Snorkeling with a companion
As I swam along, I noticed a 10 Inch yellow and brown striped fish with a unusual flat head following me. I pointed it out to Sylvain who recognized it as a whitefin sharksucker. At first I was concerned as to the whereabouts of the shark that the fish had previously been attached too, but soon I was preoccupied with a fish that had taken me as it's companion. It would swim under my chest and try to attach itself to my shirt. With my goggles on I would lose track of it because of the tunnel vision and would think the fish was gone, but then it would bump up against my chest trying to attach itself to me or would snatch the loose skin from my ear lobes cased by a recent sunburn. It made it hard to concentrate on the the spear fishing.
I spot a good size snapper (fish) swimming in and out from under a ledge about 20 feet down. My companion and I dove through hundreds of colorful feeder fish as we descended toward the ledge. On the way down I spot an eagle ray drifting by out of the corner of my eye.. As we approach the ledge the the snapper makes its swing out from under the ledge and I take my shot. Its a miss. As I head for the surface, my companion takes another bite at my ear. It's more about the journey than the snapper. I hope my companion doesn't swim up the leg of my bathing!
San Blas.. Kuna Yala
We haven't written anything for a while .. Sun, isolated islands, white sand beaches, coconut trees, rum and beer (available sometimes), fresh fruit and veggies (available sometimes), crab, lobster and conch (season closed for the month of March & April and May), snorkeling every day and sundowner's at night..
Life is too good!
We rely on the fishing efforts of the Kuna's and Lion's Paw as we travel from one island to another (usually a whole 5-10 miles apart)... and our canned goods... thank goodness the Whitby 42 has HUGE Storage. We still have cans from Vero beach 2009...lol
I'm making bread every week and have been referred to by other cruisers for my advise and tutelage... maybe I should buy a bakery?
Anyway, this is on the fly.. we'll try and write more next time..
February/6/2011, San Blas Islands
Photo of Filefish we saw while snorkelling.. a very thin bodied and different looking fish..
After clearing in we spent a few days in the Chichime Cays and now we are back at the first island Naguarchirdup, West Lemmons to get internet again.
This morning on the SSB radio (same radio that hams use) we heard that the other island (that is further SE of here) will not have internet until the end of the month... and that's in Panama time, so who knows when the internet will be available there. We plan to head further south-east to explore the islands that we've heard are supposed to be more remote and more like the San Blas Islands that Steve's read and dreamed about before leaving. So far we've had veggie boats, internet and a calling channel 72 that is just a little reminiscent of Georgetown, Bahamas, Grenada and Cartagena, Colombia. Of course it has been very convenient to buy veggies like lettuce, spring onions, onions, potatoes, green peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini, pineapples, oranges and grapefruit. So much for having to provision thinking that we'd be so isolated for such luxuries.
After the Superbowl game today, we are heading to the Hollandaise Cays.. Yup they've organized the Kuna bar and have planned a Superbowl Party half-time.... My suggestion to all whom are planning to come this ways, do it soon, before the Kuna decide to put up high rises.
I've updated the blog and photos.. If interested please read down..
Hello's and Good-byes
"Moana" and "Vanilla" left yesterday for Linton, both wanting to re-provision and pick up boat parts. Unfortunately Vanilla's windlass quit the other day and Sylvain's been working on his bi-ceps winching and pulling up his chain and anchor himself.
Since I'm the one on our boat that has taken up the job of anchoring, I hope that doesn't happen to us. We have 200 feet of 5/8 inch chain (~310 pounds) and a Delta anchor that is beefy enough to hold this 14 Ton boat (that would be its naked weight, so who knows what it really weights with all the crap we have on board).
One night, Phil on "Cynosure" entertained us with his vast knowledge and love of Ecuador and South America, a place he's lived and explored for the last decade. It certainly conjures up the idea, that perhaps we shall go through the Panama canal one day to explore the other side of this continent. The majority of the boats in this part of Panama are heading for the canal and many have joked with us that we should follow. I just hold my breath, knowing how plans can change so easily aboard "Lion's Paw" however, Steve and I both know that we are not seasoned enough for a Pacific crossing...not yet anyway!
