Feb 26 – March 30, 2023; 9725 nm and 1470 days after departure from La Rochelle.
Feature image: The birthday kids, me, Deb and Doghan
Somehow it was a different vibe at this time of the year in Guna Yala. Many more cruisers were visiting the western islands. Some of them come every year from around October to April and spend the winter around the islands to enjoy a slowed down lifestyle. Other boats were just “flying” through San Blas to get to Colon to transit the canal. The third category, I call them “host” boats, were making some money with having guests aboard. Providing the possibility to explore a bit of Guna Yala for a few lucky tourists. And there were us, right in between.
Our first stop after we left the marina was in Miriadiadup. A beautiful anchorage in front of a big reef and a small island behind us. We happened to go there by accident as we promised to deliver a parcel to some friends of Cerulean. Andy and Julie, a very nice Irish/British couple on their catamaran Cushla. Here we were introduced to the satellite communication service “Star Link” for the first time, the Elon Mask data speed heaven. (It is a big discussion for cruisor whether to get it or not.) Cushla had it installed and was so kind to have it open for other cruisers to use. Just a quick explanation. Usually we use a sim card and hope to have reasonable connection to a tower somewhere ashore to get internet. In the remote San Blas area that works comparetively amazingly well, but still you never know how the performence will be. Of course my former telecommunication engineer, now called El Capitano, boostered our router performence with a bigger antenna, yet the data speed is always a surprise and certainly not useable reliably for streaming. Still it usually is good enough to Whatsapp and read news. Star Link is different! E.g. uploading pics for the blog sometimes takes ONE minute for ONE pic. Incredibly exhausting and frustrating! But if you have a Star Link boat next to you, you can upload 50 pics or so in one minute and you can watch Netflix or whatever you like. Kind of fascinating… Why am I writing this? Only because I took advantage of Cushla’s offer and uploaded many, many pics for the impressions. That was awesome and sooooooo fast!!! Well, more fun of course was having a potluck at the beach with 3 other boats. One of the boat was a “host” boat they made a big fire and arranged some trunks so we had kind of a table to place the food. That was a great afternoon chatting and sharing food with different people. I even had the pleasure to talk to a nice woman from the Philippines. That got my memories back to the time we used to live there. She thought it was hilarious listen to my 5 words in Tagalog which I remembered from a song the kids learned at kindergarten. Though the absolute best part was to come. A single handed guy suddenly started to fix a white square fabric between two palm trees. While I was still thinking about what was going on, other sailors already helped to fix the fabric and built up a beamer position. Tataaaaa now even I got it, applause! He was preparing for a movie night at the beach. How cool was that? Watching a movie on a remote island with no electricity, just palm trees and a Guna family. I thought that was amazing. The “host” boat even went back to make a giant portion of popcorn. Within 20 min all was set up and we were sitting with the Guna family and about 10 sailors at the beach watching Avatar, munching popcorn and drinking beer 😁.
It was soooo nice being at anchore again. Even though we didn’t do much. Snorkeling was not an option at that moment as El Capitano was suffering from an ear infection or whatever that was and I still didn’t get rid of my sore throat and light coughing. Enjoying some swims, strolling at the island and having some chats with Cushla was all we needed.
Besides, the trip to Mariadiadup was quite rough. Big waves were shaking us through the water, Altimate was heeling over a lot so that we had a very wet ride. By the time we arrived we found some salt water in the bilge and even a few drops in our “cellar”. Another project to look at. The whole bilge needed to be cleaned out to try to find where the leak was. That’s what sailors like! Yeah, crawling through the bilge. Ok, on Altimate it was not too bad as the bilge is very shallow, but still it was not our favourite job to do. The good thing was we could check on our tin and glas food supplies and clean the bilge at the same time. All in all there was only maybe 3/4 of a liter which we absorbed but we couldn’t immediately find the source. In the end we figured that it was a hose clamp on the engine which was corroded. Fortunately two clamps were used to secure the hose. Otherwise we would have had much more water and a much bigger problem. The water in our cellar probably came through the fixing points from the hydraulic ram. El Capitano sealed it with sicaflex to stop water from coming inside. So, all in all, the rough ride was actally good. Like this we found the weak points early enough to get them easily fixed.
After about a week we left and headed to Barnedup (Bug island). Geez! It was so crowded! Unintentially we picked the week when all the ARC World (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers company organising a circumnavigation rally) boats stopped at Barnedup. Ibin’s place got fast famous during the last few months. It was likely that many cruisers wanted to check on his nice dishes. So did the ARC crews. Who could blame them? A win win situation. A delight for cruisers and good business for Ibin. Well, we decided to go there as we wanted to say good bye to our friends Heike and Wolfgang from Steadfast. They were on their way back for good. Changing to live ashore in Europe and travel around by RV. On their last days we had dinner at Ibins and some fun at the beach with bbq and beach fire. As always it was sad to say good bye to friends but at the same time you fortunately always gain new friends.
