Cartegena - San Blas 9:33.39N,78:56.92W

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Tue 28 Feb 2017 11:45
After our anchor was recovered by dragging grapnels across the seabed and we had sorted out the deck, washed off the mud and stowed all the other gear, we went ashore to Club Nautico and had a cold drink while waiting for the office to open. There is supposed to be a charge for leaving your dinghy here and we didn't want to come back to find it drifting off into the blue. Eventually we discovered that the office was closed until Monday. Only a 20 minute walk and into the fascinating old walled city. Old houses, beautiful balconies, fascinating sculptures, parks and of course the shop keepers trying to entice you in. We wandered, Sarah took loads of photo's,(photo blog to follow when we next have internet access). The walk back to the anchorage was interesting, we knew that there was a supermarket close to Club Nautico and Sarah had found it on an internet map which we tried to follow, eventually we gave up and followed a circuitous route back to Club Nautico, passing the supermarket about 100yds before we got there.

Sunday, midday, we set out for the San Blas Islands a 220 mile passage. The forecast was for an area of strong wind between Cartegena and San Blas but by going in an arc to the South West and then coming West along the coast we expected to skirt round this, also we knew that we would have to waste time somewhere so as to enter the island area in daylight with the sun high in the sky. Navigating in areas of reefs with inaccurate charts requires a lookout positioned up high or at least standing in the bow to spot the colour changes which show the reefs and should only be done with strong sunlight from overhead. We could have left later but that would have risked the stronger winds reaching Cartegena before we had got clear. So having sailed southwest we then reduced sail to the minimum to keep us moving and rolled along through the first night in 25 knots of wind. At 0400 we turned to head west and continued jogging along through the day and into the second night. At night some of the larger ships seem to stop and let themselves drift displaying Not Under Command signals then set off again at daybreak, obviously not in a hurry to reach their next port. As daylight approached we started to pick up sight of the islands and at about 10.00 we were heading in toward Isla Porvenir where we could visit immigration and check in to Panama, there are no customs here so we can't get clearance or a cruising permit, that will have to wait till Puerto Linton or Colon.

Checking in was interesting, the island has an airfield, hotel and immigration office and that's about it. Phil went ashore, paid the $60 required by the Kuna Indians for a permit to visit the island and waited for the immigration official to finish his lunch. The paperwork was easy to fill in but they require copies of passports, Zarpe and crewlist. I didn't have copies of our passports and despite phone calls to various offices there appeared to be no way round this. The nearest photocopier is on an adjacent island so I had to go there, luckily I wasn't the only one, an Italian/Colombian couple also had to go and of course they could speak Spanish. So we got in their little dinghy and threaded our way through the reefs until we reached the right place. In contrast to Porvenir, Wichubhuala is covered in buildings which spill over the edges and are built up over the sea. The photo copier is in one of the shops and copies are $1 each, they have a funny idea that copying two passports onto one sheet of paper is two copies so two sheets with both passports on cost $4! Back to Porvenir and finish the check in, passports stamped and $20 paid.

We have spent two nights here, taking time to try and unblock the after toilet and been visited by three Kuna ladies in their dugout canoe selling Molas, reverse appliqued designs which display traditional symbols. These are sold to raise money and makes them serious money earners. We have also met again Stuart and Julia on Desiderata, last met on the free supermarket bus on Bonaire, who have given Sarah a knee support to replace the elastic bandage she has been wearing. Cruising people are so kind and supportive of each other.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: