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Anthem Adrift
Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock
01/16/2010, Tannaquetupu, Kuna Yala

January 17

SSBed this morning with Aussie friends, Bristol Rose, arrived 14th from St. Lucia. Got the stink beat out of them for eight days, particularly north of Colombia. Good thing about going with a group (they sail with the World ARC as far as Australia) is support. Bad thing is weather windows be hanged, you go when they do. Likely this will be their worst passage of the trip. Should cover 50 NM or so to their location by Tuesday.

Motors are prohibido past a certain point up the Mono River (old guy whose riverbank access to his territory is across from sign didn't seem so happy to see us), so most of tour was spent with three paddles dragging my Caribe. Perhaps this limitation is to give crocs a passable shot at those who encroach on their territory. Never saw one, they are said to be rare, so acquired no knowledge of their taste for hypalon or stringy old human. Also no contact with Tarzan, but did experience some of the movie soundtrack.

Finally replaced old Dahl fuel filter with shiny new Racor this afternoon. Unfortunately shiny new fittings are wrong barb size so it's ballast for now. Budget Marine in Panama City or West Marine in St Pete will enjoy my infusion of dollars. Typical boat project took three times plan and requires unavailable parts.

Isla Tigre tomorrow, Lemon Cays Tuesday, clear in to Panama at Porvenir Wednesday morning. Muck about San Blas for a few more days then head for internet to prepare for return home February 1. Next several weeks will not allow wallowing in seven deadly sins, particularly sloth, with possible exception for gluttony.


Two Piles of What?
01/16/2010, Tannaquetupu, Kuna Yala

January 16

Expecting slightly better wind angle, unwrapped main in anticipation of using some of that really expensive sailing stuff with which boat was built. Not today. Wind backed and weather guy's dire sea-state forecast, unrealized yesterday, was a touch more applicable today. Concern mounted, for awhile, that Anthem would fling off uninsured dinghy and motor, clinging desperately to davits, but stern (one may disregard minor pun) reprimand and judicious trimming of appropriate straps quelled nascent disaster.

After exhaustive deliberation, strategy was formulated to visit island village of San Ignacio de Tupile (two-PEE-lay) this afternoon, then explore river manana. Ubiquitous Colombian trading boat was on small town dock making dinghy mooring a challange, but high skill and perseverance paid off yet again. Several citizens were eager to help and almost did. Arecio (erase-e-o), who speaks nearly as much English as I habla Espanol showed us around. As there is basically one street on this very narrow island, it didn't take so long. Again struck by ingenuous friendliness of Kuna. Purchase of very nice mola punctuated tour.

Molas, for the uninitiated, are intricate, hand-made appliques depicting, mostly, abstracted local flora and fauna. Prices rise as proximity to cruise ships around Porvenir increase. Today's unique purchase is map of Panama with previously discussed accoutrement.

For those wondering where one 'goes' in a densely packed town completely surrounded by water, outhouses stick out over the shoreline everywhere. Nobody swims near home.

And so, with this much anticipated (will not embarrass Bob or Cal by mentioning them... oops!) scatological comment behind us, adios for now.


Kuna Megalopolis
01/15/2010, Ustupu, Kuna Yala

January 15

Another day, another island. Each one as freshly captivating as the last. Ustupu, the big city, contains 8000 people not counting mimis (children). Looking like an Amerindian Venice, north end is traversed by numerous canals spanned by bridges. Apart from several plazas and a few wider avenidas, the place is chock-a-block with houses separated by narrow paths. Built with vertical bamboo walls, dwellings have packed sand floors and frond roofs said to last 15 years and not leak. Hammocks are the sleeping accommodation of choice.

A Colombian trading boat, "El Nino Jesus", has apparently off-loaded and is awaiting return cargo, probably coconuts (previously used as money, they now go for about 25 cents). Kuna Yala is lousy with the trees and each and every one, no matter how inaccessible, is owned by a Kuna. You don't mess with the fruit, even aground. Using OPM after personal funds were depleted, purchased bread, intricate mola, feather painting and dinner with cerveza.

Want to stay awhile in every village, but uncivilization awaits, so tomorrow should find ILs and me further up the chain in San Ignacio de Tupile (Tannaquetupu). Eric Bauhaus in his guide suggests the ideal way to see nearby Mono River and its "very large crocodiles", is by kayak... Uh huh. Think I'll take dinghy with fast motor.

Apologize for travelogue. Will try to limit future aberrations.


