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s/v Always & All Ways
Cat boat races.
06/16/2013, Proividencia, Columbia

Saturday was the cat boat races and there certainly was plenty of wind. It was gusting around 20 kts most of the day. The women who were supposed to do the traditional cooking demo decided the chance of rain was too high and so they would cook the food at home and then explain how they had done it - not nearly as much fun. Anyway the race was supposed to start @ 1:00 and so I checked with Orville before taking off and heading down to Fresh WAter Bay in the dink. The start was 3-4 miles around the island, but all protected water so no problem. One lady said 4:00, but Orville said he thought the race was to start at 3:00, but would check and get back to us. Deb was not feeling so great and didn't want to go running around in the dinghy, but Jim on Nilaya and Alex from Misty Blue both thought it a good idea. The folks on Arvan had gone down @ 1:00 and found the beach deserted. We decided that leaving about 2:30 would work out well as they probably would not really get started at 3:00 even if that was the official time, but as I was fueling up dink, Arvan came on the radio with, "Here they come!" Sure enough, three boats were beating into the heavy wind coming around the point. So much for official start times! I grabbed the camera (in a dry bag), jumped into the dink, and took off to see the action up close. It was still blowing pretty good and the bay had at least a two foot chop - more as you got further out. This made managing the dink and taking pictures at the same time rather awkward as dink is so bouncy. And then the heavens let loose in a deluge as a big black cloud moved over us bringing even stronger winds. I put the camera safely away and enjoyed being up close to the action and yelling at the competitors, urging them on. As they tacked (quite a site to see with 9 guys changing side of the boat as they went through the eye of the wind!) I realized that I would probably get good pictures from Always as they would need to pass quite close as the tacked up the harbor. In fact, the anchored yachts in the harbor (there were only 6 of us) provided quite an obstacle course for the cat boats to tack through on their way to the finish line. The boat that came in second might have won except he blew a tack and could not make it in front of Misty Blue. He had to fall off and go behind her at the last minute to avoid a collision. I hurried back to Always and grabbed my SLR with the tele lens and got quite a few good pictures as the boats raced around and past us. The rain had stopped by then and the wind in the harbor was a bit less strong, but still gusty and since the only ballast these boats have is human, it made for a very athletic race as they hiked out and back in to balance the gusts. (For a long discussion of cat boats, see my blog from last year. For pictures of this year's race, see the Photo Gallery.) It was a great way to spend a not particularly great (weather-wise) afternoon. Nilaya called about 5:00 to say a traditional band (with mandolin, washtub bass, and jaw bone, etc.) would begin playing soon. I had just pulled dink up on the davits and we decided to stay on the boat and listen from here. It is a straight shot across the harbor and actually we could hear pretty well. Good call as soon the rains returned, heavy at times. The performers were under a tent, but there was really no protection for the audience unless they ran to the pool hall or into the Cultural House (where you could not see the band). We enjoyed the music from our salon over a gin & tonic for Deb and a mojito for me - a much better choice. Several of the boats here are waiting to go N, mostly up to the Rio Dulce, Guatemala, for hurricane season, but I am afraid they waited too late into the season. Weather to the N just gets worse. They are predicting 30-40 kts winds with squalls around Honduras next week. The weather here and S is supposed to improve. Right now it looks like we will have a fairly brisk, but hopefully dry, passage down to San Andres on Thursday. This coming week is Carnival, again with lots of events, but we are hoping to do more diving as the wind abates.

