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Sunrise: Chasing the dream
Life filled with adventure, both actual and spiritual.
The part arrives
04/08/2013, Nargana, San Blas, Panama

Pablo and Caudia at home in Nargana

We sailed to Nargana the other day as we heard via Teri and Arturo of Marine Warehouse, that the Ignition Coil had arrived in Nargana. There are two islands here with every square inch of both covered with houses and buildings. Although some of the buildings are concrete, such as the school, church and health center, almost all are made out of bamboo lashed together for walls and palm fronds used for thatched roofs.

We ran into Pablo and Claudio, a Kuna couple who had come by the boat in their Ulu with some Molas to sell. Hers are some of the most beautiful we have seen. They invited us to their home, which was traditional. They showed us how they made the Molas and all the work that goes into each one. She seems to specialize in using two molas to make "blousas" which are the traditional shirts worn by the women here. there are two Molas, front and back that fit tightly around the torso. The rest of the shirt is made from very light, airy printed fabric. The sleeves have very fine detail. An impressive creation that takes several weeks for her to make.

A fellow boater offered to take Isobel and I to the airport (on a separate island) in his dinghy to meet the airplane and see if we could find Axil, who is the guy who takes care of packages coming from Panama City. That day's plane was a brand new (200 hours) Kodiak bush plane, which the pilot said was the perfect plane for all the small jungle strips across Panama. And, Axil was there greeting new arrivals (two) and seeing off and American family who had been on a charter boat for a couple weeks. We met him back on shore and paid the $1 fee for shipping via air from Panama City.

Oh, and by the way, for some reason, our cool internet connection that we had through the phone, has failed... so I will have to see if I can find internet on the island. Some people have said that the school has internet.

09 26.651'n 078 34.909'w

04/08/2013 | Jean Ward
hi Sunrise great to see you have got to the San Blas. We loved them although only had 2 weeks. We are in Shelter bay waiting to Transit on the 16th.
Cheers Jean and Alan on Tuatara
long distance communications
04/04/2013, Chichime, San Blas, Panama

Here is the family that lives on Chichime. They are here for three months to tend the Island and harvest the coconuts. The coconuts are the property of the family and they have other relations that are here for the rest of the year. They rotate through for 3 month stints. They also sell their molas and leg beads to cruisers.

I just wanted to point out how impressed I am by our ability to communicate, even in a remote place like Chichime.

Here is how it goes. I type this message into a windows program that I can run on my MAC, using a program called Parallels. The software now puts the message in a format that I used to have to key in that told the receiving station how to route the message.

Next turn on the SSB, which is a High Frequency Radio, similar to a HAM radio. I plug the Pactor Modem modem, that is connected to the SSB, into the computer with a USB cable. Then, I look at the propogation tables and choose a station and a frequency to use. From here I have found that Corpus Christi, Texas, USA. Corpus Chisti is 1504 miles away on a bearing of 319 degrees. 22881.4 mHz appears to have the greatest probability of connecting.

So, this morning I received a message from Uncle Readie who lives in Australia... we had asked for help figuring out how to connect to the internet via a cell phone. He is very good a that kind of stuff and he helped us out... and he started his explanation with:

"So, from the other side of the planet, you want me to help you connect a device I've never used before in a way I've never done before on a service I've never heard of before. No pressure. :)" Of course he gave us very good detailed instructions.

As a note, using the SSB, we could speak to a station in Australia. This is same technology that was developed by Marconni . The SSB bounces a radio signal off the Ionispere. Now, with Uncle Readie, like others on land, he would have to have a very tall radio antenna to receive our call. A boat at sea, uses the ocean's surface as part of the antenna, so a boat only requires an antenna that is 23 feet long, approximately. Also note that, although I use this technology, I know only enough to use it and wish that I new more.

04/04/2013 | Uncle Readie
Wow, I say it here, it comes out there.

