San Blas Sightseeing

The ride from Mantanchen Bay over to San Blas Harbor was about the furthest that we have gone to date in the dinghy. About 3-4 miles over open water, it was actually a very nice ride as we planed most of the way and were there in about 45 minutes. We scoped out the boats at anchor, knocking on PARADISE BOUND, but no one was home so instead we spoke with the couple on ADIOS about dinghy landings, Norm, and check-in formalities. They suggested that we go to Roberto's dinghy landing, instead of the naval dock, which we did. Roberto, a slightly challenged young man of 16 or 17, took our line ashore and we debarked into San Blas thru his family's front yard, full of chickens, turkeys and other assorted signs of living close to the land.

We decided to forego the check-in procedure, so turned up the cobblestone street and made our way to the central plaza in San Blas, where we found the main and secondary cathedrals. San Blas is one of the older cities on the West Coast of Mexico, having been established by Spain as a main shipping port in the mid 1700's to rebut England's growing sea domination. It rose to some prominence, with a population of over 30,000, during it's heyday later in that century, as the major port for goods to and from Mexico City bound to (and from) from East Pacific ports.

However, trade collapsed following the 1810 revolution, San Blas was closed to foreigners in 1872 and the population dwindled down to it's current 12,000. Nonetheless, it is a place of historical significance. Henry Longfellow wrote a famous poem about it called The Bells of San Blas, and it was the site of a number of famous sea battles as the English repeatedly attacked the Spanish during the 1800's. As we walked around the central square, there were quite a few people about, and they were erecting a stage for the celebration of the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, to take place later in the evening. We stopped and grabbed a cold beer which we drank as we walked, occasionally stopping to talk to the locals in our broken Spanish. From the owner of the video store and his friend, who organized jungle tours, we found out how to get to the fort, which we were eager to see.

The old fort is located on a small bluff, about 400 feet above the city, and has an amazing panoramic view of the entire bay, harbor, airport, and surrounding countryside. It was easy to see how the cannons that were placed here would cause havoc amongst any attack from the sea. And with walls approaching 8 feet thick, it was probably nearly impenetrable to any fire directed at it.

After spending some time at the fort proper, talking to the local historian and taking in the sights, we walked a few hundred yards down the road to the original old church ruins. It was a really cool place too, with old mausoleums and gravestones in the yard, and even in it's broken down state, you could make out the majesty of the architecture with it's stone arches and large windows. No doubt all of this grand stonework was performed by indigenous Indians in near slavery conditions under Spanish rule as they were "converted" to Catholicism. Nonetheless we liked being able to visit it.

After our time at the church, we made our way on foot the mile or so back to the central plaza, where preparations were still proceeding with the building of the stage. Unfortunately, we would not be able to stay for the evening show as we still had a very long dinghy ride ahead of us to get back to the boat before nightfall.

So, at about 1:00 pm, we stopped into a local restaurant and had a nice lunch. As we were having our lunch, we struck up a conversation with a couple from Kamloops,BC,Canada Jim and Cindy, who had driven down here in an RV with a trailered Harley Davidson motorcycle with which they were tooling around San Blas. Of course the Harley was drawing a bit of attention with it's black and chrome looks and it's deep throaty roar. The owner of the restaurant wanted to have his photo taken with it, which was accomplished in short order.

As we were having lunch, Joel, the skipper of PARADISE BOUND, came in with his dog, Tender. At first he was just going to have an iced tea with us, but he decided to stay for lunch. He told us the no-seeums were pretty bad in San Blas harbor, and that he was suffering from a multitude of bites, so we felt a little better about going directly to Mantanchen Bay. As we were talking about the departure of his crew, Elona and Will, whom we had met at our dock in San Diego, and who had switched to his boat from NOVAKANE (Will having gotten a job offer in Costa Rica and deciding to fly down there right away), the conversation got around to San Diego, and Joel announced that he had been talking to his friend Sherry, who had been talking to their friends Steve and Jody, who sent their regards. Steve and Jodi Dexter, of course, are our good friends from San Diego, mentioned many times on my pages, and we were very happy and pleased to find that we had some common friends.

I even mentioned to Joel that we always keep a bottle of Tanquerey and some tonic on board for Steve and he said he did too! It's a small world sometimes :-)

After lingering over lunch, we finally said goodbye to Joel, Jim, and Cindy, exchanging email address and such, and made our way back to the dinghy, stocking up on 4 six-packs of beer on the way. We left Roberto's landing at about 3:00 and noted that in the 4 hours or so that we had been in San Blas the seas had picked up a little. Where previously there had been nearly no chop, now there was a pretty steady 2-3 foot wind driven chop. Fortunately, in the direction we were going it was on the stern of the dinghy, but it was still a little exciting at times to find ourselves surfing at 10+ knots down these little 3 foot waves in the dinghy on the 45 minute ride back to the boat.

Nonetheless, we got safely back to the boat, did the dinghy drill (put the motor and dinghy up on deck, tied it up and so on) and had a nice quiet dinner, and the next morning we upped anchor and left Mantanchen Bay, headed for Chacala a little further south down the coast.

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