Thursday 31 January 2019

Green Island, and Porvenir

Our favourite anchorage so far in the San Blas is Green Island, or

We managed to launch the drone when the wind dropped and in the first
picture you can see the mountains of Panama mainland in the background.
These mountains of San Blas are among the world's most undisturbed
tropical forests.
From our anchorage we saw turtles, dolphins, and brown pelicans diving
into the sea. It feels a great privilege to be sailing in these
beautiful waters amongst the tiny islands inhabited by a gentle people
whose way of life has changed little in recent decades.

Today we visited the island of Porvenir to clear customs - for
entrance into both the Guna Nation and Panama. Dealing with 18 boats
in one day was clearly a great deal more business than usual for
the customs officer, but he managed a smile for us as he stamped the
passports and handed them over. We have to make sure that we keep our
filing system in good order on Tintin, as each new port of call
requires us to provide evidence of clearance into and out of the
previous one.

We have another day to explore this wonderful archipelago, before we
sail on to Shelter Bay, situated opposite Colon at the northern end of
the Panama canal. There we will prepare Tintin for our canal transit a
few days later.

Wednesday 30 January 2019

STOP PRESS : Angling Society Update

Richard here - We managed get some fishing action in on our trip between
Santa Marta and the San Blas Islands, the sea state was rough for a
while but we trolled a large skirted lure - one big hit which took
plenty of line and eventually the hook......the 250lb leader was badly
frayed so whatever it was had sharp teeth..
Later we hooked a beautiful Mahi Mahi which put on a great aerial
display showing off its magnificent blue and golden hues, along side the
boat we reached over the side with the gaff just as the Mahi Mahi gave
one last jump and threw the hook. Just on sundown the line ran away
again and this time we were not to be thwarted as we pulled in a
yellow fin tuna. Sashimi for lunch on arrival into the San Blas
Islands and the start of us topping up on our Omega 3's.
Comparing notes with other boats and a mixture of Mahi Mahi, tuna and
one small blue marlin caught on the journey.

Lots of flying fish in and above the water - so many that in the
sunlight they look like flocks of small silvery birds - a deck
clearance required most mornings to remove those that didn't manage to
make it back off the boat deck after taking flight from our passing
close by. Fewer sea birds than I would have expected to see, the
occasional gannet like bird diving but other than that not much bird
life. Some pelicans and herons in the San Blas Islands. Some of the
other boats have keen fishermen on board one of which is planning to
detour North after we have gone through the Panama Canal to wet a line
on the Hannibal Bank which apparently is world renowned for its fishing
- especially big Marlin. We'll have to wait and see what the Eastern
Pacific brings....

San Blas Islands photos

Socialable San Blas Islands

Nicki here,

The San Blas islands have been a wonderfully relaxing destination for
most of the World ARC fleet, and we have had the opportunity to catch
up with a few of the other crews and meet some of the local Gunas
people. Most of the anchorages are sheltered by coral reefs
interspersed with small 'picture-postcard' sandy islands topped with
palm trees - some of which are inhabited, many are not.

On arrival into the Eastern Holandes we were greeted by the crew of
Mango, who invited us to breakfast on their beautiful spacious cat -
thank you! As we anchored at Green Island the following day, the
Canadian crew of Danica invited us over for a cold beer and snacks so
we all swam over - very welcome on a hot windless day. That evening
Makara of Exe invited us on board for sundownders - rum punches all
round, and the next morning we were able to return the compliment by
hosting them to coffee on board Tintin. (First both crews picked up
several bags of rubbish from the island - most plastic items washes in
from offshore; it appears to us that the local people keep their
islands very tidy.)