Marconi was basically using the conducting surfaces of the ocean and ionosphere as a big "coaxial" cable. Physics is all about scale. :)
05/13/2013 | Alan
Sounds like an amazing adventure! Hope to see and hear more about it all some day...
Water rising
04/04/2013, Chichime, San Blas, Panama

Currently we at at 09 35.260'n 078 52.922'w

As we sit here off the island of Uchutupu Pipigua, really feel priveliged to be here. There are two small huts on the island made of wood and palm fronds. We have met the family when they came out to sell us Molas. It appears that it is a couple with Gramma and a 4 year old girl. The island is immaculate. It looks like a park between the palm trees. Every morning they get up and rake the beach in front of their huts and roll the dugout on logs out into the water. The man paddles across to a tiny island where he must be checking for coconuts on the single palm.

Those who know me know that I am very concerned about Climate Change. One of the impacts of climate change is a rise in sea level. We can see from our perspective that this island is only about 2' above sea level. We have noticed other lower island with dead palm trees on them, probably from salt water intrusion. So, again, we struck by the impacts of Climate change that we see everywhere.

More photos when we find internet... none here! this will be posted via SSB radio at 500 bytes per minute.

04/04/2013 | George Mora
I'm really looking forward to pictures once you get a connection. They must be spectacular.
04/04/2013 | Uncle Readie
I think they're around here.

Hopefully they'll get more reasonable connectivity when they get back toward El Porvenir.
Meeting up with Tribe
03/31/2013, East Lemon Cays, San Blas, Panama

09 33.792'n 078 51.574'w

We parted ways in the Windward Passage with a plan to meet for Christmas in the San Blas. Well, we were delayed and spent time in Bonaire and Santa Marta. Little did we know that Tribe was delayed and spent time in Rio Dulce and other places.

So we have met up in the San Blas, here in the East Lemon Cays. More later...

The Easter Bunny comes to the Tropics
03/31/2013, Waisaladup, San Blas, Panama

There were a few chocolate eggs around the boat, but Isobel knew that the eggs she had colored we hidden somewhere and she couldn't find them. The Easter Hare had left a thank you note for the lettuce and carrots. Apparently, it had not been too soporific (see B. Potter). The note said something about "look where the palm trees grow."

"The Palm trees grow on the island!" Isobel was uniting the dinghy and pulling it up to the boat when she saw that the Easter Bunny had left the eggs in the nests that we had made on the island. (We had left the nests in the dinghy because Papa was worried about bringing bugs on board!)

With the wind blowing 20 and the resulting chop, Isobel and I were happy to not have to go to the Island (as I am quite sure that the Easter Bunny was happy that the nests were in the dinghy and not left on the island too!!)

We have talked about sailing to the East Lemon Islands to meet up with a couple kids boats from South Africa: Tribe and Safari, although a Kuna said that he would bring us a "chip" that we might cut down to fit in the Ipad, so that we would have some Internet onboard...

04/01/2013 | gil
Yeah, cut that chip right down to size and just jamb that sucker right in there !
Just use the kitchen knife.
The Ipod will just love that, honest.
Getting away from
03/28/2013, Waisaladup, San Blas, Panama

The Ulus are designed to sail as well as paddle. This couple sailed right between the reef. She was bailing and tending the sails and he used the paddle as a rudder. We later talked with them and they said they sailed here in 5 hours to fish and sell Molas... then back!

We met someone who was on holiday in Panama on the beach the other day and they said, "Oh it must be nice to 'Get away from it all'"

It had me thinking: Although we are "away from it all" physically, we really have our noses pushed right into "it" most of the time.

First, we are three of us on the boat (38' from end to end with 11' 4" at the widest part in the middle). Any issue is right there and has to be dealt with. No room for elephants on the boat.

Next, we are the mechanics. If something breaks or doesn't function, there isn't a service station nearby where we can leave the boat and have a cup of coffee.

And, our safety is our responsibility. OSHA doesn't do spot checks here. No one will give you a ticket if your kid is not tethered to the boat.

And the power company, well, we are the power company. Any outage is our problem alone.

Oh, and did I mention the water company? Us too.

And there are times when "it" gets to us. Or should I say that we let "it" get to us: An Example:

The other day we sailed into this little anchorage surrounded by reefs. As we were preparing to anchor, Lara started the motor and I noted that it sounded funny. We dropped the anchor a little closer to the beach than was suggested in the cruising guide. The anchor dragged a little more than usual when we set the hook�... (Since we bought our Spade anchor, setting the anchor was a noticeable sinking of the bow as the anchor dug in and stopped within a couple feet of where it hit the sand).

