S/V INTREPID II - Cape Dory Intrepid 40

My photo
Intrepid II is a Cape Dory Intrepid 40 sailboat, hull #2, designed by Chuck Paine and discovered by the Captain in Blue Hill Maine in 2006. The crew are Kelly (Captain) and Carol (Admiral and Blogger). In 2009 INTREPID II embarked on her West Coast journey from Victoria to San Francisco, the Baja Sur Peninsula and into the Sea of Cortez. In 2010/2011, we sailed ifrom Guaymas, south to Bahia Banderas and back. In 2011/2012 she left Guaymas, headed south to La Paz, spent three weeks at anchor on our northward journey and rested on the hard in San Carlos. Her 4th, 5th and 6th seasons were Boat Projects related. Season 7 - we are hoping to cruise again at long last.

February 5, 2011

San Blas - a busy destination!

San Blas Cathedral from Town Plaza
Our plans to get some rest after our crossing were quickly replaced with a desire to see the activities that were happening since arriving Tuesday afternoon.  They were all leading up to the feast day of San Blas, patron saint of the town.  The marina is about a 10 - 15 minute walk down a cobblestone road, then along Sinaloa or Juarez streets, 4 or 5 short blocks to the Town Plaza, the centre of the action.  As background, we found this brief historical overview:

San Blas (pop. about 15,000) is a small town and life goes on in the plaza as if San Blas has always been an ordinary Mexican village, but at one time it was anything but ordinary. During its 18th-century glory days, San Blas was Mexico’s burgeoning Pacific military headquarters and port, with a population of 30,000. Ships from Spain’s Pacific Rim colonies crowded its harbor, silks and gold filled its counting houses, and noble Spanish officers and their mantilla-graced ladies strolled the plaza on Sunday afternoons.  The overlook atop the Cerro de San Basilio is the best spot to orient yourself to San Blas. From this breezy point, the palm-shaded grid of streets stretches to the sunset side of El Pozo estuary and the lighthouse-hill beyond it. On the east, the mangrove-lined San Cristóbal river estuary meanders south to the Bay of Matanchén. Along the south shore, the crystalline white line of San Blas’s main beach, Playa el Borrego (Sheep Beach), stretches between the two estuary mouths.

Exterior view of stained glass window
Wednesday afternoon we oriented ourselves to the layout of San Blas with the aid of a map found on the Club Cruceros website and visited many of the key spots:  the taco stand by the church, sampled a refreshing coconut drink while sitting in the plaza, said hola to the bartender at the San Blas Social Club, met Fluffy the crocodile (behind  a cage) at Billy Bob's wifi bar and enjoyed the attention of a sweet little green parrot at the fruit and vegetable market tucked away down a small lane.  Quite a bit of activity for one afternoon. 

Carol at Cultural Centre (old Customs Hall)

Town Plaza

Later that evening we arrived back at the square in time to see the procession of fishermen and their families carrying candles into the church for a special mass.  We learned from online searches that San Blas is the Spanish name for St. Blaise,  who had studied philosophy in his youth, was a doctor in Sebaste in Armenia, the city of his birth, who exercised his art with miraculous ability, good-will, and piety. When the bishop of the city died, he was chosen to succeed him, with the acclamation of all the people. His holiness was manifest through many miracles: from all around, people came to him to find cures for their spirit and their body; even wild animals came in herds to receive his blessing. In 316, Agricola, the governor of Cappadocia and of Lesser Armenia, having arrived in Sebastia at the order of the emperor Licinius to kill the Christians, arrested the bishop. As he was being led to jail, a mother set her only son, choking to death of a fish-bone, at his feet, and the child was cured straight away. Regardless, the governor, unable to make Blaise renounce his faith, beat him with a stick, ripped his flesh with iron combs, and beheaded him.  [his Legend from the Grande Encyclopedia]  San Blas is represented holding two crossed candles in his hand. He is often shown with the instruments of his martyrdom, steel combs. He may also be depicted with crossed candles. Such crossed candles are used for the blessing of throats on his feast day, which falls on 3 February.
Cathedral lit for evening procession
Thursday being the focal point of celebrations for the town, we returned to watch the set up of a tall fireworks structure which included at least a dozen wheels in the shape of dolphins, the moon, a guitar and other significant items - which later on that evening would all delight the crowd when the display was finally lit. 
One fireworks wheel

A procession was planned from the church, bringing the effigy of San Blas to a specially decorated boat and then on out through the harbour and around to the island dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary.  
Boat with San Blas effigy followed by panga procession
Plans change.  It became extremely windy, and while we waited near the Library on the channel with a view to the Lighthouse, the procession went north of the marina to a fishing barrio first, and then the statue was sent down to the panga wharf.  It was a fascinating site to watch the 50 - 60 pangas (open fishing boats) with families and friends gather and follow the main boat down the channel and circle back after the blessing.  This year is was too choppy to cross the bar.  An all out water fight lent some celebratory notes to the ceremony and we were amazed at how we were watching wrapped up in warm fleecies while those on the water were in T-shirts!

That evening we walked to the plaza for the fireworks show and the musical entertainment which preceded it.  The crowds gradually grew with all ages milling and mixing as entertainers performed. Finally just after 9:30 pm the first cracks and explosions were heard and the show began.  We stood under a tall tree and upwind and had a great view of the spinning wheels of colour and bursting explosions.  An eventful day.  The celebrations were heard long after we walked back to INTREPID II and settled in for the night.
Fireworks in front of church