Dave and dog Tiger "Bijou Vert La Mer" called us on the VHF this morning to ask about Chichime's anchorage. He was heading our way. We met Dave in Santa Marta, Colombia when he organized a gathering for the boats in the marina. Before leaving Santa Marta, we encouraged him to tie off the paddle to his windvane steering (having shared the story of nearly loosing our paddle from our Monitor windvane steering if not for the rope that Steve used to tie it off with). It seems that Dave had taken our advise and is thankful that he did. On his passage to Panama, he experienced a similar situation and when he arrived to Colon, he had to have it welded back on, but at least he had the paddle.
How to buy Mola's
February/2/2011, Chichime Cays, Kuna Yala, Panama
Above is a photo of my first mola.
Today, I re-read "how to buy a mola". There's a whole list of "what to look for" in an old guide I purchased from "Slow Poke", another Whitby 42, who's owners, back then, had returned to Canada after a seven year voyage (the guide is quite useless otherwise). According to the guide it seems I may have negotiated and purchased a fairly good Mola. My first Mola has four layers of cloth and the right colour cloth (orange, black and burgundy are the traditional ones). The stitching is fairly even and invisible (you should not be able to see any stitching, the thread matching exactly the colour of the cloth and the back should show the reverse image of the design) and the geometric shapes (curves and triangles usually harder and more expensive) should be fairly even in width.
If you come to the San Blas Islands for a visit, you can negotiate your own deal. It's fun. However, Steve wonders why anyone would want a Mola and wonders what I'm going to do with it. Anyone want a Mola?
Cayos Chichime, Kuna Yala
February/1/2011, Cayos Chichime, Kuna Yala
Photo of Guy, France, Lise, Sylvain (Vicky) and us on the beach of the Chichime Cays.
The next morning after breakfast, we headed to "N'orthern Lights" to ask how their evening transpired and was told, "He was a very strange man!". We hope to have them embellish further when we meet up later. We were introduced to their son and daughter-in-law whom had just arrived that morning from Edmonton minus one bag (their flight from Edmonton had been delayed). Phil had decided to head to the West Lemmons (to wait for the arrival of luggage) and since we had just come from there, we shared what we knew about the "buoyed" entrance and they assured us they would send an email with details of flying to the San Blas (staying in Panama city etc). With a promise to keep in touch and share some fun in the H2O, we headed back to Lion's Paw.
As we pulled anchor, Bill came over to ask where we were heading and promised the same.
When we entered the Cayos Chichime anchorage, it was overcast (so much for entering with good light). We joined "Vanilla", "Moana" as well as "Cynosure" and about 12 other boats. As I write this, the boys are out trying to catch dinner... No worries yet. I have canned goods and a freezer with a few cuts of meat left. We have enough supplies (and a water maker) and hope to survive for a few months before we have to go to Colon to re-provision, but it would be nice to have some fish.
Hola ..around here is pronounced Mola!
January/31/2011, Nalunega, Kuna Yala, Panama
Photo of women selling mola's from their dugout.
"Firefly" Bill and Mandi swung by and introduced themselves shortly after they arrived. They were on their way to take a look through the village of Nalunega. We thought it was a brilliant idea and decided to chase after them once we had finished our late lunch. As we approached the island we noticed two dinghies on a small beach, pulled ours along side and headed down the only path into the village. As we passed through one Kuna's yard(?), we met a Canadian couple (from the catamaran "N'orthern Lights", Edmonton) sitting around with a Kuna family (two women and several children). No sooner had we started to chat with them (and the children), Steve and I were offered a chair to sit and join them. They were waiting for the return of the "man of the house", who was out catching their dinner. Evidently, they had sailed/brought a battery for this man's family from Colon and in appreciation, they were asked to return as dinner guests. The husband/father soon returned (I didn't see any fish) and we explained that we had not invited ourselves for dinner and we were moving on. We left as they were guided inside the families thatched roofed home.