Normally I dive on the anchor to make sure it is in sand and dug in. The girls we excited to go to the beach to see some kids who were there�... so "I will dive on it later."

So, at 1 am, I was laying in bed awake�... thinking: if the anchor drags: 1)will the engine start? What was that funny sound when Lara started it earlier? Is the anchor set? Why did it drag that extra little bit? And I remembered that Lara had said that the windlass was sticking so the chain would not run out when we dropped the anchor�... she had to pull it out of the chain locker. The back up anchor�... Its chain and rode I had transformed it into a drogue and had it stored as such in the aft lazaretto for the passage through the "normally windy coast of Colombia"�... it would take some time to deploy the second anchor. I had eyeballed the anchorage and there was no easy way to sail out of here�... Ugh�... I moved to the cockpit and sat on anchor watch until the girls got up at 6:30�...

That day I asked Lara about starting the engine. She had pushed the stop solenoid when turning the key�... which gave us the funny noise. I checked the voltage on the Lithium start battery: 13.4 volts, which is fully charged. I disassembled the windlass gipsy and cleaned the clutch surfaces and reassembled it. Then I transformed the drogue back into an anchor rode and moved it to the anchor locker as a rode for anchor #2. Finally I put waypoints onto the chart to allow us to sail out through the reef (as a last resort if the engine didn't start), but I did not dive on the anchor (hey, it's a Spade).

Well, at 4 am, Isobel woke us because it was raining in the hatch. I heard the wind pipe up as a squall blew in. I moved to the cockpit. As I stood there, the bow was pushed downwind and I called to Lara that we were dragging. The engine started, we pulled the anchor and moved the boat 50 yards west to the marked anchorage. The chain ran out and the Spade dug in and we were fixed in place again�... although shaken (this was the first time the Spade had dragged since we bought it in October of 2011). The girls went back to bed while I kicked myself around the cockpit for not diving on the anchor.

This morning, I dove on the anchor. It was well buried in the sand. Then I swam to where we had previously anchored. I could see where the anchor had disturbed the sea grass�... and it was clear the path it took as it dragged over the slippery leaves�...

Well, no one else to blame. Only my own lapse to deal with. And Lara, being Lara, tried to make me feel better by asking about the anchor as the problem, or the length of the rode�... no, that was a case of operator error. "it" as in my face again�... no getting away from "it."

03/29/2013 | Uncle Readie
We're not sea creatures. We don't have gills or blowholes. All the water in the entire ocean is trying to kill you all the time. It's up to you to keep it from happening. I trust you to trust your instincts and keep my niece and grand-niece from harm, just like I trust you to show them all the wonder the ocean has to offer. Wonderful and terrifying, that's the world we're in. Thanks for enriching their lives.
03/30/2013 | gil
Your 'it ' is defined by your boat and your basic needs to survive in a basic way. Yes, there are those 'its' you cannot get away from, but they are defined by natural forces and nature.
Yes it is down to you both, but that also true on route 95...A far more dangerous place than that ship of yours. We just get used to pretending that driving a car is not deadly, pretending that driving in a car at 70 mph is more normal than something folks have been doing for thousands of years, sailing.
Keep a laptop stuck to Nav Station
03/28/2013, Waisaladup, San Blas, Panama

With the other boat kids gone, Isobel must find a way to amuse herself again... not too hard!

Someone was talking about their computer sliding all over or crashing to the floor during a passage. We use a wonderful product call a Sea Sucker ( This is a flat piece of silicon (I think) that has a very sticky side and a not quite so sticky side. We put two of them on the nave station (stickiest side down) and put our laptop on top of them. When I need to pick up the computer I have to carefully peal it off the Nav station. I am quite sure that the boat could be rolled 180 and the computer would stay stuck. We have others that we use for anything we need to have stuck in rough conditions. This is not a non-skid pad�... it is like temporary adhesive pad. It would work well for an IPAD in the cockpit, etc�... we fully endorse them!

