Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Getting out of Dodge

Boogie boarding boat buddies
Being in the San Blas and seeing all the boats up on reefs reminds me of a story told to me by a friend about her friend ("Suzy"). Suzy had failed the road test to get her driver's license four times. But she had figured out her problem: "I just don't know whether to err to the left or to the right!" My friend's response was, "Oh, Suzy. You don't err..."

Math on an island
That's how we were starting to feel in the San Blas. Any little mistake could easily lead to disaster. The intense winds, abundance of reefs, and suspect charts seem to create a perfect storm of boat deaths. We saw numerous reef-bound boats in the San Blas, five of which had happened in the weeks right before we arrived or during our four-week stay. Matt helped one boat that was sinking (this one was due to mechanical issues, not hitting a reef). Despite the beauty of the islands and the interesting Kuna culture, by the end of our stay in the San Blas we felt like we might be pushing our luck. After several days of staying put due to 30 to 40+ knot winds, we finally left for Porvenir to start our journey west. From Porvenir, we heard rescue efforts being organized for yet another boat and could see it stuck on the reef in the distance. And this was a backpacker boat familiar with the area.

Our dinghy ride up the Rio Diablo
To add to the "danger" quotient, the San Blas is also home to an abundance of wildlife. We heard reports from other cruisers of a four-meter caiman swimming right where our buddy boat Amelie IV was anchored and a bull shark eating a ray in the shallow area where a gaggle of our kids would later swim. It didn't stop anyone from swimming, but it did give us pause.

Super-highways of leaf cutter ants
It takes a steady hand...

Shoe-sucking mud
We'll head towards Colon next to start the process of crossing the canal.

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