We walked through a gate and found another path which lead us to a large flat area, right smack in the center of the village. It was a basketball court (Kunas love basketball and volleyball) and a few kids were dribbling a ball about the dirt floor. On the other side we noticed Mandi and Bill and shouted to them. They were quite happy to have us join them and take the attention away from Mandi, who had just finished purchasing a mola. Now that we had joined them, many mola's sprang from within the Kuna homestead and slung onto the wooden stick fence where we had congregated. To make a long story short, I bought a Mola (Steve's was just thrilled to part with the money) and the four of us moved on. As we chatted, we found that we had a few friends in common. They had just come from Bocas Del Toro and had met Isabelle and J.C and their two girls (Alexe and Milla) aboard "Shaka" and Bill knew Charlie from "Kaya". As the sun set, we headed for the "congresso". Bill was of the understanding that we had been invited to join the meeting but we were turned away as we tried to enter the large hut. Peeking through the walls of twigs, we saw two hammocks billowing of smoke and a dangling leg or arm from each and a dull, uniform mumble. As I looked around, a few heads were bobbing, with eyes closed and those awake, looked board to death as they shuffled from cheek to cheek. It gave the impression that it would be a long evening. Thank goodness we couldn't get in.
In the dark, Mandi and Bill joined us for a very bad example of Butter Chicken and basmati rice (it had lost it's punch being made a months ago and stored in the freezer) but fortunately, they brought Cevechi (a fresh tuna, pickled in lemon, that they caught on their way down to the San Blas). We enjoyed the evening, becoming acquainted with their "story" and sharing ours. They will be here for about three weeks and we hope to spend more time exploring and playing in the water with them (35 and 22 years of age) if they don't mind.
We found more fishing supplies and beer!
January/31/2011, Wichubhuala, Kuna Yala, Panama
Photo of the school bathroom next to the water and school.
After clearing in, we very briefly explored the two islands we anchored near. We first set off to Wichubhuala. Here we found a small store with a few canned goods, plastic table cloth by the yard (mum's favourite..lol), some candy, a sack of potatoes and very little else. However, we did find the phone cards that "Moana", Guy and France asked us to purchase and Steve found about 4 yards of the rubber band used for his Bahamian spear. We've been searching for that since Grenada! Don't ask me why it was on the shelf, but it was, and we paid US $1.50/ft. Happily Steve ventured further into the village fearing that we may have to succumb to buying a mola but we were not approached by anyone. We have photos of the 2 schools we found and 2 bathrooms (one set right over the water) in the photo gallery.
January/31/2011, Isla Porvenir, Kuna Yala, Panama
Photo of a very short landing airstrip with the only hotel and restaurant on the island.
Porvenir is a good place to pick up family and friends flying in from Panama city for a holiday. There are daily flights to Albrook Airport in Panama ($39 US one way) and while we were anchored there, a flight arrived and left shortly after 7 am. I've attached extra photos in the gallery so that you will be well informed as to what to expect (if you decide to join us), that being, not much! There's a small Kuna hotel and restaurant but we didn't go inside to check it out. No need, as you will see from the photos, the anchorage in Porvenir is right in front of the landing strip and the other anchorages and other islands are between 5 and 10 miles away (1 or 2 boat hours), so you won't be stranded for long.
More photos in the gallery of Porvenir, Wichubhuala and Nalunega
Clearing in to Panama
January/31/2011, Isla Porvenir, Kuna Yala, Panama
Yesterday we sailed to Isla Porvenir and cleared into Panama. We anchored off the islands of Wichubhuala and Nalunega (every island has it's tongue twisting name) and took the dinghy in to a very good dinghy dock near the airstrip. The fee, US$ 193.00 for Customs and Cruising Permit (1year) and US$ 30.00 (Immigration). Our arrival date was not questioned and there were no extra fees as rumored for the Kunas (a $US 25.00/month fee).
Internet in the San Blas.. Can’t believe it!
January/30/2011, Naguarchirdup, Kuna Yala, Panama
Photo of Marg's big smile as she connects with the world. While she's downloading 63 emails (which took 1-1/2 hours) and downloaded the blog, I'm drinking a couple of beers. Total expenditures today $9 US ($3 US = 2 beers or 1 hour of internet)... The beer is the better deal! An expensive day. We are on a fixed income with zero growth yah know!
Re-united with “Vanilla”
January/28/2011, Lemmon Cays, Isla Oeste Limon, San Blas, Panama
Later today (I'm writing this as I drink my morning coffee), I hope to be sitting in a very shack like Kuna bar where I hear there is an internet connection for $3 US/hour. I will have to take pictures and post them later (if the signal is strong enough). I can't even begin to imagine what to expect. Anyway, as you read this post, I hope to have updated the blog to January 10th, when we left Cartagena, so you'll have to scroll back to that date for all the details.
