Panama – San Blas

Dear friends, it is a long time since we last updated this blog. Many things have happened, including our “vacations” in Italy for the summer time. We promise that we will catch up with our adventures in these last few months.

shelter bay on the dry

Shelter Bay – on the dry

We resumed our sailing in November 10th heading towards the San Blas Islands starting from Shelter Bay Marina in Panama, where we had left Zoe while we were in Italy.

san blas map

The San Blas Archipelago

Though not well known by non-sailors, the San Blas archipelago is one of the most attractive cruising areas in the State of Panama. It consists of more than 300 islands of which only a few of them are inhabited by the Kuna people.

As a matter of fact, San Blas is the Spanish name for Kuna Yala, that means Kuna Nation. It is a matrilineal society with its own laws, rules and language (even though they communicate with foreigners in Spanish).

linton bay

Linton bay

Our first stop on the way to the San Blas was Linton Bay, a four hour sailing trip from Shelter Bay. Just to begin the season in a “proper” way, when we got there we realized that our outboard engine, a glorious 30 year old Mariner 15 HP, would not start. After a long diagnosis process were we took apart the engine several times, we had to find a mechanic, not an easy task. We we’re lucky to be addressed to “El Pelota”, who fixed it in a couple of hours! The best mechanic in the area!
One evening we decided to have dinner at a restaurant, and guess what – we met the crew of Auriga, one of the boats that made the Atlantic passage with us last year. It was a chance to exchange stories about our respective itineraries… In fact, we found out that we got to the same point travelling from Barbados in opposite directions!

cayo chichime

Cayo Chichime

On November 15th we set sails towards Chichime Cays, the first set of islands arriving to the San Blas from West. To our surprise we found dozens of sailboats at the anchor, a quite different image of the deserted location we had imagined. Even more surprisingly we realized that the most common language among the sailors was Italian! This said, the look and feel of these islands is fairly typical of the San Blas, being a stripe of white sand covered by palm trees (and in some cases, mangroves) with a couple of Kuna families inhabiting the island. In fact, our first encounter with the Kuna people was them coming to our boat to sell molas (see picture below) and fish from their ulu (canoe).

canoe

Ulu

kuna selling molas

Kuna woman selling molas

Later we realized that the rest of the San Blas archipelago is much more wild and unexploited. Nevertheless, our nights were featured by a stingray that attracted by our torch light would come close to the boat and jump out of the water!

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