|This Ain’t the South Pacific?|
Part 3: But where the heck was the airport?
By Capt. Bill Pike — July 2003
My two-day stay in the San Blas archipelago passed dreamily, filled as it was with Novurania rides to deserted islands and meetings with remarkable people who live a simple life by choice. Departure day had a poignant side to it, of course, but a challenging side as well. The day started with Saunders and I piling into the Novurania at about five o’clock in the morning (Shuler had decided to stay with the boat a few more days). The point of the early departure was to get to the airport well before any small planes arrived. Moreover, it was a fair distance from our anchorage to Isla Porvenir, well over a dozen miles, and the sea state in open water was sporty, with waves cresting in the neighborhood of four to six feet. We charged off, with a close eye on the compass.
But where the heck was the airport? “I confess I’m getting a bit flummoxed,” Saunders said an hour or two later as we examined the coastline of what we hoped might be Porvenir. Luckily the fates interceded at this point. A big, three-masted Colombian schooner—a freighter of sorts—came whooshing past. Full-throttle put us within hailing distance in a heartbeat.
“Aero...puerto?” I yelled at some sailors on deck. Nodding enthusiastically, they pointed at a little grass hut on the island we’d been examining. Saunders looked at me, I looked at Saunders. Huh! After thanking the guys on the schooner, we sped off.
The hut indeed marked the airport. My ticket consisted of a scrap of paper with pencil scrawls. The grassy runway was short—not much longer than a city block, it seemed. But the winds looked favorable.
Taking off was an adventure in itself—our pilot locked the brakes, wound the engines up to a shuddering roar, and then, to borrow a phrase from the automotive realm, “popped the clutch.” The acceleration was breathtaking—literally. And as the little plane climbed into the morning sky, with hundreds of green, sun-splashed islands falling away below, I was also constrained to draw one overriding conclusion concerning the San Blas archipelago.
Maybe it ain’t quite the South Pacific, but for cruising types with an adventurous spirit and a bit of a budget, it’s darn close.
Special thanks to Nordhavn Phone: (949) 496-4848. www.nordhavn.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.