Cruising Kuna Yala

Trip Start May 20, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Panama  , Kuna Yala,
Monday, March 19, 2012

Our overnight sail from Cartagena was once again a bit of a rough ride.  No where near our previous passage experience but with winds in the high 30's we were kept busy putting in reefs.  This time we were sailing in the company of not just "Awaroa" but also "Blessed" another kiwi boat. "Awaroa" is a Bavaria 49 and blessed a Bavaria 44 and with their furling mains reefing is a breeze compared to Cuttyhunk's slab reefing.  However we did manage to sail between the two of them and get our nose in front before we had to pull down some sail!

The San Blas Islands or Kuna Yala as the loca Kuna Indians prefer it to be called is a chain of islands running along the Panama Coast.  Protected mostly from the Caribbean Sea by a large reef it is still an area that has a lot of uncharted water.  But with the help of an excellent pilot book called A Guide to Cruising Panama we put our faith in the author Eric Bauhaus and crept in over the reef and into our first anchorage behind Mono Island.

It was overcast and not ideal for picking our way through coral but by sending "Blessed" and "Awaroa" in first we could check out the depths!  It's unsettling watching the GPS taking you over the land on our electronic charts, but the pilot book's waypoints and depths were absolutely spot on.

It was immediately like being in another world and back in time.  We could see dug-out canoes pulled up along the beach, the dense jungle coming all the way down to the sandy shore.  The water was dark and murky as we were only just off the mainland coast and with the run off from the rains and the rivers it wasn't very clear.  Thoughts of crocodiles crossed our minds as we took a quick swim off the back of the boat.

Next day we were approached by a canoe and asked to pay $10 (US) fee for anchoring.  This goes to the local village and is a one off charge for the area.  We were happy to pay.  The Kuna live very simple lives and are quite separate from Panama.  They trade in coconuts, and every coconut has an owner so we are not to pick them up.  The price is set by the chiefs, so there is no competition or rivalry.  Marriage with outsiders is forbidden and it is a matrineal society, where the groom moves in with the bride's family.
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Helen on

I think we all held our own pretty well on that leg. Safety being the final winner

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