San Blas Islands
After waiting for a weather window to allow us to leave the Colon area we headed south 25 miles to Litton Bay. Here we found a nice protected bay with clear waters and a calm anchorage. The bay was actually a narrow cut between the mainland and a uninhabited island. The island was a nature preserve and was full of monkeys and sloths. The surroundings were beautiful with the Panamanian jungles to our south, a lush tropical rainforest island to the north and the beautiful Caribbean Sea all around. We spend three days here again waiting for a weather window to allow us to continue to the San Blas Islands. When the window arrived we made the dash up the coast of Panama another 55 miles to the famous archipelago San Blas Islands.
The San Blas Islands are a chain of islands that are independently governed by the native inhabitants the Guna. We checked out of Panama and requested permission to enter the San Blas Islands at an island just to the west of the archipelago. Here we had our first interaction with the Guna people. The customs people for Panama were very helpful but very formal. Once we were done we strolled over to the San Blas entry building. Here we met Kenny. Kenny is the liaison between the Panamanian government and the Guna tribe. He was all smiles and extremely welcoming. By time we were finished with the Panama checkout it we well after closing time for the Guna office. Kenny told me he saw us come to shore in our tender and told everyone that they had to stay until we were checked in. He told me that as we walked to the offices so I was ready for everyone to be a little irritated with me. That was not the case at all! Each of the very laid back officials was all smiles and very welcoming. They did not rush the paperwork and always offered to make us copies of anything we might want. Nothing in the demeanor, actions or attitudes reflected working late on our behalf. Yet as we walked out the door so did everyone else in the office. Again, with zero rushing and all smiles while wishing us an enjoyable visit. The next day we sailed the remaining 10 miles to some of the most beautiful islands we have ever seen.
We found a perfect spot on the windward side of a small, uninhabited island. We dropped the anchor in 35 feet of water and we could easily see it hit the sand bottom below. We spent the next 2 days snorkeling and swimming in the clearest water we have experienced. We met another cruising family that told us where we might see nurse sharks but we did not have the time to go check it out for ourselves. We only had 2 days until the weather would let us make the 200 mile jump to Columbia and we did not want to miss this window. We could easily have spent a month or two exploring the 365 islands in the archipelago but weather dictates our life and hurricane season is not too far away. The weather is very rough in this part of the world so when a clear weather window opens up for a passage east we had to take it. The next one may not come for another few weeks and we had neither the food nor the time to risk that. So early in the morning we lifted the anchor, said our goodbyes to the San Blas Islands and headed to South America.