February 20, 2007
San Blas Navigation
I'm hoping this gets through to the blog. I'm sending the update using email via my Iridium phone, but I have no way of checking what it looks like until we get someplace with Internet access--none of that here in the San Blas Islands.
Lots of boats are going up on the reefs this year. At least one boat was lost. He had tons of electronics, and the boat was a good one with lots of solid equipment. I will not speculate or second guess what happened, but I will warn others that you can't fool around with navigation here in the San Blas.
This area demands respect. There are no buoys, lights, or other navigation aids. The charts and guides are fairly accurate, but nothing like what you are used to coming from the U.S., the East Caribbean, or even the Bahamas. Landfalls and harbors must be entered in good light only, even if you have borrowed waypoints or your own. If you arrive from offshore after dark, heave-to outside or head offshore until daylight. If you travel between harbors, don't leave until around 10AM, and plan to be back at anchor by around 4PM at the latest, 2PM being better. In short, you need high sun to safely navigate the San Blas, and if you don't have it you have to use every technique in the book
to stay safe. Don't depend on your electronic chart plotter and radar to do that for you. Some of the charts are inaccurate, latitude/longitudes are off, coral grows, and shoals shift. Go slow and go safe!