Sugar Shack Motoring

San Blas Islands: Beauty Abound

After a week in Linton Bay, we needed a change, so we pulled up anchor and headed back to the San Blas islands.  It was not an ideal time to leave as the winds were pretty strong, but we needed to go and did not want to get stuck in the doldrums that were forecasted later in the week.

The anchor chain was pretty mucky, so we pressure washed it as it came up which made for slow going.  But, Davey, our hook which is a “spade hook” came up clean.  Get it?  David Spade?  Ya, weird sense of humor, I know.

We made it through the reefs and around the corner with the wind on our nose.  We were going to head north before we headed east as the wind and waves would push us south and we did not want to be pushed into the reefs.  It was going to be a bumpy and uncomfortable ride.  Estimated 45 miles at 5 knots would take 8.5 hours.

Sugar Shack Motoring

Sugar Shack Motoring

Within a few hours, Matt noticed that the batteries were not charging correctly.  The engines should be providing 118 amps and we were only getting 18 amps. Crap!  Matt fussed with the regulator but was not able to get it working properly.  No easy task while under way, in a hot engine compartment, under heavy seas.  Something to fix when we are at anchor.

A few hours later, Matt discovered that our Starboard tank was empty.  WTF!  We turned the watermaker on to fill up Starboard that was at 1/8th of a tank.  We didn’t want to make water while in Linton Bay as the water was murky and we were toward the back of the anchorage where the trash and debris flowed past us.  With the watermaker running, we should have made 20-30 gallons and yet the indicator showed empty, 0.  Not good.  Matt climbed back in the engine room only to find a bilge full of water.  The pressure from the watermaker caused a hose to pop off giving a new escape route for all of our freshly made water – into the bilge instead of into our tanks.  Matt replaced the hose, and we were back in business, but now it would take over 10 hours to fill just the starboard tank.

Later in the afternoon, I alerted Matt that the wind speed and direction stopped working.  Not again.  It would give us wind direction but no speed or speed and no wind direction or nothing at all.  Crap.  This is our new wind vang that we just put up a few weeks ago.  The data would come and go throughout the rest of the day, all we could do is carry on.  Seems like a day for breakdowns.

Luckily, fairly easy repairs – hopefully.

  • Matt fixed the watermaker leak on the starboard tank with a new hose.
  • Matt thinks the charging issue is a short or a fuse.
  • Wind Vang not diagnosed yet, but I am sure Matt will figure it out!

While Matt was fixing things, I was at the helm most of the day fighting off the urge to get seasick.  We had an average of 33-35 knots of winds with gusts over 40, an average of 4 meter waves (12’) with some peaking 5+ meters (15’) at 5-6 second intervals.  It was a rough passage, but we made it to San Blas before dark.

Sailing Log to San Blas:

  • Total Miles 49.2
  • Average Speed 5.1 knots
  • Max Speed: 9.4 knots (must have been a rogue wave)
  • Total Moving Time: 9 hours, 39 minutes
Panamarina Anchorage

Isla Linton and Panamarina

There is not much to do in Linton Bay.  No trails to hike, no beaches to explore, and only a few islands close enough to visit by dinghy.  We walked around the very small village of Puerto Lindo, in about 10 minutes and didn’t see much beyond the small huts where people lived.  So, it was time to visit the remaining two areas:  Isla Linton and Panamarina.

Panamarina is small marina just around the corner from Linton Bay Marina where we were anchored.  It lies in a protected mangrove creek and offers moorings and haul out services. So, we hopped in Sweetie and headed toward the area where there is an inlet that takes you directly through the mangroves.  Before you get to the inlet you have to navigate around a reef, which lucky for us was easy to spot with the early morning sun.

The inlet opening was pretty wide with huge mangroves on either side.  It is amazing to see how the roots of the mangroves intertwined with one another to form a strong barrier able to withstand strong storms.

As you continue down the river, the inlet becomes narrower and the mangroves stretch overhead meeting in the center to create a magnificent canopy.  It was so pretty hearing the birds sing and come to life as we moved through their neighborhood.

Beautiful canopy of trees on the way to Panamarina

Beautiful canopy of trees on the way to Panamarina

We weren’t going very fast because we weren’t in a hurry and we did not know how deep the inlet was, so we just enjoyed the ride.

