16 February 2019 | San Blas
We are anchored off the densely populated islands of Nargana and Corazon de Jesus joined together by a large bridge. These two communities have given up the traditional Guna way of life and the villages are a mixture of block concrete buildings and traditional huts. The roofs of these buildings are all sporting satellite dishes for the flat screen televisions. We’d heard there was to be a carnival but on arrival we learnt the carnival had been postponed as it clashed with a major basketball match! Village life is still quite basic but we found a small restaurant, bank and a few shops selling fruit and veg. We also managed to pick up a Digicel SIM card so at last we have some internet, although reception on some of the islands will be sparse. They also have a good medical centre and a police station but there are still Sailas or chiefs in the communities. The people are friendly and we felt comfortable walking about.
We are cruising the San Blas islands with our friends Patricia and Julian from A Capella of Belfast. Yesterday we decided to be the intrepid explorers and take the dingy down the Rio Diablo. We had watched the Guna Indians in their pangas and ulus head off down the river and were curious to know why. We were also suitably dressed to walk the water pipe trail that leads you deep into the rainforest until you reach the source, a small lake and waterfall.
We followed the river down for about half an hour taking it cautiously due to shallows, sometimes having to lift the outboard motor to paddle, and avoid submerged tree trunks but also enjoying the kingfishers, herons and numerous other bird life.
The forest was dense and diverse with patches of banana cultivation along the edges. We concluded that much of the Guna activity was collecting fresh water as we watched them fill their plastic barrels and containers from the river.
We reached the trail and tied up the dingy. We had been told the forest had poisonous snakes and frogs, black panthers and crocodiles. Julian was prepared with his machete and grisly bear pepper spray to hand but in reality it was a well used path and the chances of encountering danger we thought was small.
We walked in the heat and high humidity for over two hours following the white plastic water pipe, until we were having to zigzag across the river and guess where the path went next. We didn’t reach the water source deciding best to turn around and not to get lost. It was a great hike which we all enjoyed although now a little fatigued. Safely back in the dingy we headed back towards the mouth of the river and then got the fright of our lives when we saw a 10ft crocodile slip into the river just a few feet from our flimsy dingy! Get me out of here........
San Blas, Panama
14 February 2019
We are having a terrific time cruising the beautiful San Blas islands and meeting the Guna Indians. Internet is sparse but I’ve managed to post some pictures on the blog gallery. We will stay in this area for another week before heading for the Panama Canal.
San Blas 1
08 February 2019
We made landfall in Linton Bay, Panama on Friday 1st Feb19 at around 10:30am. Linton Bay is an official port of entry 40 miles further west from the San Blas islands but is the nearest port to check-in for immigration and customs. We picked our spot, dropped the anchor, motored back to ensure the anchor was holding but disappointingly it seemed to be dragging? This is not uncommon from time to time and you just have to lift your anchor, find another spot and hope next time it will dig in. As we lifted we quickly discovered we had caught someone else's anchor chain which was now sitting very nicely over our anchor and it wasn't letting go! As we were both peering over the side, bottoms up, looking forlornly at our anchor and wondering what to do, Rachel appeared in her dingy announcing cheerily it was her friends lost anchor. She seemed very pleased that we had found it! To cut a long story short with much appreciated help we were eventually freed. The rogue chain is now suspended by a large buoy and if its owner doesn't claim it, no doubt another unsuspecting victim will be claimed. We stayed one more day in Linton catching up with friends on A Capella of Belfast and Lady Jane and then had a terrific close hauled sail back to the San Blas.
At last we are cruising the San Blas Islands and so far have anchored in the Chichime and Hollanders Cays and I can only describe them as being islands of paradise. The San Blas is a vast archipelago consisting of over 340 islands on the Caribbean coast of Panama. These beautiful islands and rain-forested mainland are home to the indigenous Guna Indians. The Guna Indians effectively control this quarter of Panama and prefer the area to be called Guna Yala rather than San Blas, a name given by the Spanish. The Guna Indians have preserved their culture and traditions and even on the tiniest islands you will see a family living in simply built huts and the women dressed in their colourful traditional costumes. The Guna's main income is still in coconuts and great offence is taken if you just help yourself to one. There is income from tourism from the visiting yachts and we were made to move anchor for a small cruise ship coming in! A few islands have âresortsâ but are effectively very basic accommodation for those wishing to experience the simple life in paradise.