03/29/2013 | Randy
I have heard mine crash to the sole more than once when I forgot to stow it. Great idea. Hope you never have the opportunity to test while going turtle!
03/29/2013 | Uncle Readie
You fool! Don't mention the turtle! :0
Friends on boats
03/27/2013, Waisaladup, San Blas, Panama

Friends on boats.

The cruising community is a funny one. We learned from some British folks in Warderick Wells, Bahamas to visit our neighbors as that is the way to make friends when you arrive in a new anchorage. Many city dwellers would never conceder knocking on their neighbors door when they move in�... and yet for us there is a need to make friends quickly�... so we go right over, knock on the boat and see if they might be our new friends. Especially if it is a kid boat.

When we saw Salsa arrive in Bonaire, we knew we had to stop by as they had a boy about Isobel's size. This was the start of a wonderful relationship. That was mid February. Since then we have shared many meals, discussed boat problems, fears, good books, theories of evolution, sailing techniques and destinations. We have explored mountains and beaches, snorkeled and just sat together. We have watched each other's kids and exchanged recipes. We clicked really well together.

And, today we parted ways. They are off to head west to prepare for the Panama Canal and the South Pacific�... and we will stay here for a couple more weeks before we pass through the Canal and head to Ecuador.

Lara and I discussed skipping South America and heading out with them, and we have chosen to stick to our plans�...

So, they sailed off. We hope to see them again and we don't know when that will be. It is tough to express the emotion when you see good friends sail away.

That is how life is with us cruisers, it just seems to be a real part of the lifestyle. Every friend we have had along the way, we get to know quickly as we never know when our paths will diverge. It might be a good way to go through life anyway, strike up friendships and develop them fast, as one never knows�...

03/29/2013 | Randy
This is SOOOOO true. Nikki and I have had the same experience about making new friends quickly and the associated emotions when saying farewell - for now. This is absolutely a great life lesson to take with you when you become landlubbers again - if that ever happens.

I have been following your blog post religiously and love reading about the life you are living. I so want to return to the sea - someday. Perhaps the most touching notes are reading about "the little girl". What a gift you guys are giving her. Every kid should have to great fortune to grown up as she is. Fabulous!

Stay safe - fair winds ... :-)

03/26/2013, Waisaladup, San Blas, Panama

Lara shot this photo from the little island. This family was on their way out to the larger island nearby to "clean up" and harvest coconuts.

On th subject of ship wrecks

one can not look at a chart without seeing a symbol for a wreck. One can not sail any where without seeing a wreck. They come in all forms. the last few nights we were in spectacular spot off a tiny islet in the Coco Banderos. On the far side of this tiny islet, the ocean side, there was a small black object sticking out of the water�... the very top of a cabin roof of a fishing vessel. Further out and east of us was a huge prow of a ship pointing up toward the sky as though it was still struggling to stay off the reef that had broken it years ago.

The other day as we were entering the West Lemon Cays from the north I lined up on what appeared to be a huge rock on the shore of the island ahead, thinking that clearly this was what the boats had used as a landmark before the age of GPS�... as we sailed closer a form emerged. Isobel said, "I hope our corse will change before we end up beside that boat." That boat was on its side, on the reef, with the deck facing us, stripped of everything, leaving gaping holes where the hatches had been. Water peacefully lapped against it, washing in and out. We turned into the anchorage before we reached the reef the boat sat on.

Most people don't talk much about the wrecks, unless it is to say something as Isobel did, quietly summing up the dread and fear. Or, if something is said, it is a simple explanation, such as: "clearly, they were out of the channel" or often, "Oh the poor boat." On land, when there is a car crash, the cars are towed away quickly, the glass swept up and oil spilt sopped up. If there is anything, there is just a tire track or a dented guardrail. No sorrow is left.

For me, I wonder what happened. First I think of all the problems that could have lead to the wreck. Then I think of the struggle to get the boat afloat and at what point one gives up. Then I think of the despair and anguish when it is realized that there is not hope of being afloat again. The home lost, all the hard work and sweat that kept the boat in order�... lost. All the mementos and belongings that are left to be pawed through by those who salvage wrecks.

