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San Blas/Panama Re-Cap
04/25/2012, 08 54.549'N:79 31.399'W, Panama Canal

Hmmmm So little to say, and so much space.... Panama has been very interesting and a lot of fun. Lots of mixed things though, which is in part why I have taken some time before writing.

Kuna Yala: We didn't spend a lot of time in Kuna Yala (aka the San Blas). Only a little over 2 weeks. But we did see a fair bit in that time. We had romanticized the area a bit, as it is one of few places that has a culture that has held very strongly to its traditional ways. The Kuna live mostly in thatch huts on remote islands. They live by fishing, and by doing some farming on the mainland. They are known for living very long healthy lives--enough so that some scientists have come to study the phenomenon over the years. We definitely enjoyed seeing this, and were fortunate to get some great tours by Nestor on Nalunega and by Federico from Nargana who also acted as our guide up the Rio Diablo river. However, we also noticed an awful lot of corrupting outer influence which took away from it a bit. Lots of plastic trash in and out of the water in some places (others were fairly pristine). Kuna asking to get cell phones charged, and some begging for things from crui sers. A culture of taking from cruisers whatever they can has seemed to develop--very one sided, as they for the most part don't seem willing to do anything in return without charging for it. Cruiser's patch dug out canoes with epoxy all the time, and charge cell phones etc. Yet they charge an exorbitant ransom if someones dinghy drifts off, and appear loath to do anything without a price. ...just a couple of examples. It all Left a bit of a bad taste for me--and in fair part a bad taste for the foolish way cruisers have 'trained' people how to react to them.... It was a beautiful place to visit, but the water was not very clear while we were there, so our snorkeling was somewhat limited. We did see some large grouper and a couple very large rays while snorkeling though...

After Kuna Yala, we make a pit stop off Isla Linton--where we were fortunate enough to see the endangered Black Spider Monkey. And we had dinner at a fairly sketchy hostel like place that seems to be on the backpacker road to south america. For those who don't know, you can't drive all the way to South America. There are no connecting roads between panama and Colombia. There of course are probably a few dirt tracks, but they are through place with heavily armed Guerrillas etc. So people catch boat rides out of Kuna Yala over to Colombia. However, this particular "hostel' seemed to have some side businesses ...

After Isla Linton we stopped in Portobello. This was a very interesting if brief stop. Portobello was the main port through which Spanish gold flowed out of central america. Three forts, and a customs house which held the gold, which are all very impressive. So we viewed and read a lot about the history. Notably, there is a bit a semi permanent cruiser community here so its a good place to track things down, and a good place to hang out as an alternative to Shelter Bay. We only stayed one night, and had the good fortune to be able to take the kids to a pirate party and a new bar/restaurant.

After Portobello we went into Shelter Bay marina, which is the only marina in the Canal Zone on the Caribbean side. Nice place, but very isolated. Amy took the shuttle in to some shopping areas and got all of our provisioning done. Unfortunately the only nearby town is Colon. Which is hugely dangerous. People get mugged in broad daylight all the time. One cruising boat that we met, anchored close to Colon, trying to save money on Shelter Bay rates, and locals swam out and robbed them of nearly everything on board.

We spent 3 weeks in Shelter Bay, much more than we would have liked. But getting a transit date that sticks can be a problem. But we were able to haul out and get our sail drive fixed. Hopefully it will hold up--knock on wood. Also Shelter bay is right near a National Park, and is within the old abandoned Fort Sherman, United States Base. There is nothing but jungle and wildlife surrounding the Marina--so we heard howler monkeys everyday, and saw them when we would walk out of the marina into the jungle on walks. We also saw some of the white faced Capuchin monkeys. Not to mention, birds, crocodiles, insects etc. Pretty neat place.

We are now on Panama City side of the isthmus. Panama city is much safer, and is a modern city. Skyscrapers everywhere--the skyline looks a bit like New York. We won't be spending much time here, but we will be finishing up our provisioning and enjoying a few meals out. Yesterday we went out for dim sum in the morning. Then went to the Panama Canal Museum, then went out for panamanian ice cream made in the french tradition. Very nice :). The night before we pigged out at a Lebanese restaurant. Today we are thinking pizza and cold beer--and maybe a trip to the movies at one of the mega malls ha ha.

In the next couple of days we will depart for the Galapagos.

