Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Starfish, Sharks, Stingrays in the San Blas ….. May 2012

12 – 28 May 2012

IMG_0126 a selection of small colourful molas

The days have slipped by, actually two weeks have slipped by.  I know you all wonder what we do all day, well honestly I wonder what we do all day too.  We have been moving around just a little as we have definitely got to “the good bits” of the San Blas,.  If what you are looking for is clean white sandy beaches on palm tree cays, clear water, good snorkelling, totally flat anchorages, gentle breeze, not too many bugs, fresh produce and sometimes alcohol delivered to your boat – well there really has been nowhere else like it in our 8 years of cruising so far.P5160169

As always there are the downsides. 

The heat – it’s over 30c every day and humidity has got to be way up in the high 90’s.  It doesn’t slip much below that at night, but we are in the tropics so it’s not like it’s a big surprise  and it’s easy to jump overboard to cool off. 

The thunder and lightening stormsthis one is quite a major really, as there just isn’t anywhere to hide.  When those forks of lightening start heading our way and make the water around us sizzle all we can do is cross our fingers and pray.  We are getting a major lightening display about every five days, and can see lightening in the distance most nights. Sometimes the storms can last for hours but normally end by about 10am.  As yet we haven’t had wind over 30knots, and rarely have any wind with them at all.  There is usually plenty of rain with them so we have full water tanks nearly all the time, the boat stays clean and the laundry is kept up to date .P5230024
And then there are the bugs – We were expecting mosquitoes to be our biggest problem on the insect front but thankfully they have been very few and far between and haven’t been an issue at all.  However escaping the no-see-ums hasn’t been easy, even on the outer most islands when the air is very still (which is often) they come out to feast.  We are learning to live with bites, they like nibbling on Skipper most, but it would be great to get away from them.  There have been a few stingy things in the water too and we have worn our stinger suits on occasion, but they haven’t been too much of a problem.

Besides the threat of a lightening strike it is a wonderful tropical playground, as we motor short hops from one paradise to the next.

Green Island   IMG_0116
This was our first stop after our provisioning run to Nargana.  There were a handful of deserted islands dotted around within a mile creating a lagoon in the centre giving protection from all directions - another great anchorage. There were even 8 other boats there so we were all geared up for some socializing, but alas they were all French speaking, and understandably stuck together.  The water temperature was incredible.  I don’t know if there are underwater hot springs in the anchorage but it would have to be the hottest sea water we have ever swam in,.  Almost too hot, even for me and that would be a first!  The water had that oily look on the top, a sure sign of fresh water sitting on top of the salt so maybe there was a spring.  It made for poor visibility for swimming and snorkelling and when we unintentionally came face to face with a rather large stingray while out swimming we decided to move on to clearer pastures.

Western Coco Bandero CaysIMG_0121
Another few miles and just an hour away was the next small island group, the Western Banderos.  We had already been to the Eastern Banderos and had been very impressed with them.  However this was our first anchorage in a while that we weren’t tucked up all snug, there were already 3 catamarans in behind the reef so it was a little tight for us and we anchored slightly out.  For the first time since leaving Grenada in February we had a very slight roll, gosh we had forgotten what that was like!  On the positive side we were rewarded with some excellent snorkelling, we circumnavigated a small island fringed with reef, took in a wreck along the way and stopped for a walk on the little island – all of about 20 paces.    

We shared happy hour drinks ashore with Denny and Becky off American boat Kokomo.  We took the opportunity to do a bonfire rubbish burn, we separate all our rubbish and keep for burning anything that is not biodegradable.  We don’t actually agree with burning plastic bags and bottles but it is a far better option than the only other alternative of throwing them overboard.  And yes we could keep them until we are able to dispose of them ashore but after a month they were starting to mount up, so it was bonfire time.  We collected up the rubbish off the tiny island too, but on each wave more came to rest, rather disheartening but for a couple of minutes it was a sparkling example of paradise found.

Holandes Cays
Of all that we had heard about the San Blas before our arrival, the Holandes Cays had been spoken about most highly – “if you don’t go anywhere else in the San Blas, you must go to the Holandes”.  Having spent some time now in some very stunning spots we didn’t think it could get much better so  it was time for us to see for ourselves just how good they could be  …….. well take a look for yourself.
P5230017 
We approached the anchorage through the reef passage and avoided the temptation of anchoring further out in a sensible depth of 8 metres.  The gin clear water and sandy bottom in shallow part just looked too appealing so we nurdled our way into the shallows and dropped anchor in 3 metres.  As we draw 2.3 metres we have very rarely anchored in such shallow water, but the tidal range here is minimal, there was no swell, the bottom was flat and it just looked sooooo perfect!!

P5200010
IMG_0103
We “lost” 10 days here, it wasn’t hard!  We did take the opportunity to catch up on some boat jobs and both took to the water and while I cleaned and polished Balvenies top sides, Skipper spent many an hour cleaning her bottom, changing the anodes and greasing the propeller under water – no mean feat.  Also the sewing machine came out for an extended period, most unusual while at anchor.  Alterations were made to our rain catcher to increase efficiency, a sun/rain shade was made for the back hatch (over our bed) enabling us to leave our hatch open while it rains so we, or more importantly the bed, doesn’t get wet.   This project took quite some time in the design stage as we get to the dinghy from the stern of the boat and didn’t want our access way cluttered.  The end result works well but is already in the redesign stages to incorporate it also as a rain catcher! P5190002  Ongoing repairs were made to our troublesome watermaker but this time it has Skipper stumped and has been put into retirement for now, well at least we have raincatchers!!

We did lots of snorkelling on the outer reef.  One day we even snorkelled through a pass to the outside but there was still too much surge so we did a quick u-turn and returned to flatter water.  We saw some nurse sharks at the reef,  Mark even saw one under the boat one day, apparently they are harmless but they still look very mean.  We have seen many rays, both Stingrays and Eagle Rays.  They are huge, the Eagle Rays grow up to 8 feet and are very graceful as they float through the water, the Stingrays are slightly smaller but look much more menacing with their long sharp tails.  At night the water around the boat comes alive, never before have we had so much inwater activity every night, it is amazing and very entertaining – you wonder just what is going on down there! 

P5080126 I did some diving down in the shallows under the boat and collected some “sand dollars” and other shells and unfortunately this caused my ears to block and despite many attempts at various methods to unblock them (the medical amongst you would cringe!!!) one remains blocked and will need professionally unblocking when we get somewhere that can do it – meanwhile my life is more peaceful than usual.

We shared a few happy hours with Brits Barry and Lindy off Samarang who are also here for the Hurricane Season.  Each day Lindy and I would keep a watchful eye out for the vege boat as our fresh supplies were dwindling by the meal.  Eventually they arrived, rather low on stock but enough to keep us going for a little while longer.  However we are nearly out of milk, flour and cereal – it’s time to move on.

For in depth info on our anchorages and what facilities there were click here to go to our Cruising Info Blog

1 comment:

Belinda Del Pesco said...

Wow, the color of that water is other-worldly! How beautiful. And I bet the photos don't do it justice when your swimming in it. Great post!