San Blas

Mike and Liz Downing
Sun 24 Jan 2010 02:54
We were woken up at 05.00 this morning by the depth alarm and GPS alarm both going off together - quite a din. We had originally anchored in 45 feet and the echo sounder was now saying 15 feet! The wind was very light, but had swung from the north east round to the south west and the boat had swung towards the shore. So it was just as well that we set the alarms. As it was pitch black and there were other boats anchored not too far away, we maneuvered back into deeper water just by turning the rudder and I stayed up until dawn when we could see exactly where we were. We then put a second anchor out to keep her in deep water. For the last year the winds have always come from the east - somewhere between north east and south east, but when the winds are light, they can change and if not careful you can gently drift ashore! Many of the anchorages in the San Blas islands are between reefs, so you can have a reef in front of you and a few boat lengths behind you, something that takes a bit of getting used to.

Being up early we did see something special when it got light. At 15-20 feet on white sand we could easily see the bottom and we saw a spotted eagle ray (about 4ft across) glide under the boat, turn round again and come back under the boat before gliding away. Unlike Bonaire, there are very few fish in the anchorage so that was quite a surprise.

The anchorage here is about 1/4 mile across and surrounded by 7 separate, almost equally spaced 'desert' islands with palm trees and dotted with white beaches. The islands are connected by shallow reefs, in beautiful turquoise water, except for 2 of the islands where the water is deeper and allows boats to get in and out. The water in the middle is quite deep (60 - 80ft) and so you approach an island, drop the anchor as it gets shallower and drop back into deeper water. With the wind always in the same direction (until last night) it's normally straight forward. The water in here is quite warm and we snorkel most days, but there are not a lot of fish. Surprisingly there are no birds - so when the wind drops out the sea is flat and it's quite silent, and quite strange.

A few Kuna Indians live on some of the islands and fish in their dugout canoes, which they also have sails for, which must be tricky as they are very narrow. This group of islands is furthest from the mainland (so the water is a lot clearer as river sediment doesn't reach this far), but most of the Kuna Indians live on islands close to the mainland. They live in huts made from fast growing plants from the rain forest on the mainland and some islands are literally packed with huts from shore to shore. When we checked in with customs and immigration we anchored not far from one of these islands and were visited by a family paddling their dugout canoe and selling intricate embroidery. So we have our Kuna souvenir! Plus a picture of them sailing their canoe away. Some do have boats with outboards, but many still just have canoes. We hope to stay here for a few more days and weather permitting will move on to the canal zone towards the end of next week. The city at the Atlantic side of the Canal is Colon and that's where we will be heading.

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