An Adventurous Couple Chartering in the San Blas

Esli and Carolijn decided to spend a few weeks in the San Blas islands, a collection of 365 bounty-islands along the Caribbean coast of Panama. Before long, they found out they never wanted to leave.
Author:
Publish date:
large_waddeneilanden

Esli Bijker was 23 when he set sail from the Netherlands for a journey west on his Beneteau Oceanis 500 with no particular destination in mind. He crossed the Atlantic, and arrived in the Caribbean, where he was joined by Carolijn, his now wife. They had plans to cross the Panama Canal and head for the Pacific after about a year of cruising, but their trip was delayed when lightning struck the boat. The Beneteau would require many repairs before it would again be ready for a long journey. In the meantime, Esli and Carolijn decided to spend a few weeks in the San Blas islands, a collection of 365 bounty-islands along the Caribbean coast of Panama. Before long, they found out they never wanted to leave.

Over the past 10 years, Carolijn and Esli have created quite an attachment to the San Blas. They were married on one of the Islands, started offering crewed charter services on their yacht and eventually bought a guesthouse near the San Blas as a part-time home and tourist accommodation.

Carolijn holds a fascination with the Kuna Indians, the only inhabitants of the Island group, who still live in the traditions of their ancestors. They build houses and canoes with long-established craft and tailor colorful mola clothing with accessories. Their way of living off what the sea and palm-trees provide is the ultimate example of going back to nature.

caro_es

Esli loves sailing the San Blas waters. They can be tricky because some reefs are still undocumented but after cruising the area for 10 years (with quite a few "scratches" here and there) he is confident he knows his way around. With 365 islands, 329 uninhabited, this paradise is never boring. There is always a new spot to discover. Since Esli is a great wave surf and kite-surf enthusiast, he keeps exploring the area in search of the perfect wave.

Esli and Carolijn were one of the first charterers in the San Blas Islands when they began. Back then San Blas was a very remote and undiscovered area. The only way to reach the Islands was by a small propeller plane that descended on a tiny landing strip on the Island of El Porvenir just twice a week. Although little has changed since then, Kuna Yala (the official name of the indigenous province) has become slightly more accessible with an every-day flight to Corazon the Jezus and a road going all the way up the shore of the area. Now more yachts offer charter services, even some crewed by Kuna captains and hostesses. But because the Kuna's don’t allow outsiders to own land in their province, the area is still far from exploited.

_r2_c4

The adventurous couple created quite a network of yachtie friends in this area and together started a charter agency that provides charter services onboard private owned yachts for a real "yachtie-home-stay" experience. Since the area is almost impossible to sail without solid knowledge of the waters, bareboat charters are not an option. But the local charters make sure their guests experience all the highlights safely and with respect for the preserved nature.

For more information on the charter agency of Esli and Carolijn in the San Blas, visit www.oceantrips.com.

Related

IMG_0173

Electronic “Flares” for Cruisers

The United States Coast Guard requires that all boats operating in coastal waters or on the high seas carry a selection of visual distress signals. Almost invariably, such signals include the pyrotechnic type, either handheld or fired from a flare pistol, but surely there are ...read more

M2-HOOK-TOP-AND-CHAIN-1

Gear: M2 Chain Hook from Mantus

Stay Hooked Chain hooks on anchor snubber lines tend to fall off when you least want them to. Not so this latest example from Mantus. The M2 Chain Hook is secured to the chain by a simple elastic strap, so it won’t come off when the snubber loosens. Made from corrosion-resistant ...read more

shutterstock_349918991

Successful Surf Landings with Wheels

“Ready to take the dink ashore?” Never had those words invoked as much anxiety as when my husband, Jeff, and I first moved to the Pacific Coast. Why? Because we had exactly zero experience with dinghy surf landings, and the possibility of being flipped upside down along with our ...read more

Sail2010_597

How to: Find Good Values on Charter Vacations

So, you want to find a great deal on your next charter vacation? Sure, you can scour the internet, hope for Black Friday deals or ask friends. But an even better way to find good prices on charter boats is to go to a boat show. Not only do charter companies like The Moorings, ...read more

leadphoto

Know How: Dinghy Modification

The rigmarole of stretching a cover over a dinghy in choppy water prior to hoisting it on davits can become a very wet business if you’re not careful. Leaning right over either end, trying to stretch a cover over the bow and stern pods can quite easily result in a head-first dip ...read more

25980

Catnapped Aboard a Racing Multihull

It was after midnight when I realized my daysail with Tony Bullimore aboard his giant record-breaking catamaran, Team Legato, was not going to plan. The big cat was en route for a December dash from England across the Bay of Biscay to Barcelona and the start of a drag race ...read more