Blog 9. San Blas to Portobella. 09 33.48N 79 57.02W

David Batten
Sun 31 Jan 2016 17:42
With apologies to all blog readers for deafening silence from Alcedo, but a combination of busy, busy, busy and very flaky Wifi has interfered with all blog activities and in truth, we are now in Shelter Bay, but will go back to San Blas for this blog.
Chichime in all honesty was a disappointment.  It has been spoiled by the back packers who stay on the Island at the weekend and it was a weekend when we were there.  The rubbish detracts from the beauty of the Island and we were unlucky with the weather as the wind was unusually strong and blowing mostly from the North East, making the anchorages rough and the sea very murky.  It was also very squally the day of the WARC pot luck lunch, so Stephano delivered the Skipper’s briefing for Porvenir and Panama on a windy beach just before a torrential downpour sent everyone scurrying for the lunch hut.  The local tribe of Kuna Indians who gave permission and provided the venue for the pot luck then gave a demonstration of their “tribal” dance in their traditional dress.  The female members of crew then enjoyed a little retail therapy by buying bracelets all round as we could not bring ourselves to pay $60 for a “Molar”, a square of beautifully constructed patterns on different layers of material that would make lovely cushion covers, but just did not appeal enough to justify the expenditure.
After Chichime, we motor sailed to Porvenir to check into Panama, a necessary but somewhat tedious process involving an indifferent anchorage between 2 reefs off quite a small island that was mostly runway, only occasionally in use.  Then it was off downwind and around a couple more reefs to Limone Cays, a lovely collection of small islands surrounded by reefs.  We did not want to approach from the North as there was quite a big sea running and the entrance to the south would have necessitated keel up, which it was too rough to achieve without taking off too much of the repairs done in Deltaville and Rodney Bay, but we found enough sand to anchor just off the southern entrance.  We did go and explore another potential anchorage, but decided this one was nicer, so returned for a late snorkel on a very nice reef, where we met the crew of Chillie B, also enjoying the reef.   Sadly, there are not as many fish as one would expect for such a reef and some parts of the reef showed signs of significant previous destruction.  Hubert, the Skipper of Chillie B suspected dynamite fishing some time in the past, but that is shear speculation.   There is no doubt that to truly appreciate San Blas, you need more time than we had, the south and eastern islands are by far the best and calmer conditions would have made the cruising round there so much more relaxing and pleasurable.  The boats that spent longer there and went further away from Porvenir and Chichime really enjoyed them and found the unspoilt beaches and great snorkelling that they are famous for.
After “Uncle” was collected by the taxi service for his transfer to Panama and the “Tenacious”, we left the San Blas and had a cracking sail once we had cleared the reefs off the San Blas Peninsular.  Destination Portobella, a beautiful deep bay on the coastline between Isla Grande and the entrance to the Canal.  As in every good anchorage we have visited to date, there were a mass of yachts in the bay, but it is so large and the holding so good, there is no problem with finding space.  The bay is set in lovely countryside, a mixture of untouched and cleared forest with few houses and the town is small and very unspoilt.  There are a few restaurants and we went to ”Jacks” and enjoyed Thai based cuisine for supper.  The following morning we had time for a quick walk and some unexpected retail therapy for pearl necklaces at the entrance to the forts and delicious fresh bread from the bakery.  Another place where more time would have been welcome, but we are in the first group transiting the Canal, so we must proceed to Shelter Bay and preparation for the transit.