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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January 29, 2014-San Blas Islands

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Wings in San Blas

Picking the perfect anchorage for the night in the San Blas Islands isn’t easy, something about a surplus of choices.

Cocos Banderas Cays is beautiful and we had phone coverage there so there was Internet, but it had no protection; we rolled and pitched there and one night of that was enough.

Green Island was crowded, and besides, we’ve been there.

There are a thousand other anchorages, how can we choose?

The we saw one on the chart which looked good; an uninhabited island in the Eastern Naguarandup Cays called Esnasdup. It wasn’t mentioned in the guide books but it looked protected.

We decided to give it a try.

And now we are anchored at Esnasdup Island which is a magic place in the back of the San Blas, under the tall, mysterious, mist shrouded mountains of the Isthmus and tucked in behind a vast reef. It’s quiet here. We are totally alone, no village or houses ashore, no other boats, and no way the wind or waves can get to us. We have absolute peace and quiet for the first time in the San Blas. We can hear the birds. There are hawks and eagles and egrets but strangely, no pelicans.

However there is a crocodile here. When we reported our location on the net this morning several boats radioed back that they have seen a crocodile here, about 2 meters long, and, apparently, shy. It flees from people. Well, I hope so. We have not seen it.

Here we will stay for several days, and we’ll be looking for the croc. We’re not sure about how much swimming we’ll do.

Other than Esnasdup, how has our stay been in the San Blas?

Pretty good, we’d say. We spent a few days in the main town of Nargana getting provisions including fresh meat for the freezer, whatever veggies which were available, rum and wine, propane, and some spending money. We stayed a night tied to the dock in a Kuna village at Rio Azucar and there we filled our water tanks from their pipeline. Being basically inside a Kuna Village all night was interesting. We could see life up close in the houses near the wharf.

And we’ve been to Green Island and Cocos. We have a few more places to try, but like our general approach to cruising, we know we can’t get everywhere in the San Blas, and it’s alright.

We’re going to enjoy where we’re at, and move on when we feel like it.

Click here for more San Blas photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, San Blas Islands, Panama

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

January 17, 2014-Kunayala

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Judy in Panama

The Panamanian official stamped my papers with a flourish and handed them to me. “This is your Zarpe, it should get you through Kunayala” he said, which I thought was strange because it sounded like he was referring to a foreign country.

He was. Kunayala, the land of the Kuna Indians is autonomous from Panama. The Kunas maintain their own local government and customs and barely acknowledge the existence of Panama. They do not fly the Panamanian flag.

While there we did not fly ours either.

But they did honor my Zarpe. Other than charging us a fee every time we anchored in one of their towns, they didn’t bother us as we passed through their land.

That cruise however, has been interesting. We were fascinated by the Kunas. They are very traditional people living an existence which is more out of the 1800’s than 2014. Telephones are rare, banks are non-existent. We have not seen a single car, truck, or motorcycle.

The Kuna houses are made of sticks and thatched with palm fronds and have sand or dirt floors. But they are clean and there is little trash evident.

The Kunas paddle the waters in dugout canoes, outboards motors are also rare. They are forbidden to intermarry with outsiders and mostly do not permit photographs.

Tobacco and alcohol are not used. And they are small people, few over five feet tall. However they are beautiful people with high cheekbones, straight noses, and clear brown skin. The women wear bright red and blue dresses and scarves and colorful beadwork on their arms and legs. I’m going to try to get some photographs if I can without offending them.

And they are intelligent. The laughing eyes of the Kuna lady who sold me fresh baked bread, when she figured out what I was trying to say, told me that.

Then there is their choice of where to live. The Isthmus of Panama is mountainous; a hostile, and inhospitable place. It is and covered with dense, steaming, jungle. The valleys are swampy. Insects are fierce and diseases such as Malaria are common. There are snakes and alligators.

The Kunas don’t live there. They live on densely populated offshore islands which are cool and dry and free of the insects and other bad critters.

In fact, until you get close to the area of the Panama Canal, almost no-one lives on the Isthmus itself. It is roughly 100 miles up the coast from Colombia to the San Blas Islands, through Kunayala, and so far, along that distance, we have seen no sign of population ashore or in the mountains, just rows of jungle covered ridges and peaks disappearing into the haze. No roads are visible. It looks in penetrable. At night there are no lights there as far as you can see up the coast or down.

So this has been sort of a nature tour for us, away from the crowds. The sailing has been good, most of the anchorages peaceful and calm. We’ve enjoyed it. But we’ve been out a month and it’s time to be moving on.

Next we head to the San Blas Islands, where many cruising boats hang out and where we can buy cooking gas, supplies, and get our water tanks refilled.

And maybe we will put up our Panamanian flag.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Kunayala

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Monday, January 06, 2014

January 5, 2013-Sailing to the Darien

Beating out of the Gulf of Morrosquillo

The afternoon sea breeze filled as expected and at 13:00 Wings weighed anchor and slipped away to the south-west under plain sail, bound for the Sapzurro, in the Darien Province, on the Isthmus of Panama.

The wind, which they thought would clock around to the NW and lift them clear of land, held stubbornly to the SW, and, to add insult to injury, even backed a little and they had to beat out of the Gulf Morrosquillo to reach open water.

Nor did the wind clock during the afternoon or even as night fell but there was nothing to be done for it and they just hardened up and worked the vessel as close to the wind as they could as they sailed down the Colombian coast, sometimes skirting just off shore of the shallows and sometimes sailing inside of islands. The lights of the coast seemed close.

By morning however, the expected shift finally came and Wings was lifted. The sheets could be eased. The speeds went up. The sailing became easier.

And when, at mid-morning, the mountains of the Darien hove into view through the mist, their spirits were also lifted as they anticipated the landfall in a new place.

They anchored in Sapzurro at 13:00, 24 hours after setting sail.

Click here for some photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Sapzurro, Colombia

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