Yesterday we sailed from the Coco Bandero Cays, where we have been anchored since arriving on the 16th of January, to West Lemmon Cays. There is a Panama Connection Ham Net (8107 - 08:30) that we only just discovered three days ago, and I put out the word that "LIon's Paw" was looking for a boat named "Vanilla" and if anyone in the San Blas knew of their where-a-bouts. That day there was no response for "Vanilla" but we did hear from "Osprey". We haven't seen them since leaving the Dominican Republic. We called each other on the VHF 72 and chatted. It was great to hear from Wendy and we hope to catch up with all their news someday soon.
The following day, there was "traffic" for "Lion's Paw". Someone on the net told us that they had seen "Vanilla" in the East Lemons and Sylvain and Lise were heading to the West Lemons today. A huge grin spread across my face and I turned to Steve and asked; "Can we go?" It took us about a half 'n hour to ready the boat and we were off (not including the time for Steve to jump start the engine. For some reason our start battery -that stands alone- was drained??@#... Later!).
When we arrived, Sylvain came out in his dinghy to guide us into the anchorage. Even though the sun was up and behind for an easier attempt, it was clear that it was a very 'thin' and narrow entrance that required dodging around anchored boats and reefs and we welcomed his help. Our 3rd addition 'The Panama Cruising Guide' by Eric Bauhaus, did not have this anchorage as detailed as in the 4th Edition, so my advice is to buy the latest edition for this sort of area. The edition we have is one that I bought Steve for a Christmas gifts while we were still in the dreaming stage.
That evening we gathered for one drink (it's the San Blas and you can't just go to the liquor store to buy more when it's gone) and appetizers. We had so much to talk about. Six months have passed since they left Grenada (just before Carnival), and what dominated the conversation...fish stories! It was just like we'd seen them yesterday. Lise looked as beautiful as always and Sylvain, well, he teased me about being homeless and both Sylvain and Steve bantered back and forth like old friends, as usual.. Oh, how we've missed him. Tomorrow we will spend the whole day together.
Crab for dinner! No Art!
Photo of Steve's 2nd crab. We didn't take a photo of the 1st one.. just ate it!
San Blas is famous for one of its arts and crafts, the mola. Women make rainbow colored fabrics, emblazoned with fish, birds, jungle animals and geometric designs that would impress Picasso himself. Today, we were approached by Venancio Restrpo whom claims to be a Master Mola Maker. This has been confirmed by Brian and Nancy "Four Points" who bought several of his molas 2 years ago. They discovered that Venancio has been in the New York Modern Art museum. However, today Steve waves him off, you need to spend a couple of hours with the guy, looking at his work and negotiating a fair price. We've just finished our coffee and regular bowl of fruit with granola and yogurt (until supplies run out) and have made plans to snorkel another nearby reef with Nancy and Brian. Todays catch, a fairly decent sized crab, but no art.
Photo taken at Coco Bandero Cays.. What a beautiful sunset!
Today with coffee in hand, we swing by and climb aboard "Four Points" to say good-bye. We chat all morning until noon, which spoils any chance of a departure today, and decide to send the boys out to catch dinner. Brian caught a tiny lobster, we serve up the last half of Steve's large crab, Nancy makes a rice dish and I make a Nappa Cabbage Salad. A true Canadian pot-luck dinner was enjoyed and we chatted it up until 2200. The next day they departed after breakfast and we waved good-bye. They are heading for the Holandes Cays and will work their way up the coast to the Panama Canal for departure to the Pacific side, some time end of January. They invited us to come along and go with them through the canal, but Steve and I have to decline. We are staying here in Kuna Yala until we find it necessary to move on to Colon for supplies. I hate good-byes!
Saturday, January 22nd
It is confirmed. We heard Reach contact Chris Parker this morning again. They are near the Panama/Colombian boarder. We have another lazy reading, typing, photo sorting, lazy day at the same anchorage.
January/17/2011, Coco Bandero Cays, San Blas Islands, Panama
Photo of a neighbour paying large for the same privilege to be hear.
