We reluctantly left the piercing blue of the lagoon and left Cayos Holandés, making our way in a modest breeze along a string of coral atolls. There are surprisingly large numbers of yachts around, hidden in small groups amongst these islands, savouring the solitude of Paradise.
Little islands sometime had accumulated unusually large groups of boats, probably because a local had set up a decent bar! One or two people had built huts in improbable positions, on a tiny outcrop of coral two inches above the water isolated in the middle of a submerged sand bar.
I altered course between several islets and sailed in a brisk wind up towards Chichimé, where we dropped anchor in a sheltered spot behind a wall of Palm trees. Out to our left were several wrecks perched on the reef - a couple of yacht hulks, and a large white ferry, marked SAN BLAS FERRY in large black letters along its hull! The cruising guide had warned us of this reef, the author having witnesses to a boat full of backpackers being wrecked there.
We went ashore and found several local Guna families in huts, who ignored us, and quite a number of Pnamanian families from the mainland staying in reed huts along the beach. Although there was a rudimentary cafe, no one engaged with us when we tried to buy a drink or asked about getting food. Beautiful Mola cloth work was displayed outside some huts, but although we stopped to look closely at the intricate embroidery we could not attract attention to enquirer the price! The Mola style is very interesting. Layers of different coloured cloth are cut in intricate patterns to expose the different colours, and the edges embroidered.
The following morning we set off early in order to get to Colon before sunset. We rose at 05:30 to breakfast before raising anchor as the first hint of dawn light lit the water and have enough confidence to motor out and miss the reef. It was great sailing along the coastline, dotted with little sugarloaf islands. The wind was much lighter than for the last month, and we put up our colourful Parasailor with its big horizontal orange stripe and made good progress.
Approaching the breakwater to Colon we became aware of what a huge shipping hub this is, with our chart screen covered with icons representing ships. Port control was very busy and organised,a nd we had to wait for three ships to exit before we were allowed in. Thence it was a short trip along inside the breakwater to Shelter Bay where we were welcomed by the manager, John Halley, and Steve Tedbury who had arrived that morning to join the boat for a week.
SHelter Bay is effectively The Marina At The End Of The Universe, as from here there is no return. It is full of boats waiting for permission to enter the canal, and lots of like minded adventurers teetering on the edge of a new beginning.