We’re sitting in Chichime now, resting a bit and cleaning. Always cleaning. We just finished one of our most fun charters – a family of four from California/Costa Rica. A really good time had all the way ’round. There is some bad news though – there’s some major engine work in my near future. Perfect timing.
Family Fun, Sailing in San Blas
The day leading up to the charter we did some vegetable shopping and then moved the boat out to one of our super-secret spots. It’s G-10 classified. There we cleaned a bit more, prepared some food, and I did some last-minute maintenance and then studied the weather a bit. This time of year the weather is inherently unpredictable. I try to plan but really I just have to be very, very flexible. The good news is that our guests usually understand this.
Around 11AM our guests arrived and the fun began. We start with a tour of the boat, some basic information, and then some safety points. Next we tried to get a handle on what our guests wanted out of the trip. In this case: relaxing, meeting the Kuna, seeing pretty beaches, a bit of snorkeling, and (yes) fishing.
I have one engine that is worrying me and another with a fuel issue. It’s not a great situation, but I manage it doesn’t’ affect where we go and what we do. It just changes the order of some of the activities as we need to use wind power more than diesel power now. Not a biggie, it is after all, a sailboat. So we picked the days that would work for a 1/2 day dragging lures and then planned the rest of our trip (loosely) around weather.
Our first day was a bit of snorkeling, a smoked chicken, and then some sushi (two kinds of tuna in this one). Then there was the champagne for the campaign. Then a bit of Marissa’s margaritas (now called Marissaritas). Then it was time for sleep – an early wakeup the next day to pull lures and then explore Kuna villages. We woke early and got a good start, but had a 2 knot current on our nose and I couldn’t get out of it. So our progress was slow, almost as slow as the fish bite.
After a strikeout on the first fishing attempt we pulled back behind the islands and hung out with one of my favorite Kuna families. We swam and walked around the beaches and then came back to another excellent meal and even better drinks. The next morning we took a long dinghy ride out to a protected area where the snorkeling is easy and the coral abundant. There we did some kicking around – we saw a couple of lobster, I saw rays and a nice Dog Snapper and a Cubera Snapper. The snapper were too smart for me, so we settled on three types of conch for conch fritters.
Then we came back to the boat and then our Kuna friends brought us some lobster and some crab. Needless to say, we ate very well. Then we had a couple of drinks and sat around watching the fish under the green light. The next morning was a rainy one, so we played games and drank coffee until late morning, when the rain cleared.
After a bit of kicking around and some food we moved the boat again, this time not all that far. Once again we were the only boat in the anchorage – but that wasn’t what made this evening cool. What made this evening cool was that we anchored very close to a rip that was bringing water from outside the reef in – and with it bait and fish. We watched a school of Bonita pound bait on the surface and then witnessed some mackerel do the same and then when we saw the Tarpon join in on the action – Mike and I agreed we should take a little dinghy trip. We packed a couple of trolling rods and a spinning reel and off we went in the dinghy. As the swell was small and the period long – we took the dinghy out in the open water and pulled a couple of lures through the rip.
After about 20 minutes of trolling Mike had a nice fish on and the fight began. The fish would take a little line, then run to us, then fight and take line again. More than once we thought we lost him (he ran to us) and more than once he pulled line off the reel. But eventually we got him up next to the dinghy, at which point we both realized we hadn’t really planned for anything other than a) catch and release or b) a football tuna. This was a pretty good-sized King Mackerel, who was putting up a decent fight and who had plenty of teeth which could do plenty of damage to both dinghy and/or feet. Eventually Mike pulled up the Mackerel by the line and I pulled him up by the tail and we got him in the dinghy – but not before he gave us a shower. Once in the dinghy we had a moment of ‘what now’ and then used the anchor to give him a bonk. Done deal. Fish in boat, fisherman happy and exchanging high-fives. Plenty of fish for fish tacos and sushi.
Then we began working our way back to the boat, where I got a strike on my rod. There was a brief fight and then we had a Barracuda up next to the dingy. I managed to (eventually) get him unhooked and released without puncturing the dinghy. Then it was nearly dark and the wind increased dramatically. We made it back to the boat in the choppy dark, where we took pictures and then cleaned the fish. I was out early that night, again we were waking up a little early to drag lures outside the island.
The next morning we pointed the boat North and headed out of the islands toward open water. As soon as we dropped the lures we hooked a Spanish Mackerel, boated him, unhooked him, and released him. Ten minutes later Mike was reeling in another lure (to check it) and a Spanish Mackerel shot no less than 10 feet out of the water while we all watched him. It really was an amazing sight – seeing a fish jump that high out of the water. He resembled a rocket more than a fish. Very, very cool.
We saw birds working and smaller schools of Blackfin and Bonita, but nothing that got our blood pumping or made the reels scream. Alas. That afternoon we pulled behind Chichime and dropped our anchor. There we ate another excellent meal and I took a much-needed rest. Later we walked around Chichime and did a bit more Mola shopping and then retired to the boat for our last supper. First, though, we cleaned 3 different species of conch. I don’t want to brag here – but Marissa can make some world-class Conch Fritters. World class.
Then there was more champagne and more Marissaritas. Then we dropped in the green light and watched the fish congregate around NOMAD. There were several Spotted Eagle Rays in the area and eventually the temptation was too much – so I dove in and swam with them and the other baitfish under NOMAD. I enjoy night diving, but it’s always easier after a glass of Rum (or two). Anyways, I did manage to hang with the Spotted Eagle Ray for a bit and even got some footage. It didn’t take long before most of the crew was in the water with us. Then, suddenly, it was late and we were exhausted.
The next morning came early, and before we knew it our new freinds were off. Moving guests from the ‘client’ category to the ‘friend’ category is one of the pleasures of this business, and I’m very happy to say we were successful in this again.