The day started all too early with a 5:00am shuttle bus ride to Mirimar to catch a small fishing boat that would take us to our sailboat. Normally, another town closer to the sailboat landing handles this trip but with the torrential rains and mudslides that have hit Panama in the last month, the road was out and we had to leave from Mirimar.
The inexperience of the people in Mirimar with transporting tourists was immediately obvious. They loaded twelve backpackers and all of our luggage into a small boat. We made it about 5 minutes off the dock before the boat started to fill with water because it was so overweight. We were forced to turn around and unload half of our group. The boat trip took about 2 hours and felt like a carnival ride. In addition to enduring a thunderstorm, we crashed through wave after wave that completely covered the entire boat. Luckily we had already put on our Scopolamine motion sickness patches!
We had to go through special customs to be granted access to the San Blas islands. Even though the native tribal people of San Blas are part of Panama, the people living there consider themselves a sovereign nation. It was pretty low key, all we had to do was show them our passports and give them $2.
Our small charter boat then took us to our 43 ft. yacht, to meet our captain, Federico. After taking a grand tour of what was to be our humble abode for the next five day, Federico immediately began cooking our first lunch, freshly caught jackfish with a tasty vegetable salad.
We spent the time before the second boat of passengers arrived snorkeling on a nearby reef. The coolest thing we saw was a lionfish. When we mentioned it to Federico, he told us it was considered an invasive species and needed to be reported to the Panamanian coast guard. An aquarium in Miami broke 10 years ago and released lionfish and hundreds of other species of fish into the Caribbean sea.
The second boat finally arrived and all 11 passengers were on the boat. We had an awesome mix of people from all over the world – New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Great Britain, and America. On top of this was a Colombian girl who Federico was transporting back to her homeland after she was stranded on one of the San Blas islands.
Before long, a boat came to pick us up to take us to visit a traditional village on one of the San Blas islands. We were able to wander the island and buy crafts from the locals. I admired the skirt of one of the local women so much I bought it off of her and used it as a sarong for the remainder of the trip! Pat also bought some breadfruit right off of a tree for $1.
Back at the boat, Federico made his first batch of his famous secret recipe popcorn for us. He wouldn’t tell us exactly what was in it, but our guesses are turmeric and paprika. It was delicious! We fell asleep early, tired from all of the activity of the day. The next morning we would begin our sail trip.