Anchored yachts are approached by a âuluâ a dugout canoe to be offered bread, fruit & veg, lobsters and beautifully hand crafted molas. These molas are intricately made by sewing and cutting different layers of colourful cloth to form unique designs of birds, animals or marine life. They are really stunning and I won't be leaving without one (or two, or three......)
The first encounter with the Guna Indians was in Chichime as we wandered around the island. It felt intrusive to be walking past their huts but the people are very relaxed and don't seem to mind. We soon discovered where to buy coconut bread and a beer. On the larger islands, a village has three âSailasâ or chiefs who are the holders of Guna spiritualism, medicinal knowledge and history. Guna Yala is a matrilineal society with the husband moving in with the wife's family. No Guna is allowed to marry with a non-Guna and if they do they can no longer remain in Guna Yala. The population is around 55,000.
Our guide book warned us that not all Guna Indians like to be photographed and if they allow you they may charge a $1. This began when they saw postcards of themselves in Panama City selling for one dollar. We have politely asked if we can take a photo and so far haven't been refused or asked to pay for the privilege but we keep a few $1 bills in our pockets just in case.
Sorry for not posting any photos, but we have no internet or mobile phone connection in these isolated islands. We also thought updating our blog via our satellite communication system would still link to Facebook but alas until I get internet I cannot alter my setting in Facebook to allow this.
Bonaire to Panama day 4
30 January 2019
We are currently sailing in an area of the Caribbean Sea where the sea is being pushed down into a corner towards Panama by the continuous trade winds and has a notoriously bad reputation for being rough. While in Bonaire we were keeping a keen eye on the weather, ready to go once we felt the winds and sea conditions were calm enough to sail. Our original plan was to spend some time in Columbia but the corner between Santa Marta and Cartagena often has winds of 35 to 50 knots. Call us wimps but coupled with Columbian immigration bureaucracy being so complicated, we decided to skip Columbia and keep well off this coastline and head down to the San Blas islands in Panama. Our first 24 hours was probably the worst as the sea swell, although not high, was hitting us from two different angles making the boat jolt about in quite a violent fashion. This just made moving about the boat, sleeping, cooking and tea making difficult. But we were making good speed at an average 6-7 knots. Day 2 and 3 the winds dropped and sea relatively calm. Speed of course dropped and we had to motor sail for a day. At least I was able to make some bread. Day 4 and we are now off the coast of Columbia (although well off) but feeling the strong wind - currently 25 knots. We have seas of >3metres but the swell is from one direction so it is relatively comfortable on board. We are both well and safe on the good ship Krabat, both read another book and not yet caught any fish! Just two more nights at sea and we will make landfall. Our current position is 11 50.33N 076 08.47W or what3words: unabated.discarded.smokeless
17 January 2019 | Bonaire
Our crossing to Bonaire was relatively straight forward with 15 to 20 knots of wind to give us a good downwind sail most of the way. We recommissioned the fishing rod. I'm not sure if we could describe it as successful or not. I bought some expensive lures before we left. My first 17 hole bubble trail was successful in catching something very tasty for supper but the knot tied to the hook let us down so we lost lure and fish. My next little bubble trail lure caught a huge Marlin, it was easily a meter long and was thrashing and leaping out of the water. There was no way we could have pulled him in but after a fight of no less of 30 seconds, if that,
he bit through the line. So in one day we lost £25 worth of lures! All we want is a meal on the table for two but alas it was not to be. Hopefully more luck next time.