A Sanguine Soiree
01/14/2010, Isla Pinos, Kuna Yala

January 14

Visualize having a 12 year old daughter who just had her first menses. You paint her black and perhaps other colors, cover her in clothing from head to ankle and invite everyone to a party for her using the largest building in town. All the guys, several at a time, get to dance back and forth with another set of guys who then hand each one a large bowl of alcoholic beverage which he chugs. It's like a ronde that repeats for hours. (Apparently Kuna don't usually indulge in alcoholic beverage, but when occurring, the activity proceeds until they fall over) The separated women, at least in this village, don't seem to have as lively a time.

Later in the evening a four foot curtain is erected and young men stand in line to peer over followed by a line of women. No personal knowledge, but assume debutante is behind wall. The object of all this splendid attention, finally, is given a new name as she has now become an adult. What newly post-pubescent American girl wouldn't just love it?

Cruising guide indicates the sacred "chicha" ritual is held once or twice a year and requires a month's preparation. Suggest anyone interested in a more detailed and almost certainly more accurate version check Google.

Ustupu (oos-TOO-poo), largest village in San Blas, looks to be tomorrow's stop, thirteen miles of unprotected beating. Seas, still a boisterous 10 or 11 feet, shouldn't cause great angst or, at least, not for long.


An Event of Note
01/13/2010, Isla Pinos, Kuna Yala

January 13

Eventually, a few projects need to get done. Watermaker filter wants replacing and a second Racor, to replace the execrable fuel filter/water separator from Dahl, has been neglected in a locker since St. Maarten. That forgetfulness thing can sometimes work to advantage, but I really ought to free up the space and chuck the junk.

Half the trip to Isla Pinos (Kuna call it Tupbak for the whale it resembles), being in the lee of several islands, was mostly unaffected by the nine foot northerly sea. One may rightly infer at this point that the other half was a tad lumpy. Anchorage, not well protected, is also subject to some motion. Good sleeping if roll remains minimal.

Seven boats here have been invited to some sort of drinking party at the local village. Spirits? Didn't know Kuna indulged. Something made from sugar cane was the cryptic comment. Rum? Maybe it's just sweet water. Report to follow.

- Later

The stuff is called chicha. Cooked and fermented in partially buried ceramic pots with ground coffee beans, it leaves one a drunken insomniac. Abstinence at this celebration, which purpose will be elucidated on the morrow and would be inconceivable at home, was scarcely an option.

Suffice, for now, to say that it was a fascinating (there's that word again) experience and perhaps a rare one for non-Kuna.


Not Really Lilliput
01/12/2010, Suledup Island, Kuna Yala

January 12

Along with Inspiration Lady, ran (this is actually a misnomer as a boat propelled by diesel and staysail was used) short distance late morning to anchorage by Suledup (Soo-lay-dupe). In Kuna, Sule means chicken, dup is island. Apparently tupu also means island - don't know why. After paying, and receiving receipt for, $5 landing fee to Damasio Castro, who came by in an ulu with his son and a buddy, the ILs and I were invited for a tour of Caledonia, his nearby village.

Although not really an indigenous people-phile found the experience fascinating. Houses for 800 people completely cover the tidy island. These guys are happy, friendly and short. Also don't care much for children, but these are, to a kid (over a quarter of the population), the cutest ever. Normally suggest to friends with attractive youngsters that they sell them and buy an otherwise out-of-reach luxury item. These people could make a fortune, but suspect a Ferrari would be overkill on a 1/4 mile island with no TV, AC power or roads. Also no avariciousness, crime or stress. They typically live to great age.

Didn't want to before decision time, but have commenced getting excited about seeing Pacific. Concluded opportune to do so now as may not be in proper mood when 80. Boat would be 44 by then.

Liz, my spousal unit and 'one who must be obeyed' (but given high level of incorrigibility in worse half, sometimes isn't) will travel to India last three weeks of February, so may fly home first week (earlier than planned) to retrieve charts & such and trieve (... well, it should be) some new stuff for bigger ocean. Work, work, work. So much to do, so little time... careful, able to detect crocodile tears at great distance.


Nut 'n' Honey
01/11/2010, Puerto Escoses, Panama

January 11

Ran all night with yankee only, then had to roll in some of that to watch sun come up before arrival. Given relatively short waterline on Anthem, a 160 mile day is smoking. Wind climbed into mid twenties, seas to 7 or 8 feet from aft. Not a good night for mal de mer should one be so inclined. Depth sounder suspended function at critical point, so, in murky water, had to anchor twice to stay off bottom. Do bad things always happen at worst possible times or do we just remember those?

Water must have been particularly warm and salty as great sheets of sparkle- filled luminescence spread out from wake to form a brilliant halo around rushing hull. Entire surface was alight. Never seen anything like it. Looked like we were plowing through a glowing Milky Way.

