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Brev Fra Kjell O. Stave & Darryl & Daan

Colon, Panama June 2005.


Fishing Trip To San Blas

Our first night out of Cartegena was slow going with, once again, no wind.  A neat feeling was witnessed by us about 20 miles out when we noticed the merging of the two currents.  One of the currents was coming from  the sea floor where the botom steps up from 2000 meters to 400 meters and directs the water to the surface.  We shut the motor off and listened to the erie sounds.  It seemed like the water was boiling with many small waves being created and lot's of activity with small fish and debris.  Dan and I stayed up late, as Kjell had the early shift, and the boat, now motorless, and windless, drifted in the current.  With our flashlights shining to identify the flying fish swimming by the boat, Dan decided to catch a few of these little fish for fish bait!  We scooped up 4 of them easily while hanging over the boat with a bucket.  During one of our attempts to scoop up some bait, a big dark object floated underneath the pail while it wasw in the water,...a log?  No,... a Shark!  Whoa!  Quickly Dan ran to the icebox to grab some hamburger and wrapped it up in a rag.  'Let's feed it!'  We tied the 'burgerbag' to the back of the boat and watched as the shark swam around in the lit up waters hunting for the meat.  Within a few minutes it found the bag and ripped it open with a few effortless tugs with its teeth.  What a amazing sight!  We floated nowhere that night.

The next morning I got up early to work on project 'fishbait'.  I took a smelly, recently departed flying fish out of the bucket, hooked it up to the fishing line, and tossed it over.  An hour later, we had a hit! A Great Barracuda!  This thing had huge teeth and fought with us for 25 minutes.  When we got it in the boat we  measured it at 120 cm and around 20 kg.  The new bait works perfect.  Dan rigged up the next flying fish in a 'wings out' pose and after another hour, we had another hit.  This time is was a Dorado (Mahi Mahi)!  It was a beautiful yellow,, blue fish.  It kept changing color as we fought with it for 35 minutes.  We finally got the Dorado, still blue, in the boat and measured it at 140 cm and over 30 kg.  The Dorado, now yellow again, is one of the best tasting fish in the sea and our fishing bible told us how to fillet it perfectly into 4 thick strips of fish steak.  This fish is worth over $100 in the market and people pay thousands of dollars just to try to catch one.  This is Great!

With me taking on the Great Barracuda and Dan bringing in the Dorado, the next hit would be Kjells.  We put out the line and concentrated on sailing until the alarm of the reel drag brings our attention back to the rod.  This time the alarm 'rings' for at least 10 seconds BRRRRRRRR!!! telling us that this fish is ready for a fight.  Kjell works on bringing the fish closer to the boat for an identifying look.  A large Yellow Fin Tuna!  This fish is like a torpedo of muscle and fights so hard that we have to take turns reeling it in to give our arms a rest. Whenever we get it close to the boat, it would take off again pulling out most of the line and refusing to be pulled in.  After 50 minutes of 'negotiating' with it, we finally get the tuna close enough to the boat to see that it is over a meter long and weighs about 40 kg.  We decide that we aren't going to keep this one since we no longer have any ice in the icebox to store the meat, and luckily as we lift it to the side of the boat it gives a little shake and heads back into the depths.  We slept good that night with our arms burning!  The sail to San Blas from Cartegena took us 3 days with not much wind.  It should have taken only 2 but, we weren't complaining when we are catching fish like this. 

Sailing to San Blas was exciting for us since we have heard nothing but positive reviews from other sailors about this archipelago.  It has also been rated as the second best place in the world to visit for cruisers by Cruising World magazine.  San Blas is located a few miles off the coast of Panama on the Caribbean side, has over 300 islands, and is home to the Kuna Indians who are the smallest people in the world next to the Pygmies.  

As soon as we arrived we understood what people were talking about when then desribed San Blas as paradise.  Crystal blue waters, white sands and palm trees were painted all across the horizon.  Mother nature is definitley an artist.  Since our snorkeling has been idle ever since we left Aruba 3 weeks earlier, the first order of business was to jump in the water at Holandes, San Blas and have a good 2 hour snorkel!  What a rush to be snorkeling around the beautiful reef when you notice in between the big coral a 2 meter shark!!  We knew the time would come when we would meet a shark while we were snorkeling since, there are so many of them in the Caribbean.  Luckily, it was only a nurse shark, typically a bottom feeder and not very aggressive.  Still, seeing one that close in the water created a 'hollywood induced' uncontrolled panic reaction that I'll never forget.  In the end we left it alone and just swam, more alerted, the other way.

The Kuna Indians are a super friendly group who are famous for their hand crafted tablecloth-like Mola's, and their home made bread.  In no time we had families from the various islands at Holandes paddle out to our boat to sell us these items.  Once we found out that they also sold langosta (lobster) we had our menu set for our entire stay in San Blas. Fresh bread and langosta a pefect meal for a perfect place. 

After Holandes we sailed on to Chichime, still in San Blas but a bit closer to Panama.  Here in Chichime we had some of the most relaxing days of our trip so far.  Waking up with the sun, then snorkeling for hours in incredible reefs, and picking up fishing tips, while watching underwater, the Kunas hunt for our langosta supper.  After the snorkel, we would dingy over to one of the nearby islands to quench our thirst with freshly picked (or knocked down) coconut milk.  Then, spend the hottest part of the afternoon relaxing in the shade under the coconut trees with the fallen coconuts being used for pillows and staring out at the amazing scenery.  Usually we have to close our eyes to visualize paradise but here, we relaxed with our eyes open.  Also, we kept our eyes open to make sure no cocnuts fall on our heads. (There are 50 times more deaths from falling coconuts then deaths from shark attacks in the world.)  At night, we barbecued fresh langosta and then digested the day under the brilliant stars.  I think one of the relaxing parts about being in San Blas was the seclusion from other tourists.  There are so many islands for cruisers to visit and since it's becoming the low season now, that we were lucky to be the only boat at Chicheme.    

Leaving Chichime, we only had 20 hours(with perfect conditions) to sail to Colon, Panama and the entrance to the Canal.  Of course the conditions weren't perfect but, we made the best of it as we once again enjoyed sailing with dolphins and then later on caught a 15 kg black fin tuna for breakfast.  That night we battled the strong current, tried to work with the head winds(again) and of course avoided the thunderstorms.  Since we are now in the storm season in the Caribbean, we have been witnessing many thunderstorms coming to life during the night, sometimes all around us.  The flashing in the sky is are very bright and sometimes the lightening produces some very long and deep sounding thunder.  Surprisingly, we have managed to avoid running into a storm but, we know that they are common to sailors and it's only a matter of time until our paths cross.  That should be a good story.




















Darryl & Kjell


























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