In order to sail to San Blas we were waiting three weeks in Bonaire and Curacao for an ideal weather window. From January to April the trade winds are rather strong in the Caribbean Sea. Especially off the coast of Colombia there is the infamous washing machine with very strong winds and big waves from two different systems. This is due to the strong trades on the cape and the falling winds from the coast. Insiders advise taking a good distance from the coast and adding at least 10 knots to the wind forecasts. When the wind forecast came down to about 20 knots we took off. As we came out of the shadow of the island of Curacao, the wind and the waves increased. The waves from the side made life on board uncomfortable and not everyone felt comfortable :-(. During the night the wind increased to 35 knots and we were all well shaken. We didn’t sleep too much, when sailing the 50 nautical miles off the Colombian “Peninsula de la Guajira”. The next day everything was calmer, with only 15-25 knots of wind and much less waves. We took course to San Blas and passed Santa Marta and Cartagena each at 120nm. There we caught a strong current with up to 4 knots sometimes :=).
The wind dropped more and more as we got closer to the San Blas islands. We couldn’t wait to get there. Apart from the first day, it was a pleasant crossing. It was worth to wait that long for the right weather window. Our friends from the SY Pelizeno, who sailed off earlier, told us later that they had gusts up to 50kn and huge breaking waves that filled their cockpit. The kids were also pleased about the pleasant crossing. They were allowed to go to school: =). Nael learned the first letters and Ilian made swinging exercises. The books with the washable pen are awesome.
As we discovered the San Blas Islands in the early morning, we thought it would be a floating forest of palm trees. The islands look like in the movies where the castaways managed to reach a lonesome island: a small pile of sand with a few palm trees. Just like in paradise.
When we anchored in Porvenir, a family in a small rowboat came to us and helped us to clear in. They then showed us their island “Nalunega” with their village.
One house stands next to the other on the small island. They are cooking together and in the evening everyone meets in the “congreso” to discuss the day. They spend the night in the hammock. Many work on the nearby mainland and also food and drinking water comes from there. However, there is also a water hole with fresh water in the middle of the island. We were impressed by how the Kunas live together as a community and cherish their traditions. In order to better protect it, tourism was recently restricted even more.
Here in Porvenir our backpacker Momo could go his own way again. He has been sailing with us since Grenada. Apparently there is no road between North and South America and the backpackers take the waterway to avoid the jungle of Panama. That’s why we saw sailing boats with 15 people or so on board …
We sailed further to the island of Chichime and Cayo Holands. There we met our friends from Pelizeno, Raftkin and La Cigale. We really enjoyed the beautiful sandy beach with the crystal clear water. All eight children played together on the beach and the adults discussed the next plans or past adventures.
The New Zealanders also had a small sailing dinghy with them, where Lukas could sail around with the boys.
We will remember the San Blas Islands as one of the most beautiful places on our trip. It was just relaxing, quiet and pure nature.
The whole archipelago consists of 365 small islands, but only 50 are inhabited. Sailing in this region is not easy, as there are many coral reefs. The electronic maps do not show all the details, but the book by Eric Bauhaus “The Panama Cruising Guide” gives you waypoints to follow using the engine. We were surprised by a New Zealander following the waypoints under sail, then skillfully stopping the boat head to wind and then dropping the sails and the anchor at the same time. It turned out that this was the 3-time world champion in match racing, Adam Minoprio, with his fiancee and his parents.
After the paradise, now comes the famous Panama Canal. Let’s see when we get slot to get through…