Jan. 18 Hollandaise Cays, San Blas
The scene we awoke to was even more beautiful than we imagined when we arrived last night, palm tree covered islands surrounded by water in every shade of blue you could imagine; aquamarine, teal, turquoise, and even ultraviolet when the sun hit it right. The San Blas Islands are an archipelago of small coral atolls spread out along the east coast of Panama, approximately 300 of which are uninhabited. They are the home of the Kuna Indians, a tribe that has maintained their traditions better than any of the tribes in the Americas; it has been forbidden for a Kuna to marry outside the tribe since 1925. The natives are short and some bear a strong resemblance to the Mayans, they are known for molas, intricately patterned cloths suitable for framing and hanging on a wall.
I had promised the crew I would make my signature corned beef hash upon completion of our passage, so I was up at 7:30 dicing potatoes and chopping onions. After everyone had finished breakfast Dan took us to the nearest of the small islands where we spent the morning swimming, exploring and just laying in the sun.
Enjoying a swim
Arvil & Jan having a rest in the shade
We had heard that you could arrange for a bon fire on one of the nearby islands, so Dan and I took the dingy over there to investigate. We were met at the beach by an older gentleman who spoke Spanish as well as the native tongue. He did not seem keen on our having a bon fire due to it being turtle nesting season, from what we could gather; I asked about buying some fish and he told us he could do a fish meal for $5 US, Em doesn’t eat fish so we inquired about chicken, pollo, but unbeknownst to us it is pronounced pullo; when we couldn’t get him to understand Dan started flapping his arms and making chicken sounds, something I’m sure this man had seen before. Arrangements were made for 6:00 and we returned to the boat for lunch and some lounging around.
Turtle Island, typical of the islands in the San Blas
Three men paddled up in a dugout canoe, representatives of the local Kuna, they came to collect the anchorage fee of $10 US for 30 days; we also bought some coconuts from them, picking coconuts from the trees on the islands is prohibited as each tree is owned by someone. Word had gone out on the net, and soon there were 30 people heading to the island for dinner; we made two trips with the dingy as it was some distance from where we were anchored. On our way some men in a dugout canoe stopped to ask if we would like to buy some lobsters or king crab; the lobsters go for $5 a pound and the crab was also $5 for the large beast. We paid then and instructed them to deliver it to the boat, where Em was still aboard. I can only imagine the look on her face as they dropped them into the cockpit.
We had arrived early and filled the time drinking local beer and talking to the other WARCers and assorted cruisers also waiting for dinner. They work out of two thatch huts and cook the meal over an open fire, the rice is cooked in coconut water and the “catch of the day” which we watched as they brought it ashore was a nice big barracuda.
Team Skyelark waiting for dinner
When our meal was ready the man came over and led us to a table in the largest of the huts, the seats were composed of an assortment of things including hand sawn planks, a plastic lawn chair, logs, and even a gas bottle. The fish was fried, but due to being cooked over the fire it retained a slight smoky taste; the rice and macaroni salad that accompanied it were also very good. It started to rain as we finished so we headed back to the boat and nightcaps of Captain Bligh in the cookpit.
Robin playing some tunes down below