Monday, October 15, 2012

Sleepless in San Blas

I wake up, bathing in sweat. I have no idea what time it is, but I sure know the wind has totally stopped. Otherwise, my pillow case and sheet wouldn’t be wet and sticky. I try to breathe, slowly. It would be easy enough to turn the little wall-mounted fan on, but we have a problem: Irie’s batteries are pretty low at the moment and we are out of gasoline for our portable generator. Despite a few requests for the veggie guy to bring us some gas (and eggs) – we are still out. So far, we have been able to bum some eggs from our friends on SV Reach and a neighboring boat, after realizing a certain recipe “unexpectedly” needed a non-existing egg. We don’t want to borrow gasoline, however; this is a precious good and we can always run our engines, if really, really, really needed. For now, I am thinking about our fridge and our computers; they have more need for electricity than our fan. Or, do they?

Onion rings (with egg needed batter) and hamburgers for dinner before another sleepless night.

Soon enough, the stagnant night air attracts hordes of no-see-ums from the closest shore, which is an island called “Bug Island”. Yeah, right! They attack our hot, un-sheeted bodies – we’ll have to suffer one way or another. Their bodies resemble the point of a needle and their bite the prick of one. Unfortunately, they are more abundant than the proverbial needle in a haystack. More sensory awareness follows, when our ears are filled with Spanish dance music from one of the power boats a mile away. “Sound travels well over water” is a more correct idiom than “There is always a breeze on the water”! The Panamanian rich must be having a party and we involuntarily partake. The mix of uncomfortable annoyances keeps us awake for a couple of hours, before we finally give in. The fan gains importance and by now, I gladly trade an hour of computer time for who-knows-how-many-hours-we-need of fan use.

When burning trash or doing a project on Bug Island, one can only escape the no-see-ums while hiding in the water.

The evening before, all the cruisers of the anchorage were awakened with a start, when a massive search light shone into their portholes and cockpit and a grinding, deafening, out of the blue sound penetrated the walls of the boats. It was 11pm in an otherwise tranquil bay. Two of the luxurious power boats that come en masse to this area over the weekends (during settled “summer” weather), decided to move a mile and join their brethren, gathered in a power boat village – based on the amount of lights in the distance. In the middle of the night! This was a first. Normally, they only pass Irie at a hair’s distance, passengers gazing into our cockpit and windows, during the day. They go back and forth a few times, using bow thrusters, almost touching our bow or stern, crew and passengers happily waving. 

Motorboats outnumber sailboats over the summer/fall weekends.

They are a friendly bunch, all right. They tie up alongside one of the pretty, palm fringed beaches and buzz around the place in high powered tenders, sometimes slowly plowing through the water and creating massive wake (hold on!), sometimes pulling a toy with kids on it. They have fun, all right. Their owners are dropped off and picked up by helicopter, which is quite a sight to behold on these primitive, indigenous and quiet islands. Imagine a remote tropical island getting  a make-over and turning into a people littered beach, volleyball playing Panamanians, white tent erected on the sand, string of boats tied together and … a helicopter between the palm trees. 

 A peaceful island turned into chaos: people, tents, helicopter!

After another sleepless night – if it’s not the thunder and lightning storms, there are plenty of other reasons to wake up and stay awake during the San Blas summer/fall nights – the sun comes out and the solar panels are used to their biggest potential, for a few hours. The wind generator tries, but fails, due to lack of wind. Mark and I bite the bullet. We grab our empty 2.5 gallon jerry can and my wallet, and we head over to the prettiest, fanciest power yacht; the one that has the friendliest and waviest crew. We talk to the captain, he talks to the owner, we talk to the owner – who is very interested in us “yachties” -and 15 minutes later, our jerry can is filled, while my wallet remains unopened. They refuse money in exchange and are happy to help. With renewed appreciation for Panama’s rich and famous, we return home. Now, we have fuel for our generator. The same amount they use for a fast ten minute dinghy ride with guests will last us up to a month! And, we can liberally use our fan tonight! 

The tranquil "Swimming Pool" anchorage in the East Holandes Cays during summer weekdays.

One of the helicopters dropping off or picking up powerboat guests on BBQ island.

How the scenery changes over the weekend.

Powerboats (yachts much bigger than Irie) tied together alongside the beach.

The tasty (and heavy) food and alcoholic drinks do not guarantee a good night's sleep!


krafthaus said...

I really like your call-it-like-you-see-it posts Liesbet! Thanks for opening the window to life on a boat. All the Best!

Liesbet said...

Thanks! I'm glad you are enjoying and appreciating the blogs. Keeps me excited to keep going and writing! :-)