February 5, 2015
With our food shopping done, fuel topped off and the weather looking ok (15 to 20 knots from the NE, which we’ll be facing for the next few weeks), we’re ready to head out for the San Blas Archipelago tomorrow.
The Archipelago includes hundreds of small islands, mostly uninhabited and ringed by coral reefs, to the east of the Panama Canal about 60 miles – and very much off the beaten track. They are the home of the Kuna Indians, somewhat known for the colorful cloth “molas” they produce for sale, and for the fact that coconuts are still their most common form of currency. The photos we have seen of the area look a lot like the islands of the South Pacific – coconut palms atop low, sandy islands surrounded by blue, blue water.
I guess the occasional cruise ship calls there these days, but they are limited by the fact that the ships are bigger than the largest inhabited island. A more pressing concern is that rising sea levels may submerge many of the islands. The Panamanian government, we’ve heard, is making efforts to move people off the islands and onto the mainland – without, so far, a lot of success. It would spell the end of their traditional way of life.
We plan to spend a week or so there. When we told our Panama Canal Pilot about our plans, he laughed and said, “People who go there for a week end up staying for years!” That’s unlikely for us, with a May Atlantic crossing still part of our plans – but you never know…
The day she left the boat, Hannah asked me what it was that I liked about being on a boat at sea. I gave a quick answer at the time (“no commercials”), but I’ve thought about it more since then. The unique thing about being at sea is that you are immersed in the natural world, unchanged, as much as you can see, for thousands of years. It’s a lot like the world my parents grew up in, where nature can comfort and feed you, or kill you. That fact inspires some serious respect. This is so different from the experience of most of humanity today, and so similar to the experience of most of humanity just a few generations ago.
It may seem like a non-sequitor, but we watched the Super Bowl in the marina bar here in Panama (and condolences to Seahawks fans). During the game, the ads and the halftime show, there was not a single image of a person or animal living in a natural environment. Was that an accident, or does it make sense for the corporate world to encourage people to forget about shrinking glaciers, browning forests, disappearing species, polluted farmland and destroyed coastal marine habitat – and to focus instead on consuming?
Well, that’s the musing for today. We plan to head north from the San Blas Islands around the 14th, sailing across the vigorous trade winds for San Andres, or Grand Cayman, or the Yucatan – wherever the wind may take us. We’ll be in touch as soon as we are in contact with the internet again.