04/26/2012 | Jenny & Wil / sv Full Monty
Really appreciate the detail on the area. Some of it we weren't aware of. Now we'll know what to expect & where to keep safe.
04/28/2012 | dad
We are really enjoying your travelogue. Keep them coming. Love, Dad
04/29/2012 | Nathalie Houston
I gave you a heads up on on the San Blas. You have one more country where the people are looking to take and then you will arrive in The Marquesas! Consider stopping at Fatu-Hiva first, you will love it. Try and leave soon as the winds between Panama and the Galapagos will be turning against you soon. It makes a big difference. You can read about my two very different legs on that passage below.
The Pacific Ocean!!
04/25/2012, 08 54.549'N:79 31.399'W, Panama Canal

We have arrived in the Pacific Ocean. We transited the Canal this past Saturday and Sunday, accompanied by Kylie from Clementine, James from Coba Libre, Graham from Nakesa, and Isabelle from Liseron. We went up through the Gatun Locks on Saturday between about 7pm and 9pm. Then we tied up to a mooring buoy in Gatun Lake and had a bit of a celebratory party joined by Kieth who was transiting on Awaroa which was tied to the same buoy. The party included such fun as climbing onto the buoy and rocking it around from about 3 am to 5 am (six were on the buoy, I won't name names, and there was room for more). I think every transit ought to have a buoy party midway. On sunday we then transited across Gatun lake, then down through the Pedro Miguel Locks, across Miraflores Lake, and then down through the Miraflores Locks. All went smoothly.

On the way up we were the Starboard boat in a raft of three (A catamaran to Port, Awaroa (mono) in the middle and us on the starboard). The raft must have been about 70' wide. Fortunately we had a good advisor on the middle boat calling out clear instructions for maneuvering the beast. Most maneuvering was done with the outermost engine on each of the two cats. On the way down, we were rafted just to one other boat--Cutty Hunk. And I did most of the maneuvering.

It really is dramatic to be in the middle of this with very large ships around, and then finally end up in the Pacific. The Pacific seemed so far away and now we are here.

04/26/2012 | Jenny & Wil / sv Full Monty
We're so excited to see you made it to the Pacific! Bummed we missed seeing you go through the locks though. We tried! As always, looking forward to your every step of the way.
Disco Buoy
04/22/2012, 09 15.590'N:79 54.752'W, Gatun Lake

What happens on the buoy, stays on the buoy.

Transit Today???
04/21/2012, Panama Canal

FYI, it is Saturday April 21, and we are presently scheduled to go through today. As we learned last weekend, this can change. Last I heard, there were six boats scheduled to go through today. But I learned that last night an advisor didn't show up (again). So one of yesterdays boats was bumped and which may lead to one of today's boats getting bumped. Plus, who knows if all of the advisors will show up. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Our presently scheduled time to meet our advisor is 6pm. Which would put us in the Gatun Locks between 7 and 9 pm. There is a Gatun Locks web cam if you want to keep an eye out for us!

We would then go through the downward locks (Pedro Miguel Locks and then the Miraflores Locks) tomorrow.

FYI, I will do a bit more of a recap of Panama and the San Blas, with some more pictures, before too long (heh heh).

04/21/2012 | Jenny /
Yay! We'll be watching for you!
04/21/2012 | Jenny /
Awesome picture, btw.
04/22/2012 | Auntie E
Whoopee!! Saw you at Mira Flores locks!
05/05/2012 | Dave and Laurie
Wow! What an adventure. We are really enjoying following your travels. Wishing you safe travels!
No Transit Today, More time for the jungle wildlife
04/15/2012, Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, Panama

Our transit date was cancelled, in what appears to be very typical panamanian fashion--short notice and bad illogical explanations. After we made arrangements for line handlers. After we got the boat prepared. After all the shopping for the transit was done. After we paid for the being in the marina in order to be ready (we would have left and gone other places otherwise). We are not the only ones. It seems to happen all too regularly. It is simply a badly run operation when it comes to the small boats. Though, word on the street is that it is not as badly run as the Suez.... The cruisers from Europe with experience in the lock systems there seem to get particularly upset. There are many locks in europe with bigger rises and falls, and which carry big ships, but which are simply well managed.

Sooo we wait. Fortunately there is lots of wildlife. We have seen monkeys (including the critically endangered black spider monkey), crocodiles, ant superhighways, sloths, lots of birds and insects, some sort of blue winged moth, vultures and various hawk or eagle like birds of prey. The picture is of about a 4-5 ft crocodile swimming about 5 feet in front of our boat in the marina at Shelter Bay.

