Our new group arrived on the 29th, the first sunny day we’d had in a week. Evidence of Global Warming is everywhere these days, and the weather is any thing but predictable. But somehow we keep getting lucky and wind or sun would be in no shortage for the next week.
Our crew consisted of Jay and Kay from Arkansas, Gavin and Vix from England, and our good friend Randy from Seattle. Randy, Jay or Kay had never kited so the mission would be getting those guys some ground level learning while getting Gavin and Vix some quality time on the water.
We spent our first day back in the Chichime Cays letting everyone recover from their long flights and early morning getting out to us from Panama City. Francis was still anchored nearby so he and I headed out to the outer reef for a hunting session. Among other things we saw two good sized sharks- a nurse and a dusky, and about an 80 lb grouper. The swell was a solid 12 feet, which made for some interesting surge swimming and not a few untimely surfaces where I felt like a surfer instead of a free diver. From Chichime we headed around to the Hollandes Cays, where the crew spent hundreds of dollars on Molas. It was easily the best mola-sales day the Kuna had had all year.
We celebrated the New Year back at Bar-B-Que island, where we knew we could teach in the shallows and take advantage of winds that were now piping 24 hours a day. With beers and booze flowing a bit freely we took out the cards for a game of Dirty Clubs, in which the loser would have to swim to the nearest boat and sing HAPPY NEW YEAR at the top of their lungs when the bell tolled. Randy lost, and we all had a hell of a laugh watching his dive light swing all over the place on his swim across to our neighbors, who were no less amused.
For the next three days the winds never went below 20 knots and got as high as 40 on our last day. Vix and Jody were overpowered on the 5 and I got some of the highest jumps of my life (sometimes unintentionally) on the 7. Jay, Randy and Kay all got some exciting body dragging in and will no doubt be addicts in the near future. Gavin came back in exhausted hanging on to the 10 and we were all sporting big grins.
On the 4th, with a forecast with a bit lighter winds I decided we’d make the 210 mile run to Bocas, hoping the seas would be down a bit as well. For the first 150 miles we had great winds and were averaging a solid 10 knots in very reasonable 12′ seas, but then our good fortune broke and we found ourselves motoring in sometimes heavy rain against a 3+ knot current, destroying our speed average and giving a good bash to our mental health. I think we watched three movies back to back. Passages are sometimes nothing more than necessary evils to get to the next place, and this ended up one of them. We arrived Bocas on Saturday on a Seattle-like gray rainy day. Luckily the gorgeous days in the San Blas still held our spirits high, because our first taste of Bocas Del Toro was pure shit. Our marina, nestled into “Sand Fly Bay” (that was NOT on the brochure) we discovered was very aptly named. “Chitras” as they are called locally never tire of burrowing into any exposed flesh. I’ve experienced them the world over, and my fondness has never grown.
On our final day we decided to forget the rain and go for a walk through the forest. It was supposed to be 1.2 kilometers and about 10 minutes across to a beautiful beach on Bastimentos island. I guess that must be in the dry season, which is supposed to be now. For us, it took a good hour in mud that at times sucked your shoes right off your feet. We slid, skidded, fell and slipped our way down to the beach, which was in fact stunning and played in the surf until the mud on our bodies and frown on our faces were replaced with clean salt water and smiles. Ok, so a solid kite session would have been a happier end, but all in all this trip was another extraordinary leg of The Best Odyssey. Gavin and Vix are joining us in future years as owners, Jay and Kay have decided to buy their own boat (this was their test piece) and Randy will be back soon to hone his kiting skills. Jody, Nico and I will get a moment’s breather before we start our all-pro wave invitational in a few days.