The “Swimming Pool Anchorage”

Around 9:30 on Saturday Morning, we weighed anchor, made our way out through the coral protecting the south side of Green Island and motored the almost ten miles to our next anchorage in Guna Yala, the westernmost anchorage of the Holandes Cays, a group of 21 mostly uninhabited islands which lie behind a 7-mile long barrier reef. Since these islands are the farthest removed from the mainland, they are reported to have the clearest waters year round. Once we arrived at Kaimou (the Guna name for these islands), we again weaved our way through menacing patches of coral and slipped into what has been called the “swimming pool” anchorage. The reason for its name becomes obviously clear upon arrival. The relatively large anchorage has depths between 10 and 12 feet over a white sandy bottom. When peering over the side of your vessel, or when swimming in its clear waters, one has the marked impression that he is in an oversized swimming pool.

Sunrise in San Blas

Sunrise in San Blas

Neighboring vessel in Green Island Anchorage.  Rain behind.

Neighboring vessel in Green Island Anchorage. Rain behind.

My lovely assistant ready to drop anchor in the "Swimming Pool"

My lovely assistant ready to drop anchor in the “Swimming Pool”

One of the islands bordering the "Swimming Pool"

One of the islands bordering the “Swimming Pool”

This anchorage is said to be among the most popular in the San Blas Islands, and it certainly has been the most populated of all that we’ve visited so far, whereas most nights we’ve either had no neighbors, or at the most, one or two. Here, there were five sailboats for the first evening. Although we had arrived before noon, we decided to hang out on Beatitude the rest of the day, except for the time we enjoyed swimming in “the pool” around our vessel. Just before sunset, Tito Garcia, one of the Guna Indians paddled up to our boat and requested $10.00 for the privilege of anchoring in the Holandes Cays for up to a month. We had read this was customary, and, therefore, readily paid the requested fee.

Snorkeling in the "pool" to check our anchor

Snorkeling in the “pool” to check our anchor

Happy with the anchor's bite in the sandy bottom.

Happy with the anchor’s bite in the sandy bottom.

Another visit by Guna women selling molas.

Another visit by Guna women selling molas.

Our anchorage with BBQ Island behind.

Our anchorage with BBQ Island behind.

Cindy off the stern of Beatitude.

Cindy off the stern of Beatitude.

During the early morning hours of Sunday, the rain began. We had seen and heard quite a display of lightning and thunder before going to bed, but there was no rain until the darkness of night. It did not subside until mid-afternoon on Sunday. The steady rain was not unwelcome, as we relaxed aboard through it all. I took advantage of the fresh rain water to head out on deck and do a little cleaning and scrubbing. Once it stopped, Cindy and I decided to go for a little Kayak trip to BBQ island for a little exercise and enjoyment. A little over halfway there, we passed a boat which was crewed by a couple of South African men who were going to leave for Haiti in the evening. They asked if we had access to a weather forecast. I explained that we did and that we’d be happy to return to the boat to get one for them. Using our Iridium Go! we obtained 5 days of forecasts for the Caribbean covering their route from here to Haiti. Having helped a sailor in need, we kayaked on over to BBQ Island (so-called because of the many cruisers’ BBQs which have been held there), walked around the island, said hello to the Guna family whose habitation was present on this small cay, and kayaked back to Beatitude for the evening. While out and about, we also met Katherine and Reinhardt, a German couple who’ve been cruising in the San Blas Islands for the last 12 years! I guess they like it here! In our last anchorage, we befriended Spaniards, and here, South Africans and Germans. We live in a truly international community.

Taking advantage of the rainy season in the San Blas Islands

Taking advantage of the rainy season in the San Blas Islands

Volleyball anyone?!

Volleyball anyone?!

BBQ Island

BBQ Island

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It had been a week and a half since we had done laundry, although the amount of clothing one wears is minimal when cruising uninhabited tropical islands. So, Monday morning was laundry day. It was done, of course, by hand with a plunger and a bucket, rinsing in the sink, wringing them out by hand, and hanging them on lines hung in our cockpit. After baking some dinner rolls using our bread maker, a couple of Guna men came by selling lobster again. This time we scored big time — four lobster for $10.00! So, it was lobster for dinner again. We’ve never come close to eating this much lobster in our lives! In the mid-afternoon, Cindy and I fired up the 15 hp Yamaha outboard which powers Dalí, and set off in search of reefs to snorkel. We found a couple of spots just south of our anchorage. It was another enjoyable day in the warm waters off the coast of northeastern Panama. Monday night would be our last in the Holandes Cays. Tuesday morning we would be off in search of another beautiful location.

Laundry hanging out to dry

Laundry hanging out to dry

Fellow cruisers enjoying the islands

Fellow cruisers enjoying the islands

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Full Moon in Guna Yala

Full Moon in Guna Yala

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