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Yachting - August 2007

Written by Patricia Borns

"Smell that?" said Alexander, and we noticed it: a salt tang in the air. "The Caribbean. We're almost there." Thinking to rest my eyes a moment, I awoke in a lemon wash of light as M/Y Resolute ploughed free and clear into the open sea.

"Paradise," said Captain Steve, handing me the binoculars. A vision of silky sand and tossing palms quivered in the distance like a cartoon castaway mirage. The islands of Kuna Yala (which means land 0f the Kuna Indians) are more commonly known as San Bias, but whatever you call them they're one of the reasons people cross the isthmus: three hundred sixty-five reasons, to be more exact. (The other obvious reason is a savings of 8,000 miles.)

After the rigors of locking in. the San Bias islands are the perfect place to bliss out. As Resolute sampled the mostly uninhabited Limon and Hollandaise Cays, local men sailed by in homemade Amerindian-era log canoes, fishing while hailing one another on cell phones; closer in. the petite Kuna women impressed Pam with their handiwork: a well-regarded appliqué art form called molas. Surrounded by a rainbow palette of water colors and reef structures, and little else. Resolute was staffed, geared and provisioned for total escape.

Now that I'm back, I can honestly say that I feel different after this cruise. For centuries the Isthmus of Panama was an adventurer's Holy Grail, and now I too have crossed it, albeit in the lap of luxury instead of knee deep in muck. Almost 100 years since it opened in 1914, the canal is still a cruiser's rite of passage. With a big difference: Instead of a waypoint on the seas to somewhere else, Panama will disarm you as a destination unto itself.

Contact: Westport, www.westportyachts.com

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