We heard via the SSB net that Aurora B had succeeded in making temporary
repairs to their steering and had arrived safely in the San Blas islands
yesterday morning, so we arranged to meet them at Gunboat Island
anchorage - a triangular reef about a mile wide with a small inhabited
island which we anchored close to; we were the only vessels there. Ed,
Gemma, Pim, Henry and Eva were very pleased indeed to see us after
having had a somewhat challenging few days! They came on board for
dinner and we were able to serve up quite a celebratory meal - tuna
sashimi and fresh spiny rock lobster (which we had purchased from a
local man as we are prohibited from taking them ourselves here),
followed by pan-friend tuna gougons with mango salsa and sala, then
spaghetti bolognese which was a particular hit with the kids and ending
with generous rations of chocolate which kept Rob happy too. This
morning Jo led a session of 'bums and tums' exercises on the deck of
Tintin in glorious sunny, breezy conditions.

As you may gather, all is well on board!

Sunday 27 January 2019

San Blas Paradise

After a much easier last 24 hours with a moderating sea and respectable
winds (ie 15-25 knots), dawn broke in a cloudy grey sky with
scattered black squall couds that we are becoming used to. But
apart from a little rain, there was no real menace in them. Then the San
Blas islands came into view: low lying little islets with palm trees,
and as we approached the incredible colours of the water became
clearer despite the clouds above.

Once behind the protective outer reef of the East Holandes Cays, and
with the benefit of more daylight, we cautiously made our way past the
uninhabited islands and coral reefs of Quinquindup, Ogoppiriadup,
Kalugirdup and Banendup to the stunning "swimming pool" anchorage. Rob
took the helm with Nicki on the charts navigating, and Jo and Richard on
the bow and up on the granny bars to provide eyeball assistance. We
made sure that Rob understood that if we pointed in a certain
direction, it was at a reef not at a clear passage -
so he knew that he needed to turn away from it and not towards it! We
are now anchored in 3m of clear turquoise water (with Tintin's lifting
centreboard we are only 1m deep, which makes it less hair-raising to
navigate shallow channels). Swell is breaking against the outer reef
and the waters here are calm.

The perils of navigating through coral were demonstrated by a yacht
just ahead of us which went aground on the reef (kindly showiing us
which way to avoid!) Thankfully they managed to get the boat off pretty
swiftly, using another boat to pull on a halyard and tip the hull. The
tidal range here is small (about 30 cm) so you can't depend on the
next rising tide to float you off.

A perfect place to relax after our passage from Santa Marta. We were
invited for breakfast by Patric and Birgitta on board Mango, another ARC
boat - a wonderful welcome for us.

Saturday 26 January 2019

Stage 2 - Santa Marta to San Blas Islands

We departed Santa Marta yesterday morning - 2 days behind the
schedule. The start had been postponed by high winds and high seas,
but all the crews were itching to be off.

The wind was very gentle in the marina, but there was enough for a
decent start under full sail. we headed west for 40miles to give the
Magdalena river a wide berth. Reports of overfalls, sandbanks and
large debris meant almost the whole fleet kept at least 10miles off.

Heading SW down the coast, the winds and seas started to build. Our
friends Ed, Gemma & family onboard Aurora B reported steering problems
- the wheel had come disconnected from the quadrant and was therefore
useless. We slowed down to be close to them whilst they gathered
their thoughts. Their autohelm worked and they also have hydrovane
wind-steering, so there was no immediate danger, so they decided to
head towards Puerto Velero, 20miles south. They were last seen
heading south and we all hope they'll catch us up soon.

Overnight, the winds and seas continued to build as forecast. For much
of the nght, winds were about 30knots with 3 to 4 m seas. 3
reefs in main and genoa. However, heading downwind as we are means
there is no problem with these conditions and Wendy has been on the
helm for over 12 hours straight now.

Today, conditions are gradually calming down and there are about
100miles to the San Blas so we hope to arrive about daybreak!

Jo's making a chocolate cake and all good!

Thursday 24 January 2019

Heeding local knowledge

Together with most of the ARC fleet we are delaying our departure from Santa Marta for another day. The wind speed has dropped dramatically here, but the local coastguard advises us that the sea state will still be very rough by the headland 30 miles to the west, close to where the Ria Magdalena joins the sea. The seas are forecast to settle gradually, from 4m wave height today to 2m tomorrow.
Tomorrow it is.

Wednesday 23 January 2019