Monday, January 17th, 2011
It seemed a bit of an overcast day so we decided to clean off the decks and rid them of the dust we collected from Colombia. They were filthy! After deploying the dinghy from the foredeck, Steve began to lift the crap we store on the aft deck and I began to scrub from the bow sprit back. At 1300 we broke for lunch. We were nearly finished. All that remained was that aft deck. As Steve cleaned up the lunch dishes, I continued spraying salt water, the first rinse all over the aft deck. I soon thought and I calmly asked if the aft cabin ports had been closed. Neither of us had done so. Darn it! We now had salt soaked bedding, the same that I had just put on yesterday after having paid to have it cleaned. We began to strip the bed (pillows, sheets, bedcovers all the way down to the foam) to give it a fresh water rinse. Bonus, we could put our foam bed on our newly cleaned foredeck to dry (gotta look at the bright side). Discouraged, Steve continued to clean off the aft deck and I washed down the entire aft cabin with vinegar water. When all was said and done, we crawled into a lovely freshly made bed and a very clean aft cabin and could we give a dam? We were both exhausted from todays adventure. We proclaimed that tomorrow would be a day of fun.
Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
After a morning brunch of coffee, poached eggs and fruit salad, Steve and I decide to suit up for a snorkeling day. We swam to the nearest island, walked the beach and swam over to our friends on Four Points. Nancy and Brian decided to join us and off we swam to the nearest reef. We snorkeled until Steve finally returned empty handed with his spear gun in tow. By the time we returned to the boat, it was 4 o'clock and that was the day gone. We discovered that our faces were so burned we looked like lobsters. Fortunately the rest of our body was covered. Tonight we combined lunch, dinner and martini hour all in one, watched a couple of episodes of "Californication" and then climbed into bed for another night in paradise.
Heading to the San Bas Islands, Panama
January/16/2011, Coco Bandero Cays, San Blas Islands, Panama
Photo of "Four Points" and us heading into the Archipelago of The San Blas Islands along Panama's Caribbean coast.
We dropped the hook among four islands (Tidal, Dupwala, Olosicuidup and Guariadup), Coco Bandero Cays, San Blas Islands, Panama at 1100. The 178 mile trip was over and we could not have had a better sail nor a better destination. The San Blas Islands at first glance are picture perfect. We soaked in the sun and the beauty from our deck and we observed the Kuna Indians put up camp on two of the islands as the sun sets.
Photo of one of the four islands that surround us. First Anchorage, Coco Bandero Cays, San Blas Islands, Panama
I lie awake at night dreaming up all kinds of things that I would like to mention on the blog and do you think that in the morning I can remember any of them?
Here's what we've read:
San Blas or Mulatupo archipelago of Panama constitutes an autonomous reservation, Kuna Yala or San Blas Commerce, which administers its own territory. Kuna Yala is formed by 378 islands and a small strip of mainland strung out along the Caribbean coast of Panama of which only 49 islands are permanently inhabited by the fiercely independent Kuna Indians. The Kuna run all the islands as an autonomous province, with minimal interference from the national government and have maintained their own economic system, language, customs and culture, with distinctive dress, legends, music and dance and thus have avoided traditional tourism development. The area is surrounded by reefs, some of the oldest in the world, and offer wonderful diving and snorkeling.
What we've read cont..
Photo of a family in their Dugout "ulu".
What we've read cont..
The Kunas (around 55,000 or about 10 percent of what they were) may be the last of the full-blooded Carib strain that inhabited the Caribbean before the Spanish conquistadors. In 1787, after centuries of troubles with invaders, including Roman Catholic orders, pirates and would-be settlers Kuna and Spanish authorities signed a treaty which brought peace for some years. Trade increased and the Kunas began to specialize in coconut production and moved to the Atlantic coast the San Blas archipelago.
It was in the 1800's that Kuna women developed their fashion with sewn blouses, trade-cloth skirts and plenty of home-made jewelry. Trading visitors were welcomed but they were not permitted to enter villages. This isolation, which started in the 18th century remained intact until the early 1900's. During this period their old traditions developed and family, household, rituals and seniority became more important. Daily life was run by a series of "iset" or prohibitions. The "nele" (wise men) ruled over Kuna's destiny through his wisdom while the "Saila" and the "archer" (chief and chief spokeman) governed communities. It was also during this period that the "ommket" (gathering) also called "congress" became important and democratized the society.
