September 18, 2006

San Blas Islands

Friends from Providencia had been calling around on the radio to find us, and we soon were chatting now that we were back in radio range. They were all in the Coco Bandero Cays so we hightailed it for there.

Heather helped pilot us in by climbing up to the spreaders. In tropical waters, which are often very clear, one learns to follow channels by observing changes in water coloration. This technique works very well, once you are used to it, but it can be thwarted by poor lighting conditions.

The anchoring area in the Cocos was very tight and we had to use a precision anchor drop to get in just the right place, with enough scope (anchor chain) out to allow the anchor to hold properly without letting us hit the reefs when the wind switched. We were soon anchored comfortably, enjoying the companionship of old friends.

Heather and Ian were off in the inflatable kayaks to play on the beach, and we enjoyed evening cocktails on starfish island. Kuna Indians came by to offer us fish and langousta from their wooden dugout canoes, though they proved to be hard bargainers. They are amazing boatmen, paddling and sailing miles across open ocean waters in boats that most of us would have trouble getting into or out of. Sometimes one Kuna has to bail constantly to keep the things afloat, but they seem to always make it.

However, one night Leslie and I saw a family struggling against wind and waves to make shore. The old grandpa was in the stern with a little boy of about eight in the bow. In between were mom and daughter, both with little babies. The waves were washing over the ulu as they struggled to make shore. We motored out in our dinghy and took the women and babies off, then splashed our way over to their island while the grandpa and child paddled the canoe in. The family invited us to visit the next day and we returned to buy some molas and see their island.

Another Kuna known as Serapio, was famed for being a bit of a crook, but we didn't know that. He talked us into giving him $50 to buy some groceries for us, and we wondered if we would ever see him again. Luckily, Leslie and Heather must have charmed him because the crook returned with everything we ordered, much to the surprise of the other cruisers.