountains. We were not looking forward to this frustration, time, and money/diesel. Buying water in the rainy season and going through all the effort of getting it, seemed a bit silly, but we were getting desperate and sick of being extremely scant. The day we planned to do the trip, other issued appeared that needed dealing with first, like a broken water pump. There’s no need for water in our tank if we can’t pump it to our faucets… or, there is no need for a pump if we don’t have water. Luckily, Mark had a spare and he’s a great handyman, so that issue was fixed in “no time” and we hoped for a lot of rain, one last night.
When you say “I remember” out loud, you hear Irie, but when you think “irony”, be sure Irie is a part of it as well. Towards the evening of said last night, clouds started to gather all around us and the wind picked up tremendously. Mark and I smiled at each other: “Finally!” While other cruisers frantically checked their surroundings and feared another storm, we were applauding it, well, the rainy part anyway. A massive dark grey curtain of rain slid past the mainland, while the wind was blowing over 20 knots from that direction. It wouldn’t take long for the storm to approach us and we were truly anticipating its arrival. Behind us, another front moved from east to west, producing a massive sound and light show. Water spouts reached the ocean and it was an impressive sight to behold, from afar.
Mark and I waited and waited; jugs, hoses and tank at the ready. Finally, two rain drops bounced on our roof and then, the wind speed slowed down and the storm had passed, leaving us baffled and disappointed. How was this possible, with the wind coming from the clouds exploding with water, for an hour? Instead of drinking big gulps of fresh water, we – unsuccessfully - spent our time trying to take pictures of the lightning strikes behind us. What a spectacle that was! Mark managed to film one sequence, which is pretty cool. We went to bed with all the hoses hooked up, but the night stayed dry.
The following day, we had an early start and motored to Soledad Miria (wind on the nose going there and no wind coming back), after confirming with another cruiser they had water there. The visibility was poor, this close to land, but our guide book and chart plotter lead us safely around the reefs. A concrete dock with wooden poles and a set of helping hands welcomed us. When we explained what we desired, an old man walked off and came back ten minutes later with sets of keys to the water “depot”, a small cabinet where the spigot hid behind. He tried all the keys, with no luck. We waited. Mark contemplated getting his bolt cutters out, but we decided against that. After another ten minutes or so, he managed to pry the lock open. When was the last time this water spigot had been used? We just reached Irie’s tank with all the hoses combined and the tap was turned on. We waited… No water was coming out! To make a long set of trials short, the pressure was just too low and the only way to get water was to fill jerry cans on the dock, haul them aboard and empty them into our freshwater tank. This was still quicker than having to anchor and take the dinghy back and forth.
It was a slow process. Every jug took about 10 to 15 minutes to fill, but we prepared for this by starting early. While the sun was beating down on us, we waited and we hoped the job would be finished before the afternoon storms would start. Upon looking into jug number five, the contents were brown. We started all over again with this one, trying to filter the water with a cloth. After a couple of more tries and even more time, we gave up and abandoned our mission. We arrived back at our anchorage seven hours later, dripping with sweat and containing under half a tank of fresh water. The surroundings, our swim in the gorgeous water and the sunny weather slowly erased our disappointment. The best thing to do in the San Blas islands is to stay put in a place you like, without trying to accomplish things involving other people or goods. When you do that: life is good!
That night, it rained.