Thursday, April 25, 2013

San Blas Islands Passage From St. Maarten

Amara leaving St. Maarten

On Sunday, April 20th, we finally made it to San Blas islands after six days at sea!  I haven’t had access to the internet, and I am currently sitting in a little cafe at the marina sucking up their wi-fi before they close up shop for the evening.  I have to type fast!
Arriving in the San Blas islands was a long haul (at least for me).  We covered over 1000 miles in 6 days.  It was so nice to finally leave St. Maarten behind us and head out into the great big ocean.  It was my maiden voyage on Amara and I was so excited to finally start sailing!

We had planned to leave that Sunday, but as luck would have it, Martin and David were doing a routine check of the boat and went snorkeling under the hulls and noticed a missing cover that led into the generator compartment.  It was a problem that had been fixed in France, but the plate covering the hole had fallen off somewhere between France and St. Maarten.  The hole wasn’t going to sink the boat but it could have shorted out all of our electrical equipment.  So, erring on side of caution, they decided to go back into St. Maarten where David found an aluminum plate (which was a small miracle) to cover the hole.  Then Martin and David spent the better part of the day in a dinghy under the catamaran gluing the plate into place.

As I have been saying all along, plans can change quickly while sailing, so we postponed our departure until Monday. 
Martin and David working under Amara.
We finally set off on Monday of last week.  I can say now that the passage was actually a lot of fun, however, there were a few days there where I was a little, “touch and go.”  The sea was angry there for awhile, and I wasn’t sure that a sailor’s life was for me.  More on that later…
Our  Crew Watch Schedule
Each member of the crew (which includes me) had to cover one, 4-hour watch and one, 3-hour watch (except me, since I had to watch Lily during the day.)  My 3-hour watch was from 6-9:00 pm.  I actually enjoyed that time alone under the stars listening to music and getting lost in my thoughts.  All the while looking out for any ships that were getting within a certain distance from Amara.  Martin and I also had a lot of time to spend with each other, since our night watches were back-to-back.  Martin’s night watch started at 9:00 pm and lasted until 12:00 am.  So, he would come up to relieve me and we would end up sitting under the moonlight for about an hour and just talk and enjoy one another’s company.   We are lucky that we not only really love each other, but we also really like each other.  We have some wonderful memories now of us just sitting under the stars in the middle of the ocean.

I have to admit, there were two days during the passage that I would have paid anything to get off Amara.  ANYTHING!  The passage was relatively easy other than Thursday and Friday where we were in 25-30 knot winds in a cross current.  The boat rocked relentlessly during those two days.  Every time a wave would hit the hulls it would make this LOUD crashing and knocking sound.  I didn't sleep at night during this time because the hulls were so loud that it sounded like someone was rolling a bowling ball up and down our bedroom all night.  I finally found peace when I put on my eye shades and noise-cancelling headphones.  Finally got a good night's sleep.
A self-portrait while blindfolded is
apparently a little difficult to center the photo.
There was a moment during this time, when I felt so sick that I asked Martin if he could call in a chopper for me to get me off the boat!  I was standing in the hallway with my feet firmly on each side of the aisles with my hands holding onto the doorway.  I yelled to Martin, “I feel like I am in the belly of the whale!  I gotta get outta here!”  It was a minor meltdown that lasted all of 1 minute, but during that minute I was scheming up all kinds of plans to get me off that bobbing boat!  

During those two days, the boat was rocking and rolling around so much that all I could do was stay in bed.  I spent the majority of those two days holding on to Lily’s leg.  It was all I could do when Martin was on watch to make sure she didn’t fall off the bed while I just tried to sleep and have my dreams take me far, far away from Amara.  Luckily, Martin watched her for the most part during that time so that I could just recoup.  Just when I would think that I was starting to get better, I'd look over and read the title of a book and then feel a rush of nausea coming back over me.

Speaking of Lily, she’s a natural.  So far, she has had the time of her life sitting at the helm with her dad and with me, or just playing in the cockpit with all her toys.  She seems to be adapting to being a sailor quite well.  And yes, she is still stuffing herself with all of Sue’s epicurean creations.
Lily is a natural.  She loved the rocking 
and rolling and found it quite fun!
Lily loved hanging out with dad.
...and playing outside in the cockpit.
By Saturday, the winds had calmed down and the rest of the passage was enjoyable.  I was back to wanting to be a sailor again. Whew!  Martin assured me that those were the two roughest days on the water even for him since he set foot on Amara.  I am kind of proud of myself for enduring those two days, but I am so glad they are a faint memory now. 
One day during our passage, we were quite entertained by a pelican that came and visited us for about an hour in the middle of the ocean.  He (assuming he was a HE) would fly in front of the boat, land on the water and then let Amara pass over him.  Then, once he was behind the boat, he would fly to the front and do it all over again.  He did this over and over.  In the end, he finally flew onto the boat and sat there balancing on Amara’s lifelines. The pelican would just sit there and pose for me as I snapped away taking photos.  I have a feeling I wasn’t the first person to take his picture as he seemed quite sure of himself.   
Examining Lily's bedroom hatch.
At one point while I was taking pictures of him, I saw him zeroing in on the open hatch right over Lily’s room.  Realizing what he might be thinking, I ran out of the salon and started yelling and shooing him from the deck like a crazy lady.  All I could think of was that pelican flying into Lily’s bedroom hatch and wrecking havoc in her room while she was sleeping.  I turn into an angry mama bear when my cub’s safety is at stake.  Let's just say that Mr. Pelican met his first bear that day. 
Our first catch!  A mahi mahi.
Fresh sashimi straight from the sea.
Another highlight was catching fish!  I never knew how much fun reeling in fish would be.  Every time the lines would start making the slightest of noise, I would run out to see what the sea might be offering up to us.  The second morning of the voyage, at about 6 in the morning, I heard the lines peeling off the reel and I ran out to see that Martin and David had caught a mahi mahi (which we promptly ate for lunch and dinner that night).  We caught a few more fish during the week but somehow they managed to wiggle away from our lines.  I was getting a bit discouraged as the score was about: Sea-5 and Amara-1.  Not to be discouraged, on Sunday, Martin and David caught a yellow fin tuna.  We made fresh sashimi for lunch and had seared tuna that evening for dinner.  
Pulling into the San Blas Islands custom's office.
We hadn't even put down our anchor yet and the Kuna Indian women were floating up to our boat to sell us "Molas".
When we got into the San Blas islands on Sunday evening.  While putting down our anchor, the local Kuna Indian women promptly rowed up to our boat and met us wanting to sell us their handicrafts.  In the San Blas, the Kuna Indians make something called a “Mola” which is a process of stacking material on top of one another and then sewing a design within the stacked material.  It is usually in a geometric shape but lately they are doing animals and boats (for the tourists).  It is an important part in maintaining the Kuna economy.  They are so beautiful once you realize all the stitching and handwork that went into creating them.  
Sue looking at all the colorful Molas and making her selection.
Sue was kind enough to purchase from the Kuna women that rowed out to our boat.  I held off until the next day knowing that we were going to go into one of the islands (Carti Sagdup) and would be able to do a little local shopping there.

To be continued...