A much nicer day.
06/15/2013, Proividencia, Columbia

Well, the wind hasn't died down, but Friday dawned clear and bright. Looking to shore, it looked like we had dragged a bit - not surprising when you are anchored with a plow type anchor in soft sand and see steady 20-25 kt winds. The anchor does what its name implies, it plows. As long as you have anchored wisely (no serious obstacles near behind you) this is not dangerous as the anchor never "lets go." If that were to happen (and it has to us in the past) you are in danger of going quite a distance before it resets and holds you again. If you drag into deeper water, it may never reset. But when a plow plows through soft sand, it just moves a short distance leaving a furrow behind. Just to be sure, I swam the anchor again. It was even better buried and the furrow behind it was no more than 10-15'. I guess I won't worry. After checking the anchor, I took dinghy and went in to Santa Catalina to get our laundry from Miss Barbara, but she was not home. I took a gallon of used motor oil to the lady next door. She uses it to keep ants out of her house by pouring it around the foundation so is always anxious to get any that the cruisers might have. I had not disposed of mine yet from changing the oil before we left so I was happy to give it to her. (We also use used oil mixed with diesel to paint the posts of our house to keep out ants and termites but I have plenty of oil back home.) The supply boat had come Wednesday, but we did not go in to town Thursday because of the weather. I was hoping there would still be some good veggies left Friday. I hit all three groceries in town and was able to score a nice papaya, some nice red peppers, beautiful leeks, and nice big limes. They had a lot of mangoes, but they were all refrigerated and still very green. I don't think they will riper properly after being refrigerated, too bad. I also found some flour tortillas (I don't know how, but we managed to not bring any.) and at the bakery, sweets for breakfast and some nice big hamburger rolls all freshly made. That place does smell wonderful! I also found a bottle of Johnny Walker Double Black Scotch. I like JW Black, so I figured Double Black should be better, right? For some reason, Scotch is much cheaper here than in the US, so I splurged and bought a bottle. It IS very good, but not quite as dark or smoky as I expected. By the time I got back to the boat, it was well after noon. We decided that since the wind was still blowing pretty strong and we had done all the really protected areas of reef and we needed to be cleaned up and back on shore for Jim's talk @ 3:00, we would forego a hookah today. We'll be doing a lot of diving on the last half of our trip and there is so much else to do here that we really don't mind. At 3:00, Jim of s/v Nilaya, was giving a talk on the cruising life. That he had been asked to speak at a Raisal Cultural event is evidence of how well accepted cruisers are in this community. We wanted to show our support and Jim had asked me to say a few words about the differences between a mono and a cat. The event was very well attended and many of the islanders seemed genuinely interested in hearing about our mobile but tiny homes and the joys and frustrations they bring. Jim did an excellent job. He was followed by the last of Dr. Hermann's talks where he finally spoke specifically about medicinal plants and gave examples. He divided the plants into three categories: 1) Cleansing or purging plants. These are all very bitter and produce vomiting or diarrhea (or both) when consumed initially. This is felt in Traditional Medicine to be an important way of getting rid of toxins in our body. If the plant is taken regularly, it no longer produces so violent a reaction, but continues to cleanse the body. When he had been here 6 months ago for a similar cultural event, he left as "homework" for people to try taking one of these bitter plants first thing in the morning before eating anything else. Several of the women had done so and shared their results. 2) Protective plants. These are specific to each region. He gave an example of a plant consumed in the Upper Amazon that prevents malaria and talked about how he investigated why so few of the indigenous people got malaria (they were American Indian, not African so no sickle cell) and discovered finally that it was the plant they were taking daily. 3) Curative or treatment plants. This part was fascinating as it is based on the concept of 'hot' and 'cold' which is foreign to modern medicine and took some effort to grasp. Simply put, 'hot' illnesses are the "itis" diseases - gastritis, arthritis, cystitis, etc. Of course the hallmark of these diseases is inflammation which has 'flame' or heat as its basis, but we were never taught to think of it that way. The example he gave of a 'cold' illness is the flu or common cold. Again the word itself is there, but it is not how we usually think of it. He next talked about how we classify plants - and all foods - as hot or cold. As I knew, the tongue can detect only four sensations: sweet, salt, acid, and bitter. All tastes are made up from a medley of these four. In Traditional Medicine, sweet and salt are considered 'hot'; and acid and bitter, 'cold.' Many 'hot' diseases (inflammation) are caused by an imbalance in the diet with the consumption of too much 'hot' food. Indeed, modern medicine is finally finding that a diet high in salt and sugar does lead to inflammation and is a factor in many inflammatory diseases, including atherosclerosis and heart disease. One treats this with bitter (or cold) plants and re-establishing the balance in our diet. I would love to see a chart with medicinal plants broken down into hot and cold classes and maybe I will search for one. It is not always obvious to me. For example mint is a cold plant because it is "refreshing". (The root of the word fresh, means cool.) Most aromatic plants (basil, thyme, etc.) are also cool for the same reason, but I don't think of them as acid or bitter. It was a great introduction to a topic that has fascinated me for years and perhaps I will be able to pursue it further now. After the talk, several of us cruisers along with Orville & Orealis hung out together talking until it started to get dark. We had not put our anchor light on at 3:00 so needed to get back to the boat to do that. Saturday there will be a cooking demonstration in the morning and cat boat races in the afternoon. The bay where we are anchored will be the finish line so we should have a good view although it was also offered that we could follow the race in our dinghies is we wanted to - some different from US organized races! Some of that fine Johnny Walker Scotch and then I made lobster and leeks in a fennel cream sauce over penne for dinner. We really do suffer when we are out cruising ;>)

Rainy day & reading.
06/13/2013, Proividencia, Columbia

I don't remember the last time I spent an entire day doing nothing but reading, but Thursday was that kind of day. The wind was howling in the 20's and rain squalls rolled through frequently. It was just a day to stay inside. Of course, in the morning I spent time on the computer editing the pictures I had taken and posting them on the website. (If you haven't seen them, go to the Photo Gallery and see "2013 Cruise".) But mostly I read. Clive Cussler, Robert Parker. Nothing challenging. Deb, of course, vasilated between reading and working on her dolls, sometimes trying to do both at once. We thought about trying to paint, but that is much easier in the cockpit than the salon and it was not a cockpit kind of day. We thought about going in for the lectures @ 4:00, but the weather won out and we stayed put. I wouldn't want to spend a lot of days this way, but it was actually quite enjoyable today. Hopefully the weather will turn tomorrow.


A new folder has been created in the Gallery - 2013 Cruise - with pictures uploaded from our journey so far.