No Kuna, yet, but then might not have notice with eyes closed. Slept, read, slept all day with good breeze, interspersed with the occasional williwaw, coming through cracked hatch. Sustenance was cereal and handfulls (is that a proper word?) of nuts, but did summon energy to make dinner of dumpling noodles with cream of chicken soup. Leftovers means never having to say you're hungry. Wind genny has topped batteries, so may watch Serenity movie, last chapter of Firefly series. May just sleep. May sleep through movie.

With Inspiration Lady plan slow excursion northwestward tomorrow toward Gulf of San Blas, friends and eventually the Canal. Somewhere along the way, a perfect mola awaits purchase.

"Doing nothing is very hard to do... you never know when you're finished." - Leslie Nielsen


Whoa There Horsey
01/10/2010, Halfway to Panama

January 10

What happened to shifty winds? Had 15 to 20 all day, just aft the beam with reasonable seas to seven feet. Making time like Superman flying faster than light to save future dead Lois. Departed Rosario at 0600 to assure arrival before Monday's forecast north swell. Have now reduced to yankee only for delay past sunrise.

Wind steering has been challenged by variable aft breeze and rolling seas, but adjustments in Cartagena seem to have worked. With change in direction back to port, too far off the wind to use it tonight. Besides, wouldn't want to stay awake to watch it. (joke, no nasty emails, please)

After jumping around like a kid with a snoot full of Cola, finally(?) decided to land at original destination, Puerto Escoses, far east San Blas. Was spring- loaded after delay in Colombia to hurry, but should have ample time to catch friends other end.

Official currency in Panama is the Bolivar, referred to everywhere else as the US dollar. Probably makes them feel better. Prices are reported to be low, but have heard that little canard before. Optimistic that reports are true for taxis as walking around Colon is said to be guaranteed mugging. Kunas (next shortest people after pygmies), on the other hand, are apparently quite trustworthy. Apropos of nothing in particular, a high percentage of Kuna dress as women. Some of them are women.


East is Least, West is Best
01/09/2010, Isla Grande, Colombia

January 9

Did somebody yell fire? Half the anchorage (slight hyperbole) took off this morning for Rosario (actually Isla Grande, as Rosario is restricted) or San Blas. Most will go to the somewhat developed Gulf of San Blas while the more adventurous (slower) of us will head farther east (shorter sail) where the Kuna Indians maintain traditional ways (conditions deteriorate Monday). Expect to move west without uncommon delay to see Aussie friends before they transit to Pacific with World ARC and St. Pete area sailing buddies who will proceed north after quick trip home.

Not certain to do so, but the South Pacific calls and opportunity is now, so last bits are being accumulated to make long passage to Marquessas. Downwind sail and gas generator, to be carried back from home in February, are biggest chunks. Inverter/charger may also become checked baggage. Delta's going to love me. Expect to see other end of canal late February or March. Hey Fitz, this is your opportunity to see the Galapagos, but you'll have to sail. Any Dolphins (sailing group from home, ref. Mike & Barb above) interested in some adventure, give a shout (you won't have to sleep in the orlop or eat bilge rats to survive... probably).

Early departure AM for greater arrival options. Toodles.


01/08/2010, Cartagena Inner Harbor

Stern Line

January 8

There must be a formal adage stating that any task will absorb all available time. It's like that 'filling all available closet space' one. Thought to be ready for departure Wednesday, now scurrying to leave tomorrow (Sat.). New stuff crops up, but suspect the organization thing is real culprit.

Cleaning anchors, chain and underwater lines is major undertaking after two to three weeks here. Fecund water encrusts everything between eye blinks. Without conscientious cleaning, chain lockers, usually separated from V-berth by loose fitting doors, smell of rotting crustacea and swarm with flies. How to say shoo in Spanish?

The cleverest joke Jack Aubry knew was why the two, two hour watches from 1600 to 1800 and 1800 to 2000 (differing from the normal four hours to allow both groups a dinner break) were called dog watches? Because they were cur-tailed. He was captain, he thought of it, everybody laughed.

Have considered curtailing frequency of these dispatches in consequence of working harder for lamentable (OK, more lamentable) quality and fewer chuckles. However (Huh? Cheering dies), may continue for awhile (Hope crushed, suicide watch placed on recipients) as diversions should be fewer going forward and numbed chucklator may revive.

Based on forecast, may limit stay in Rosarios and press on to, possibly, Escoses in San Blas, a 28 to 32 hour jaunt. Big swells (not swell), generated by storms north, could kick sailboat butt after Monday.


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S/V Anthem
Who: Jack Warren, Janice Holmes
Port: Weeki Wachee, FL
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See profile for information on why this mess is being foisted upon an innocent world and, despite what is probably your better judgement, how to make contact.
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