So how did Elizabeth Jean and her crew fare on remote cruising grounds? First, let’s define our terms. A number of factors define Guna Yala’s remoteness. Some factors are physical; others are technological; yet others are psychological.
Physically, the winds, reefs, and distances all isolate the archipelago. Beginning in late December, the trade winds set up. Once the “Christmas winds” arrive, it can be a tough sail from the San Blas to anywhere. Once in Guna Yala, fellow cruisers cautioned us we should plan to stay until spring. Reefs fringe the San Blas; cruisers typically move within Guna Yala between 10:00 and 2:00 when the sun illuminates the reefs. As for the distance, visitors joining us would drive by van and then catch a launcha, or power boat.
Technologically, the San Blas are connected with cell towers; however, some cruisers equipment connects better than others (i.e better than ours). Our phones and lap top worked in some anchorages, but not others. Not a big deal, but a source of low level frustration, especially when we were waiting to hear if our daughters were making their various connections.
The physical remoteness and spotty technological connectivity contributed to an underlying psychological sense of isolation. While we came to the islands with plenty of food, water and fuel we were always wondering whether we would run out of something or have an equipment failure requiring a part or skill not available on Elizabeth Jean or elsewhere in Guna Yala. As it turned out, everything we required we could find there and when we left we still had plenty of water, fuel and propane (although we were getting creative with our cooking). Yet, having enough and knowing we have enough is not always the same thing.
The reefs, which provided protecion from ocean swells, also were a barrier to movement among the islands. The reefs are denoted by yellow. The numbers at the top of the chart are waypoints through the reefs.
The launcha ride in and out to Elizabeth Jean was the final step in our daughters’ trips to visit their name sake
The vegetable boat was the best source of fresh food and rum. It never arrived with same cargo two times in a row. These variations added to our uncertainties regarding provisions. Photo credit: Max Friedman.
As in the reality game “Survivor,” our goal was to outwit, outlast, and outplay our own apprehensions.
In the last analysis, none of Elizabeth Jean’s crew was voted off the island. However, Guna Yala and its remoteness challenged each of us.
Photo credit: Max Friedman.