Some wrecks do have simple explanations. There was a boat in Prickly Bay, Grenada that had sunk because its scuppers had plugged with debris and rainwater had filled it. We heard of friends that were sailing with a boat, whose engine stopped while they were under sail. Rather than sailing the boat through the cut in the reef, he went below to diagnose the engine. With no one at the helm, the boat sailed onto the reef. Another boat sailing "off-shore" between Grenada and Bonaire ran on the reef at Los Aves while the couple on board were both asleep below!

In one of Malcolm Gladwell's books, he discusses the cascade of errors that occur in most disasters: The over ride valve fails, the signal light bulb is covered by a sticky note, the buzzer has been removed for repair, and the operator stepped out for a cup of water. If any one had not happened the problem could have been averted. When I see a wreck, I think about what series of unfortunate events occurred to wreck the boat.

I wanted to write about this thing that no one likes to talk about�... and for those of you who want to know what we do to avoid wrecking...

Here is what we do to avoid running on a reef: 1) We always have at least two electronic charting systems going. For much of our trip we have had C-Map on the Chart plotter and Navionics on the Ipad. Here in the San Blas, the electronic charts on the plotter and on the Ipad are very imprecise. Someone has scanned all the charts found in Eric Berhaus guide to Panama and tied them to GPS coordinates. We run a Open CPN (charting software) with these charts. 2) we always have visual watch. In the San Blas, this means that you only move when the light is good and have a constant eye on the water as one can see by color how deep it is. At sea, there is always someone awake and on watch 24 hours a day. We also use AIS and Radar when at sea to make sure we see ships. 3) We always have paper charts and a compass. If we are going further than 5 miles we plot our position on the paper chart periodically so we can establish where we are should the electronics fail. We heard of one boat in the Pacific who came on a yacht who had lost all electronics and had not made a log entry nor fixed a point on a chart since they left�... They we clearly relieved to see another boat! 4) We always plan on something failing�... so we sail on the windward side of the channel, we take the sail cover off even if we are motoring a short distance or running downwind with the genoa only. We clear the decks of toys and stuff even when we expect a short quiet down-wind sail. And Isobel is tethered whenever we are underway. I won't go into all the safety gear we have on board.

03/26/2013 | gil
Good on ya' Capt'n.
All in order and safety minded.
Keep the water out and the people in.
a day on the islands
03/22/2013, Western Coco Banderos

The pack of kids: They barely tolerated being corralled into a static group for the photo!

We felt as though it was a weekend day. We wolfed down breakfast so we could go to the island beach early. While Bill sat in the shade and pondered the green mountains now visible to the south with white fluffy clouds, Lara and Isobel (without floats) snorkeled in the waist deep water nearby.

This is truly a spectacular place. Right off the travel poster, the blues of the water, the palms trees overhead, the densely covered mountains in the distance, the Kuna ula (dugout canoe) passing by, the water so clear that the schools of tiny fish look like they are suspended in air... the perfect white sand with the gentle waves lapping up. And the temperature is perfect. The air so it is perfect when in the shade and warm in the sun. The water temperature warm enough that one can swim in it for an hour without getting cold.

speaking of swimming, Isobel continues to have breakthroughs. Now able to snorkel without floats. Today realized she could hold her breath and stick her head under water... wearing a mask. longer and longer, floating and jumping up and down... free at last in the water...

Lara and I went out around a reef for a snorkel while Isobel played with the kids off of Salsa and Windara. After a long nap we reconvened on "our" island, the tiny one with one palm tree, for drinks and snacks. the five kids roamed around finding crabs and building bamboo structures and sand castles. The adults sat on palm logs around an little table made of a piece of coral and picked a various tasty snacks. The moon was out when the sun set, so we stayed out until 9 pm (cruiser's mid-night)...

03/24/2013 | Scott Kuhner
You people have really discovered what the cruising life is all about. You make us very jealous; because Kitty and I have had to come back to CT for a while and we won't get back to Tamure until May; so i t looks like no Bahamas this year, only Maine this summer.
03/26/2013 | Uncle Readie
Interesting photo-essay in today's NY Times about Kuna culture, rising oceans, and cocaine TV sets.

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