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The Two Captains


January 7, 2001 
Chichime, San Blas, Panama

Latitude: 09-35.235N
Longitude: 078-52.45W

The San Blas Islands were meant for sun and clear blue skies, and finally we have had a week of it which we have spent wandering amongst the jewel-like islets of the Western Holandes, Eastern Lemon and Chichime Cays. All these islands are small to tiny, barely a foot above sea-level, with golden beaches and only the few scattered thatch huts of the coconut caretakers assigned there from the mainland villages. These are the last island clusters of the San Blas. From here it is about 75 miles to Colon and the Panama Canal, which we will take in several steps. Tomorrow we jump off on the 40-mile passage to Isla Linton.

This week's worth of perfect weather has, wouldn't you know, coincided with a week's worth of head and chest colds for the two captains, the first colds we have been had since leaving Trinidad. So, while glittering reefs abound, we have had to stay out of the water. Sigh! However, we have appreciated the beauty around us no less.

We left the "Swimming Pool" January 4th. Even with some sun and a substantial exodus of boats, we never did fully subscribe to its supposed charm. With pure joy, we escaped to sail liesurely along the length of the Holandes, about 17 little islands strung out east to west along eight miles of coral reef. With sailing like that, you could keep going forever.

Fortunately we chose to stop at the v-shaped anchorage at the Western End where two long thin islands almost overlap. The two points sport a line of palm trees through which you can easily see the large rollers breaking on the outer reef, and the mosaic of different blues was breath-taking. The only boat there was our friends Pizazz, and after the crowd at the Swimming Pool, the privacy was luxurious. It lasted about two hours until the Temptress Voyager a mini-cruise ship, extrememly reminiscent of the old Aquanaut Holiday, plopped its anchor right behind us. It was sure flashback time for me as the PA announcements wafted forward herding the passengers from scheduled activity to scheduled activity, not to mention the silly last-night-of-the-cruise party. Lourae of Pizazz called on the VHF to ask, "Did you actually have to do all that stuff?!" Oh, yes, big time reminiscence time. Fortunately, the ship upped anchor and cruised away about 8pm.

The next day we got off our butts to walk the perimeter of one of the islands, one that clearly has no coconut caretakers in sight. The brush was thick and on the windward side you are reminded that the San Blas is the lee shore of the whole Caribbean. Friend Judy would be in heaven sifting through the junk collected there. Plus, you can learn alot about the life cycle of the coconut palm on these perambulations, as many of the trees on the beach edge topple over bringing the business end down to eye level! In the evening we carted a bread-machine pizza over to Pizazz to help Randy celebrate his 50th birthday. The adaptability of cruisers was demonstrated as the party expanded to include a new boat, Diana B, that sailed in mid-afternoon, who showed up complete with pasta casserole. What a feast and what a night...Moon and stars aglitter in a cloudless sky!

Yesterday we sailed gently southwest to rendezvous with co-cruisers Sandi Lee and SueThing in Nuinudup, an anchorage in the Eastern Lemon Cays defined by four tiny islets that seemed barely above the sea. A set designer couldn't imagine better. Unfortunately Don spent most of the afternoon with Mac -- our electrical guru -- with their faces in the floor trying to diagnose another failure of our just rebuilt Minus 40 freezer. I won't dwell on this unfortunate situation, except to say all our remaining frozen food fit without problem into our original built-in freezer.

Today we motored our way through another maze of reefs to the anchorage at Chichime, yet again a totally different and totally gorgeous spot. It is almsot a bittersweet beauty as this is the end of the San Blas, the jumping off spot for the coast of Panama. This last special set of islands coupled with Mother Nature's very fine weather show makes it hard to move on, but should the conditions deteriorate again the next leg would be miserable, so, as I said, we are off again tomorrow. Tonight we will say farewell to the Land of the Kuna with a BBQ aboard TII with our friends Mac & Sam and George and Sue.


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