They say there are two types of sailors: the sailor that runs aground, and the sailor that lies about running aground. We have been quite lucky about such things, that is until we arrived in the San Blas. The San Blas are known for their uncharted waters, their reefs and for the fact that many boats hit the reefs every year. Ha, we laugh in the face of such obstacles! Correction, we used to laugh in the face of such obstacles. Now we have much more respect for uncharted areas! Seriously, we have always been pretty cautious, but we will now employ a new level of cautiousness. The caption for the first bay we wanted to explore, off the main track, "Bahia de Masargandi: unexplored, unsurveyed, uninhabited, all yours." Sounds fantastic right.....very wrong! First we hit sand and decided we had gone in far enough. We'd explore the rest by dinghy. Mike backed down quickly and we were fine. The danger of hitting sand, is getting stuck on a high tide and having to wait until the tide changes to get off. Considering the 14th showed the moon as being at its closest point in 70 years, we certainly didn't want to get stuck on a high tide in those conditions. Fortunately we did not. We anchored nearby and meandered around the bay by dinghy. I've mentioned with all of us in the dinghy, we don't move fast and it was a slow ride around, but it was fun. After a few hours we were headed back in the direction of the boat, but we wanted to stop on a small island on the way back. Half way there we saw a speed boat approaching Pelagic, about a mile away. Most likely they were there to collect an anchoring fee, but since we left the boat open, we were a little nervous. Theft is almost non existent in the San Blas, but we realized we had left everything out; cameras, ipads, etc. (we weren't expecting to be gone so long). We didn't think they could see us, so we wanted to get back quickly. Mike decided to drop us off on the small island and then speed over to the boat. In his haste, he went into the island on a rocky section and before we knew it we had hit a hard piece of coral and the tube in the dinghy punctured. Shit, now what? Again, 2 second decisions were made and Mike decided our best option would be for him to race to Pelagic, keeping the bow portion of the dinghy as much out of water as possible (the site of the 2 inch puncture). The dinghy was deflating rapidly, but as he started to plane, he was able to move through the water quite quickly. Approaching Pelagic, the last of the air was almost gone from one tube of the dinghy and it started to sink. While the outboard started to go under he was able to swim to Pelagic and reach for a block and tackle, attached to the mizzen, which is our makeshift crane. He quickly secured the line from the Mizzen boom to the outboard and was able to save the outboard from going completely under. 30 seconds more and we would be without an outboard. Now we have a punctured dinghy that we are hoping to patch. The speed boat circled Mike the whole time and offered the assistance of picking up his family stranded on the small island a mile away. We were thankful for that. Thankful that we didn't lose the dinghy and motor entirely. Turns out the speed boat was from a nearby village and they came over with 5 men (two armed) to tell us we could not anchor in the bay, but we would need to move to the village. No big deal, we would retrace our route in exactly, and get out of the shoal filled bay without further incident. Wrong again. Somehow, in the distance it took us to turn the boat around and get back on our original track, we hit a huge rock. Fortunately not going very fast, but the boat shuddered under the impact nonetheless. Flakes of red paint floated to the surface and our day just seemed to be getting worse by the minute. Pelagic has a huge, thick, sturdy keel, so we were confident the boat was fine, but we were disappointed in our luck and our judgment.
Later, after we had re-anchored in front of the village, to add insult to injury, we were asked to pay a $200 fine for anchoring in a spot that was prohibited. All our literature says the San Blas are open to visitors, but expect to pay small fees to anchor. Apparently they have just passed new rules, in the last 6 months, yet there was no way for us to have any of the new information. We aren't sure what that means for the rest of our trip here, but we are hopeful we will be free to visit. The chief told us that now that we have paid the fine we were free to anchor anywhere, but we don't know if he means locally, or all the way up the island chain. At this point we aren't sure what to expect. Mike argued valiantly for our case, that we had no way of knowing their rules and once we learned of them we quickly tried to comply, but without luck. Normally he can talk his way out of a lot of things, but this time he ended up having to go before the village congress and they did not budge. Mike mentioned that boats won't come with those kind of fees/fines and although he put forth a reasonable defense, when you are dealing with people that have a different system of economics, fiscal reason goes out the window. To their defense, they have managed to keep their culture mostly intact longer than most tribes in the Americas, so they are doing something right and they are a very proud people, and don't back down. In fact, we appealed to the Panamanian police that were stationed on the island (border police), and even they have to pay fines for everything; if they cross to the mainland, if they look at a woman wrong, if they are on the island after hours. The Kunas are tough, and good for them, but they won't get visiting yachts that way. Maybe that is for the best anyway. The Kunas will keep us on our toes and we will be infinitely more careful in the future. This day cannot end fast enough!
The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.
Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.
Our favorite sailing quote:
"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron