Moving Around San Blas

The Girls

The Girls

It was a little windy, the surf was up – so we couldn’t “get outside” to the good fishing, but we needed our daily diving session.  So we did a small dive inside the reef. Then we explored BBQ Island and decided to let the Kuna cook lunch for us.

The beach

The beach

Days full of simple living and no schedules.  Nights spent watching fish, chatting, and enjoying good wine. 

Then it was time for Teena to get back.  So we picked up our anchor and sailed to the East Lemmons. It wasn’t much, but it was sailing – finally. When we arrived at the East Lemmons we dropped anchor and I noticed a familiar boat in the anchorage – a captain that I’d met and become friends with in Cartagena.  Andres. Teena made it clear she wanted to party, and with Andres and crew – there’s always a party. 

So then night began.  We partied and ate with Andres and his crew – the group consisting of almost twenty people.  The girls danced and Andres gave salsa lessons.  I drank and laughed and did my best to make jokes in Spanish.

Suddenly we were out of beer.  There was beer on an island about two miles away.  But it was midnight.  The good news is I had the latest charts on my iPad and with Andres holding the iPad up front – I was able to steer the dinghy through the black night and around the myriad reefs to relative safety and cold beer.  It was a first, and we made people happy.

Teena was out early the next morning – heading back to Mexico.  After she left I was back asleep.  Then it rained.  So I  read.  We all relaxed as it rained and filled our tanks.  The real downside of rain is that we get no solar to charge our batteries.  And with another two people on the boat, we use a ton of energy.  So we were out of energy.  Naturally, when I pull out my Honda generator, it doesn’t start.  As if I was looking to compound the issue, now the pullcord breaks.  Have to take it apart, the girls help, we fix it and get it running to recharge our batteries.  It takes a few seconds to type that, but it took us hours to get it done.

We decide to stay around the East Lemmons waiting on news about my saildrive parts.  Naturally it doesn’t come (I’ve come to believe the guy I’m sourcing parts from borders on mentally handicapped).  I decide to not rush.  I decide to not worry.  Worst case scenario I’m returning home for Christmas and can pick up the parts then.

More charter captains (and good friends) come and go.  By day three in the East Lemmons, we’ve met almost all of my charter/backpacker buddies from Cartagena.  It’s good to know people. 


During this period I’m losing my mind.  There is very little diving in this area.  It’s raining.  My boat is broken.  I’ve killed a few good books.  But Mike takes me to a spot he knows.  He shows me a Dog Snapper hole, tells me it’s at 50 feet – a fair freedive when you’re hunting Dog Snapper (the tactic is to locate them, feign disinterest, dive to the bottom, sit there until curiosity gets the better of them and they approach you, hoping that happens before you need to breathe). 

The spot is a few large coral heads that are in a channel and connect to a reef wall.  The spot turns out to start at 45 feet and then drops another thirty feet before it hits the ocean floor.  So.  That’s beginning to get into the depth that I want to have a safety watching me.  If I sit on the ocean floor and a Dog Snapper circles just out of range – I have the tendency to forget that I need to breathe.  I set a mental depth limit at 55 feet, which would serve as my “bottom limit” – unless there was a great fish just two more kicks down

At 55 feet, with no sun and 20 feet of visibility I perched behind a coral head.  Waiting.  Concentrating on relaxing my muscles.  A fish circles just out of visibility.  The contractions start.  I run out of air. 

The surface.  Breathing. 

On the surface, Mike asks if I found the spot (the visibility made it impossible to locate the spot from the surface).  I tell him yes.  He asks if there were Dog Snapper there.  I told him no.  He says – they may be deeper.  I reset my depth limit to 66 feet on my dive watch and make the dive. 

Naturally I was more than a few feet away from where I wanted to be when I finally made it into the gloom and found the coral head.  More oxygen wasted as I swam along the bottom toward the coral head.  Finally there I headed down bit further.  My depth alarm went off.  66 feet.  And here come the Dog Snapper. 

The school stayed on the edge of my vision.  A good-eating size Dog Snapper gives me a broadside shot.  I take the shot, hit him well, and he slips under the coral head.  At 70 feet.  Already most of the way there, I descend further and untangle the fish and bring us both to the surface.  A lot of work for an unexciting fish.  He didn’t even make it into a picture. 

But we ate ceviche that night. 

And I slept well. 

The next post here will have bikinis and fish.  Which is why you’re all here.  So stay tuned.

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