Posted in : Starling
After a great fleet start outside Santa Marta we were on our way to the San Blas islands, just off the coast of Panama. The wind died shortly after the start so we motored overnight, but were rewarded with perfect spinnaker conditions the next day. We hoisted our medium-weight kite and started flying along at 9-10 knots. We overtook a few of the fleet and were first across the line at 0608 on Fri 24th Jan!! We will have to wait for final results in a few days….
We headed into Cayos Coco Bandera, one of the closest anchorages to the south and parked ourselves about 20 metres from what can only be described as a piece of paradise. The San Blas islands are an archipelago of some 200 low-lying sandy islands densely coated in palm trees… they are absolutely beautiful. Only a few of them are inhabited and sure enough, no sooner had we anchored that a pair of local ‘Guna’ tribespeople approached in a homemade wooden canoe, bearing their handmade patchwork squares of all colours and designs. As a tribe, they are very friendly and all about 5-foot tall(!) We invited them aboard and they showed us their gorgeous fabrics, featuring animals and symmetrical patterns. Wendy, Michelle and Sue all bought some and discussed all sorts of uses. For others, the water beckoned and the alluring turquoise colour was too much to ignore, so Tom and Dave were straight overboard with their snorkels, followed swiftly by Arabella.
The next few days were free cruising for the World ARC fleet. We hopped a few miles at a time between islands, many of which came in circular chains joined by reef, giving excellent shelter and flat water. The reefs themselves were stunning: between us, we saw uncountable tropical, multicoloured fish, turtles, nurse sharks, sting rays, Moray eels, lobster, starfish, sea cucumbers, anemones; and tons of gorgeous coral of all shapes and sizes.
To top off an amazing stay here, we bought 2 enormous crayfish from local fishermen and had them as a starter. They were divine. What a great experience. We have a couple more days here before heading on to The Panama Canal. But it’s fair to say that these islands, set to the backdrop of mountainous mainland Panama, offer a unique cultural and marine experience that we have all loved and been privileged to see.