January 28, 2020 0330 local time
Position 09 ° 45 ′ North 079 ° 33 ′ West
Caribbean Sea en route from San Blas to Panama (Atlantic side, i.e. the city of Colon) and precisely Shelter Bay Marina.
The crab that the Kuna Yala had promised us for lunch never arrived, so in agreement with friends from Milanto we left for Lemon Keys, about ten miles to the west, sailing under an increasingly gray sky, a gray dense, a cloth on the head. It has stolen the colors, the bright turquoise, the ocher yellow of the corals, the blue of the deepest passages, the pale blue of the lagoons near the beaches, and even the green of the palm trees has clouded over. And then the rain, torrential at times to almost fill a bucket left at the stern and forcing us to empty the tender hanging from the davits at the stern because worried by the weight of so much water. Soon we will mount the protections designed by myself and skilfully executed by Tuscan and Santa Marta upholsterers;a module protection that is quickly installed and sheltered from rain, strong wind, as well as from the sometimes relentless sun, leaving the cockpit as a veranda overlooking the sea and not forcing the crews to wear waxes to shelter. We are the only boat to have such effective protection, but today everything has no color. Really a shame, because we don’t have many days to wait for the sun.
They explain that the climate is changing here too; the rainy season is at the end, but this year has aftermath that last a few weeks, bringing an unusual variability in this time of year. The sailing movement makes us slide smoothly towards the anchor, doing gymnastics between the reef aided by the digital eyes of the onboard instrumentation, and the new Navionics charts, which we have found to be reliable. We also have a really well done pilot book, “ The Panama Cruising Guide“By Eric Bauhaus, which I would define indispensable, with alternating images taken from the satellite and precise drawings, as well as the description of an Italian who has already sailed in these parts with Refola and in his book faithfully reports the latitude and longitude of the most significant anchorages and safe. We soon realize by ourselves that it is not difficult to sail in these waters, if you proceed with caution and extreme attention, also because the tide is ineffective, reaching only 30 cm. We chose Banedup Island in this atoll because it is inhabited by two families who occasionally host people for lunch or dinner if they feel like it. However, we arrive on a Sunday and while looking forward to the Kuna-style lobster, we soon discover that it is a bad day, today they say that they don’t want to cook for us at Ariel and MIlanto,and we also understand why the crab never arrived.
Patience, let’s go wild in the baking of 900 grams of pizza dough and Ceci churns out 4 extraordinary pizzas to the rhythm of music while it continues to rain outside, and will do it all night. Today is the last day in San Blas and we have to change atoll to reach the operations center of the archipelago, the island of Porvenir, capital and immigration area for boat and crew for the state of Panama. Three inhabited islands of the atoll, one is Porvenir, seat of the General Congress of the Kuna or Guna as it is written on the sign of the wooden house, seat of the only Hotel of the San Blas (yellow and red wooden shacks) and a track landing area for small aircraft that commute with Panama City; the others have an unpronounceable name, one is in fact a real Kuna (Guna) Yala village and the other similar, although smaller.
Despite the infamous weather, we manage to visit both of them, one out of bureaucratic obligations and the other out of curiosity to see the daily passing of time of this strange people. In Porvenir we are welcomed by the ARC officials who have already prepared everything for Ariel and her team, so we easily go to the 3 control officers: Immigration with the Panamanian policeman (check passports and boat documents), acceptance of the head of the Kuna , who checks the same things as the first and presents us with the bill, or the tax to be at San Blas: 20 dollars for the boat and 20 for each crew member; then the last official of the Panamanian government for clearance of entry, which will then be presented at the exit when we set sail for the Galapagos. Country you go, bureaucracy you find. But this is in a festive atmosphere,accompanied by a Kuna who makes us drink coconut water and clumsily opens a nut to taste the pulp of a real ripe coconut. We can also recover two sim cards for data and local telephony, which have a duration of 15 days and we will be able to connect with our mobile phones.
Our subscription made with TIM, which is called TIM Mondo, is in fact proving to be a sound rip-off, as often happens now in our country; vice versa get a local card, with 20 dollars you have unlimited internet and then you can communicate with whatsapp without difficulty. In the afternoon we host two friends from Milanto, no more because our dinghy over 7 cannot do it, and we go to the island of Whichub Wala and enter the heart of a Kuna village. The women work, they run two shops where everything is sold, from flip-flops to phone cards or potatoes; and they do it while weaving the “molas”, particular and really beautiful embroidered pieces of cloth. Others run the pueblo’s only bar / restaurant, and others carry babies on their shoulders in the pouring rain,barefoot in a maze of puddles that look like lakes. A child bends down and like a little dog does his business in front of the house, perhaps in the dedicated corner, or perhaps because children are allowed, we don’t know. Other children from 4 to 12 years old play dominoes in the shelter of a masonry and sheet metal shed, while walking among the original cane and banana tree huts, we notice the alternation of improvised and degraded buildings of concrete and wooden stilts, in a disorderly, decadent context where plastic and cans fill barrels on the sides of the “roads” that we hope someone will bring to the mainland for ricilco sooner or later. The men, what should be the workforce, drink beer and hang around, let’s imagine taking turns to participate in some “political” committee of the congresses of the islands,or to get on the canoes with their wives to go and sell their textile wares: they row and their wives cash. The most beautiful picture, and we will give you photos on this website in the coming days, is the Whichub Wala school, in the main square of the town and near the big governors’ hut, sitting in a circle drinking beer and deciding that the flag sells to tourists for 20 dollars … not one more, but not one less.
The night slowly will leave room for the sun, we hope today it will be so, we have seen from the weather that towards the west we expect brightening, while in fact we proceed under a starry mantle pushed by our Oliver because the wind remained tonight, like the rain, at San Blas .
See you tomorrow from Shelter Bay
Paolo & Crew