October 2007  San Blas Islands, Panama    We left Cartagena on October 23 and had a two day motorsail to the San Blas islands in Panama.  We were happy to be able to go swimming again in clear waters.  We spent three days in the Hollandaes Cayes where the weather was a bit cloudy with occasional rain.   It cleared up and we had beautiful sunny and calm days.  We spent a day at Nuinudup before heading to Porvenir to clear into Panama.  There we met Chami, who works for the military and currently assigned to the small airport on the island.  Chami is from the Wounaan Embera Indian tribe in the Darien area of Panama.  He's an artist, and carves beautiful animal art from the small tagua nut.  We purchased three, a hummingbird, a parrot and a frog.  It takes him two weeks to carve and paint one of the nuts.  There were not many yachts yet this time of year; the few that were there gathered in two or three areas.  We wanted to be in secluded anchorages, so we headed out to the uninhabited island of Moron.  It was beautiful, and we had the area to ourselves.  We took a dinghy ride one day to visit the village on Nusaputu.  There are only 52 people on the island, and it was very neat and organized.  We met the chief, Antonio, who gave us a tour of the island.  I bought two molas, and a Kuna woman named Nelia wrapped my wrist with traditional beads.

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arriving San Blas

 

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my Kuna friend

 

Next we visited the nearby island of Rio Sidra, where Carlos gave us a tour of the village and his home.  We met many friendly villagers.  We brought pencils for the children and reading glasses for the elder women.  Their eyes are strained after years of intricate sewing of molas, so they were great gifts and much appreciated. 

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Kuna woman and her baby

We anchored for four days at Gunboat Island, another uninhabited, gorgeous island surrounded by reefs.  The snorkeling was great.  Each day fishermen visited and sold to us freshly caught tuna and lobster.  The tuna cost $2 each.  I made sushi and sashimi and also prepared pan seared tuna...delicious.  We bought a bucketful of lobster (17) for $20.  Pat and I tried to find lobster in the nearby reefs, without success.  For the locals, it's a piece of cake.  We had fruit delivered to us from their farm on the mainland.  We were in heaven.  I don't know why I worried about provisioning before we left Cartagena...we had the best food caught and delivered each day!

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that's a lobster!

Moremake Tupu was the next island we visited.  Crespo was our guide.  We had wanted to see Venancio again, the master mola maker who lives here, but he was out selling his molas.  He did come by our boat the next day, and we bought a mola from him. 

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November 8   San Andres  We didn't want to leave the tranquility of the San Blas, but knew it was time to head north for San Andres Island off the Nicaraguan coast.  The first day was a motorsail as we had the wind directly on our nose, but then it shifted towards the east and we were able to have a pleasant sail the second day.  There was a cruise ship anchored at the entrance to the harbor when we arrived.  It was great to be back here where shops for provisioning are plentiful, and great duty free goods.  The day after our arrival, the wind increased to 30 knots and there were several squalls.  Our friends on S/V Cyrano were north of San Andres when their mainsail tore and they had engine problems.  They had to be towed in by the Coast Guard.  This is a good place to get repairs done.  We'll wait for the weather to calm down before attempting the next leg of our journey to the Vivorillo Cayes.

November 17   Vivorillo Cayes  We left San Andres today at 4:00 p.m.  Up until now, the wind was from the north with squalls, making it impossible for us to move on.  The next couple of days looked favorable, according to the forecast, with northeast to east winds at 15 to 20 knots with 4-6 ft. seas.  However, it turned out to be one of the worst passages we have ever made.  The seas and swell were high (9 to 13 ft) and during the night there were so many squalls which drove the wind up to 30-40 knots.  Our boat was heeled most of the time, and we had to hold on and put our faith in our strong, heavy boat.  The swells made for a bumpy ride and we were both seasick.  The good news was that the wind was in our favor and although we were beating to the wind, our average speed was 7 to 8 1/2 knots.  We had to slow down at the end, as we didn't want to arrive in the dark. We made the 245 mile voyage in 35 hours.  We were exhausted but very happy to arrive.  There are many shrimp, fish and lobster boats anchored here.  The first day, a fisherman came over with two giant crabs and a bagful of shrimp for our dinner.  In exchange, we gave him a bottle of rum.  The water is 83 deg. F and very clear.  We snorkeled and spotted two nurse sharks, many rays, squid, barracuda, and many beautiful fish.

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Vivorillos Cayes

November 22   Isla Mujeres  At 6:00 am, we were underway for Isla Mujeres.  This was a great passage...we had winds out of the east as we headed north, so we were able to sail all the way.  The weather was beautiful, seas calm, and we had no squalls.  The trip took us about 3 1/2 days.  Along the way, we caught fish...the first day, we hooked a large marlin.  It was hard work to reel it in as it was very heavy and strong.  We brought it broadside for a picture, and then released it.  The second day we caught five mahi mahi (two were released) and one nice wahoo.  The third day we caught a king mackerel.  Needless to say, our freezer is full!  We arrived in Isla Mujeres at 5:00 am on November 25.  We're happy to be back in Isla Mujeres as we really like the ambiance here.  We in El Milagro marina, where our journey began more than one year ago.  It didn't take us long to decide we want to stay here for a while, rather than to return to Florida. 

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