And at that time we met a lot of cruisers!
Our daily routine was snorkeling (we were both fit again) in the morning with Gloria and Mike from “Respite” and Helen and Mark from “Cloud Nine”. That was absolutely amazing! They spent their last 10 winters in San Blas and knew the best places to snorkel. It was such a pleasure to snorkel together. Especially Cloud Nine knew all the names of the fishes and the other wildlife. They showed us zigzag ways to different reefs which we wouldn’t have dared to go to. The most beautiful snorkel so far was a fantastic cut in one of the outer reefs. It was so cool to swim through the deep, narrow meandering cut. Quite exciting as you never knew what would come from beneath to say hello 😉. I can’t count anymore how many nurse sharks and rays we saw! One day I even saw a green moraine and had trouble to get the attention from my fellow divers. I wanted a pic for proof! By the time El Capitano was close by, the moraine was hiding behind a stone, but he still managed to get a shot 😁! Not the best but at least.
After snorkeling we usually had lunch and sometimes (to be honest rather often) a nice restful nap. Then it was already time to go ashore and meet other sailors. Ibin had set up a net and we had a volleyball👍. After a few days the word got around and it was a fixed date to start playing volleyball at around 4 pm. That was so much fun! Some of the cruisors were joining the game, others enjoyed watching. In the end we were all chatting and enjoying a “pipa” (no, not a drug, just coconut water!) or, if available, even a cold beer. Meanwhile Ibin got a fridge and freezer which made it possible for him to sell sometimes cold beverages. The 17th of March was St. Patricks day. I doubt that anybody was really interested in that holiday but hey if the Irish celebrate that day why not join them. A reason to party was and is always welcome among sailors! So some of the old hands organised a pot luck on little island Quinquindup and we celebrated St. Patricks day. All they needed to do was making an announcement on the radio and just like this the party was on. Everybody was welcomed and brought some food. We loved that! The best opportunity to try a lot of different kind of very tasty international food. Unfortunately I didn’t get a pic of the variety of all the finger food dishes… I can assure it was great! St Patrick’s day is, who knows why?, connected to green and a shamrock. So some of us tried to be greenish, others were very well decorated.
A couple of days later we were in the mood to change location. We headed to Green island but stayed there only two nights and then anchored at Esnasdup. Here we met up with Respite and Susan from Woodenshoe. Susan is a very amazing lady. She has been living on her boat for decades. She is now in her plus 80 and is still sailing around on her own. Sailing does seem to keep one fit! I hope that works for us too in the same way. However, she earns my deepest respect! I’m not sure if I would like and be able to do that. Snorkelling was not on our agenda as the current was to strong. Respite invited us instead to come and chat and drink with them in the”pool”. Unfortunately we had just started to prepare lunch and couldn´t join them. Also we didn’t really know what it was supposed to be… but we could see them “pooling”. It was hilarious! They had picked a shallow sandy patch between the reefs and were sitting in the water, chatting and drinking. Next time we will definitely join them!!! In the afternoon Susan arrived as well and Respite invited all of us to play Farkle. A fun and easy to learn dice game. We had a nice evening and found out that I share my birthday with Deb from “Runner”. My wish for my birthday was going back to Barnedup and have a nice dinner at Ibins place. Respite and Susan also wanted to go back to celebrate with Deb. Now knowing that we had a double birthday I contacted Deb to check whether she would like to celebrate together. She in turn told me that she just heard, that it was also Doghan’s birthday! Yeah! What a coincidence! I never knew a person who’s birthday was the same date like mine so far. And here in a remote area we were three. That was so cool!
I think it was the next day when we all headed back to Barnedup. We were lucky´cause we had a great sail and caught two big yummy fishes. Yes!
Meanwhile we all knew that we would have a triple birthday and all we had to do was counting who wanted to have dinner to let Ibin know. He said he would make a big cake for us. Well Doghan and I knew that it was mostly for Deb but we were very fine with that. After all Deb and Reg (who just sadly passed away in January) were living there at the same anchorage for about 20 years. So she was kind of family. I think that was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had so far. We didn’t have to do anything. The location was there and stunning! Who doesn’t want to have party on a beautiful beach? Ibin even set up trunk tables and benches for us so we could sit all together. The food and beverages were provided. Even the decoration was looked after by some fellow sailors. Oh, and a looooooot of pics were taken. A dream birthday party! We, the birthday kids could just enjoy our own party. I loved and appreciated that soooo much😁. Thank all of you for a very special day!!!
Well, it suddenly got empty in the anchorage. Many of the every-year-returning sailors were heading to Turtle cay or Linton bay to leave their boats and travel home for 6 months. The ARC boats were anyhow already gone and the last boats who wanted to transit the canal also needed urgently to leave. The few others slowly spread out in all directions. And so did we.