| The sunsets in the San Blas are dramatic, backlighting the pretty beaches and palm trees * * *|
Its 0530 as I write this. The moon, full just a few days ago, is still high in the western sky; theres a scribble of yellow streaks spilling out in the east. In front of us, about 300 yards away, are two parallel reefs protecting us from any swell, and eight or nine miles beyond them are the lush mountains of Panama, blue in the dawn light. _Ithaka_ is tucked behind three Kuna Yala islandseach palm covered, and just starting their morning shimmy in a four-knot breeze. Its barely blown in five days, perfect for snorkeling, and weve cooled off morning and afternoon, diving off the stern and swimming to explore the closest reefs. Its eerie to be parked between a lee shore and reefs, but thats the way it is in most anchorages here, so you never completely relax; whenever the wind pipes upas it does for evening squallsone ear is cocked for the familiar lullaby of the anchor chain and the snubber. But ever since the windlass motor gave up the ghost (the day we sailed from San Andres), to save my back weve retired our heavy CQR anchor with its all-chain rig, and weve been using our Bruce anchor, attached to only 25 feet of chain and miles of rope. Most anchorages here are 30-50 feet deep, so these days Im pulling everything up by hand and whining the entire time. As for our windlass, well... thats a nasty tale for another log. With the rode, we hear different sounds and dance to different tunes. Nylon rope has a slightly elastic effect, and minimal weight, so we find ourselves waltzing around much more than we did with the heft of all the chain.