Cruising with Playpen
Leg 3 - Installment 1 —Headed home! 4/7 - 4/13/03
Panama to the San Blas Islands
Corrections—Somehow I got calendar and info mixed up. We toured the Wounnan (not Wausaan) village on 4/6/03, went shopping on 4/5, and hung out on 4/4. On 4/7 we went to Portobelo.
4/8/03 Portobelo to Isla Linton 9* 36.7N 79* 35.24W 10nm 3 hr
We headed for the San Blas islands, but got beat back by adverse seas and winds. We anchored in a secure spent at Isla Linton and spent the day navigating our way home.
4/9/003 Isla Linton to Punta Playita San Blas Islands 9* 32.95N 78*59.54W 47.6nm 8 ¼ hr
We bit the bullet and slogged through some rough head seas to the renowned San Blas Islands. The American Tug, Annie, Playpen, and a sailboat friend, Siesta arrived too late for a pretty island anchorage and opted for a safer, reef-free river anchorage. Before the anchor was set dugouts appeared with women hawking molas. Molas are fabric art, hand created only by the Kuna Indians of the San Blas. They are beautiful, intricate reverse appliqué tapestries; but we weren’t ready to shop yet. Our windlass quit with the anchor almost all the way down; so we were really busy working on various fixes before finally whacking (really tapping) it. While we were doing that the chief appeared and told us it would cost $50 for each powerboat and $5 for the sailboat to anchor. We emphatically said we wouldn’t pay that and sent him to Siesta where Ed speaks perfect Spanish. Ed told the chief that the powerboats are just like the sailboat and should pay the same. The chief said powerboats are "commercial" and must pay $50. It went back and forth, and Ed told the chief we would not buy any molas or anything else if we had to pay $50. The chief shrugged and returned to hang out at our starboard corner until we were ready to talk to him. We grudgingly paid the $50 and then discovered that while he was hanging on an apparent nail from his panga had scratched through the paint on our quarter. We were really furious then! Several dugouts came by with women and babies hawking molas and begging for food. They were angry and scowled when we said the chief had all our money. We were then inundated with no-see-ums all night long. Ugh! Let ‘s go home!
4/10/03 Punta Playita to Hollandes Cays 9* 35.26N 78* 40.68W 20nm 3 ½ hr.
We decided to try one more San Blas anchorage—this time between beautiful palm clad white beach islands, setting in the most beautiful water we’d ever seen. The chief of this paradise asked for $5 anchoring fee. We enjoyed a gorgeous evening. The winch was still acting up, but the Ideal people told us where to keep tapping it and said it should keep working (probably carbon built up on the brushes).
4/11/03 Hollandes Cays
We dinghied with Ann & Don to a beautiful small inhabited island and doled out cookies to the kids. Soon the moms came up and helped themselves to handfuls of cookies "for their families." We were escorted to the point, the chief’s home, where they sold us molas. At 1st the natives didn’t want their pictures taken, but they were persuaded with more cookies and money for the molas. The chief scaled a coconut tree and prepared 4 coconut milks for us. These people live the ultimate minimalist life. Their huts are constructed of bamboo poles with thatch roofs. Interiors consist of hammocks for sleeping and maybe a small table and a few chairs; there’s a neighborhood outhouse. A fish weir holds their dinner. The men spend their time fishing and/or tending and gathering coconuts. The women sew molas. School-aged children live on the mainland and attend school there. The villages earn money from selling molas and coconuts, and collecting anchoring fees. The chief had just bought a new 9.9 Yamaha for his dugout but had no gasoline. There were about 20 huts on the island, and each housed 6-8 people. The villagers were happy, friendly, and not at all pushy, unlike yesterday’s Kunas.
After lunch we planned to scoot around the corner and anchor inside a reef at the entrance to the ocean. The plan was to leave at daybreak for San Andres. But, best laid plans… The anchorage was too deep and too small; so we headed out at 1600. The wind was 15-20, seas 6-8’ and choppy, but the forecast called for calming just north of the canal. Ship traffic to and from the canal kept us alert all night.
4/12/03 at sea off Costa Rica
The wind died to light and variable and the seas took on a lulling 2-4’ swell. We slowed down to 1350 RPM and 5.5 kn so as to arrive in good light to see the San Andres reef. Nice calm uneventful night and day and night.
4/13/03 San Blas, Panama to San Andres, Columbia 12*34.7N 81* 41.86W 259nm 42 ½ hr
We entered San Andres Channel at 0700 and were lucky enough to get the last 2 slips on the fuel dock at Nene’s Marina/ Ship’s Agent Tomas Livingston effortlessly did our paperwork for us. We squirted the boat and settled down for a nap after our 2 nights at sea. We walked to and through town, which reminded us of Daytona Beach or Ft. Lauderdale with motorcycle traffic instead of cars. Fred & Don enjoyed the Sunday afternoon beach scenery. We had dinner and taxied back "home" where we ran the air conditioning (!) for a great night’s sleep.