San Blas Islands, Panama

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Author: Pete

 

After clearing in to Panama at Porvenir, we sailed east to the Cayos Holandes. Sailing is a glorious thing when a reef acts as a break wall and there’s no waves to be seen. Made it to Miriadup and anchored in six feet of water on a shelf that dropped to eighty with haste.

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Tandem anchored with our new bruce anchor because the holding was poor in crunchy coral bits and our main anchor wouldn’t dig in much. The water was kicked up from the wind and the water clarity wasn’t great.

The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast, with nowhere to be. Mango, granola, yogurt, and fresh coconut hacked out of it’s woody bonds by yours truly. Spent the rest of the day snorkeling off Waisaladup, just to the west. Great drop off with nice soft corals. Sometimes I feel bored now without being on the spearfishing hunt. I contented myself to work on my free diving depth along the drop off. Saw a great Spotted Eagle Ray at thirty feet and pursued him for a while.  Also, took a quick dinghy trip out close to a wreck for some pictures of the rusted beast.

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Look Mom, above and below water:

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That night we had drinks on Eventide, another Lagoon 380 with young bucks aboard hoping to make a circumnavigation. They have roughly the same itinerary as us. I think we’ll see them along the way.

 

I should also mention that before we headed out to go snorkeling, a young guy in a lancha pulled up selling crab. We declined, but he volunteered to take me out spearfishing on the rough outer reef the following day. So, I jumped for the opportunity. The next morning, I met up with Jesus and took off in his hand-built canoe to the deep water. He had a pistol-type spear gun, and I had my trusty Hawaiian sling as we zoomed out in his narrow boat. His armament and nice fins contrasted starkly with his 1970’s Sea Quest style oval mask and junky snorkel. Waves splashed into the little boat, another friend Antonio bailed with a plastic bottle, smiling with his two unfortunate front teeth. Jesus fished as we went, all the while motor us through the choppy breakwater, he and caught a 25 pound, four foot long Permit, gorgeous and silver, on a simple hand line. Very impressive.

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Weaving through the breaking waves we anchored with a rusty, four pound Danforth tied to a truck brake drum on Frankenstein line, all pieced together out of small bits. Right into the coral he threw it and into the rolling water we plunged. Jesus’s spear gun could hit fish at 3 meters from spear-tip to fish, and mine only 50 centimeters. He also swam like a shark, and really outfished me 20 to 1. I was worried about the ethics of him taking me out to spearfish since gringos aren’t supposed to. But really, I just snorkeled and watched him fish. When we got back to the boat Antonio reassured me that it was okay to feel like a loser when spearfishin’ wit Jésus. “Es una maquina”, said Antonio. “He’s a machine.

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The topography was fantastic. With sheer walls and deep caves. Eventually two reef sharks showed up so we took off and fished elsewhere. Dropped off half of our catch to Jesus’s island. The little kids climbed on me and looked at all my stuff. I felt ostentatious in my wetsuit.

Jesus dropped me off at the Tayrona in the afternoon. He left me two crab and three Pargo rojo (red snapper) and I paid him twenty bucks and a pair of spare dive gloves. He took off happily. I was exhausted.

While I was out in the deep, the rest of the Tayrona crew explored more of the area by snorkel and relaxed on the beach with some watery, but refreshing, Colombian beer left over from our time in Cartagena.

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After a few days in the Holandes, we pulled up anchor after a great bacon and egg breakfast. We headed west to snorkel the wreck and have lunch on Dog Island.

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Later in the afternoon, we motored a few minutes north to an anchorage off the picturesque Chichime. The girls read in the palm shade and I build a castle in the perfect sand.

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Haven’t had a good beach in a while and it got me in a Zen mood. So I came up with this. Sounded prosaic at the time.

 “Life isn’t about searching for the best starfish on the beach. It’s about building the best sand castle.”

 

Flat calm the next day as we started on our way to Colon. Perfect day for being out on the water. Terrible day for sailing. We motored some eight hours from the San Blas heading west. The tiny islands slid slowly to our stern in the mirror sea. Port engine keeps losing coolant. More now than before. Stopped the engines and bobbed for an hour, topped up, and kept motoring. Another project for pre-canal wait time in Colon.

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Followed the brooding mountainous coast for 40 miles, rounded Isla Grande, then Linton. The anchorage is gorgeous with dark green jungle dumping into the bay. We anchored off the south shore and immediately put the dinghy in. Asked around at three boats for Tom Valentin, an electrician who was recommended to us. He wasn’t home when we finally found his boat, so we put ashore at Isla Linton.

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The island is uninhabited and jungle encrusted. The diversity of the trees alone makes it look like a coral reef. There’s an abandoned research station on the island… and something lurking in the trees…

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MONKEYS! Big ones! Lithe, dark forms scuttle in the under brush and over growth as we landed and walked through the foliage to the eroding building. They look like big cats until they stand up. Tall cats! They walk on two legs with no hunch or lurching. It’s disconcerting how quickly they walk and just how human their bipedal locomotion is. I thought we had the monopoly on that! They come close to check us out. Too close. Miranda runs to the water. Monkeys hate the water, right? They’re big and strong, leaping huge gaps between the palms. They have sharp fangs and calculating eyes. We give them wide berth. It’s like Planet of the Apes with these creatures strolling in the ruins of the abandoned research center, slowly being reclaimed by jungle and sea.

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We take pictures and then head back to the boat for a swim. Made pizza for dinner with our last real provisions before breaking into the dried goods. Need to get to Colon to resupply.

Writing in my journal I noticed that it’s the beginning of February, and I’m still writing 2014 for the year! That’s pretty out of touch man.

 

6 Comments

  1. Eliz   •  

    Wow! That is one very large fish Jesus caught! And those monkeys do look quite gangly. How fun! What great pics!

  2. Aunt Carole   •  

    Love the pics. I also see the monkeys as scarey! Be safe, I love your adventures and the time you take to share them
    love auntie

  3. Greg   •  

    1) You’ll never outfish Jesus. Simply not possible. He probably only caught one and turned it into the bunch you saw.
    2) your life is better than mine.

  4. Kristen   •  

    Hi Pete and Miranda! Amazing pics!! I’m enjoying your adventure- life beyond Nido is looking pretty awesome for the two of you 🙂 Happy sailing!!

  5. Ian   •  

    Tropical water and Pete’s coconuts sound amazing…monkeys not so much. You guys look like you’re having a blast! Love ya!

  6. Betty Baatz Juanita's mom   •  

    Jeff and I are just loving your postings! You kids are so venturous!!!! Becareful of those monkeys they Bite!!! 😉 We are headed for Panama in March But we will be on land not that found of being sea sick!! Haha, Be safe!!

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