Cartagena, Columbia-San Blas Panama to Shelter Bay

January 26-February 8 2022

The passage from Bonaire took 3 days and nights during which we had good winds and following seas averaging 7 knots. Beautiful sunsets 20 miles off the coast of Venezuela.

Leaving Bonaire with coast of Venezuela
Small rock islands 30 miles from coast, barely visible on Navionics until zoomed in
Caught and released a shark and Barracuda : no mahi 😫

The last night we had problems with our autopilot and hydro generator that forced us to slow during the night till we could get it sorted out in the morning. Come daylight we were able to get the autopilot functioning . Using a GoPro to scope out our underwater Watts and Sea hydrogenerator pod we discovered it had fallen off it’s hull attachment🤪- not an everyday occurance ; fortunately there was no associated leak so we moved on arriving Marina de Pesca in Cartagena early afternoon. The air has been very humid and salty ; Infinity was ready for a good wash down .

Cartagena Columbia appears to float on water

Cartagena was a wonderful surprise. The contrast between old and new city is dramatic, lots of history ,great food , low crime and super friendly people. Columbia uses the Columbian peso for currency @ 14,000COP/1 dollar. Our first dinner for 3 with drinks, wine and dessert cost $48. Columbia has made significant strides decreasing drug cartel crime and diversifying their economy. Top economic drivers in Columbia are: Oil is Columbia’s main export, 3rd in world coffee exports , 2nd in world cut flower exports and 1st in Emerald exports . Cartagena is a high energy , economically vibrant fun place to visit.

Old juxtaposed with new-Backdrop for movie ”Romancing the Stone”…
San Felipe Fort- Evidence of 16th-17th century Spanish rule adds to Cartagena’s charm
New and Old city viewed from San Felipe Ft
Typical street Old Town Cartagena

Sunday Gail arrives and after a quick tour and dinner in old Town we head off to the San Blas islands the next morning. A short overnight sail.

SAN BLAS Islands:

San Blas islands or Guna Yala are a group of 365 islands along Panama’s southern Caribbean coast controlled by the Guna Indians. Many of these islands are uninhabited, small , white sand islands filled with coconut palms… your quintessential Gilligan’s Island… surrounded by tricky and poorly charted reefs. Navionics and paper charts don’t cut it here . The sailors bible for Panama and San Blas is Eric Bauhouse’s “Panama Cruising Guide “. A must to keep from running aground and maximizing your enjoyment of this unique archipelago.

A reminder of reefs that surround San Blas
Most anchorages well protected by outer reefs
Enough said

Most Guna Indians live very much untouched by modern civilization but they have definitely mastered the art of selling to the cruisers who frequent these islands. Fresh fish, fruit and vegetables are routinely brought out to us. Snorkeling, hiking the islands and visiting the Guna on their personal islands are some of the highlights of San Blas. Unfortunately the scourge of plastic trash has invaded the San Blas as the Guna have no effective way of removing their trash. An opportunity for some future entrepreneur.

Invited to a fish lunch by Raul’s family
Guna Dugouts used for transiting the islands many rigged for sailing and paddling
Guna family home with intricate Mola’s made and sold by the women
Beach lobster BBQ on East Hollandes islands
Ivin our Guna friend joins us on Infinity to demonstrate how the Guna make coconut bread
Sailing off to the mainland in a Guna dugout

After a week in the San Blas, not nearly enough time, it is time to leave for our scheduled Panama canal boat measurement . An overnight sail to Shelter Bay,on the east side of the canal , passes smoothly with gentle 12-14 kn wind and calm seas.

Arriving early morning to Colon’s Outer bay filled with freighters waiting for their canal passage

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