New Photo Galleries
04/09/2012, Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, Panama

We are sitting in shelter bay marina now. Shelter Bay is the only marina on the Caribbean side of the Canal. Great place because all yachts heading to the Pacific converge here. The photo is of Morning Glory loaded with fenders and tires, ready to transit.

I will be doing a bit of catching up on the blog as we prepare to go through the Canal. Presently our transit date is set for April 15th. In the mean time, I have just added a number of NEW PHOTO GALLERIES--please take a look :)

04/11/2012 | Richard
I am finally catching up and am amazed to see how far you have gone since I last heard from you. I am soooo envious but so excited for you.
04/15/2012 | Wil & Jenny /
We're watching for you on the Panama Canal webcams! If you get this in time, can you let us know what time you're starting your transit? Or maybe you're already on your way thru. So exciting!!
04/02/2012, 09 33.257'N:79 39.721'W, Panama Canal

After Isla Linton, we next stopped at Portobello, and last stop before the Canal Zone. The central american gold shipping capital for the Spaniards. Finally captured by the pirate Captain Morgan, and then later by the British Admiral Edward Vernon (also famous for the name of George Washington's Estate--Mount Vernon). Vernon's capture of Portobello destroyed the economy which didn't recover until the Panama Canal was built. The forts and Custom's house for the gold are impressive.

Isla Linton
04/01/2012, 09 36.690'N:79 35.214'W, Panama Canal

Isla Linton was our first stop upon leaving Kuna Yala. There is a research station on this Island, and it is home to some Black Spider Monkeys which are a very endagered species. We were lucky enough to get a nice picture of one.

Just a short stop on the way to the Canal zone.

03/24/2012, 09 35.010'N:78 40.386'W, Banedup, Eastern Holandes Cays, Kuna Yala

Today we moved from the Naguarchirdup to Banedup in the eastern Holandes Cays. Just kicken' back and loungin' today. The kids are off building sandcastles. I think I'll take a nap.

04/01/2012 | Donna
What a gorgeous place! It's been stormy and cold in Ohio these past several days. The weather looks beautiful there.
04/05/2012 | Wil
Wake up! We can't see. No more naps.

Can't wait for details and pictures. Travel safe.

Dugout Sailing
03/22/2012, 09 32.75'N:78 53.63'W, Naguarchirdup, Kuna Yala

We are presenlty located south east of the island of Nagaurchirdup in Kuna Yala. This small group of islands is also known as the Lemmons. We arrived yesterday early in the afternoon following a short sail from Porvenir. As it was Stephen's 13th birthday yesterday Amy made cake and we announced to the anchorage that we were having a party at 4:30 in the afternoon. 18 people showed up! Including 9 kids from various parts of the world--all cruising as we are. This is one of the great things about cruising :). The boys played Stephen's new version of risk -- RISK 2210 A.D. The girls hung out talking on the bow and playing games too. The adults sat in the cockpit hoping a few drinks would numb the sensitivity of our eardrums sufficiently.

The photo is of Stephen and Rivers sailing in a dugout canoe on Tuesday. On Tuesday we met Nestor--a native Kuna indian from the island of Nalunega. He invited us to his home, gave us a tour of his island, fed us a lunch of chicken and plantains, and took the kids sailing in his ulu (dugout canoe). He also brought us to a very interesting museum that was created and is maintained by a Kuna artist. Through paintings and carvings and other works of art he describes the Kuna way of life, its history, and its belief system. A very impressive experience, and our best field trip for the kids to date!

Thank you Nestor!!

03/23/2012 | Auntie Elin
It's really fun to read all your comments - helps us picture what you are experiencing. Love following you on the Current Position setting of your blog. Took me a while to find the Panama Canal on the satellite photos - I had assumed it was a straight canal (shows my little knowledge!). Love to all and take care.
03/23/2012 | Karen
HappyBirthday Stephen!! Rivers - Abigail says hi! Ab's classroom is now following your blog - they REALLY want you to get to the Galapagos Island!! XO Karen
03/25/2012 | Chris Tucker
YAHOO...Panama! Very nice guys. I look forward to hearing about your experience in the canal. Be well - s/v Dharma from Hope Town
04/04/2012 | A J Koltermann
Regarding your son's birthday shindig: Only on a cat can that many people be in 3 groups. spread around the boat, comortably. Fair winds

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