Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cartagena to San Blas

The water in the Cartagena anchorage is extremely icky. That is a nautical term that means gross things float through the dirty water and lots of stuff grows on the boat's bottom. After only ten days, our engines showed their displeasure by running hot (port engine) and stopping altogether (starboard) as we motored out of the anchorage. Our friends on Amelie IV had dark smoke coming out of their exhaust.

With what little wind there was coming right on our nose, we motored from Cartagena to the Rosarios, a group a islands that belongs to Colombia. Despite the complaints from our engines, we made it without much incident. Matthew from Amelie IV yelled "Yes!" as he jumped into the relatively clean and clear water and we all felt the same relief at finally being able to swim again. We enjoyed swimming and started the process of cleaning the bottom. Our hull looked like it had the worst case of eczema ever, with the tiny barnacles and reddish algae covering the entire surface. The propellers were completely encrusted with barnacles.


We spent a few  days near Isla Grande, in the Rosarios, with Amelie IV and Kazaio. The aquarium there is surprisingly good and it was interesting to see the small village on the island. We then completed the overnight passage to the San Blas. The winds were better than forecasted but local weather patterns kicked up a strong current, so that we had 3 knots against us at times. At one point, the wind died a bit and although we were moving through the water (you could see the boat moving over the waves), our instruments showed that we were almost at a standstill. We turned one motor on and motor-sailed for the remainder of the trip but were grateful to have been able to sail while we could. We caught a good-sized black fin tuna and had a few dolphins on our bow.
The terrain of the San Blas struck us immediately because of the density of the coconut trees and the mountains. The area, known locally as Kuna Yala, is home to the Kuna natives. They have preserved their culture in a way that most indigenous people have not. We visited Playon Chica with our local guide, Arquim, and visited his family and the local cemetery. Mark and Conrad were amazed by the thatched-roof huts with bamboo walls. He gave us gifts of crab and lobster and sold us molas made by his wife.

As we entered Cayos Diablo, we saw a catamaran on the reef and later discovered that it was a cruising boat that we had met in Las Aves. They had come in at night without realizing that the electronic charts are offset and paid for it with their boat. It was a sobering caution against trusting your charts too much and coming into an anchorage here without good light.

Arquim from Playon Chica
Our visit to Niadup village in  Cayos Diablo was without a guide and allowed us to interact more directly with the villagers. We met the chief, were taken into the home of a local, and witnessed a village-wide celebration of a young girl's "coming of age" (the start of her monthly cycle). Although the villages have been traditional, they can't help but be influenced by tourists. The colorfully adorned women charge a dollar to be photographed and there are Kunas that want to either sell you something or a few that will just ask outright to be given things.

As Christmas approaches, we are enjoying the beaches and clear water. We miss our family and friends but are fortunate to be with new friends as we travel and explore.


  1. Jennifer, this is your cousin James from LA. Uncle Gideon turned me on to your blog - it's amazing! He and his family are visiting us for Christmas and we were talking about your travels. I'll be following your journey going forward!

    1. Hi James! Good to hear from you. Have a great Christmas!

  2. Hi -

    My name is Michael Boyink and together with my family of wife and teens have been a fulltime RVer for 4 years now.

    A while back we started TopFamilyTravelBlogs as a way to keep current with other traveling families. We initially had just other RVers but recently have broadened the scope to include any family traveling full time in any mode.

    I just wanted to let you know that we added your blog to the mix of sources so hopefully can send some traffic your way. Your new posts should appear on the paper the next day.

    If you care to link to TopFamilyTravelBlogs.com from your site you can find logos at: http://b4a.us/a/6125 (no worries if you don't want to, we don't require it, this isn't a money-making effort on our part).

    If you know of other family travel blogs feel free to suggest them - we'll add them if we haven't found them already.

    Best wishes in the new year!
    Michael Boyink


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