The inlet deposited us into a bay where more than a dozen boats were moored.  We checked out the boats and made our way to the dinghy dock.

Panamarina mooring field.  Photo courtesy of Panamarina website.

Panamarina mooring field. Photo courtesy of Panamarina website.

Ashore, there are two yards.  A short term working yard and long-term storage yard.  Unfortunately, everything was closed as it was Sunday and Christmas Eve.  But it did afford us the opportunity to walk around the property.  Next to the office is a restaurant / bar with a pretty decent looking menu.  It also appears that they have several services available to cruisers such as mechanical, electrical, canvas, and carpentry.

After we returned from Panamarina, we went to visit Isla Linton.  This island is uninhabited except for several monkey families that live in the hills.  The monkeys usually come down to the dock in the afternoon and have invaded the abandoned house near the beach.  We were told that they appear to be friendly at first, but they quickly get agitated when they realize you intend to move on.

When we visited the island it was late morning, early afternoon so we were not expecting a monkey encounter.  We pulled our dinghy onto the tiny beach just in front of the abandoned house.

Abandoned house on Isla Linton

Abandoned house on Isla Linton

There is a lot of brush, weeds, and overgrowth here so it makes it challenging to navigate the shore. But, I found a small worn path and headed to the house where I wanted to find a monkey.  Just one, to take a photo.  The house had a retched smell and was littered with waste, no monkeys – just an old alligator hide tacked onto the wall.

Alligator skin tacked on to wall.

Alligator skin tacked on to wall.

Not much to see on this spec of land, so we took a few shots, howled for the monkeys, and left when our call was not returned.

Matt hiding from me

Matt hiding from me

Exploring Wins and Losses:

  • No monkey
  • Alligator Skin
  • Cool services at Panamarina
Celebrating Christmas Eve with Barry

Christmas in Linton Bay

It is always a bit strange celebrating Christmas in the islands as it doesn’t quite like feel like Christmas.  And yet, we have spent the last 7 Christmas’s away from the mainland.  The temperature is hot, the skies are blue, the water is clear, and there is no hustle and bustle.  No malls or shopping, no big parties or white elephants.  It’s merely a small gathering or private celebration.

Yet, I still find that I bring some of my traditions with me each year.  I have a small Christmas locker where I store my limited decorations; a wooden tree with a few ornaments and miniature lights, holiday hats, and a few odds and ends.  In addition to displaying my meager holiday collection, I do a cookie baking day.

Christmas Towels: Who do they belong too?

Christmas Towels: Who do they belong too?

Cookie Baking Day is a tradition started by my grandmother where we would all gather in her kitchen and make a variety of cookies for the family.  Once I moved to Texas I carried on the tradition with my friends which was the highlight of the season for me.  On the boat, its very hard to have more than one person in the galley so I tend to make a few batches of cookies myself and share them with other cruisers.  Not the really the same, but it allows me to enjoy the gift giving.

Originally, we were going to head back to San Blas for the holidays, but several cruisers decided to have a potluck on Christmas Eve in Linton Bay.  There is a large building, in mid-construction that has been designated the future marina headquarters.  But, funding has run out and it is now used as a gathering space out of the sun.  Fernanda on “Allegra” organized the potluck, brought a small tree, an extension cord for the lights, and arranged tables and chairs for everyone.  There was a wonderful selection of food, sweets, and beverages.

Matt and I on Christmas Eve

Matt and I on Christmas Eve

Christmas morning was quiet and relaxing, we had xmas tunes playing, ate some cookies, and lounged a bit.  By mid-day we were feeling antsy and decided to head to shore to go for a walk. But, as we approached the dock we noticed a lively group gathered around a BBQ.  Another boat hosted this Christmas day celebration with burgers, shrimp skewers, sides, cookies, beer, and music. It was a sparkling celebration with people from Germany, Sweden, London, Spain, and America.

Celebrating Christmas Eve with Barry

Celebrating Christmas Eve with Barry

Matt and I retired back to the boat where he made another batch of pulled pork from the pork shoulder we acquired at the fresh market in Colon.  It was equally fabulous and tasty and a wonderful Christmas dinner.  About an hour later, friends from “Wandering Rose” stopped by to share a toddy and spread some more holiday cheer.

HOLIDAY CHEER CHECK LIST:

  • Good Friends
  • Beer
  • Holiday Music
  • Funny Hats
  • Christmas Tree