Porvenir to Yansaladup

We are now anchored just outside of the tiny island of
Yansaladup in the San Blas Archipelego. Where exactly is that,
you might ask? Well, to tell the truth I am there, and even I
am not really sure of where it is. We are really truly in the
middle of nowhere – but it is an amazingly beautiful and
tranquil nowhere. We are the only boat here – in front of us is
a small palm covered island with one family living in their hut.
The family tends coconuts and sells molas whenever they can to
passing tourists. There is another even tinier island just to
our right with just two huts – no palm trees at all ( see
photo). There is a large reef extending for miles – just in
front of us which blocks us completely from the rough seas
outside. It is pretty much a constant 87 degrees with a steady
breeze blowing. It is very calm and comfortable in the
anchorage, the boat barely moving at all in the gentle seas
behind the reef. We spent most of the day yesterday at the
Chichime Cays – mentioned in our previous blog with the little
islands of Uchutupu Pippi and Uchutupu Dumat. Claus and I had an
amazing morning swim off the boat and then later in the day the
three of us took the dinghy over to the reef and spent an hour
or so snorkeling in a beautiful coral garden. Lots of fish,
beautiful coral of all kinds, and very warm water. We really
enjoyed it. By 3:00 P.M. we had to head back to Porvenir so we
would be ready to take Claus to the airport in the morning.
When we got to Porvenir we decided to go see if the customs and
immigration office was open. We had been told a few days
earlier that it was closed until February 26th, but we didn’t
think that sounded right and we noticed that most of the boats
around us had their Panamanian flags up so we thought it was
best to check. You don’t want to ignore any rules when you come
to a new country. It turned out that the office was open, but
as it was nearly 5:00 P.M. by the time we got there, no one was
actually in the office. Someone sitting outside saw us and ran
to find the official for us. It was an incredibly shabby office
– even by Caribbean standards. The islands are so beautiful
here that it is easy to forget how poor it is. One room was
absolutely filled with heaps of papers – copies of previous
boater’s documentation – all mildewed and yellowed – just
sitting in big piles. It would be impossible to find anything in
those piles of paper, but they need to collect the information
anyway. The entrance way had two chairs, each completely
broken, with all of the insides sticking out. The somewhat
unfriendly looking official offered to help us – including
getting the necessary cruising permit – the Zarpe He asked our
boat size, did some calculations on his little calculator and
told us it would cost $80 – which sounded just fine to us as
that was what we expected. Then he said there was a $20 charge
for his overtime. Not wanting to be cheap, but also not wanting
to get ripped off, Mark asked if there would be an overtime
charge if we just came in and did the paperwork in the morning
during regular office hours. He got very quiet and then said
that it would actually take two weeks to get the Zarpe, so we
would need to come back again then. The deal was, if we paid him
$100, the Zarpe could miraculously be obtained right then and
there ( no receipts available). If we paid him only $80, the
Zarpe could not be obtained for another two weeks because it was
so complicated. Very interesting, don’t you think? Anyways, it
didn’t take us more than a minute to agree readily that $100 and
no receipt would be absolutely fine with us. We were soon
officially checked in, and even got a free Kuna calendar. After
checking in we celebrated our trip with Claus by eating again at
the little restaurant that sits next to the airstrip here. We
were the only guests, and this time the menu had chicken and
chips – no fish had been caught that day, so there was no fish
on the menu. It was great. It was relatively expensive
compared to our meal at Raouls shack the night before ($4 a
person), but still incredibly cheap at $7 a person including not
only the chicken and chips, but a beer and a soda each.
This mornng we had to bring Claus to the airport for a 6:40 a.m.
Since we were anchored just 100 feet from the dock; and the
rickety airport gate is another 50 to 100 feet away, we didn’t
have to get up too early to get him there on time. In fact we
got up at ten to six and were at the airport gate at 6:00. It
was another 15 minutes before the other passengers arrived –
many of them coming to the dock on the little dug-out canoes
that the locals use for just about everything, including their
taxi service. A few showed up at 6:30. At 6:35 the plane
arrived – landing just in front of us, turning sharply at the
end of the run-way, then taxiing back to the waiting
passengers.The plane stopped about 25 feet from where we were
standing. By 6:45 everyone arriving on the flight had
de-planed, all the luggage and packages were unloaded , the new
passengers were on ( each one called by name by the captain),
the luggage stowed, and the plane took off. Really the most
amazing airport we have seen. Claus waved goodbye to us from
his seat near the front of the plane and Mark and I went back to
the boat to sleep again before starting our day here. We are
tired, but thrilled to be here!