Happy Birthday, Jim
06/13/2013, Proividencia, Columbia

Wednesday was supposed to be the worst of the wind and squalls and it certainly started out that way. When I got up the wind was in the 20's and a series of rapidly moving squalls dropped significant rain on us for the first time since we left Bocas. The rain was welcomed by the islanders as it had not rained here in some time. I don't know if we even got an inch, but any would help them. By noon things were improving a bit. Deb packaged up our laundry and I took it in the dink along with two bags of garbage. The laundry I took to Miss Barbara on Santa Catalina who said it would be ready on Friday. The garbage I took in to town where I left it in the barrel set out for that purpose. I stopped at Nilaya and Laura said that the talk on traditional medicine had been moved to 3:00, but who knows when it will actually start. Deb was laying in the net, reading and I had just gotten the hammock down when a hard dinghy with three guys aboard approached. They were from the Fountaine-Pajot that had just pulled in to the anchorage and came over to see if I might have a spare prop. Somehow they had lost the inner rubber bushing on theirs and it was useless. Of course, having just replaced both props and never throwing away anything, I had exactly what they needed. I dug it out of the workshop and handed it to them. Were they ever surprised and pleased! Since theirs is a sister ship to ours, I am sure it will fit and work just fine. They are headed to Bocas and said they would still be there when we returned and would return the prop to me then after they get a new one. I told them, "No hurry, no worry." Glad to help out a fellow sailor. It is a big ocean and we all need help sometimes. At the afternoon lecture, Dr. Hermann explained in detail the four types of medicine he recognizes: 1) Western or 'modern' medicine which is how he was trained. It has become the 'official' medicine of the world since 1948 when the Organizacion Medical de Salud (OMS), an international body, had declared it so. 2) Popular Medicine or 'fad' medicine which is the 'miracle cure of the month' medicine which he discounted as worthless. Even though some of its roots lie in traditional medicine, It has been commercialized beyond recognition. 3) Alternative or Complimentary Medicine which he also rejects. This includes homeopathy, floral essence therapy, and a variety of theories of sickness and health that defy science or logic. 4) Traditional Medicine (which he believes in) is based on the beliefs and practices of indigenous people throughout the world. Although each developed in isolation, the similarities are striking. In this he includes Chinese Medicine, Indian (ayuvedeic-?sp?), and plant based medicine. Interestingly, he pointed out the 'Modern' medicine has only two components: body & mind, and only two therapies: drugs or surgery. I had not thought of it quite that way before, but, indeed, for any illness we either cut it out or poison it. He also gave an interesting history of the OMS that I had been unaware of. Briefly, in 1948, it established 'modern' medicine as the standard with a standard curriculum and standard delivery system and promoted it to the whole world. In 1978 it assessed the progress and found that we were worse off, not better. Many diseases like hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, AIDS, etc. that were virtually unknow in 1948 were now affecting millions. For the first time, they introduced the idea of Prevention although they focused on areas they felt had the most to offer: Immunizations, Prenatal care, early childhood care (0-5 y.o.), and birth control. In 1998 the OMS decided that these goals were at least partially met. With the exception of early childhood care, all showed positive results. They then began to focus on the 'metabolic' diseases and emphasize Prevention (although as I have often said, many bureaucrats confuse Prevention with Early Detection). It was not until 2002 that the OMS, and other international groups suggested the 'possibly' Traditional Medicine might offer something to worldwide health and encouraged its study. Thursday he will go into what we know (scientifically) about Traditional Medicine. June 12 is Jim's birthday so after the lecture, he & Laura, Orville & Orealia, Deb & I, and a couple from Bogata that are friends of Orville & Orealia and are giving a talk tomorrow all went out for pizza. The pizza was great, the beer was cold (only choice was Miller Genuine Draft. In fact in the stores the only beer you can buy is Miller, Old Milwaukee, and Heiniken! No Columbian beer despite the fact that they make at least two different beers that I would say are better the the US choices.) Anyway we all had a good time. I learned more about the current separatist movement - mostly from Orealia but also from Carolina, the woman from Bogata. It is primarily a religious based movement based on the belief that the "Raisal" people have a different heritage and lifestyle than the Colombians and are not treated with understanding or fairness by the government. They do not want complete independence (at least not yet) but 'autonomy' and self determination. I tried to understand the term 'Raisal' but I am not sure I do. It has replaced the term 'Islander' and seems to be more restrictive in terms of heritage. It was not clear if it only referred to the black population (which is far and away the majority) or included those islanders of English or Scottish decent whose families have been here for generations as well. It clearly did not included the more recent immigrants from Columbia. Religious freedom does not seem to be an issue, but the island has a long history (going back to the 1800's) of being ruled by its religious leaders so that may be the explanation for their leadership in this movement. I am sure we will hear more Thursday. Friday Jim is giving a talk about cruisers and cruising (which the Islanders recognize as an important part of their community!), and Saturday we are having a big barbecue at one of Orealia's relatives home. The weather has not been great for diving (though we have done a fair amount), but we sure are having fun. I am glad our visit coincided with this festival. By the time it is over, the weather should have changed and we can spend lots of time diving - perfect!

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