In 1903 panama got its independence from Colombia. Relations with the new nation were not at their best in the beginning and many Kunas felt abandoned and a long series of deep conflicts began In 1915 when Panama elected a governor in Porvenir to represent the Kunas. In 1925, the Kuna were helped in a rebellion by a Canadian adventurer Richard O'Marsh and proclaimed the independence of the "Republic of Tule'. The Panamanian response was immediate and troops were sent over. If it weren't for the intervention of the United States who sent the USS Cleveland to the San Blas Islands, the Kunas might have been wiped from the face of the earth. The Republic only lasted a year however, the Panamanian government continued to work with the Kunas and to make a long story short, in 1938 it recognized an official Kuna Reserve and in 1953, drew up a constitution granting the Commerce administrative and juridical status.
January/10/2011, Cartagena, Colombia
Photo of Michele's and Thera's talents.
Talents are abundant throughout the cruiser population and Michel from "Reach" is no exception. I've admired her self-made jewelry on several outings so much so, she made me a necklace from green sea glass. I've since discovered that she has adorned the necks of several cruisers and we all display her work proudly as we dress for town.
After much hesitation, one lazy hot morning, when Steve is sick with a bronchial flu, I escape and climb aboard "Reach", bringing my small collection of beads, sea glass and shells to ask for a lesson. Patiently, Michele explains the art of looking at each piece and deciding how it would hang best, how to secure different shapes and make their loops for the chain, how each piece dictates it's own personality and how to match that to suit the person whom you are making it for. She explains how she would approach some of my finds because all I can see is crap I've picked up for god knows what reason.
After a couple of hours of fun, I head home with notes and sketches in hand and hope of transforming my beach combing finds into jewelry. Later that day, I set out to prove what a good teacher she is. I've learn it's not that easy and re-looking at some of the beautiful hand designed jewelry that our daughter Thera has created... Wow!
Fortunately for those of you reading this blog, I continue to improve my craft and some of you are getting my hand made and home designed creations when I get back. They ask big money for this shit.. I mean sea glass jewelry!
Notes: While in Colombia I finally had my teeth cleaned for 80,000 pesos (~$44 US). The dentist found a cavity (back molar) requiring that she totally remove the old filling and start over. I went back to have it taken care off the next morning at the total cost of 40,000 pesos (~$22 US).
Also, Steve became very ill when a cold and sinus infection developed into a bronchitis. Having used the Amoxicillin that we had on board, I found a pharmacy to replace our stores. I paid 3,600 peso's (~$2 US) for Amoxicillin - 1pkg. (10 tabs - 500mg). I purchased 4 packages. The Ciprofloxacin - a pack of 6 cost 115,000 peso's (~$64 US).
While in Grenada, Steve had a very thorough eye examination for the total cost of 80 EC (~$40 US) and the prescription filled that afternoon. The next day he was walking around able to see and the glasses looked good.
So the question of medical insurance.. Don't bother once you're out of the States and Canada. Catastrophic insurance.. Not a bad idea, but we still don't have any and hope to correct that when we get home.
Santa Marta, Colombia
December/18/2010, Santa Marta Marina
We have not been to many marina's and this looks like it may become one marina's that we won't be able to afford in the near future. Every morning the work began. On the massive walkway between the docks and the main office, mosaic like interlocking brick patterns were laid out and the construction of showers and laundry were in the works.
Everything was with-in walking distance.. and this town was a wonderful treat to visit. However, if you are planning to stop in Santa Marta, with Zarpe papers stating you were heading to Cartagena, be warned to tell the authorities that you had to stop "because of bad weather". Our friends from 2 other boats, spent a morning being interrogated as to why they did not continue on to Cartagena, Colombia as their zarpa papers stated (from Curacao), all because they said they just wanted to stop and see the town (this story continues later.. when we arrive in Cartagena). Other than that, we enjoyed the flavour of the town.. the sausage cooked from the street vender and the fried dough with cheese (Steve and Michele enjoyed it... Mark and I tasted)... but as usual, we used the time to shop for supplies and search for parts (this time a pump)... however, thanks to Dave "Bijou Vert la Mer", we had a gathering one night and met more wonderful cruisers.. and they loved our grey snapper fingers.