East Lemmon Cays
Leaving the Swimming Pool anchorage in the East Holandes Cays wasn’t an easy thing to do, but all good things must come to an end. We motored out through the islands and reefs and moved a few more miles west to the eastern anchorage of the Lemmon Cays. We were moving closer and closer to “civilisation” and this was the busiest anchorage we had been in for a long time with day tripper boats, people camping in tents ashore – all this activity we were no longer used to! The bonus was a visit from another vege boat, and although we still couldn’t buy milk or bread we did top up on chicken (yes still with head and feet) veges, wine and beer. So happy hours and dinners for the foreseeable future were looking ok but unless we got some milk, cereal, bread or flour soon it was going to be black tea and fruit for breakfast and no morning lattes – problem!
Porvenir and Wichubhuala
Porvenir seemed the obvious choice for our next stop. Not only did it have an airstrip, hotel and restaurant, but it also housed Immigration and the Port Authority. However that basically was all it had. The airstrip was currently under reconstruction so the “hotel” looked closed and the restaurant was marginal. But the Immigration and Port Authority offices were open so after nearly 6 weeks in Panama it really was time to check in and become official. I will mention that this was the first place we could check in and it is accepted that yachts coming from Colombia via the San Blas can take a while.
So the process began - Immigration wasn’t so bad, just a detailed form each to complete and our thumb prints taken, now that was a first. We were issued a visa for $50 USD each, we are actually not clear if it is for a year or 6 months, we had heard sometimes it is free, sometimes $10, sometimes $100, guess we did ok with $50. Next was the Port Captains office, out came the typewriter and form after form were produced, such a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, shame there was no air conditioning. I’m not actually sure if they even had power, they did have cell phones but the local cell tower was down so no coverage! Our “Cruising Permit” for a year in Panamanian waters cost $193 USD and then there was our exit papers from the San Blas a bargain at just $17 – we came away with a seriously big dent in our remaining US Dollars and ruled out the possibility of trying the basic restaurant for dinner.
The anchorage was ok so we stayed the night and dinghied the short distance over to Whichiwhatever the next morning, armed with shopping list and our few remaining dollars. The waters surrounding the island were slightly cleaner than we had previously experienced and the main part of the village was orderly and quite clean but the periphery was another big dump site, I simply don’t understand why the Kunas don’t keep these minuscule islands they live on clean, therefore providing a much healthier and way more pleasant environment. The main “store” was much like the ones in Nargana – disappointing, however we got the main items we needed, milk powder, flour, and corn flakes (the only cereal). Luckily we didn’t need produce as there were only a couple of pumpkins. Had we wanted crisps, cookies or beans and pork in a can we could have loaded up, it seems these may be the Kunas staple diet.
West Lemmon Cays
We backtracked a few miles and glided over the 2.5m shallows at the southern entrance into the West Lemmon Cays. First impressions weren’t great, the main island wasn’t the cute picture postcard perfect we had come to expect, the anchorage was much deeper than charted BUT there was a tiny shack ashore that was a bar with plug-in internet. We stayed 4 nights and took care of overdue business when the internet worked (not often). The bar was a bar with no staff really, they just lay around in their hammocks until you called enough times, then maybe they would show some interest. Certainly not keen business people looking to make a buck out of us yachties, but they did serve cold beer.
We enjoyed some snorkelling off the bottom of the island which provided some of the most colourful corals we had seen in a while but very few fish. We survived another thunder storm with the strongest winds so far, nudging at 28 knots. But it was time to move on, we were virtually out of dollars and there are no ATMs anywhere in the San Blas. Paradise had been great but it was time to return to the real world, we hadn’t even seen a car in over 6 weeks and the cupboards really were starting to get a little bare.
For in depth anchorage details and other cruising info on the San Blas area click here to go to our Cruising Info Blog
Time to see what else Panama has to offer