(4.5) The San Blas! – COMPLETE

LEG 4.5

The San Blas! Awesome!

I’d heard mixed reviews about the San Blas Islands.  If you’ve read about them, you know they are made up of hundreds of small islands scattered near the main land, many of which are inhabited by a group of native indians, semi-autonomous from Panama.

Whatever you’ve heard about them, take my word for it, they are a cruising paradise!  Granted the weather in Panama can be oppressive, and no doubt we were lucky on weather, but the water is amazing, there is great snorkeling everywhere, and if you are wiling to go just a few miles out of your way you can get away from the crowds….wait, there really weren’t crowds.  At least not like the BVI or Catalina.

Waters are shallow, anchoring is easy, and there is a reef that protects most of it.  For our trip the temps were in the 70s at night, and 80s  in the day.  Not many bugs, and fortunately the big squalls missed us.

Highlights of the trip were finding the Coronado atoll and islands on our way down to the San Blas, finding our sand spit island(I’ll post pics), and stopping in the village of Portebello on our way back to Cristobal.

Portebello was the original harbor and land route across the isthmus of Panama before there was a canal.  Spanish fortifications dating back to the 16th century are still intact.  It’s a deep natural, all weather harbor, and a lot of cruisers anchor there.  Dinner and drinks ashore turned into a big party on the big R.  The last thing the captain remembers is jumping off the fly bridge top…but clearly I’m still alive.(shout out to the Belize crews, we figured out how to turn on the underwater lights)

It was also my first time experiencing a Halocline!  The rain waters from the day had brought a thin layer of 65-70 degree fresh water down from the mountains, that sat on top of the 85 degree salt water.  Very cool!

Crew was totally awesome, and between the great help on board and the first opportunity to actually relax and go nowhere, we had a full blown vacation.  Liz by far has the most Caribbean sailing experience of any of us, and I think she approved.  No one wanted to go home.

Cleanup and canal prep in Cristobal went according to plan.  A couple of issues that arose in port over the last month were resolved.  The new auto-pilot install was completed, engines serviced, radios replaced, and the balance of rigging issues that piled up over the summer were addressed.  All in all, Reliant is ready to take on the Pacific.

Thanks to Sue and Liz for getting us ready to depart, and Aimee and Charlotte for cleanup when we got back.  Big thanks to Nick for all the help on the squawk list.

All paperwork and inspections for canal transit are complete(more info to come).

Reliant is safe in Shelter Bay Marina.  Pete and Elaina on board in port, Panamanian Crocodiles on guard patrol.

Leg 4.5 Complete!