We arrived in Bonaire after 73 hours so Skippers calculations were pretty good. We are on a mooring buoy along the seafront of Kralendijk (pronounced Crawlin-dike). It's an island belonging to the Netherlands so many Dutch living and working here but English widely spoken. Cruise ships are frequent visitors so the town centre is full of good restaurants and bars to while away the time. Our first few days were doing the formalities with customs and immigration and familiarising ourselves with the area.
Bonaire has been a marine conservation area for nearly 40 years so the island's waters are reputed to be one of the top 3 diving sites in the world.
The south of is flat and it was good to get the bikes out and explore the coastline a little to find a nice beach and snorkelling site. You can dive/snorkel virtually anywhere on the sheltered west side, the waters are beautifully clear and an abundance of fish, turtles and corals to see.
We hired a pick-up truck for three days as we particularly wanted to visit the Washington-Slagbaai National Park in the north.The park roads are dirt tracks winding their way through hilly cactus/tree forests, we now understood the need for a robust high vehicle truck. The National Park was definitely worth a visit, we managed to see the Caribbean Flamingo as well as other interesting wildlife.
Working donkeys were introduced to the island by the Spanish but by the 1930's they were abandoned and left to roam wild. Unfortunately with so many cars on the road donkeys are injured or killed or die through starvation that 25 years ago a Dutch couple dedicated their life to setting up a donkey sanctuary. We had to visit.
There are 700 donkeys in the sanctuary and as we drove through we were chased by what felt like all 700 looking for a carrot. I was afraid to get out of the truck at first but they were actually very gentle creatures. Just felt so sorry that our little bag of carrots couldn't feed them all. There are still over 400 donkeys in the wild, the sanctuary can't take them all but they do limit the breeding by castrating the males in their care.
Have a look at the gallery to see some of our photos, Bonaire is a lovely island and we have enjoyed our time here.
A few hiccups!
10 January 2019
Before coming home in June we had to get Krabat ready for bed. Not only did she have to come out of the water but the sails and all canvas had to taken down and numerous pieces of equipment had to be taken off/decommissioned and safely stored.
Bill in particular has been putting everything back in its place and systematically checking all equipment is in good working order. We have come to the conclusion that boats don’t really like being left in these hot humid conditions as we’ve come back to several unexpected failures. So far we have a leaky kitchen tap (probably just a O ring that has perished), no gas coming from the gas bottle to the stove (the regulator stopped working but luckily we had a spare), the anchor light wouldn’t come on (I had to hoist Bill up the mast twice, turned out to be a bit of corrosion but now fixed), we have an electric outboard motor but the main battery has stopped working (major problem but we have two, have been talking to the manufacturer who thinks the battery hasn’t come out of it’s deep sleep mode!). When we tried to recommission the water maker it refused to produce any water. That was a major afternoons work as we had to strip the pump down but eventually spotted two seized valves, cleaned them up, reset and sealed and problem solved.
We’ve also had a problem with the battery charger, had to replace a plastic solar panel connector which had perished, couldn’t get a sail out of a zipped bag (zip seized, so had to cut out and then cost us $100EC to get zip fixed), replaced freshwater pump, and SSB radio antennae unit packed in. When equipment fails there is little chance of getting spares here in Grenada They have to be ordered and shipped which can takes weeks. Fortunately we carry a lot of spares and Bill has been Mr Fix It man but thanks to good sailing friends and their visitors we may be able to get essential spares brought out to us once in the Galapagos.
We hired a car on Saturday and had a major provisioning exercise. We were in the supermarket from 10.30am and finished at 3pm. Once we had completely loaded a trolly we took it to the check out, paid and loaded the car. We did this three times with a lunch break in between. Once we drove back to the marina we had two dingy rides to get everything on board. I haven’t dared add up the cost, food is really expensive and choice quite basic. Couldn’t get eggs or butter and meat and fresh fruit and vegetables limited. So I will never complain about our supermarkets at home, they are fabulously stocked in comparison.
At last we feel ready to start sailing. Tomorrow, (Friday) we sail to Bonaire which we’re really looking forward to although it will take us 72 hours. Here we go first of many a long sail!