Thursday, February 13, 2014

San Blas Islands – Back on Track

Molas are for sale everywhere. They are beautiful handmade
art objects. Some are more detailed and finer work than others.
The good news is when I turned on the chart plotter to do an anchor check before bed, up came all of the chart detail we had been missing earlier in the day! It seems that I needed to turn off the chart plot and power it up again after inserting the SD card with the new area. I am always afraid to turn off the chart plotter when underway in case I lose our track or position – or worse yet, it doesn’t come up at all! So, needless to say, I was happy to see it working. Although we still need to heed the warning from Noonsite regarding the error on the Navionics charts. Our charts are new and may have the correction, but we are not taking any chances as we move among these little islands.

This is where you check in with
Customs and Immigration.
The San Blas Islands are really around 400 cays (pronounced “keys”) as they are very small up croppings of low lying land surrounded by reefs.  This group of small cays lay off the coast of Panama on the Caribbean side. The sand is white and coconut palms provide some shade. Actually, coconuts are the main crop of the San Blas Islands, providing over 30,000,000 coconuts per year! However, I don’t think you can buy them as there are no stores here!

When did you last see these as
the major way to communicate?
This is the airport. It is a landing strip
with water at both ends!
Navigation is very challenging and it is wise to have someone on the foredeck watching for changes in the water color. When in the dinghy, we suddenly hit the bottom with the motor even though we were quite far off land. Many of the islands are uninhabited. Some offer good snorkeling. There are no services, provisioning or communications available here.
The restaurant where we lunched.

Once we figured out where we were and where we needed to go, we headed to Porvenir to check in with Immigration and Customs. On the way there, we saw the infamous Sail Rock which has claimed a few hulls over the years! It is a nasty place to kiss the reef!

Once on Porvenir, we met our WARC team and crossed the runway to the government offices. All went well until they discovered that Dennis and my passports had not been stamped in St. Lucia.  I guess we will be more watchful when checking in and out of these countries. They finally let us complete the paperwork and leave. This island has a police station, a bank and pay telephones, all of which are not available on the other islands.

We found an interesting place for lunch. It is one of the two restaurants on the island. There was no menu. We were told they were serving fish, rice, and vegetables. All was fresh and very tasty. I was a little taken back when I was served first and the fish had its head, tail and fins all intact and cooked in a tasty curry batter. I really don’t like to see my food looking back at me!  But it was really good and I managed to eat the proper parts.

The beach here is lovely and looks as I would expect the islands to be complete with the thatched huts and beautiful white sand. Since the sun is so hot and the air humid, it is nice to cool off in the water from time to time. It is interesting to see the local people wearing jeans or layers of their native dress when we are sweating in shorts and tank tops! I hope I adjust to the heat soon as it is difficult to sleep at night. And my hair is wet most of the time just from perspiration.

The museum was very interesting in the way it showed the Kuna Indian way of life. It is a very simple lifestyle, but they must work at gathering their basic foods. Their personal economy depends on the sale of molas so every woman and some men make and sell them. Apparently, no one owns the land, but they all own the coconuts. It is advised that you do not pick one. Here are some photos from the museum:

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