San Blas Islands, Panama

Bill and Caroline
Wed 30 Jan 2013 22:13

09:35.39N 078:40.39W 

In the San Blas for a second time, this time with working engines. There are 378 islands so too many to visit in the time we have. Most are deserted and covered in coconut palms with white sandy beaches. Approaching them is best with the sun behind you so you have a better chance of working out where the reefs are as we have found out that the paper and electronic charts are almost always out by a quarter of a mile - the GPS often appears to show us to be anchored on land which is a little disconcerting.


Life on board Juffa continues with on-going debates about how much water is allowed for washing, whether the ‘seen better days’ bendy carrots have any nutritional value or just provide a bit of welcome colour, weevil searches continue with no let up, guitar serenades now lighten up the anchorages (it is early days for Bill) and crochet shopping bags have not had the bartering success hoped for, yet, but they are beginning to look a little more like bags now. The previously mentioned bartering starts with local fishermen offering fish, lobster or crab. Sometimes petrol but more usually money is exchanged after careful haggling about the price, size, effort needed to catch but unfortunately no one has wanted to exchange produce for the carefully crocheted string bags, yet.  But hopefully both sides are happy with the outcome (not sure the lobsters always agree).


 Unlike our previous experience of Panama (we were deluged and in danger of evolving webbed feet), water is a rare commodity in the dry season especially when the mainland water supply pipe is broken and work on it will take at least another month. The only solution is to paddle Cayucos (dug out canoes) as far as they can go up the mainland rivers and collect river water to take back precariously balanced in plastic containers.


The majority of the settlements are living a traditional lifestyle with minimal influence from the 21st Century but some communities have decided to embrace electricity, street lights, TVs and satellite dishes. Toilets are small versions of the stick huts with palm thatch roofs which perch out over the sea as short drop toilets, livestock also live suspended above water.


 A solution to our uninvited pets (weevils, mites, caterpillars…) has been suggested - to encourage a gecko to live on board as a boat pet. Other boats have managed this with some success, acquiring a personal gecko while hauled out on land. Despite being able to provide an ample supply of tasty treats we seemed unable to tempt a gecko to take up home with us, or so we thought. When unfurling the mainsail for the first time a dead, desiccated and flattened gecko flipped out on the deck.  If only we had known……