Sunday, June 23, 2013

Colombia-Panama Passage

The last overnight passage for this season brought Earthling from Isla Fuerte, Colombia to Isla Pinot, San Blas, Panama. I have to admit it was the least tranquil passage this year. Earthling departed Isla Fuerte with very little winds & waves at 11 in the morning.

We always troll a fishing line during the day. A fish was following and nibbling on the lewer on and off. But this fish was different, it was of a dark color with its top fin sticking out of water. Could it be a shark? After an hour of her following us, suddenly the reel started to spin really fast, 40ft of fishing line went out in no time. The fish jumped up in the air twirling and twisting around and boom snapped a favorite lewer. Indeed, it was a shark and there is no way we would bring a shark aboard. There are many horror stories of people trying to reel in sharks, their meat is delicious but not worth the work for us. Afterward, two more bait were put out, one of which sprayed with WD-40 (WD-40 contains fish oil). Within a short period of time both of the lines got something on them, one snapped off again by another large cold blooded aquatic creature and the one with WD-40 brought in a good size yellow fin Tuna. The tuna was cleaned and we had a few fillets for dinner right before sunset.

Winds started picking up as the sky was turning dark. Not so many boats are encountered in these waters.  However, we saw a large vessel in distance, Colombian Coast Guard. Shortly after we sight them, they contacted us on the VHF radio and asked the normal questions; flag, boat name, number of crew, last port of call, next port of call, nationalities and so forth. They thanked us for the cooperation and we were clear to continue.

The autopilot is steering the boat and unexpectedly starts making some strange sounds and had to be disengaged. Now the boat has to be steered manually overnight. Winds are stronger, we are on the second reef and still doing speeds between 6-7 knots on a beam reach with occasional ten-footers clashing on the starboard side. Katherine is motion sick in these conditions! Around eight o'clock at night, in the middle of nowhere, we realized a boat is trying to catch up to us in a fast speed. All kinds of thoughts are in mind, primarily pirates! As the boat got closer, its blue bright sirens went on! We contacted the coastguard right away and was wondering what their intentions were? It took several slow minutes before we heard back from them; it's an inspection procedure, reduce speed and get ready to be boarded. It's a little scary to have people come aboard your boat under way at night. But we cooperated, furled in the genoa and started the engine. There were five men dressed in uniform on the speed boat. They tried to come to port side and board Earthling, but these waves were not making it possible. After a few attempts, they end up taking pictures of the boat as we tried to have a sense of humor and smile. They informed us that everything is sound and there is no need to come aboard, thanking again for cooperating and noting they are here if we need any assistance.

Attempts were made to fix the autopilot under way but it seemed like the belt inside was broken. I had to be behind helm the entire moon less cloudy night as heat lightnings were striking in the skies over the ocean. The boat was washed over several times as of which once the cockpit got filled with water. While starring at the compass to keep the course on 262, I'm thinking, why in the whole world am I putting my self through this? I can't wait to see the day again and arrive at a new land.
It's 5.15am, we are five miles off Isla Pinot (Tupbak) and it's still dark. After 40 min of drifting with minimum sails, the sky starts to brighten up. We see land, the best sight one can imagine!
And here we are anchored by the Darien tropical rainforest in the land of Kunas. Perhaps this is why you have to go through difficulties in order to get somewhere rewarding, once again we found ourselves in paradise.

The untouched dense green mountains are on one side and the Kuna village on the other side of the anchorage. It looks like nothing has changed here for a long time. These earthlings are the most primitive ever witnessed. Isla Pinot or Tupak is a small Kuna village on a large island. It's significant since it has the highest elevation out of all the islands.

Katherine in front of the Village of Tupak
Earthling anchored between the Darien forest and Tupak
Prudentio brought us Kuna bread
Typiacl Kuna houses

Love from San Blas


  1. Replies
    1. Earthling is in a Marina in Panama till November. Meanwhile, we are back in Chicago working.

  2. Guess Ill wait till November...

  3. New York.. I do some sailing on the Hudson River and charter in the BVI....nothing like your adventures!

  4. Sailing in Hudson River & charter in the BVI sounds like a dream too Rob