Change of seasons.

That’s more like it.

4th December 2022

Banedup, San Blas, Panama – Yansaladup, San Blas, Panama via The Hot Tub, San Blas, Panama

The rainy season in Panama runs from May to December and is characterised by light variable winds, torrential rain and copious voltages of lightening. The dry season runs from December to May when the trade winds start their relentless blowing and the skies clear of rain. The change of seasons in most places is so gradual as to be unnoticeable, however in the San Blas, the Calendar has clicked over to December, and like flicking a switch, the rainy season has finished and the dry season begun.

Fearing, that if we were exposed to the rain of the rainy season, we’d dissolve like Asprin, we set about looking for jobs that would keep us undercover. Spying that the winches, that have served us so well, were sounding a little dry, Iain took to removing all the old grease and replacing with new. He started the grease removal process with a small tub of petrol, a toothbrush and a whole heap of vigour. Unfortunately, vigour, toothbrushes and petrol are a bad combination as within no time he’d covered himself and everything in the cockpit with small flecks of petrolly grease and managed to extended the job to cleaning himself and everything around him.

We continued looking for dry jobs and tackled one that is both thankless and scary. We were updating spreadsheets. Being massive spreadsheet fans* we log every penny that leaves the boat and in true spreadsheet fashion these expenses can be sliced and diced by category, date, location, YoY growth/decline………. but first they need inputting. After inputting data for what felt like eons the pivot tables and macros worked their magic and delivered their news. Yep, we are anal and yep Iain is tight in the extreme.

As the calendar magically clicked over to December the rainy season was replaced by the dry. Rain disappeared and we were greeted with blue skies and howling winds. Having now lost our fear of getting wet we dived on reefs, swam with sharks, practiced our free diving.

It became apparent that we were not the only ones who’d been hiding from the rain, the veggie boats had been too. After weeks** of not seeing anything fresh and green, or ripe and plump, Nitsla pulled up alongside in her boat which was positively brimming with all sorts of scurvy defying produce.

We felt like kiddies at Christmas as Nitsla filled Ruffian with avocadoes, tomatoes, papaya, eggs, aubergines and all things that would be found in the finest of greengrocers. The days of having to get inventive with plantain and coconut, lentils and tinned sauces or dried beans and assorted flavourings seemed like a long way behind us.

The veggie boats now turned up like no 21 busses, with Elmer’s making Nitsla’s look badly stocked. Elmer bestowed on us fresh basil, coriander and all sorts of luxuries allowing us to eat like kings. Never has a tomato, avocado and basil salad looked or tasted so good.

With the trade winds now in full flow, blowing the tops off waves and making the blue water look even bluer we were about to challenge ourselves and our new reef reading skills. Instead of anchoring in a wide bay with easy entry and protection behind some land we were heading into the depths of a reef, where no land sat between Ruffian and Africa and safe entry was far from assured.

We skirted our way around breaking waves that showed us the shallows, the bright whites that showed where we would run aground and stayed in the safe deep blue. We knew that with a single slip or failure Ruffian could end up washed ashore and wrecked any of the dangers that surrounded us.

Behind the reef, surrounded by water that glowed, and with huge breaking waves beyond, Ruffian pointed dye straight in the trade winds. The protection from the wind was non-existent but the water was miraculously flat and we were in the most extraordinary of locations.

Behind the reef, deep blue’s instantly changed to pearlescent whites and these marked the start of our adventures. We’d seen these colours like this before in pilot books but always thought they were the result of photoshop. Here we felt like we were in our very own version of photoshop.

The change of season has been stark, the rain has been replaced by blue skies and gentle variable winds have been replaced by howling trades.  As we sit with the rigging humming and the sun beating down the rainy season is very much over and the dry season seems set.

* It’s a laugh a minute on Ruffian when we get into discussion about the benefits of VLOOKUP over MATCH and don’t get us started logical arguments!

** The last time Ruffian’s fridge brimmed with fresh produce was way back in Colombia at the start of October.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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