22nd February 2017 – 13th March 2017
So after the Shitstorm incident we sailed on… 30nm off Porto Belo something happened which made Mark a very happy man…
A BIG Fish
The wind completely died so we took down the sails and motored along. The fishing rod wrrred into action and all three of us spun round. “It’s a shark!” A huge black body (with a fin) was leaping out of the water 50m away. We were jumping around like headless chickens… “It’s definitely a shark!” Mark set us straight, “It’s not a shark, it’s a Black Marlin.” Jess and I weren’t having any of it. I could see it, clear as day, a black shark trying to unclip itself from our line. It was going crazy! We changed into neutral and slowly Mark reeled it in. “I’ve lost it.” Not again! Typical.
Then out of nowhere, the shark/marlin jumped out the water 5m off the back of Salid! We couldn’t believe it. Mark reeled as fast as he could, “reverse… REVERSE! Go left.. left… forward… No back in reverse.” It was ridiculous. We must have spent over an hour getting him in, but it was worth it! A 2m long Sail Fish!
After a 3 minute photoshoot it was unanimous… We were putting Simon the Sail Fish back in the ocean. It was too much meat for us and he was just so beautiful, we couldn’t kill him….
Mark placed him carefully back in and held onto his nose. We knew that you have to let the fish regain fishiness before letting him go otherwise he may drown. “Look he’s waggling his tail” I knew I was speaking in hope. Simon kept giving the odd signs of life.
Eventually the time came… “Mark I don’t think Simon is going to make it.” We brought him on board and realised he may have been a gonna the first time we got him on. And that was that, we were going to have to eat Sail Fish for weeks to come.
On arrival into Central America, I really felt the change from the Caribbean – in the landscape, architecture and atmosphere. We hopped on one of the local buses, which was an old American school bus and headed into Colon. We passed cattle ranches whilst listening to Central American music, we were no longer blasted with Bob Marley. The people seemed more reserved (this is not in a negative way!) and relaxed. And the final observation, the air was drier.
Mark’s Bottom Take 1
We set off towards San Blas with an overnight stop in Miramar. This was the start of Mark’s flatulent stage. Mark and I were sat up on deck watching the sun go down and I questioned a stench that had filled my nostrils, “oh god, did Jess let out the heads?” Mark admitted swiftly… “oh no sorry that was me!” It’s a mystery as to why he came over to chat and then let it out.
At 0200 Mark got up and headed towards San Blas. I popped up to help, downed an Ovaltine, then fell back asleep. At 0700 I woke up in paradise.
Mark’s Bottom Take 2
I was sat at the chart table minding my own business working out where to go next. Mark was up on deck. Then he walked down the stairs and “pwoooop!” Not again!!! “Why did you come downstairs and then fart??” I was in shock. “I didn’t mean to. It just slipped out” he said shamefully. Again, why not do it upstairs!? In the fresh air!
We ventured to shore and questioned one of the tourists camping there in a hut. “What sort of price are you talking per night?” The poor chap replied with a slight stutter, Mark commented… “$1.80, that’s alright!” The guy had to correct Mark, it was actually $180 a night! I could not believe my ears! Jess and I had a secret giggle at Mark but also realised how incredibly lucky we are to have Salid. $180!!
Sting Ray Alley
The sand bank was about 2m below water level then it dropped off to around 6-7m. At the outer edge of the lagoon a reef spanned below the horizon with waves crashing on it. A huge ‘swimming pool’ stretching all the way from the sand bank drop off to the breaking waves in the distance.
The colours were out of this world: Turquoises, Aqua, navy, emerald, mint green, baby blue with the white of the breaking waves lining the lagoon as far as the eye could see. My eyes could not look away. The colours! They made the sky look dull in comparison.
En route Mark spotted “A sting ray!!!!” He followed it whilst we got our snorkel on – we leaned off the dinghy and dumped our heads in the water. I had never seen a Sting Ray before but I had heard one had killed off Steve Erwin so I was scared! I looked down and “eeeeeeeeeee” the sound shot out my mouth before I knew it. Holy shit it’s right there!
We motored on, Mark spotted another. We raced over and again I plopped my head over the side. They are huge!!! It must have been over 1m in diameter. From the dinghy we could see the dark patches of the sting rays surrounding us as the water was light blue and crystal clear with a sandy bottom.
