Eventually we got the system set up, got a launcha with some water alongside, and filled my tanks. Next was a shopping run. Luke and I went in and grabbed what we could. There were no tomatoes – which is a deal-killer.
After a quick conversation it appeared that there may be tomatoes within a half hour. So we got back to the dinghy, loaded the diesel, gas, propane and groceries onto NOMAD and I went back for tomatoes. Thankfully there were some.
We managed to get out of Nargana early. So we sailed to the West Cocos in search of decent freediving and spearfishing. Immediately after dropping the anchor, we were accosted by the local Kuna. He wanted to know what we wanted – I told him nothing. He was legitimately stumped and left us paddling and talking to himself.
Though tired, we rallied for an evening dive. The reef here was very alive. The fish life was fair, but the visibility was mediocre. I saw a couple of nice snapper but they were doing the typical nice snapper thing: running. Regardless of how much time I spent on the bottom – they weren’t interested.
Luke planted a spear in a tasty Ocean Triggerfish. Amanda found a very large Channel Clinging Crab. I hunted down the crab and managed to land him. A real giant. Then I went back on the snapper hunt. I found one more snapper as the sun was going down but when I was hanging on the bottom waiting for him to get curious – another, larger, Channel Clinging Crab came out from under a coral formation and started waving his tasty claws at me.
It’s always a rough day when you forget where you’re at in the food chain. I try to keep that in mind when playing with things that are larger than me (or just deadly). This crab lost sight of where he was in the food chain – at least momentarily. And when he came out swinging those tasty claws – he got the shaft.
With two of these crabs and a triggerfish, waning light, and an exhausted crew – we headed back. It was actually getting a little cold too. Back onboard we de-geared and began cooking. The crabs were so damn big we couldn’t figure out how to cook them. We ended up boiling their claws/legs in the pressure cooker – and grilling their bodies. Then we were stuck the next dilemma – how to get the meat out of those massive claws?
My last tangle with these crabs ended with us using ViceGrip pliers to crush the claws. But the pliers had just been cleaned, so they had a bit of oil on them and that leaves a distinct taste in one’s mouth. So we tried a few different things, all of which helped us get crab meat all over the inside of S/V NOMAD. We were stuffed, and we had crab leftover.
That night the wind picked up and the anchorage became almost untenable. No fun sleeping like that. We moved ASAP in the morning. We motored to Green Island, where we tucked in behind the island – very close. There was virtually no wind and absolutely no rocking. Luke was pressing to leave that evening – but there was plenty to do and we all needed rest. Passages are better when everyone is rested, there’s some food pre-cooked, and all mechanical/electrical/rigging has a quick once-over.
So we did a bit of work that afternoon, then went to the island where we had our final beach-fire-night in San Blas. It was a completely still night – we could see the reflection of everything on the water, as if it was painted on. Absolutely stunning.
The next morning Amanda was ill. That’s a horrible way to start a passage, but today was the day. I’d planned to be motorsailing most of the way, with wind in our face, waves on the beam, and current on the beam. It wasn’t going to be easy sailing – but this was certainly the best weather we’d seen for this trip for more than a month. At least the waves were less than 10 feet.
Having not made this passage, I did some worst-case planning. I didn’t want to motor the whole way, and I suspected that without the motor I’d be running between 4 and 5 knots. Which left us with an open-ocean sail between 36-48 hours. Mostly pounding. That meant that we needed to leave in the evening if we wanted to arrive in the morning. I’m not entering a foreign, unfamiliar port in the dark – so an evening departure it was.
Amanda turned from ill to very ill. I considered putting off our departure to see if she would recover, but all signs pointed to a stomach bug. Nothing serious, just very uncomfortable. So Luke and I pulled anchor in the fading light and wove our way out of the San Blas reefs for the final time.
As the sun went down over the San Blas Islands – S/V NOMAD was beating through the seas at a bit over 7 knots. It was bittersweet, beautiful, and exciting. I hate goodbyes, but they’re a very real part of this lifestyle.