Cayman Islands and San Blas
11 March 2016 | Jane warm and sunny
Jane warm and sunny
Not sure where the time has gone, but it really is time that I updated our blog. As I write I am sitting between two oceans and two continents enjoying a spectacular sunrise at Gutan Lake. Russell and I are doing a dummy run through the canal on our friend Reinhard's boat Runaway's boat. It feels strange to be sitting between two oceans and two continents. The sunrise is spectacular.
We checked into Cayman Brac on the beach, a first time for us. The two officials were relaxed and friendly and it took no time at all. Soon we were anchored, and going ashore was a treat. A huge yummy English breakfast and free wifi at the local store, followed by a stock up of items we had not seen for months/years.
Cayman Brac is small and delightful. We really enjoyed the two anchorages and getting to know the wonderful people who live there. Then it was onto Little Cayman for diving in famous "Bloody Bay" before heading into the big smog of Grand Cayman. We had a rolly, but fast overnight sail entering the North sound mid morning while trying not to hit any reefs. Not for the faint hearted as the whole of the area is very badly marked, we were very surprised as we tip toed through.
Our plan was not to stay long in Grand Cayman as we had friends we were trying to meet in San Blas. Well weather and boat issues certainly changed that idea. Within a couple of days we were hauled out of the water to have our starboard engine worked on and our bearings replaced. With a copper bottom that also means that we have to reliven the copper before going in the water. Our friends Fiona and Carlos who live close to the marina were wonderful to us and insisted on us staying with them, even though our three days turned into seven. At night when we were not working we had a great time together and on Fiona's day off we explored the island. They were wonderful hosts. We can't thank them enough as I don't know what we would have done without their help.
The British Cayman islands consist of the three islands we visited. Not many cruising boats visit the islands as their anchorages are rolly and marinas in Grand Cayman are expensive. After the last three countries we had visited it was also a shock to experience the high prices, not many cruisers visit these islands and if they do it is only for a short stop off on their way south or west.
For myself it was fun to hear numerous English accents and shop for English goodies. The weather sadly was not great and so we were unable to dive some of the excellent sites of Grand Cayman for which it has become famous. Maybe another time we will revisit by air.
It was time to grab the marginal weather window to head south as soon as we were put back in the water. After one day of heading in slightly the wrong direction we were soon averaging 7 knots and on route to San Blas. The only hiccup was the 2 knot current against us, making our four day trip into five days.
We had been told we might have issues checking into the San Blas, but we had no problem at all and soon picked up our friends Doug and Suzanne in the Carti Islands. From there on we were on holiday while they were on board. We certainly partied hard and enjoyed being able to share the unique and gorgeous islands of San Blas with them. Vanencio the master mola came to see us and I am now the owner of another beautiful mola and Suzanne bought two. They really are fantastic.
After our friends left we went back to the Lemmons and with help from Mike and Laura of Gilana learnt how to kite board. We have a board on board and my brother Jamie is now bringing a kite and harness from England, when he visits us in the Galapagos. It was a ton of fun. Then we had to hide out behind Mayriadup in the Naguargandup Cays, a very protected area in the San Blas, when it is windy.
Our friends on Van Kedisi soon joined us having sailed the same route we did last year from Cartegena. It was great to see them and they joined us sailing to our favourite anchorages. Our friends April and Cain of Spirit of Argo arrived a few days before we left, it was too short a time together as we do not know when we will see them again, but wonderful nontheless. They very kindly helped us repair our genoa, one job ticked off the list.
We had no problem provisioning for fresh fruit and vegetables in the Carti islands and the Kuna are often visiting with fresh fish, crabs, lobster, vegetables and the like. They are delightful people and the cruising grounds are just perfect. Our time there again was too short, we could have stayed for months, but it was time to head for Panama.
On the way it made sense to stop off at Portabello. A magnificient harbour discovered by Columbus in 1502 with ruins of the solid fortifications than can be explored. We enjoyed a wonderful Sunday lunch at Captain Jack's overlooking the harbour with Van Kedisi. S/v Villomee with New Zealand friends Trev and Jan were also at anchor there, so lots of socializing time together.
Getting to Shelter Bay marina in Panama it was back to work, big time. Our generator is still causing us problems, our spare control board that was given to us by the Kohler guys in Union Island looks like it is a dude and a new one even though we have had problems for a while is not being covered by the company warrantey. We now have run out of time to get a new one and so may have to ask my brother to bring another from England (cost approx. $2000 - yikes). Our new generator has caused and cost us untold amounts. On a happy note our new main sail arrived and is fantastic.
Shelter Bay marina is a long way out of Colon and the bus that goes into town only takes twelve people. Unless you sign up at noon when the list goes up it costs $25 each way by taxi, so not the best situation. However the Supermarket Rey will bring you and your groceries back (only space for a backback on the marina bus) if you spend over $300. I did a huge shop on our arrival and spent a day storing items away after ☺ Once we hit the Pacific shopping is going to be expensive and difficult. We will be doing another couple of big shops once we get to Panama, here rum is $8 a bottle in French Poly it can be $80 - yes we will have full bilges and will be like a slug once we leave.
Amy and her two friends Kevin and Jason arrive on Friday. We have a transit date for Sunday and should arrive in Balboa anchorage by Monday afternoon. We are getting excited to be on the move again and to have them on board until we get to the Galapagos. They leave on 10 April and my brother Jamie and his wife Frankie arrive on 9 April. There is no wind at the moment for sailing to Galapagos, but we are keeping our fingers crossed that it will be different in a weeks time.
There is a webcam at Miraflores lock http://www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-java.html?cam=Miraflores
We should be there Monday afternoon if you are online - we will wave to you. If you do see us, please take a screen shot as it would be fantastic to have a picture of us during this epic journey.
Next stop Pacific, hope you enjoy all the photos, thanks to Russell, Doug and Suzanne for their contributions. Pictures say so much more than my meager words.