We reached the top by the waves and Jess and I plopped out the dingy – before we knew it, the current was drifting us back down towards FS3. It was so strong. We lay there head first, all the bits of sea grass floating along with us. There was no need to kick. Just drift down. It was very eery. There was no fish at all, just sand below us as we waited in anticipation for the sting rays.
Every now and then we got a scare with a rock looking ray. The depth decreased slowly. We zoomed even faster over an area of sea grass with 0.5m water on top. All the time waiting, any moment I thought. Then the sand dropped away and we were in metres of water at the beginning once more.
Next it was Mark and I : Back to the top we motored, in we jumped and once again the current swallowed me up as I sped towards Fruit Salid. I was slightly more relaxed this time, perhaps there aren’t as many as we thought… Then.. ****UUUCKKK, it’s right there!!! This one seemed even bigger than the others. I turn to search for Mark, where the hell is he! Body like jelly, I see him and wave furiously in the direction of the Ray. He swims towards me casually, with a “yep, that’s a ray” look on his face. Clearly I am, to be polite, shitting myself – but what is there to do! I have a go at a sideways swim but the current calmly (and quickly) takes me by. As we soar over the sand shelf I spot another, this time ‘kind of’ keeping my nerve. Fruit Salid was waiting for us and boy was I glad to see her.
320 Islands, which to choose?
05.03.17: First day of swimming lessons. 600metres from one end of the island to the other. Need to “waddle less” according to Mark.
Anchor windless kaput, hand drops from now on then. Devil Cays not meant to be.
I decided it was time for another adventure so persuaded the others to board the dinghy and head into the mangroves and up the Diablo river in search of a water pipe… trek up this and you find the waterfall. Sounds fun I hear you cry…
As we headed towards the river entrance the discussion began about the supposed crocs that infest these waters. As we neared the entrance Jess starts, “I didn’t even want to come anyway, just take me back and you two go.” I can see in her face, she is pissed off. Her cold eyes look at me in pure hatred. “You can do this Jess, we’ll be ok. If we see a croc we’ll go back.” Then Mark chimes in “did I tell you about crocs, they can flip a boat.” I look round to give him ‘the eye’ and see he is not pulling Jess’s leg, he is white as a ghost. “I hate this, just take me back.” Oh god, I think. Perhaps my lack of worry was due to the other two doing it for me but I was keen to go on. “Crocs don’t kill you straight away, they grab you in their jaws and take you down to the bottom for a death roll. Then keep you there till you drown.” Again, thanks Mark. It is nervous chatter now. “Look, if the Aussie is scared then!!!!” Jess is going to kill me if we make it through this. I turned again and saw Mark’s sheet white face and blue eyes scanning the waters ahead, full concentration. I couldn’t help but laugh at this situation, although in hindsight maybe this was my coping mechanism. But it truly was a funny one!
Minutes later, after getting a lot of gyp, a dinghy came towards us with at least 6 overweight OAP tourists on. If they can do it, we can! Unfortunately this was not comforting for the others at all. “They don’t care, they’re old anyway!” Jess!
As the mangroves grew denser and the rain hardened… “Holy heck, what’s that?” Mark swiftly did a U-e and powered up. “What, what is it!?” Jess fumbled over her words. “I saw movement in the water ahead!” Did you really Mark? I personally didn’t see a thing. To this day I think it was a ploy to get the hell out of there and I don’t really mind. It was time. And by gum it got your heart rate up. We were all thankful to get back out into the open water. Unfortunately the only crocs we saw were the ones on our feet.
The Underwater Garden
Here we had THE most amazing snorkel. As we moved forward through the water, it was like we were venturing from the rugged wilderness to a flower meddow and into a freshly mown lawn.
The fan corals wafted with the waves like trees in the wind. Then the flat bottom dropped down into craters covered in different corals. I attempted a free dive down and swam between the balloon corals.
Mark lost control of his bottom again and again. Was it the seafood or the homemade bread? Throughout our stay Jess and I turned up the music in hope to drown out the noises coming from the heads. It was no good. I have never heard anything like it! But it definitely kept us amused for our San BLAST stay.
San Blas was unlike anywhere I have ever been, hundreds of tiny deserted coconut strewn islands ready for exploring… And that we did! It will never be forgotten.