Reluctantly we hauled ourselves away from the San Blas and hopped the fifty miles to Shelter Bay in Panama to await our Canal transit.
As a condition of the Galapagos, Meteorite had her bottom cleaned, so we nipped to Cartegena, city one. A wonderful, chaotic, vibrant place; street traders, entertainers, super food, beautiful buildings, a lived in and loved old town, great place for Debbie's birthday.
Back to Shelter Bay or unsheltered as the wind just blew. It was a former jungle training centre for the US army so lots of old buildings deep in the jungle where you hear howler monkey's that make your heart stop.
We took a classic train ride to city two, Panama, for a few days. Also an old town very much on the up, also with some spectacular colonial buildings, bars and restaurants, but it sits next to a huge financially driven modern city, which allowed for some serious retail therapy catch up, even Andy shopped, well sort of.
Then the day came 18th March and we left ocean one to transit the Panama Canal, opened in 1914 a true wonder of the world. We joined the five other larger Oysters and rafted up in threes to enter the first of the three locks that would fill up and take us up to the lake. Awe inspiring, massive, and just incredible as you rise hundreds of feet as thousands of gallons of water rush in. We and our two crew mates Mike and Robbie from Oysters that had already transited, passed long ropes to the handlers and made ourselves fast like a cats cradle, pulling the ropes in as went up.
Then into lake Gatun for a much needed beer, spending a super peaceful evening at anchor. But awake to drama, the other five boats motor off to do the 30 miles to the down locks but our pilot doesn't turn up, we are left behind !!!
Three agonising hours later, a pilot arrives, we are off but too late to meet our mates, so we have to go through alone. We were told to more up against the lock side, as a super large tanker slides in behind us. Then we literally slipped down the side of the three locks and popped out, under the Bridge of Americas, into ocean two The Pacific. A new world and it feels like it, satisfaction, relief and expectation all rolled together and a little tearful, well the girls and of course Hugh, as a long held dream for all of us came true in the most wonderful way.
Auto helm fitted (hurray), fully loaded with strange Dutch brands and trusty Bonaire Beer and we are off to the San Blas Islands . A four day 700mile downwind sail that proved to be delightful with warm gentle trades winds.
San Blas are 350 mainly uninhabited islands 30 miles off the Panamanian coast. The Guna Indians own and run them having fled from Spanish persecution.
We headed straight for the iconic Coco Banderas a small group of islands that feature as the cover shot on the famous guide written by Eric Bauhaus. Because of their rare beauty however there can be 10 or more other yachts, however we spent the first night completely on our own, with the anchor dropped exactly on the spot Eric reckons is the best in the world. And oh my is he right, the pics speak better than words!
We moored between two islands, literally a stones throw from a Guna hut occupied by 9 of the friendliest people you could wish to meet, who supplied us with delicious lobsters. We gave them a sola powered light, such a small thing but for them a night light which became hugely treasured.
We spent five of the most idyllic days, bar b q'ing on the beaches, partying with the other Oysters who turned up, swimming and snorkelling on the reefs and just chilling. This is what we hoped this adventure would sometimes bring us and oh wow was it ever worth it.
No trip to Guna land would be complete without buying at least one Mola, a hand stitched work of art, worn on traditional garments - thanks to the best sales man ever, who used every trick, we are the proud owners of not just one but a boat full of Mola's !
All good things etc and we have now left that little bit of heaven, next stop Panama and the Canal.
The Meteorite Crew
Debbie, Hugh, Janice and Andy