Porvenir, San Blas Islands, Panama
Leaving Miramar, we turned east and followed the
Atlantic coast of Panama towards Punta San Blas and the outlying islands
of Kuna Yala. We were
heading for an island called Isla Porvenir, which is an official
Panamanian Customs and Immigration check in location, but what makes it
different is that it is run by the Kuna Indians, and as a result, it has
a reputation for being a much friendlier and less bureaucratic place to
check in – much better than Colon. We had hoped to get
to Porvenir Monday afternoon in time to take care
of the check in with the officials before they retired for the day, but
our estimated time of arrival was past five ‘o clock local time.
As we approached, Mike got on the VHF radio and called Porvenir.
The Customs & Immigration officials answered on the radio and
said they could accommodate us, but with overtime charges of $20.
No Problem Mon!
We anchored next to Porvenir just past 5pm and Capt
Mark hurried over in the dinghy to meet Eduardo.
Capt Mark was headed towards the town dock in the dinghy when a
man from an anchored sailboat flagged him down.
Mark stopped over and the man introduced himself as Eduardo
Lopez. They both made way
to the town dock and after filling out a ton of paperwork, Capt Mark had
the 4 of us and Stray Cat checked in for 3 months!
celebrated that night with a few rums and a great dinner.
It was wonderful to all be able to sleep through the night
without having to stand watches and battle squalls and freighters.
The sleep didn’t last long however, as we had to make sure that
we were awake to pick up Walter at 6:30am from the Porvenir airport.
We were all up early the next day, Tuesday the 16th,
preparing for Walter’s arrival. We
were having our morning coffee in the cockpit, when we heard an airplane
flying above us. We watched
the pilot’s deft maneuvering as he landed the twin engine, high wing,
turbo prop at the Porvenir airport.
Capt Mark sped over in the dinghy to greet Walter and he was back
in about 15 minutes with no Walter.
We decided that Walter had missed his flight when we heard the
familiar sound of engines overhead. Another of the same kind of twin engine buzzed the anchorage
and then landed. Another
This time, we thought, Walter must be aboard, so
Capt. Mark, Mike and Kate dinked over to collect our new crew member.
Sure enough, we found him just as advertised, with his video
camera, already filming the buildings and uniqueness of Porvenir.
And so we added Walter – a Russian who has lived in Moscow and
St. Petersburg, but now works in NY and LA.
Walter is making a documentary film about the San Blas Islands,
and Stray Cat and crew will be his transportation and production
support team for the week or so that he is on board.
And so, with a new member on board, Stray Cat
raised anchor and began the next chapter in the Panama Adventure.
Just before we set sail a couple of local ladies in a Kuna canoe
called a “cayuco” paddled out to Stray Cat and were showing
us some items they had made. They had beaded jewelry that is traditional
for the Kuna women to wear, a few shirts & carved coconuts, which
were made into purses. The
women were beautiful and dressed in the traditional Kuna attire; one
lady had gorgeous facial tattoos, which seemed rather tribal. Another interesting thing is that in Kuna Yala it is a
matriarchal society, so the women are the heads of the household. We bought a few things from the Kuna women, took a few
pictures and headed off to Wichub Huala.
We had made our first contact with the native Kuna people!
The Kuna people
live on the islands of San Blas and have immunity to the Panmanian
laws. They have a very traditional culture with a few chiefs in
each tribe and a congresso hut where the locals gather at least once a
week to talk about any issues. It is mandatory for all the people
of the tribe to attend the meetings. It is a very family oriented
society and there are a few traditional Kuna Villages left, but most are
turning to a more modern way of life. It seemed to us that there
were not many Kuna's between the ages of 20 and 40 on the island and we
were told that many young people go to Panama when they are old
enough and some eventually will return to the Kuna way of life, but many
stay in Panama.
Stray Cat Sailing! Wow, that's a new concept!
Porvenir in the distance
Capt. Stuart on watch
The yellow flag of quarantine, you must fly it before checking
in with Customs & Immigration
There were a couple of other boats in the anchorage
Porvenir is where the airport is, if you can believe that
Mike on the bow as we approach Porvenir
Capt Mark guiding us in, note the very green bananas from
See the reef where the waves are breaking
The palm trees and the seawall at Porvenir
The 2 story yellow building in the middle is the Museo de Kuna
or Kuna Museum
The building with the red roof is the Customs &
Looks like a homebuilt trimaran from France, it was huge
Capt. Mark picked up Eduardo Lopez from the small monohull
sailboat on the left
Isla Porvenir at dusk
The Panamanian Coast Guard pulled in during the night
Wichub Huala in the distance
An Osprey feasting on some fish
The Kuna Museum
A Cayuco, or a dugout canoe with sails
A very small island right next to Wichub Huala
Whaddayou lookin' at Willis??
Cayuco with an outboard!
La Vida Loca!
Seems to be the bathing suit of choice around here
Hauling up the crab or lobster pots
More local fishermen in cayucos, you can see they also have
the sailing rig inside the cayuco, the mast is hanging over the bow
The Coast Guard was out for a photo shoot
Three very different vessels
You can see the hole drilled into the seat of the cayuco, that
is where the mast would be placed to sail the boat.
The cayuco also has a long skulling type of stick that you can
see inside of the boat, it is used to pole the boat in very shallow water
Kuna hut in Porvenir
Kuna Yala Producers of Molas
A local home
Capt Mark & Kate - We are official!
The sign says Welcome to Caigirgordup (Kuna name for the
island) and below that translates to -
"I want the culture of my race to endure inside of the
Customs and Immigration Offices where we checked in
Stray Cat anchored in the distance
Kuna Yala in a cayuco
Kuna Yala mujeres, or mothers, in traditional dress
Our first encounter with Kuna Yala mujeres upclose and