Thursday, January 31, 2008

The San Blas Islands – N09.31.150; W078.38.884 – October 25 – December 03, 2007

Finally, on our way to the San Blas Islands of which we had heard so many good things. We were having a truly lovely sail on an almost perfect kind of sailing day, just enough breeze for KS to pick up her head and heel just enough for the added water line length that allows her to settle in ‘for the ride’.

We were busy just enjoying the day when Doc started running up and down the deck, a sure sign that his little dolphin buddies are close by. He must be able to smell their scent on the air, because we had not yet made any visual contact, then all of a sudden there they were, all around us. They jumped and dove and rode our bow wave with seemingly effortless ease. Doc was in his glory and it would seem that somehow he has made a connection with these creatures and they him. At one point however, it required a strong hand to hold him back as he was giving every indication that he was ready to join them and that would have added slightly more excitement to the trip than was necessary. After a long while and many miles the dolphin welcoming committee swam off and we again settled into a beautiful relaxing sail.

We began seeing our first local fisherman out in there cayuka’s, each with different colored sails (usually just an old bed sheet strung between a couple of poles), they would wave and smile and sail toward us offering their catch of the day, most often, lobster, squid, or snapper. But alas, one can only eat so much lobster, squid & snapper…and besides I had a rather energetic Barracuda on the line…not a keeper…we don’t prefer the taste, but occasionally we do cook it up for Doc…he loves it!

We arrived in Porvanir, our check-in stop for the San Blas Islands and did not yet have the hook in the water when we were swarmed by the indigenous people known as the Kuna Indians selling their wares. For many years now the Kuna peoples have been famous for their traditional Mola artwork. These are multi layered embroideries of the highest intricacy and two or three of the Kuna have become quite famous for their work.
After making our first Mola purchases and getting checked in we made our way to a small grouping of islands called Chichime, home to one of the more famous of the Master Mola makers, Liza. (collage 19.jpg)

We joined up with our friends Aaron and Lyla (S/v Blow Me Away) and met Liza whom we commissioned to make a special Mola of our boat depicting Doc and his little Dolphin buddies. We celebrated Liza’s birthday with her and she did a wonderful job on our Mola, a true keepsake. (collage 25)

The San Blas Islands are a chain of small palm treed islands surrounded by gin clear water with island names like Chichime, Tiadup, Olosicuidup and some we can neither spell nor pronounce and then there are the others named East & West Lemon Cays, E & W Hollandes, E & W Coco Banderos, Snug Harbour, The Swimming Pool & the Hot Tub, it is easy to see that many cruisers have found their way here and many stayed affixing names that more suited their purpose.

Almost every island is owned by a Kuna family and with permission you are welcome to visit. We visited many and found the families delightful and willing to trade and give you whatever small items they have, expecting very little in return. This is truly one of the unspoiled places we have visited on the planet…but you can see the changes coming as some are ‘wise to the ways of cruisers’ and are willing to take advantage if given the opportunity.

While we enjoyed the social life and hunter/gathering at the Swimming Pool, we also really enjoyed the Coco Banderos and Lemon Cays. However, Snug Harbour shall remain affixed in my memory as the place where I caught and filleted my first shark. How was it you ask?...well the eatin part was great, but getting to that part was tough and the filleting…hahahahhaa fagetaboutit… if you know what a sawsall is (for those unfamiliar, it is a power tool used in demolition construction)…then you can get the picture…I did not have a knife on board that would cut him…and getting him to stop breathing was no small feat…rubbing alcohol in the gills didn’t stop him…slicing the gills to bleed him didn’t stop him…hitting him in the head repeatedly with a hammer didn’t stop him…and dragging him to shore (no way I was gonna try cleaning him on the boat) finally after cutting half way thru his body with a sawsall …which was the only tool I had on board that would cut thru his hide…finally he stopped breathing and the filleting began….it was a long arduous task…but in the end…the little shark was some mighty fine eating…altho…all things considered…I think I would just let the next one go.(collage 21)

During our six short weeks in the San Blas we visited many of the islands. But there are so many more we have yet to visit and we look forward to doing so on our revisit when we depart from Cartagena in February 2008.

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