We left the East Lemons yesterday and moved about 12 miles east to West Coco Banderas. We wanted to meet up with Larry and Susan on s/v Moira, whom we'd been corresponding with for awhile, but had never met.
The angle between the Lemons and the Banderas was a little too close to sail, so we motored NE into the light wind for an hour to get a better angle. This also brought us close along the Holandes, which we hugged for a few miles, to sightsee.
We were finally able to fall off and had a nice sail for about 2 hours. We were trailing a fishing line, and caught 2 small fish, a tunny and a mackerel, before we finally caught a nice 18" Spanish Mackerel (near the 30' spot that's on a direct line from Holandes to W Coco Banderas).
The West Coco Banderas are a string of 3 small islands that each look like the palm studded island on the Windows background (set your background to Azul). I wish I could post a picture of just how gorgeous it is. There are reef patches everywhere (this is a 'good light entry only' anchorage). We hopped in for a snorkel yesterday afternoon and saw all kinds of interesting things.
Best of all, there are no Kuna indians living in this island group. Though the Kuna are very nice, they do tend to try to make their living off selling stuff to the yachties. In our 3 days at East Lemons, we were visited by 4 boats selling molas, 1 old guy selling mangoes and yuca, someone trying to buy a cell phone recharge card, a guy selling very small fish, and a guy offering to work for $10/day doing boat maintenance (polishing, bottom scrubbing, etc). At least one of the mola boats, when
we declined to buy any molas, essentially begged for 'regalos' (gifts), including T-shirts, rice, onions, and candy.
While we are sympathetic with their meagre existence, we just can't support them all...
The thing we would really like to buy from them... conch, lobster, and crabs... are 'out of season' until June 1. I saw a nice fat conch myself while I was snorkeling yesterday, but left it there to grow and prosper.
Dave and I have both been in this area before, Dave in 2001, and me in 1996. But neither of us remember too many details of the anchorages. We have Dave's old guidebook, with lots of handwritten notes, and my old logbook.
Things have changed a lot since I was here. Back then, the only guidebook was a 20 page set of typewritten notes and hand-drawn sketch charts that the cruisers in Cartagena passed around. Now there are 2 good guidebooks that cover all of Panama, and have lots of detail on the San Blas.
The most populated anchorages in 1996 had 4-5 boats in them, and we spent several weeks with only us and our 2 buddy boats. Now it is not uncommon for 20 boats to be hanging out in the popular anchorages. A bunch of people have spent 2-3 years (or more) just hang out in this area year round, much the same way boats hang out in Florida and the Bahamas (but with no cold fronts OR hurricanes). Occasionally they make a side-trip to Cartagena or Colon, to reset immigration and reprovision.
It would be easy for us to hang out here for a couple of years, too. But, we have to keep reminding ourselves... "The world beckons."