February 20, 2015
We arrived at Isla San Andres yesterday, with the anchor down in swimming-pool-turquoise waters at around noon. The trip here from Kuna Yala was the longest open-ocean passage so far – across the southwest Caribbean – and we were pleasantly surprised by how well it went, despite squalls, frequent 15-25 knot winds, and seas up to 12 feet. Serafina shrugged it all off, even when we hove-to twice to take a rest. (OK, for the non-sailors, “heaving to” is a procedure where you back-wind the headsail, lash the tiller to the lee side, and adjust the mainsail so that you basically stay in one place, gently oscillating back and forth, despite the wind and seas. Great for a stress-free lunch or dinner!)
We ended up staying, gladly, in the San Blas Islands longer than we expected, due to the seasonal pattern of cold fronts sweeping down from the US and bringing strong northerly winds to the Caribbean. It seems to happen every week or so, sometimes leaving a window of decent weather of only two or three days. Thanks to good weather information, from Anita -our weather officer back in Seattle – and shortwave radio, we hit this particular weather window perfectly. Last night, as we securely sat at anchor here, a front came through, with howling wind and heavy rain. It’s still going on as I write this morning, and more is forecast for the next two or three days. We’ll see how it shapes up, and depending on the winds, our next leg may take us to either Cienfuegos, Cuba or the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.
San Andres is a big of a geo-political oddity, an isolated island in the Caribbean, closest to the east coast of Nicaragua – that belongs to Columbia as the result of some political tit-for-tat when the British relinquished control of it in the early twentieth century. It was a pirate base back in the days when the British preyed on Spanish treasure ships. Eventually it was largely populated by English-speaking descendants of slaves, but now has a mix of blacks and Columbians. A wrecked ship sits on the reef outside of town, and the waters around the island go swiftly from the very deep blue of the ocean to the greens, turquoise and light blues of the reefs. Despite some tourism, mostly from Columbia, it’s pretty laid-back, and the mini-mart-gas-station-coffee-shop-“marina” we are anchored near has not changed since I was here almost 20 years ago.
We have wi-fi for the first time in two weeks, during which time we were without the slightest scrap of contact with friends, family or the outside world – other than the weather information mentioned above. I still have yet to look at the New York Times (a generally unbreakable habit of mine), and we have no idea what wars, revolutions or plagues have been going on in our absence. I can’t say we expect much good news from the world when we plug back in, but we are looking forward to contact with the people we know and love.
(At the moment our internet connection is too slow to post anything but very low-res photos, but we’ll get some good ones posted as we can.)