Traveling to the San Blas
13 March 2008 | Carreto Bay
The boat was in passage-making mode so we were ready to make way after a half hour of prep in the predawn. We motored out of the anchorage favoring the east side of the harbor in the moonless dark. By 06:30 we had rounded the island and the southwest shoal, making way for the southern end of Panama. We saw a couple of well lit fishing boats out and about.
It was a cloudy day but we had a nice close reach with the wind in the low teens and the seas just aft of the beam the whole way.
As we closed on the Panama coast we noticed the clouds thickening over the mainland. A friend we met in Cartagena had told us that often the outlying islands will be sunny while the mainland is getting drizzled on. We were certainly finding this to be true. The whole area seems a bit cloudy this time of year but the mainland is always a few notches more cloudy and rainy on the scale.
The crew had selected Carreto Bay as our first landfall. I have still not gotten used to picking anchorages that I have never seen before from the chart with total exposure to the east. I guess a year and a half of anchoring in the lee on the west side of islands will do that to you. Here everything comes from the north. Maybe north east or north west, but north just the same.
Carreto Bay is a large bay with an easy in and out fairly close to the southeastern most extent of the Caribbean coast of Panama. A very traditional Kuna Indian village sits at the back of the bay with some huts lining the hill above. They have no TV, radio, motors, cameras, video or power here.
We anchored at about 18:00 in the anchorage described by the Eric Bauhaus Panama Cruising Guide. The guide had been very useful in planning our travels through the San Blas. It will be interesting to see how well it matched up to the actual.
Our first encounter with the Kuna folk took place as we were setting the anchor. There were several dugout canoes in the bay fishing and what have you and as we arrived a couple made there way over to get a look at us. It was strange and wonderful to be in such a foreign environment.
We exchanged waves and hellos/holas with the people in the canoes as they glided by with their hand carved paddles. Once we were settled a new canoe arrived and seemed to have business to do. I greeted them, it was a friendly group. They spoke Kuna and a very small bit of Spanish. I of course spoke English and a very small bit of Spanish.
When it became obvious that we were not going to get far verbally they handed me a receipt. It was for anchorage fees of $10US. I must admit that this first interaction with the Kuna did burst my bubble a little. Margaret counseled me to look at it as a park fee which made it a little easier to swallow.
As the sun set I wondered if electric lights would come up in the village. Nope, a few fires here and there but otherwise nothing but darkness, just as it would have been many years ago.